find out what is going on inside my head. i know it is a little scary, but you will be safe. i promise.

Monday, November 24, 2008

I Love a Good Contest!

Over at the Bethel blog, Todd has taken his monday WorshipWord to host a little Bible trivia contest. There is a prize. That's what makes it a contest. Here's the video:

Monday WorshipWord! from bethel bible on Vimeo.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Cornhole For Missions, Baby!

A few months ago, I posted about my friends and their love of the game of cornhole. I realize it is an unfortunate name, but it is real. Somehow the post got lost in a poorly executed blog move. In the post was this video:

Mark Batterson at National Community Church has the cornhole bug, and I do mean bad. (That didn't sound right, did it?) I love that this church is willing to be creative in the mission of bringing the gospel to their city and the world. Check out this post from Mark and this website from his church.

What creative thing are you doing to advance the gospel? What are some ideas you have?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Pastors Referring Counselees

For the follower of Jesus Christ, especially the follower who is a member of a local church, the pastor or other local church leader should be an option as a counselor should the need arise. In order to increase his effectiveness as pastor, including as counselor, the pastor will necessarily have to refer some cases. I will address three themes: why refer, how to refer, and who to refer to. This is a summary of my position on referral and my referral procedures.

Any counselor, including a pastor, will sometimes find it advisable or even necessary to refer a particular case to someone else. There are many good reasons for this. In one way or another, most of these reasons relate to limitations on the pastoral counselor. The most obvious limitation would be a pastor’s ability or expertise in a particular area. For example, the areas of substance abuse or sexual issues certainly include spiritual elements that the pastor may be equipped to handle, but they also are specialized enough to warrant the counsel of someone trained in those particular areas. In my opinion, the most important limitation on the pastor that would require him to refer cases is his time. The pastor’s primary responsibility is not counseling; in fact, that is only one element of his pastoral duties. Even in the typical church, the pastor could schedule a full-time counseling load. He must not do this. He must guard his time to be able to fulfill his primary functions of study, prayer, and teaching. There are other limitations which are related to these, such as: ability to lead necessary programs for some cases, training in a particular area, or even conflict of interest.

Once the necessity of referrals is established, we can look at how to go about referring a case. If an individual has met with the pastor for some time, he/she is likely emotionally attached. This makes referral difficult. I think the pastor should approach the subject with the client honestly. Admit that he does not have the training or resources to appropriately handle the situation. Reassure the counselee regarding their mental health (as far as he can tell). Reassure the client about their relationship. While the counseling relationship may be ending, the pastoral relationship is not. The pastor should work to maintain that relationship. Appropriate ways to do this may be through telephone calls, email, notes, and visits.

The pastor should work hard to form a network of sources to refer counselees to. The pastor has a responsibility to know the variety of professionals to whom he might refer. These should range from psychiatrists to Christian counseling programs. He should be careful not to overlook addiction recovery and marriage enrichment programs. The pastor will want to know some things about the counselor or program he is utilizing these include: reputation, training, experience, professional supervision, network of other professionals or hospitals to call on, and faith commitment or appreciation of such a commitment in the client.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Psychology and Counseling for the Christian

In the Genesis account of the creation of man, there is no indication that God only created the physical. In a single act, God created the whole man. I believe this includes not only his physical body, but also his intellect and his emotion. When man sinned and experienced the fall, mankind was sentenced to death. This was primarily a spiritual death, but it clearly included physical death. Along with sin came sickness and disease. This extends beyond the physical body to the intellect and emotion. When my body is sick or injured, I seek the assistance of a medical professional to help restore my health. This does not mean that I do not have confidence in God's ability to heal me. I believe He can heal me either directly or through the work of a skilled physician. God is no less in charge of my healing.

I think the use of psychology within the framework of ministry works in a similar fashion. Broadly defined, psychology is the study of how people think and behave. Thanks to the first Adam and the fall, the way we think and behave has been damaged. Essentially, this is the problem of sin. Clearly, acceptance of the gospel of Jesus Christ is the only answer to the problem of sin. There is no biblical reason the study of psychology cannot be one of the tools used show individuals freedom and healing in Christ.

One thing that cannot be denied is that sin leaves scars in people's lives. This is true physically. If an individual lives a life of drug abuse, then accepts Christ as his savior, his body still bears the damage that the drugs caused. Over time, God may heal him and use him. God may even choose to take away the damage done, but that is not an automatic benefit of salvation. This is not unlike the emotion. Damage that is done before a person's conversion is not automatically healed. A trained counselor can be very beneficial in helping this individual experience the freedom and healing found in Christ.

This in no way negates the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. Romans 12 tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. This implies that God can redeem the damage that has been done. Nowhere does it say He can not or will not use human agency to help accomplish that task.

