Saturday, March 29, 2008

What do you call your pastor?

My church is pretty informal, as am I. I use no titles and prefer simply to be called Dave. Once in a while someone will call me Brother Dave (which I don't like) or Reverend Charlton (which I don't like either, but it's better than Brother Dave). From young to old, most everybody just calls me Dave, which is fine with me (although if I do use a title I prefer to use Dr. Charlton - I worked very hard for that title).

There is one name that I detest being called - "Preacher". If you want to refer to my vocation call me a pastor or minister but please - PLEASE - do not call me "Preacher" as though it's my name. I do not call other people by the name "Teacher" "Banker" "Farmer" or any other vocation; I use their name, as I prefer that people do for me. "Preacher" is not my name, so please don't use it as though it is.

Your pastor, or minister, may not mind being called "Preacher." You should, though, ask what is preferred and respect that preference. As for me, please don't call me "Preacher" as though it's my name. Call me Dave; that is my name.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Thanks, and peace, to Larry Norman

Larry Norman, the original Christian rocker, passed away early yesterday morning (Sunday, February 25, 2008). Though not known to many younger fans of Christian music, Larry Norman was there at the beginning of Christian rock music. When I was growing up in church and going to camp we often sang his song "I Wish We'd All Been Ready" (later covered by DC Talk). The band I now play in, Unfinished, have one song that we have played at every gig in our history - "The Rock That Doesn't Roll", also by Larry Norman.

As true for many of the early leaders of any movement, Larry Norman has been largely unnoticed in the Christian music scene in recent years. Most likely, he probably never profited to the extent that many of the genre's artists do today. But his impact is enormous, and who knows what Christian music would be like without his influence.

A number of years ago, while attending the Ichthus music festival in Wilmore, Kentucky, I was walking through one of the more secluded areas of the festival site when I noticed a guy with a beard, long hair, and a guitar singing for four or five people under a tree. I still remember thinking "that surely isn't Larry Norman." It was! I walked over and joined the handful of other people listening to him and he provided us with a wonderful time as we talked and listened to him play. How many other legends in music would be so accessible?

Larry had many health problems in recent years, mostly heart related, and in the end his heart was too weak to continue. His heart will always be a part of Christian music and it is better because of his influence.

Rest well, Larry, in the arms of God.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

2008 Presidential Ticket

It may be absolutely foolish to prognosticate in a political year such as this one, but here goes. It's 5:17 p.m. EST and the only results in from Super Tuesday is my home state of West Virginia. The Mountaineer state has selected Mike Huckabee, which is a surprise to me.

Here are my predictions for the final tickets for the Democrats and Republicans -

For the Democrats - Hillary Clinton and Evan Bayh (Democratic Senator from Indiana).
Despite Obama's surge in the polls in recent weeks I still think Hillary Clinton will win the nomination. Evan Bayh, whose name has come up before as a running mate, would help Clinton in the heartland, which she will need to carry to win the race.

For the Republicans - John McCain and Mike Huckabee.
For McCain, disliked by many conservative Republicans, Huckabee would curry favor with the conservative wing of the party.

If this is the final ticket, remember you read it here. If not, I'm hoping this post will be long forgotten.

Note - these are my predictions; they are NOT endorsements.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Presidential Candidates Speaking In Churches

Take a close look at the two pictures on the left. What's wrong with these pictures?

Both are pictures of presidential candidates speaking in churches during Sunday morning worship services. On top is a shot of Barack Obama speaking to the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta and the bottom is Mike Huckabee speaking at First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

What are these churches thinking? And what are the candidates thinking? (Well, obviously, they are thinking about votes). Obama is a Harvard educated lawyer, so you would think he would know a little about the legal problems of partisan politics from the pulpit. And Huckabee is a former pastor so he should know better as well.

Every major presidential candidate - Republican and Democrat - have been using churches as political tools to gain votes. First, no church should be foolish enough to allow this to happen. But since so many churches - and even more pastors - are so enamored by being close to political figures they will trade their pulpits for a political stump speech in a heartbeat. Second, the candidates should know better than this. They are pandering to the faithful and using faith to win votes. Shame on us all for allowing this to happen!

No church - I repeat, no church - should allow a candidate to speak in a worship service during a campaign. While there is a place for a political message in church, there is no place for partisan politics.

I am not against a candidate speaking about their faith, and I am grateful all the candidates are individuals of faith. I do not believe, however, that it is proper to bring political campaigns into churches. Such a practice makes a mockery of worship and hurts the witness of the church.

If churches want to be political in nature, and all churches should have something to say about politics, they should be challenging power, not embracing power and seeking to secure political power. The message of the gospel is not gaining power, but questioning the powers that be. Read the Old Testament prophets and you will find story after story where they railed against the political power that exploited people. Today, when churches embrace partisan politics, they are getting too cozy with these powers that exploit people.

Unfortunately, as the campaign continues we will see faith increasingly used as a political tool, and shame on the churches and the candidates that use faith in such a way.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Go Mountaineers!

As a native of West Virginia I will be the first to admit that we don't often have much to cheer about. West Virginia ranks at or near the bottom in almost every important measurement and serves as the punch line for too many bad jokes.

But we certainly can cheer about the Mountaineer's thrashing of Oklahoma in Wednesday's Fiesta Bowl. It looked as though this was going to be "the season that might have been" after the shocking loss to Pitt and the debacle of coach 'Rod bolting to Michigan (which was a terrible way for him to leave. And good luck with Michigan, you will certainly need it).

West Virginia could have beaten anyone Wednesday night. Their offense was awesome and to see the players overcome so much negativity in the previous weeks was a great sight. And much of that credit can be given to new coach Bill Stewart, who obviously has the love and respect of the players. To hear the players lobby for him to be given the job and to see how well he had them prepared for the game made him the obvious choice. And topping it off is the great news that Pat White will return next year. And a note to the Heisman committee - Tim Tebow is a great quarterback, but his team was not the out and out winner of their conference and they did not win their bowl game (which wasn't even a BCS bowl game). Put White at the top of the list for next year.

Congratulations Mountaineers, it's been a great season.