Category Archives: Listomania!

Blog entries of various and sundry lists.

Listomania! – 10 Ways in which the Cell Phone has Changed my Life

I haven’t done a “Listomania!” in a long time, but I was thinking recently (always a dangerous thing) about how cell phones have changed how I live and thought I’d put a list together.  I actually remember my family having a “party line” when I was growing up where we had four different people sharing the same phone line.  Before you dialed (rotary, of course), you had to check for a dial tone as one of the other families could be using the phone and you’d have to wait until they got off the line before you could call someone.  (You could also very carefully listen in on their conversations as well.)  We finally got a “private line” when I was nearing our teen years, but my family didn’t get a push button phone until after they moved to town and I had already left home.

acellphone.jpgMy first “cell phone” was the size of a piece of firewood and if you had baggy pants, you could stuff it awkwardly in your back pocket, but then you’d walk funny.  It was around 60 cents a minute to use it on top of that, so you had to be very careful or you’d have a phone bill the size of a car payment.

Now, of course, my children have grown up in a world where they don’t know of a world without cell phones and my blackberry/storm gets my email, updates my Facebook account, allows me to Twitter while waiting at traffic lights, can surf the net and has applications I will never, ever use.  It’s just a different world since the arrival of the cell phone.

So here’s my list of 10 ways in which the cell phone has changed my life….

1. I have been known to call my kids on their cells from my recliner rather than to walk upstairs to talk to them about something.

2. I frequently suffer from “false vibration” syndrome where I sense that my phone has vibrated indicating a call or incoming text/email only to find that it was nothing.

3. I generally check my phone for messages (text/voice/email) before I get out of bed in the mornings.

4. I use my cell phone as as my alarm clock.

5. I have texted my kids at the dinner table to tell them to quit texting at the dinner table.

6. I have left roaring messages on my kid’s cell phones about the fact that I pay for their cell phones and yet they still didn’t pick it up when I called knowing full well that my kids never listen to their voice messages anyway and simply check for missed calls.

7. I don’t remember the last time I used our land-line at home to make or receive a call.  If it wasn’t part of our cable bundle, I’d get rid of it.

8. I have a panic attack whenever I drive through a part of the country where there isn’t Verizon service.

9. I once got caught playing BrickBreaker during a staff meeting — and I was leading it.

10. My children and occasionally their friends sometimes send me heckling texts while I am speaking at large meetings and I repeat an illustration they’ve heard before or I make a grammatical error.

I actually could do about 20 more of these, but I’ll stop here and let you add yours.  How has the generation of Cell Phones changed YOUR life?  Share in the comments section below.

Listomania 12 – What Are We Failing to Teach Our Children?

handholdfemale.jpgI’m working on a personal project for something and one of the issues I’m contemplating these days is “What are we failing to teach our children?”  This was actually one of those questions that I jotted down during a sermon at the church I was attending before we moved from Charlotte (First Baptist of Indian Trails).  Pastor Mike was preaching on the family and I had one of those “ah ha” moments when this idea first hit me.

So quickly, I began scribbling my own list of ideas and just now, I’ve reached a point where I’m trying to develop some substance out of that moment of clarity.  So here’s my personal list of “Things We Are Failing to Teach Our Children” and as always, I’m going to ask my readers to chime in an add their own.

1. How to handle money

2. Self Control and Self Denial

3. How to resolve conflict

4. The importance of perseverance

5. Choosing the right friends

6. Gender-based social skills

7. How to keep a schedule

8. How to accept responsibility

9. Accepting and appreciating gender roles

10. Principles of dress and presentation

11. The importance of reverence

12. How to response to authority

13. Handling life’s unfair moments

14. The difference between love and sex

15. The power and reward of hard work

16. Family teamwork

17. How to effectively communicate verbally

18. The art of demonstrating gratitude

19. How to exercise leadership alone

20. How to treat someone of the opposite gender

So those are the first 20 that came to my mind, but knowing the readers of this blog, you’ve got some that are a lot better.  So join in on the conversation and offer some parenting advice to the world by helping us think of things we should be teaching our kids!

Ten Things to Expect from an Obama Administration

Now that America has decided what direction she wants to take for the next four-to-eight years, let me get out my crystal ball and predict for you what I believe is going to happen during the Obama years.

1. Your taxes are going to go up. Count on it. For those dupes who bought into the idea that they’d get a tax break on the backs of higher taxes for businesses and the wealthy, just to whom do you think they are going to pass on their increased costs as they work to make their usual profit? Yep — that would be YOU. So you might get a little break on your taxes (temporarily, if then) but you’re going to pay more for the goods and services you need to survive. Surprise!

2. Babies are going to die. Don’t give me pathetic arguments about unwanted children and liberals caring about babies “after they’re born”, ad nauseum and so on and so forth. Bottom line…Abortion — any kind, any time, for any reason — is now the law of the land and any chance that Roe vs. Wade would be over-turned (as if there ever was a chance) is now toast. Instead, it will be easier, cheaper and more accessible and woe to the little guy or girl who happens to have his mom change his mind after the point of viability, cuz’ President Obama will ensure that you can have your brains sucked out in an abortionist’s cave or should you be so unfortunate as to be born alive, you can be left shivering on a stainless steel table until you succumb. But, hey….you’re free to choose!

3. People that plan ahead and are going to lose their Social Security. The dirty little secret that Washington doesn’t want to deal with is that the Social Security Fund is bankrupt. There is no way that we will have the massive expansion of entitlements that Obama has promised AND the reality of millions of baby boomers hitting retirement age AND no changes in Social Security. You think we have financial problems now? So, here comes means testing for Social Security. What does that mean? People like me….people who don’t buy every new flat screen that comes out, drive used cars and don’t take vacations that they can’t afford, but who do save for their retirement and who will have somewhat of a nest egg built up by the time they hit 70 or so will be told that for the good of those who have never thought beyond their current paycheck, we won’t get our Social Security. We already have “enough”.

4. Watch Out AM Radio. I predict that the government is now going to step in and regulate speech on the public airways with the so-called “Fairness Doctrine” which takes away freedom of choice and forces radio and TV stations to present ‘both’ sides of view rather than the free market. Of course, who gets to decide which side and how much? You got it……big brothers in Washington. I hope Rush got a guaranteed contract last time around. They going after him for starters.

5. Activist Judges are on their way. One only has to do 10 minutes of research to find Obama’s stance on the constitution and judges, but with his unshakable majorities in the Senate, you are going to see a wave of liberal, activist judges who will be commissioned to legislate from the bench like nothing you’ve ever seen since FDR expanded the Supreme Court so he could get his way. This alone will haunt American law for a generation and probably means the end of strict constructionism as a viable legal philosophy.

6. Gay Partnerships = Marriage. All it will take is a host of liberal federal judge appointees and two of the right seats on the Supreme Court and it will happen sooner rather than later, but either way, the tide has completely turned against the defense of traditional marriage.

