Category Archives: Culture

Lessons Learned From My Dad

This is a guest post by Joe Schlie. Joe and his family serve with Campus Crusade in Paris, France and are committed to communicating the love of Christ among the university students of that city. It is not an easy task. I have known Joe for several years and greatly admire his leadership. He recently shared some touching and worthwhile thoughts from his dad. Read and be blessed.

Lessons Learned From My Dad On the 44th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, it’s does us well to remember other giants who serve as models today. Let us not just remember them, but let us seek to live and serve like they did so that the Good News of the love of Christ might continue to shine in even the darkest of places.

We all stand on the shoulders of giants. Some giants are less known, but they are giants. Pastor David Schlie, my dad, is one of them. He started pastoring in the 1960’s, in some of the most challenging situations of that era. The Pruitt-Igoe housing complex in Saint Louis, Missouri has been described as hell on earth -(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7RwwkNzF68)

He would wear his pastor collar in the buildings so that people would know why he was there. He would preach, teach, pray and serve so that the love of Christ would be proclaimed in this most difficult place.

He left Saint Louis to pursue a call to pastoring Trinity Lutheran Church in Albany, Georgia around 1968. The 1960’s in Albany was a hotbed of racial tension and in the forefront of the civil rights movement in the deep south. It was in this kind of climate that he came to learn and serve in the city. It was in this kind of climate that he came to serve Him who came to bring justice, peace and reconciliation. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBrZ4utBse8)

He left Albany to move north with his family, and came back to his “roots” in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He originally came back to teach in a Lutheran high school, but chose to settle his family on the opposite side of the city. We settled in the southeast side of Fort Wayne, in a changing community where many of it’s white residents were moving out.

He became the pastor of Bethlehem Lutheran Church, and continued to serve and learn in this poor community for almost 20 years. The lessons learned are innumerable: How to serve in a changing neighborhood? How to serve in a church that is shrinking? How to serve the whole city with the whole gospel?

And yet, the greatest lesson I’ve learned from him is to follow Jesus. Follow me, Jesus said. I trust that as ministry and mission moves forward, we will continue to be people who will wrestle with and judge ourselves by this simple mandate: Follow Jesus!

Here’s what my dad wrote to me several years before his passing. When we first arrived in France, I asked him what he would do if he were in my place. Here are his words:

I don’t have any secrets or special wisdom to share with you that has not already been made known to us by Jesus. I don’t believe in orchestrated programs or specific steps which lead to success. That is not to say that God can’t use them if they share Jesus with someone. I am not one who is good at building organizations or buildings or programs. I will share with you some of what I believe comes from Jesus. First, a little experience in my life.

When I was first ordained and received the call to serve the Church in Pruit-Igoe where we had no building and no organization, I had given no thought as to what I would be doing. No plan, no dream, system, nothing but a call to be a missionary to the people of that community. On the Monday after my ordination I drove to the projects and parked by the Community Center. Then it really hit me. What was I going to do? I was at first frightened. I sat and I prayed and I thought, “God, what am I supposed to do?”

After spending about 15 minutes in the car, a black man walked up to one of the buildings and sat down. In a few minutes I just got out of the car and went over and sat next to him. We talked for maybe a half an hour. There was some religious talk, but I’m sure there wasn’t much. But it was a warm conversation and it got me stirring. I went back to the car for a few moments, and then waled over to an apartment in which one of the people who came to our worship services lived. We talked and shared and prayed, and I left-going over to another home and doing the same thing. After doing this , I went home and prayed and thought.

To make a long story short, I got to know people. I learned how to pray with them, and I learned to know their joys and sorrows and needs. I learned the needs of their neighbors and I visited with them. One thing led to another.

Now, about you and France. I don’t know one thing, except they are God’s children, and Jesus died for them, and you want them to be saved, even the college students.

So, here we go. Try to meet people wherever they are. For example, at a sports activity, at a library, on a park bench, at a store. Then listen carefully and try to pick up any felt needs, any problems or any status problems. Jesus addressed the needs of people and showed he cared.

Don’t try to blow people over with your knowledge of religion. Paul said, “Knowledge puffs up, love builds up.” I Corinthians. 8.1 Build relationships. Try to identify with people, that’s what Jesus did when he was baptized, when He ministered to them, when He died with them. Christians are often: too intellectual, too sophisticated, too mechanical. Jesus told stories, was down to earth, was loose and improvising.

