Anonymous asked: All my friends are talking about a certain mega-church pastor who has been under fire lately. When I heard he was using church funds to buy up copies of his book, so he could say he’s a bestselling author, that was enough for me. But am I wrong to write the guy off because of something like that? [edited for length]
Unka Glen answered: Well, let’s start with a bit of perspective. Part of my job is visiting and evaluating churches, and working with pastors. It’s a bit like being one of those foodies, like Anthony Bourdain, who travels around to exotic places and finds the most amazing food in the world being served in a little roadside cafe.
Sure, I find lots of churches that are still figuring themselves out, and need major work, but like Bourdain, every now and then I visit a little out of the way place that is just knock-me-off-my-feet good. As such, visiting mega-churches is, as you’d expect, more like going to McDonald’s.
McDonald’s obviously isn’t popular because it’s the best food in the world, it’s popular, like most things in our modern world, because of the advertising and promotion. There’s nothing wrong with that, and Lord knows I’ve had more than my fair share of Big Macs, but it’s worth looking at things that, by contrast, succeed solely on their own merits.
Take, for example, Donald Miller’s book, “Blue Like Jazz”, it’s a fabulous book, and it’s a great book to recommend to a friend who maybe wants to get their faith back on track after falling away a bit. But this book rose up the ranks of the bestseller list despite its lack of promotion.
I had several direct conversations with Christian publishers at the time, and they all said that they were stunned by its success. Without all the hype or promotion dollars that other books had, it did better than the rest simply because it was good.
When something succeeds in this kind of grassroots way, we should take note, and give it much greater gravity. It’s like when a friend with taste tells you that you “just have to check out” a certain place, you (hopefully) give that more consideration than something you’d see on a billboard.
If you get where I’m going, I’m not into this culture of public shaming, and let’s face it, almost all of these scandals are things we basically saw coming. Yet at the same time, I’m very much in favor of holding leaders responsible for the consequences of their actions, and for their bottom line level of pastoral care.
Forgiveness is mandatory for them, and being responsible for where you go to be spiritually fed is mandatory for you. It’s worth putting in the work, and taking the journey to discover where the quality spiritual food is being served.
If you’ve sent a message into this blog, and I haven’t responded in any way, then Tumblr has failed to deliver your message to me. I respond in some sort of way to everything that’s sent into this blog. It usually takes me a few days to do so, but if you’ve been waiting longer than a week, please re-send your message, it’s been lost.
I sincerely care about connecting with each and every one of you who writes in.
In particular, it seems as though Tumblr has lost some responses related to my upcoming trip to Toronto. I’m meeting up with any of you in Toronto that would like to hang out, so if you haven’t heard back from me, assume that your message was lost.
We’re planning to meet up tomorrow, Thursday the 21st, or Friday the 22nd. You can try messaging me again, or you can click the icon at the top of my page to follow me on Twitter, and message me there.
In totally unrelated news, but while I’ve got you on the line… To my beloved Filipino followers, this week we had our first Filipino pastor preach at our Bridge service designed for ex-cons, addicts, and gang members.
Pastor Raul Fermin preached the word and blew the doors off the place! That’s not an easy thing to do in that room, let me tell you. One of the guys even recorded a video of the sermon on his phone, so he could re-play it later for his friends! We can’t wait to have him back.
YOU’VE BEEN WARNED: don’t hit the play button unless you like good music.
So dang tasty.
Drawing inspiration from both Marcus Mumford and Charles Wesley, Nashville producer/artist Zach Hughes delivers a striking rendition of the classic hymn, ‘Jesus, Lover of My Soul’. This track is by turns fun, reflective, relaxed, and driving - and sometimes, all at once. Check this out because it’s awesome, and because you’ll want to tell your friends you were listening to Zach Hughes before they were.
Get the coolest music in the Christian world, and support missions in inner-city Chicago, all for only $8/month. Sign up at missionusa.com/bridgebox.
(via leeyounger)Source: thebridgechicago
Anonymous asked: My sibling is married to someone of another religion and they have young kids. Raising the issue increases tension, and leading by example hasn’t given tangible results. As I grow stronger in faith, the pain of knowing my nieces don’t know Christ and may not grow up with Him is unbearable.
Anonymous asked: How do you deal with the pain of not being able to help someone you really care deeply about? Especially if it’s a parent. Do you take comfort in the little ways you can help them, and just try to block out the rest?
Unka Glen answered: Both of these questions are really coming from the same place: what do we do with someone who needs help, but isn’t willing to accept it? Let me give you three steps to dealing with this kind of situation.
1) Set an example. What you’re asking about is having “the power to inspire belief”, which is the exact dictionary definition of the word: credibility. This may sound confusing, because you know lots of Christians who want to inspire belief, but they aren’t really doing anything to build any kind of credibility.
Nonetheless, it’s important to do some hard thinking about what creates a sense of credibility specifically with your family, or your friends, or your mission field.
