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BurtonCampbelldotorgI’ve recently launched a new web site. Over the next season, I’m attempting to strengthen relationships and ministry opportunities as God allows. To help accommodate that, I’ve set up this new site as a reference point to help establish and maintain connections.  The site currently includes a blog, audio files, and a speaking schedule (yet to be filled!).  It also maintains an easy way to contact me and will likely become an outlet for additional articles, books, and other resources.  As effort goes into developing that site, this one may become either a mirror for blog articles or take on a different focus. Time will tell!

Go check out www.BurtonCampbell.org when you get the chance and drop me a note!

Some Things Are More Important Than The Election

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cross-look-upElection ’16 seems to be the most contentious presidential race of my lifetime…by far.

There is ample evidence of real hatred on display on each side, from the leaders to the supporters. This has become a terrible, terrible shame.  People apparently no longer know how to differ with civility.  Is it possible to disagree without being disagreeable?

Chances are good that something I write below will be in direct opposition to something you believe. The temptation will be to stop reading or to simply jump ahead to leave a comment before giving me a full hearing. I would like to encourage you to do your best to go the distance and read this in its entirety. Even then, pause, count to ten, look for the bigger point, and say a prayer before responding.  I promise to do the same in return.  I’m going to write about both Clinton and Trump…but I want to address something I think is even more important than our impending election.


I watched all the presidential debates, though sometimes with only one eye.  I could hardly stand to witness the vitriol and personal attacks that took up substantive portions while a real discussion of the issues remained woefully deficient.  If we are to judge by their debate performances, our current candidates seem ill-suited for the job. How very sad and unfortunate for all of us, regardless of which party we support.

Beyond the debates, the candidates are a mess.  As of this writing, Hillary Clinton remains under five separate and serious FBI investigations. Each of them is its own horrific scandal, worthy of disqualifying her from the office. These are in addition to the other issues that are a problem for me, including: her blatant, proud support of abortion (even the sickening late term “partial birth” option), her apparent misjudgment during the Benghazi terrorist attack that contributed to the loss of American lives, and what I believe is a proven history of lies and corruption for the sake of personal gain or self-protection.

These only scratch the surface for me. While I love the idea of America electing a female president, Senator Clinton is not my gal. (Condoleezza Rice, why, oh why, didn’t you run???). The list of reasonable and serious objections to her presidency is lengthy, as any random Google search can verify.  If Hillary wins, she will be the first president-elect to be simultaneously facing possible criminal prosecution.  That’s truly deplorable.

Donald Trump, in my view, is equally problematic, though for different reasons. For one thing, he doesn’t seem to be able to control his mouth.  From his misguided slur against John McCain for being a POW and his mocking of reporter Serge Kovaleski’s heart-breaking disability, to his repeated estimation of women according to their appearance (anyone remember his words to Carley Fiorina or Heidi Cruz?) and his downright sick depictions of sexual activity and abuse on many, many occasions both on the air with Howard Stern (and others) and in print (including Playboy magazine).  It all belies a judgment that seems sorely lacking.

Regarding Trump, numerous Christian leaders (whom I greatly respect in other matters) indicate that the Don is a changed man.  I want that to be true.  They inform me that he began to change in his demeanor and attitude after his third marriage, and that he recently made a decision to give his life to Christ.  I really want that to be true! I will be absolutely delighted for Trump to go to Heaven (Hillary too, for that matter!). I’m not so sure, though, that any such conversion therefore merits the Presidency.

Some Christian leaders have described Donald as being anointed by God to be the 45th president.  They quote Isaiah 45 which depicts King Cyrus and references how God used him to help return the Jews to Jerusalem despite the fact that the king didn’t know God for himself.  I don’t know if Trump is the recipient of this “Cyrus anointing” or not.  I do believe that God can use anyone He wants.  He is not daunted by our personality or history. If God wanted, Hillary could easily be His Cyrus too.  Regardless of whether God is choosing to use Trump in this capacity, there is one thing I can guarantee: Cyrus didn’t become king through any vote of the people.

I understand why people are so distraught.  I’m on the same page with those who think that a Hillary Clinton Presidency is rife with disaster. I differ to a degree, however, with many of my fellow Christians, as they push forward on the Never-Hillary bandwagon, because I am resistant to “the end justifies the means” ideology. I am not in favor of Clinton winning the White house, but in that opposition, I am also not willing to compromise or sacrifice Christian values that remain important to me. So pray for me; I haven’t fully decided what I will do on election day.