Pray for the Spirit; He led Jesus to:

Preach to the poor Good News

Proclaim freedom for the captives

Bring sight to the blind

Bring release to the oppressed

Reveal God’s favor to the down-trodden

Bind the broken-hearted

Comfort the mourners

Jesus turned life right side up

See Luke 4. 18,19 ; Isaiah 61.1-3 ; Luke 1.48-53.

Jesus was a master of identification: Matthew 3.15-17 ; Luke 5.8-11 ; Luke 5.12-16 ; Luke 5.17-26 ; Luke 5.27-31 ; Luke 5.36-39 ; Luke 15.1,2 ; Luke 23.39-43. Don’t judge – who had the faith? Luke 7.1-10 ; Luke 7.36-50 ; John 3.16-21.

My whole point is this: Lead by example and follow the leader supreme, Jesus. To follow Him is to do what He did.

What is Fairness?

I rarely write about social/cultural issues on this blog but I have been bothered during this political season about the concept of “fairness.” This term is being used frequently by our President as leverage for raising taxes on the rich-that they might pay “their fair share.”  It is being used as a common refrain by the Republican party as a counter attack about the “50%” of the population that pay no tax at all-“is that fair?”

What is fairness?  How are we to think on that word and therefore decide who is telling the truth.  “Fairness” according to Merriam-Webster is something which is marked by “impartiality and honesty-free from self interest, prejudice or favoritism.”  At least that is one central piece of the definition.  And it is this piece that I think is missing in the debate.  I’m sorry, but I don’t really trust either side when it comes to impartiality and honesty.  I don’t believe that either side does not have some self interest, prejudice or favoritism at stake in this matter.  Apparently many Americans share my point of view.  In the most recent RealClearPolitics poll, 78% of Americans disapprove of the job that Congress is doing.  According to RCP polls Americans are split right down the middle on the President’s job approval-47% approve and 47% disapprove.  Confidence is waning.

Fairness, as it is being bandied about in political circles today, is arbitrary.  What is fair for one does not seem fair for another.  It is idealogical in nature.  And I have never seen a political landscape so divided along idealogical lines in my lifetime.  We are being hoodwinked into thinking about “fairness” when we should be considering “justice.”

“Justice” as it is defined by Merriam-Webster means “the administration of law” and “conformity to truth, fact or reason.”  Justice has a measuring line.  Justice has a standard.  Justice forces you to determine where you truly are in the argument.  It is not arbitrary-at least not be definition.  And therein lies the problem with human fairness or justice.  We are inherently unfair and unjust.  We are arbitrary about all things because we are inherently selfish and self preserving.

To have true “fairness” and “justice” there has to be a true standard.  A universal standard.  There has to be a universal law and lawgiver that is righteous-so that justice can prevail.

Consider the following from the Bible:  Romans 3:22-26                                                   For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.  This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he passed over former sins.  It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

To rise above our self centeredness we have to admit our need for the just law giver who graciously provided our redemption through the cross.  We will never get to “fair” or “just” any other way.

Saint Patrick-The Person Behind The Day

Saint Patrick’s Day is one of those strange holidays we mark without truly understanding the meaning behind it.  Culture largely celebrates with alcohol and green.  But there is a story of a man that God used greatly to draw a people to Himself.  It is a story of inhumanity being turned toward salvation.  It is a story of courage to face your fears.  It is a story of obedience to calling.  It is a story of leadership.  It is a story we need to contemplate today.

I don’t usually do this-but for this post I will link to another web site for telling this story (biography.com).  I will get you started.  Follow the link and finish the story.  You will be encouraged.

St Patrick was a Christian missionary. Two authentic letters from him survive, the only universally accepted details of his life. When he was 16, he was captured in Britain by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Ireland. He escaped, returned home and became a bishop. He later returned to Ireland, but little else is known. By the seventh century, he was credited as the patron saint of Ireland.

Here is the link for the rest of the story.


Changing America

I have been back in the States for exactly eight weeks.  My family and I spent the past five years living in Florence, Italy.  For some time now, we have all heard how fast culture is changing.  The rate of change is astounding and can leave you wondering how you will ever functionally survive.  I thought I would take some time to share my initial observations on what has changed in America since I left in 2006.  Mind you, these are just my impressions-I have nothing to factually back these up.  Some of it is meant to be light hearted-some of it is meant to stir your thinking.

