my inner monologue...
site by Andrew Seely
Sunday, January 29, 2006
How much is a pastor worth?
Is it based on credentials?
Is it based on experience?
Is it based on numbers?
Or is it based on something entirely different?
What about those in ministry who don't have letters behind their names?
What makes up the value of church?
I like what my friend has to say about being a pastor.
Friday, January 27, 2006
Sometimes I feel like church is a glorified social club. Where the activities and events take more precedence than the worship of God. Yes, we have "worship" but even that is more about the planning and execution than the mere fact that we are in the presence of God. How many of the comments after the service have to do with how well/or how badly something was done, ie the powerpoint or the microphones or the ushers. Instead of having to do with how lives are changed, renewed or how empowered someone is to go out and change the world for Christ.
I know I've talked about how during "coffee hour" it seems that most of the conversation drifts towards everyday life instead of what happened for the last hour. Here I want to focus a little bit more about the over all structure of church.
I think a good indicator of the life of the church is the calendar. What kinds of events are on it, how frequent, and who are they targeted to.
In my experiences, most of the church calendars I've encountered, have things like meetings for different committees, boy/girl scouts, bible studies, practices (choir, play, etc), rented rooms for other groups (AA, NA, etc), and the occasional "special" event. Special events can include anything from a movie night, to a potluck dinner/lunch, or even the retreat weekend.
Do we have the tendency to attach something "spiritual" to an event to justify it's legitimacy for a place in church life? Or by being sponsored by the church does it become "spiritual"? Like a trip to the theatre or to a garden or even a picnic in the park.
I think a lot of things that the church "sponsors" while good for "fellowship" (which is a whole other post) is not exactly any more than a glorified social event. I'm not against relationships or meeting with people, but I believe more in strong relationships and intentional and deep relationships, which I do not think occur as well when we exist within a social, "fellowship" model of church. Instead if we truly desire relationships and good ones at that then we need to make sure we are doing intentional things to strengthen those relationships. More over we need to put in the time and energy to have the majority of the growth of these relationships happen outside of church functions. And on top of this we need to include non-christians in these relationships. See Dan Kimball's post about non-christian relationships.
What seems to have happened is that we are stuck in a 1950's model of how church operates as a central point in the community. We still subconsciously believe that if we as a church put on events than the community will show up in droves and then we can be living out a missional call to the community. But the church is not a pinnacle in community life anymore. This is deathly clear by numbers alone. We (as the church) are not looked to, to provide entertainment and gatherings as we once were. Yes, we may still retain some of that for our members, but our members do not make up the majority of the community as they once did in the 1950's and probably even into the 70's and maybe 80's.
I'm not saying that church being partly social is totally bad, but I'm being more convinced that if we truly want to reach out to those around us in our communities and strengthen the relationships that already exist then we must abandon a social minded calendar and move towards a missional or social justice type of church.
Our focus is moving outside of the church walls to hold events, even if purely social, we then begin to break down the social stigma attached to the church building. Also when we move towards a missional focus, relationships begin to deepen, because we are asking people to make conscious efforts to deepen their relationships instead of relying of the connivence of events and/or time/day where they know people will be. As we move away from being a social hub, we start to view the surrounding community as a place to be and to interact with instead of continuing to think that people will come, if we provide events. I like how in Dan Kimball's article (see above for link) he talks about the desire need to make sure that we maintain good relationships with people in our community who are not christians. This can be as simple as really getting to know our neighbors and even other parents of our children's friends. There are plenty of places we can begin.
The issue becomes whether or not we are willing to make the effort and do the work that is required to make sure that we are not falling into a social trap of church. It is much harder to be our there and doing the necessary steps to make sure that we are living out a missional call to our community.
We need to being to know the people who live in the closest proximity to the church. I'm sure if you polled the majority of the churches in the country they would have little to no contact with the people who live across the street from their church or around the corner. Why do we buy houses next to our church, (not all of them, but a few) and make these centers for reaching out. Spend time with a neighbor, without an "evangelical" agenda. Get to know them, share life. Spend time with the poor. Funnel the money and effort and time that it takes to plan a gathering/outing/retreat/dinner to set up caring for the poor who no doubt live/work/hang out in the surrounding area of your church.
Why is the church not respected in the community? Because we spend so much time and effort taking care of those within the church instead of making sure those who are "outside" the church or those who we would say "need church" are taken care of.
Let's have our calendars filled with service, with support, with prayer, with places where we are actively meeting and building relationships with those without faith. Go to a club, join a group, meet migrant workers, eat with sinners, who cares what people think. Stand up for those who don't have the luxury of a pot-luck dinner, or better yet, invite people who cannot bring anything. Find the ways to transform your church calendar into something that does not resemble a social life, if you want a social life then get one, but make church about God and not as much about us. Let us live out the church, by going out.
Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." Mark 2:17
Sunday, January 22, 2006
If you've been following the hoopla I've created with my article about Brokeback Mountian over at Relevant, then you will have noticed that it has garnered a lot of comments.
It really has been a mixed bag of comments, from people being glad that I wrote the article and those who basically condemned me to hell and say I'm not a real Christian.
All the emails have been affirming, with the expection of one.
But what I really want to say is; I'm not sure I was ready for all of this attention. If you've read this blog for a while then you will know it's pretty low-key, with me writing things that are on my heart and things that come under little scrunity. Now, I guess I will have to be a bit more cautious when I write as more people have and will be reading my words.
I am glad to have the influx of readers and look forward to hearing and learning from the new voices that will be stopping by from time to time.
It has always been my hope that this site will be a catalyst for conversation and ideas and I hope it will continue to be just that.
Thank you for being with me on the journey and I look forward to many years to come.
Peace of the Lord fall on you this day as you desire to follow God with all of your heart.
Saturday, January 21, 2006
Three is the magic number!!!
Because that's how many more years Mr. W has left in office (maybe less).
Follow along at The Official "W"oeful Days Countdown.
Friday, January 20, 2006
New Ghetto Blog
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
If you remember this article I wrote, then I have good news. The folks over at Relevant Magazine have published my article on their site. Check it out here.
And if you've found your way here via Relevant, welcome. I hope you enjoy the content and feel free to check out the archives or leave a comment or two. And come back soon.
Monday, January 16, 2006
I wrote this post while at camp, I told people I was blogging old school style.
I always seem to learn something from a weekend at Jr. High camp. I continually find it interesting that students place such high value on their grade level. While I fully understand that their grade highly influences their identity, it still baffles me why they place so much authority and rank on a number. I'll be the first to admit that I was no exception to this rule. I continually believed that as my grade number rose so did my authority and rule ove those with lower numbers. I'm prett sure I knew that there were probably a number of people younger than I who were in fact smarther than I. Bus as long as I held my rank by grade, I remained superior to them.
You would be amazed at how violated an 8th grade feels when the 6th graders get dismissed before them at a meal. As if their grade entitled them any more right to the food than anyone else. As if there wouldn't be any food left if they didn't get there first. Our superiority complexes more often than not seem to quickly take hold of situations and provide a false sense of right and entitlement.
I am convinced this attitude spills over to our church life. Adults and students alike. A middle school attitude that because we have been Christians for x number of years, automatically gives us precidence over those who have fewer years under their belt.
If I have been reading the Bible for 10 years than I must know more about it and God than someone who has only been reading it for 2 years. Logic tells us this is probably true. But God is not one who measures by time. Why is it that some people think that if a newer Christian is still struggeling with past transgressions, that makes them unfit to lead others in worship, even if their worship is probably more earnest and authentic than others?
One of my favorite and still most difficult parables is that of the vinyard workers (it can be found in Matthew 20:1-16). Here we see the ultimate understanding of equality in Christ.
It is a passage that most come to and have a hard time, deep inside, understanding that it shouldn't be an issue for us if we truly reconize Christ's grace.
My understanding of Christianity is that within Christ there is no idea of the better. Christ's death leveled the playing field. Maybe it's our human nature. Maybe it's the societal pressure to rise above the rest.
I'm finding that it's my heart's desire after this weekend to see students and adults who claim the name of God, live in a manner that represents the call to live in equality. This is also the call for the American church, to adopt an attitude of humility towards our brothers and sisters around the world.
We didn't invent Christianity and we shouldn't assume we have the best way of living out our faith. Clearly it is time for us as American Christians to actively seek out expressions of faith from other believers in the world.
"Or are you envious because I am generous?
Friday, January 13, 2006
I'll be at middle school winter camp here until Monday. Have a great weekend.
I remember when I was little it was always easy to tell what part of town you were in by the billboards. If you were in a "bad" part of town then the billboards would have spanish on them instead of english. I can actually remember my dad saying to me that a reason we moved was because that part of town was going down hill (crime, etc). I think the underlying assumption was race as well but no one ever states that. I must admit that the part of town we used to live in (mind you this was like when I was 4 or 5) is now what would be considered a "poorer" part of town. There is a large hispanic population, many signs in spanish, and a somewhat "deteriorated" look to many of the buildings and homes in that area now.
I've noticed recently that many of the stores and signs and flyers that I receive have started to be bi-lingual.
