Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Edge Church Scandal: The Juicy Details

This blog entry was not approved by anyone on staff, or the elder's board of The Edge Church. The information, ideas and opinions contained herein are the thoughts and ideas of myself and myself alone.

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. -Jesus, Matt. 5:48

What goes into a man's mouth does not make him unclean, (imperfect) but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him unclean. Matt. 15:11

We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check. -James 3:2

Recently, the Church that I belong to has lost its pastor. I've written a little about it, but today I am going to say everything that has needed to be said. Not only am I going to uncover all the “dirty little secrets”, but I am going to give my two cents on where we need to go from here. Before you hit the send button on your email, or skip to the bottom of this post and comment, keep reading, this isn't going to be what you think.

In July of this year, after what was described as a “sabbatical” on the part of our pastor, a letter of resignation was read aloud in the Sunday worship service, from that same man. I was not present. Over the course of the next several weeks things begin to take what seemed like a serious turn for the worse. In the wake of the pastor's resignation, which, we were told, was of his own choosing, we lost: one half of our childrens' staff, our worship leader, the pastor's executive assistant and a band of congregation members, leaving for a variety of reasons, some connected, others not.

Throughout this time a group of men that had the dubious honor of being named as elders of our congregation were thrown into the fire. They moved quickly to name an interim leader, establish a chain of communication to get control of the financial accounts, computer systems and the like. While this was going on these men were subjected to hours of meetings, listening to all of the details of both the scandals behind our issues and the issues themselves. They spent countless hours in prayer, trying to decide what needed to be done, trying to discern where God was in all of the wreckage. They made several tough, and in some cases, unpopular decisions.

Many, many people have taken offense at their choices. This has led to bad mouthing, gossip, blind guesses as to what happened and why, and people making the decision to leave, some quietly, others trying to wreak as much havoc as possible on the way out. For those of you who may not understand why this group of men is even in this position, here is a brief explanation.

Israel Hogue, former pastor of the Edge Church, asked each of them to be part of a council which was called (using the Biblically accurate term) the Elder's board, or Elder's council. These men, for the better part of two years, met together infrequently so that they could be informed of decisions and put “in the know” about the direction of the Church, etc. They were not, in any sense, a decision making body, an advisory council or have any power to make or change the policies of our congregation, except in whatever capacity the staff of the Church deemed it appropriate to take and follow their advice.

Another misunderstood, and in some cases much maligned, character in this process is my friend, Britton Thurlow, our interim pastor. Many of you may not know how he came on the scene, or what his part in all this is. When the resignation was announced, Britton had been serving as a volunteer, part-time, associate pastor, whose primary responsibility up until that point, had been the formation and operation of the Warehouse college ministry on Thursday night.

Britton's availability, schedule wise, and his former professional ministry experience, over a decade in various capacities with Churches throughout the area, made him the man with the most knowledge as to how to proceed, and he willingly took up the challenge. (some of this is partly my assessment of the situation based on what I know to be fact)

Britton and Michael Arnett, volunteered to man a public forum to discuss and advise the congregation as to what had happened, and what our response would be. They announced that we would be conducting a pastor search, and that several guest speakers had been lined out to appear over the course of the next several weeks.

Since that time, little has been said about what actually spurred the decisions that led to the collapse of our leadership. Hang on to your hats, folks, cause I am about to tell you everything you need to know about the entire scandal. Here it is.

In the course of living out, what many of us know to be an, at times, difficult existence, as a father and husband, Israel Hogue fell victim to his human nature and committed acts that put him in a position that was deemed beyond repair by those involved. While there were, I am sure, since it has always been the case in my own life, many mitigating circumstances, what caused the disintegration of two marriages and rocked a congregation to its foundation, was sin. Pure and simple.

There, there you have it. Now many of you believe that you have the right to know more, however, I dare you to find me one verse of scripture that backs that up. The sin in this man's life has not only been exposed, albeit not in detail to us, but he is actively working, with outside professional help, to repair his relationship with God, recover from his shortcomings and find a way back into God's purpose for the rest of his life. That's it, the show's over, there is nothing else to see here.

