Thursday, December 20, 2007


I love Christmas...

Do you love this time of year? I do. Here are some of my reasons for loving the holidays.

It is my daughter's favorite time of the year and has been since she was little. It's great to see her doing Christmas with her family now.

I live in a neighborhood that "lights up". I do it too and I love the sights of decorated homes.

I love watching little kids open gifts, even if the wrapping paper and boxes are more interesting.

I love family meals. Our family, with my side of the family, Marsha's side or all together. Doesn't matter. I love eating with people I love.

I like Christmas movies. How can you not love It's a Wonderful Life, Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story, Scrooged, and Elf.

I like Christmas ties.

I like our small group Christmas dinner.

And all of this happens this year with four grandkids under 2 and 1/2 years old.

I am one lucky guy.

Thanks God.

So what do you love about Christmas?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Jesus and Santa...

It came a little later than usual, but I had my first question about kids and Santa (not real) and Jesus (very real). I do think it can be confusing to tell our kids to celebrate the birthday of Jesus and Santa Claus is coming to town. Here is the confusion about the whole Jesus/God experience and the Santa Claus/Xmas holiday.

they both reward good and punish evil

they both know everything about everyone

they can hear everyone and be everywhere

both emphasize giving, not just getting

and then we have to explain that one is real and one is not.

I am not so sure that as faithful parents we should pick one or the other. Emphasize Santa or emphasize Jesus at Christmas time but not both.

At the Ridgell house, we emphasized Santa. But Jesus was a part of our house all the time anyway.

So what do you think?

Thursday, December 13, 2007


Back to the Sixties...

So what are some of the church issues that may have been influenced by the culture of the sixties?

...Authority: we have undergone a dramatic shift in leadership style, especially away from the autocratic model where elders or preachers said it and it was so. The same pattern has happened in our homes and even in the workplace. Very few "post-sixties" will blindly follow anyone in authority. It is flows from the disillusionment of Vietnam and Nixon.

...Marriage: our churches have many divorced members now. I don't mean converts. I mean those who grew up Christian, married Christian, and then divorced, remarried, and stayed in church. How much of the "free love" culture of the sixties contribute to this? Has our leadership become more tolerant because of the culture that produced us?

...Women's role: how much of the "women's issue" in our churches is a reflection of a leadership raised in the sixties.

...Music: how much of the movement to more praise and contemporary worship is driven by leaders who grew up on music. The sixties in many ways was the music explosion.

I would not argue that all of these things are just because we "give in" to culture. But I would argue that we are all products of our culture. Many of our churches have elderships that are split between "the greatest generation" and the "boomers". Some of our church conflicts are reflections of clashing cultures.

Well, just some observations. What do you think? What are some of the defining moments and characteristics of the next generation of leaders? How will they see or do things differently in a church leadership context?

Monday, December 10, 2007


This is church...

I went to a funeral last Friday. That in itself is not unusual. I will help conduct ten or fifteen each year. Most of them will be Southern Hills related, or family, or from where I have preached in the past. Preachers on staff at large congregations can easily double that number.

But I didn't participate in this funeral. In fact, there were no preachers conducting it. It was for a young man killed in a hit and run. His parents are active at Southern Hills and they asked five men to conduct the service. Three of them were from their Shepherding group, one was in an accountability group with the Dad, the other was one of our elders. None of them were professional preachers.

I liked it. It was real community. It was their "family" helping out in crisis. It wasn't professional or polished. It was, however, what the family of Jesus looks like. I believe our world hungers for authentic community. We preach "every member a minister". That funeral modeled it. I wonder how much difference we could make in this world if the preaching staff spent time training and equipping members for ministry. We tend to hire staff to do ministry. And it sure hasn't led to our taking the world for Jesus.

I enjoy my ministry at Herald of Truth. But I have to be honest, some of my best ministry was done when wasn't in "full-time" ministry. So what if we had a staff of trainers instead of ministers? What if we all became missionaries instead of supporting professional missionaries? Probably too radical... but what we are doing just doesn't seem too be working.

Maybe it's time for a different model.

What do you think?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


Culture, experience, and church...

One of my recent posts referred to 1968, and the sixties in general, as a watershed time for our culture. I am convicted that shared cultural experience has impacted where we are as a church today. I think that it true for every generation. For example, leadership among churches of Christ for the last twenty or thirty years has primarily been men who were shaped by the Depression and World War II. Let me share how that impacted the church.

For years churches would accumulate monies in the bank. Under the guise of fiscal responsibility, many churches hoarded the Lord's money. I think that is because so many of the elders were shaped by the Great Depression when life was very much a day by day proposition.

Culturally, the Depression experience drove a whole generation to be savers and home owners. So what about the church? We built buildings, we moved across the tracks, we strove to avoid the stigma of "poor" people.

The experiences of World War II changed our brotherhood politically. Well into the twentieth century we were a fellowship of pacifists and conscientious objectors. Culturally, WWII was seen as a just war and many from our churches served. Many of those veterans and their war brides became elders, so you saw a dramatic upswing in patriotism in our churches: flags, recognizing and honoring veterans, etc.

WWII was also the experience that revitalized us in terms of missions. Vets came home and drove mission efforts into Europe and Asia. Many of our missionaries in the fifties were veterans themselves.

Some of these results were good, some not. But they were expressions of the culture these leaders grew up in.

Now our elders are products of the sixties. I think that has implications for our churches today in authority, music, women, marriage, and politics.

More to come later, but what do you think. Do our churches look the way they do because they have been led by those shaped by the events of the thirties and forties?

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