7. A massive expansion of the definition of “Hate”. Extreme liberals are often complete tyrannicals when it comes to “free speech” (as are extreme conservatives.) “Hate Speech” is a pet phrase that hides an agenda intended to silence critics of immoral or impolitic conduct. (See Canada for examples.) Preaching and teaching against homosexuality will be the first target of those who think that offering an opposing point of view is a form of violence. Unless of course you are the editorial board of the New York Times or San Francisco Chronicle or a columnist for the Huffington Post.

8. A complete change in our economic and business system is coming. Mark today as the beginning of the end for free trade and the beginning of the beginning for protectionism. I would not be surprised to see the auto industry, airlines, possibly large sections of the banking industry, large sections of the health care industry and perhaps even some utilities and fuel industries nationalized. Labor Unions are going to come back with a roar and you can expect to see some heavy-handed and intimidating tactics used to resurrect a movement that was all but dead 20 years ago.

9. Home-schoolers and parochial/Christian schools beware. Empowered and confident, Nancy Pelosi and her leftist friends are going to go after educational institutions that don’t help them accomplish their agenda. For twenty-five years, private educators have had it easy. Those days are coming to an end. Those who accepted federal funding had better be prepared to pay the piper as the strings that came with government money get yanked big time. Home-school parents are particularly despised by social manipulators who think they know what is better for children than most parents.

10. They will have an impact on a dispirited and disorganized conservative movement. The tea leaves aren’t clear on this issue. There’s no real leader on the horizon to lead a charge for true blue conservatives. The Republican party is a shambles and a disgrace and may well be finished unless it returns to its roots and quit listening to its insiders who set them up for this catastrophe with their neo-conservative snobbery that disdains social conservatives and promoted an unaccountable military machine and Wall Street robber baron mentality that lead to yesterday’s bloodbath. I predict a civil war within the Republican party and if the real conservatives don’t win, they’lll bolt. Of course, if they do, then you’ll continue to see an exodus of the “Big Tent” people who were never conservative or Republican.

I realize I sound a bit bitter and even more cynical, but I really have a lot of peace. I think we are now what we have been becoming. This is not a triumph of liberalism as much as it is a failure of conservatives. The religious liberals didn’t suddenly gain credibility and the intellectual high-ground, the evangelicals lost theirs and what they didn’t lose, they gave away with compromise of the theological and intellectual kind. The moral vacuum that exists in Washington today is not a Democrat problem. It is a leadership problem and it knows no political affiliation.

I know, I know….everyone “hates” politics, but get off that tired old cliche. Politics is what leads to power and influence in this system and the conservatives got their tails handed to them because they had less principle when they held the reins of authority than they promised they’d have.

So now it’s Obama and the Democrats chance. I’m not optimistic that they’ll do any better. But, then, in their wisdom, the Founding Father did give us a solution. It begins on the first Tuesday in November….2010.

So we are now what we have been becoming. I am sad for our nation and sad for our future. It will be interesting now to see how people who possess a Biblical worldview respond as light and salt in a world that has dramatically changed.

Listomania! #10 — Things to Improve Your Public Speaking

public11.gifOne of my most requested workshops is called “Turbotalk — How to Speak with Power and Impact”.  I teach graduate courses on communicating and teaching the Bible and have a life-long interest in public speaking.  Last week, I gave a 50-minute seminar on communicating and I’m also blessed and challenged by the amount of feedback and the number of follow-up requests that I receive after I address this topic.

So today’s “Listomania” is a more serious one that gives you ten “tricks of the trade” that will help those of you who speak publicly whether it is occasionally or regularly — professionally or casually.

1. Use your first 30 seconds

You have approximately 30 seconds from the moment you step to the lecturn, pulpit or front of the room to gain everyone’s attention for the next 3 minutes.  Whether or not you have their attention with that first 3 minutes will determine whether or not you will be able to keep if for the next 30 minutes.  So think threes — 30 seconds to grab their attention, 3 minutes to earn their respect, 30 minutes to communicate your content.

2. Fake Confidence if you don’t have it

pubspeak.jpgThe worst thing you can do is to use your first 30 seconds lower people’s expectations.  Don’t announce you are nervous.  Don’t make excuses.  Don’t notify everyone that you don’t do this a lot.  Don’t complement everyone else who has spoken for you and lick their boots in the process.  Jump up and take charge.  Tell them with your confidence that you are worthy of the next 30 minutes of their life.  If you don’t have it naturally — then fake it.  Chance are they’ll never know the difference.

3. Avoid repetitive movements, words and phrases

Don’t pace.  Don’t pull at your tie or twist your hair.  Don’t stand on one foot and rock.  Don’t keep saying “um” or “as I said before.”  Don’t use pet phrases like “this day in time in which we live” or “at the end of the day”.  Don’t start every illustration with “I remember when/one time…”.  If necessary, have someone help you break the habit by counting how many times you do or say something. I once developed a penchant for touching my glasses.  I had one of my associate pastors literally count how many times in a sermon I would touch them until I had it reduced to a normal number.

4. Varying your speed

The mind works faster than you can talk for most people.  If you are slow of speech, you will frustrate intelligent people.  Pretend you are the little mechanical rabbit at the dog track that stays just far enough ahead of the greyhounds that they still want to catch him, but never lets them actually catch him.  Use bursts of speed followed by a sudden drop to a slower speed to capture attention.  If you chronically speak slowly, you can count on losing 30-60% of your audience to boredom.  You’ll simply wear them out as they wait for you to give them something to “chew on”.

5. Use inflection

Ben Stein parodies the boring speaker better than anyone I know, but let’s face it — monotone equals boring.  Practice pitch “runs” raising your voice and then dropping your voice.  Inflection includes tone, intensity, pitch and accentuation.  All of these are important tools for the effective speaker.

6. Leave them wanting more

When you end a sermon, seminar, lecture or speech in such a way that people are shocked, look at their watch as in “how fast did THAT go by”, seem to want a little more — you’ve done a good thing.  Don’t close your presentation 12 times and drag it on.  Remember that the average person has an attention span equal to about 1 minute per year of age capping out somewhere between 30-40 minutes unless the speaker is simply exceptionally gifted.  Make them want to come back next week and hear some more.

7. Gestures are your friend

puspeak.jpgMotion attracts attention.  By using your hands wisely and effectively, you will encourage people to watch you as you speak and to listen more attentively.  Motions should be gauged according to the size of the audience.  When conversing to one or two people, flailing one’s arms as if one is attempting flight is distracting and odd.  However, use those same motions in a room filled with 100 people and you’ll captivate the audience with your full-bodied presentation and enthusiasm.  Avoid repetitive, stiff or awkward gestures — they should flow naturally and comfortably.

8. Be a storyteller

The next time you are listening to an effective speaker watch the response of the audience as he/she speaks.  Note that any time the speaker uses an illustration, story or anecdote, the audience will often lean forward slightly, stop writing or wriggling and will tune in to what the speaker is saying.  Why?  Because everyone loves a story!  That’s why the Master Teacher, Jesus, used parables and stories.  He knows that many great lessons are taught through an effective morality tale.

