Good News and Better News… October 30th, 2017


 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3476)

I have participated in thousands and thousands of …

Now, what shall I call them? For if I refer to these as “performances, shows or gigs,” religious people will give me the holy frown of disapproval because I have trivialized the spiritual significance.

But by the same token, referring to my efforts as ministry, worship leading or any other divine terminology makes me reek of pretension.

Of course, worst of all is the safe, but vanilla describer, “presentation.”

I run into the same problem when I try to decide whether to say a robust “Praise God” or a timid “thanks be to God.”

Do I go for the full dunk in baptism, or settle for some other plunk?

Should communion be unleavened bread, or a golden loaf?

Wine or Welch’s grape juice (which many denominations insist was Jesus’ preference)?

And I think the most intimidating crossroads of all is settling whether our Christian faith is ground in social commentary or revivalism.

That’s why the tambourine is pictured today. A tambourine can scare a Lutheran or a Methodist to death–almost as much as a printed bulletin with liturgy makes a Baptist tremble.

It just doesn’t seem to occur to us that defining the word “ministry” requires taking a long gaze into the lifestyle and actions of Jesus of Nazareth.

Jesus was both contemplative and flamboyant.

He had the strange notion that the profile for what he did in blessing others was contingent on what they needed, and not confined to the Book of Common Prayer.

So to one person, he said, “Be healed.”

He touched lepers.

He spit on someone else.

He stuck his fingers in another person’s ears.

And he shouted to raise the dead.

He would have upset a lot of people.

Jesus didn’t worship miracles; he didn’t minister miracles–he performed miracles.

He showcased the Gospel in stories, told with colorful description and high-flung gestures.

The church has lost Jesus because it has focused on either social gospel or revivalism.

Jesus was the Son of God, who came to teach us how to get along with each other–with a tambourine in his hand.

So the good news is that we need both social commentary and revivalism.

The better news is, when we actually mingle the two, we suddenly become more relevant.

 

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Good News and Better News… October 2nd, 2017


 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3448)

She was a sweetheart.

During my two presentations at Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church in Clermont, Florida, I got a chance to meet this delightful woman.

She bounced up to my book table and engaged in conversation. About halfway through our exchange, her face got a little more serious and she asked me, “How do we rate? I mean, you go to places all over America. How would you rate our church?”

I knew she wanted a serious answer, yet I wasn’t going to placate her nor was I going to try to place some burden on her heart by pointing out an inadequacy.

“You’re kind of right in the middle,” I said.

She started to smile, then squinted and replied, “Well, that’s not very good.”

After nearly forty-five years of traveling America and sharing in a vari=ety of venues, many of them churches, I will tell you what makes a good church. It begins and ends with the word “generous.”

One of the most chilling statements Jesus offered to his disciples, and to us who would follow his message, was “to he who much is given much is expected.” So it’s a little optimistic to think that you’ll receive eternal salvation while lounging on a heavenly hammock. So here are the three things that make a great church:

1. Generous space.

Sanctuaries are too cramped. They’re confining. This stifles the sensation of freedom. Since your church probably is not filling up the sanctuary for every service, take come pews out. Create room. Make people aware that they have the freedom to extend their legs and arms. Give children a place to crawl.

Clear everything unnecessary from the platform. There should be room for three or four people to stand side by side easily.

If you give air to the room you give air to the people to give air

2. Generous face.

If you’re not going to talk to someone, don’t peer from a distance. It’s creepy. And when you walk up, don’t stay too long, but do make eye contact while you’re there.

We met a fabulous brother named Joe at Shepherd of the Hills. He was not an “average Joe.” He was loving, giving, kind, and made us believe that we had a primal place in his present consciousness.

No one expects you to be a counselor or long-lost friend from high school, but grant folks the dignity to enter your generous space and receive your generous face.

3. Generous grace.

You have no right, privilege or scriptural authority to probe into the lifestyles of those who worship next to you. Share the Gospel of Jesus and let the Gospel do its work. The Holy Spirit is much more adept at convicting people than you are with your gossip. I don’t care what you hear about people. I don’t care what you think about people. At no time do you, I or anyone else have the permission to judge anyone.

