Author Archive

How Are We Evaluating Our Programs?

The authors of DiscipleShift argue that as we align our programs with our core focus (discipleship) we need to evaluate our programs and, at times, say ‘no’ to ideas for new ones. In chapter 9 (“Rethinking Our Practices”) they write:

…alignment is one of the hardest things churches grapple with. To say yes to your calling, you must necessarily say no to a lot of good things, and when you say no to a lot of good things, you say no to a lot of good people who don’t understand why you’re saying no. You’re saying no to something they are emotionally invested in.

The authors definitely exhort us to “avoid sweeping change in a church,” but they also say as church leaders regular evaluation of our programs in light of our core focus (discipleship) is mandatory. We need to explain why we are going to do something “…and then do one piece at a time.”

Where are we evaluating our church programs on a regular basis at FPCE? I know we have our annual reports to the congregation, but I don’t think these reflect the kind of program evaluation in terms of the core mission of discipleship that the book’s authors are talking about. This kind of evaluation can and should take place in our committee meetings, but we have a disconnect in many committees between the staff and the elected officers. I’m wondering why we don’t find monthly times for at least some of the elected officers of our church (deacons and elders) to meet with different staff members? I think it’s easy for us to remain in our traditional meeting/committee silos, and we need to find ways to encourage new conversations and communication about different programs and ministries in light of this “core focus” on discipleship.

It also occurs to me that we need to be finding ways to discuss these ideas on Sunday mornings, and at other times we gather for worship. Even a short two minute share time, when one of our elders gets up and talks a little about our study on DiscipleShift and what these ideas can mean for the specific committee that elder serves on would be welcome and beneficial. We ought to list this website in our bulletin as a place where church members can see the conversations and thoughts that our elders are having about DiscipleShift, and encourage them to participate as well. Have we invited our deacons to join in these conversations? We need to do this. We need to find more ways to engage each other in conversations about these ideas outside our “regular” committee meetings, Sunday services, and Wednesday night classes. We need to talk about these ideas within our existing small groups. We need to find ways to amplify the small group opportunities which are available in our church, and regularly talk to people about the importance of connecting within a small group.

Last of all, I’m wondering when we say “no” to a new idea or program of the church because it doesn’t involve the “five key components of discipleship” identified in chapter 9 of DiscipleShift? Can we point to a program or ministry proposal in the last six months that we’ve turned down and not followed because it didn’t align with this purpose? A lot of focus and attention has been given to the current change from one to two services. We need to encourage conversations about discipleship and small group, relational ministries. We also need to talk about and decide how we can intentionally build in “program evaluation” in light of our discipleship focus into our work on staff, on session, and in other church capacities. Otherwise, as the authors note in chapter 9:

…we will end up with a mismatched, disconnected community of people pursuing their own goals and programs that take on a life of their own.

I’d love to hear what others think about these ideas and how we can move forward to reflect the core focus on discipleship that the DiscipleShift authors exhort us to embrace. (The “Jesus model” of discipleship.)

What Issues Plague Our Church?

In the introductory chapter to DiscipleShift, the authors exhort us to not “jump right in and apply a solution” to fix our church. They assert that chances are, the issues plaguing a church go far deeper than just music.

My question is, what challenging issues do you think we are facing together as a church which go beyond music in the worship service? Certainly we have strong differences of preference when it comes to worship music and even worship styles, but what are the deeper issues? In fact, what do you see as the #1 issue or challenge we need to confront and address as a church, and specifically as a session?

Anti-Gay iPhone Apps Pulled by Apple and the Manhattan Declaration

Today I ran across a couple examples of iPhone apps which Apple has pulled from its app store in the past few years because they “offended large numbers of people” (in these cases involved allegations of “anti-gay” opinions or positions) and therefore violated Apple’s developer terms of use.

The first was “Apple Pulls ‘Gay-Cure’ App Following Controversy from March 2011. According to the article:

The offending app by religious group Exodus International — which aims to “help” gay individuals through the Bible’s teachings — directly contradicts Apple’s guidelines, and constitutes inappropriate hate speech, argued activists from gay-rights group Truth Wins Out.

