Monday, June 25, 2007

"the secret" exposed

I've often been amazed at the number of Christians who get on board with "Oprah Mania". I agree that she is an intelligent, funny, ambitious and often compassionate woman. She is amazing!

HOWEVER, she is also a self-proclaimed spiritual leader. Her religion sounds good on the surface (with hints of Christianity and other philosophies sprinkled around here and there). But at its very core there is a self-focused, humanistic message which excludes the love of God and runs contrary to the teachings of Jesus.

That's why this recent article from "Christianity Today" caught my attention. I know it's a pretty long read. But I think it provides some valuable insight.

As followers of Jesus, we need to have a well-developed filter that sees through the philophies being subtly promoted through movies, magazine articles, and pop culture gurus like Oprah.

Let's pray that God will reveal himself to her in a beautiful way. Can you imagine what Jesus could do in her life?

The Secret Exposed
Mel Lawrenz 6/18/2007

You can gain anything you want in life—wealth, health, the perfect mate, business success, respect from others—literally anything. That is the promise of the No. 1 best-selling book The Secret (Beyond Words). The editor, Rhonda Byrne, explains that "the secret" can be found in everything from Babylonian religion to Buddhism to Albert Einstein. The Secret (available as both a book and a DVD) is no secret now, however. It has become a global video event, a clever cross-promotional marketing plan, and a book touted by Oprah.

Byrne, an Australian television talk-show producer, discovered the secret just over two years ago. The book's contributors are described on the official website as: a "philosopher" who "developed The Science of Success and Harmonic Wealth® which teach [sic] people how to yield unlimited results in all areas: relationally, intellectually, physically, and spiritually" (James Arthur Ray); a "business building and moneymaking" expert (John Assaraf); a "doctor," "philosopher," and "international speaker" (John DeMartini); a "metaphysician" and "one of the top marketing specialists in the world" (Joe Vitale); and "a nonaligned, trans-religious progressive" (Michael Beckwith). Such titles reveal the new kind of gurus to whom millions of people give credence today.

The secret is simply "the law of attraction." Think about wealth, and you will become wealthy. Think about that new car, and it will come. Think about getting a good parking spot, and one will open up. Think about your ideal weight (really, dwell on that number, write it on your scale), and you will attract that reality to yourself. Byrne reports that since deciding her "perfect weight" was 116 pounds, she has reached it, and nothing has moved her from it, no matter what she does or eats.

"Thoughts are magnetic, and thoughts have a frequency," the book assures us. "As you think, those thoughts are sent out into the universe and they magnetically attract all like things that are on the same frequency. Everything sent out returns to the source. And that source is you."

Now here's the bad news: Whatever happens to you—the good and the bad—was attracted by your thoughts. Appendicitis? Auto accident? Poverty? You brought it on yourself.

Obsessed with the Self

Bible verses are misquoted. Ray, "an expert on many Eastern, indigenous, and mystical traditions," says: "Here's the question I want you to consider—do you treat yourself the way that you want other people to treat you?" Ray's TWIST on the Golden Rule becomes the ultimate form of self-centeredness. Oh, and you can attend Ray's "harmonic wealth weekend" for only $997. Somebody has figured out how to attract wealth to himself.

The Secret, you see, is all about the self—it's for the self, obsessed with the self. Newsweek offers this critique: "On an ethical level, The Secret appears deplorable. It concerns itself almost entirely with a narrow range of middle-class concerns—houses, cars, and vacations, followed by health and relationships, with the rest of humanity a very distant sixth."

Professor Robert Thompson of Syracuse University says: "The Secret promises this heaven on Earth in one fell swoop by simply desiring something, by simply wanting it. It's amazing how we really are a nation of, at best, great optimists, at worst, real suckers."

What The Secret reveals is that so many people are so desperately unhappy that they will snatch up anything offering hope—or simply offering quick and easy wealth. My question is, who will be there to pick up the pieces when they discover that they bought into a lie? And who will help the people who believe that they brought every misfortune on themselves because they sent negative thoughts and feelings out into the universe like a human radio transmitter?

How different from the message of Jesus: The first will be last, and the last will be first. Lose your life, and you will find it.

Friday, June 22, 2007

fast company - authenticity

The Wesleyan Church's Department of Evangelism & Church Growth put out an interesting commentary this week. Highlighting the points from a leading business magazine, here's a REPRINT:

What does it take to be authentic? It was a question posed in a "Fast Company" article on consumer brands. Interestingly enough, their observations can be readily applied to the church.