There are serious issues with Trump. Businesses associated with his brand include casinos and strip clubs. His hotels include the availability of hard core pornography. Multiple women have accused him of unwanted sexual advances and abuse. In December, he faces court hearings regarding the rape of a 13 year old girl. I can hardly accept that I’m supposed to look the other way and pretend that these things don’t really matter.

Some tell me that he is repentant.  I did hear him take responsibility and admit he was wrong for the horrid sexual and misogynistic remarks he made to Billy Bush of Access Hollywood.  That was somewhat refreshing in this current political climate of “deny, deny, deny.” Yet what about the many other terrible statements he has made? What about his current on-going business dealings in darkened corners? I deal regularly with broken people caught up in the traps of pornography and sexual abuse. Gambling has destroyed countless lives. These issues are rampant in our society. How can I vote for a man that profits from and still contributes to such heartache?

Now let me turn to the fuller point. I don’t really expect to change anyone’s vote with this post and that is not really my intent in writing. Rather, I want to simply express the idea that it is at least reasonable for someone, and especially a follower of Christ, to have serious reservation about supporting either candidate. A real test for all of us, then, is the character that gets revealed in us when a person’s vote is revealed as something different than our own.  Can we still respect someone for carefully making their own informed choice?

Recently, national headlines showcased that Ohio Governor John Kasich wrote-in John McCain’s name as his Presidential vote instead of either Clinton or Trump. Though McCain wouldn’t be my choice, I get why Kasich felt he couldn’t vote for the candidates on the ballot. Yet, I’ve seen those whom I would meaningfully describe as solid Christian people rush to social media to vilify Kasich as childish, arrogant and a turncoat to the party.  Not only do they seem unwilling to consider his reasons for voting the way he did, they instead assign motive and go on the attack. Further, they are ready to inflict revenge by pledging not to vote for him in his next gubernatorial race and wishing him harm. Really?  Wow. I am surprised that the way of Christ and such a vindictive spirit could go so hand in hand. Blessing and cursing flowing from the same mouth. Yikes!

In the writings of many Christian leaders, there has been a tendency to label those who are reluctant to vote for Trump as being “self-righteous” and “unforgiving.”  They argue that because Trump is more apt to appoint conservative Supreme Court justices, we need to look the other way on his serious ungodly shortcomings.  Afterall, so the thinking goes, Trump is far better than Hillary!  So again: the end justifies the means and anyone who thinks otherwise deserves a derogatory label.

Sigh.

I want to ask, “What’s happened, Church, to our trust in the Lord?” Do we still believe that when it’s all said and done that it is God who establishes our governing authorities? (Romans 13:1).  Will not the judge of all the earth do right?

As an American, it has always been important to me to participate in the process. I still encourage everyone to vote.  Yet, I can understand why some want to abstain rather than vote for either of the two main candidates. I can also understand why others would instead choose to vote for a third party candidate with whom they have fewer qualms. In so doing, they are not handing their vote to Hillary.  They are standing by tried and true values, regardless of the outcome. I can remember a story about three Hebrew guys in the Old Testament who were willing to die rather than compromise their convictions before God, even as they trusted Him for deliverance. Seems relevant now.

Surely Father God is not expecting anyone to violate their understanding of Christian character in order to make the “right person” the next President of the United States. Why are we so quick, then, to demonize those who are not ready to vote for the candidate we would prefer?  This should not be.  To do so is a poor reflection on Christ who lives within us.

On November 8th, many will vote for Trump because they believe he is the man God has chosen for the highest office in the land. Others will make another choice or perhaps even abstain because they believe that a vote for Trump dishonors Christ. In both cases, people are doing their best to honor God. Who are we to judge them in this matter? That right belongs to God alone.  Our command, rather, is to love one another in both word and deed.  For those of us who consider ourselves to be Christians, that must remain our priority, and mutual respect will go a long way toward expressing that love.

Some things are more important than the election. Loving God first and foremost stands out to me. Loving our neighbors as much as ourselves floats near the top too. Trusting God in difficult circumstances and not trying to take matters into our own hands is something that remains worth pursuing. Showcasing the Gospel of Christ to lost and broken people is probably still a worthwhile priority. Maintaining a credible witness would serve that well.

