Saturday, December 19, 2009
Friday, December 18, 2009
Hiding In Your Fort
In another context (the summer issue of Leadership Journal) I called the toxicity of the current generation a “self in a castle.”I love McKnight's "self in a castle" phrase. It is more apropos than I think even McKnight realizes.
Perhaps the most important words in Hart’s lines above are “by overwhelming consensus.” The consensus is so overwhelming that the emerging generation – each of us – believes we can form our own religion. A religion of our own making, however, never leads to transcendence or worship of God or anything like the ancient Hebrews’ “fear of God.” Instead, we tinker on the edge of holiness with the notion of experiencing The Beyond.
As a child all of us, I think, built some sort of "fort." Maybe it was a tree house, maybe it was on the ground, maybe it was just blankets and a coffee table. I did all of those and more, including secretly modifying my home with trapdoors, but that is a story for another time. We all have that sense, as a child, of wanting someplace to be alone and that is uniquely "ours."
That's what I thought of when I read McKnight's phrase. And as I read his entire post, I could not help but think "How childish."
I think we should pray for adults in the church.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Marketing and Mission
But there is one area that seems to have eluded the ethical scrutiny of the church. Churches from the left to the right, high and low, share the same blind spot. Perhaps it’s because the practice is so pervasive or because the claims seem so spiritual. But if the FTC were to shine the spotlight on the marketing of missions, the expose would be, well, perhaps not damning but certainly embarrassing. Take a look at most any promotional package for a mission trip and you will get the distinct impression that lost, starving, forsaken people have their last hope riding on the willingness of Christians from the US to come and rescue them. The pictures are heart-rending — a close-up of a child’s sad face, a tin-roof shack beside an open sewage ditch, an old woman struggling under a load of firewood sticks. The emotional call goes out for the “healed, trained, empowered and Spirit filled teens to be missionaries to the world.” Such experiences promise to touch lives, change the world, and have a dramatic, life-changing impact on those who will sacrifice their comfort to go. For a week!I could not agree more - in fact I am even more cynical about it than that. As it goes on to say:
Can we be honest? Mission trips and service projects are important. For lots of reasons. But the truth of the matter is that dropping into a strange culture for a week or even two creates far more work for the local leadership than it’s worth, except for the money and gifts we leave. And those gifts more often than not do more long-term harm than good. As one local leader told me: “They’re turning our people into beggars.” Much of the work we do is make-work — painting a church, digging a foundation, leading a summer Bible school — all work that could and should be done by locals. “Our men need the work,” a seminary president once told me as we discussed the impact of US mission trippers in her impoverished country.
I am not saying that mission trips don’t have value. They do. Great value. They open up new worlds, new perspectives, new insights. They expose us to fascinating cultures, connect us with new friends, allow us to experience God at work in surprising ways, inspire us, break our hearts, build camaraderie among traveling companions. Any one of these benefits might well justify the time and expense. But isn’t it time we admit to ourselves that mission trips are essentially for our benefit, not for the benefit of the ones our marketing material portray? Would it not be more forthright if we called our junkets “insight trips” or “exchange programs”? Or how about Kingdom adventures? Do we really need to justify our journeying to exotic lands under the pretense of missionary work? Religious tourism would have much more integrity if we simply admitted that we’re off to explore God’s amazing work in the world.How about if we just called them what they are - CAMP! But instead of paying a few hundred dollars to travel to some cabin in the nearby woods, we are paying thousands to go to the Dominican or wherever. Why has this situation developed?
I would say for a couple of reasons, first of all, young people are far less willing to handle the less than developed conditions of your average church champ unless it has a hint of the exotic to it. It's one thing to do without a blow dryer in the Dominican and another thing altogether to do without it a few hundred miles from home when we saw a perfectly good motel as we turned off the highway. Similarly, when you have to raise money from the congregation for these adventures, you need a hook. Shiny little Caribbean faces attract quite a bit more money than a week in the woods.