TV sets have become exponentially bigger, while, for some reason, soft drink cans have become exponentially smaller.

The cereal isle at the grocery store use to take up only half the shelf space-now, apparently, we need something like 113 brands that take up the whole aisle.  Do we really need that much cereal?!?

Taco Bell is still reconfiguring the same five ingredients and giving it a new name as a brand new fast food creation.  (This represents only a change in creative marketing.)

Any food concoction at a restaurant claiming to be Italian, isn’t.  Trust me. (The change here is that we no longer have 1st generation Italians to keep it right)

Restaurant prices and used car prices have increased significantly while we were gone-all other things seem to have remained about the same.  I guess this means that we will soon have to drive really old cars and eat only at home-hmmm, sounds like my childhood-which wasn’t all bad.

In the church world the “distributive model” has become all the rage.  And we have become even more casual in our dress for church-my grandmother would have “had a fit.”  (I was never sure what a “fit” was-but she said it a lot)

Due to the economic debacle of 2008 it is almost impossible to get a mortgage loan now-not because the money is not there or institutions don’t want to lend it-but because of all the new lending regulations.  My loan officer knows things about me I didn’t know.  I think the lawmakers targeted the wrong audience in their zeal for protection.

American pop culture (meaning movies, music, TV, etc.) has become even more mindless and hedonistic.  The problem I see is more and more people think these broadcast messages  represent real life.  We seem to value entertainment and pleasure over substance and character more than ever.

There seems to be a profound sense of fear and growing hopelessness among our populous.  The three recurrent themes I hear behind this are global terrorism, economic gloom and a government that is unable to govern.  These three might represent three of our most significant idols as Americans: security, wealth and democracy.

The one, never changing constant:  We are still a people in need of a Savior.

I will have more observations as we continue to transition back to our home country.  And maybe they will be more profound and more accurate-maybe.  What do you think has changed in the last five years?  Please comment.

A Few Underpinnings for Theological Discussion

I have to admit-I am bothered by some of the theological discussions that are being played out today in books and blogs.  There is a need for truth.  There is a need for charity.  There is also a need for some underpinnings to provide a foundation.

I currently live in a country that has the trappings of religion all around it but little in the way of true, vibrant spiritual life.  Hardly anyone here would deny there is a god, but few honor Christ as king and see Him as beautiful.  My city is renowned for its Renaissance art, most of which depicts biblical scenes-especially Jesus. I have wondered many times what happened.  Where did the spiritual life go? How did the God of the universe become a byword?  What is to prevent another generation from doing the same thing?  I have my opinions and theories. Here are a few personal spiritual affirmations that might help.  In my current cultural setting the church and its people got some of the things below confused. At times I wonder if we, the modern evangelical church, are in danger of doing the same?  I offer these humbly for your consideration.

Be sure that the Word of God always stands over you and your church-not the other way around.

Don’t amplify one of God’s attributes over the others-worship Him in His totality.

We are all prone to let our life experiences altar and effect our view of God-allow God and His character to interpret your life experiences.

Don’t let logic be your ruling guide for understanding everything in the Bible-you are not that smart and He is not that simple.

Don’t let understanding be your only quest in studying the Bible-if you could fully and completely understand God you don’t need Him.

Stand on the shoulders of historical exegesis-you are probably not the first to think of your “new idea” about God.

We can and should allow our current cultural context to influence how we share the gospel-but don’t change it’s message.  You will only mute the gospel.

Stand in awe of the Creator in all of His mystery and beauty-don’t try and put Him on the operating table.

Be respectful of those that are older than you and have walked with God longer than you.  Time and life experience have a way of maturing your “sure” knowledge of God.

Give thanks for every gift and ability you have and for everything you don’t.  This will help to keep you humble and humility may be your greatest theological trait.

Homelanders: The Next Generation


I saw this from Tim Elmore on the differences in the coming generation that we will work with and seek to reach-some very interesting observations-read and see what you think.


Already, I meet parents and teachers who ask the question: What can we expect from the new generation of kids-the ones born after the Millennial Generation or Generation Y?

