I  was honored with the opportunity to partner with Geoff Surratt for a couple of workshops yesterday at the 2015 Orange Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.

I was asked to share my notes from our breakout, “Building a Team from Scratch.” 

I’m proud of the team we’ve built at Journey Christian Church. When I came to Journey seven years ago, we only had a three full-time staff members. Now we’re blessed to have a much larger staff, which grows every year. I’ve either hired or supervised the hiring of all of our current staff–full and part time. Through this experience and over the past twenty plus years of ministry, I’ve learned a lot about building a team from scratch. I’ve arranged them in 6 E’s.

Here you go:

6 E’s of Building a Team from Scratch

Enlistment

1) Go after people you know.

2) Go after people you like

3) Go after winners (not just someone looking for a job).

4) Go after a good fit for YOU & your team.

The DISC Personality test is a great tool for assessing potential staff members and for assessing their compatability with you and your team.

5) Go after special generalists. (not necessarily the perfect fit for the job, but the perfect fit for the team). 

6) Go after team players.

or 7) Raise up all of the above.

When it comes to enlistment, we invest a lot of time in working to ensure that new team members fit our culture.

Here are a few distinctives of our culture:

1) All leaders are to reproduce themselves.

2) You don’t have to earn trust, you arrive with it.

3) We are not a policy driven church.

4) We eat with sinners.

5) Enjoy the journey, but don’t enjoy it alone.

6) Your first ministry is to your family.

7) Failure is not the unpardonable sin.

8) We don’t do micromanagement.

Envision

It’s not all about money, it’s also about vision.

Six of our staff members are part-time and we are blessed with a lot of great volunteers.

Legend has it that Shackleton posted an advertisement in a London paper, stating: “Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.” Shackleton received more than 5,000 applications for places on the expedition. 

Why? Vision is powerful. So many people are longing for so much more. Don’t just hire people. Call people to join you on an important mission.

The vision…

1) Must be clear

2) Must be compelling

3) Must be communicated

4) Must be a committment.

Equipping

1) Tools

2) Training

3) Team Members 

Do what you can to give your team members the staff and volunteers they need to do what God has called them to do.

4) Time to Try

It’s important to give your team opportunities to use the tools they have and the tools you’ve given them.

Empower

1) With resources

2) With information (about what’s happening, why it’s happening, and how what’s happening will help us to fulfill God’s plan for us.)

3) With opportunities.

4) With authority

5) With rest (We give our full-time staff a sabbattical day each month.)

Entrusting

There’s nothing worse than having all responsibility but no authority. Give your team the responsibility AND the authority to do their job and then trust them to get it done.

Trusting is easier for all involved when you…

1) Tell them what you want them to do.

2) Equip them to do what you want them to do.

3) Release them to do what you want them to do.

4) Support them as they do what you want them to do.

Encouragement

I’ve found the best encouragements are specific. (eg. “Great job yesterday! is not a meaningful as “Great job with your lesson yesterday morning. It was well-prepared and very impactful.”)

1) Write it.

2) Speak it privately.

3) Speak it publically.

4) Invest in it (bonuses, meals out, days off, etc.)

©2015 Arron Chambers

As I reflected on last Sunday (Easter) and this Sunday (the week after Easter). This list came to mind.

Here are 10 Reasons to Come Back to Church This Sunday

10. Not as crowded, so you’ll have an easier time finding a parking space, a seat, and a doughnut in the cafe.

keep-calm-there-s-parking-available9. You’ll immediately lose your “Creaster” status (a person who only comes to church on Christmas and Easter…get it?  Christmas + Easter= Creaster).

353-christmas-bunny8. The Pastor may start to learn your name and not have to refer to you as, “Brother,” “Sister,” or “Brocephus.”

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7. You’ll hear a sermon on something other than the resurrection or birth of Jesus. (I’m starting a series entitled, Journey to the Ends of the Earth.)

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6. You won’t have to “answer” that true–but slightly annoying–Easter “jingle” a gazillion times, “He is Risen!” to which you have to respond “He is risen indeed!” immediately or risk being branded a Pagan or worse….an Oakland Raiders Fan!

Oakland Raiders v San Diego Chargers

5. You’ll get the chance to take “regular” communion and not the kind of communion you need a degree in engineering to enjoy.

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4. You’ll make your Mom happy, because when she asks you on Sunday afternoon, “Did you go to church this morning?” you’ll be able to say, “Yes!”

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3. You’ll discover that the coffee is still free.

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2. Peeps! No…not those Peeps! You’ll get the chance to get to know some of the amazing and interesting people (aka Peeps!) you met last week and start to build lasting and meaningful relationships. Just don’t try to eat them or put them in the microwave for 45 seconds! :)
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1. You won’t get hit in the head with a beach ball! (It’s a Journey & Mosaic thing, you wouldn’t understand!)
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I was reading through a book a wrote back in 2007 entitled, Scripture to Live By (which is now free on Kindle). It’s one of my favorite books because it included chapters written by some of my favorite authors. I ended each chapter with a devotional thought. Here’s a chapter written by Bob Russell on the power of generosity.

What do you do with all that money?

By Bob Russell

Bob Russell

Bob Russell

A year ago I met a multi-millionaire named Paul J. Meyer. Many call him the most generous man alive. When Paul was sixteen years old his strict, uncompromising father kicked him out of the house and told him not to come back. He lived as a homeless young man and for several months slept in a tent.

But Paul was determined to make the most of his life, and soon he had a job with an insurance company collecting monthly payments. That wasn’t a very glamorous job, but it was a job. He was so faithful in his assigned task that eventually he was given an opportunity to sell insurance.