Honestly I got a Pizza Hut coupon in the mail the other day and said to myself, why is there spanish on this flyer. Then it hit me. Why in the world would that make me upset? Was it threatening to my well being? Was it that I don't speak/read spanish? I don't really think it was any of these. I think it was just the fact that it had been so highly ingrained in me that I am superior to anyone else. (See this post for background on my personal ethnic identity.) Coming from the perception that I am of the "superior" race has allowed me to think (possibly subconsciously) that I am afforded the right to be placed first and best. I also think this comes from being american, but I'll address that later. So when MY language is next to another language makes me feel that I now have to share that right with other people. Or it makes me feel that I am no longer dominant.
I live in a state where there are large populations of other ethnic groups sometimes where the whites are the minority. I think this creates a problem for some people. I think it would definitely cause a problem for people in other states that clearly have a white majority. I have to stop and ask myself, why shouldn't things that I read be in more than one language if english isn't the only primary language spoken in a community. I should be able to say there is diversity or that it is honestly fair for businesses to want to attract customers who come from a different background. Still I think people are threatened by this. Their stronghold and identity is somehow meshed into a dominant language.
I think this holds true for most people who call themselves american, and their primary language is english. We don't like it when we hear people speaking in another language, we always assume they are talking about us, and just don't want us to hear them. Or we feel left out and we want to be aware of everything happening around us. When we americans try to communicate with people who don't speak english, we often raise our voices and speak slowly as if that will help someone who doesn't understand english better. Why are we stupid? I don't think I have ever encountered someone who speaks another language, who would raise their voice in hopes that, the mere level of their voice would help me understand their speech. Hardly any of our signs in public places have more than one language. Very few people in this country are bi or tri-lingual. While when you go most anywhere in the world, there are signs in english and people who speak english. This may come from purely a commercial aspect, but it holds true. Many people in other countries speak 2 if not 3 or 4 languages. I in a way feel ashamed that I only speak one language and do not feel the need to learn more languages so that I can better communicate with people. Living in california, it probably should be mandatory that people learn spanish as well as english. It also baffles me that so many people learn english and that it is considered a "universal" language. It's one of the most difficult languages to learn. We have so many words that sound the same but are spelled differently and have different meanings, as well as words that can have more than one meaning. And we have the most illogical system of grammar. Yet we continually don't give anyone a break if they misuse english when they are first learning it.
I hope you see where this post is going.
We as americans and especially as christians should at the mere minimum should realize that it is probably in most of us that we don't like the fact that we are living in a more global world, where everything (especially language) does not revolve around us. Secondly we should probably adopt an attitude where we consciously place ourselves second to other people, especially those who are different from ourselves. Thirdly it seems to me that we don't spend enough time dealing with race and identity outside of the explicit "christian" identity, which is fairly "safe". But I would challenge churches and pastors not only to step into the realms of racial identity but also to expand to really pushing and probing our identity as christians. How we are viewed and how we place ourselves in the world as christians.
I am a racist. I am a christian racist. I believe that as a christian that I must some how be better than all those "secular" people.
I'm not ok with my above statements. I want to be someone who doesn't subconsciously get upset by a flyer or bank advertisement in more than one language. I want to be someone who transcends the label "christian". I want to see others as more important than myself.
Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy...on me...a sinner.
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
This is my first vlog. Thanks to Aaron Flores for introducing me to the vlogging world. And thanks to my roommate Bobby Woo for use of the camera and his computer and his editing skills (if you watch close he makes a rare cameo).
Stay tuned for more vlogs and continued blogging here at andrewseely.com
For free vlog hosting head over to blip.tv
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Let's put down our signs, let's take off our t-shirts, let's stop organizing protests and pickets. Let's stop telling (shouting at) people that they are sinners.
What good does this do?
How many people do you know that were saved because someone told them they were a sinner, or that they were going to hell?
Let's stop speaking for God. We don't know if God did _____ to _____ or if God hates _____.
I can't find where in the Bible it says that we are allowed to judge people the way it seems that some Christians think they have the right to.
Last time I checked we were all sinners and will continue to be sinners.
Can we please use all this energy and time to do something constructive?
Feed some homeless. Comfort someone mourning. Pay someone's heating bill. Tutor some kids who's parent(s) work 2 jobs. Pray for those being persecuted. Pay to fix someone else's car, instead of trading in your 2 year old car. Buy extra groceries for a low income family. Fast. Teach someone to read. Spend time with the lonely.
What happened to the old saying "they will know we are Christians by our love"?
I think this is one of the greatest needs of the current day church.
Why aren't lots of people outside of the church complaining that these "Christians" show too much love to all people?
Let's stop complaining about how other Christians are giving us a bad name and let's just get out there and make it loud and clear that a few people do not speak for the rest of us.
