John Partridge

Author's details

Name: John Partridge
Date registered: April 9, 2012

Latest posts

  1. Crossfusion: Youth Questions: Why are There So Many Rules? — August 11, 2014
  2. Crossfusion: Living in Cyborgia: One Month Anniversary — August 8, 2014
  3. Crossfusion: Entitlement and the Impossible (American) Dream — August 7, 2014
  4. Crossfusion: Rockets and Jesus — August 5, 2014
  5. Crossfusion: Taxing Churches Might Be Good — July 17, 2014

Most commented posts

  1. Crossfusion: A Dream So Big — 1 comment
  2. Crossfusion: Just How Many Homosexuals Are There? — 1 comment
  3. Crossfusion: This is not Barbeque Day — 1 comment
  4. Crossfusion: Christians are Wrong; Atheists are Right — 1 comment
  5. Crossfusion: Is It Time to End Spousal Benefits? — 1 comment

Author's posts listings

Aug 11 2014

Crossfusion: Youth Questions: Why are There So Many Rules?

Original post at

Note: I asked our youth to write down any questions that they had about faith, the church, or life in general and I would answer them during later group meetings.  This is a part of that series.

Question:  Why do Christians have to follow so many rules?

    In our last meeting we discussed how our relationship with God could be like our relationship with our closest friends.  As we know one another better, we are able to finish one another’s sentences and order ice cream for them because we know how they think.  But in regard to this question, you can also think about your relationship with your grandparents as well as your friends. 

    When I was in college, my brother, Dean, and I got in the car early one morning and drove three hours to East McKeesport, Pennsylvania (near Pittsburgh) to visit our grandparents.  They were both in their eighties at the time and were no longer able to do all the things around the house that needed done.  Our Mom had reported that the garage needed painting and so Dean and I picked a day to get it done.  Although Grandma insisted on paying us, neither of us wanted to be paid.  Sure we drove three hours one way, spent the day sweating and painting in the hot summer sun, and then drove home again, but money wasn’t why we did it.  We went because we loved our grandparents and we wanted to make them happy.

Our obedience to God is like that. 

    In some religions, people work really hard to do all the things they think their God wants so that they can have a chance to go to heaven, but our God is different.  Jesus came to Earth, died and rose again to do all that was needed for us to be a part of God’s eternal story.  In Romans 10, Paul says that his fellow Israelites were passionate for God but didn’t understand God’s righteousness, so they made up their own rules.  Their faith was all about following the rules and people who didn’t follow them couldn’t be a part of their group.

But Christian faith is different. 

    In Romans 6 Paul says, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

    When people discovered that Christianity was all about grace and forgiveness instead of following the rules, some people had what they thought was a great idea.  They thought, if forgiveness, grace and mercy are wonderful, then the more I sin, the more forgiveness there is and that would make everything even more wonderful.  Wouldn’t it?  But Paul says no.  When we accepted Jesus, it is as if our sins died with him.  Through baptism, we were “buried” with Jesus and raised again so that we could have a new life free from sin.

    We follow rules not because we have to follow them in order to get into heaven, but because we want to stop doing the things that offend God.  Our faith is not about following rules, but in doing things that make God happy.  Just like we do things for our grandparents (and follow the rules at their house) because we love them, we follow God’s rules because we want to do things that make him happy.  We do it because we love him, not because God has twisted our arms behind our backs.

    Does that mean that Christians don’t have any rules?  Heck no.  Unfortunately, a lot of Christians and a lot of churches, have a lot of rules.  There are rules about drinking, swearing, smoking, tattoos, earrings, guns, and a lot of other things and honestly, a lot of them really bug me.  When Jesus walked the earth he was in the habit of making friends with outcasts, people who the rule-followers didn’t like very much.  Jesus welcomed prostitutes, tax collectors (who people accused of collaborating with the enemy), revolutionaries, Gentiles (non-Jews), foreigners, and even Roman soldiers and the church should still welcome the outcasts in today.  We shouldn’t be the kind of people who tell others that they have to stop smoking before they can join, or they have to dress nicer, or change jobs, or… follow a bunch of rules.

