A Response to Recent Misunderstandings (2007)

Being a follower of Jesus requires two things of me: 1) a desire to love Jesus with all my being 2) a devoted humility to please God–no if, ands, buts, or a comma between the “please” and “God.” My dream is to render both faithfully every day. But Jesus-following and God-pleasing–not people-pleasing–can sometimes lead me up a hill, often carrying a cross. It can mean being silent when accused, even refusing to defend myself or push back when my faith or character is unjustly attacked by brothers and sisters in the faith. Nothing hurts more than being shot by friendly fire. Yet, I recognize that God can use my critics to humble me, teach me, and transform me and in so doing revitalize and empower my ministry even more so than before. So despite the confusion and harm such onslaughts can seem to be either to me or to others around me, I welcome them from the sovereign hand of God and am thankful that they exist, especially in that they can help me to clarify the tenets of my faith and to reiterate my mission and ministry to others. I take my commitment to those whom I may influence by my ministry very seriously. And it is for this reason that I pause now to address some issues of faith that are dear to my heart and important to the many followers of Jesus who look to me for guidance, hope and inspiration as we journey together in the path of Christ. First, I thank the many of you, who have been kind enough to approach me with...

Freely You Have Received, Freely Give

Toward a Post-Tithing, Post-Stewardship, Postmodern Theology of Receiving “What have you got that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?” Apostle Paul (1Cor.4:7) *** “It is not what we eat but what we digest that makes us strong; not what we gain but what we save that makes us rich; not what we read but what we remember that makes us learned; not what we preach but what we practice that makes us Christian.” — Francis Bacon   The mysterious Watergate informant known as “Deep Throat” was right. “Follow the money,” he told reporters Woodward and Bernstein. “Follow the money.”   It’s a lesson the church, fixed on the power of politics in a world where the power paradigms are economic, has yet to learn. Money talks. And how Jesus loved to talk about money. If clergy preached on economics as often as Jesus did, there would be at least one sermon a month devoted to what Douglas W. Johnson calls “a theology of finance,” or “think[ing] about money theologically.” 1 But clergy have historically been reluctant to take a leadership role in the church’s money matters and fund-raising.   There are lots of reasons for this, not the least of which is that nothing has produced more friction over the years between a pastor and a congregation so much as economics. 2 Likewise, some of the biggest fights in church history were caused by economic issues. The Reformation after all began in part as a dispute over stewardship and fund-raising. But generally, stewardship thinking and planning...