Thursday, July 02, 2015
The Time We Have
Like Frodo, we may not like this. If we’re honest, we might also say, “I wish it need not have happened in my time.” But the truth is that we cannot choose to live in others times. We cannot skip immediately to the future when God reigns and all of creation is united under Christ. We must live in these evil days.Well said Mark, and 'Nuff Said.
But we have a choice about how to live. We can choose to walk worthy of the calling with which we have been called (Eph 4:1). We can choose, by God’s grace, to be careful how we live, to live wisely, and to redeem the time given to us (5:15-16). As we look at our lives and the world in which we live, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time given us.” Will we live as the world dictates? Or will we set time free from the clutches of evil, using it for God’s purposes? Will we, like Frodo, heed the call given to us and live for the sake of redemption?
All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. Well spoken, Gandalf.
good time wisdom
Wednesday, July 01, 2015
What Draws People To Church
Serious evangelical spokespersons and teachers try to emphasize the movement’s worldview, its doctrines — in short, its truth. Bebbington’s fourfold model has often been cited: conversionism, activism, biblicism, and crucicentrism, as a basic skeleton upon which the various evangelical churches, missions, and schools form their bodies. And despite that skeleton, those bodies do indeed come with a variety of shapes and sizes and features. Southern Baptists are not Nazarenes, and the Church of God folks around me here in the Midwest don’t look at all like evangelical Presbyterians. Furthermore, just because you attend a non-denominational church doesn’t mean the specific cultural characteristics of your group match the culture of the other non-denom down the street.He goes on to point out that it is this culture that really forms people.
For folks on the ground, what usually makes the most difference is not the statement of faith. It’s the culture. The (often unspoken) question is: Do I, can I fit in that world?
Can I live with the style of the building and the sanctuary, the kind of music and the songs they sing or don’t sing, how they practice the various elements of worship, the kind of “personality” the church exhibits, the way people dress, the language with which they converse, the way they do the children’s programs and the youth group, the Christian celebrities, books, and media they endorse, the way people pray, how people talk about public issues and politics and culture, the style and approach the pastor uses in preaching, the colleges their students go off to attend, the camps, recreation and vacation spots church members prefer, the methods by which the church receives giving and donations, how accessible the pastors and other leaders are, the way the congregation makes decisions, and so on.
I think it is fair to say; therefore, that most people are going to select a culture that does not challenge them too much, or challenges them only where they want tot be challenged and to the degree that they want to be challenged. That's not entirely unreasonable, when teaching someone it is possible to go too far, too fast and have them simply reject the teaching becasue for whatever reason they cannot keep up. But conversely it is also possible to have such "I can't do this" tantrums retard teaching generally. And what of those that want to pick up the challenge readily, deeply and rapidly? Do they simply get pushed aside to concentrate on the majority?
The answer lies, I think, in two important phenomena. 1) whatever the culture of the church, it has to be a culture that demands increasing maturity. Yes at different paces and in different way, but it must demand that everyone rise to the next small challenge. 2) The church has to have enough going for it to offer this wide variety of challenges.
Christ had mass meeting for the large crowds and small discussion with the twelve. Christ had those with whom He was quite close but who did not travel with Him. He seemed, almost miraculously to know where the people He came in contact with were,a nd how to move them forward in their individual journey with Him. The church needs, desperately, to develop that capability. None of us are Christ, I doubt individually we can do it like He did, but I do think we can develop that capability corporately. But to do so will require looking at the church as more than just "my ministry" or "your ministry."