It is possible for any church in America to become a Jesonian church–a Jesonian Catholic, a Jesonian Baptist, a Jesonian Methodist, a Jesonian Lutheran, a Jesonian Pentecostal–but it requires you to take on the heart of Jesus instead of pounding your favorite theological nails.

The good news is that Shepherd of the Hills Church has this delightful lady who is not willing to subsist in the middle.

And the better news is, if you make your church a generous space with a generous face, offering generous grace, you will grow.

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Good News and Better News… March 27th, 2017


 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3259)

In the midst of the morning prayer at the First United Methodist Church in Port Saint John, Florida, I peeked from my bowed-head position out at the congregation. It was a small gathering.

The church as a whole has been losing folks over the past few years. We could probably do a whole article on that subject, but let’s just work on the basis that there is an “exodus of the chosen people.”

So the denominations step in–Methodists, Lutherans, Baptists, Pentecostals and the like–and offer their remedies to try to plug the dike of leaking souls. The answers they come up with are rehashing of former traditions or speculation on how better to use social media.

What they fail to consider is that church is dying because the reason for church has been crucified.

  • Church is for people.
  • People are the church.

When the church does not relate to people, but instead, makes some arrogant attempt to reach God through vain repetition, then people run away to brighter prospects for encouragement and a chance to access their better selves.

People often ask me if I am anti-church. Quite the contrary. I think church is our last bastion of hope to retrieve community among all living creatures.

It’s just that we need to be willing, for a season, to be awkward.

We don’t know what we’re doing.

We don’t know how to reach people.

And we certainly cannot figure out a way to escape our vague practices to translate them into real “soul food” for the everyday consumption of our brothers and sisters.

And for those who have left the church–citing hypocrisy, boredom, indiscretions and scandals–I must say to them: well, it certainly doesn’t bother you that your politicians, your entertainers and your movie stars are riddled with unholiness.

We need people who feel awkward about returning to church to join with those who are awkward about being in church, to laugh and cry their way about coming to church.

Folks, it’s gonna be ugly.

But yesterday morning I watched beautiful, insightful, gentle human beings come together with two strangers and create fellowship in an inspired, clumsy way.

It made me cry–it can be done. But we need to get our heads out of religion and our eyes on the prize of finding new ways to love one another and repent of our foolishness without shame.

The good news? It’s just like when we were learning to date in high school and survived our feeble attempts, to eventually end up in a relationship.

The better news is that if we stop trying to be godly, and just start looking for the goodness that has been placed around us, we literally can become a community of faith that “comes, communes and creates unity.”

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PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant … December 2nd, 2015


 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2770)

PoHymn Dec. 3

Merry Goes With…

Merry goes with Christmas

Of this you can be sure

As honey links with bee

And water prefers pure

As Baptist is to dunking

And Methodist welcomes eating

We’re all bound for Heaven

If we’ve secured reserved seating.

As Jesus embraces Santa dear

To join in the holiday cheer

And elves dance with angels

To dispel our human fear

Christmas belongs to people

Peace on Earth, you see

Those beneath the steeple

And others around the tree

For joy is a Godly thing

Birthed in heavenly trust

Hark the herald, angels sing

Worship the King, we must

For praise comes in many ways

But always brings sweeter ends

So let us take December days…

Merry Christmas, my dear friends.

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Jesonian: It’s An Adjective … September 6th, 2015


 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2684)

tools composite

Jesonian.

I coined the word.

Originally I came up with it because I felt that the term “Christian” had lost some of its pungency and impact, having been diluted by indifference and hypocrisy.

But mainly, I use the word as an adjective. For after all, we have made the error of turning “Christian” into a noun.

It’s supposed to stand alone, to singularly represent an ideology which has already been divided into at least 362 different denominational compartments. No wonder it suffers from overuse, misuse and abuse.

Jesus never intended his philosophy and approach to life to become a religion. It was meant to be the impetus which fuels the lifestyle and career of our choice.

So there should be Christian businessmen and women, Christian musicians, Christian plumbers, Christian athletes. But because we changed Christian into a noun, it is supposed to mean something in itself, while we continue to fuss and argue about its significance.

Jesonian is an adjective.

It’s a way of telling those around us that we actively pursue the activities of our lives and professions while fueling those efforts with concepts and beliefs born from the mindset of Jesus.