Those cliches like “you may be the only Bible some people ever read”, and “people don’t care what you know, until they know you care”, are around for a reason. Because they’re true. If you want to speak into people’s lives, you have to earn the right to be heard.
2) Plant a seed. Here’s another saying: “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, and neither are important witnessing and discipleship relationships. When I’m trying to minister to someone, I’m trying to anticipate what obstacle or pitfall they may come across in the near future. As such, I’m usually saying something that people don’t really think they need to hear.
Of course that doesn’t matter, as long as they take what I say to heart (because I’ve earned that right in their life). Sooner or later, they’ll hit that obstacle, remember what I said, use those truths to set themselves free, and then hopefully come back for more wisdom about obstacles.
As such, I’m planting a seed of truth I know won’t really bear fruit for awhile, but I can take a great deal of comfort in knowing that when that wisdom is needed, it’ll be there for them.
3) Feed the (spiritually) hungry. For everyone in your life who isn’t open to receive spiritual help right now, there’s plenty of people who are open, and could use some help. While you’re waiting for those seeds to take root, help those who are ready. You’ll sharpen your witnessing skills by doing so, and helping people who are open passes the time in the most amazing way.
bluelikejazzminds asked: Hate is a common theme towards young black and brown men of this nation. Justice for these young men (and women) has not been served, and if anything are glossed over by celebrity news or other stories to distract the nation. As a Christian, I want to look to the church for help, but it seems that there is silence on these types of issues. As a leader, what words would you give to the congregation; God’s people; your brothers and sisters, who were/are affected by these issues? [edited for length]
Unka Glen answered: As you may know, I’ve been involved in ministering to ex-cons, addicts, and gangbangers for the past quarter century or so. As such, I can speak first-hand about the kind of urban environment from which news stories emerge, involving young men like Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin.
So much of what we read in the news is exaggerated and hyped-up, but in this case, these stories barely scratch the surface. A Trayvon Martin or a Mike Brown incident may capture the headlines for a few days, but speaking as someone who has looked directly at police misconduct reports kept by the police themselves, it needs to be understood that living in many inner city communities in America, is to live in a third-world military dictatorship.
What would I say to those who’ve been through this? What can you say? But perhaps, more to the heart of your question, what should we all do? And I think I can give us some concrete ideas on that.
The Bible talks about putting the ax to the root of a problem, so in this case, what’s the real root of the problem? Racism immediately comes to mind, and it’s undeniably a factor, but I think it’s a symptom of the real root problem: fear. Or, if I can be allowed to use some fancy vocabulary, I’d say root problem is people acting as fear mongers.
Fear mongering is the attempt to make people afraid, so that they’ll make a decision that works to the advantage of the one making them afraid. That sounds like this:
“Aren’t you tired of living in fear of who might mug you or rape you? Aren’t you tired of locking your doors at night, and hoping that it’s enough? Vote for me, and I’ll lock all these people up, I’ll be tough on crime, I’ll get rid of these people who don’t care about our traditional values!”
It’s a simple formula, I make you afraid by blaming everything on someone who can’t speak for themselves, and then you vote for me, and then you won’t be afraid anymore. Of course, once this scoundrel is voted in, he needs to actually create the police state he said he’d create, and what do we expect when leaders tell the police that nobody with power cares about civil liberties, we only care about meeting violence with violence?
And of course the news media has figured out that fear mongering and scary news reports will sell lots of advertisement space. Everything is a crisis. Financial crisis, crisis in the Middle East, health scare crisis. That’s how you get very detailed footage of a riot, and nothing at all about the forces that provoked the riot.
As Christians, we’re meant to arrest the very thought of fear itself, let alone making decisions based on fear, for Heaven’s sake. We’re meant to make decisions based on love. We’re meant to fulfill the instructions of almighty God who commands us to not be afraid, and to seek justice for the poor.
And make no mistake, if white middle class churches stood with African American churches on this issue, it would go away in a heartbeat. Once someone starts losing votes for creating a mess like this, they’ll quickly campaign on smart ideas instead of fear mongering. As Proverbs 29:7 says, “a righteous man knows the rights of the poor; a wicked man does not understand such knowledge”.
One or two other verses that seem to point in the same direction on this issue:
Isaiah 1:17b …plead the widow’s cause.
Romans 12:16b …associate with the lowly.
Proverbs 31:9b…defend the rights of the poor and needy.
Proverbs 22:22-23 Do not exploit the poor because they are poor…for the Lord will take up their case and will exact life for life.
Romans 12:13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Leviticus 19:10 And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.
Ezekiel 16:49-50 Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty, and did an abomination before me. So I removed them…
1 John 3:17-18 If anyone has material possessions, and sees a brother or sister in need, but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words, or speech, but with actions, and in truth.
