Church of the Week: Airport Chapel, Frankfurt, Germany

We didn't have time to go looking for it, but when the lovely Robin and I happened upon the Christian prayer room in the Frankfurt International Airport, we took a few moments to stop in.

Very modern. Spartan, even. But not without its charm, though it could use a bit more subdued lighting.

Interestingly, the Frankfurt Airport provides SEPARATE prayer rooms for different faiths. We saw signs for a Jewish and a Muslim prayer room nearby.

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A Filled-Up Soul

"A haunting memory sticks from years and years ago, when news came of a young husband in our congregation who was dead by an errant shot during a hunting trip. It was my lot as the family's pastor to rush to the home and sit with the family. As I drove away from my home, I found myself asking, "And what shall I give this family? My spiritual resources are dry. All I have is words, but my spirit seems empty." It was a most miserable moment, a scary one for a youthful pastor. And one of those times when I determined I would never again be caught with an empty soul when others needed spiritual resource.

"I came to see that I owed my congregation a filled-up soul. They needed this far more from me than all the church programs and visions I could put before them. Whether they encountered me in the pulpit or on the streets of our community during the week, they needed to know that if (perish the thought) there was only one human being in their world who had some experience in the presence of God, I would be that man."

(from Gordon MacDonald's A Resilient Life)

The Autobiography of George Muller

The Autobiography of George Muller tells the story of a remarkable man of faith. Redeemed by Jesus Christ from a life of selfishness and profligacy, Muller (1895-1898) left his native Prussia for England in 1829. There, he entered into pastoral ministry and, after some experience as a preacher, began a series of ministries--a Bible institute, Sunday school, orphan homes, etc.--in Bristol. But that's not enough half the story.

The real story of Muller's life consists of page after page, month by month and year upon year, of his resolute dependence on God for his (and hundreds of employees' and orphans') daily bread--quite literally at times. He determined from the beginning of his ministry that he would take any and all needs to God and him alone. Rather than appealing to donors or crowds for support, he would "take it to the Lord in prayer," as the hymn says, and await God's timing and God's supply. And, time after time--often before he (and sometimes others among his partners in ministry) finished praying--he received answers to his prayers.

This book is not like any other autobiography. Rather than presenting a narrative of his pursuits and accomplishments, it relates only those excerpts from his journals that pertain to his stated life goal: encouraging and edifying the church by showing the outline and fruits of a life that is lived and a ministry that is run in complete and constant reliance on God, in faith, through prayer.

The Autobiography of George Muller accomplishes that. It impressed upon me the need to pray more, but not only that. It showed the littleness of my faith and my native impatience. It exposed my idolatrous self-reliance. And it made me hungrier for God, and for his hand on my life, in things both large and small.

Faithbook Community Church?

Chet Gladkowski, on, posed the question: "Does Facebook have anything to teach the church?" He suggests that "Facebook has...[filled] a hole we, the Christian community, have created through absence and neglect." And then he offers five insightful answers to his question.

I think he's dead on. And I think you should go here and read the whole thing now.

Church of the Week: First Baptist Church, Oxford, OH

What a joy it was to worship, teach, preach, and fellowship yesterday morning with my friends Rev. Darryl and Cheryl Jackson at First Baptist Church in Oxford, Ohio.

The morning began with a lovely Bible study. I taught from Exodus 32, with reference to my book, American Idols, on the slippery slope to idolatry.

After Bible study adjourned, we all prepared for the worship service of the morning. The lovely Robin and I got to greet so many friends, old and new, and basked in the warmth and welcome that were extended to us, and the wonderful prayer, praise, and worship music that were offered to God.

Pastor Darryl gave me a generous introduction, and I preached as well as can be expected, from 1 Samuel 14, drawing from the last chapter of my book, Quit Going to Church. Though I'm usually accustomed to "amens" and "preach-es" and "come on, nows" only from my wife (and under her breath, at that), I was blessed by the feedback to the message, and thoroughly encouraged and enriched by the fellowship before, during, and after.

First Baptist Church just celebrated their 147th anniversary (from 1865!) last week, is located at 6701 Ringwood Rd., on the northwest end of Oxford, Ohio, the home of Miami University. I've worshiped numerous times with this family of faith, in their previous location on Vine St. in Oxford and their current facility, occupied since 2006, and have never failed to be blessed and uplifted by them and by the presence of God in their midst.