By the time he was thirty years old the ambitious, determined Paul J. Meyer became the National Salesman of the Year for his company. He then began teaching sales seminars and has since written numerous training courses and invested wisely making millions.

But years ago the Lord touched his heart and Paul became convinced that there was something better to do with his money than just accumulate more and more. He began giving huge amounts away. He discovered that it was indeed, “More blessed to give than to receive.” He loved the joy and sense of satisfaction he got from helping others.

Today Paul J. Meyer is in his 70s and gives away more than 90 percent of what he earns. He’s incredibly generous with worthy causes and has put more than 500 kids through college.

I serve on the board of a national ministry with Paul J. Meyer but I hadn’t met him personally until last year when, during a participation activity, I found myself sitting between Paul J. Meyer and his lawyer/financial advisor. There were just three of us at the table for the next forty-five minutes.

When I began probing a little about his generosity, his financial advisor laughingly said, “It’s my job to make sure that Paul doesn’t give his money away faster than we take it in!” He said that several years ago the two of them took a week-long drive across the Midwest and Paul passed his business card out to ten different young people he’d just met saying, “Call this number and I’ll help put you through college.” But nine of the ten never called because they didn’t believe it was for real.

The accountant said, “We were stopped at a highway construction site and Meyer was intrigued with a young girl dressed in blue jeans, wearing a helmet, holding a stop sign. He leaned out the window and struck up a conversation with her.

“Why are you working on construction?”

She said, “I’m working my way through college”

He asked, “Can’t your parents help you?”

She answered, “No, they’re not in a position to help right now.”

He asked, “What do you want to be?”

“My dream is to become a nurse someday,” she replied.

Paul J. Meyer gave her his card and said, “Young lady, I’m in the business of making dreams come true. Next week you call this number and I’ll see that you have the money to go to college.”

The next week the financial advisor got a phone call and the girl on the other end of the line said, “Last week some little old man said he’d help pay my way through college if I called this number. Is that true?”

He happily replied, “Yes ma’am it is.”

As they told that story the faces of both lit up as they excitedly described how this young woman is now a nurse in a mid-western hospital because they had the resources to share with her.

Wouldn’t that be fun? Wouldn’t you love to have millions to give away to those in need? The thought occurred to me that maybe that’s why Paul J. Meyer has it to give away. The Bible says, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38 NIV). But the real test is not what you’d do if you were a multi-millionaire, but what you are doing with what you have right now. One poet quipped, “It’s not what you’d do with a million if riches should ever be your lot, but what you’re doing right now with the dollar and a quarter you’ve got.”

Matthew 19:16-24

16Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” 17“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.” 18“Which ones?” the man inquired.

   Jesus replied, ” ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, 19honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.'”

    20“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”

    21Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

    22When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

    23Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

——

Once a good man came to Jesus with a difficult question: “What good thing must I do to get eternal life?” This man was rich, young, and probably a “ruler” of a local synagogue. He was a believer of God—keeping all of the commandments of God—but he was yet to become a follower.

Believing in and following are two very different things.

This young wealthy man had an impressive temporal life full of great wealth, but he wanted even more. He wanted eternal life, too. He wasn’t asking too much—he just wanted one simple thing he could do to earn eternal life!

Isn’t that how we are? We want a magic pill that will allow us to lose in one week the weight we spent thirty years accumulating. We want one-minute solutions to life-long problems.

This man wanted easy eternal life. Anyone who knows the heart of God knows that it is absurd to think that we can do anything to earn eternal life, but Jesus plays along, answering his “simple” request with a “simple” answer: “Obey the commandments.”

To which the rich young ruler answers what Jesus knew he would answer: “I’ve kept all of these, what do I still lack?”

To which Jesus answers: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Greed is a powerful force.

Reality TV is evidence of the power of greed.

Every self-respecting reality TV show revolves around a proven formula: Offer people a million dollars and they will do almost anything to get it. They will eat rats, jump off buildings, lock themselves in a house with a bunch of strangers, sing, dance, survive on a deserted island, give up all privacy, embarrass themselves, lose weight, gain weight, and even marry a stranger.

Greed IS a powerful force and hard to walk away from, but there is a force much more powerful than greed and that force is: generosity.

Paul J. Meyer knows the power of generosity. He gave in to the power of giving and now he can’t—he won’t—walk away. When it appears that all everybody wants is to have more, all Paul wants is to give more. He can’t give his money away fast enough. Generosity has consumed him. He chose Jesus and walks behind Him with a smile on his face.

Jesus knows the power of generosity. Jesus is the embodiment of generosity. In his life he gave healing to hurting people, time to lonely people, wisdom to seekers, food to the hungry, sight to the blind, fish to the fishless, comfort to the inconsolable, hope to the hopeless, purpose to the lost, and mercy to the sinners. Then, in the greatest act of generosity, in His death He gave life to the dead. His generosity consumed Him, yet He still keeps on giving.

That’s the power of generosity.

Every day we need to decide what we are going to do. Will we give in to the power of generosity, or the power of greed?

Will we walk with Jesus smiling, or will we walk away—and alone—sad?—Arron Chambers

©2015 Arron Chambers

For those of you who don’t know me, let me introduce myself.

My name is Arron Chambers and I’m the Lead Minister of Journey Christian Church in Greeley, Colorado. I’m also the author of seven books, a marriage coach, a leadership coach, and one who deeply believes in critical thinking. I also hold three degrees, including a Masters in Church History and Theology from Abilene Christian University in Texas.