Anonymous asked: I’m a longtime Unka Glen reader, and a Say That Podcast superfan, and I have a question about this one guy in our campus fellowship, who is so cute, and he acts like he likes me, but he hasn’t asked me out, and I’m wondering if that means I should just move on, or if it makes sense for me to say something?
Unka Glen answered: I think there’s at least two main reasons why a guy won’t ask a gal out, and it’s important to understand them both, because they’re VERY different.
On one hand, you have some people who are just plain chicken. And they let that basic fear reduce their motivation for having a healthy dating life. There’s always something that will pop up and keep one “too busy” to date. And in the end, the motivation for being a good partner just isn’t there.
If you go to this person, and make yourself the only one being vulnerable, and you’re basically doing all the work to make the relationship move forward, then you’re really enabling that person to avoid their fears. If you think that could be the kind of guy you’re dealing with, then yes, it’s time to move on.
But then there’s the other sort of person, who just needs a little… spark. They just need a little jump-start. Particularly when it comes to men, sometimes we need a little goose in the butt to clear our head and get going. There are plenty of men that have ample courage, and even romantic instincts of a sort, but NONE of them has any clue where to start, or who might say yes.
For years, women have perfected the art of giving that little spark of motivation, in such a subtle way that we often think we did it all on our own. It can be as simple as: “it was nice talking to you, text me and we can get some coffee and continue the conversation.”
When he tells the story later, all he’ll remember is that he made the call, he arranged for which coffee shop to go to, and that he bought you a scone and listened to your stories, and asked follow up questions, and that later he even took to you to a movie about dancing, or horses, or one of those movies where everyone is in love, but also dying.
But here’s the thing I want to say about being a spark: IT’S AWESOME TO BE A SPARK! Imagine being the kind of person that helps people unlock their potential, to be the kind of person that helps people take a first courageous step, to be the kind of person who inspires everyone around them. That’s the ultimate life, the ultimate calling, and the ultimate path to awesome relationships.
All you have to do is find the person who’s ready for your spark…
longlivecharliebradbury asked: My boyfriend of five years broke up with me. I thought we were doing great, and we discussed that our relationship had gotten a bit monotonous over the years, and agreed to work towards fixing that. But then out of the blue, he said that he didn’t love me anymore. Now I don’t know what to do, or how to handle this situation. He’s stopped coming to church because he says if he’s around me he’ll regret it and start to love me again. Advice? [edited for length]
Unka Glen answered: Well, before we get to any advice, let’s just start with how sorry I am that this has happened. Bless your heart, this is about as tough a situation as there is. I’m so sorry for your pain, and for sure I’ll be keeping you in prayer as you work through this tough transition.
As far as that transition goes, I think we ought to look at 4 crucial steps:
1) Don’t spiritualize it, be honest. Don’t paint a smiley face on this. Don’t do that “God is good all the time” thing. This sucks. So admit it. Tell God how much it sucks, why it sucks, when it sucks. God understands your pain, but you won’t get the healing you need, until you point to the wound, and ask God to make it better.
2) Mourn the end of the relationship. The thing about the breakup of a long-term relationship, is that in many ways you’ve integrated your lives. You’ve come to rely on each other in a million little ways. Then suddenly a big part of your life is missing, and you feel like a lump of Swiss cheese, with holes everywhere.
Dealing with these missing bits, and finding ways of filling in those missing pieces is what we call mourning. A long-term breakup is like a death, and it should be mourned as such. Don’t judge your emotions, or shortcut the venting, just keep doing your grief work until those pieces are in place, and you feel whole again.
3) Don’t take responsibility for your ex. You don’t control where things go from here with your ex. What he does, who he hangs out with, the choices he makes…all of that is up to him, and he’ll deal with the consequences. Right now, you gotta do you.
4) You deserve to be with someone who is certain. Breakups can often lead to confusion. Why did things end? What could I have done different? Who is to blame? And sometimes breakups lead to that whole “will they or won’t they” thing where we sorta try to get back together, but we’re not sure how or even if we should.
So cut through the confusion: you deserve someone who is DEAD CERTAIN about a relationship with you. Good and healthy relationships require so much commitment, that they simply won’t work unless both people are certain that this is what they want.
Regardless of how this relationship ended, there are plenty of sweet and respectful young men (who probably look like that Thor guy, only better), who would have absolutely no doubts about wanting to be with someone as awesome as you. So work your recovery, and don’t keep those poor lads waiting.
Jesus told a story about a shepherd who left the 99 safe, squared away, well behaved sheep to go out after the lost one, the runaway, the screw-up. When he found his sheep, he didn’t punish it or scold it, he joyfully swept it up in his arms, because now the party could begin. If you ever feel lost, or alone, or like you’ve wandered too far away, you are exactly who Jesus is looking for.
Chicago garage-rockers The Rejects wrote a Rolling Stones inspired worship tune to help you remember that. Rolling Stones style rock songs based on parables are the kind of thing you will only find in BridgeBox.