Thursday, April 27, 2006

Just Another Conference?

I was about as excited to attend the National Conference on Preaching as I would've been to mow a football field with a push mower. I don't like conferences, especially the ones targeted toward middle aged pastors wearing Sans-a-belt's and shiny golf shirts who like to mill around in the hallways between sessions touting their church's gaudy attendance numbers. Not to mention the fact that I don't do a lot of preaching, making it all the more strange that I would attend a conference geared to help preachers craft their art.

I must say, however, that this conference was one of the best I've attended since surrendering to Christian ministry in 1996. The highlight was a message by Haddon Robinson, the great professor of homiletics at Gordon Conwell Seminary in Boston, MA. Robinson is not a pretty man. He has a face made for radio, but his presence is unmistakable. He spoke about using your imagination while preaching. His contention: most pastors forsake any use of imagination and creativity when addressing the Bible.

Robinson became my new hero when he shared about Jephtha, the mighty warrior mentioned in Judges 11. Jephtha's mother was a prostitute, and Robinson challenged us to see life from his perspective. Always being reminded by his peers that his mom was a dirty whore. Never being able to forget that he was a bastard. It was a shocking display.

Anyone who can preach a successful sermon to a group of stiff pastors and use the terms "whore" and "bastard" is worthy of recognition! I loved Robinson's boldness, and his delivery was captivating. Sign me up for next year's National Conference on Preaching. I may even buy a pair of Sans-a-belt's!!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

What if you could stop the Holocaust?

A recent article in World Magazine entitled "Spectator to Genocide" tells of the unthinkable atrocities going on in the Darfur region of Sudan, Africa. Maybe one day we will stop sitting and watching as murderers bent on world domination slaughter entire races of innocent people under our noses. Many will read this and wonder, "What can I do? How can I make a difference?" Perhaps the first place to start is to be aware of the problem. It's hard to read something like this and not be stirred to action.

Please sign this postcard that will be sent to President Bush. It may not seem like much, but it's better than sitting on the couch, drinking a coke, and thinking "Boy, that's really terrible. Where's the remote?"

Special thanks to Denny Burk for making me aware of this article.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Louisiana Thoughts

There is truly no place like Louisiana. The rich history, one of a kind food and down home hospitality make going home a nostalgic and wonderful experience. Kim, the kids and I made the 7 hour drive to the Lake Charles area for the Easter holiday, and I'd like to share a few thoughts from our trip.

Crazy Cajun Preacher
My cousin, Keith Fontenot, gave me a book about my Great Grandfather, Reverend Dallas Hayes. I can't believe this book! There is one story in it about how Reverend Hayes was called to Cow Creek, TX, because there was a cowboy named Blackwell who had already run off five preachers. They thought maybe Reverend Hayes could do something about the cowboy due to his reputation as a tough old cajun. They called the right man.

Reverend Hayes spoke one night to an overflow crowd, and it was rumored that cowboy Blackwell was going to be on hand to try to run the old preacher off. As soon as Hayes started preaching, Blackwell stood up in the back of the church and started cussing and making fun of the cajun preacher. Reverend Hayes closed his Bible and asked the cowboy to get quiet. Blackwell continued his mocking, and Reverend Hayes continued to ask him to pipe down. Finally, Reverend Hayes stepped away from the pulpit, walked to the back of the church, and grabbed Blackwell by the neck. He took Blackwell outside and began beating his head against the wall of the tabernacle until his knees buckled. Needless to say there was much singing and praising the Lord that night, and nobody ever heard from that old cowboy again!

Man, how cool is that! I always knew my brother and I got that wild, crazy streek from someone. It's funny because I have secretly wished that a similar situation would happen to me. I always thought it would be kind of cool to beat somebody down in church. I know it's not a popular thought, but maybe the problem with church today is that nobody thinks the preacher could whip them!

Easter Services
My family attended Easter services at Trinity Baptist Church of Lake Charles, LA. This is the same church where Kim and I were married, and we always enjoy seeing old friends and family each time we come back to Trinity. The Pastor, Steve James, shared a good message, and one thing he said in particular impacted me greatly.

When speaking about the resurrection, Pastor James shared about the two women who first heard the news of Jesus' rising again. He shared that the Bible says that these women "ran" to tell the others. His point was that "Good news doesn't walk, it runs!"

I immediately thought of my kids hunting Easter eggs the day before. Every time they found a treat in their eggs, they would run - not walk - to me and tell me the good news. I thought of the many times I had run in the house to tell my wife some type of wonderful thing that had happened that day. Good news makes us eager, and there is no way you can walk when you have wonderful news to share.

What better news to run and share than the truth of the resurrection of Christ?!

Good News doesn't walk, it runs!!

While in Louisiana, we stayed with my In-laws. Their home was damaged badly as a result of hurricane Rita, and they are still in the rebuilding process. The living room still doesn't have flooring down, and the front and back yards are clear, but not back to normal. There are holes where grass once grew, and the entire terrain has lost many of its greatest treasures: those wonderful Southwest Louisiana trees.