A Free eBook About Pastors

Charles Edward Jefferson was born in Cambridge, Ohio, and graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1882. He graduated from Boston School of Theology in 1887, and was called in September of that year to the Congregational Church in Chelsea, Massachusetts. He left there in 1898 to become the minister of the Broadway Tabernacle in New York, where he remained for thirty-one years, becoming pastor-emeritus on his retirement in 1930. He served just two churches in his lifetime.

Shy and retiring, he was renowned for his simple and straightforward preaching. Yet in this book he calls pastors to view their primary role not as preachers but as shepherds of the flock of God. He describes the work of the shepherd: to prod, provide for, and protect the sheep. He also writes of the pastor's two greatest temptations, and shows how they may best be avoided, and concludes the book by encouraging pastors to seek the reward promised to those who shepherd the flock with gentleness and faithfulness.

The free ebook can be downloaded here.

Help for the Preacher

The Lord always helps me when I preach, provided I have earnestly sought Him in private. A preacher cannot know the hearts of the individuals in the congregation or what they need to hear. But the Lord knows; and if the preacher renounces his own wisdom, he will be assisted by the Lord. But if he is determined to choose a subject in his own wisdom, he should not be surprised when he sees little fruit resulting from his labors (George Muller, from The Autobiography of George Muller, p. 32).

Fully Alive

I already knew Ken Davis was a funny man. I've heard him speak. I especially like his "Dunkin Donuts" story. So I expected his new book, Fully Alive: A Journey That Will Change Your Life, to make me smile, even laugh.

It did that. But it did much, much more than that.

Halfway through the first chapter, I was in tears--and not from laughter. I was moved. And it wasn't the last time, either.

I identified with him when he spoke of his "manatee moment." I loved his story of his three-year-old granddaughter praying for him. I was inspired by his account of Olena's adoption. I cried again when he told the story of his daughter Traci, who stopped telling him, "I love you," at the age of thirteen. And, throughout, I was motivated to live more fully alive for the rest of my life.

Perhaps most importantly, before I finished reading Fully Alive, I knew exactly to whom I'd be passing the book...and its life-changing message.

The Primary Use of Prayer

The primary use of prayer is not for expressing ourselves, but in becoming ourselves (Eugene Peterson, Answering God, p. 19).

Church of the Week: Crossroads Community Church, Cincinnati

In honor of my son, Aaron, who last week started a new job at Crossroads Community Church in Cincinnati's Oakley neighborhood, I thought this would be as good a time as any to feature Crossroads as the church of the week.

Crossroads is a ginormous non-denominational church with a mission of "connecting seekers with a community of growing Christ-followers." Anyone entering the church from any direction before a worship service is greeted at the door by a friendly, smiling greeter. The hugantic atrium can be disorienting at first, but multiple directional signs, coffee stations, and seating areas make it a dynamic yet inviting space.

The likewise hunormous auditorium, with a spacious balcony, can be entered from any number of directions. A standard of excellence is apparent in the quality of sight, sound, and music, and the casual, accessible teaching and friendly banter from the stage makes the experience much warmer and intimate than you might expect.

The children's ministries--on two levels of the sprawling facility--is also top notch. One section of the check in desk (not far from the information desk) is devoted and clearly labeled for "new families." A full kit, complete with a CD of kids' music children learn and sing in their classes, is provided to parents upon check-in.

But my favorite part of the Crossroads experience is the easy-to-miss chapel off the main atrium (in fact, on my first two or three visits to Crossroads, I missed it).

It's a space that most churches would love to have for their main worship experience, but at Crossroads it provides a gorgeous, adaptable setting for more intimate occasions.

If you're ever in the area, and are looking for a distinctive worship experience, stop in at Crossroads, which has multiple services on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings.

As For Me and My Mouse, We Will Serve the Lord

Pastors must come to terms with multiple sites and with multiple rites and rituals of remembrance: specifically the real and the virtual. The real world already has multiple sites and rites at which we preside (church, home, "funeral home," cemetery). Where are you and your church ministering in the virtual world? (Leonard Sweet, Postmodern Pilgrims, p. 76).