Friday, January 06, 2006
As much as I would like for this not to be a problem. I still have lingering feelings that I deeply desire community. A community that wholly accepts and supports me. A community that I'm plunged into, a community that allows me to wrestle, falter and succeed.
A group of people that highly values me and that highly challenges me in so many of the correct places. People who are constantly there and around.
Mature and vulnerable friendships that can be relied upon.
Maybe it's all a dream or a fantasy that will never be realized. Maybe it's just wanting to be a part of some imaginary inner circle.
Maybe it will never happen. Or maybe it just hasn't happened yet...
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
This is an article I will be submitting to a few different sites for publication. These are just my thoughts and observations. I highly suggest you view the movie before arguing or complaining.
Finding God on Brokeback Mountain
By Andrew Seely
Please do not boil this movie down to homosexuality. Please do not pass judgment without even seeing the movie. See the fact that there are great performances. See gift of storytelling. View the beauty of God's creation. Relate to people who have lives that are complicated. And finally remember that God's love is far greater than any of us deserve.
If we give this movie a chance, before automatically condemning it, I think we will be surprised by a well-rounded movie that explores what it means to be a human in relationship with other humans.
Some have found it quite easy to quickly dismiss this movie, they cry anti-family values and homosexual agendas. And many will simply not see this movie at all, regardless of the press, both good and bad, about this movie. At this point it has been nominated for 7 Golden Globe awards, to me that says this movie is at least worth taking a look at.
I did see this movie. I come from a perspective where I believe God shows up in the most extraordinary places, and I believe he's shown up in this movie. I will say that this movie did make me feel uncomfortable at times, as it does deal with controversial subjects. It is set as a period piece yet deals with extremely contemporary issues.
This movie is filled with emotion, discouragement, pain, security, hope, loss, love, all of which echo human experience and God's heart. While this movie is being touted as "the gay cowboy" movie, it would help to quickly get over the "gay" thing. The plot line revolves around homosexual encounters, but it is far more than just that. The depth of movie revolves around a deep character study and the acting supports this in tremendous ways. The depiction of raw, carnal male emotion is something that is not easily drawn out of most males and is even rarer in a major motion picture. While at times these men are confused and bewildered by their emotions this movie shows a true depiction of how males do and do not deal with emotion.
The cinematography alone left me feeling the breath and scope of God's creation, the vast rolling hills and stunning jagged mountains were simply brought to life on the big screen. Truly this movie lives up to being an "art house" film as it is simply, art. While I'm sure there is good and bad art, there is still joy in seeing your child scribble on a piece of paper and then hanging it on the refrigerator. I'm not insinuating that we should automatically take joy in this film. We are free to disagree with some of the lifestyle choices and the tone of the movie, but I do not think we are allowed to dismiss this movie as Godless. In the old saying that we should view the world with a Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other, I think that the newspaper should be expanded to a number of different sources, such as TV, the internet and movies to name a few. We need to make sure we are looking even in the hard places for God's shadow.
While God doesn't make a blatant appearance except for a reference of going to church and a wedding in a church, I do see God's heart as a heart for people who struggle. All of humanity struggles on some level and God is in clear solidarity with human suffering. These men and their wives spend the entire movie trying to figure out what it means to exist with other people and trying to figure out who they are as individuals in the midst of relationships. Here is where I think God shows up the most. God understands broken relationships. Part of me identifies with this movie on a very deep level. It helps me express my dependence on God. It helps me to realize that the "Christian" world is just as broken as everyone else. It helps me share my hope in Christ.
It is not easy to always find how God is breaking through in a situation. It takes work and time to search for how God is going to speak. Like Elijah on the mountain, it may not have a "Christian" label smacked on the front, or an endorsement from Focus on the Family, but God desires to make himself known to us. We have to be open to how he is going to do that.
Monday, January 02, 2006
New Ghetto Blog
Sunday, January 01, 2006
Bobby and I are undertaking a grand task of monumental proportions.
We are going to try and watch all 100 of the American Film Institue's (AFI) Top 100 Movies list within this year.
A LOT of time will have to be devoted to this project just to get through the list, not to mention trying to figure out if we agree with the placement of the movies on the list. But most importantly these movies highlight some of the best filmmaking in history and to be able to view them all is a lesson in historical content and artistry.
You can view the complete list here or download our list, because we are watching them from 100 down to 1 and also our list has the runtime next to each movie. I will be updating the list as we watch each movie with both Bobby's and my rating of each movie based on a 1-5 scale with 5 being the top.
What have been your favorite movies? Mine is #39 on the list.
I added a permanent link on the left side so you can always find the list in it's most updated condition. Just click on the image to download my list.
What posts did you like best from last year (2005)? Leave the name of the post and the date of the post.