Tuesday, July 29, 2014

 

What You Need To Know

Kate Shellnutt @ CT looks at how Google autofill stereotypes Christians. Examples:



None of those are positive, really. So here is a question - Do we respond to that by berating the lack of open-mindedness on the part of "the secularists at Google" or do we ask ourselves what we have done to earn such a "reputation?"

The answer, of course, is both. You see, there is no no question that those that do not want to comply with the basic teachings of the church will decry them as "judgmental" or some other such negative word. But it is equally true that we often communicate in a fashion that aids that labeling. So, for example, we do not need to begin to conduct same-sex wedding ceremonies to be better perceived by the world - we need to figure out a way to say "No" in love.

My mind has been fascinated lately by Christ's encounter with the women at the well:
John 4:16-20 - He said to her, "Go, call your husband and come here." The woman answered and said, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You have correctly said, 'I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly." The woman said to Him, "Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.
That is a fascinating exchange. Jesus not only confirms a personal truth about someone He has never met (What? has He been stalking her?) He tells her she has a fidelity issue. If you said that to someone that you just met, I do not think the response would be "I perceive you are a prophet." You'd get called names or slapped or some other very unpleasant scene would ensue.

Somehow Jesus is able to say to this woman something that we need to say, continuing with our example, to homosexual couples, and have her come away impressed, not insulted. We need to learn how to do that. We need to be so open to the Holy Spirit that we can love is apparent even when we say things that the world would deem unloving.

If we want to change how the world perceives us, we need to let God change us on levels we may not even know we have - somewhere deep in our core. Are you willing to risk that?


 

Kitty Kartoons


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Monday, July 28, 2014

 

Structure and Faith

Ron Edmondson:
Structure…healthy structure…helps organizations and churches maintain excellence. It’s designed to be an asset not a hindrance. I’m reminded of the structure Jethro shared with Moses. Gold. Joseph created great structure to carry out the work of God that would ultimately save Joseph’s family. And the Israelite nation. Invaluable.

The problem is when we begin to rely on structure as the answer, more than the vision God has called us to attain. Ultimately we can begin to rely on man made structure more than we rely on the King of kings to guide us into the unknown. If we aren’t careful…wait let me leave the structure of this paragraph to better make a point…

If we aren’t careful we can depend more on the structure than on an utter dependence on God.

If you’ve been in church very long you know this is true. In some churches, if God were to call us to move in some new area, even if we were certain we had direction from God, it would take us months to get the idea beyond the committees of the church and to a church vote. We have often allowed systems and policies to navigate us more than relying on the Spirit of God. We can do it in budgeting, in planning, and in carrying out the traditions and work of the church.
I agree with this and yet I strongly disagree. I have indeed seen the "structure" of church governance greatly slow the progress of a church. I agree. But absent structure I have seen churches engage in things that were more than wrong - they were evil. I disagree.

So the answer to the problem Edmondson describes does not lie in the design of a church's "structure." There is no magic bullet here. The answer lies in the lives of the people working within the "structure." Mature Christians of wisdom, grace and commitment will know when to speed things up and when to slow things down. They'll know how to operate the mechanisms of church governance in a fashion appropriate to the circumstance.

Likewise, if someone is convinced the Holy Spirit has inspired them with an idea that will change everything, but for some reason the idea does not move forward rapidly, then it must mean that the others involved do not agree entirely that such is being lead by the Holy Spirit. If indeed we have wise and God-fearing leaders, then we must respect this difference of opinion and allow the system to work its magic. I have to believe that if God is speaking to one person, he is speaking to many. And if we work diligently to elect leaders that are mature Christians devoted to God and steeped in wisdom then we have to respect their judgement on matters - even if it is in disagreement with our own.

Maybe, just sometimes, the value of the idea is not in its execution, but in the patience we learn from its not being executed.


Saturday, July 26, 2014

 

Comic Art

ARTIST GARY FRANK







Friday, July 25, 2014

 

Reduced

Some ver insightful stuff from Greg Forster @ First Things:
...Education policymakers and reformers don’t champion the humanities chiefly because, for all the noise they make about keeping us aware of our higher purposes or enriching us with the noble and beautiful, the humanities as actually taught and studied today have virtually nothing profound or even interesting to say. “The humanities’ diminished state is to a large degree self-inflicted . . . Much of what is rewarded as advanced thinking on campus is undecipherable, trivial, filtered, or capricious. Hiring, tenure, soft money, and university publishing help protect these modes of thought.”

It is ironic that, far from helping us understand what it means to be human, the humanities are deeply dehumanizing. When they are not enslaving us to arbitrary identity categories based on our race, sex, class, and (now) sexual preference, they are exalting the sovereign self and its arbitrary tastes as the measure of all things. Math and science are generally the fields singled out as allegedly hostile to the cultivation of humane life. It’s true that scientific technocracy is a real danger, but it’s not clear to me why a pseudo-scientific reduction of the human being to a mere material body is more dehumanizing, or more on the rise in our culture, than a pseudo-humanist reduction of the human being to a mere receptor of aesthetic stimuli, or a mere participant in identity politics. Indeed, the worst reductionists among the humanities and the worst reductionists among the sciences often join arms and make common cause...
Dehumanizing...Reduction...Mere - those words ring and ring in my head as I read that. There are two phenomena I see that result in this bleak picture.

The first is the view that education is the passing on of "information." It's not - education is about knowledge and wisdom. Information is reducible; knowledge and wisdom are expansive. Information can be reduced, packaged and readily and objectively measured. Knowledge and wisdom involve things like character in the application of the information, something that can only be judged subjectively. Any fool can pass on information, only a person of knowledge, wisdom and character can pass on knowledge and wisdom. Information can be placed in a computer program and passed on in an entirely mechanical fashion. Passing on knowledge and wisdom requires messy human interaction.