9. Beat the Theme

What is the ONE THOUGHT you want your audience members to remember 30 minutes after your presentation is over?  We overload our audiences by trying to teach them everything in one shot.  Thus, we cover reams of material and they remember nothing.  But give them one pithy saying and they may well remember it for a lifetime.  Try to condense your theme into one memorable phrase and then say it over and over in your presentation.  They’ll remember you as effective.

10. Give them something to do

The objective of teaching is to change behavior.  So if you teach for thirty minutes and they students leave with nothing changed — then you’ve failed as a speaker.  Ask yourself, “What do I want my students to DO with this Truth/lesson/message?”  It should be practical and clear.  If they can’t identify how they can use what you taught — then you haven’t finished your job.

I’ve got loads of other tips, but ten’s enough for one day.  Public speaking doesn’t have to be a white-knuckled ordeal.  Give a few of these practical hints a try and see if they don’t just help you!

Listomania! #9 — You Might be a Floridian…

floridafunfacts.jpgNow that I’m back in the state where I’ve lived most of my life (Florida), I found this list that I thought would help you non-Floridians understand us and you Floridians smile.  It’s not original with me, but it cracks me up.

You might be a Floridian if…

  • “Down South” means Key West
  • “Panhandling” means going to Pensacola.
  • You think no-one over 70 should be allowed to drive.
  • Flip-flops are everyday wear.
  • Shoes are for business meetings and church.
  • No, wait, flip flops are good for church too
  • Socks are only for bowling
  • Orange juice from concentrate makes you vomit
  • Tap water makes you vomit
  • Sweet tea can be served at any meal.
  • An alligator once walked through your neighborhood.
  • You smirk when a game show’s “Grand Prize” is a trip to Florida.
  • You measure distance in minutes.
  • You have a drawer full of bathing suits, and one sweatshirt.
  • You get annoyed at the tourists who feed seagulls.
  • You never use an umbrella because you know the rain will be over in five minutes
  • All the local festivals are named after a fruit.
  • A mountain is any hill 100 feet above sea level.
  • A good parking place has nothing to do with distance from the store, but everything to do with shade.
  • Your winter coat is made of denim
  • You can tell the difference between fire ant bites and mosquito bites
  • You’re younger than thirty but some of your friends are over 65
  • You know the four seasons really are: almost summer, summer, not summer but really hot, and Christmas.
  • It’s not “pop.” It’s “soda” or “coke.”
  • Anything under 70 is chilly.
  • You’ve hosted a hurricane party.
  • You go to a theme park for an afternoon, and know when to get on the best rides.
  • You pass on the right and honk at the elderly.
  • You understand the futility of exterminating cockroaches.
  • You can pronounce Okeechobee, Kissimmee, Withlacoochee, Okahumpka and Loxahatchee.
  • You understand why it’s better to have a friend with a boat than have a boat yourself.
  • You’ve driven through Yeehaw Junction.
  • Bumper stickers on the pickup in front of you include various fish, the NRA and a confederate flag.
  • You were 8 before you realized they made houses without pools.
  • You were 12 when you first met someone who couldn’t swim.
  • You’ve worn shorts and used the A/C on Christmas.
  • You know what the “stingray shuffle” is and why it’s important!
  • You could swim before you could read
  • You have to drive north to get to The South
  • You know that no other grocery store can compare to Publix.
  • You’ve gotten out of school early on Halloween to trick or treat before it got dark
  • You know that anything under a Category 3 just isn’t worth waking up for.
  • You dread lovebug season.
  • You are on a first name basis with the Hurricane list. They aren’t Hurricane Charley, Hurricane Frances…but Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne.
  • You know what a snowbird is and you hate them.
  • You know why flamingos are pink.
  • You think a six-foot alligator is actually pretty average.
  • You were twelve before you ever saw snow or you still haven’t.
  • Tornadoes/Tornado warnings don’t scare you, and you laugh when your friends from outside of Florida get scared by lightning.

Listomania! #8 — Do We Share Any Idiosyncrasies?

Do you any idiosyncrasies? I’m a veritable caldron of them.  I actually prefer to think of them as interesting quirks in my character, but I’m guessing that they just make me seem outright weird to others who are so unfortunate to observe them.  So for today’s “Listomania”, I’m going to list mine if you’ll list yours.

1.     Bathroom Germophobia

Going to a public restroom is a procedure for me that’s akin to a surgeon going into surgery.  I assume the “hands up/elbows down” position as if I had just scrubbed my hands with a wire brush before heading to perform an appendectomy.  I refuse to touch almost anything in a public restroom.  I can karate kick a urinal flusher like Ralph Macchio in spite of my age and the 20-year absence of any meaningful exercise.  I try to use the sink for handicapped people because It has those knob that you can move with the backs of your hands to turn the water off and on.  (The next dirtysink.jpgtime you are going to touch a water faucet knob in the restroom, think about where those hands just were for the thousands of people who touched those knobs before you.)   I have been known to walk out of restroom leaving the water running rather than to touch the nasty knobs with my hand immediately after washing them.  And if I ever find the idiot who invited the hot air dryer, I will HURT him or better yet, make him open restroom doors for all of eternity.  Are you honestly too cheap to buy a few paper towels???  Speaking of restroom doors, who is the rocket surgeon that decided you should pull the door open instead of push the door open when you leave the restroom.  That requires one with clean hands to touch a knob that has been touched by 10 billion guys who didn’t think anyone would notice if they just skipped the whole hand-washing procedure.  I’ve been known to hook my foot through a door handle to pull it open or to use my $50 silk tie to protect my hands as I twist a door knob rather than to touch the nasty thing.

2.     Picture-Straightener Syndrome

If I’m in a room and I see a crooked picture, it will drive me nuts until I manage to sidle on over to it and make it straight.  I have a friend who knows I’m crazy about this and so they periodically move each picture anywhere near me off kilter by about ½ an inch just to make me work.  This can be a bit awkward in the homes where you are a guest, public buildings and museums, I might add.

3.     Back of the Buffet

When I go to a buffet, I always try to pick food from the very back of the chafing dish.  I figure that it is less likely that someone has drooled in, sneezed upon or dropped their gum in the back half than the front half.

4.     Hiding my Toothbrush in Hotels

In my heart, I suspect that the maids use our toothbrushes to freshen up the toilets and to remove the mildew from the shower edges when we are out of the room.  For that reason, I not only take my toothbrush out of the restroom when I’m staying at a hotel, I actually hide it deeply in my suitcase somewhere.

5.     Snake-o-phobia

When it comes to snakes, any unexpected exposure to these slithering reptiles will make me immediately respond like a six-year-old girl.  I believe that the company scared.jpgthat makes Depends should have a special advertising campaign directed at people like me.  When I’m driving and a snake makes a run across the road in front of me, I instinctively raise my feet off the floorboard.  Then I look in my rear-view mirror.  If I don’t see it writhing in the road or at least slithering into the weeds, I worry that I’ve flicked the nasty thing up under my car where it awaits my exit later on and it will chomp me as soon as I drop my feet out of the car.  I once danced a hole in our yard when I inadvertently stepped on an old bicycle tire inner tube.  The dog, who observed my spastic flailing punctuated by shrill, breathless screams, never showed me any respect from that day forward.

