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Category Archives: Seattle

The intersection of faith & sports

I recently discovered the “Above & Beyond” podcast hosted by Brock Huard of 710 ESPN Seattle. Brock played quarterback for the UW Huskies and several NFL teams. He is now a radio talk show host and ESPN college football analyst. His first podcast was a conversation with Matt Hasselbeck, former NFL quarterback.

On the first episode of Above & Beyond, Brock sits down with friend and former Seahawks teammate QB Matt Hasselbeck. From growing up with Christian parents to spending time at Green Bay with Reggie White to running away from baptism, Matt shares some of the most important moments from his faith and sports journey.

I appreciated the sports stories, but especially how each one shared how their faith impacts their careers and family life. Brock will be doing the podcast every other week. I look forward to the next one.

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2017 in Faith, News stories, NFL, Seattle, Sports

 

Mariner baseball in San Diego

Wednesday evening, Carol, Jonathan, and I headed south to San Diego to watch the Seattle Mariners play the San Diego Padres. We had a great dinner at Phil’s Barbecue inside the stadium. There was a large contingent of M’s fans in the stadium. Since Carol was wearing her Edgar Martinez jersey, we were greeted by countless folks like we were long lost friends. Although the Mariners left their defense and offense in Seattle and played poorly, it was still a very fun evening.

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2016 in Photos, Seattle, Seattle Mariners, Sports

 

A church failure becomes a case study to learn from

The online edition of Leadership Journal December 2014 contains an insightful article, “The Painful Lessons of Mars Hill.” Having lived and ministered in Seattle, and pastored a church not far from the Mars Hill main campus, I have followed the church’s story with great interest, concern, and empathy. While perhaps not the final word on the subject, the author, Ben Tertin, has added some wise insights as to why things went downhill.

(Bill) Clem pastored alongside Driscoll for more than half a decade, and he refuses to single out Driscoll, church structure, staff culture, or any problem as the one that “necessitated wrapping the car around the pole,” as he puts it. Perhaps no singular, simple answer will ever emerge.

Nevertheless, Clem says, the structure of Mars Hill—which over time consolidated power and financial decisions in the central organization—did play a role. “As the structure became more refined, the driving motive became efficiency and growth, and those two factors began dictating church policy.”

Tim Gaydos, pastor and elder at Mars Hill’s downtown Seattle campus from 2006-2013, sees principles from Galatians 2 playing out here. “This all began as a work of the Spirit,” he comments, “but we quickly started to push harder and harder, trying to accomplish it with human efforts—bigger, better, faster, stronger.”

“One of the things that drew my wife and me in early was being involved in a particular neighborhood context, operating with a strong theology of time and place,” Gaydos says. “But that started to shift significantly—to focus more on expansion to wherever we could find podcasters to set up a new site.”

Welcome to the whole Seattle mindset, Clem says. “Some say, ‘Let’s deliver packages,’ but Seattle says, ‘No. Let’s make it Amazon.’ Some say, ‘Let’s have coffee,’ but Seattle says, ‘No. Let’s make it Starbucks.’ ‘Let’s have a grocery store.’ ‘No! Let’s make it Costco.’ Microsoft. Google. Boeing. Seattle is about power, expansion, and world domination.”

The principle held true when that corporate drive took hold of Mars Hill.

His analysis of the Seattle mindset of “bigger is always better” is certainly spot on. The culture of Costco, Microsoft, Amazon, Boeing, etc., certainly added a unique pressure to ministry and especially to people’s expectations.

The author closes his article with four wise observations and principles for churches and pastors to keep in mind.

The Mars Hill empire has collapsed, under the weight of business principles gone wrong and the lie of celebrity ministry. But the key rot in the Mars Hill roots wasn’t just the structure; it was the source of dependence.

“When it is dependent upon one charismatic leader,” says McKnight, “it is not dependent on Jesus.”

What if Mars Hill’s elder board had been able to keep things properly Christ-centered? What if, from the onset, the church’s DNA actively demanded Christian maturity and biblical wisdom over celebrity, expansion, and influence? We can only speculate, and seek to learn from the rubble of the Mars Hill collapse. Four key principles emerge:

1. A pastor’s character shapes the church.

Pastors and leaders need to stop obsessing over methodology and cultivate the fruit of the Spirit in their lives. Schlaepfer says, “You need to realize the fact that you are going to reproduce your soul in your church, whether you intend to or not. And if you are sarcastic and defensive and arrogant, that’s going to be reproduced in your people. Your soul, the fruit of the Spirit that’s in your life, your strength and weaknesses as a leader, are going to be reproduced in that church.”

2. “Submitted” does not mean “quiet.”

“I am wrestling now with what loyalty means,” says Clem, looking back on his days as a Mars Hill pastor. “I feel like I kept quiet as a pastor and elder at Mars Hill in a commitment to ‘unity.’ I put up with stuff I probably should not have put up with because I thought I was submitting to authority.

“But you know, Paul ironically writes ‘submit to authorities’ while he was in prison! For him, submission looked like ‘I’m going to do what I need to do under God, and you do what you need to do; you have the right to it.’ Whereas non-submission is ‘I get to do whatever I want, and you don’t have any right to punish me for it.'”

3. Beware of false “success.”

Statements like, “Good leaders have followers” or “Living things grow” become mantras at churches like Mars Hill, says Gaydos. This logic extrapolates quickly to “great leaders have tons of followers” and “the faster things grow, the more alive they are.” Soon, small attendance numbers and slow growth become problems to conquer.