No matter who gets elected, America will still need to see Jesus in us…perhaps more than ever. I vote for that. The President is not the Savior of America.  We shouldn’t act like he is.  Instead, trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Let’s acknowledge Him in all our ways…He will make our paths straight.

Okay…pause…count…get the point… pray… now you can respond.    😉

I Want To Hear You

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The world is more connected now than ever. Within seconds, we can read someone’s written thoughts and expressions right on our phones, even though they are continents away.  We see the words, we read the posts, but are we understanding? In our pursuit of free expression, are we paying attention to others?  I want to be a better communicator.  I want my communication to truly be a two-way street.  I want to hear what you have to say.

Communication isn’t as easy as we typically think it might or should be. Not real, meaningful communication.  It’s a skill, one that must be practiced over and over and over again. It takes time and effort. Thankfully, we can certainly grow in our communication skills; it gets easier when we invest in its development. As followers of Christ and ambassadors of the Kingdom of God, it is my humble opinion that we only do ourselves a favor when work hard to develop the ability to connect heart to heart.

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Gotcha!

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I like being right. I don’t like being wrong.  What is it about human nature that almost delights in being proven right over someone else?  Feeling like we’ve got special insider information (a corner on “truth?”) can be a secret, prideful obsession. It gets revealed when we find ourselves delighting in setting others straight (“Gotcha!”). Sometimes it disguises itself as deep concern for others and their spiritual health or understanding… when the truth is we are merely, and unfairly, judging them.     Continue reading

The message of the Church needs to be one of healing.

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Woke up this morning thinking about an article I wrote in the local paper about eleven years ago. Here it is:

I remember the thrill of playground rides that I experienced as a child. My favorite was the giant slide. Though it was scary to climb the ladder to the top and peer over the edge, the joy of sliding down was worth it all. Today, however, our culture is sliding down a pathway that is devoid of any real joy and threatens the fabric of our civilized society. Consider, for instance, the recent debates and law changes regarding same-sex marriages.  Continue reading

Twenty Years of Computing….You’d think we’d communicate a little better by now…

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Here’s a bit of history…followed by a confession.  I’m not complaining…just exploring my thoughts in writing.  Feel free to interact, challenge, disagree or extend the conversation.  Here goes…

I use a computer.  A lot.  For a lot of different reasons. In years past, it was mostly work related.  In the last decade, however, it has also become a tool for increased communication, introspection, and relational connections.    Continue reading

This Blog is a Jumbled Mess…(and it’s NOT my fault!)

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This WordPress version of my blog is not the original.  “An Inside Look With Pastor Burt” started on August 25, 2005, at this url: http://pastorburt.lifewithchrist.org. Don’t try it…it’s since gone away.  LifeWithChrist was, for quite a long season, a wonderful little free blogging site operated by the very kind and gracious Jeremy Cowgar from the Akron, Ohio area.  Overtime, however, a number of unfortunate events transpired:

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Interactive Thoughts For Frank Viola on the Development of Ekklesia

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Frank Viola is the author of numerous books (Pagan Christianity, Reimagining Church, From Eternity to Here, Finding Organic Church, and others) and a champion for what he calls “Organic Church.”  Though that phrase is loaded with all kinds of nuance and gets used to mean all sorts of things by all sorts of people, Viola’s use reflects his understanding and effort for more than 17 years to move the Church into a place of discovering, pursuing, maintaining and enjoying a living, vibrant relationship with God. For that to happen, he argues it can only be found in the context of true ekklesia (the biblical Greek word used to describe the followers of Christ who share their lives together as a way of discovering and accurately displaying Christ). This often stands in stark contrast to what is found in most institutional churches (whether they be full-fledged denominational institutions or simple, house gatherings) that all too often become centered on formats, hierarchy, and  instead of deep, relational life-sharing. In that, his point is well taken!

I find Viola’s writings to be inspirational, challenging, and sometimes down-right bothersome. There are times when I think his criticisms are right on target and other moments when they are completely over-stated…but they always cause me to think and internally scrutinize. I have traded just a couple of brief emails with him over the past few years as I’ve attempted to process and apply some of what I’ve read. Where I most align with him concerns his hope for the ekklesia. What he describes, as I understand him, predominately resonates with me as well. Real discipleship is not merely about the formation and development of Biblical knowledge and the display of external behaviors. It is about the discovery and incorporation of the life of Jesus in a relational context through which we are transformed from the inside-out. I hope I’ve described Viola’s view accurately.