6.     Symmetrical Obsessiveness

Whenever possible, if I am speaking, I visit the platform early to make sure that the pulpit/lectern is exactly in the center.  If it has a pulpit microphone, I want it to be straight and centered.  I want the exact same number of flowers, chairs, tables or whatever on one side as the other.  I have Presbyterian friends who go to churches where the pastor preaches from the side.  I’d have to change denominations.  It would drive me crazy. 

7.     Sandwich Precision

When I cut my sandwich, I want it both symmetrical and diagonal.  In my opinion, a sandwich which isn’t even and or is simply cut into two rectangles just doesn’t taste as good and you may well be at risk for food poisoning.

8.     Rounded-Off Gas Pumping

This one is actually a two-parter.  The first thing I like to do is try to make sure that I stop the gas pump were the last number is precisely “0” on the first click.  When I do that, it gives me a sense that I just hit triple 7’s at a slot machine.  Occasionally, I’ll hit the jackpot and stop it on the dollar with double zeros.  I’m always disappointed that I don’t win a free gallon of gas or something for doing that.  As gas prices increase, this has become harder – especially with digital meters.  But – because about 99% of the time, I don’t make it stop on a zero on my first click, then I have to take it the next “0”.  Often, I miss it and then have to buy another dime-to-a-dollar’s worth more as I try again and this little game continues until I get to “0” or there is gas splashing out all over my pants.  This has cost me a lot of money over the years.

9.     Eating Habits

I’m not a picky eater (as you can well tell by looking at me.)  However, I have two “rules” about eating.  Number 1 – I don’t like my food to touch.  The person who invented mixed vegetables was a sick, sick individual.  It takes me 20 minutes just to separate the veggies so I can eat them!  Secondly, I eat one thing at a time.  I don’t want them mixed on my plate and I don’t want them mixed in my mouth.  There’s something barbarian about just jumbling everything up into one pile and eating it. (Which is why I’d rather starve than eat one of the mixed up bowls of mashed potatoes, corn, chicken, tomatoes, etc… that KFC serves these days.)  My ideal meal is one where I can put one item on my plate – eat it, get a second item – eat it, and so on.  This of course, drives everyone else in my family nuts.  They think I’m weird!  Can you imagine?

10.  A Gum-Free World

Someone told me that in Singapore, there is a law against selling gum and that chewing gum can be punished by flogging.  I’m not sure that’s true, but it has really made me want to go there for vacation.  I hate watching people chew gum.  It’s like looking at a herd of cows masticating their cud.  And if chawing on gum isn’t gum.jpgirritating enough, some have the gift of cracking gum.  These are the people (often who have very large hairdo’s or who can chew things sideways) who capture just enough air in their gum with each bite wherein they can emit a small “pop”.  It’s as if they think, “Hey, not only can I look like Bossy the Cow – I can also be as annoying as the little kid who sits behind you in the airplane and kicks your seat every 2 seconds.”  I have been known to offer chronic gum poppers in my presence other options for chomping like — peanuts, m-n-m’s, filet mignon – anything that will get them to get rid of the gum.  If they succumb to my temptation and put their gum on the edge of their napkin so that they can reclaim it later and reach for the treats-of-the-non-cracking kind, I will purposefully violate all pretense of sanitary caution and will pick it up with my bare fingers and flick it in the nearest trash receptacle post haste.  Of course, this means that I have to go to the nearest restroom to scrub my hands for 20 minutes and it starts off my whole cycle of idiosyncratic behavior again.   


Actually, I have many more I could share with you – but I’m afraid you’ll think me stranger than you already consider me.  But now that I’ve offered you a startling view into my twisted little world, perhaps you’d be willing to give us a glimpse into yours.  I’m sure you have a few worth sharing.

Listomania! #7 — Who’s Coming to Dinner?

dinner.jpgOK…it’s late and I’m really tired, but I suspect that I won’t have time to do a lot of blogging this week.  I’m heading to Binghamton, New York for the inauguration of my friend, pastor and employer, Dr. Dino Pedrone to be the new President of Davis College.  I also am on the board of Davis College, so I’ll be staying over for the Board Meeting and then I’m preaching at both campuses of New Testament Baptist Church next Sunday — so it looks like it’s going to be rather busy week.

But, I was thinking today of people I’d like to have dinner with.  For this list, I only put living people on it, I’m limiting it to one dozen and this isn’t in order of preference.  Then you can add your own list in the comment section.

1. Bill Gates

I’d really like to know what is coming in the future of technology and I’d like to talk to him about his motivations and goals surrounding the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  He’s an usual person and I’d like to learn about how he thinks.

2. Al Mohler

I find him fascinating and deep.  I had dinner with Paige Patterson a few years and was so fascinated that I kind of would like to spend some time with the other side of that dynamic intellectual duo.

3. Billy Graham w/Franklin

When you are criticized and adored as fervently as these evangelists are, I’d like to use a conversation to get a “real” impression as to who they really are and what they really believe beyond the public personas.

4. Warren Buffett

One of the richest and simplest tychoons in America.  If Sam Walton wasn’t dead, I’d pick him.  But Buffett is alive and kicking and I’d like to spend a couple of hours picking his brains.

5. Chief Justice John Roberts

A few years ago, I spent an hour with Clarence Thomas in a private conversation and it was among the most fascinating I’ve ever had.  But I’d really like to talk to Roberts (or I’d settle with Scalia) so discuss and learn where they are philosophically.

6. Jeff Myers

I might get to do this next year.  This young Worldview expert drips with sound philosophy and creative applications.  I’d love to take him to a good restaurant for about an hour of interviewing.  If you haven’t hear of him — look him up and read his book, “Passing the Baton.”

7. Ted Kennedy

We couldn’t be further apart on almost everything, but I think he is the end of an era and a truly principled liberal.  I would be very interested in hearing what he has to say as he prepares to enter the history books with his final chapter.

8. Vladimir Putin

In my opinion, Putin is one of the most interesting and potentially dangerous men in the world.  He’s up to “something” and I’d find it fascinating to meet him.  From what I’ve read, he is very intense, does not have much of a sense of humor and is very focused on his agenda.

9.  Robert Bork

He was nominated to the Supreme Court by Reagan and was absolutely eviscerated by the liberals.  His failure to gain a seat among the Supremes may go down in history as one of our greatest losses and it completely changed the tone of Supreme Court nomination hearings from that day to this.  He is a brilliant intellectual and the “father” of originalism.  Having read his books, I’m sure I’d find him fascinating.

mom-n-us.jpg10.  My Mom

Anytime I can have dinner with my mom it is a treat.  She’s one of the most amazing women I’ve ever known and today is her Birthday.  She’s absolutely fascinating and wise and I wish I could take her out tonight on her special day.

So who is your list of dinner-date wannabees?  Share them below!

Listomania! #6 — Weird Sermons I’ve Heard

preacher-460×360.jpgI estimate that in my 47 years of life, I’ve listened to (or listened to myself preaching) somewhere just over 12,000 sermons.  That’s about 5 per week and considering all the revival services, conferences, school chapels, etc… I’ve sat through over the years in addition to the regular schedule of Sunday morning, Sunday school, Sunday night and Wednesday night services, I think I’m being very conservative in my count.  Let’s just agree that I’m not being hyperbolic with  my count.