According to most social scientists, Generation Y births ended between 2000 and 2002. This means that kids in elementary school now are from a new generation. Two leading generational experts, Howe and Strauss, have already coined the term: Homelanders. They are earth’s newest generation. This name seems to fit since their first year (2003) was about the same time America gave birth to the Department of Homeland Security. They were born into a different world than previous generations, and are the first generation born in the 21st century. Because their early world is marked by terrorism, a troubled economy and a savvy, almost jaded social climate, they may not embrace the optimism of the early Millennials. In fact, below is my first attempt at contrasting the Homelanders with Generation Y. It is still early, but these are the marks we see in them, as we work with primary-aged kids and observe how parents, culture and schools have shaped them.

Our work with these young students may require us to develop a new set of skills and a new level of emotional intelligence. They may need to hear different words of encouragement. They may need to be pushed to take risks and believe in the future more than their earlier counterparts did. While the world is still at their fingertips and communication with others globally is immediately available, this new batch of kids will approach life a bit more cautiously and safely. They’ll be forced to be more calculated and pragmatic in their planning. They may be compelled to grow up faster than the “postponed” Millennials before them. With this in mind, observe these young children and see what you conclude about the habits forming in their lives. Let’s lead them well.

Tim Elmore
http://www.GrowingLeaders.com

What People Do and Do Not Believe in

Here is a reprint off of the AP news wire-very interesting reading and implications.

NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–A new Harris Poll finds that the great majority (82%) of American adults believe in God, exactly the same number as in two earlier Harris Polls in 2005 and 2007. Large majorities also believe in miracles (76%), heaven (75%), that Jesus is God or the Son of God (73%), in angels (72%), the survival of the soul after death (71%), and in the resurrection of Jesus (70%).

Less than half (45%) of adults believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution but this is more than the 40% who believe in creationism.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,303 adults surveyed online between November 2 and 11, 2009 by Harris Interactive®.

The survey also finds that:

61% of adults believe in hell;

61% believe in the virgin birth (Jesus born of Mary);

60% believe in the devil;

42% believe in ghosts;

32% believe in UFOs;

26% believe in astrology;

23% believe in witches

20% believe in reincarnation – that they were once another person.

None of these numbers have changed much since previous surveys in 2005 and 2007.

Religious Differences

There are very big differences between the beliefs of Catholics, Protestants, born-again Christians and Jews.

Catholics are more likely than all adults to believe in: God (94% compared to 82%); heaven (86% vs. 75%); that Jesus is God or the Son of God (90% vs. 73%); angels (83% vs. 72%); the survival of the soul after death (82% vs. 71%); the resurrection of Jesus Christ (87% vs. 70%); hell (70% vs. 61%); and the virgin birth (by 74% vs. 61%).

Catholics are also somewhat more likely than all adults to believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution (51% vs. 45%).

Protestants are also more likely to believe in God (92%), %); that Jesus is God or the Son of God (91%); heaven (90%); angels (88%); the resurrection of Jesus (88%); miracles (87%); the survival of the soul (85%); the virgin birth (79%); the devil (77%) and hell (73%).

But Protestants are much less likely than all adults to believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution (32%), ghosts (33%); astrology (20%); and reincarnation (13%). They are more likely than all adults to believe in creationism (56% vs. 40%).

Born-again Christians are much more likely than Catholics or all Protestants to believe in God (97%); heaven (97%); the Resurrection (97%); miracles (95%); angels (95%); the virgin birth (92%); the survival of the soul (91%); hell (89%); and the devil (89%).

Born-again Christians are also much more likely to believe in creationism (68%), and much less likely to believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution (16%).

Jews are, of course, very unlikely to believe in the basic elements of Christianity. They are also less likely than all adults to believe in miracles (63%); heaven (48%); the survival of the soul (37%); angels (36%); hell (21%); and the devil (7%).

Jews are by far the most likely to believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution (80%) and the least likely to believe in creationism (20%). They are also less likely than all adults to believe in ghosts (10% vs. 42%), UFOs (20% vs. 32%), astrology (19% vs. 26%); and witches (8% vs. 23%).

So what?

Two “big picture” findings are worth noting:

Many people consider themselves Christians without necessarily believing in some of the key beliefs of Christianity. However, this is not true of born-again Christians.

In addition to their religious beliefs, large minorities of adults, including many Christians, have “pagan” or pre-Christian beliefs such as a belief in ghosts, astrology, witches and reincarnation.