My Dad, a preacher, author, professor, and scientist with a PhD in Ancient History and Human Anthropology from Miami University in Ohio, taught me to never stop learning and to think critically about the important issues in the Church and in the world at large. He encouraged me to read books, listen to messages, and interact with people from–and reflecting–diverse backgrounds/beliefs/perspectives/philosophies, as to not develop my world view in a vacuum.

Which brings me to my new acquaintance and hopefully one day friend, Dr. Peter Boghossian.

Dr. Peter Boghossian was a Councilman for the State of Oregon (LSTA), the Chairman of the Prison Advisory Committee for Columbia River Correctional Institution, an advisor to Sockeye Magazine and The Weekly Alibi, wrote national philosophy curricula for the University of Phoenix, and was a research fellow for the National Center for Teaching and Learning. He teaches Critical Thinking, Science and Pseudoscience, the Philosophy of Education, and Atheism and New Atheism at Portland State University, is an Affiliate research Assistant Professor at Oregon Health Sciences University in the Department of General Internal Medicine, is a national speaker for the Center for Inquiry, a national speaker for the Secular Student Alliance, and an international speaker for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (Source: http://www.PeterBoghossian.com).

Dr. Peter Boghossian

Dr. Peter Boghossian

I connected with Dr. Peter Boghossian in the most unusual way.

A stranger emailed me to let me know he wanted to connect with me and find out more about me because he’d read in Dr. Boghossian’s book that I’d written a book he considered, “frightening.” After a little research I discovered Dr. Boghossian had indeed referenced my book Eats with Sinners in the notes section of his book, A Manual for Creating Atheists and referred to it as “frightening.” I’ll get back to that in a moment.

(Note from Arron Chambers: I’ve since learned that Peter has never read my book and was unaware of the reference to my book until I brought it to his attention. It was an editorial addition made without the author’s knowledge, which is not uncommon in the publishing world.)

Since its release Eats with Sinners has been described with many terms, but this was the first time the word “frightening” was ever used to describe my book about sharing faith in Christ through intentional relationships, so I was fascinated. I downloaded Dr. Bohhossian’s book, started reading it, and decided to reach out to Peter through Facebook—penning a message about his comments, my book, and my desire to correspond about issues of faith.

Peter wrote back almost immediately and was both kind and accommodating.

After reading A Manual for Creating Atheists, I concluded that Peter’s book is for Atheists what Eats with Sinners is for Christians. It’s a book written to teach a generation of Atheists how to share their “beliefs” with other people through intentional relationships.

We’ve corresponded through Facebook many times over the past year and—with each “conversation”—I’ve gained more respect for him. We disagree on almost every issue upon which people of faith and non-faith could agree or disagree, but I’ve found him to be a most agreeable person and I genuinely like him.

His writings and continued discussions on Facebook stimulated my thinking and led me to ask Peter if he’d agree to an interview. Thankfully he did.

I’ve chosen to simply share our conversation (unedited except for distracting typographical errors and for redundant questions and answers) without much further comment and let you draw your own conclusions. If you, like me, are a Christian, or a person of faith, I think you’ll find this interview well worth your time and a great glimpse into the mind of those who view our faith as somewhat “frightening.”

You’ll notice that, in this interview, I cite chapter and page numbers. A lot of my questions were generated in reaction to assertions, comments, and questions raised during my reading of Peter’s book, A Manual for Creation Atheists. Also, all of my reference are for the electronic edition of Peter’s book.

My hope is that this interview will stimulate your thoughts as well as some cordial interaction/reaction in the comments section below.

A Conversation with Dr. Peter Boghossian

Arron: One definition you use for faith is, “Pretending to know things you do not know.” What do you mean by “know”? How can one not say the same thing of those who claim to “know” that there is no God? What is your objective standard for evaluating whether evidence is sufficient, or not?
Peter: In Plato’s Theaetetus, he writes that Knowledge is Justified True Belief. That is, before you can say that you know something it needs to be justified (you need to have good reason to believe it), true (it corresponds with objective reality), and believed (you need to believe it). At a basic level this is what I mean. In technical conversations I adopt a more nuanced definition. However, in everyday conversations when people ask me how I define the word “know” (and yes, I have these sorts of conversations every single day), this is what I mean.

Arron: Who do you say Jesus is? Do you believe Jesus was a historical person?
Peter: I don’t know.

There’s much controversy surrounding these questions, with prominent scholars on both sides of the issue. The consensus seems to be that there was probably at least one historical figure upon whom the character of Jesus was based.

Arron: Would you accept anything as evidence for one’s faith?
Peter: It depends how one defines faith. I’m not avoiding the question, but unless we’ve defined our terms it’s just not possible to answer this question.

Arron: Do you think faith in God is equivalent to mental illness?
Peter: No. But I do think that certain actions people commit in the name of their god indicate that they suffer from a mental disorder.

If we can agree that specific examples are data points in an underlying pathology, then the only question becomes whether or not we can broaden the examples. For example, Fred thinks that Zeus told him to drown his son in the bathtub. I’d hope we’d both agree that it’s more likely Fred has a mental health issue than Zeus’ actually speaking to him. If we agree that Zeus isn’t communicating with Fred and telling him to murder his son, and if we can agree that that’s indicative of mental illness, then what other examples can we agree upon?

Arron: What is the chief motivator behind your passion for “Street Epistemology”?
Peter: Every single individual is capable of living a life free of delusion.