In my opinion, the use of psychology is both appropriate and beneficial for the Christian worker. It will help him or her offer counsel and insight into some of the ways God can take that which was damaged and make it more useful for His kingdom.

What do you think? What role, if any, do you see for counseling and psychology in Christian ministry?

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Church Office

I like the TV show The Office. I think it is really funny. I, like most of us, have worked with individuals like those on the show. I may work with some now. I will never share that information. Early this year, I was at a conference and the church had produced a video clip based on the show. Check it out. I think you will enjoy it.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

What's Up With Google?

Today, Ross noted the mashup on Google Maps that allows you to easily find your local voting location. I think that is an extremely valuable and productive use of the power of Google. But there are a couple of other Google products that I find more troubling.

The first is Google Chrome. Personally, I like Chrome. It has a clean interface (like Google, itself). It is fast. When there are a wide array of add-ons like on Firefox, it will likely be the internet browser to beat. But there is a feature in Chrome that is a little disturbing. You can open pages in what Chrome calls "Incognito Mode". They promote it by talking about the value of doing your online banking, online ordering with credit cards, etc. This mode allows you to surf the internet without leaving anything on the memory of the local computer. While this is truly valuable, it is also commonly referred to as "porn mode". You can look at whatever you want and your wife, girlfriend, kids, boss, etc. will not see anything on the memory of the computer.

The other one is a feature available in Gmail. I love Gmail. I use Gmail. I sing the praises of Gmail. It is clearly the superior to any other email program. Here is the feature: Mail Goggles. This feature was designed to benefit the Gmail user who tends to consume products that impair his judgement then fire of emails he would regret having sent. You can set the hours when the feature is in effect. When you attempt to send an email during those hours, Gmail asks you to answer some basic math problems. If you are unable to correctly answer them, you clearly are not clearheaded enough to send email.

Google would say they are simply providing a service to their users and a more valuable product for advertisers to buy space on. From a business perspective, I would have to agree. From the standpoint of a company's responsibility to its community, I think Google is inadvertantly promoting the use of pornography and the abuse of alchohol .

I still use Google. It best accomplishes the purposes for which I use it. This is just a reminder that we live in a world where the convictions of the believer are not held by the community at large. This is a world we are to be salt and light in. We are to engage and be involved in the world around us. Use Google Maps to find your voting location and influence the community around you.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Friday Night

I clearly have the best small group in the world. One of the families lives in a neighborhood with minimal traffic and nice sidewalks. So those of us who could went there for our kids to go trick-or-treating. I captured a few minutes of video. I hope you enjoy.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Christian History (Part 2)

Obviously, this would have been more appropriate to post yesterday, since it was Reformation Day. But I had a long day and was tired. October 31 commemorates the day Martin Luther posted his 95 thesis on the church door at Wittenburg. Such a historic day is the perfect occasion to think about the value of knowing our history. What follows is the second half of the post from the other day. 

A third reason to reason to study history is that it is the story and account of how our sovereign God has worked with and through humans. Our God is an amazing God who has revealed Himself to us through the Bible. The character of God can also be seen in history. While the study of history does not replace or even compete with Biblical revelation it does show us many other numerous examples that mirror what we know to be true from the Bible. Part of God’s working with and through humans is His preservation of the church whose history we study. In Turning Points, Mark Noll writes: “This realization, which historical study fairly shouts out loud, that God sustains the church despite the church’s own frequent efforts to betray its Savior and its own high calling, points to another benefit from the history of Christianity.” (pg. 14) We know that in the New Testament, Christ promised that His church would be preserved. In history, we see that promise demonstrated.

The final reason I want to focus on for the study of history is that it helps us to understand the world and people better. One of the most notable signs of the historical ignorance of our age is how most individuals in this country think that everyone, everywhere, for all of time has thought like middle-class Americans. If we want to understand the world at large, or even have an understanding of the basic differences and similarities of all human beings, we have to study our race from the broader context of history.

I understand that history is not something that everyone loves or is interested in, but it is an important subject and the effort of its study will always bear fruit. For Christians this should not even be optional. We who claim to follow Christ should always be trying to better understand the history of Bible times so that we can better understand the Scriptures, as well. In addition, we should also be continually studying the history of Christianity. This will also help us to understand the Scriptures, as well as our doctrine. To think that we have no need of this, or even worse that we can come up with something that discredits the traditional understanding of orthodoxy is dangerous and not to be taken lightly. Godly men have endeavored for thousands of years to better understand God and to ignore that legacy is one of the greatest arrogances.

How much do you know about your history? Do you agree about the value of understanding our past? What can you do to learn more of your Christian History?