Thursday, July 25, 2013

5 Years in Denver

As of this week, Holly and I have lived in Denver for 5 years.

We've done a lot of growing up in this city. Both of our kids were born here. We bought our first house here. It's the first city I was called to minister in.

I love Denver. From concerts at Red Rocks to perfect evenings at Coors Field to short drives to the ski slopes, what's not to love about Denver?

Denver is one of a kind. Denver is beautiful, quirky, independent, and beats with a vibrancy. We find ourselves in a state like shaped a box whose people refuse to stay inside the box.

God loves Denver. And far too few people return that love. We live in a state with more reminders of God's beauty than any other, and yet we fail to give him the glory for what he has given to us.

May God continue to shape my heart for this city. May our churches learn to love this city.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Problem With People

People will ruin your theology...if you'll let them.

I went to Abilene Christian University in order to get an education. I left with an undergraduate degree in Bible and a Master of Divinity.

That's right! I'm a Master of the Divine. The downside of pursuing a doctorate would be the demotion from "Master Packer" to "Doctor Packer."

I learned a lot at ACU. They gave me many tools to help me serve the church. My grasp on theology was pretty strong. And I loved the educational philosophy of my school. They weren't trying to teach me what to think as much as how to think. And that is more rare than you can imagine!

I grew up with a black-and-white worldview. And that dualistic worldview had more to do with my nature than how I was nurtured. There was good & evil, right & wrong, Baseball Fans & Yankee Fans.

I'm guessing my childhood crayon box had a perfect point on my gray crayon because I had no use for ambivalence. I knew where I stood and if you wanted to be my friend, then you'd better see things my way.

Some of us grew up in churches that instilled that kind of worldview in us. We were taught to think in terms of Us vs. Them.

And that worldview works just fine...until someone you love steps outside of your boundaries.

-It's easy to flatly condemn divorce...until you marry a woman who is thankful for the divorce of her parents because her step-father gave her a spiritual foundation she would have never had otherwise.
-It's easy to look down on alcoholics...until your daughter suffers through an eating disorder that she can't seem to shake.
-It's easy to dismiss the needs of the homeless...until the economy turns and you realize you are one paycheck away from the streets.
-It's easy to judge gay people...until your son comes out of the closet to turn your world upside-down.

And that's the problem with people. Our relationships tend to destroy our categories.

Some people are resilient enough to not let people impact their worldview. They hang onto their beliefs and let go of the people who offer them a way out of their small world.

So, my advice to you is this. If you want your theology and your categories to remain unchallenged, then don't make relationships with people who represent groups you are against. And don't have children because you have no idea how they will challenge your assumptions about the world.

If you want to hate Muslims, don't hang out near mosques.
If you want to hate gay people, don't befriend gay people.
If you want to hate Yankee fans, be wary of people with "NY" on their hats.

Do you know what has destroyed the sectarianism of Churches of Christ more than anything else?

Bible Study Fellowship and Community Bible Studies. Because when we cross-pollinated with Christians of other faith traditions, we could no longer deny that the fruit of the Spirit was evident in their lives.

As long as we stayed in our own churches, out of ignorance, we could deny that others were Christians.

My theology would be undisturbed were it not for the people in my life.

God, I've got more categories. So, will you send more people?

Tuesday, July 09, 2013


"You can't get where you're going, unless you know where you've been."

And so, we've begun a six-week series at Littleton about the history of Churches of Christ. Our history is so rich, but we've been unaware of our past for a variety of reasons.

One reason we've been unaware of our past is because we've denied that we have a history. It's easier to slap an "Established 33 A.D." cornerstone on our buildings and pretend that we restored New Testament Christianity without any other influences.

But we have a wealth of influences that brought our movement to its beginnings in the early 19th century.

Did you know two guys by the name of Glas and Sandeman, who were Scottish Congregationalists, believed in the plurality of elders and weekly communion? And the Campbells just happened to know them back in Scotland.

Did you know that Glas believed that Scripture is the only rule for Christian beliefs and practices?

Did you know that two brothers, James and Robert Haldane, sought to restore New Testament practices, the immersion of adult believers, and congregational autonomy? The Haldanes were Alexander Campbell’s teachers.

Did you know that the Puritans had a controversy over whether new hymns should be introduced and if it was ok to print music? In fact, those who are frustrated at the lack of musical notations on songs displayed on screens in our worship services might be surprised that Alexander Campbell himself would be their biggest detractor. He argued strongly that musical notes should never be included with the words of our hymns because they detracted from spiritual worship.

Many of our most basic beliefs – our emphasis on Scripture, our rejection of predestination, our emphasis on congregational rule by elders and congregational autonomy – all have precedents in the Reformed thought of the 16th and 17th centuries.

Which means that believing Churches of Christ discovered the ancient way of things is equivalent to our generation claiming to have discovered grace. It’s arrogant and shortsighted.

I'm excited about what this study will do for Littleton and what it has the capacity to do for Churches of Christ across the United States.

Below is a link to a preview of the 1st video Kent Rogers put together for our series. We've got a video for each of the six weeks in this series. Great work, Kent!