My goal is to help people become less dogmatic, more reflective and more comfortable saying, “I don’t know,” and more humble about what they claim to know. Street Epistemology is an action plan for how to talk people out of faith and superstition and into reason. It’s a guide for people to help others live lives free of delusion.

This is also the main motivation for my forthcoming app and for my game, AntiMatter Matters. My app gives users the skills to talk people out of unreason and into reason; my game helps people nurture dispositions necessary critical and creative thinking.

Arron: I sincerely I believe I came to faith in Christ through rational means. Why am I deluded?
Peter: Are you willing to change your mind? If you were presented with evidence to the contrary would you revise your beliefs? If you were shown that what you think is evidence is not actually evidence, would you jettison your beliefs?

If your answer to any of these questions is “no,” then it’s likely you’re delusional. If your sincere response to these questions is “yes,” then it’s far more likely you’ve misconstrued reality than it is that you’re delusional.

Arron: In A Manual for Creating Atheists you wrote, “Faith and reason have endurance. They don’t evaporate the moment you get slugged.” When you get “slugged” by life, how do you cope?
Peter: I don’t think I ever wrote that. I think I wrote, “Reason has endurance.”

(Note from Arron: I got one word of this quote wrong. It was a typographical error on my part. Here’s what he actually said. Loc 192,193 in the electronic copy of A Manual for Creating Atheists, “This isn’t Pollyanna humanism, but a humanism that’s been slapped around and won’t fall apart. Reason and rationality have endurance. They don’t evaporate the moment you get slugged. And you will get slugged.”)

I’ve been slugged, a lot. When I get slugged I usually talk to friends, or go for long walks, or spend time with my family, or do jiu jutsu. Jiu jitsu in particular is quite relaxing. It’s hard to think about your problems when someone is trying to choke you into unconsciousness or break your arms. (I’m aware of the irony of being slugged and wrestling.)

Arron: Do you believe that faith and intelligence are mutually exclusive?
Peter: Again, it depends on how these terms are defined. I think intelligence and faith are unrelated. The fact that both of us lack faith in Thor, for example, says nothing about our intelligence.

Arron: You envision a “better world” (ch 1) where faith in God has been snuffed out and believers have been “disabused” of their faith. In this “better world,” what will be the objective standard for determining “right” and “wrong”?
Peter: I wouldn’t say “snuffed out,” I’d say, “abandoned”. Snuffing out is external, as if reason and rationality were forced upon people, whereas abandoning faith is internal, that is, people make the conscious decision to shed superstition.

Ideally, people would rationally derive their values—as opposed to getting them from ancient books. There are many ways to do this, but I prefer American philosopher John Rawls’ system. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has a concise entry on Rawls’ system for how to determine right and wrong: Plato-Stanford

Arron: You wrote, “Whether a person is an atheist or a believer is immaterial with respect to morality.” (Loc 581 of 4685)) How does an atheist determine what is “right” and “wrong”?
Peter: This relates to the last question. I’ll let my response to that question substitute for this one.

Arron: Wouldn’t it be inconsistent–and hypocritical–for you and me to not proselytize (based on our beliefs that the object-or lack there of–of our faiths is salvatory)?
Peter: This is an excellent question, and I think it speaks to core issues surrounding faith, religion, and one’s God.

Proselytizing means getting/convincing people to hold a particular belief. This is precisely the trap ideologues fall into. They think in terms of conclusions (“Jesus is the Son of God”) and not in terms of processes (epistemology, or, how does one know this?). Don’t become vested in conclusions—think about processes, that is, about how one knows what one claims to know.
The moment one weds oneself to, and thinks in terms of, conclusions, one traps oneself into assigning more confidence to a belief than is warranted by the evidence. That is, when one thinks in terms of conclusions (gun control is good/bad, or abortion is/isn’t murder, or Mohammad did/didn’t received revelations from Allah, etc.) one becomes increasingly certain the conclusions one holds are true.

This is problematic for many reasons, but chief among these is that thinking in this way makes one less likely to revise a belief. This is particularly problematic if one also thinks that holding a particular conclusion makes one a better person. The toxic combination of an unwillingness to revise a belief because doing so would make one a worse person, prevents one from arriving at the truth. If one believes one’s beliefs are never inaccurate, one will necessarily lapse into inaccuracy. (For more on this, see Raymond Smullyan’s work.)

This is just one of many problems with proselytizing.

Arron: Where are you on the 1-7 Dawkins God scale?
Peter: 6.7

Arron: Do you have faith in reason or evidence?
Peter: There’s a theme that’s emerging here, we’ve not defined these terms. If faith is defined as, “belief without sufficient evidence,” then I have no faith in reason and no faith in evidence. I use reason as a tool—often an instrumental tool—to achieve a desired end, like helping me figure out our incredibly complex home theater, or how to take the bus from A to B, or less pedestrian examples like how to live a good life. Evidence plays a role in my decision-making process, but I have no faith in evidence. This brief video may help to explain some of these terms: Faith, Just Say No.

(If your question is pointing to the problem of induction, then Stephen Jay Gould made a good argument for why we shouldn’t worry about it—all the evidence we have says that reason and evidence work, and that the laws of physics don’t change, and we have an obligation when it matters to use methods with the greatest chance of a positive outcome. Reason and evidence, therefore, are justified since we know of nothing that works better.)