The second is the absence of God. This has been said so often that it is almost cliche' But truly when there is no Almighty to make man look upward, all becomes merely mechanical.

I blame the church for this. We have retreated into therapeutic personal religion and left the world to rot.


 

Friday Humor


Thursday, July 24, 2014

 

Nah - Just Seven Ways To Grow

Ron Edmondson lists "7 Sure Ways to Grow as a Leader":
  • Desire growth
  • Accept correction
  • Listen to wiser voices
  • Invest in others
  • Recognize weaknesses
  • Refuse mediocrity
  • Embrace failure
Folks, that just seven ways to grow as a Christian, not a leader.

I realize that Edmondson's blog is for people that want to be leaders, but I think he does s disservice by putting this post this way. He serves to set apart common Christian growth as something reserved for leaders and that the average church attender need not bother. Either that or he perpetuates the presumption that we are all leaders.

In a sense we are all leaders, but not in the get in front and organize the church sense. But organizational problems are the least of my concerns. What does concern me is that common Christian maturity is being placed in the realm of leadership. This is how the church got into the mess to begin with.

Frankly, the church needs more common Christan maturity and less leadership right now.









 

Illuminated Scripture


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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

 

Making Innovators?

Todd Rhoades quotes extensively from a guy by the name of Patrick Scriven:
The next time I hear a pastor argue that what the church really needs is more innovative pastors I might lose my hair. Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against innovation or against innovative pastors in principle. The church certainly needs transformation and we desperately need folks with new ideas. My problem is with our temptation to locate innovation with the clergy and the way it perpetuates a savior mythology, one that oppresses them as much as it does us we lay folk.
That’s a quote from Patrick Scriven, Director of Communications and Young People’s Ministries for the Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Methodist Church.

[...]

Our churches need, desperately, to become places of change. While the occasional new idea from the pastor can be good modeling, the pastor that innovates continuously sucks the air out of the church and leaves no room for innovation elsewhere. Our churches would be better served by clergy who excelled at creating and nurturing cultures of innovation.

I would expect that some might say that this sentiment is nice but they know, or serve, churches where creating a culture of innovation is impossible. Where we find this to be true we should be quick to lock the doors and shutter the windows. Before we do this however, we should consider that there is a difference between a church that continuously rejects its pastor’s new ideas and one that refuses to create their own when given a chance.

The Spirit of God is the church’s true innovator. Relocating the process of innovation where we know the Spirit resides – the community – is our most faithful path forward.
I am forced to wonder if the culture God needs to create in the church is one of "innovation?" Is the mission of the church any different now than it was 2000 years ago? Of course, we may be discussing innovation in the limited sense of how we fulfill that mission, but even about that I wonder.

You know, it's funny - technology has changed so much about how we do things, and yet nothing has changed. Take wood working for example. We have developed all sorts of machines to aid the wood worker. But to build a truly excellent piece of furniture, no matter how much of that vaunted technology the builder will employ, it will come down to the builder using chisels and abrasives to fine tune the joints to that perfect fit. Sure, you can buy lots of furniture built entirely by machine, but it is of lesser quality that the stuff where the artisan has done his best.

Regardless of how much we innovate in the church, making disciples will come down to what it has always come down do. SO the question becomes do we need to innovate so we can make more "cheaper knock-off" Christians or do we need to build the skills necessary to build the finest Christians out there? There are economic reasons why we buy cheap knock-off furniture, but what is our motivation to settle for cheap knock-off Christianity?

The reason we buy cheap knock-off furniture is a lack of capital. we can never get enough cash together to buy the good stuff so we get the lesser stuff. We will probably have to replace it again in our lives, but at least we can afford it. Can people replace Christianity later in their lives when it breaks down due to inferior construction?

To learn how to wood work well, you learn the old skills first. Until you can handle a plane a chisel and sandpaper - a table saw and router are cool, but your work product is still mediocre. I think rather than innovate, the church need to learn the old skills first. We are craftsmen, not manufacturers,


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

 

The Pastoral Role

Mark Roberts:
According to Ephesians 4:11-12, pastors and other church leaders are to do something for you. This something may indeed involve preaching and caring and leading. But the primary task of pastors is to equip God's people for their work of ministry. To make it more personal, the primary task of your pastor is to equip you for your ministry. Or, it might be better to say that your pastor's job is to equip you to live your whole life as ministry.

I realize that most church members do not expect their pastors to equip them for ministry. Our expectations have been shaped by centuries of church life that has exalted ordained ministry as "the ministry" and minimized the calling of all Christians to be ministers of Christ. Yet, in the last sixty years, Christians throughout the world have been rediscovering the biblical truth that all of God's people are ministers, and that pastors have the primary responsibility of training and encouraging the true ministers for their true ministry.
My question is, "What constitutes our ministry?" I think that too often that question is answered by cramming people into little boxes marked "trivia the church needs done." Yes, there is much necessary to the operation of an institution like a local congregation and yes all of it is ministry of some form or another-but recruiting and motivating volunteers does not constitute preparing people for ministry,

A second point I would like to make is that ofttimes ministry is not what we do, but who we are. What is essentially Christian about helping put on a congregational dinner versus doing the same thing for the PTA? Is it just the fact that it is for the church that matters? Ministry is often not about the work itself, but the quality of the work and the attitude of the worker.

Jesus did not come to make us do "stuff," He came to change who we are - to recreate us. It is that recreative process that pastors are supposed to be aiding. I wonder how many pastor do?


 

Kitty Kartoons


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