As for the rest of them, my Mother used to tell me that if I was not a part of the problem or an active part of the solution that knowing the details of this type of thing could lead to nothing good and was not something to be sought after. Now, some of you will argue that you need to know in order to more effectively pray for the recovery, repentance, etc of these individuals, I say that is a load of crap! God does not need your account of what happened -he was there, after all- in order to know that you are on his side, and asking him to heal and restore these families. He already knows what happened, and if he thinks it important for you to know, he can reveal it to you. The only other acceptable way to get this information is to go directly to the person that committed the offense, and that is Biblically reserved only to the “offendees”. So stop asking!

Not only does it not matter, who did what with or to whom, it is downright disgusting to be so morbidly excited about it. This is not an episode of Desperate Housewives, with actors paid to portray salacious behavior, this is people's lives! There are children and families, and people who most of think, or used to think, of as friends involved.

I agree that it is a shame when people make bad choices. I agree that it sucks that their families and the rest of us have to pay for it with broken relationships and disillusionment. But what I think is even worse, is that we insist on compounding an already tough situation by griping, complaining, gossiping and speculating. If this is you, and you don't understand my issue, go read Exodus. See how many times the Children of Israel got slammed with plagues, toasted to a crisp by wildfire, swallowed up by faults in the earth, bitten by snakes, the list goes on. God hates it! It is time for us to stop! The mission of our church is Love, Love,Serve, not Love, Love, Slander!

So, here are three things I am committing to, and I challenge you to leave a comment, making the same commitment:

  1. I am committing to pray for the blessing of God on all of these lives (with the understanding that blessing in some lives includes dire consequences for actions) and on the lives of the men who are leading us, the members of our congregation and the lives of the greater community, nation and world that we have contact with.
  1. I am committing not to repeat anything that I do not know as fact, and even to avoid repeating such facts as may tarnish, or negatively affect the reputations of the individuals involved. If there is correction to be done, God will do it. He is in the business of humbling the proud and lifting up the humble, he even reserves the right of revenge to himself and I intend to not get in the way of that.
  2. I am committing to examine my own life and get on my face before God to repent of my own bad decisions. That includes anything that I have thought, or said, or done regarding this situation that I should not have. It also includes safe guarding my own marriage and family by keeping an eye out for attitudes and behaviors in my own life that may lead to destruction in my family.

This is my prayer: That God will not only sort out the wheat from the chaff in the lives of the members of The Edge, but that he will bring us through stronger, healthier and better prepared to meet the needs of our community, to share and build into eachother's lives, and to worship him more deeply and fully. I also pray that God will put a guard on my tongue, that I might not speak, or write anything that would bring less that life into the lives around me.

Monday, November 8, 2010

8 Things I have Learned While Raising 8 Kids

Many of you may not know, but I am the father of 8 children. Some of you just had a conniption thinking of how much damage this idiot's kids will wreak on society. The rest of you have met my children and know that they are very little like me and are, for the most part, charming and sophisticated and very well adjusted and behaved. I thought I would share, from my heart, some of the valuable lessons I have learned in the adventure of fatherhood.

No. 8 It is Never as Bad as it First Appears

When you have your first infant you will overreact to EVERYTHING, it's okay you are supposed to. Every whimper, fart and coo will have meaning for you and that is the way it is supposed to be...for the first six weeks. After that, God keeps them cute for a reason. As they grow you learn what to listen for, to distinguish between tears of anger, fear, pain and sleepiness. You start to recognize the signs of real trouble and what is just going to be a good laugh. One other point here: no matter how minor, head injuries always bleed....a lot. Find the source and determine how bad any problem is, before calling the fire department.

No. 7 Gross is a Relative Concept

You know you've officially become a parent when you hear a child about to puke and you move to catch it, rather than save yourself. Yeah, I know it's gross, it's also true. With the exception of a few, truly squeamish people, most parents adjust to things like puke, dirty diapers, babies eating dog food and the like. It is all a part of growing up and soon, or so they tell me, you will be missing these things.