The above all serves as introduction and context for some thoughts that I want to address to Mr. Viola regarding his  blog offering from last summer “Discipleship, Mission, and Church: A Plea to Learn Our History” (July, 2009). It’s a piece of which I’ve become aware through a link in his article, “What is Organic Church? A Plea for Clarity.” I had wanted to leave a simple comment on that blog entry, but found myself waxing long.  Instead, I’m offering my interaction below.

Of course, I have no idea if Mr. Viola will respond (and I’m sure he has much else to occupy his time and focus), so feel free to add any of your thoughts to the mix as well!

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Thanks for writing this clarification on “Organic Church,” Frank.  Words mean so many things to different people, affecting both the speaker and the hearer. One of the criticisms of the “emerging” movement a few years back was that it seemed to consist of nothing more than continual haggling over definitions!  And yet it is so easy to get caught up in momentary buzzwords.

In addition to this article (What is Organic Church?), the one linked to point 5, about the two streams of being “missional,” I also quite enjoyed. I missed it the first time around. Unfortunately, the comments on that post have now been closed…which is understandable considering the time frame since it was first published. Instead, I’ve opted to offer some interaction here.

Although I now serve within the framework of an institutional church, my heart and efforts have long been to move us in the direction of better being the ekklesia. I don’t believe that the two are necessarily mutually exclusive by definition. However, this pursuit of ekklesia has been difficult and costly, and is by no means complete. Over the years, our numbers have shrunk dramatically (affecting so much of what we used to do and the morale of many) but I believe that we are in many ways healthier than before. That’s not the same as saying we are healthy, that we have “arrived,” just that the final pages on our book have not yet been turned!

With that in mind, my interest in what you are writing here reflects my wish to internalize, evaluate, and compare outcomes and applications with my current situation. You describe two streams of thought in the missional world. The first, embraced by many, is that the church exists for the saving of souls. The second, the one that holds your heart, is that the church exists as part of the fulfillment of the eternal purpose of God: to live in vibrant, loving relationship with Him, reflecting and flowing in the fulness of who He is. In the former description, the church is the mechanism that serves the greater end of evangelism. In the latter, the cross is the mechanism that serves the greater end of eternal, divine, loving relationship…something which the church is meant to display and to which evangelism serves as an introduction. The words are mine, but am I accurately describing your perspective? Assuming I am, it is this latter view that greatly grips my heart. Though I am heavily invested and committed to evangelism, it is to this hope and embrace of relational living and interaction with God.

The contrast you describe becomes clear when we take a look at the way many institutional churches define their mission. It was during the late ’80’s/early ’90’s that I was first introduced to the idea of developing “vision statements” that could serve to better focus and streamline church programs and direction. At the time, I came across a common theme/statement that began to be utilized by a great number of ministries across the country: “our mission is to make fully devoted disciples of Jesus Christ.”  My reaction to that pervasive view has always been mixed. There is a part of me that says, “Yes! Of course what matters is becoming true followers of Jesus!” There is another part of me that says the phrase is redundant. Can we be a disciple if we are not fully devoted? How then do we measure full devotion? The result then becomes a series of external programs, activities, or milestones that we use to evaluate an internal transformation. It becomes a process centered in checklists, classes, and faithful service attendance. Rarely is it occupied with relationship and encountering the living Christ.

Over the past several years, our local body has worked together to develop a defining acronym. We have come to reflect our mission in the following imperative: “In order to mature in Christ, we must develop our A.R.M.” The idea of maturity in Christ is meant to reflect this concept of a loving, relational vibrancy with God through which our lives put Him on display. The “A.R.M” stands for three areas of development: becoming increasingly “Adorational,” “Relational,” and “Missional.” Being “Adorational” has to do with loving God with all our heart, soul and strength. We obey Him because we love Him. We yield to Him as an act of worship. Being “Relational” has to do with loving others as we love ourselves. We are not meant to walk alone, but in loving community…sharing our strengths, weaknesses, joys, hopes, service and needs with one another. By this shall all people know we are His disciples: our love for one another. Being “Missional” recognizes that our perspective must be greater than self focus. We must wake up, look around, and see that the fields are ready for harvest. As Jesus went proclaiming the Kingdom and healing the sick, so too must we showcase Him in our neighborhoods, cities, regions and beyond.  Though listed separately, these three aspects compose one “A.R.M.” They must grow together and are inseparable. Our development begins to plateau, or even regresses, unless there is embrace of all three aspects.  Additionally, these aspects aren’t meant to tell us what to do as much as to describe how to be.  They hopefully reflect attitude and mindset, not merely performance.