Arron: So, theoretically, if you were presented with at least one piece of sufficient evidence in God, you’d believe in God? Or, is that not even a logical option in your world view?
Peter: Yes. If I were presented with evidence for the existence of God I’d believe in God. Personally, I’ve always found the question, “What would constitute sufficient evidence for belief in God?” to be interesting. Richard Dawkins and I discuss this question here: Richard Dawkins in conversation with Peter Boghossian.

I’ll add that I have a substantive concern with the phrase “one piece of sufficient evidence.” In this context, I’m not sure what that means. For example, seeing a cow is “one piece of sufficient evidence” that cows exist, but for undetectable entities, what constitutes “one piece” of evidence is tricky. Usually when people use the wording “one piece of evidence,” they mean “one piece of evidence that is sufficient for me”. That is, the thing that is convincing to them. This usually means one is thinking in terms of looking for a reason to believe, which is a terrible way to deal with evidence.

Arron: You say faith is pretending to have sufficient evidence for something for which there is insufficient evidence, while at the same time saying, if you have sufficient evidence then you don’t need faith. So, if I’m understanding your position, any evidence for one’s faith negates one’s faith. You set up a dichotomy between faith and evidence. Therefore, the only option allowed for in your dichotomy is: no faith. Therefore, isn’t your position an example of doxastic closure?
Peter: No, this is not what I’ve said. I never said, “Faith is pretending to have sufficient evidence for something for which there is insufficient evidence”. I defined faith as “pretending to know something you don’t know,” Faith or “belief without sufficient evidence,” [ http://www.amazon.com/Manual-Creating-Atheists-Peter-Boghossian/dp/1939578094/ref=cm_cr_pr_pb_i Chapter 2].

(Note from Arron: Peter is correct. My question was not a direct quote. My question was an attempt to summarize his position based on—but not limited to—the following quotes from A Manual for Creating Atheists: Loc 2839 of 4685, Peter wrote, “All faith is blind. All faith is belief on the basis of insufficient evidence, one wouldn’t need faith, one would merely present the evidence.” Loc 554-555, Peter wrote, “‘If the response is, ‘There’s sufficient evidence,’ then your reply should be, ‘Then you don’t need faith.’”)

My challenge to your readers is: Come up with a usage where faith is appropriate without increasing the confidence beyond the warrant of the evidence, but hope, trust, etc., aren’t more suitable.

Arron: What is a common misconception Christians have about atheists?
Peter: Atheists are immoral.

Arron: Would you ever go fishing in a boat with a Christian, if you knew the fish would not be biting? This is me going for levity. I’ve been known to say, “I’d go fishing with him, even if the fish weren’t biting.”
Peter: Of course. I enjoy having spirited, adult conversations.

I had a good chat with Christian Phil Vischer, and after that some people said to me, “Why didn’t you go after him?” I was surprised and disappointed. Why do conversations with those who don’t share one’s views have to be confrontations? (Maybe this is a product of contemporary American culture.) We had a friendly discussion and we both really listened to the other person. Nobody was trying to win or humiliate anyone—we were genuinely listening to each other.

I mention this because Phil’s since become a friend. He’s coming to Portland to speak to my Atheism class next month. I’d be delighted to go fishing with Phil.

My ex office mate, Mark Mossa, is a Catholic priest: Theology-Fordham

I’d go fishing with him anytime.

Arron: What if you’re wrong?
Peter: About what?

It’s certainly possible that I’m wrong about Mohammad receiving revelations. It’s also possible that I’m wrong about reincarnation and samsara. Or the existence of Thor’s hammer. Or the promises of Jesus Christ. But given that I have scant evidence for these things, I did the best that I could. I was honest with myself, sincere, and willing to reconsider what I believe.

Again, it’s entirely possible that the universe has been constructed in a way that’s spelled out in one of the world’s many religions, but if this were the case then the injustice would be grotesque. On the standard Christian model I’d burn in hell for eternity because I didn’t lend my belief to that which I didn’t have sufficient evidence. If this were the case, the universe would be profoundly unjust.

Arron: What is your motivation for “disabusing” believers of their faith in God?
Peter: My goal is to disabuse people of un- or under-evidenced beliefs. My goal is to help people become more thoughtful and more rational. Faith, as I’ve defined it and as people use the word, is anathema to clear thinking. It’s a failed epistemology and it’s harming people. When people abandon faith, they have an opportunity to live more authentic, more meaningful lives. [I discuss this in my 2013 TAM talk: Authenticity

Arron: In the notes section of chapter 4 (Loc 1617 of 4685) of A Manual for Creating Atheists, you wrote, “For a frightening glimpse into the Christian world of ‘Relationship Evangelism,’ see…” and then you referenced my book, Eats with Sinners. What exactly was frightening about my book Eats With Sinners?
Peter: I didn’t read it.

(Note from Arron: I forgive you, Peter. I have faith you’ll read it someday. ;) )

©2015 Arron Chambers

Kaitlyn’s Gift

December 18, 2014 — Leave a comment

The response to my last post has been so positive, I thought I’d share at least one more Christmas story and devotion from my book, Scripture to Live By.

This is a great story by the well-known author, Kim Vogel Sawyer. She is a gifted story-teller and I’m still so grateful she agreed to submit a story for my book.

Author, Kim Vogel Sawyer

Author, Kim Vogel Sawyer

Kaitlyn’s Gift

By Kim Vogel Sawyer

“Mommy, what is that talking about?”

I looked over the edge of the kitchen counter to my daughter, who pointed at the television. A commercial played, advertising the 1993 Toys for Tots campaign.

Coming around the counter to stand beside her, I explained. “Those soldiers are asking for people to give toys to them. Then, on Christmas Eve, they’ll give the toys to boys and girls who otherwise wouldn’t get any presents for Christmas.”

