Monthly Archives: January 2009

Seeking clarity

Like most churches, United Evangelical Free Church struggles to fulfill her purpose. Oh, we know what it is. We have multiple statements and documents that tell us what our vision, mission, goals, purpose, philosophy, and core values are. I should know. I’ve written most of them.

That, in itself, is the problem. We have too many different statements. It’s hard for people to remember them all, let alone know what they mean.

Over the past year, our youth pastor and I have read Simple Church: Returning to God’s process of making disciples, by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger, and Essential Church?: Reclaiming a generation of dropouts, by Thom Rainer and Sam Rainer. The books challenged me to think through what we were trying to accomplish as a church. They prompted me to sift through all the statements we had written about our vision, mission, goals, and philosophy. In addition, I read what my previous church had crafted for their purpose. In the midst of my reflection, I have been preaching a series trying to clarify our purpose and cast vision for the next year.

The result was the development of the following diagram and revised purpose statement. Between the two, they synthesize all of our statements on vision, mission, goals, and philosophy into one phrase that captures the irreducible minimum of what we as a church are all about. It also communicates the idea of movement towards maturity.


At United Evangelical Free Church, we are “Building a community to change the world.” We seek to Glorify God by Connecting people to Christ, the church, and one another; so that we can Grow in our faith, character, and skills; in order to Serve the cause of Christ with our time, talents, and treasures; and to Share the message of the gospel where we live, work, and go to school; both locally, and as far around the world as we can reach.

If you have difficulty reading the picture, here is a pdf file of the statement and diagram.

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Posted by on January 15, 2009 in Church


Maybe planes can land on water

US Airways jet crashes in Hudson River.”

Hudson River plane crash

Maybe I need to start paying attention to the announcements about “in the event of a water landing your seat cushion can be used as a flotation device.” Either that or I need to start thanking the pilot for safe landings. WOW!

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Posted by on January 15, 2009 in News stories


Atheist holy day

Someone sent me the following story. While indicates the event did not happen, they do offer the following insight: “The power of illustrative anecdotes often lies not in how well they present reality, but in how well they reflect the core beliefs of their audience.” Enjoy the story.


In Florida, an atheist created a case against the upcoming Easter and Passover holy days.  He hired an attorney to bring a discrimination case against Christians, Jews and observances of their holy days.

The argument was that it was unfair that atheists had no such recognized days. The case was brought before a judge.  After listening to the passionate presentation by the lawyer, the judge banged his gavel declaring,”Case dismissed!”

The lawyer immediately stood objecting to the ruling saying, “Your honor, how can you possibly dismiss this case?  The Christians have Christmas, Easter and others.  The Jews have Passover, Yom Kippur and  Hanukkah, yet my client and all other atheists have no such holidays.”

The judge leaned forward in his chair saying, “But you do.  Your client, counsel, is woefully ignorant.”       

The lawyer said, “Your Honor, we are unaware of any special observance or holiday for atheists.”

The judge said, “The calendar says April 1st is April Fools Day. Psalm 14:1 states, ‘The fool says in his heart, there is no God.’ Thus, it is the opinion of this court, that if your client says there is no God, then he is a fool.  Therefore, April 1st is his day. Court is adjourned.

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Posted by on January 13, 2009 in Culture, Fun


When recession hits the church

What role does the local economy play in the budget of the local church?

The obvious answer is that as people tighten their belts personally it impacts their giving to charitable causes such as the church. But how should churches plan their budgets in light of the economy?

Our church is beginning the process of planning the budget for our next fiscal year. This week we communicated to our ministry leaders this process we will follow.

Today, the local news had two headlines that grabbed my attention.

Seattle P-I up for sale.” The state’s longest publshing newspaper, which rolled off the press in 1863 is up for sale. If a buyer is not found in 60 days, the paper may close its doors forever.

Boeing plans workforce reduction of 4,500.” Because of the dramatic slowdown in airline business and the broader impact of the global recession, Boeing will lay off about 5 percent of their workforce in Washington State.

What impact should these headlines have on our planning process? Do we boldly put together a faith-stretching budget? Do we hunker down and allow pessimism to influence our plans? Do we seek to balance realism with faith? Only time will tell.

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Posted by on January 9, 2009 in Church, News stories


Self-centered prayers

I was struck this week by how selfish and self-centered my prayers are.

A woman from our church in Seattle went to Portland earlier this week for a funeral and was stranded there when the rains came and a 20-mile stretch of I-5 was closed due to the flooding in Chehalis. We were asked to pray that she would be able to get home by today. One person was concerned about who would teach her Sunday School class this week if the roads didn’t open in time.

On the one hand, this is a valid prayer request. God cares about every area of our lives. We can bring all of our burdens to him.

On the other hand, this seemed so inconsequential and self-centered.

Why wasn’t I praying for the hundreds or perhaps thousands who were displaced and homeless because of the flooding? the economic needs of the truckers who were stranded on the side of the road? the businesses who couldn’t receive supplies because of the road closures? the patience of those who were stranded? the spiritual needs of those who were waiting? the safety and stamina of those who were working round the clock to reopen the roads? the believers and churches in the flooded areas, that they might rise up and minister to those in need?

Instead, I was content to pray that one person would not be inconvenienced more than necessary.

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Posted by on January 9, 2009 in Personal growth, Prayer


Microwave spirituality

How do you walk with God if you’re always on the run? How do you “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) in a noise-filled world where everyone is clamoring for your attention?

Rather than address the real issue of misplaced priorities, it seems like we simply make it easier for people to live faster. Rather than call for change, we merely soothe people’s guilt, pat them on the back, and send them on their way.

I am preaching this week on the nature of the church and what it means to be a community of faith, as described in Acts 2:42-47. In verse 42, it describes the first century church in Jerusalem, “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostle’s teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”

In the midst of my research, I came across an article in the LA Times entitled, “A closer, faster walk with thee.” The author lists several titles from publishers who are attempting to fit God into people’s busy lives. The list includes:

  • “The One Minute Bible, Day by Day.”
  • “5 Minute Theologian: Maximum Truth in Minimum Time.”
  • “Aunt Susie’s 10-Minute Bible Dinners: Bringing God Into Your Life One Dish at a Time.”

Small wonder the church in general and Christians in particular are so weak and ineffective today. We have gone from continually devoting ourselves to the Scriptures to feeling good about spending one minute with God! God is simply one priority among many rather than THE PRIORITY of our lives.

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Posted by on January 9, 2009 in Books, News stories, Personal growth


The danger of affluenza

“It is not scientific doubt, not atheism, not pantheism, not agnosticism, that in our day and in this land is likely to quench the light of the gospel. It is a proud, sensuous, selfish, luxurious, church-going, hollow-hearted prosperity.”

Surprisingly, this quote was not made today. It was stated in 1890 by Frederic D. Huntington, in Forum magazine. I found the quote in Crazy love: Overwhelmed by a relentless God, by Francis Chan. It is even more true today.

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Posted by on January 8, 2009 in Books, Culture, Quotes