There are still tarps on roofs, and every other house has a damaged fence. Even though the hurricane did its damage several months ago, the clean up process is a slow one, and the area is like a strung out junkie trying to pick up the pieces of his life in a rehab center.

Restoration must be a patient process, or the faint of heart will lose faith and give up. My In-laws, though beaten by this bully of a storm, have persevered and are making so much progress. They have the prettiest yard in the neigborhood, and their house will be close to normal once the floors are installed later this week. They have a new roof, and their fence, destroyed by a thirty foot tall pine tree, is back in place and better than ever. Pop (my Father-in-law) has been working tirelessly to put things back in order, and the results are clear and amazing. The place looks great, considering all they've been through, and I'm so proud to know that they haven't given up or given in.

I see a greater story in all of this. When I think of the restoration they are striving for, I'm reminded of the restoration that will come for those who believe in Jesus, and patiently endure till the end. I'm reminded of the resurrection, which secures our hope. We may be broken and damaged now, but restoration awaits!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


I have a tendancy to write a lot about myself and my family, and although there is certainly nothing wrong with that, I also want this to be a place where information is shared and "big picture" issues are discussed. In light of that, I thought I'd share with you some information about a new movement within the church known as "The Emerging Movement." As a pastor the church is pretty consuming to me, but The Emerging Movement has been particularly fascinating, and I hope you leave this blog more informed after sinking your teeth into this entry.

Throughout history the church has been transforming its methodology (and sometimes its beliefs) based on the changes that have occured in the culture at large. One wonders whether The Reformation would have even been a blip on the map had the printing press not been invented within the same time frame. Had the writings of Calvin and Luther been hidden from the masses, would the movement have changed the face of the church? Would the contemporary churches of the late eighties and nineties have made such a mark without the advent of broadcast media (television)? Does the digital age that we are entering have any implications for the church, and if so, what are they?

These are questions for every generation, but they are particularly poignant in light of our rapidly changing, technologically advanced culture. We have entered a new world, and although the gospel of Jesus Christ is as true as ever, the methods by which we communicate that truth are as broad as ever. This is where The Emerging Movement (EM) comes in.

Scot McKnight, a professor in religious studies at North Park University in Chicago, has recently written an article on EM, and offers much insight into this oft misunderstood movement. In it he writes, "(EM) is a conversation about the future direction of the evangelical church in a postmodern world; it's a reaction and a protest against traditional evangelical churches; and it's a conversation focused less on theological niceties and more on 'performing' the gospel in a local setting." In other words, EM could be best described by three main characteristics:
  • EM seeks impact in a radically changing culture
  • EM is frustrated by traditional approaches to ministry
  • EM is missional
Some clarification needs to be made on the second of these characteristics. From what I've read and discussed, EM does not seek to trash traditional methods of "doing church" as much as it despises traditions that highlight methodology over and above true Christian practice. This reaction comes from a long history within the church of majoring on things like building projects, hymns and Sunday attire to the exclusion of concepts like grace, freedom and service. Leaders of the EM would never argue that traditional churches aren't necessary to the universal church. On the contrary, EM leaders would be more prone to seek convergence with these churches in order to work together toward a greater call, that of the gospel.

There is another aspect of EM that is causing a lot of controversy these days. Many have contested that EM is not simply a discussion of methodologies and missiologies, but of doctrine and theology. There have certainly been many EM leaders who have voiced questions about the orthodox docrtines of the faith. Brian McLaren, one of Time magazines most influential Evangelicals, is a leader in the EM and has raised questions on doctrines such as the Trinity and the virgin birth. He has also failed to take any sort of hard stance on other traditionally important issues such as homosexuality. This has been troubling to many who tend to define EM as a fringe, theologically liberal movement.

Mark Driscoll, a pastor in Seattle, WA, is one of the key voices in the EM. He is theologically conservative, but refers to himself as "the cussing pastor." Obviously he's not your Father's preacher. In a recent article in the Criswell Theological Journal, Driscoll writes,
"As a pastor I find the entire conversation encouraging, stimulating, and frightening. What I find encouraging is the groundswell of interest among Christians who do not want to separate from culture like fundamentalists, or simply baptize culture like liberals, but want to earnestly wrestle over the nature of the gospel and how can it be most faithfully contextualized in culture. What I find stimulating is the growing focus on docrine and the way it forces people to consider their docrinal positions and dig more deeply since pat answers to tough questions are no longer sufficient. But, what I find frightening is the trend among some to drift from what I consider to be faithful conservative evangelical theological convictions in favor of a less distictively Christian spirituality. The relust is a trip around the same cul-de-sac of false doctrine that a previous generation spent their life driving around while touting their progress."
I couldn't agree more with Driscoll's assessment, and I look forward, with nervous anticipation, to the conversations to come. It's a very exciting time to be part of the church!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Trent's First Blog

My oldest son, Trent, has been keeping a journal now for a few weeks. I thought that was a pretty big deal for a six year old, so I asked him if he'd like to post one of his journal entries on my blog. He was excited, and has accepted my offer.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Trent's first ever blog entry!


