Will the Housing Market Impact the Church?

I was speaking with a home/commercial builder from our church recently. He’s been very successful and is a smart businessman. He seems to be able to analyze and predict trends fairly well and had readjusted his business several years ago in preparation for the coming changes he saw in the market. He has been following the recent economy, mortgage crisis, and building trends and his assessment is that this period of time will change the landscape of the housing market for years to come; especially in terms of the size houses and design of houses people build and buy. For example, he doesn’t think the tall ceilings or roof lines will be as popular in homes in years to come and people will go back to more basic interior designs. People will be looking for practical over prestige. (I guess some of the same things are happening in the auto industry.)

None of this is “new”. The same morning I had breakfast with this builder I received my new copy of Business Week magazine and they had a similar article. It was interesting, however, to hear it from someone on the “ground floor” of this industry.

Anyway, as a church leader, I couldn’t help but wonder how all this will impact our “industry”. Will people want churches to be more “practical” in planning new facilities? Will less be more in terms of buildings or even programs? Do we need to rethink how we use our buildings and how we make them more available during the week, so they don’t sit empty as much? Some of this was already beginning to take shape prior to the recent economic news, but will this spur changes faster than we might have thought? And, finally, will the church today make changes in the way we operate quickly enough to react to the culture shifts?

Of course, one trend that may happen would be something we saw for hundreds of years around the world. People may change their mindset towards putting less money into their own houses and more money into church buildings. Ornamental and stain glass could be the “new” desire for churches. It will be interesting to watch all this unfold.

Ultimately I’m glad we serve a God who is never-changing. Our end goal will always remain the same. If, however, our goal is to help introduce people to the never-changing God then we must always be looking for the best methods to accomplish that goal.

Mutual Submission in a Marriage

What is the Biblical concept of mutual submission as found in Ephesians 5:21 (and throughout the Bible) and how are we to apply it in our relationships today?

I’m working on a new concept in my mind and teaching. It has originated from recent marital counseling with several couples. Couples usually come to me with the mindset that they will meet the other person half-way, but only if their spouse does likewise. The thought of mutual submission, where each person is willing to give up all rights (100%) to the other person, is a very foreign concept and actually seems to anger people when I suggest it; yet I believe that’s what this passage teaches. The meaning of submission here literally means “to put under authority”. As I read Ephesians 5:21, we are to “submit” to each other. When both parties in a relationship are willing to give 100%, the dynamics of the relationship are incredibly enhanced. (It also seems that is what Jesus was willing to do for us!)

It is obvious today that we live in a very “me” centered society. Unfortunately that mindset includes my children and, sad to say, me. How are we to submit to one another? What is the correct Christian response to the culture in which we live that seems to teach us to think for ourselves and “every man for himself”? Of course the Ephesians passage is addressed to believers, so is submission only withing the Body?

I’m still in the wrestling stage with all this, but would love your thoughts…

God is Bigger

God is at work even beyond the four walls we call our church. Sometimes we miss the big picture of what God is doing or wants to do through us because we become single-minded in our ministry. Over the years I have observed churches become ministries unto themselves rather than outward focused ministries. One reason we create so many programs in our churches is often so we can meet the growing demands of people inside the church hollering to be serviced.

The Jesus model seems opposite of that. He teaches us to consider others better than ourselves and to think about the needs of others ahead of our own. Somehow I believe this is a better method of attractional evangelism. When we begin to invest our resources into other people, even at the expense of our own comforts or desires, I think we will see more of a lost world get excited about the Kingdom of God and ultimately be won to Christ. It is then we will say like the prophet Malachi: “You will see it with your own eyes and say, ‘Great is the LORD-even beyond the borders of Israel!'” (Malachi 1:5)

God is good. Good is great…way beyond what we ever expected.

Church Membership

We haven’t placed as large a value on church membership at Grace as we have things like salvation, baptism, serving others, etc. Because of that, we have very few members and some of our most active people are not “official” members of Grace.

Recently I asked one such man to attend an annual banquet being held in our city for a large International ministry on our behalf. If I wrote the ministry name here you would easily know it and surely agree they do great work. Still, this ministry is “old school” in a lot of ways. My guy said he and another from our church were the only two without suits on (Shame on them!). At the conclusion of the night our guy was motivated enough about the ministry that he was willing to join their organization. They wouldn’t accept him. Reason: He is not a “member” of my church. If he had been a “member”, they would have taken him without question. (BTW, they did take his donation.)

Can someone explain this one to me? I know churches that have 3 or 4 times as many members as they do people who actually even attend their services each week. I know people who are “members” of a church, but they have attended church in years and they certainly aren’t serving that church.

Is it time to re-think what church membership really is and what it isn’t? Does it have the value it supposedly once had?

Living in a Religious Bubble

I got to be in the presence of religious “greatness” recently. This pastor is at a prestigious church. If you don’t know that he will tell you. Unfortunately he lives in a bubble; the same kind the Pharisees lived in. I saw him walking around a conference we were both at and he came across as unapproachable and arrogant.

I have learned in life that matters of the heart matter most. Even if one is “right” theologically, if their heart is hard towards other people, then they are still “wrong” when it comes to the truest things of importance to God.

I don’t intend to come across as judgmental. I’m sure had I been able to get to know this pastor we would have shared much in common and even could have been good friends. The fact is, aside from the prestigious church part, that pastor could have been me. It served as a good reminder that the way I treat others is more important than who I “think” I am. I can know theology and insights into church history and traditions, but if I don’t love others as Christ does then I’m not living His desire for my life.