In that dozen-to-the-power-of-a-thousand number, I’ve heard some powerful messages filled with depth, inspiration and spiritual meat.  But, I’ve also heard some stunning clunkers, odd-and-I-mean-ODD stuff and a few out-n-out heretical junk.

So for this edition of “Listomania!”  I thought I’d share my weirdest ones and then ask you for yours (which is why I am really writing this list.)

1. The Washcloth Sermon

When I was a kid, my pastor was once preaching on I-don’t-know-what, but he went off on a tangent about washclothes and sissy men and said that “Washclothes have a rough side and a smooth side and real men use the rough side to wash and only sissies use the smooth side.”  This thoroughly traumatized me as not only had I not noticed the differences in sides (not exactly observant, was I?), but I highly suspected that I had been using the smooth side which made me a total Nancy Pants.

2. The WEIRDEST Internet Sermon EVER

This freakazoid has been making the rounds all over the internet and is a YouTube sensation.  He preaches on a verse from the KJV that uses a coarse term for urinating in the most twisted way you could ever imagine.  At first, I thought it was a parady, but I’ve heard from others that this guy is for real — and I use “real” in the broadest sense of the word I know.  You’ll find it HERE.

3. Anti-Wire-Rim-Glasses Sermon

I once heard a guy preach against Wire-Rims because they were worn by hippies and hippies believed in revolution and free love and promiscuity.  Sadly, this was during the 1980′s and he was about 25 years too late.  Poor Benjamin Franklin, he never really had a chance.

4. The “Don’t Part-Your-Hair-Down-the-Middle” Sermon

According to this one, those who parted their hair down the middle were closet gays.  If your hair was long and parted down the middle, well you might as well wear a tutu and wave a rainbow flag.  Real Christian men wore their hair high and tight — like in the military.  I always wondered what this guy said when a lot of gay guys started cutting their hair real short.  (Interestingly, this guy was later revealed to be one of the most immoral guys to ever stand behind a pulpit.)

5. The Pink Shirt Sermon

During college, an entire chapel service was dedicated to the topic of guys who dared to wear lavender or pink shirts — a hot new fashion trend in the early 1980′s.  To make the matter even more offensive, the preacher lambasted a simultaneous trend that was taking place — wearing a knit “sock” tie (I don’t know why they called them that) which one wore tucked into the top of the pants.  Apparently, the tucking it in at the top of the pants was somehow suggestive.  My friend snorted when he heard that and asked if they were going to outlaw the girls wearing necklaces next.  Of course, guess what I was wearing that day?  Yep…a pink shirt with a gray knit tie neatly tucked into the top of my pants.  (Does anyone notice the preoccupation with sexual subthemes here?)

6. Satan Claus Sermon

I’ve actually heard multiple sermons about Satan vs. Santa — both cause people to lie, both wear red (Not sure about the theological basis of Satan wearing red), both have the same letters in their names, both from the “north”, etc…, etc…  Variations have included preaching against the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Christmas Trees and Halloween.  (I’m actually in agreement with some of the points raised about turning cultural icons and traditions into mini-idols, but just don’t know that the topic is worthy of an ENTIRE sermon.)

7.  Date Setting of the Rapture

I’ve heard some real whacky prophecy preachers set some general dates for the rapture that have included the years 1976, 1981 (Planets were aligning), 1988, 1989, 1993, 2000, 2007 and so on.  Some even used urban legends to bolster their claims like that the vultures in the Middle East were laying more eggs than usual in order to eat the leftover carcasses of those killed at Armeggedon.  I’ve always been curious as to how cats dropped from ladders always land on their feet and how prophecy gurus who consistently misinterpret current events in light of eschatological Scripture passages still have any credibility at all, let alone maintain an audience.

8. Health Food Sermons

Our little church had a pastor that went through a health food kick and who insisted on preaching on the topic every sermon for MONTHS.  It culminated in a bus load of “believers” going to the city to have some quack analyze their spit and map the blood vessels in their eyes.  (I think they may have had to sacrifice a goat too…JUST KIDDING!)  One of our old deacons who lived into his nineties muttered — “I’ve been eating a bowl of ice cream every night before I go to bed for the last 30 years and I’m not about to stop now.”

9. Sit-Close-to-Your-Husband-While-You-Are-in-the-Car Sermon Tangent

This was actually a rabbit trail on a larger sermon on the topic of romance. I heard a guy wax on about how you shouldn’t own a car with bucket seats and that real Godly wives always sat right next to their husbands while they were driving.  (Shall we all pause to roll our eyes right now?)

10. Square-Dancing-is-of-the-Devil Sermon

Apparently, for some, wildly skipping in geometric patterns while boomeranging a partner with nearly enough force to cause a concusion while working up a sweat that would make an NFL running back in Miami during summer training look like he’s chillaxin’ can lead to wicked thoughts, fornication and possible evil concupiscence.  I can’t help wondering, however, if I’d learned to square dance when I was younger if I might still be able to see my feet.

So what your favorite “sermons”, tangents and illustration that made for memorable moments during your pew-sitting experiences?  Feel free to share them in the comment section and have a great Monday!

Listomania #5 — My Favorite Fundy Traditions

It’s been a couple of weeks without a “Listomania”, so I thought I’d lighten the mood with a fresh one.  One of my favorite blogs in the whole blogosphere is “Stuff Christians Like” by Prodigal Jon.  Maybe it’s just his way of writing or the fact that those of us who grew up evangelical/fundamentalist can relate to the things in which he finds humor, but the guy just cracks me up every time I read him.  We pompous religious types sometimes take ourselves WAY too seriously and sometimes it would do us good to look at the caricatures we tend to become.

So, this edition of “Listomania” is “Fundy Traditions that Made Me What I Am Today”.  With tongue firmly in cheek, I begin.

  1. The New Year’s Eve “Watchnight Service”

The annual New Year’s Eve Watchnight Service was a fixture in most evangelical churches of my youth.  It constituted of a service that started around 7:00 with lots of singing (see item #6), the “main” sermon by the pastor, if there was an associate he was able to speak too and then all the “preacher boys” were allowed to get up and rant and rave for about 15 minutes each.  Then there would be refreshments in the basement consisting of vegetable trays and pimento cheese sandwiches washed down with instant tea.  After that intermission, it was back to the auditorium for the “movie” (a rare treat because many of us were not allowed to attend the Cinema House).  These movies were from one of three categories — Billy Graham, Bob Jones University Unusual Films (Sheffey, Flame in the Wind) or Independent (I could write a whole blog on Estes Pirkle’s – no I did NOT make up that name – “The Burning Hell” or that cult-classic “If Footmen Tire You What Will Horses Do?” which you have to youtube to believe.)  Finally, at about 11:55, everyone would gather up front of the church and “Pray out the old  year and pray in the new year”.  There was always a sneaking suspicion that the rapture just might occur at the stroke of midnight – or at least it seemed that way to me.

