Sunday, May 18, 2008


During this series on "The Office," we've been discussing the intersection of our faith and our work, and we've talked a lot about integrity. "Integrity" means "the state of being whole or undivided." It comes from the same Latin root as the word "integer," which refers to whole numbers (not fractions or decimals, which are numbers that are sub-divided). "Integrity" is also related to "integrate," which is to bring different parts of something together. We want to integrate our faith life and our work life so that we have just life, a life of integrity--wholeness, completeness, not a life that's sub-divided.

You see, God wants to be the God of our whole lives, not just parts and pieces. That means that God has something to say about every aspect of our lives:

  • Our work
  • Our finances
  • Our relationships
  • Our marriage and family
  • Our hobbies
  • Our time management
  • Our entertainment

Every single choice that we make in every area of our lives has spiritual ramifications--everything is spiritual.

We need to break down this idea that God is only for Sunday mornings, for church, or whenever I happen to read my Bible or pray. If God is God, he is God all the time, God over the universe, God over my whole life. Everything I do matters to God, and he's not after our lip service--he's after our lives.

Yes, we often fall short of perfection. Our many weaknesses mock our dreams and aspirations. But a life of integrity continues to strive toward the goal, bringing every thought captive to Christ, so that every aspect of who we are will reverberate with his character.

We take a rest from work. We take a break from other people, sometimes. But there is no vacation in the Christian life. There's no time off. There's no part of us that "doesn't count." If we belong to God, we belong to him all the time--every moment, every day.

That may seem like a discouraging thought, if we've conditioned ourselves to equate God with the father that we could never please, or the boss who's always looking over our shoulder. But as we find success and grow deeper in our relationship with him, that realization becomes a comfort and an encouragement. God cares deeply about everything about us. He wants us to be the best we can be in every area. He has a purpose and a design for everything, and as we turn ourselves over to him, we find a purpose, a direction, a satisfaction that we've never known.

We've kind of made this new song an unofficial theme song for the series. It sums up this idea of integrity--where Christ becomes the center that everything else revolves around:

"Center" by Charlie Hall & Matt Redman

O Christ, be the center of our lives
Be the place we fix our eyes
Be the center of our lives

You're the center of the universe
Everything was made in you
Breath of every living thing
Everyone was made for you

You hold everything together
You hold everything together

O Christ, be the center of our lives
Be the place we fix our eyes
Be the center of our lives

We lift our eyes to heaven
We wrap our lives around your life
We lift our eyes to heaven, to you

Sunday, May 11, 2008

United Brethren?

Those of you who are members of PCC know that our church is affiliated with the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, USA, a denomination of about 200 churches (located primarily in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania) headquartered in Huntington, IN. Those of you who don't know that are probably thinking, "What in the world are United Brethren?" We don't push our denominational label much because we believe it's our job to lead people to a relationship with Christ, not to lead them to a denomination. On the other hand, we affiliate with a denomination because we find it beneficial to do so for a number of reasons.

What probably none of you know is that the denominational offices have recently undergone a "re-branding." They no longer refer to themselves as the UB Headquarters, UB offices, or (for the more sarcastic among us) "Mecca." Instead, they are "Healthy Ministry Resources." This is how they answer the phone, what they put on the letterhead, and what they have on the sign out front. See??

Maybe you're one of those that thinks, "Big, hairy, flippin' deal. Who even knew what the old UB Headquarters sign looked like anyway?!" You probably don't spend hours perusing the UB website, and you don't call Huntington on the phone even on a weekly basis. Come to think of it, neither do I!

But this actually is a big deal whether you know it or not. This is not primarily about a sign, a logo, or how to answer the phone--it's about a philosophy. Our denominational leadership believes that the only purpose they exist is to resource the local church--to support, equip, and mobilize us toward health and fruitfulness. This is actually the opposite approach taken by most denominations, which seem to assume that the local churches exist to fund and resource the denominational structure.

As our bishop, Ron Ramsey says, "Jesus told us to go into all the world and make disciples. That is our mission. And the humble local church, existing in thousands of varieties around the world, is Christ's front-line vehicle for carrying out that mission... Healthy Ministry Resources is not a church. Jesus never said, 'I will build my denominational headquarters, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.' No, we are a man-made institution. The only reason we exist is to undergird local churches. It's not about us. It's about the churches we serve." (my emphasis)

Isn't that cool? As a result, the denominational offices are focusing exclusively on serving and resourcing local churches to be more effective in fulfilling the Great Commission. I think we can be grateful for denominational leadership that take such a humble approach.

I'd encourage you to take some time and check out what's going on. This philosophy really tells you everything you need to know about the United Brethren Church: it's all about being effective for Christ's kingdom.

Here are some other related websites:

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

I Don't Believe In Camels Anymore

It was when I was a Worship Pastor at Hillsdale UB Church that I first heard about the "Law Of The Two-Humped Camel." This allegedly unassailable truth declares that church attendance unalterably follows predictable patterns that look like the humps on a bactrian camel.

According to this so-called law, attendance starts out low at the beginning of the year because of the bad weather, then spikes in the spring with Easter, followed by summer doldrums (due to good weather) and another uptick in the fall until the snowbirds leave for Florida at the end of the year.

According to "The Law," to fight the two-humped camel would require changing weather patterns, cancelling all graduations and weddings, assaulting the American vacation, removing Florida from the union, and converting all schools to a year-round system. It simply can't be done.

In my life, I've certainly seen the evidence for "The Law," and I can understand how "The Law" came to be. However, I've recently decided that I no longer believe in camels or their attendant laws. There are tacit assumptions behind "The Law" that I simply don't buy, such as:

  • The only people who will ever attend your church are those who are already attending your church. If snowbirds leave for Florida in December, that should cause a downturn in attendance only for (northern) churches that aren't growing. But a church that is continually attracting new people shouldn't care what month it is.
  • Church is not worth driving through the snow for. We brave the snow for groceries, doctor's appointments, holidays, family, and work! How is it we will go to work every day no matter what the weather is, but then expect people to stay home if there's snow on a Sunday morning? I think if a church isn't worth driving to on a snowy day, that's an indicator of other problems. (Disclaimer: obvious exceptions for exceptionally hazardous weather and the elderly)
  • Church is not attractive enough to compete with summer fun. If camping, golfing, fishing, tennis, croquet, bocci ball, and swimming are more appealing than coming to worship, then what are we doing wrong with our worship services?

I refuse to accept that two families going on vacation at the same time should impact our worship attendance. What about the two new families who will be there that same week? They'll only come if we as a church don't coast for the summer.

As it turns out, we have a number of efforts targeted at reaching our community this summer:

  • SPLASH (Single Parents Letting Another Supply Help): Starting on June 10, and running every Tuesday evening through the summer, this is a chance for single parents to have a break and connect with one another for support.
  • Community Garage Sale: We're inviting all our surrounding neighborhoods to bring their junk to PCC for one massive flea market.
  • Pathway Community Camping: A Saturday-Sunday overnighter at the church. Food. Games. Bonfire. Movie. Outdoor Service. Lots of fun.
  • Lugnuts Baseball Game: Buy two tickets and invite a friend!
  • Soccer Camp: Of course.
  • And more!

I'm excited about all these initiatives! I believe that they will produce fruit, and I've even decided to pray that our attendance will go UP this summer. Maybe if you're daring enough, you will too. So long, camel! I hope you have fun with your new friend, the unicorn!