An Open Letter To Amway Salesmen (and anyone else like me that tends to use people in the church)

AmwayIf I had a dollar for the number of times an Amway salesman approached me at the end of a church service and shared that they had a wonderful money making opportunity that would transform our church, I’d, well, you know.

“No offense,” I always reply, “but the last thing that transforms churches is money. That’s usually the very thing that spoils them.”

“Well, um, yeah, I get that, I think, but I work for a multi-national Christian company where Jesus Christ is at the center of all we do, and we empower Christians to have the financial resources to (a) have more time to serve in the church and (b) give money to important Christian causes.”

“Let me guess: Amway?”

“Don’t you want that for your church members Rev. Jones?”

“Please call me Brian. And we’re talking about Amway, right?”

“I mean, just imagine! If your people had the…” [quickly placing my hand on his shoulder and cutting him off mid-sentence…] [Read more...]

The Radical Gay Agenda – Rethinking Homosexuality (Part 6)

god hates signs

On an episode of The Daily Show, Jon Stewart defined “the gay agenda” as…

“Gay marriage, civil rights protection, Fleet Week expanded to Fleet Year, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance for when it’s raining men, Kathy Griffin to host everything and a nationwide ban on pleated pants.”

After this week I would add one more: to simply be treated with respect by Christians.

Earlier this week on Facebook someone wondered out-loud what my agenda was for doing a blog series on homosexuality. A few people always think I raise these kinds of questions because I like controversy.

Actually, nothing could be farther from the truth. What I like is clarity. [Read more...]

Are Homosexuals Born That Way? – Rethinking Homosexuality (Part 5)

I was born this wayI have this friend who swears that if pastors tell the people in their churches that it is possible that people could be born gay…like…overnight churches will turn into Village People free-for-all orgies.

He thinks people will start wearing feather boas to Bible study. Sunday school teachers will start showing clips from Glee to their first graders.

Utter pandemonium will break out.

“Brian,” he’s told me, “It’s like admitting to people that God made a mistake. People will take that as license to practice homosexuality. You can’t do that.”

Really? [Read more...]

Do Gays Feel Welcome At Your Church? – Rethinking Homosexuality (Part 4)

church visitorsThere’s a church in our area that is known for having their parking team “size visitors up” as soon as they exit from their car and radio in to their ushers the specific make-up of the people visiting.

New family with small kids? By the time that new family hits the front door greeters from the children’s ministry with small children in hand are there to welcome them and personally escort them to their classes.

In some respects I guess I applaud their commitment to make people feel welcome by having a similar type of person meet them at the door.

Unfortunately too many people have told me that when they visited this church there weren’t any…

…black people to welcome them…

…or single moms…

…or those who had been divorced…

I often wonder what would happen if two openly gay people visited their church.

In Second Guessing God I talked about how a few years ago our church in Philadelphia went through our first crisis: French-kissing homosexuals in the worship service. [Read more...]

Should An Openly Homosexual Person Be Baptized? – Rethinking Homosexuality (Part 3)

baptismIn my previous post I mentioned that I was posed the following question by two homosexuals jointly raising a child,

Which sin is greater: continuing with the way we choose to live our lives or having one of us move out and ripping apart the only home our son has ever known?

Here’s what I said…

Honestly, I don’t know. I’m not God. But even if I did have a strong opinion on the matter, I wouldn’t give it to you. Do you want to know why? Because my hunch is you’re not really looking for an answer as much as you are looking for a reason to leave this church and turn your back on God. Others pastors may have given you reason to do so, but I’m not going to follow suit. You’re here for a reason, and that’s to find your way back to God. Once you do that, He’ll be the one that will help you answer that question.

Then I hugged them both.

In my mind two more important questions lurked behind the question they asked:

1. Will this pastor guy treat our sin any differently than the other searching non-believers in the Bible study that went home to continue to embezzle money from their employer, look at porn on their computers or abuse prescription drugs?

2. Can I really trust God?

The second question is probably the most important. It’s hard to fathom how hard it is for a struggling homosexual to darken the doors of a church building, let alone contemplate turning their lives over to a deity who is going to ask for radical, painful change. That takes a great leap of faith; probably more than most heterosexual people were required to exercise before they became Christians.

The real issue for me comes down to this: How can we expect any non-believer to truly have a heart for the ways of God BEFORE conversion?

Most pastors I know won’t baptize an openly homosexual person.

This is utter non-sense. [Read more...]

What Would You Tell A Gay Couple With Kids? – Rethinking Homosexuality (Part 2)

gay couple with kidsWhile I was serving as an associate pastor at a large church in Florida years ago two people approached me after Wednesday night Bible study.

“We’d like to become Christians,” they said with smiles on their faces.

“That’s great! Congratulations!”

“But we’re not going to stop being gay,” they quickly added. “Besides, we’ve been raising our 10 year old son together since he was born. We’re the only family he knows.”