    That doesn’t mean that some of the things people do aren’t wrong and it doesn’t mean that we should stop teaching the difference between right and wrong.  There is a story about a woman who was caught in the act of adultery and was about to be stoned to death, but Jesus saved her life.  After he did, and all of her accusers had left, Jesus told her to “Go, and sin no more.”  Doing what’s right is still important but it’s a matter of the heart.

    We shouldn’t follow all the rules because we are afraid that some people at church are going to criticize us (or throw stones at us).  We should follow the rules because we have learned what makes God happy. We do things to please God because we are grateful for what he has done for us, and because we love him.

Our obedience should come from the heart…
…not from a rulebook.


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Aug 08 2014

Crossfusion: Living in Cyborgia: One Month Anniversary

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Not MY head.  I only have ONE implant.
    Just before I left on vacation with my sons, I visited my surgeon’s office for my one-month, post-activation, check-up.  Aside from the fact that I was already wearing my cochlear implant, it was almost exactly the same as my activation visit one month earlier.  I saw the audiologist, we checked out all the electrodes in my head, tested for the loudest input I could tolerate, and then reprogrammed my devices with those new levels.
As it turned out, not much had changed from the month before.  The audiologist said that the changes were measurable, but “subtle.”  Regardless, it made a noticeable difference but because the changes were small, I will not return for another visit for three more months.  But while the computer may not be measuring much change, I can “hear” my brain changing.

    When my implant was first activated, everyone sounded like Mickey Mouse or the munchkins from the Wizard of Oz.  As time has passed, I find that people still sound weird but not quite as weird as before.  Voices are, slowly, getting easier to understand and I have occasionally even turned on talk radio.  There I can, depending on the voice of the host, understand some of what is being said where a few months ago I could understand very little, if anything.  When the car is moving and there is lots of road noise, understanding is a lot harder and, for the most part, not worth doing.  Still, it’s an improvement. 

    Sunday, I tried to listen while my friend Ken preached at church.  While what I heard and understood was noticeably different than what I heard a few months ago (which was absolutely nothing, because it sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher – wah wah wah), and while I could understand bits and pieces of his sermon, it took a lot of concentration and I didn’t get a lot out of it (Sorry Ken).  Even so, I am encouraged by the improvement because I can tell that something is going on.  Even if my progress is slow, and even if I get frustrated that it isn’t going faster, I can tell that my brain is changing.

    A few folks have asked, and I know more are wondering, so yes, I am doing my “physical therapy” but probably not as often as I should.   I’m supposed to listen to myself talk and say the alphabet and lots of other things.  I don’t do that as often as I think I should, but I do listen to my family (and other people) talk and it is noticeably easier to understand them.  As we drove to Colorado and back, I could carry on actual conversations with my sons which would have been completely impossible just a few months ago.

    Clearly, there the road ahead remains long, and progress remains slow, but overall, the news from Cyborgia is good. 

There isprogress.

Slowly but surely, I amre-learning how to hear.

And that’s good news.


Join the Adventure!  

Earlier posts about my hearing adventure can be found here: My Hearing Journey.
Read them all or just catch up on what you've missed!


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Aug 07 2014

Crossfusion: Entitlement and the Impossible (American) Dream

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    A few weeks ago, USA Today printed an article about the impossibility of reaching the American dream.  According to the article, to achieve the “American Dream” you would need to earn in excess of $130,000 per year. Since my family has been happily living the American dream for several generations (and none of us have earned anywhere nearthat much) I wondered just how the author chose to define the American Dream.  As I read, I realized two things, 1) the author’s definition was wildly different than my own and 2) it is clear that many Americans have fallen into a (very unbiblical) trap of entitlement.

    The first item on the list projects the median mortgage cost of a new home (Price: $275,000).  While this might seem reasonable in some parts of the country, it reveals two assumptions.  First, in order to achieve the American dream we have to be better than average, and second any home we buy has to be new. 
Both assumptions are false. 