  1. The 8-Day Revival

Now this was a great tradition.  Starting on one Sunday, the 8-Day Revival ran until the following Sunday night.  It always involved a guest speaker – and if you were lucky – guest music as well.  The evangelist was usually a firebrand from somewhere “down South”.  Often they were of the “wind-sucker” variety which means, if you really got them wound up, they would suck the price tag off Minnie Pearl’s hat if she was sitting 12 pews back.  Each night was a different theme to encourage you to bring guests.  There was “pack-a-pew” night, family night, neighbor night, co-worker night, etc…  If you brought the most guests all week, you might win the giant Family Bible.  Sometimes the invitations for the 8-Day Revival would last longer than the sermons and to this day I know all the verses to “Just As I Am”, “Almost Persuaded” and “Softly and Tenderly.”  At the end of the 8-Day Revival, we needed a family seminar because everyone was so grouchy from sleep deprivation that we were at each other’s throats.  Traditionally, there was a spring and a fall revival.

  1. Vacation Bible School

flannelgraph.jpgVacation Bible School – also known as VBS – usually happened during the hottest week of the summer.  It involved flannel graph – that unique precursor to Veggie Tales – wherein Bible lessons were taught using cut-out figures with flocking on the back of them that let them stick to backgrounds of flannel.  Super Kewl.  There was also arts and crafts time that used up a year’s supply of bleach bottles, pipe cleaners, cotton balls and if you were blessed – plaster-of-paris plaques!  Finally, there was cookie break supplied by the kind ladies of the church who brought cookies the two Sunday’s before VBS.  To wash down the cookies there was also “Bug Juice” aka Kool-Aid which only came in three flavors in those days – Red, Purple and Orange.  Sometimes it was even cold.  And yes, there was usually at least one gnat floating in the big giant bucket.  Bug Juice lost a lot of its appeal to me when I accidentally burst into the kitchen one morning to find Sister Lucille (a rather large lady with an odd shaped mole on her forearm) leaned over the giant plastic vat with her sleeve rolled up (on the moley arm) mixing it with her bare hand.  But her skin did have a nice smurfy look for the rest of the day.

  1. Summer Youth Camp

brr.jpgSummer youth camp was the highlight of the summer after you outgrew VBS.  It involved loading up a huge suitcase and all your friends onto a school bus that migrant workers would have refused to ride.  You always added a few extra hours into the travel schedule for the inevitable breakdown or three.  We’d pack our lunches to save time and we’d lustily sing 99-Bottles-of-Coke-on-the-Wall (cuz’ good Baptist kids didn’t sing “Beer” on the wall – except for a few really rebellious guys, but we didn’t do it real loud because many of the spiritual girls were pretty and they kind of frowned on us even joking about beer.)  Our camp of choice was the Bill Rice Ranch in Murfreesboro, TN and it was the best camp ever.  Urine-stained mattresses, cold showers, red Tennessee mud everywhere and mosquitoes the size of pterodactyls did not diminish the thrills of melon marches, frog races, swimming in a REAL swimming pool, camp skits and the Friday Night “Banquet” where we all picked a pretty girl to sit by.  We all made “decisions” to be better teens on the last night and promised to cut our hair short, throw away our Carpenter’s albums and quit holding hands with our girlfriends in the back of the bus.  (That last commitment didn’t last real long if we left for the drive home immediately after the service.)  Then we’d trade addresses with our new best friends whom we never wrote to or saw ever again and sang camp songs all the way home.

  1. Testimony Service

Testimony service at an evangelical church can have all the drama and humor of open mic night at the local karaoke bar.  You just never know what is going to pop out of someone’s mouth.  Old-school testimony givers always start off thanking God for their salvation and sometimes give you the details.  If you pay attention, you’ll eventually get to where you can give it as well as they do.  Then there’s the awkward silence times when no one gets up forever and the preacher then says “If someone doesn’t get up soon I’m going to sing” followed by nervous giggling and then three people stand up all at once and it just gets even more awkward.  Speaking of awkward, there’s always the chance that some maroon is going to stand up and give some sort of gut-wrenching confession that makes someone else in his family look bad as in “I just want to praise the Lord for His grace in my marriage and the fact that my wife has finally repented of her stubbornness and allowed me to move off the couch and back into our matrimonial bed.”   My personal favorite is the testimony service right before Thanksgiving or around some other holiday when some total stranger who has never been in the church before and, if the truth be known is about three sheets in the wind (if you know what I mean) and just feels like he MUST stand and give some testimony that is incoherent or borderline heretical.  Good times.

  1. Sing-Your-Favorite-Hymn Service

This is almost always reserved for an evening service and consisted of having the song leader urge the congregation to shout out their favorite hymn number or title and then we got to see if the piano player could play by note or by ear.  These usually went quite well at first with three or four old favorites shouted out and then someone would get cocky and shout out some old English Anglican Hymn that was previously only sung in a cathedral on the Ides of March accapella by Gregorian monks.  The song leader bravely would tackle it with tepid effort as the pianist leaned close to the page and hit chords on the old upright that sounds like a like she was playing with her toes.  Oddly, the person who called it would be singing like they had the solo part for “Memories” at the Broadway Musical “Cats” obliviously to the caterwauling that was going on around them.  After one verse, everyone giggled nervously and someone would shout out a super familiar song and the tension would be broken.  The congregation sang with gusto and the relieved song leader would wave his arms like he was swatting flies and all was well again in the sing-your-favorite-hymn service.

  1. Potluck Dinners

I personally believe that there’s a high probability that the Marriage Supper of the Lamb might be potluck.  If so, you can count on the fact that there will be sections for the various goodies.  First will be the salads.  I think this is the fake-out section.  They try to get you to load your flimsy paperplate with salads so that you won’t take too much fried chicken later and the people at the end of the line won’t have to get surly.  Following the salads, you will find pickles and raw veggie platters.  Then there’s Casserole Row.  There’s more ground up breadcrumbs and cornflakes hiding the-Lord-only-knows-what than you can shake a stick at.  What isn’t covered with crumbs and flakes is smothered in some type of Campbell’s soup.  Don’t ask; don’t tell.  Then there’s the meat section.  The hog farmers bring a ham – count on it.  If you are in the Carolinas – there will be pulled pork BBQ – Eastern (vinegary) and Western (tomato based) – but all quite tasty.  (You just can’t ruin BBQ.)  Then it’s the staple of the Potluck — Fried Chicken.  There are three types of fried chicken.  There’s the store-bought chicken (for shame, for shame – except when it’s from the Colonel and I’ll take extra-crispy, please).  That’s followed by the homemade done-from scratch chicken.  (If you’re in the country and you look carefully, sometimes you can actually find pinfeathers on your piece.  If you don’t know what pinfeathers are, again, I suggest – don’t ask; don’t tell.)  Finally, there’s the people who got store-bought chicken and then put it in their own container to make people think that they actually made it themselves.  Others will do the same trick with potato salad and slaw – like we can’t identify the KFC signature sides.  Depending on the time of the year, you’ll also get preserves, deviled eggs, fresh tomatoes and TONS of zucchini bread.  Of course, there’s a whole separate dessert section, but again – that’s for another blog article.