Yesterday I played baseball on a real field (The Dr. Pepper ballpark at Ameriquest Field in Arlington, TX). It was very cool to play on a real field! I also got to go with my friend ,Caden, to a party for his Mimi's birthday. I was very good and nice there, and after that I went to Caden's house to spend the night and I had a really fun time! We watched Star Wars for a little while, and we talked about how King Kong has stinky arm pits.

Friday, April 07, 2006

The Nastiest Dude Ever!!
In the midst of my second year at Louisiana College in Pineville, LA, I met a friend, Danny Hoychick, who would quickly become like a brother to me. Even that doesn't quite do our relationship justice. We weren't really "like" brothers, we sensed that somewhere, somehow, we might actually have the same blood flowing through our veins.

I know it sounds crazy, but we were so alike, so closely connected, that it didn't seem like that far of a leap. And then we met Doc Savage.

Doc Savage is a pulp fiction (not the movie, but the genre of literature) character who came on the scene in a series of graphic novels that began in 1933. It was Lester Dent who crafted the character, known as "The Man of Bronze", into the superman that he became. Dent, who wrote most of the adventures, described his hero - Clark "Doc" Savage Jr. - as a cross between “Sherlock Holmes with his deducting ability, Tarzan of the Apes with his towering physique and muscular ability, Craig Kennedy with his scientific knowledge, and Abraham Lincoln with his Christliness.” But the thing that drew Danny and me to Doc Savage was a puzzle that Danny's uncle had hidden in his attic.

For some reason that puzzle - a picture of raw toughness - appealed to our sense of adventure, masculinity, and sheer stupidity. We just thought Doc Savage, with his torn shirt, raging pectorals, and clinched fists, was the nastiest dude we had ever seen. And there was something about the look in his eyes that called to something deep within our souls. It was as if we were Luke Skywalker in the final scene of The Empire Strikes back, and Doc was Darth Vader. If we listened closely, we could almost hear Doc whisper "Boys, I am your Father."

I don't know if it was our need for a mentor or what, but Doc Savage became the inspiration for everything we did. We tore our shirts, framed the puzzle and hung it on our wall, and even reminisced about how Doc had led us in and out of certain situations in our lives, even though we didn't even know he existed. It was like life suddenly made better sense now that we had uncovered this hidden heritage. We were part of a greater story, the story of Doc Savage, and there was a strange pride and connection between us as a result.

Danny and I have been out of touch now for somewhere around 10 years. About two weeks ago, Danny emailed me. We spoke on the phone that night, and it was clear that we had both changed quite a bit. Those days of drinking until we couldn't remember our names are distant memories, but our connection remains as close as ever. This time around, though, our connection isn't centered around Doc Savage (although we still know that Doc is our daddy). Our main topic of conversation these days is Jesus Christ.

So, after all these years, Danny and I still find ourselves reminiscing about being led along on an adventure greater than ourselves. We are still drawn to a bigger story with a vast heritage. We're as close as ever to the one who says in a still, small voice, "I am your Father." We have a new hero, and our friendship has never been better!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Suffocating for a Year

Last April my best friend, Mike Spratt, suddenly dropped dead of a heart attack. Mike was 33 years old, and his wife, Shauna, was seven months pregnant with their first child. I'll never forget the phone call I recieved from my Mom telling me of Mike's untimely death. It was approximately 1am, and I was asleep on the couch. Kim and the kids were visiting her parent's in Louisiana, and I was home alone. I answered the phone in a daze, and was awakened in the most rude fashion possible.

In the first moments after I was informed of Mike's death, it was like I had been held underwater until panic set in, and I struggled to the surface for a breath. My eyes burned with the onset of immediate tears, and I felt stunned, like a prize fighter after a devestating power punch to the nose. Staggered and suffocated, my mind raced through all the memories we shared.

Growing up, Mike and I spent at least four days a week together from the time we were four years old through our high school years. We threw passes in the field behind his house, played video games til all hours of the night, and developed our own version of the Olympics in the Spratt's living room. We used to wake up early on Saturday mornings to watch our favorite cartoons, and we developed quite a home video collection, replete with fake commercials, "man on the street" interviews, and snow skiing highlights.

Mike was as good a friend as anyone could ask for. He was as loyal as a German Shepherd, as noble as a knight, and as humble as a George Shultz cartoon. I was at my best when Mike and I were together, and I miss his friendship terribly.

There are times in our lives when we lose touch with the things we grew up with. It's an unfortunate right of passage that is part of growing up and growing out. Mike and I experienced this season of our friendship, and were beginning to enter a new phase, marked by a renewed interest in each others lives. Unfortunately, this new season was cut tragically short.

There's really no point to this except to say that I miss Mike. He saw each of my children before they came home from the hospital. I saw his daughter, Ladan, before she left the hospital. She looked a lot like Mike. I sure wish we could have raised our kids together.

It's been a year, and I'm still suffocating at the thought of it. I just wish I could come up for air.

Check out the Mike's charity golf tournament at