No. 6 Your Kid is Probably Not a Real Genius, (and that's okay)

All of us want to believe that little baby Donatello is the first child to ever finger paint...with his tongue. Yes, your baby is smart, unique and wonderful, but don't start to pick out his seat on the short bus if he's not talking in complete sentences by 10 months. Don't be intimidated by people with Uber babies either. It all has a way of working out. Educate yourself as to the normal signs of development by talking to other parents with multiple children, and be wary of putting too much faith in the “experts”. They will have everyone believing their kid is either the next Einstein , or Rainman. Of course all of my 8 children are well above average, but what can you expect from such superior genetic stock?

No. 5 It's Okay to Tell Your Kid What to Do

In fact, if you plan to have your children anywhere near me for any length of time, please, I am begging you, teach them some decorum. Kids will be kids, but that does not include acts of terrorism! While it is a popular urban myth that the best way to handle a public temper tantrum is to walk away and ignore the child, do not ever try this anywhere near me. The sooner children understand that they are sharing the world with other people, and that those other people do not always enjoy screaming brats, the better. While I certainly do not promote beating children, I do, upon occasion, give mine a swift smack on the rump when it's called for. I do not believe that this is the only way, but, for some offenses, it seems to be the most effective. Whatever method you choose to discipline your children, apply it fairly, which means, apply it every time it is called for. This is fair not only to your child, who will quickly grow to respect the boundaries and need less reminding, but it is good for the peace of our planet.

No. 4 Bugs are Protein

When Baby Billy swallows the june bug he was playing with, its okay. As long as it goes down, most solids will eventually come out. As they grow, toddlers will develop even stranger eating habits. Some children between the age of 2 and 4 seem hardly to eat at all, consuming only one large meal a day, with small snacks. If their heads keep getting further from the ground, and you are not using the icepick to put extra holes in their belts, its okay. Experiment to find healthy foods that they enjoy and keep them on hand. For Pete's sake, don't ever try to put a kid on a diet. I'm not talking about choosing healthy foods, I'm talking about worrying about your four year olds figure, she, is supposed to have a bit of a belly.

No. 3 Experts know nothing about what kids like

Buy all the award winning “educational” toys you want. Kids will play with what fuels their imagination. Give them simple toys that they can build dreams with. Dress up clothes and a set of blocks will go much further to turning them into productive citizens than a whole box of over priced crap. Keep it simple. Our kids play with their toys most after a clean out, when we have given the excess away and they can actually see what they have. YOU DO NOT NEED TO BUY THEM EVERYTHING THEY ASK FOR. This is not the time to prove that Daddy loves them and is a good provider. All you will get is more ammunition when they throw their toys and stomp off screaming, which does happen from time to time.

No. 2 Life is Not Fair, But Dad Can Be

Most of the time. Here is what I mean by this. When it comes down to an out and out fight for control of anything in our house I always do one of two things: take the item in question away, if a civil agreement cannot be reached. I do this no matter what the toy is, or who it belongs to. They can have it back later. Or, we flip a coin to decide who goes first, gets the first slice, etc. I use scripture to back it up even. Solomon said, “The Lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord”. It has stopped a lot of fights and long drawn out debates in our house. If the item in question belongs to one child specifically, such as a Christmas or Birthday gift recently received, they are allowed to keep it to themselves for a day or two, before sharing requirements kick in.

No. 1 Kids are Washable

My number one favorite thing about the design and construction of children is that everything short of industrial strength dyes will wash off of their cute pink bodies. While this does not make it okay to leave toxic chemicals within easy reach, it should be your mantra regarding harmless messes. If you are a neat freak, buy your kids clothes second hand, so you can afford to burn them on a regular basis. A happy kid is a messy kid and it is true that a little dirt never hurt anybody. As for germophobes, my only advice is, get fish, you don't have to pet them and you can wear rubber gloves to wash the tank. Children are not for you.

So, what would you add? What have you learned as a parent that you wish you had known from the beginning? Share it with us!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

What Kind of Change?: Election 2010

“God gave us the ten commandments and the Constitution and I think it's time we get back to both of them”- Caller to the Eggman Show during election coverage, OKC, Nov. 2nd 2010.