I am driven once again to a thought I have had for some time. The church needs to work on itself for a whole to be better at reaching out.
church culture formation improvement outreach
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
I think, for example, of Victor Hugo’s novel, Les Misérables, which has been made popular through musical and film versions. Every time I have read the book or seen a dramatized version of Les Misérables, I am drawn to see myself from a different perspective. I see the ways I can be like Javert: driven, inflexible, judgmental. I am profoundly inspired by the Bishop, who plays a relatively small role in the musical and film versions of the story, but figures much more prominently in the novel. The Bishop is a man of deep generosity and self-sacrifice, one whose life matches the gospel he preaches. In light of the Bishop, I see how often I live for my own advantage, rather than for the sake of others. I am drawn to live more graciously, more freely.I would like to think that, but too often I encounter people that are simply self-delusional. (Myself included on occasion.) They see themselves as Superman when they are acting like Lex Luthor. (In point of fact Luthor often deluded himself into thinking his crimes were for the good of mankind.) I wonder how many times people have read Crime and Punishment where Rashkolnikov is deluding himself towards murder and think "there but for the grace of God..." when they are equally delusional towards some other crime?
Art can be an incredibly useful tool for self-examination, but only when we are trained properly in how to use it as such. And only when our view of ourselves permits it. Sin is a pervasive and awful thing and it can corrupt this worthy practice as easily as it can any other.
art self-reflection truth
Monday, June 29, 2015
Heck Of A Question
In his commentaries, N. T. Wright wonders, “Doesn’t Jesus want everybody to get the message? Yes and no. What he is saying is such dynamite that it can’t be said straightforwardly, out in the street.” It is not that Jesus speaks in parables because he doesn’t want people to understand. He speaks in parables because they refuse to understand. Through parables, Jesus can communicate with the people who are ready to listen, and no one else will understand enough to cause immediate trouble.I weep, almost daily, for those that refuse to hear. It hurts to see people that have so much right there at their fingertips and they simply refuse to grasp it.
But there is a flip side to this discussion of parables - and that is that Christ's ministry was not, I repeat NOT, entirely inclusive. Not everyone made it to the party. There were insiders and outsiders. Parables were a part of the sorting process. It seems like we do not sort in the church anymore. With the exception of the Jewish officialdom, Jesus did not spend a lot of time denouncing outsiders, He used subtle means like parables to sort and to reinforce the differentiation. We don't even do subtle stuff anymore - "All are welcome," "Come as you are." Maybe, but you only get to come so far as you are - even in Christ's ministry.
We cannot let the inmates run the asylum. Such is responsible for many of the ills that face the church these days.
Saturday, June 27, 2015
Friday, June 26, 2015
More Than SIdes
Her aim isn’t to declare a winner and a loser; neither rite is wrong, she says. Instead, she contends that both sides have something to learn and to gain from the other.I used to think that, but now I wonder. For it to be true people have to be willing to separate God from music, the action of the Holy Spirit from the absence of liturgy and political labels from differing church experiences. In other words, people have to think about church rather than just consume and react to it.
That would require those that lead church to "do" church in a very different way. It would require them to seek to build disciples, not merely provide a product for consumption. It would require them to be content with a few committed followers. It would be risky. It would require deep and abiding faith.
People that can make these intellectual separations we are discussing are made, they do not arise spontaneously. The church has to make them in order to be populated with them. At a minimum that making activity has to be the heart of the church under all the glitz and glamor and show business of the Sunday service. Yet most churches seem to get so involved in making SUnday happen they forget the rest of the week.
And I wonder if Christ is not weeping somewhere.
church discipleship truth worship wars
Thursday, June 25, 2015
“You cannot evade the issue of God . . . if Christianity should happen to be true—then defending it may mean talking about anything or everything. Things can be irrelevant to the proposition that Christianity is false, but nothing can be irrelevant to the proposition that Christianity is true.”I worry about the strain of Christianity that spends so much time trying not to pay attention to stuff. Christianity is not a fence, but a filter. It does not prevent us from exploring, but it does color our perception when we do.
We explore because a) we learn more of the God we worship when we do, and b) we spread the good news about that God when we do. AS someone who has studied science more than anything else, at least formally, I can say I have learned massive amount about God in those studies. Science does not oppose religion. Some, even many, scientists do. We cannot discount studying science because of that, rather we must come to our studies prepared to sort the wheat and the chaff. We have to be smarter than those who think they are smart. We have to be more graceful than those that seek to indoctrinate us.
There is no reason to hide, there is only reason to get better.
Christianity depth faith study