Kaitlyn’s blue eyes widened as she peered up at me in dismay. “Some kids don’t get presents?”

I shook my head, smoothing her wispy blonde hair from her face. “That’s right, punkin. Some kids aren’t as lucky as you.”

I watched Kaitlyn process this information. Small for her age, having come into the world a bit ahead of schedule, Kaitlyn had nonetheless always had a big heart. I could see she was troubled at the thought of children not receiving Christmas presents. To reassure her, I said, “Don’t worry about it, sweetheart. That’s why they have Toys for Tots—to make sure nobody gets left out at Christmastime.”

That night, as Kaitlyn said her bedtime prayers, she added a postscript: “And God, about those kids who don’t get presents…, could you make sure people give a whole bunch of toys so every kid will get a Christmas present?”

Every night for the next two weeks Kaitlyn made that same prayer. My heart thrilled at the tenderness being expressed through her innocent prayer, and I found myself sending up the same petition when I went to bed at night.

December 10th, a week before Kaitlyn’s seventh birthday, she hopped through the door after school and pulled herself onto the breakfast barstool for her snack. Her mouth full of peanut butter cookies, she asked, “Mommy, can I invite my whole class to my birthday party?”

“Everybody? Not just the girls?”

“No. I want the girls and the boys, too.”

I sent her a teasing wink. “Oh, I know why you want lots of kids at your party.”

She sat up straight, her expression expectant. “You do?”

“Mm-hm. You just want lots of birthday presents.”

Immediately her little face clouded. She climbed down from the stool and disappeared into her bedroom. Assuming I had hurt her feelings in some way, I followed her. She sat on the edge of her bed, her head down.

I sat down beside her and put my around her small shoulders. “What’s the matter, punkin?”

Kaitlyn looked up at me. Tears glistened in the corners of her eyes, making her sky blue eyes appear even brighter. “I don’t want any more presents for me. I have lots of toys already. But can I ask my friends to bring a present for that Toys for Tots thing?” For a moment, she seemed uncertain. “I prayed for God to give those kids toys. Do you think it’s okay if I help?”

Tears stung my eyes as I gave Kaitlyn a hug. “Honey, I think God would be delighted for you to help.” I knew the Toys for Tots campaign was nearing its end. I wasn’t sure if they would still collect toys after Kaitlyn’s birthday. “Do you want me to call and find out if the soldiers need some more toys?”

She nodded with enthusiasm. “Yes!”

Kaitlyn was at school the next day. I called the Army Reserves Armory in nearby McPherson, the nearest collection point.

“We generally don’t receive toys after December 16th, ma’am,” the voice on the other end told me.

My heart sank. Kaitlyn’s birthday was the 17th, and if we had her party on her birthday as we’d planned, we wouldn’t be able to deliver the toys until the 18th of December. I couldn’t bear facing my daughter’s disappointment. Breathing a silent prayer, I asked, “Could you possibly make an exception?” I explained what Kaitlyn wanted to do. The voice asked if I could hold, and it seemed I waited an interminable amount of time until someone returned to the telephone.

“Ma’am? What time could you be here on the 18th?”

“Not until after five, probably,” I said, almost holding my breath.

There was another pause as I prayed inwardly—Please, God, please, please. Kaitlyn will be so crushed—and finally the person said, “I tell you what. I’ll stick around that afternoon so I can let you in.”

“Oh, thank you.” My breath whooshed out with the words. “And bless you!”

Together, Kaitlyn and I designed birthday invitations. In crayon, Kaitlyn painstakingly wrote on the bottom of each invitation, “Bring one unwrapped gift for a boy or girl for Toys for Tots (not for Kaitlyn).” She followed the line of instruction with a smiley face.

She handed the invitations to every classmate during recess at school the next day. At suppertime, I asked if her friends were excited about her party.

“They all want to come, Mommy! That means seventeen presents.” Then she paused, her brow furrowed. “But it will be eighteen if I buy a present, too.”

I laughed. “Okay, we’ll buy you a present, too, to give away.”

She grinned her thanks.

The day of her party, Kaitlyn squealed with delight at every toy that was carried through the door. She deposited the cars, dolls, coloring books, games, and stuffed animals in big boxes, which we had decorated with Christmas wrapping paper and bows. With each delivery, she announced, her eyes shining, “Won’t those kids be surprised?”

The morning after her birthday, she and I loaded the boxes into the back of our van and drove to the Armory. Three volunteers greeted us.

“Hello!” Kaitlyn chirped, beaming her toothless smile as she bounced through the doors with her arms full. “Look! These are my birthday presents, but you can have them. They’re for those kids for Christmas.” She hummed as she helped the volunteers arrange her gifts on tabletops scattered with every variety of toy.

Kaitlyn walked between the rows of tables, pointing to the piles of unwrapped toys, her blue eyes wide with wonder. “Look at all these presents, Mommy. I bet every kid gets a present now.”

“I’ll bet you’re right, punkin.” How it lifted my heart to see Kaitlyn in action, her joy so obvious at the opportunity to give.

Before we left, Kaitlyn gave each of the volunteers a hug and wished them a merry Christmas. All the way home, she jabbered about what she’d seen—the abundance of toys awaiting delivery to boys and girls. She seemed awed by the number of presents. “Where did they all come from?” she asked.

“Well, just like you gave presents, other people gave presents, too. Lots of people brought in toys for those boys and girls.”