A Refusal to Remember

Our planet that gets smaller every year, with its fantastic proliferation of mass media, is witnessing a process that escapes definition, characterized by a refusal to remember. Certainly, the illiterates of past centuries, then an enormous majority of mankind, knew little of the history of their respective countries and of their civilization. In the minds of modern illiterates, however, who know how to read and write and even teach in schools and at universities, history is present but blurred, in a state of strange confusion....[T]he poet....feels anxiety, for he senses in this a foreboding of a not distant future when history will be reduced to what appears on television, while the truth, as it is too complicated, will be buried in the archives, if not totally annihilated.

(Czeslaw Milosz, from his Nobel Prize speech)

A Year of Biblical Womanhood

Wife, blogger, and Christ-follower Rachel Held Evans committed one full year of her life to following all of the Bible’s instructions for women as literally as possible—from submitting to her husband (Colossians 3:18) and calling him "master" (1 Peter 3:5-6) to growing out her hair (1 Corinthians 11:15), covering her head for prayer (1 Corinthians 11:5), and caring for the poor (Proverbs 31:25). She did this not to be silly or disrespectful, nor to glorify the Bible's patriarchal elements, but to explore all "biblical" aspects of womanhood and start a real conversation about how we approach and apply the Bible to such things.

Her book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood (How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband Master) is the result of her efforts. And it is wonderful.

With sincerity, authenticity, insight, and humor, the book charts Evans's efforts over twelve months to experience all the Bible says (or seems to say) about womanhood:
October: Gentleness
November: Domesticity
December: Obedience
January: Valor
February: Beauty
March: Modesty
April: Purity
May: Fertility
June: Submission
July: Charity
August: Silence
September: Grace
Some parts were so good, I had to read them aloud to my wife. At times, I highlighted whole paragraphs (which I just don't do) and made notes in my Bible. I nodded. I cheered. I laughed out loud. I got angry. I got misty. And I vowed to make my wife, daughter, and daughter-in-law read it...even if it meant putting my foot down as the head of the house and priest of the family (that last part is a joke, just to be clear).

So much in the book is worth remembering--and re-reading. But some of the parts that I highlighted and hope to come back to often are:
What we read into the Genesis narrative often says as much about us as it says about the text....A passage that might challenge readers to aspire to the love and mutuality of Paradise has instead been used for centuries to justify the perpetuation of the curse (xxii).

The Bible is a hundred times older than you are. Prepare to be humbled by it (p. 48).

We make the most beautiful things ugly when we try to systematize mystery (115).

When you realize that faith is not static, that it is a living and evolving thing, you look less for so-called "spiritual leaders" to tell you where to go, and more for spiritual companions with whom to travel the long journey (204).

It is a tragic and agonizing irony that instructions once delivered for the purpose of avoiding needless offense are now invoked in ways that needlessly offend (262).

When we turn the Bible into an adjective and stick it in front of another loaded word (like manhood, womanhood, politics, economics, marriage, and even equality), we tend to ignore or downplay the parts of the Bible that don't fit our tastes (293).
Those are just some of the portions I highlighted. There are many more, and some (as I said above) of considerable length.

(A quick note: the page numbers above refer to the advanced reader's copy; they may not correspond to the page numbers upon publication)

In brief, I want everyone to read this book. Seriously, everyone. Men and women. Young and old. Pastors, elders, deacons. Parents and grandparents.

It's important. It's entertaining. It's refreshing. And it's worth every penny and every minute of the time it takes to read it.


(Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher, for review purposes. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”)

Church of the Week: Salvation Army Montclair NJ Citadel Corps

The lovely Robin and I enjoyed a wonderful weekend with old and dear friends at The Salvation Army in Montclair, NJ.

The Montclair Corps was our church home from 1987-1991, while we lived in the area. But the place where we worshiped and served was nothing like this!

A new and beautiful facility was completed--on the same site as the previous structure--a few years ago, and it's just beautiful. A highlight of the entryway (above) is a fountain with verses referring to living water.

The Coffee Booth (below) is a warm, versatile cafe setting just off the lobby.

The most distinctive feature of all, however, may be the underground parking garage, an absolute necessity if the corps was to stay in the same location:

The prayer, music, and warmth of the morning's worship service were moving and effective. For both me and Robin, the ministry of band and songsters and Dorothy Post on the piano were an absolute blessing.

Even the youngest folks in the room were attentive:

And the preacher was, well, let's just say everything else was wonderful:

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