  1. Missionary Speakers

Ah yes, the missionary speaker.  As a boy, we’d take bets on how long it would be before one of the following happened – a) the slide screen would collapse with a zip and a thud (it was always fun to watch the old lady with the hair net jump when that happened); b) a slide would jam or c) a slide would be upside down.  Of course, occasionally you’d hit a trifecta and all three would happen.  The narration always included a picture of some poor third-world family and the missionary would say, “This is the family of Pedro Gonzalez.  Pray for Pedro’s mother.  She’s Catholic.  She’s almost ready to convert, but the priest is intimidating her.”  Every single time.  Then there would be Q and A time when people would ask travelogue-type questions.  Then we’d hold our breath – hoping against hope that we’d be able to take an offering and go home.  But did that ever happen?  NOoooooo.  THEN there was the missionary sermon when the poor missionary would do his best to have one of us surrender to go to the mission field.  The invitation would continue until someone gave in and went forward to “pray about it” or express their willingness to go (which is short of actually saying I’m definitely going) and then we’d go home. 

  1. Wednesday Night Prayer Meetings

Prayer meetings were held after a Bible study.  That’s why they often called them “Wednesday Night Prayer and Bible Study Meetings”.  Eventually, people decided to shorten them and most churches now just have a Bible study and hand out a prayer sheet which people leave in the car the rest of the week.  The Bible study was usually a study of a book of the Bible.  Then came the Prayer Time.  This began with prayer requests – the general requests (prayer for our leaders, our church, etc…), the sick (Aunt Bertha’s second cousin’s neighbor who has a leaky gall bladder and so on) and the unsaved (the regulars followed by a few new ones) and then the Pastor would ask “How many of you have an unspoken prayer request?”  This was for those who had something going on they didn’t want to blurt out in front of everyone, so instead, one just furtively raises their hand and let’s people speculate about what it is.  Then the pastor would generally call on 2-4 people to pray and he’d close.  This was a time of high anxiety as a good pick meant that prayer time wouldn’t be long, but the wrong pick – well, I hope you packed a snack.  There were different types of “pray-ers”.  There was the “Voice of God” pray-er who had a booming voice and prayed to the God of Jereboam, Rehaboam and all the Boam Boys – Johasaphat and all the Phat Phellows, and so on.  There was also the “Lordiac” pray-er.  This was someone who couldn’t utter more than three consecutive words in their prayers without injecting the word “Lord” as in “Lord, we thank you, Lord, for the beautiful, Lord, day, Lord, that we enjoyed, Lord.”  The record number of “Lords” in a Lordiac prayer that I can recall was 121.  When I announced that I had counted the number of “Lords” in Bro. Kent’s prayer that night my dad was ready to rail on me for my impiety except my mom piped up and announced that she had counted 122 “Lords”.  The rest of the ride home was rather quiet that night.

  1. The “Right-Hand of Fellowship”

The “Right-Hand-of-Fellowship” ritual is a time when everyone shakes hands with their neighbors.  Because good Baptists sit in the same exact spot like they built the pew themselves, that meant that you generally shook hands with the same six people every service.  Except for us teen-age guys, who used the opportunity to find the cute girls and shake their hands long and slow.  Also, if you were a visitor, you got your arm halfway shaken off.  The other time you extended the RHF was at the end of the service when someone came forward at the end of the service for a “big” decision like joining the church, surrendering to the ministry, quitting smoking or something like that.  Oddly, everyone in the church seemed to come down with colds at the exact same time every year.

  1. The Church Business Meeting

Church business meetings were generally once a month and were rather perfunctory.  They consisted of the reading of the minutes, someone reading the check register for the month and voting the new members in.  Occasionally however, there would be an exciting meeting that I swear must have been held during the full moon.  This was when normally placid, sweet-natured people who smelled of Old Spice and Este Lauder turned into snarling, snapping beasts that would sometimes threaten to “take it out to the parking lot”.  You usually knew when a bad business meeting was a brewing because someone would ask, “When’s the next business meeting?”  No one cared if there was a business meeting except when there was going to be a rumble.  Sometimes there was an organized effort.  You could tell when that was going to occur because attendance at Wednesday Night Prayer and Bible Study would suddenly spike with dozens of people that hadn’t been seen in church for months.  Often the pastor would deliver his Bible study that night in a trembly voice and would constantly wipe his brow with a handkerchief.  On those nights, he always called on the “Voice of God” pray-ers.

  1. Sword Drills

sword-drills.jpgI heart sword drills.  These were exercises when the game was to be the first person to find a verse of Scripture called out.  The leader would say, “Draw Swords!” (That’s Christian code for raise your Bible – the swift, powerful and two-edged version – above your head)  He’d then call out a Scripture reference – Psalm 1:9 (Sometimes they’d try to fool us by saying Hezekiah 3:16 and then all the newbies would search frantically while the rest of us “old evangelical kid pros would snicker piously).  Then they’d say “Go!”.  The first person to find the verse would stand and read the first few words and if it was correct, they’d get a point.  The sign of a real Sword Drill champ was to have enough verses memorized that you could fake having found the verse and pretend to read it when you were actually just quoting it.

So that’s my list.  It’s a long one, but once I got started, I couldn’t stop.  Now for my sensitive brethren and sisterns that think I’m crossing some sort of sanctified line with my reminiscing, let me say without hesitation that I LOVED growing up an evangelical fundy kid.  It was a GREAT way to grow up and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  My memories of those days in a little country church make for great family stories and they are reminders of the depth of my personal commitment to Christ and His Word today.

But, I’m guessing that some of you have your own “favorite” fundy traditions.  So, share them here and let’s all laugh together!

Listomania #4 — Things We Can Do to “Revive” Fundamental Churches

revival.jpgWell, the waters have pretty much settled from my first “Listomania” entry wherein I discussed why many fundamental churches were growing increasingly irrelevant.  So, with some degree of trepidation, I will now offer a list of “ideas” for your consideration on what we might do to “revive” fundamental churches.  (By fundamental, I mean churches — self-identified as fundamentalist or evangelical or both, who agree on the fundamental doctrines of Scripture and Christian orthodoxy.)  As always, I encourage you to add your thoughts in the comments section.

Things We Can Do to Revive Fundamental Churches

1. Preach the WORD.

Away with preaching on hot topics and trends and get back to sound, straight-forward preaching that exegetes the Word and boldly and practically applies it.  Whether it’s stand-alone exposition or book studies or verse-by-verse series or character studies or some other form or approach of Scripture-focused preaching doesn’t matter, but focusing on the Bible will never fail.  Those who have said that “expository preaching will kill a church” are idiots and time has or will prove the fallacy of such a ludicrous statement.