    Historically, the American dream was simply “an opportunity for Americans to achieve prosperity through hard work. According to The Dream, this includes the opportunity for one's children to grow up and receive a good education and career without artificial barriers.”  (Wikipedia) In modern times, politicians have implied that the dream included home ownership, but for most people, the American dream is still about freedom of opportunity more than anything else.

    But the American dream has nothing to do with the expectation that I should be better than average or that the only acceptable home is a new one.  Where I live, homes in a decent blue collar neighborhood can be had for $50,000 and if you are handy, a fixer-upper can be considerably cheaper.  Homes in suburban neighborhoods and in more affluent school districts obviously cost more, but who says that hard-working, blue collar, city dwellers can’t live the American dream?

    With the exception of utilities, I take exception to nearly every item on the author’s list.  I understand that it much harder to make a life where the cost of living is high, but we need to remind ourselves that living the American dream has never been, and should never be, about the accumulation of “stuff.”  Too many of us believe that the American dream means we should have more possessions than our parents rather than the freedom to do what we want to do.

    It is said that blacksmiths and cleaning ladies worked extra jobs so that their children could go to college and become engineers and accountants, so that theirchildren could become poets and artists.  That mirrors the history of our family.  Our grandparents got off the boat with little more than a suitcase.  And while none of us has ever been wealthy, because we live in a nation with extraordinary freedoms, we have had the ability to be and to do whatever we chose, within the limits of our God-given abilities.

    To claim that it is impossible to achieve the American dream unless you own a new, 3000 square-foot home, with all new furniture, two new cars and a lot of other “stuff” is an insult to everything our parents and grandparents sacrificed for.  They worked their fannies off so that we would have freedom and opportunity, not sports cars, Gucci handbags and iPhones. 
As followers of Jesus Christ, there is a far more significant problem.
When we fill our lives with the desire for material possessions, rather than things like integrity, justice, and the things of God, we open ourselves to all sorts of evil.  The Apostle Paul warned his young protégé Timothy saying…

7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. (1 Timothy 6:7-9)

    Paul wasn’t saying that it was bad to have wealth.  Paul was born to a family with wealth and influence.  What Paul is saying is that we cross a line when we desire money and material possessions too much.

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.(Philippians 4:10-12)

    We don’t need new cars and new houses to be content, and we certainly shouldn’t feel like we are entitled to have more than our parents had.  Ten years ago we sold our house and I walked away from a satisfying career in engineering.  Today, I make almost $100,000 per year less than USA Today thinks I need. 

Regardless, I am happy, I am content, and…

…I am living the American Dream.

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”(Hebrews 13:4-6)


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Aug 05 2014

Crossfusion: Rockets and Jesus

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    As I write this I am in Pueblo, Colorado for a week long event known as NARAM, the National Association of Rocketry Annual Meet.  Each year, several hundred members of our organization meet for the national model rocket contests and for a week of sport flying (just for fun).  I generally don't compete but just fly for fun.  In the evenings there are research presentations, craftsmanship model contests, movies, a charity auction, and a "state of the union" message from our president. 

    As I listened to the president's message it struck me that the experience of this group of rocket enthusiasts is similar in many ways to our experience as a church.  For many years the membership of this organization, as well as nearly all craftsmanship hobbies, has been in serious decline.  Today's youth are pulled in a thousand directions with video games, school clubs, and many other things and hobbies that require a skill and have a longer learning curve have suffered.  The response of the NAR (National Association of Rocketry) has been to reach out to the community, schools and groups like the scouts and 4-H (evangelism, in a way).  We offer programs of mentoring and teaching so that young people can experience our hobby and learn about rocketry but also interest them in the math and science that explains how it all works.

    Nearly ten years ago, the NAR partnered with a group of major aircraft and aviation industry corporations to conduct an annual event called TARC, the Team America Rocketry Challenge. Teams from junior high and high schools, boy scouts, girl scouts and other youth organizations from all over the country compete against one another for $50,000 in college scholarships and a trip to the Paris airshow where our champions will compete against the champions from France, England and Japan.