“Beware of the theology of victory, which I think is very prominent in America,” Gaydos says. “This victory theology is ‘get upstream,’ ‘let’s change culture,’ ‘let’s change the world,’ ‘let’s start a movement’ kind of thinking. We become more concerned with ‘doing something great’ and less concerned with simply living as a faithful presence and witness in our neighborhoods and cities.

“If you are finding yourself worrying about ‘leaving a legacy’ or ‘What does the city think about what we’re doing’ or ‘What will you leave behind,’ soon it will be all about your movement and not about your relationship with Jesus at all, simply receiving his love and presence.”

Every young pastor needs to have a mentor relationship with a pastor who has been pastoring for at least 25 years in a church that is ‘not’ a megachurch. “You first need to know what it means to be a godly church, and then figure out how that affects the city,” says Clem. “Do not say, ‘Our number one goal is to impact the city, and hopefully we won’t compromise being the church while doing that.'”

4) Emulate Christ’s servant-leadership.

McKnight comments, “Jesus offers what I think is the most significant statement about leadership in the entire Bible that will lead us toward a gospel culture. He uses language that we are all afraid of. He says that you are not to be called Rabbi, you are not to call anyone father, you are not to be called instructors, because you have one teacher—Jesus, and you have one Father—God the Father, and you have one instructor—the Messiah. The greatest will be your servant.

“So, a gospel culture is created when the pastor is the most submissive to Jesus in the culture itself. When he models discipleship the most, he will never suffer from creating a toxic culture.

“For this reason, every young pastor needs to have a mentor relationship with a pastor who has been pastoring for at least 25 years in a church that is not a megachurch. They will learn what true pastoring is really like, not celebrity pastoring.”

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2014 in Church, News stories, Seattle

 

Ripples that touch our lives

On Thursday, June 5, our country endured yet another school shooting. Paul Lee, a 19-year-old student at Seattle Pacific University was killed when a gunman walked into Otto Miller Hall and opened fire. Kudos to Jon Meis, the 22-year-old engineering student working as a building monitor who took down the gunman.

Although the tragedy occurred on the other side of the US from where we live, Carol and grieve with the SPU family. We know several SPU professors personally as they attended the two churches we served in Seattle. We have friends who are alumni of the school. As it turns out, Paul Lee, the student who was killed, was part of Carol’s sister’s church in Beaverton, OR. Sometimes we live in a very small world indeed and we discover there are very few degrees of separation.

One member of the SPU family has written “an open letter to the SPU gunman” expressing the range of emotions one feels after an incident like this while at the same time demonstrating grace and a deep faith in God.

Pray for SPU

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2014 in News stories, Seattle

 

Working for the harvest

Massachusetts has come a long way since it was founded and settled by the religious Puritans almost 400 years ago. Today, it is one of the least religious states in America. According to a new Gallup poll, the city of Springfield (I’m assuming it refers to the metro area which includes the city of Chicopee where I reside) is now the 11th least religious city in the nation, with only 26% of the population stating that religion is a part of their life.

(After spending 22 years serving in ministry in Seattle, WA, my wife and I moved to Chicopee, MA, last fall. As states go, Washington is 12th on the list of least religious states while Massachusetts is 4th; Springfield is 11th on the list of least religious cities while Seattle is 16th. As someone said this week, I made a lateral transfer.)

Like any statistic, there are various ways to interpret the data. We could be discouraged and cry, “Woe is me! No one cares about God!” or we could rejoice that so many people need the message of the gospel. We could feel hopeless and cry that no one is listening or we could feel energized that we have a message that speaks to the real needs of people. We could feel alone and on our own or we could feel encouraged that we have no significant competition. We could feel outnumbered by the enemy or we could feel encouraged that we reside in a target-rich environment. We could throw our hands up in despair or we could fall on our knees and cry out to God for help.

Yes, the city where I now live and minister lies in a challenging environment. Rather than be discouraged, I choose to trust in the promises of God. Jesus himself said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). The Scriptures are filled with examples of how God accomplished great deeds through a small group of people who trusted him. (Read about Gideon defeating the Midianites with 300 men – Judges 7.)

Rather than bemoan the lack of fruit, we need to listen to Jesus when he said, “Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest” (John 4:35). With a dependence upon prayer, the Scriptures, and the power of the Holy Spirit, who knows what God accomplish in this region?

 

Weather Advisory

A Facebook friend posted a weather advisory issued by Evening Magazine in Seattle.

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It seems a Force 12 Storm is headed for Atlanta, GA.

The Magazine also posted a second photo on their Twitter page.

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By Sunday evening, we’ll discover if the Seattle Seahawks stormed through Atlanta or if the Hawks were simply fully of hot air.

 

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2013 in NFL, Seattle, Seattle Seahawks, Sports

 

Hawks fly south!

nfl-playoffs-wild-card-seahawks-at-redskins-large_originalCongratulations to the Seattle Seahawks for their gutty playoff victory over the Washington Redskins. It wasn’t pretty, but the Hawks got the job done and Russell Wilson won the battle of the rookie quarterbacks.

After the Redskins scored on their first two possessions and went ahead 14-0, we were almost ready to jump off the bandwagon. But we kept rooting as the Hawks’ defense held Washington scoreless the rest of the way and the offense starting clicking. Granted, RG3 was hurt and ineffective, but how many times has Seattle suffered the same “woulda-coulda-shoulda” fate in years past. Unfortunately, injuires are part of football.

seahawks_logo-bevel_bg_16001It’s on to Atlanta and more playoff fever. Guess I can keep wearing my Seattle Seahawks T-shirt for another week at least.

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2013 in NFL, Seattle