The second was “Apple-Approved ‘Anti-Gay’ iPhone App Sparks Outrage” from November 2010. At the time that article was written Apple had NOT removed the app from the store, but they did end up removing it later the same month. According to the article:

There’s been no shortage of controversy over apps Apple has see fit to ban from its App Store. Now the Cupertino company has sparked outrage over an app it did approve, Manhattan Declaration, that is a “call of Christian conscience” inviting users to take a stand against gay marriage by signing a 4,700-word “declaration” penned by Christian clergy, scholars, and others.

According to a ChristianPost article, the app was pulled over the Thanksgiving holiday in 2010:

Some 7,700 members petitioned the company to ask them to pull the app, contending the statement contained “hateful and divisive language.”

The website Good As You published a post during the controversy showing screenshots of the “survey” included in the original iPhone app. They are just 4 questions asking about two issues: Do you support gay marriage / oppose marriage equality and do you support abortion / are you pro-choice? (I’m including the terminology from both sides of these divides here, although the survey in the app did not.)  It’s very interesting to see that an app which asks these questions unleashed a social media firestorm and led to the app’s removal from Apple’s App Store. This is history I might have heard about at the time, but for some reason didn’t listen carefully or wasn’t paying attention.

The English WikiPedia article for “Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience” provides more background about this situation, including the following paragraph:

Organizers of the Manhattan Declaration have contacted Apple and have resubmitted a modified version of the app. The new version lacks a “quiz” which, in the old version, asked questions about political issues and assigned a score based on a set of normative answers. In addition as of December 10, 2010, more than 45,000 have signed a petition to have it reinstated. Charles Colson voiced apprehension that the company’s move could have negative implications for more Christian apps: “There is nothing in the Manhattan Declaration that is not rooted in Scripture. So if that becomes the offense then all the other apps would be subject to the same charge.”

I may have had my head in the sand, but until today I don’t remember hearing about the Manhattan Declaration. I invite you to read both the full text of the document and the responses from Jeremy Hooper in the middle of this lengthy post. The list of official signatories to the Manhattan Declaration is lengthy and includes many names likely familiar to you. Have you signed the Manhattan Declaration or will you? Why or why not? Have the issues and ideas raised in our class challenged your thinking about the political course we are called to pursue as individuals and organizations in our postmodern age? This is a paragraph from the Declaration which directly addresses these issues:

The impulse to redefine marriage in order to recognize same-sex and multiple partner relationships is a symptom, rather than the cause, of the erosion of the marriage culture. It reflects a loss of understanding of the meaning of marriage as embodied in our civil and religious law and in the philosophical tradition that contributed to shaping the law. Yet it is critical that the impulse be resisted, for yielding to it would mean abandoning the possibility of restoring a sound understanding of marriage and, with it, the hope of rebuilding a healthy marriage culture. It would lock into place the false and destructive belief that marriage is all about romance and other adult satisfactions, and not, in any intrinsic way, about procreation and the unique character and value of acts and relationships whose meaning is shaped by their aptness for the generation, promotion and protection of life. In spousal communion and the rearing of children (who, as gifts of God, are the fruit of their parents’ marital love), we discover the profound reasons for and benefits of the marriage covenant.

Eric Teetsel, Executive Director of the Manhattan Declaration, sent out an email in May 2012 when President Obama reversed his previous position and announced his support of gay marriage. Pastor Brian Branam republished that letter on his blog. It contains numerous links to resources (including videos) about marriage from the perspective of Manhattan Declaration signatories.

After watching the above video, I also listened to the following video, “Dennis Prager – Gay Marriage.”

These are challenging questions and issues which get to the heart of our conversations in this course.

What’s your take?

Categories: Reflection

LGBT rights calculator

CNN posted an interactive page today titled, “LGBT rights calculator” which provides interesting insight into where different states in the United States are with LGBT legal issues. The accompanying article is titled, “America is at a crossroads on gay rights.”

The article raises many other LGBT issues beyond marriage, however. These include:

  1. Should states prohibit people from being fired because of their sexual orientation? (A majority of them do not, according to the Human Rights Campaign.)
  2. Should public school teachers be allowed to talk in class about homosexuality?
  3. Should states ban gays from adopting children?

Have the readings and discussions in our class shifted any of your views on these issues? Why or why not?