And so, as this piece politely points out, we exaggerate just "a tiny little bit."
And frankly I care less out that than I do that it sucks dollars away from real, needed mission work. The counter argument would be that the money would go to sending kids to camp if we went back and missions would suffer more than they do now. And therein lies the real rub.
The thing that bothers me most about all this is that it is the church catering to our lesser tendencies instead of calling us to be better. Jesus Christ came died, and was resurrected so that we could be better people. Among the improvements is generosity.
Instead we develop marketing plans to compensate for the lack thereof.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Christians Don't Do Virtual
There Is NO Virtual ChurchThe Internet is an amazing tool, but church it's not.
We spend a lot of time talking about what are the "essentials" of the faith. Well, I for one cannot think of much that is more essential than the Incarnation. If God had to incarnate, then I am pretty sure we need to as well. If not, we are reduced to the same legalistic mumbo-jumbo that Christ supposedly overcame.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
...I have come to believe that theological perfectionism is another problem we should be concerned about, especially we who are Reformed.I think that Lee Irons and I might have pretty different points about what it is and is not important to "get right" but I think we agree on the basics here. Legalism and idolatry are closely related, and that both are a reflection of our egos, not God's will.
I recall when I was in seminary (Westminster Seminary California, 1992-96) that many of the young men used to sit around and debate the fine points of Van Tillian presuppositional apologetics for hours. They would be incredibly critical of any other form of apologetics, even other Reformed apologists like Francis Schaeffer or R. C. Sproul. The interesting thing was that it was a debate about the theory of apologetics. But the time and effort spent on getting the theory right was not matched by an equal zeal to actually use the theory in evangelizing unbelievers. Why? Because they were more interested (and I am guilty of this myself) of being right than in seeing sinners come to Christ. In other words, theological perfectionism had become an idol, whether it was the baser idol of wanting to look smart in the eyes of other seminary students, or the more refined idol of craving philosophical certainty about Christianity rather than having child-like trust in Christ. (Again, I'm not accusing others without pleading guilty myself -- I've been guilty of both the base and the refined idols!) [emphasis added]
There is but a single assumption that ends this - the understanding that no matter how hard we study, write, read, think - we are wrong - somewhere, somehow - we are wrong. It is the nature of being human and flawed.
"...they were more interested (and I am guilty of this myself) of being right than...." Jesus is the only person every that was right all the time. We can become right all the time only by allowing Him to work in us and through us. And that begins by laying down ourselves, and our ideas.
Kitty Kartoons - Christmas Classic Edition
Monday, December 14, 2009
I’m also concerned that the speed of our lives is out of control, as several posts here on that subject will also attest.I tend to agree with Dan here generally, but not specifically.
For example, Dan greatly bemoans Facebook, and I agree with him that Facebook is no substitute for genuine face-to-face meeting. However, properly used, Facebook is a marvelous planning tool and adjunct to the operation of a small group or other group endeavor.
His comment that a small group went of summer hiatus becasue everyone was too busy says as much or more about the small group than anything else. If the group was working really well, it would be a priority in the middle of all that business.
See, what I am thinking is this - the problem is not the pace of our lives, the demands of our jobs, the latest social technology, the problem is us and how we handle and use those things. Relationships cease to function when we cease to work at making them function.
It is not surprising that we do not work hard at relationships, they are risky things. We can get hurt in them. I might even argue that in a sinful world, we usually get hut in them. We can hide in our computers and business and avoid the pain, or we can go out and risk being hurt.
The other thing I think is that Christ set a precedent here. We were not holding up our end of the whole relationship bargain, so He incarnated - reached out in a spectacular way. And frankly, He was rejected, even to death.
IF you are feeling a lack of relationship, that's my question for you - are you reaching out, and when rejected, are you reaching out again?
The world is a sinful place, always has been, always will be (well until the very end). Our job is to figure out how to be good, relational people in a sinful unrelational world. That is what it means to be a Christian.