1. A sense of place
Authenticity comes from a place we can connect with; a place with a story.”

The church should be a place people can connect. We have the greatest story of all time: The timeless story of God’s interaction in the lives of people, where God intersects the lives of people and something extraordinary happens. We need to create venues and opportunities for people to hear these stories. People best connect when they realize they have something in common with those around them. It is in the community of believers we come to know that we all have our “stuff,” but God loves us anyway.

2. A strong point of view
Authenticity also emerges from people with a deep passion for what they are doing.”

We believers should be passionate about the God to whom we give our allegiance. It is in our passion we will serve. It is in our passion we will accept folks where they are, but help them move to where they need to be. It is in our passion we will strive to be as competent as we can in the work we do. It is our passion we will be real, warts and all, so others might see that God works in and through the broken and imperfect.

3. Serving a larger purpose
“…if a brand can convincingly argue that its profit-making is only a by-product of a larger purpose, authenticity sets in.”

Like it or not, the church and Christians have an image problem. We are seen as boring, uninteresting, irrelevant and only partially true. Our response to this is typically to expect those outside our “brand” to get over it. Instead we need to connect with them and make a case through our actions that we are not what they perceive. When people believe our interest in them is based on only getting them into the Christian fold, they will tend to see us as “poseurs.” It is for us to let them see we are interested in them as people not a project.

4. Integrity
Authenticity comes to a brand that is what it says it is.”

It is not what we say, but who we are that tells the real story. People are more interested in seeing what we believe than hearing what we believe. In 2000 Mc Donald’s launched its “We love to see you smile” campaign. It was well done and slick, except a year later it was discovered that grumpy, rude counter clerks were costing them millions of dollars in lost sales (Fast Company, May 2007, p.87). The integrity of our message is in the lives of those who proclaim it.

The twenty-first century is hungry for authenticity. The church has the potential to address this if we are courageous enough to change. Chris Bangle, BMW’s Design Director, explains that many successful brands stumble because they are “deeply rooted in their heritage and values, they are inflexible, unmovable, and ultimately stuck in time. The competition will outflank it, and the world will pass it by.”

end of article

First, this serves as a reminder that ALL truth is God's truth. Christians should never be afraid of science principles or business principles or organizational principles. Because...if the trend of today is just a fad, it will pass away. But the biblically consistent principles of God will endure forever.

People often discover God in their search for truth. And as people from all walks of life (science, business, sports, etc.) continue to discover how the world works... THEY learn about God and WE can enthusiastically embrace them and learn from them.

Second, these things are easy for us to SAY. And sometimes you may be tempted to critize churches for struggling. But think positively. Think proactively. What are some practical ways that followers of Christ can live these principles out in biblical community?

I think the first step is an authentic experience with God...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

cell phones in church

Monday, June 18, 2007

pain of the journey

"I see so many weak, sissy Christians who put their faith in Christ years ago, but haven't grown a bit," says Brad Bell.

"They can't figure out why they aren't happy all the time like they expected. The problem is that they signed on to a pleasant destination, not a challenging journey."

"We need to talk much more about the journey, and we need to be crystal clear about Christ's call to count the costs. Jesus calls us to suffering as much as to delight."

Thursday, June 14, 2007

setting them up for failure

Just 2 months ago, there was an historic mansion near Kingswear, Devon in southwest England. It was worth $12 million. The key word here? "WAS".

The millionare owner, Andrew Brownsword, had commissioned a $2 million renovation. Plumbers and construction workers were working all around the mansion.

In the attic, a 17 year old rookie plumber was using a blow torch to do some soldering in the upper roof space. Apparently the flame came into contact with some old insulation...and within minutes the entire mansion was burning to the ground.

It was his first day on the job, and I suspect it will probably be his last.


This week in our pastoral staff meeting at Faith we talked about training and equipping. Far too often, leaders set people up for failure. Organizations recruit randomly and plug individuals into a responsibility with very little preparation, and it often does not turn out well.

The common process goes something like this:

-We need someone to do a job!
-Hey, this person would be great at this job!
-Tell the person what they need to do
-Hope it goes well
-Pretty soon a fire starts
-Oops, crash and burn

Then we wonder why new leaders fail to be developed. Team members get frustrated and quit. WHY? Because we set them up for failure, rather than setting the person up for success.