I paused, and then gently said, “Are you familiar with what the Bible says about homosexual activity?”

“Yes. But we have a question for you. Which sin is greater: continuing with the way we choose to live our lives or having one of us move out and ripping apart the only home our son has ever known?”

How would you have answered that question?

Series Posts
Rethinking Homosexuality
What If We’re Misinterpreting The Bible? (Part 1)
What Would You Tell A Gay Couple With Kids? (Part 2)
Should An Openly Homosexual Person Be Baptized? (Part 3)
Do Gays Feel Welcome At Your Church? (Part 4)
Are Homosexuals Born That Way? (Part 5)
The Radical Gay Agenda (Part 6)

What If We’re Misinterpreting The Bible? – Rethinking Homosexuality (Part 1)

Roman SlavesIt’s clear that the writers of the New Testament saw nothing contradictory whatsoever between following Jesus and upholding the culture’s position on slavery.

There is no command, no teaching, not even a hint among the New Testament writers that slavery was an evil institution to be abolished.

Quite the contrary…

Slaves were encouraged to accept their lot in life…

1 Corinthians 7:20-23:
20 Each of you should remain in the situation you were in when God called you. 21 Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. 22 For those who were slaves when called to faith in the Lord are the Lord’s freed people; similarly, those who were free when called are Christ’s slaves. 23 You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings. 24 Brothers and sisters, all of you, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation in which God called you.

Slaves were taught to obey their masters in everything…

Titus 2:9-10
9 Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, 10 and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.

Slaves were taught to endure beatings joyfully…

1 Peter 2:18-21
18 Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. 19 For it is commendable if you bear up under the pain of unjust suffering because you are conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

The entire witness of the New Testament leads us to one inescapable conclusion: God doesn’t have that big of a problem with slavery; otherwise the early church leaders would have gone ballistic over it. [Read more...]

Rethinking Homosexuality

homosexualityRecently I met a sharp business guy in our church for lunch who has been reluctant to buy into the whole Christianity thing.

He asked, “Do I have to believe that homosexuality is wrong to become a Christian?”

I get asked that a lot, along with a whole slew of questions about homosexuality that I’ve been reluctant to talk about publicly.

I’m thinking it’s time to open up that can of worms.

Series Posts
Rethinking Homosexuality
What If We’re Misinterpreting The Bible? (Part 1)
What Would You Tell A Gay Couple With Kids? (Part 2)
Should An Openly Homosexual Person Be Baptized? (Part 3)
Do Gays Feel Welcome At Your Church? (Part 4)
Are Homosexuals Born That Way? (Part 5)
The Radical Gay Agenda (Part 6)

Why I’m NOT A Calvinist

Why I Am Not A CalvinistI have a friend who says, “Calvinism is the most ridiculous system of thought ever forced upon scripture.”

While I’m not as strident in my assessment, I do wholeheartedly reject Calvinism, especially two of their key positions:

Predestination
Unlike Calvinists, I do not believe that God predestined every single thing we will ever do in our lives before we were born. Rather, we have free will, which means we make choices every day which, when paired with God’s activity in our lives, shape our future. In other words, I believe God has a plan for our lives, but we help bring that plan into reality.

Eternal Security
Unlike Calvinists, I do not believe that once we become Christians, we cannot lose our salvation. I believe it is almost impossible to do so, but I do believe that it is possible. In the same way we have the free will to choose the gift of salvation offered us, we have the free will to reject the gift of salvation offered us later on.

However, the difference between me and many of my friends who are a part of, say, The Gospel Coalition, is that I don’t call Calvinists heretics.

Brilliant, godly, and passionate Christ followers have disagreed over these issues for a long, long time. I just happen to believe, like great modern-day scholars like Ben Witherington and Jack Cottrell, that the teaching of scripture leads me to different conclusions. (In fact, if you haven’t read it, you owe it to yourself to read Jerry Walls and Joseph Dongell’s Why I Am Not A Calvinist. It does a fantastic job laying out the issues in an easy-to-understand format.)

Despite the impression you’re given in the blogosphere, there are a lot of non-Calvinists out there.

We were just predestined to be a bit less vocal.

Your thoughts?

Do You Believe Prayer Changes God’s Mind?

This week someone in my church asked, “I don’t get prayer. What’s the point?”

I immediately shot back, “Prayer changes God’s mind.”

Puzzled, she asked for clarification.

“Listen,” I said. “Prayer does lots of things.”

I told her that I believed…

  • Prayer aligns our will with God’s.
  • Prayer brings us closer to him.
  • Prayer allows us to spend time with our heavenly Father.

Then I finished by saying, “All of these things are incredibly important, and are tremendous privileges of prayer. But at its core, when you reduce prayer down to its essence, in addition to the things I just listed, the main reason we pray is to change God’s mind.”

Do you agree with that? [Read more...]