She nodded, satisfied with my answer. That night, when she knelt for her prayers, she said, “God, thank you for the people who gave all those toys. Give them a hug for me, would you, please? And thank you that all the boys and girls will have a good Christmas now.”

When I went to bed that night, I gave God thanks, too—for the others who had generously given so a needy child might enjoy a gift on Christmas morning, but mostly for Kaitlyn, my precious little girl who could see beyond selfishness to the joy of giving. “God, bless Kaitlyn….”

On Doing “I Love You”…For Your Consideration

by Arron Chambers

I John 3:16-18

16This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “That’s easier said than done.”

So many things in life are easier said than done:

“Dad, I want to learn how to ride my bike.”

“When I grow up I want to be a doctor.”

“Let’s get married.”

“Let’s have a baby.”

“Of course, I can handle watching all four kids on Saturday while you’re at the “Women’s Retreat.”

“I’m going to start exercising tomorrow morning.”

“I’m going to have daily devotions for the next thirty days.”

“I think it’s time for us to start going to church, again.”

“Yes, your parents can stay with us for a month this summer.”

Mother of fourteen-year-old girl: “Honey, can you go in there and find out why your daughter is crying?” Father of aforementioned fourteen-year-old girl: “No problem.”

“I love you.”

Love is easier said than done. Twenty-four years ago, I stood at the altar, looked at my lovely bride, and said, “I love you.” I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was the easy part—saying, “I love you.”

Doing, “I love you,” is hard work and sometimes not that fun. Doing, “I love you,” requires sacrifice, patience, compromise, communication, selflessness, serving, commitment, in-laws, “I’m sorry,” and changing diapers when it’s your turn!

Knowing this, the Apostle John, points to Jesus as the perfect example of doing, “I love you.” John says, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” Jesus spoke a message of love each day of his life, but never was his love as clearly communicated as it was on the cross. Christ’s words about love—his stories, his sermons, his prayers—describe love clearly, but his death defined true love once and for all time.

Saying, “I love you,” is easy—it doesn’t require sacrifice, effort, time, commitment, a marriage license, a cross, or a birthday party for needy kids.

But, doing, “I love you,” makes us more like Jesus . . . and Kaitlyn.

©2014 Arron Chambers

This post is an excerpt from my book, Scripture to Live By. In that book I accumulated stories from various authors and added a devotion to each story. This is one of my favorites from the book…and not just because my sister Leslie wrote it.

I hope this story “changes” your Christmas for the better.–Arron

Scriptures Cover

Change Through a Manger

By Leslie Wood

Don’t you just love Christmastime? All the decorations, wonderful songs, and poignant movies?

My childhood Christmas memories were filled with happy times with family and friends. I can remember riding on the church bus, caroling to our friends and neighbors. One year, we went to see the “Nutcracker” on Christmas Eve. Another year, we saw the movie Oliver! Cutting down our Christmas tree was always an exciting time, because it marked the beginning of the holiday season. When I became a mom, I had dreams of creating special memories with my own children, although, this particular event can’t really be described as beautiful or special. It was just—well, just bizarre.

It was the Christmas of 2000. We had been living in Stafford, Virginia, for about four years. Our church did not have a building, so we were meeting in a middle school gymnasium. Because we had church in a gym, it was often difficult to create those special, beautiful memories that I remember as a child.

Christmas Eve services offered a wonderful opportunity to reach out to the community and to   the church family with the message of Jesus’s birth. In fact, the Christmas Eve service is an easy opportunity to reach out to the community. It takes a lot to mess up a Christmas Eve Service. After all, it’s Christmas—right?

Well, that year we decided we would put a manger up in the front to allow our church people to participate in giving to others less fortunate. Everyone could either bring in non-perishable food items or a monetary gift to put in the manger. We envisioned a deeply meaningful time of sharing and giving—a truly wonderful memory in the making. Oh, it was a memory in the making, all right.

The evening of December 24th arrived.

Earlier that day, we had gone to the Rain Forest Café in Northern Virginia, which had become a tradition in our family. My twins, Connor and Taylor, who were just five at the time, and my daughter Kendall, who was two, were so excited! Not only was it Jesus’s birthday tonight, it also was the night a present could be opened. To add to the fun, we had my aunt and uncle from Florida visiting for the evening. They were on their way to Williamsburg and had decided to come up for our service. So anticipating a wonderful time, we bundled the kids up and headed for the church.

As we walked in, the candles were burning and beautiful music was playing. We found a seat on the last row, because as always, we came in at the last-minute (Did I tell you I have three kids?) My husband, the minister, spoke and prepared our hearts for the time of giving. I wish I had been prepared. I, of course, had forgotten to bring canned goods with me, and only remembered after we sat down that I was supposed to have brought something to put in the manger. My kids, who could sense my concern, leaned over to me and asked, “Mommy, what are we going to put in the manger?” I froze in panic and started digging in my wallet and the bottom of my purse for money, which is where all my loose change always ended up. Wouldn’t you know it? I had no bills with me, only change. If I had stopped to think about it, I probably would have stayed in my seat. Being the minister’s wife, I knew that my absence from participating would be noticed, especially by my children, so we proceeded to make my way to the front.

Most everyone else had already put gifts in the manger, so now it was our turn. Upon approaching the manger, I looked down and realized that the manger had big open slats in the side. Too late. My two-year-old daughter enthusiastically threw her money in, and down and out it went. Before I could warn the other two, their change dropped into the manger, fell out and proceeded to roll across the gym floor. Luckily, the beautiful song being sung drowned out the sounds of coins hitting and rolling across the basketball floor. Before I could grab him, my industrious son, Connor, crawled under the manger, rescued some of the money and said—loudly—“Mommy, I found some!” He then threw it in again and well, you know what happened.