It is the hope that we can have Jesonian Baptists, Jesonian Lutherans, Jesonian Methodists, Jesonian Catholics and Jesonian Charismatics who freely admit that they may have a preference for their style of consecration and worship, but no difference in the application of their thinking.

It was the Apostle Paul who said, “Now abide faith, hope and love…” But the Jesonian comes along to help us define those three words with much more cohesion.

  • Faith is not what we believe. In the Jesonian lifestyle, faith is what we live out.
  • Hope is not what we dream. It is what we visually and actively pursue.
  • And love is not what we feel. It is confirmed by what we do.

The Jesonian: living out, pursuing, doing–and leaving all the rest to the grace of God.

 

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PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant … July 29th, 2015


 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2647)

PoHymn for July 29

Namey Name Name

Baptist, Methodist

But Mary called him Jesus

Lutheran, Presbyterian

Pentecostal, Unitarian

Latter Day Saint

Former day Jew

Assembly of God

No assembly required

Christian, Christos Iglesias

His buddies dubbed him Jesus

Catholic, Roman

Catholic, Greek

Catholic, schoolboy

Catholic, priest

Missionary Alliance

Missionary position

From this rock

I set sail

Calm the seas

Hell, it can’t fail

Revelation, Episcopalian

The lepers screamed for Jesus

Gay church

Black church

White church

Country church

Church in the wildwood

Church in the neighborhood

Church of the brotherhood

Every game has a name

But Jesus came to take the blame

Politics failed him

Religion nailed him

Wise folks trailed him

This one called Jesus

So let me say

In my simple way

I know Jesus of the people

Not Christ with a steeple

We were together

Long before he went

Non-profit.

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A Third Option … May 29, 2014


Jonathots Daily Blog

(2248)

Maple Avenue UMCThe summer is nearly upon us so it is time once again for conclaves, church camps, seminars and conferences, where the more religious of our populace will gather to consider the questions of the day which plague the faithful.

There is an “unsettling” in the religious system.

Yes, we have baffled Baptists, muddled Methodists, petrified Presbyterians, confused Catholics, puzzled Pentecostals, mystified mega-churches and leery Lutherans.

All of them are trying to separate the sheep from the goats, but are finding out that the real problem is separating the sheep from the sheep. For within our congregations we have those who are literal and those who are lateral.

The literal souls believe that even if the Good Book speaks only on a few occasions on a certain morality, that it is important to enforce it as church doctrine and apply it across the board, to all individuals.

The lateral believers contend that the most important parts of the Good Book need to be honored over obscure passages which hinder the execution of love and forgiveness.

So the literal people turn to the lateral people and say:

If you accept that the Good Book does not accept you as you are, I can accept, as you repent and gain acceptability.

The lateral contingency comes right back and replies:

Accept me as I am, even though your beliefs don’t accept what I do. Then I believe that because you accept me, that you are acceptable.

Most church leaders have found that this problem is insurmountable. They think their denomination will have to go one way or another, and that a schism is nearly inevitable.

So let me pose the question: is it righteous to speak against something we find morally wrong, or is it more righteous to support people as they are?

If you will allow me, I choose to ignore that question, and offer a third option to both literal and lateral. It’s quite simple.

1. Read the Gospel.

Preferably the Sermon on the Mount.

2. Let it settle.

Let’s be honest–none of us are immediately smart. We need time to absorb.

3. Talk about it.

As you chat, realize that for every point you make, the Good Book has an annoying way of offering a counter-opinion, just to keep things lively.

4. Leave people alone.

Yes, this is a Jesonian idea.Let the wheat and the tares grow together, because we aren’t good at separating the truth from fiction.

5. Love and live.

If you find yourself leading with a desire to love people instead of instructing, you will find that living is much easier for you in the long run.

6. Let the Spirit do the work.

That’s why we call it Holy.

So this is an option to avoid exploding the Kingdom of God because one group is literal and the other is lateral. It is not your decision.

Let the Spirit do the correcting and leading.

 

 

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Arizona morning

After an appearance earlier this year in Surprise, Arizona, Janet and I were blessed to receive a “surprise” ourselves. Click on the beautiful Arizona picture above to share it with us!

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