Friday, July 30, 2010

Dysfunctional Churches

I apologize for not writing too many posts so far this summer. We were gone for two weeks on vacation, away for a weekend for a wedding, and I’ve been very busy. I’m trying to get some projects done during this supposedly “slow” time, plus I’ve had a number of funerals.

I recently gave a sermon on the Parable of the Weeds (formerly known in King James English as the Parable of the Wheat and Tares) in Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43. In this parable, a farmer planted good seed, but an enemy came and sowed weeds among the good seed. Both the wheat and the weeds grew up together, but at harvest time, the weeds were separated from the wheat and burned in the fire. The harvested wheat was put in the farmer’s barn.

In that sermon, I stated that like most parables, it can be understood a number of different ways. One possible meaning is that Jesus was anticipating problems in local churches. In this meaning of the parable, the field would be the local church. In the case of the local church, Satan disrupts by planting those who look like and talk like devout followers of Christ, but have their own agendas. Maybe they are control freaks, or they engage in power plays, or they insist the church do things the way THEY want them done – or else.

Unfortunately there are plenty of such churches out there. I hear the horror stories from my pastor friends, and it isn’t pretty. What these counterfeit Christians do is hinder the work of the church by substituting their own agendas for the Holy Spirit’s. In addition, they drive people away because visitors can sense the tension and the dysfunction. What’s left is a dying church, often controlled by one or two families, and that church is ineffective and not in God’s will.

Sadly, many pastors are too timid to deal with these people effectively, so the church’s mission is compromised and the cause of Christ suffers. But it shouldn’t be up to just the pastor to handle such dysfunction. The laity should take the initiative to deal appropriately with those who are pulling the church down.

The reason is that these kinds of church members seem sincere in their desire to serve the Lord, but they are following their own ideas and not looking to God. They want THEIR church to be in their image and likeness. That may sound harsh, but those who follow their own agendas instead of God’s are disrupting and compromising the work of the church.

So we have been warned. Watch for those who aren’t furthering the cause of Christ in their local churches and be careful not to fall into the trap of being influenced by them. So let us make every effort to serve the Lord in spirit and in truth, following the leading of the Holy Spirit in all we do.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Stupid Banks

Bank executives must be the stupidest people in the world. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, American banks loaned billions of dollars to Latin American countries. When they defaulted, it caused a crisis in the 1980s. There was also the S&L crisis around that time. But did the bankers learn anything from those fiascos? No.

Overly risky bank lending practices nearly brought our economy to its knees in 2008, and we are still feeling the effects in 2010. Despite massive bail-outs by the government, banks still aren’t lending to small businesses like they should, thus slowing our recovery. Moreover, they are resisting government efforts at reform.

It seems every week or so I get something from a bank in the mail soliciting business, usually wanting me to get a credit card. In the envelope is an application form with my name and address on it. My credit card company also sends me blank checks with my name, address, and account number on them. Haven’t these banks heard of identity theft? I have to look over carefully and shred these unsolicited documents so that my identity doesn’t get stolen. What’s wrong with these banks?

It’s obvious banks don’t have our best interests at heart. Unfortunately we don’t have much of a choice. We need banks, but let’s hope they start doing business a little smarter. So far their track record hasn’t been too good.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Middle America

My wife and I just got back from a two week vacation. We drove out to Branson, MO, and enjoyed the shows they have to offer there. In case you don’t know about Branson, it has clean entertainment. Sort of like Las Vegas, but without the gambling, glitz, and high prices. It is a place you can take your kids or grandma and not worry about them hearing things they shouldn’t.

At the beginning of just about every show, after the usual announcements about the fire exits, turn off cell phones, etc., they would ask all veterans to stand. The audience would then give them a round of applause. As some point in most shows, the main entertainer would mention his or her faith – not in your face, but as a statement of fact. One show started with the audience singing “God Bless America.”

Living on the East Coast, I’m not used to seeing such patriotism and sharing of faith. After all, I’ve never been in a Broadway show in which they asked all veterans to stand. And forget about even mentioning your faith. You might “offend” someone! I think both coasts should be a little more like Middle America and not be so much in the grip of political correctness.