Tuesday, May 26, 2015

 

Shallow Analogies

Mike Bell @ iMonk analogizes church to a pizza parlor.The analogy holds up pretty well, but it illustrates the problem of dealing in analogy - you try and sell pizza - church tries to change people. That is a pretty fundamental difference. So, when Bell says:
Here is the problem, like the pizza consultant, when your solutions don’t address why people are actually attending less frequently, you are likely to end up with the wrong solutions.

Take me for example, for a number of reasons, I am very close to burnout. When I hear words like “active”, “committed”, “involvement”, and “monitor attendance”, it is going to produce the opposite of the intended effect in me. If I hear these words from the pulpit on a Sunday morning, I am going to be less likely, not more likely, to attend the following week. I am burnt out and you want a larger commitment from me?!?
I think, maybe the issue is that Bell should be more committed. Changing people takes genuine deep life long commitment. Asking for more commitment is not necessarily a bad thing.

The problem is, I think, that we ask people to commit to church instead of to God. Commitment to church should flow from commitment to God, but if we do not do things in the right order, it may not. Church growth can and will occur if the community in the church is deep and abiding and truly reflects the image of God. But if that community reflects the image of Wal-Mart, well, who wants to commit anything to Wal-Mart?

Maybe we need to step outside the analogy sometimes and look at the deeper issues.


Monday, May 25, 2015

 

The Use of Authority

Jenny Frank @ Desiring God:
God is sovereign. He does not need us. He could display his power much more neatly and efficiently without us, but that has never been the point. Why does God choose this peculiar path, employing dirty, broken pottery to host and reflect his glory?

The fact that he does speaks to his relational nature — that he is eternally, wonderfully the great Three-in-One. He doesn’t intend to reveal himself to us, or through us, without communing with us in the process. His power is surpassing, not bypassing.
That statement should have deep implications for how Christians do cultural and political engagement. If we are to follow God's example, the legitimate exercise of sovereignty must be preceded - PREceded - by winning hearts and minds. Thus, if our nation is no longer "Christian" in its nature it is not becasue we have failed to use authority properly, but because we have failed to win the culture on non-authoritative levels.

The United States is relatively unique in history in that it delinked these two things - culture and authority. It recognized the wisdom that Ms. Frank here teases from scripture. Stable states come from government responding to culture, not dictating it - just as God understood that to restore His created order to the world He had to win the culture, not simply reign sovereign over it.

It is the job of the church, separate from governmental authority to win the culture for God's purpose - government will flow behind. And yet the church today responds to culture and is molded by it rather than molds it. It is a miserable failure on our part.


Saturday, May 23, 2015

 

Comic Art

Iconic Covers 
And Suddenly, Comic Got Real.... 
 


Friday, May 22, 2015

 

Why We Need To Keep Talking About it

Mark Roberts:
So what is Jesus’ point in Mark 9:42-48? He is saying that sin matters, and in the worst way. When we say “No” to God and his ways, this is a big deal. It has major implications for our personal lives and for our life in community. Some Christians have taken this truth about sin and made it the virtual center of their discipleship, almost forgetting the Gospel. These folk need to refocus on God’s grace in Christ without minimizing the wrongness of sin. Other Christians, in reaction to the excesses of sin-centered discipleship, have neglected or minimized sin altogether. This is “cheap grace,” as Dietrich Bonhoeffer describes it in The Cost of Discipleship. Our challenge as followers of Jesus is to take sin very seriously, to turn from it and even to hate it, but always in response to the love and grace of God.
AMEN!

 

Friday Humor



Thursday, May 21, 2015

 

The Perfect and The Real

Mark Tooley shares some thoughts on the theological strains that are echoing through the church these days:
So both perfectionist schools of thought are prevailing throughout Evangelicalism, which being a modern movement and not a deep tradition, is susceptible to American fads, especially an ambitious, soaring perfectionism that offers a seductive alternative to the much harder path of Christian orthodoxy, with its focus on sin and redemption.

