Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What's in the Chicago Water?

What is it about Chicago’s water? Or should I say, Illinois? No, I’m not talking about President Obama or the scandals that seem to arise on a regular basis. Nor am I talking about the Cubs, White Sox or “da Bears.” Poor Cubs…

I’m talking about the reservoir of religious talent that seems to spring out of the mid-west waters of that area. And they include all the major Christian religions. The first that comes to mind is Fr. Robert Reardon, pastor of the All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago. Father Reardon is also the Senior Editor of the Touchstone magazine, a magazine dedicated to Orthodox life and theology. He is a marvelous speaker and teacher. Father is one of those gentlemen that I could sit under and listen to for hours. He has one of those deep bass voices that thrills you through and through. His homilies and teaching are rich in depth and content and totally God uplifting and honoring. His manner is of deep love and affection for our Lord, his church and those he speaks to. You can hear him regularly on Ancient Faith Radio or download him on Itunes. I guarantee you’ll be blessed.

The next figure that I’m impressed with is Fr. Robert Barron, of the Word on Fire ministry and is the Francis George Chair of Faith and Culture at the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois. He is a prominent lecturer who travels all over the United States and is heard on the EWTN network of stations. He has a major presence on You Tube. His Word on Fire ministry is extremely popular and is making waves for it's innovative methods of transmitting the Catholic faith. Fr. Barron is a rare shining light in that he is one of the few who expresses the Catholic faith in practical terms everyone can understand. (The Catholics admit to being among the worst at training (catechizing) their flock) But Fr. Barron is a welcome exception and a marvelous brother in the faith who is madly in love with our Lord. I highly recommend him. I’ve used many of his illustrations in my teaching in my Presbyterian small group.

But the evangelical church has its representatives that have Chicago/Illinois water in their veins. Who can ignore the mega-church pastor Bill Hybels of the Willow Creek Community Church ministries? They have campuses all over the Chicago area. Like him or not, and I do, he has made a significant impact in the evangelical world. For that alone he deserves attention. No one is better at making Christianity a daily living event. I know, many who visit my site are fed up with the mega-church movement and can’t stand the theatre atmosphere that is often present. But folks, Bill is a Jesus lover and follower and wants each person to experience that same kind of love. Bill has done more to consolidate so many people who are leaving their tiny little churches for something that is alive. Bill Hybels has had a positive effect on Christians all over the world. For that reason alone, I consider him to be a member of my hall of fame as someone who has spread the good news around the world.

I also want to share someone who grew out of the Willow Creek Church and not only has Chicago water in him, but the water is Chicago Cub blue. I’m prejudice on this one because he’s my pastor. John Ortberg , pastor of the Menlo Park Presbyterian Church is one of the leading preachers in the world today. I’ve heard it said he’s one of the top ten preachers in America. I can see why. No one can break down a passage of scripture to its simplest teaching than Pastor John. He is a prodigious reader and author. I’ve heard he can go through two books a day. God give me that talent of speed reading with the comprehension he has. I’ve also heard he has one of those memories that some call “photographic.” He seems to remember anything he has ever read at the drop of the hat. His many books including one of his latest, Faith and Doubt, are consistently among the most read in Evangelical Circles. But the thing that stands out to me the most is his ability to teach a large church the simple message of Christ. Love God, Love People, Serve the World. And it’s not legalistic. His messages all revolve around grace and love and how that relates to God and how our Lord fills us to share that grace with each other in love. My life has gone through a major transition thanks to his loving ministry to us. Read his books, listen to or watch his sermons on the MPPC website. You can also down load them along with study guides to use in your small groups. John is a humble man who simply wants to share his faith.

One more person who has impacted my personal liturgical life is Scot McKnight, author of The Jesus Creed and many other books. My pastor put me onto Scot and my life has not been the same. I learned the joy and beauty of liturgical praying through Scot. He introduced me to the saints of the early church which is why I am able to appreciate so many from the Catholic and Orthodox community. His regular daily blog on Facebook is a delight to read as well as his daily insights on his personal blog. He’s a regular guy…if maybe a bit quirky...how can you not be if you’re a Cubs fan like he is. But Scot has a way of breaking down the simple message of the gospel that brings into our vocabulary the rich teachings of the ancient faith. He’s had an enormous impact on many in the Emergent Church movement. Read his books and enjoy your rich heritage. You’ll never be the same.

Folks, we as a Christian community can thank God, that these five men, from very different and distinct lines of faith teach the same message. I encourage you to learn from them and adapt whatever you hear to your present situation and life.

And ladies…I haven’t forgotten you. I’ll focus on some of you in late postings, especially one young lady this weekend.

God Bless


  1. As it was said, no good thing can come out of chicago (oh, no, that was nazareth). Guess that's wrong in both parts.

    Good to hear about all the thriving churches and pastors on fire for God.

  2. Hi Pennyyak. Well, from a couple of visits to Chicago, I found it to be the cleanest big city I'd ever visited. Too bad they can't say that about their politics. Ha Ha.
    Yes, I'm sure there are more than the ones I mentioned, but these are some of the people that have impacted my life in one way or another. I mean..go back to the late 1800's to the 1900's with men like D.L. Moody. Who can forget the Pacific Garden Mission and Moody Bible Institute? I used to be glued to the radio when I was a kid listening to "Unshackled".
    Chicago has a long long history of producing great Bible leaders and organizations.