I heard this “brilliant” statement from the lips of a man who had absolutely no idea what either document was about and it pretty much sums up the attitude of many Americans today. Well it's a load of crap! And I am not talking about which side won, I couldn't care less, because there is not a butt hair's worth of difference between them.

Yes, I voted. But mostly because there were state questions that I believed would be astronomically bad for our state, not because I was excited by the great conservative revival, I lived through the last one! Remember? Remember when JC Watts was the most quoted man in America and good ole Newt Gingrich was the great white hope who was going to lead us back to the promised land? Remember?

And where have we come since then? Have we made any headway on abortion, divorce or public education? NO! And we certainly cannot claim any victories for the good guys when it comes to the economy.

As for liberty, we now have metal detectors in every public building in America. We have legal wiretaps without warrant, prohibited items lists at our post offices and “no fly” lists at our airports. Not only is our government bigger and badder than ever before, with less accountability, but the private sector is more and more in league with them.

Every day we hear of more police brutality. Our armed forces are in more conflicts and the suicide rates are nearly identical to what they were in 1990, even with 20 times as many anti-depressants being handed out like gumballs! Why???

I think the answer lies in this man's statement, the belief that the United States is somehow sacred, necessary to God's plan, and deserving of not only our allegiance, but the sacrifice of our very lives to prolong its reign over the nations of the earth. Let's face some truth. While personal choice is at an all time high, personal liberty is at an all time low. We are living in one of the most oppressive authoritarian societies that has ever existed.

When else in history has a man needed the permission of his government to build a fence on his own land? When else has government been so invasive that they restrict the sale of children's fast food meals with toys? (SF CA) I just received a letter informing me of a $1500 per person fine for my defunct company for not filing W9s -not, mind you, refusing to file tax returns- when I do not now, nor have I ever, had employees.

Unless this new congress will spend the next four years doing nothing but repealing bad laws that were put in place by their various predecessors, what good will any “change” do? Are they brave enough to slash unnecessary government jobs when everyone is convinced that new “jobs” are the biggest part of a solution for our economy? Will they really balance the budget, not just find some magical formula that makes it appear that we have a surplus? Or, will they go to Washington and find new special interests to cater to, create more new laws (which by the way, a law does nothing but restrict God given liberty, by its very nature) and find new ways to play the great political shell game of moving the money from one program to the next, without one thought of actual, meaningful cuts in government spending? We all know the answer.

We have all witnessed the fact that the political bus that is the United States Government is careening downhill without a driver, and we all know that unless we put a complete stop to its course it will inevitably crash. It is no longer enough to slow it down. Its weight is too great. It is top heavy with laws and regulations, bloated on the tax dollars of its citizens and drunken with the belief that being the only “super power” entitles it to run over whatever comes into its path without stopping to think of the morality of it.

Okay, take a breath and get back to what you were originally going to say.....The constitution, whatever its virtues may be, was not handed down from the mountain. This misguided individual, who equated the two, obviously has never read the book of Exodus. Here's the difference.

When the children of Israel came out of Egypt it was something that was foretold by God to Abraham over 400 years previous to its eventual happening. Their Exodus was proceeded by several major miracles and ten plagues! God led Moses to a specific mountain and showed up, in physical form, that was witnessed by the entire nation of Israel, as if the mountain were on fire. God wrote the original ten commandments with HIS OWN FINGER -according to scripture- and gave them to Moses.

In contrast, the constitution was written by committee, in ink, on paper. There was more than one revision, in fact the “original” has one of the revisions blotted out underneath it! We hold these truths to be self evident...is not the utterance of a Supreme Being. It is the best ideas of a group of men, some of whom were arguably under the influence of God at the time, but it cannot, should not, must not be compared to Holy Scripture.

No matter how much we “get back to it”, it cannot make us righteous, even the law was powerless to do that. Here is what it takes. It takes a people who are so seeking the face of God that they lose track of what men are doing in other places. They are so seeking the good of those around them, in community with them, that politics becomes nothing but a background noise. We have given them far too much power. Too much time. Too much energy. We have worried about their ideas, feared their decisions and cursed their laws. Many of us have spent more time this year in conversation, trying to persuade people of a political ideology than we have seeking those who are lost to share the good news of Jesus with.