The training process should go more like this:

1) I do, you watch
2) I do, you help
3) You do, I help
4) You do, I watch

It is tempting to jump from the first step directly to the last step. It takes so much time working together, that we often just hand off the responsibility before a person is ready.

But time spent training is never time is time invested. And it might just prevent the whole organization from burning to the ground!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

genius solution

You don't have to be a be a genius!

Mensa is an organization whose members have an IQ of 140 or higher. A few years ago, there was a Mensa convention in San Francisco, and several members lunched at a local café. While dining, they discovered that their saltshaker contained pepper and their peppershaker was full of salt. How could they swap the contents of the bottles without spilling, and using only the implements at hand?

Clearly this was a job for Mensa! The group debated and presented ideas, and finally came up with a brilliant solution involving a napkin, a straw, and an empty saucer. They called the waitress over to dazzle her with their solution.

"Ma'am," they said, "we couldn't help but notice that the peppershaker contains salt and the saltshaker—"

"Oh," the waitress interrupted. "Sorry about that." She unscrewed the caps of both bottles and switched them.

(Found on MSN; submitted by Sherman Lee Burford, Tuskegee Institute, Alabama )

How often do we OVERTHINK our problems? Maybe it is time to just listen to some plain old-fashioned common sense.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

communicated presence

Do you ever have one of those weeks where you just crave Sunday morning?

Sometimes you may experience that when things are really going badly. Life seems yucky and you want to go worship and study God's Word out of desparation. "Lord help!"

But that's not what I'm talking about today. Actually, I've had a great week. I've spent time connecting with leaders and had some great conversations with Faith Church newbies! I got a lot of administrative stuff accomplished (not usually my favorite tasks.) I even carved out some studying time (although not nearly as much as I had hoped).

Sure, we had to take BOTH of our cars to the shop (expensive)...and the lawnmower broke down (basically every motorized machine we own is being repaired). But those things happen and you just take them in stride.

This week, the reason I am so much looking forward to church, is because I can't wait to worship in community! It is COMEDY Sunday @ Faith and we're going to share some great laughs. We're also going to connect with God in an amazing way. Mark has some great songs planned for tomorrow. I'm not in the band. I'm not speaking or teaching. I just get to experience it all. Maybe I'll even get an "after service" vanilla latte.

C.S. Lewis said, "It is in the process of being worshipped that God communicates His presence to men." I pray that God will be worshipped and his presence will be communicated.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

not so happy teens

The United States doesn't always come in first place. UNICEF surveyed 21 of the most developed nations and measured how kids related to other kids, spent time with parents, used alcohol and/or drugs, and perceived their own happiness. Tight-knit nations—like Sweden, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Finland—ranked the highest when it came to young people feeling secure and happy. The U.S. came in next to last, with the United Kingdom at the bottom of the list.

UNICEF'S operating thesis was that "stable, supportive family and social relationships are far more important to kids' well being than how much expensive junk they have piled up in their rooms."

So what are some things we can do with our kids to let them know how much we love them? It probably has something to do with a cherished treasure called "Time"...

Monday, June 04, 2007

no worries

Two business executives were meeting for lunch. The one executive asks the other, “So, how are you doing?”

His buddy says, “Great! Never felt better. All my ulcers are gone…and I don’t have a care in the world.”

“Really? How did that happen?”

Well the guy says, “My doctor told me my ulcers were caused by all the worrying and stress in my life. So here’s what I did. I hired a Professional Worrier. Whenever something goes wrong and I start to get stressed out, I just turn it over to him and he does all the worrying FOR me!”

The other guy says, “That’s amazing! I’d love to hire someone like that! How much does he charge?”

Stretching back he said, “Well the Professional Worrier is great… but it does cost me $100,000 a year.”

The other guys chokes, “A $100,000? How in the world can you afford it?”

"Oh, I don’t know. I let HIM worry about that!”

Philippians 4:6 says: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

This weekend in our worship services everyone filled out a "Worry Card". We wrote down our top 2 or 3 worries and fears. Before receiving communion at the different stations, we dropped the cards in the "Worry Buckets".

Today we are beginning to pray over those cards for all the people of Faith Church. As I read through those cards, one by one, I am struck by the common themes of our fears. Money, work, parenting and family issues.

My prayer for each one is
- that the peace of God will reign
- that the people of God will trust
- that the power of God will prevail
- and that we would be counted FAITHFUL to the tasks He has assigned us

Things might not always turn out great in the short term, but Jesus has promised us that the end of the story will make it all worthwhile.