Northland Church links to a good podcast from CBS News on the church's use of technology to connect their services to home churches. It's amazing not just to see how committed Northland is to distributing their church community, but how the services grow in small groups like the one profiled in the podcast.
It used to be that my weekend pattern was the same, week-in and week-out. Saturday was for church and Sunday was to spend time at the office doing a mix of personal/work items (which is a very big overlap in my case). Part of that Sunday time would involve catching a Northland service in addition to Lakewood services. In most cases, this meant splashing the video feed on my big monitor and forgetting the worries of deadlines and other commitments for an hour or so in order to enjoy the worship for a moment and remember that there's always one bigger commitment to attend to.
The current schedule is in a bit more of a state of flux. I still enjoy the idea of Saturday being a day for rest and church, but Ecclesia is a very different environment from Lakewood. Instead of avoiding the cattle-herds of Sunday at Lakewood, each day at Ecclesia is about the same, population-wise. And since I'm now involved in occasionally running video for the main service instead of merely for a smaller ministry within the church, my "pew" is in the cozy, workaholic confines of the AV booth anyway. And when I'm not volunteering during service, I'm enough of an early bird to get a preferred seat (which is, coincidentally enough, a real pew along the back row) in the much smaller sanctuary.
There are some habits beyond church that I'd like to regain, however. First and foremost is making time for my podcast habit. That's been something that I've been working on this past week.More work is needed, but steps are being taken. Second is keeping a journal again. That tends to follow from the podcast habit, but it should also be assisted by the fact that Ecclesia tends to go through books of the Bible at a time, rather than pick out thematic messages for each week (1 Corinthians is on tap starting this weekend). To me, that lends itself more toward a note-taking type of study. Both of those habits have been about as much a part of my own spiritual growth over the last few years as church has. So a return to at least that much of what passes for normal would be a good thing. It's not quite the same as the home churches that Northland is inspiring, but it's the church I enjoy being at when I'm home.
It'll get awfully slow around here until Election Day. In the meantime, here's one very nice, modern-day parable of faith and persistence. I caught CNN during the first two rescues. To call it heart-warming would be an enormous understatement.
» NY Times: Chile Rejoices as Capsule Brings Miners to Freedom
» Wash. Post/OnFaith: Chile mine rescue a 'miracle'?
» NY Times: Humanity Is Drawn to Scene of Rescue
Are apartment-dwellers the new "unsaved"?
The numbers don't seem to add up, but it probably comes down to what you consider a Christian. This 2009 poll came up with the number of Christians in America at 76%, total. If we break out the napkin, the laws of math suggest that it would take 170% of home-dwellers being Christian to balance things out.
Another view would be to assume the 5% "saved" number is correct, assume the best for single-family home dwellers (let's say 80% "saved") and you arrive at an America where a mere 37% of the nation is saved. Clearly, that would indicate a very different world around most of us reading this sentence if that were the case.
It would certainly make sense to me that even accounting for differing definitions of what it means to be "saved" for any given poll, the 5% calculation is wildly off-base. While it would be a secure assumption that younger, less rooted individuals and families might not be as mature, decided, or secure in their faith ... I'm guessing that the expectation of such a bleak scenario might be too much. But then again, I live in a heavily Muslim part of town, so I'm sure I could find bring the average down with any findings I might get in my 'hood.
With apologies to the Bay City Rollers, we finally kicked off Saturday night services at Ecclesia last night. There's still a little bit of leg room to go around, which is encouraging to see. Then again, I managed to watch from the lofty perch of the AV team section, doing my darndest to get comfortable with ProPresenter (good program, really ... I just consider Mac products to be of the devil). The message was covering another part of the book of James and came at a time when Ecclesia celebrated it's 11th birthday as a church.
26-27 Anyone who sets himself up as "religious" by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.
1-4 My dear friends, don't let public opinion influence how you live out our glorious, Christ-originated faith. If a man enters your church wearing an expensive suit, and a street person wearing rags comes in right after him, and you say to the man in the suit, "Sit here, sir; this is the best seat in the house!" and either ignore the street person or say, "Better sit here in the back row," haven't you segregated God's children and proved that you are judges who can't be trusted?
5-7 Listen, dear friends. Isn't it clear by now that God operates quite differently? He chose the world's down-and-out as the kingdom's first citizens, with full rights and privileges. This kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God. And here you are abusing these same citizens! Isn't it the high and mighty who exploit you, who use the courts to rob you blind? Aren't they the ones who scorn the new name—"Christian"—used in your baptisms?
The translation generally used at Ecclesia is Chris Seay's The Voice, but since it's not yet included as a BibleGateway translation, I'll use Eugene Peterson's The Message. Either way, I think it's safe to say that each and every week has been a pleasant reminder of what a great place Ecclesia is to grow in.
Lastly, I should probably go ahead and note my regrets over the slowness of blogging in days/weeks past and set the expectation that things might be about as slow between now and Election Day in November. Yep, the day job is now even more of a 24/7 calling. High School football ... college football ... the NFL ... catching up on reading ... catching up on missed sermon podcasts ... breaking out the guitar to annoy the neighbors with ... all things that have been gradually fading from the list of things I get to enjoy. Look for a little make-up time with some of these after the votes have been counted.
But since I'm here now, why not share a few good reads from the past few days ...
Houston Chronicle: Texans GM Smith gets help from above
The New Yorker: Inside C Street, Washington’s frat house for Jesus
OnFaith: Obama, Beck: Who is Christian? Who decides?
Christian Post: Clark Pinnock Dies at 73
WESH (Orlando): Granddaughter Of Mega-Church Pastor Succumbs To Cancer
The last article references the grand-daughter of one of my faves: Joel Hunter.
A belated followup on Anne Rice ...
There are moments in the interview that get an eyeroll out of me - mainly due to the interviewee. But it's worth watching to the end for Anne's explanation of whether it's worth walking away from organized religion altogether or just looking for another church. However discomforting some of her rationale may be to me or you, I honestly think there's something inherently Christ-like in the answer she's settling on. I would hope that it's only for a season and I'd much prefer she not conflate "Christianity" with something separate of Christ. But I think I get where she's going.
It's a bit familiar in my own switch to Ecclesia, though I was admittedly lucky in having that destination toward the top of my list of alternatives. I felt that, while I could have stayed back at Lakewood and taken up the discussion with others in church leadership who may have even been a bit more respectful, I just didn't feel that anything would have changed and I'd still be surrounded by a lot of people who believe that voting for one political party (or simply hating the other) is part of the walk that Christ calls us to walk. There are those who may wish to have that discussion, but for me, my fit was for a place to grow.