So absent mass conversion by Protestants and Evangelicals to Catholicism, traditional Calvinists, with their own venerable traditions of social engagement in the sin-soaked kingdom of man, will have to point the way forward. Troublingly, many Calvinists are instead succumbing to their own funk, partly based on their own unconscious perfectionism, disowning social engagement, especially statecraft, because society they think has become too depraved for reformation.
That may be the most cogent theological analysis of what is happening to Christianity in America I have read to date. But he raises an important question - Where is the institutional home of Calvinism these days?

The Presbyterian Church is the traditional upholder of Calvinist thought, but not so much anymore. The largest version of it, PC(USA), has left its Calvinist moorings, some would argue its Christian moorings, altogether. The EPC is more typical Evangelical than Presbyterian. The PCA is too, to borrow Tooley's phrase, "perfectionist." The new kid in town ECo made hold the answer but it is far from well organized just yet, currently too reactionary in its formation, and may end up being to small to matter. Where is the home of Calvinism?

I cannot, off the top of my head, think of a Calvinist seminary. I can think of some noted Calvinist professors at many seminaries, but I can also think of a number of very influential seminaries that shun their Calvinist members. Where is the home of Calvinism?

Like any good idea, it has to take root in people to matter and they have to organize. Who talks about theology outside of seminaries anymore anyway? Where is the home of Calvinism?

We are cursed to live in interesting times.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

 

Why Is This Not Preached More?

Mark Roberts:
This scene, [ed: The Tranfiguration] shrouded in mystery, reveals something of the divine nature of Jesus. He was certainly much more than a human messiah, that’s for sure. But the presence of Moses and Elijah also reminds us of something that is crucially important about Jesus, and sometimes overlooked or even denied by Christians. Here it is. We will only rightly understand Jesus in light of the Old Testament. The Old Testament law, represented by Moses, and the Old Testament prophecies, represented by Elijah, point to and are fulfilled in Jesus. They help us to understand him, to honor him, to receive his salvation, and to live as his disciples.
I wonder - is it really that mysterious and hard to understand or are we just to pig-headed to listen? I means seriously - Robers explains things pretty well here in a few short paragraphs and yet pastors everywhere will not preach from the Old Testament and I have not heard a sermon on the Transfiguration in decades. I was actually chastised once for attempting to talk about it. They claim it is over the audiences head or turns them of or....

And yet, I cannot help but wonder if it were well preached, thoughtfully explained, and people were lead instead of pandered to we might not get somewhere on this front. It is absolutely necessary to understand the full nature of Christ if one is to be a complete and thoughtful Christian, and yet we steadfastly refuse to discuss a large aspect of His nature. It's a failure, pure and simple.

I am tired of the church failing. I do not say this from a position of lacking failure, I'm real good at it. It's not our failures that define us, it is how we handle them. I think the church needs to work on that.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

 

Deep Change

Milt Stanley links to a post on changes in American Evangelicalism over the last 50 years or so:
So what conclusions do I draw from all this change? Some of it may be for the better. We 1950s evangelicals had obsessions that were probably unhealthy. However, on the other hand, taking it all together, I suspect we American evangelicals have become “comfortable in Zion”—a phrase that we used about mainline Christians (who weren’t really Christians at all) to describe how their religion was non-threatening to themselves or anyone else. And by “threatening” I don’t mean we thought Christianity ought to be physically threatening, but we did think authentic Christianity should shake people’s comfort in this world and focus their attention on sacrifice and separation.
I think this guy leans to the fundamental side of Evangelicalism, but I think his conclusion is right on. We work so hard to draw people in that we have conformed to them rather than challenge them. We have done away with the concept of sin altogether for the sake of accepting. We have confused love and acceptance to the point where there is only acceptance - and no real love. We have worried about our survival more than our mission.

Something is deeply broken in the church, deeply. And only deep change can fix it. I pray for the patience to let God do that.


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