2. Break out of Denominationalism

Many fundamental churches claim to be “Independent”, but they aren’t.  If it walks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck — it’s a duck.  If it acts like a denomination, fellowships like a denomination, gives like a denomination — it’s a denomination.  Many evangelicals and fundamentalists who claim they are “independent” are members of fellowships — like the BBF, GARBC, FBF, Shepherds Fellowship, Southwide, IBF, WBF, IFCA, etc…, etc…  These “fellowships” have “headquarters”, publish curriculum, have missions boards, hold conferences, issue declarations, have officers, take offerings, own/recommend/start/affiliate/endorse colleges and hold elections — so someone PLEASE tell me how they are different than a denomination.  (And don’t say “control” cuz’ some “fellowships” are more controlling than denominations and some denominations have no control whatsoever over their churches.)  Denominationalism and Fellowship Loyalties (particularly exclusive participation) create camps, conflicts, control, comparison and competition — none of which are healthy for the Body of Christ.

3. Answer the Liberals

There is a difference between answering a liberal and attacking a liberal.  (This would probably be a good time to ask someone to “define” what a “liberal” is in these circles anymore.)  Many of us choose to savage the messenger rather than to rebut a wrong message.  Usually, in the end — both remain intact.  Good scholarly rebuttals to the error that regular flows from genuinely liberal colleges, seminaries, publishing houses, etc… (and those who are drifting that way) will make us part of the dialogue and conversation and will give us the opportunity to espouse Truth from a historical, Biblical perspective.

4. Lose the Attitude

An evangelical brother recently asked me what kind of Baptist church I attend and I reflexively said, “Independent”.  As soon as I said it, I saw the familiar flicker that can only be described as surprise tinged with perhaps a little fear or at least concern.  So I quickly added, “….but not the MEAN kind.”  He laughed long and loud.  I think that’s sad, but I knew it was necessary.  Many fundamentalists were born fighting — we had to fight.  There was something for which the fight was worthy — the Supremacy of Scripture and the Sufficiency of Christ.  Too often the fights we see today are not against theological liberalism, modernism, ecumenicism, humanism or whatever anti-Christ “ism” being promoted.  The fight is over secondary and tertiary matters that are often unique to Western churches in general (American churches specifically), practices, secondary associations, etc…  Too often, we have become mean, angry, bitter, hostile, intemperate, volatile and unkind as we “claimed” to be defending the faith.  But whether we are disagreeing on majors OR minors, certainly the commands to “speak the Truth in love” and “as much as lieth within you live peacably with all men” shouldn’t be ignored.  How much more influence might we have if we could Biblically and intellectually defend our positions with a smile on our face and optimism in our voices.  Or could it be, as cynics have suggested, that our fiery passion and angry rhetoric is sometimes a substitute for a scholarly response?

5. Reach the Needy with Good Works

I am NOT a proponent of the Social Gospel.  NOT at all.  I understand the dangers of “rice Christians”.  I acknowledge the failures of the welfare mentality.  But, in this commentator’s opinion, many of us have grown calloused about things happening around the globe that are gut-wrenchingly tragic.  The genocide in Darfur (much of it against professing Christians), the AIDS orphans of Africa and Asia, the vile sex trade industry, the slavery of Northern Africa at the hands of the Muslims, the imprisoned believers in China, Cuba, North Korea and elsewhere (and their families), the village pastors in India and Central America and the list goes on and on.  While we bicker over inconsequential preferences and traditions, genuine needs that would save lives and reach souls go unmet.  We make excuses and create smokescreens for why we don’t get involved, but honestly, should liberal denominations who no longer embrace the True Gospel be doing a better job of giving and sharing than those who still lay claim to Truth?  Will those who are starving or are naked or are in bondage to chemicals or are homeless be in a position to hear or understand the Gospel?  Might we address their physical needs as we address their spiritual needs as well?

6. Invade the Devil’s Turf

For too long, our belief in separatism has given birth to isolationism.  We are not “of” this world, but we are “in” this world.  We’ve created the Christian ghetto for our own comfort where we enjoy Christian radio, Christian books, Christian music, Christian TV, Christian retirement centers, Christian Entertainment Venues, Christian social circles, Christian recreation, Christian media, Christian education on our massive self-contained campuses.  We really don’t have to venture out of our “safe zone”.  So how do we fulfill the Great Commission if we never interact with unbelievers.  Are even our mature believers so vulnerable that they cannot influence for good and Truth unbelievers without succumbing to the temptation they might introduce? Are our answers so frail that we cannot argue for Truth against those who may never have heard it? Do we not believe that the antidote to poverty, crime, addictions, abuse, violence, pornography, materialism and a host of other sins the GOSPEL?  Then why do we avoid the poor sections of towns, the AIDS clinics, the treatment centers, the areas where “sinners” congregate?  Should we be surprised when non-believers act like non-believers?  Can we not show them a better way?  If so, then we should invade their areas and SHOW them the difference Christ makes.

7. Teach our Children Well

The vast majority of practicing believers today were raised by practicing believers.  Sadly, many of them have a weaker commitment to their faith than their parents because we failed to teach them well.  Teaching isn’t just lecturing, it’s living.  It’s not just explaining it, it’s modeling it.  It’s not just teaching, it’s mentoring.  Discipleship begins in the home.

8. Reach our Children Well

Research says that 80% of kids in evangelical churches do not return to the churches in which they were reared after they leave home.  Many great churches are great for only 1 or 2 generations as the founding generation(s) age and ossify, they forget to make way for those who will fill their seats next.  We’ve turn generational preferences into tests of fellowships and too often communicate to our coming generations that they are not welcome if they want to do things a bit differently than we did them.  We keep our kids isolated from the adults with separate programs, separate leadership, separate services and even separate buildings.  They feel no real connection to the heritage of the church family because they’ve been consigned to “eating in the basement” for years.  Older generations too frequently refuse to reach out to, or interact with or listen to the younger folks creating walls that are simply unnecessary.  We spiritualize traditions and preferences at the expense of teaching principles and expanding outreach.

9. Emphasize Conversions rather than Decisions

For too many years there was such an emphasis on numerical growth, numbers of baptisms, etc… that a mentality and strategy of evangelism developed that was misguided and even heretical.  “Pray the magic prayer” and get eternal life (but can be counted on a tote board) became a form of evangelism that created legions of false “salvations”.  Repentance, acknowledgment of sin, a knowledge of grace, the responsibility of Lordship were left out of evangelism and discipleship and tares filled baskets intended for wheat.  Genuine salvation is a conversion, not a decision.  We’re changed because of the Holy Spirit, not because we “will” it.  We come to Christ because He draws us, not because we had someone present a handy-dandy plan replete with a charming personality and a disarming method of explanation.  Salvation costs us everything while it cannot be purchased with anything we could possess.  Decisionism leads to a false sense of security and salvation and should be rejected.

10. Re-emphasize Discipleship

For too long churches have neglected the third step of the Great Commission — Teaching.  Discipleship sifts those who make decisions from those who simply “prayed a prayer” for quick relief.  To neglect discipleship is the spiritual equivalent of child-abuse.  It is like giving birth to a child and then leaving it on the sidewalk with hopes that someone else might come alone and take care of it.  Our failure to disciple new believers has created a generation of Christianity that knows little of the “what’s” of orthodox Christianity and even fewer of the “whys”.

So those are my thoughts.  Tell me where you think I’m wrong and fill in what I’ve missed.  Looking forward to reading your thoughts.