These thoughts developed long before I received the opportunity to read your books and discover your view on embracing “Organic Church.” I wonder if they strike you as being congruous with your perspective on being the ekklesia, or if they still seem like something quite set apart from that.

Regardless, thanks for the continual flow of resources, writings and more. I find them insightful and challenging.

Blessings…

The Importance of Friendship

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I have spent a lot of time lately thinking about this post from three and 1/2 years ago.

It’s the issue that simply does not go away for me.

And I think we all have completely underestimated it’s importance.

Especially in the Church.

And without it, we should question whether we are the Church at all.

What am I talking about?

Friendship.

Real friendship.

Not the kind that simply recognizes and appreciates acquaintances. Not the kind that remains content to keep things at the level where we embrace when we happen to see each other, but live separate the rest of the time.

Being the Church is a lot more about who we are together than who we are individually. We love God with all our heart, soul, and strength and love our neighbors, love one another, as much as we love ourselves…but do our lives really reflect this? Do we make space in our lives for one another? Do we have deep, personal connections with even just a few others around us that we are determined to invest in, grow with, and deepen in knowing as we run together toward the Savior?

Too often, I think the need for deep, personal friendships among Christians gets overshadowed by the perceived need to guard one’s image as a “Christian.” For the most part, I don’t think this is necessarily an articulated thought, or intentional and deliberate, but nevertheless it happens. We relate to each other through the lens of our spiritual image rather than the reality of who we are and the real caring we’d like to share.

In a real, Christ-centered friendship, there is a desire for the other person to succeed and grow. There is the giving of oneself to that end. We encourage one another, laugh and cry together, share our hopes, share our fears, share our victories, share our struggles, share our understanding of truth and communicate the events, joys and sorrows of our lives…even as we listen to one another and make space in our lives for each other. This all happens without feeling like we are going to be exploited, judged, evaluated and/or compared. We simply are commited to one another in practical, demonstrable, and heartfelt ways that are held in tangent to our love and commitment to Christ.

Why don’t these kind of relationships develop more often? That’s a good question. I think the answers are many:

  • We allow our schedules to overwhelm our sensibilities. Stephen Covey calls it the “tyranny of the urgent.” Sometimes I’m not sure if schedule and “busy-ness” clouds our priorities or actually reveals them. Lately, I’ve been thinking it’s the latter. Often, we over-spiritualize this one and say it’s because of the ministry to which God has called us, believing that has to take priority over everything else.
  • Deep friendships, by definition, mandate vulnerability and disclosure. Our fear of rejection, coupled with the desire to maintain a certain image projection, are more ingrained than we readily admit.
  • Our experience of actual rejection keeps us leary and weary as we contemplate potential friendship opportunities.
  • Our preoccupation with self keeps us from making the time investment.
  • We’re not really convinced that we need friendships like this. Afterall, we’re doing just fine on our own…(aren’t we?).

I’m sure we could come up with many others with a bit more thought.

QUESTION: Would ministers like Ted Haggard end up in a different place if they had these kind of friendships in their lives, void of pretense, and full of real, vulnerable sharing? Just a thought.

So here I am…three and 1/2 years since my previous post…and despite efforts in the right direction, I’m not sure I’m much farther down the line in the development of real, deep, friendships.
I have that kind of friendship with my wife…and I treasure what I have with her. I know a lot of marriages where that kind of friendship doesn’t exist. But I’m not sure I have it anywhere else. There are numerous people with whom I am friendly, and many, many that I care for deeply. When it comes to listing those with whom I am actively, currently engaged in this kind of mutual friendship, though, I’m not sure that I have progressed. If anything…it might be more honest to say that I’ve regressed.

And that saddens me a bit.

Tomorrow, though, is a new day…and I will do my best to continue to be honest, open, vulnerable, transparent and real. Lord, help me where I am unduly guarded!

“A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.Proverbs 17:17