Categories: Question

Recommended Articles Tonight from Curt

Here are the two article links Curt shared tonight:

  1. Dennis Jernigan’s take on homosexuality and nature/nurture
  2. Dan and Me: My Coming Out as a Friend of Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A
Categories: Resource

Videos Available for Class Members

Remember the videos we’re watching in class are available on a password-protected videos page, using the password we’ve shared/distributed in class. This evening I added the videos for session 3, which are “real stories” about Jon and Jessica.

Our course schedule is available on this site in two places, on the “Love is an Orientation” link in the top navigation bar of our site and also in this post Curt shared on January 9th.

I’ll continue to add our videos to the same password-protected videos page as we move through our course. If you have technical questions or run into problems with this site or the videos, don’t hesitate to ask via a comment here or contact me directly.

'youtube' photo (c) 2012, SEO - license:

I mentioned the Google project on YouTube, “It Gets Better” during our first session together. I recommend taking a look at some of the videos shared on this site. I’ve seen several which have been very compelling. Tonight I watched “It Gets Better –” Some very positive encouragement here.

What do Christians have against Homosexuality?

At tonight’s first class we watched the YouTube video, “What do Christians have against Homosexuality? Tim Keller at Veritas.” Here is the video in case you missed class or want to watch it again.

I also took some notes during class tonight and posted them over on my Christian Blog, “Eyes Right.”

What are the main points that jumped out at or stuck with you after watching this video? I think this statement was the big one for me:

Heterosexuality doesn’t get you to heaven, so how could homosexuality send you to hell?

This statement doesn’t deny or contradict the view that homosexual behavior is a sin. It points out that the issue of salvation is far more than “just” sexual orientation. When we see alleged Christians demonstrating in the street against homosexuals with signs that read “Gays are going to hell” it’s safe to say those protesters are not thinking very deeply about what the Bible says on the topic of salvation. I thought this was a good point in the video.

Who is Andrew Marin?

This is the biography of Andrew Marin from the FPC Edmond Winter 2013 brochure for “The Gathering.” (PDF)

Andrew Marin is a young heterosexual evangelical Christian male whose whole world was rocked ten or twelve years ago when three of his best friends “came out” to him in the space of three months.  When he prayed about it, he heard God tell him to do something about it, so he and his wife moved to Boys Town in Chicago, where they have been living among L/G/B/T, learning from them what it’s like to be them.  The result has been the formation of the Marin Foundation, dedicated to “elevating the conversation” between evangelical Christianity and the L/G/B/T community.   Andrew relates much of his experience, some of the things he has learned, and his reflections on how we as Christians are called to love our L/G/B/T brothers and sisters in his book Love Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community.  The book is 200 pages and easy to read. The first meeting we will set out our objectives and to lay the ground rules.  Over the subsequent eight weeks, the class will read one or two chapters of the book before class, reflect on it, journal their questions, and come to class ready to enter into humble and peaceful dialogue.  If we engage the book with open hearts and minds, we will be challenged.  Come join us.


Here is an auto-biographical video about Andrew from the Marin Foundation website.

Follow Andrew Marin Online

There are several ways to follow Andrew Marin online, who is the author of our Winter 2013 book study, “Love is an Orientation.” You can:

  1. Read and subscribe to Andrew’s blog
  2. Friend Andrew on Facebook
  3. Follow Andrew on Twitter: @Andrew_Marin
  4. Subscribe to Andrew’s YouTube channel
  5. Follow Andrew on Instagram

Connect with Andrew here:

Follow Us on FacebookFollow Us on TwitterFollow Us on YouTubeFollow Us on InstagramFollow Us on RSS

Get The Book

If you’re going to attend our January – March 2013 book study on “Love is an Orientation” by Andrew Marin, we encourage you to purchase and read the book! We will be reading and discussing the book’s chapters during our study. You can obtain the book in eBook format or paperback. If you opt for the eBook format from Amazon, remember in addition to reading it on Kindle eReaders you can read it on an iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch (with the free Kindle app for iOS) or a laptop/desktop computer using the free Amazon Kindle for Mac or Amazon Kindle for PC software.


FPC Edmond
Learn more about First Presbyterian Church of Edmond by visiting our official church website.