    But as great as the program has been, for many years, our membership wondered whether it was all worth the effort.  Our membership continued to decline despite all of the time and effort that we were contributing.  We heard the same sorts of things we hear in church, "Kids today just don't have time." or "There just isn't as much interest in these sorts of things." But we persisted because it was the right thing to do.  We were interesting a new generation in science and mathematics and we began to see that many of the students who competed on TARC teams were going on to major in science in college.  This year, our president reported that our organization reached the highest membership we have had in decades.  It didn't happen overnight and in reality, we still have a lot of work to do to stay healthy, but we do seem to be on the right track. 
    As I listened to the president's speech I wondered how much our church might be just like this association of hobbyists.  How often to we hear things like, "We tried that already and it isn't working." or "We've been doing that for years and it isn't doing any good." or even "We did that and we haven't gotten any new members."?  What that speech reminded me was that often times there is no magic bullet.  Our programs, our outreach, our evangelism, are all different than they were forty years ago.  We won't see instant results and flocks of new members overnight.  But, if we do the right things, and we are persistent over the long haul, I am confident that we will see results.

    We are seeing some results, even if the church isn't filling up overnight.  We must continue to do the right thing.  We must remember out mission.    Our mission is to reach out, to tell the world about Jesus, and to be persistent even when nothing seems to be working.

 "And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good." (2 Thessalonians 3:13) 

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Jul 17 2014

Crossfusion: Taxing Churches Might Be Good

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    There is much talk about removing the tax-exemption for churches and that might be a good thing. 

    Please understand, I am convinced that taxing churches would probably be bad for our communities.  While they would see a modest increase in property taxes, they would also find themselves with a number of large, empty buildings that are notoriously difficult to resell or re-purpose.  At the same time, they would lose meeting places for a host of civic groups (from Rotary Clubs to Cub Scouts) as well as Election Day polling places.  For these, and other reasons that I explained in my blog (Taxes: Should the Church Pay?), taxing churches would cost our communities more than they would gain. 

So what good could come from taxing churches?

Quite simply, it would be good for the church.

    Under the present system, other than the cost of construction and maintenance (which are considerable), there is no cost, no penalty, to the church for overbuilding new space or for under-utilizing existing space.  Too often, the church suffers from an edifice complex, in which they feel better about themselves if their building is bigger than the church down the street. 

    New churches build bigger than they need and old churches stay in buildings long after they can no longer afford them.  Older congregations that are losing membership typically occupy a building that they own.  The mortgage, if any, was paid off decades ago.  Those shrinking congregations inhabit buildings that would hold three to five times their number but they remain for reasons of sentimentality and tradition and because, other than maintenance, there is no cost to staying.  While the church remains in the community and may allow others to use some of their space, the majority of the church budget is dedicated to maintaining the building and not to the mission of the church.

    But we NEED the room!  Do you really need that much room?  O sure it’s nice to be able to fit your entire congregation into the sanctuary all at once, but how much extra does it cost to have three (or even five) worship service each week instead of one compared to how much it costs to maintain a building big enough to house everyone all at once?  In my last appointment, there was a Baptist church across town that only seated fifty and so they had to have tow or three series to accommodate everyone.  They longed for a building as big as ours, which seated two or three hundred, but we knew that the cost of maintaining ours was a nightmare.  Maybe it makes sense to have a big building if you use it all week long and have multiple worship services during the week, but how is it good stewardship to have a building that sits empty six days every week?

    For larger churches, paying property taxes may cause them to rethink how they use their buildings and encourage them use their space more efficiently.  And if some churches can pay their taxes and still maintain colossal edifices (and their members are willing to contribute to that), then so be it.

    For small churches it is entirely possible, in fact likely, that the imposition of property taxes would cause many of them to walk away from their buildings and become house churches.  I don’t think that’s a bad thing.  As a house church, freed from the burden of paying to maintain and heat a building they couldn’t really afford, they could now use those funds to accomplish the mission of the church.  To feed the poor, clothe the naked, heal the sick, and carry the gospel to the four corners of the earth. 

