Blog Church Ideas

Pray for the Pope

Last night in Vatican City, the Catholic Church chose a new leader, Pope Francis, formerly of Argentina. By all accounts, he is conservative in his theology and politics and humble in his view of himself.

I’m not a fan of Catholic theology, practice, or policy. However, for many, the Catholic Church is perceived as the Church, or at least, the face of the Church. To that end, I want us to pray for Pope Francis. He has been given a very difficult job, reforming an institution that does not want reform.

Of course, I want a lot of reforms to take place. I’d love for Catholic theology to be reformed to better reflect Scripture with less focus on the traditions of Rome. I probably won’t see this happened any time soon, which is fine. I’m not holding my breathe. However, the Catholic Church absolutely has to do something definitive to remove those who have abused children or protected/hidden abusers. The Vatican needs to lead the way in searching for this sin, rather than letting the secular world point it out for them. Furthermore, I hope that this is enormous tragedy causes the Church to reexamine some its theology concerning the clergy.

That being said, let’s pray:

Lord Jesus,
We pray right now for Pope Francis. Give him more grace as he surely seeks Your wisdom and favor in leading the Catholic Church. Lead and direct him as he navigates the troubled waters that the Church finds itself in. Bless Francis, Lord, as he serves his flock and leads them closer to You.


Blog Church Ideas

Pumped to Preach

A few weeks ago, I was pulling into my church parking lot listening to some high energy Christian ska music—I’m a teen of the 90’s; no apologies—and I was getting pumped! I was amped, full of energy. It was one of those moments when I felt so energized that just “knew” I could punch a hole in a brick wall. Of course, I didn’t test this feeling. Anyway…

I was riding this wave of passion and enthusiasm, and I said to myself, “I wish I was preaching tonight. I’m so pumped to preach the Gospel!” Then, I heard a small voice, “Why aren’t you this pumped to live the Gospel?”

I was instantly convicted, and—I don’t know if this is theologically orthodox but—I think that God added a gentle “Boom! Truth bombs be droppin’!”

The most important sermon I preach is the one I preach through my actions and interactions with others.

It was tough to hear that, but I’m glad I did. The most important sermon I preach is the one I preach through my actions and interactions with others. Proclaiming the Gospel is not done merely with words in front of crowds; it’s my responsibility to preach every waking minute of the day. Of course, only Jesus had the strength of character and intimacy with God to be the “Living Word,” but that very same Spirit is working within me to communicate a similar sermon through my life, to transform me so that I might more perfectly preach the Word of God through my life.

Are you as pumped to live the Gospel as you are to preach it?

Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words.

Blog Church Ideas

“But How?”: Is There Room for Something Organic?

I asked a question a few weeks ago:

“What if the best way to change a church is to plant a new one within it?”

Now, I’m asking a second, but also important question:


How do you get started? What steps need to be taken; what should be avoided?

It’s hard to say because not only am I not a church planter I’m also not a lead pastor. However, with that disclaimer in place, let’s proceed.

Something Organic

I think the point of planting a church in the church is to produce change, to revitalize a church, without making drastic or needlessly risky decisions. Perhaps your church is still moderately functional in the present climate and culture of your community. And yet, you recognize that what you’re doing and who you are isn’t sustainable long-term. By “planting a church” inside your current church, you could possibly prepare for the coming paradigm shift without looking like you’re rejecting the body you currently have.

But again, how do we plant this new church in a gentle, unobtrusive way? I’m currently reading Frank Viola’s Reimaging Church, and I wonder if there is a way to use his “house church” model to do this. Now, Frank is actually not an advocate of such an idea. He is fairly clear that this is an “either or” deal, and of course, he’d prefer if we all landed on the “house church” side of things.

And honestly, I think that in trying to answer the “how” in this way, I’m only creating a new one: “How does a inorganic, institutional church plant a church organically?” The answer to that is two-fold.

Firstly, open your eyes. It may have already happened. A group of people, gathered systematically can, over time and with God’s grace, be fused into an organic body, especially the core of that primary group.

Secondly, if this first point is true to some degree, one might reproduce this organic transformation by starting with a body of people already gathered together by external forces. If the members of the group are intentional and active in developing inter-group relationships, God may very well bless this group with the grace and unity needed to shift the external force to an internal one: love for God and love for others.

But which group might be best to start with? Which group is more likely to make the shift from external to internal, from artificially grouped to divinely united? Which group’s transformation will have the most impact on the larger institutional church?

More later.

Blog Church Ideas

Planting a Church in a Church: What if…?

Drawing by Madison B.
Drawing by Madison B.

I had a crazy thought the other day right before I stepped up to preach at my church:

What if the best way to change a church is to plant a new one within it?

More to follow…

Blog Church Ideas Deep Thoughts

The Stars and Stripes Forever?


This post is originally from 2008 and was updated with new intro in 2012. – PS / 7-7-15

This past Sunday, I was caught off guard at church by a string of third and fourth graders waving American flags, with a few eager boys chanting “America rules!” I want to clarify that I love this country and am proud to be an American. However, I am a Christian first and foremost.

I belong to a family that spans time and nationality. Our Father doesn’t see us as Americans, Mexicans, Iraqis, or Brits: we’re His kids. I might live in the USA, but I belong to the Kingdom Eternal, which has yet to be revealed.

Below is a post that I wrote several years ago when I first started blogging that should sum this up pretty well.

Originally Posted July 2008

I was driving today, for about forty-five minutes, and I passed through several small, charming communities. I love driving this particular route because (1) it’s long enough to listen to both podcasts and music but not so long that it can’t be made and (2) because it’s peaceful. However, today, my sing-a-long was disrupted by something I saw, and I wanted to share it with you.

As I drove through one particular town, I passed a really pretty church that I often glance at when I drive-by. It’s an older building, and as a history major, I appreciate the quality of the building’s design. I try to not make a judgment about a church from the outside, though I may wonder about them. Yet, what I saw today makes me want to do more than question. I nearly called the pastor.

This particular church had a sign–you know what I mean. One of those marquee signs that usually boast an out-of-context verse and/or a pithy statement about Christianity. My distaste for those signs notwithstanding, this sign earned a special place of opprobrium in my heart. The sign read, as follows: “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”

Now, I probably wouldn’t have reacted so harshly concerning this had I not been right then prayer and signing about the all-superior, eternal ‘Kingdom of God.’ But I was praying and singing! And this church had the gall to proclaim the glory of the UNITED STATES as ETERNAL when the very name of this congregation included the word ‘Zion.’ I immediately began considering how I could contact this church whether by letter or phone. I have since abandoned this idea.

Why do we do things like this? Why do we think that patriotism is next to godliness? Stop pandering to the world! Yes, Independence Day was last week. Yes, I am a proud American, having a degree in history focused primarily on America. However, I am first a Christian! And my King has a Kingdom that will last forever, and nowhere in that Kingdom will the ‘Stars and Stripes’ be found flying. Nowhere in that Kingdom will Uncle Sam be paid homage.

Grow up, Church! God’s Kingdom and HIS ALONE lasts forever. The ‘Stars and Stripes’ will fall either at the hand of its enemies or at the feet of Jesus at His Return. Christians ought not to be trusting in this moribund nation, its guns, or its weak assertions of what ‘freedom’ is. True freedom is not found in war but in surrendering to Jesus, accepting His death and resurrection as payment for our sin, and looking to the horizon for His coming.