Seek first the Kingdom of God (hint, not the United States) and all His righteousness and all these things will be added to you. (food, clothing and shelter)

Be anxious in nothing, but in everything, with prayer and supplication, make your requests made known to God. And the peace of Christ, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

What Kind of Story are You the Hero Of?

All of us, no matter how humble, sees ourselves as the protagonist of our own story. No matter how dark and twisted our path may become, even by our own choice, we will always see that we instigated the good things in our lives and that the bad that occurs “happens” to us, rather than being the duly earned consequences of our own actions.

It was only a few years back, and I know this because it was during one of those rare periods in my life when I was journaling and recorded it, that I realized that life is a pattern of overlapping stories, and while I may be the hero of my own epic, I play a role in many other stories around me as well. It wrote it like this, “ I realized today how self centered it is to assume that new people in my life are being brought here by God to help and shape me, instead of me being brought to them.”

This morning I had one of those rare moments of clarity which typically happen in the still moments in life when my mind is quiet enough for me to hear that anyone else is in the picture. My oldest daughter, Elizabeth had woken me up a few minutes after seven,( a bit early for me, still functioning as I do on theatre people time which doesn't really get started good until the sun goes down, ) to remind me that she was working at the zoo today in her capacity as a junior curator. It's a volunteer position that required three interviews and an essay to get.

As I was driving her to the zoo, listening to her descriptions of the things she gets to do and the people she is getting to know it occurred to me that this particular scene in my life, was a chapter from her book more than my own. To her, these memories will hold a place similar to my own memories of my own first job in a dry cleaner's. It made me proud in a way that is not easy to describe. I realized that I was here, not to teach or advise, but simply to listen and be her friend in that moment.

In his book “ A Million Miles in a Thousand Years;” Donald Miller compares the scenes of our life to a story. He suggests that those who choose their own stories are more fulfilled, and that it is necessary for us to find some adventure, or quest or crusade to champion in order to have a really great life. He sums it up like this, If you were to die tomorrow, how many lives would be completely disrupted if you did not fulfill your mission? It's an interesting question, isn't it? Many of us measure by how many people would mourn our passing in a personal way, but what about ministry, or service, whatever you choose to call it. Are you centrally involved in anything that is life changing for others? If not, why not?

Here is where I have to confess that I have not finished the last few chapters of this book, not because I don't want to, on the contrary, I haven't had much in the way of uninterrupted reading time lately, because I am being called into a bigger story, by a story teller who really knows what makes a great story. In this story I am a man who started out in life to make the kind of changes that Miller is challenging me to, but I got side tracked. The institution (church) that I had wanted so much to be part of disintegrated, I lost my place, and I lost my will to continue down the course I had set.

Now I find myself right back in a similar place. The planets seem to be spinning out of alignment, the earth is shaking under my very feet. People are literally fleeing the destruction and havoc that has been wreaked by the bad choices of a few. Others are standing on the sidelines lobbing verbal grenades at these poor choice makers and anyone who dares to attempt rebuilding anything that was blown apart by these choices. But, this time, instead of giving up, getting discouraged and finding a hole from which to curse the changes, I am running in, shoring up the walls, holding up the hands of the weary and offering my help in any capacity!

I have decided that not only am I interested in creating better stories for myself, but I also want to be one of those memorable side characters that show up for a moment, but impact the story so much for the better that you can't forget them, in as many stories as God will give me a part in.

Jesus said he did not come to seek those that were not lost, or to heal those that were not sick. It is time for us to remember why we were saved in the first place, to bring hope and love into the dark and hurting corners of the world. Here's a little secret: That's where all the best stories start!

In a cupboard under the stairs
In an old wardrobe
In a dingy Egyptian prison
In a dirty Palestinian stable on a cold winter night

So, what are you waiting for?

Got a story you'd like to share, or need someone to be part of? Tell me about it!