By this time, I wanted to throw myself under the manger with my son, who was once again under the manger trying to rescue the money for Baby Jesus. I looked behind me and the entire front row was on the verge of hysterics. I thought, at the time, that we might have to perform CPR on more than a few of them. To the sounds of hushed laughter and “O Holy Night” I grabbed my kids and quickly walked back to our seats, which as you remember, were on the last row.

I wish that I had been prepared to give my gift. If I had just put three or four dollars in my wallet, there would have been no need to be ashamed or embarrassed about my gift. My intentions were good, but like so many times before, I hadn’t given my best.

I would have preferred not to stop at our seats, but head on out the door and home, but we didn’t. We sat down, grateful for God’s love and his grace . . . and for His manger.

On Re-Gifting…For Your Consideration

by Arron Chambers

Matthew 26:6-13

6While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, 7a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. 8When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. 9“This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” 10Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. 12When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. 13I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

She had been forever changed, so she responded with an act that will be remembered forever.

Now, I feel safe with you , so I feel like it’s OK to confess to you that I re-gifted once. Do you know what that is? It’s when you give a gift to someone that once was given to you. It was a glass candy dish we received for our wedding. It was beautiful, but my wife and I saw no future for that dish in our lives, so when we were guests at a wedding a couple of years later and a few dozen dollars below the poverty line, we decided to look for a gift a little closer to home. So we went to the closet and selected the nice glass bowl and the box that had never been opened.

I still regret re-gifting.

Those people deserved our best—or at least something on sale at Walmart. We spent nothing on them. What does that say about us? What does that say about them?

I wouldn’t re-gift my brother.

I wouldn’t re-gift my mom.

I wouldn’t even re-gift my mother-in-law, nor would I suggest it.

And, I definitely wouldn’t re-gift Jesus.

He deserves the best we have, not some afterthought we find way back in some corner of our closet.

That’s exactly what Mary thought, too.

Not THAT Mary. The other Mary.

We all know that Mary, the mother of our Jesus, was forever changed by the manger, but did you know that there was another Mary who was changed by the manger?

Matthew doesn’t name the woman who gave Jesus an amazing gift at the home of Simon the Leper, but John tells us that her name was Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus (John 12:1-8). This Mary wasn’t there when Jesus inhaled air for the first time, but she was there when Jesus called her brothers name, “Lazarus!” and he began to inhale air for the first time—again. She saw his power, his love, and his tears. She loves him. He saved her brother and he saved her, too.

She wasn’t there to give him a gift at his birth, but she is here—and Jesus is here—and she wants to give him a gift before his death robs her of the opportunity, so she gives him one of the best gifts in the history of gifts.

As Jesus reclined at the table Mary, poured very expensive perfume on Christ’s head. It was worth about a year’s wages, so, by today’s standards, she poured about $30,000 worth of perfume on Christ’s head.

The disciples, led by Judas, were beside themselves, “Why this waste?” they asked.

I bet Judas was a re-gifter.

Judas, and the other disciples, didn’t understand the extravagance of the gift. It appeared to be too much. Surely, Jesus, knowing the number of poor people sitting on street corners and beside wells in Jerusalem, would rebuke this senseless waste of money.

No.

Wrong.

Just the opposite.

Jesus praised her and promised that, “Wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Why? Jesus praised her because she gave him her best. She did what we all should do. The manger changed everything for us. It’s not a prop. It wasn’t a gimmick. It wasn’t a photo-op to help Jesus’ public image. It was a gift.

God loved us so much that He gave us a gift—his son—wrapped carefully in a manger. And the tag on this gift read, “For the World.”

That’s why Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, gave Jesus her best and wasn’t content to just throw loose change in the manger.

Put this post into action by giving Jesus a great gift. Maybe you need to write a large check to your house of worship. Maybe you need to make a donation of new clothes, supplies, or toys to a family who is in need. Maybe God’s been calling you to do something amazing for him. Maybe God’s calling you to do something that your family, or friends, may consider a “waste,” but you know it’s the right thing to do and the right time to do it. Make this a wondrous day by giving your best gift to Jesus, now.

©2014 Arron Chambers

I’m preparing a message for the near future on depression because, it seems, I’m encountering it with people in the church, in relationships, movies, books, and in my own life more often than ever.

In light of that, I was blessed by a recent post by my friend, Ron Klave on his blog Bible Resolute.

Ron is the author of “Liar! Liar! Lies Told by Imperfect People, Used by a Perfect God” (CrossLink Publishing). He is an Air Force veteran, a former Police Officer and Private Investigator and works full-time for Select Energy Services. Ron has served as ministry leader, speaker and Bible teacher for churches in Iowa and Colorado.

Here’s an excerpt from his blog:

Below are several Scripture verses that may help you during your time of depression and anxiety.
–Read them, aloud if you can.
–Pray through them, aloud if you can.
–Meditate on them throughout the day.

You don’t have to go through them all at once, so just pick a few at a time each day…You are loved, valuable and precious in the sight of God. You are worth His sacrifice upon the cross and you are worth every drop of His blood that was shed for you. You are not alone. Accept His precious gift of grace.

He then shares over 40 Scriptures that speak to the issues of depression and anxiety. I found these very helpful and a great introduction into what I’ll be sharing in the coming weeks.

Click Here to Read Those Scriptures on Bible Resolute