    For a church to spend its wealth maintaining a building for the sake of pride or tradition at the expense of the mission is sin.

And if paying taxes can drive the church back to its mission…

…that would be good.

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Jul 16 2014

Crossfusion: Taxes: Should the Church Pay?

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    I regularly hear from folks who think that the church should pay taxes.  Despite the fact that the church is not exempt from all taxes (only property taxes and some sales taxes), the theory is that by removing churches’ tax exemption, local, state and federal government would receive an enormous increase in revenue.  But is that true?  My best answer is maybe, but probably not. Here’s why:

1)      Many churches are operating at the edge of solvency.  It’s sad, but it’s no secret that most churches were built before the long decline in attendance that we have seen for the last several decades.  In our denomination, probably ten to twenty percent of our churches are struggling financially.  Many of these small churches have a budget that is barely enough to pay the pastor and keep the lights on and yet occupy relatively large buildings.  If these churches were told they had to pay an additional $5,000 to $10,000 per year in property taxes, they would simply lock the doors and go home.

2)      Church income is a moving target (Part 1).  In every church that I have served, we have had members who objected to our church sending money somewhere.  Either they objected to sending money to overseas missions, or they objected to sending money to support the expenses of our district or conference offices, or they objected to paying to support denominational missionaries, or any number of other things.  In many cases, these folks either withheld their gifts, or found ways to give gifts directly to the projects that they did support.  If the church were subject to taxation, I have no doubt that a great deal of what appears to be “church income” would suddenly vanish.

3)      Churches are a moving target.  While my denomination (The United Methodist Church) has just under 800 churches in our East Ohio Conference, the majority of them are quite small.  I don’t recall the exact figures but something like 60 percent of our churches have 40 or less in attendance.  Nationally, half of all churches have 75 or less, and close to 70 to 80 percent have 100 or less.  Those who favor taxing churches may not appreciate that churches are not like other “businesses.”  While finding space for 100 people would be harder, finding room for forty (or twenty) would be easy.  If these small churches were required to pay property taxes, a great many of them would simply abandon their buildings and meet in one another’s homes instead.

4)      Church income is a moving target (Part 2).  In my grandparents’ church, in order for the pastor to be paid, those in attendance had to specify that a part of their offering was to go to him (or her).  If the offering was small, so was the pastor’s paycheck.  In reality, this idea could be applied to almost everything in the church.  The church exists as a corporation as a matter of convenience.  It’s just easier for us to make a single donation to the church and have the treasurer pay the electric bill and the pastor’s salary, and all the other bills.  But we don’t have to do it that way.  If the church were taxed on the donations that it received, it wouldn’t take very long for most churches to make a different plan.  Pastors are already considered to be self-employed by the IRS so it would make little difference if church members paid them directly instead of through the church account.  Almost overnight, church “income” could go to zero.  The hardest things to figure out would be the utility bills and the tax bills, which, as I already noted, would go away if the church decided to walk away from their buildings.

5)      Taxing churches would increase suffering.  When churches are doing what they are supposed to be doing (and admittedly, not all of them are), the benefits that they provide to the community may be more than any taxes that they would pay.  Each church typically supports many other organizations, food pantries, homeless and battered women’s shelters, clothes closets, health clinics, prenatal care centers, others in poorer parts of the country such as Appalachia, Indian reservations, and the inner city, as well as giving generously toward the victims of natural disasters.  Because this giving is not a fixed cost (like taxes) but comes from a church’s discretionary budget, any increase in taxes will necessarily take away funds that otherwise would have been given to these sorts of projects.  And remember that taxes can’t be used to replace the funds lost by these organizations, because most of them are run by churches.

    Overall, I just don’t see much benefit to the community from removing the tax exemption from local churches.  It would hurt the poorest among us and in the end I don’t think it would generate that much money.

 (Next: Taxing Churches Might Be Good)

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