Saturday, February 06, 2010
It's A Comin'!
Man makes life and is tortured by his creation. Have we heard this theme before? Go ahead, think Mary Shelley. Is it coming to you? Yep - Frankenstein. But in this case, it's a metal man - Ultron - one of the Avengers ultimate baddies. Robot creation of Dr. Hank Pym (Ant Man, Giant Man, Goliath, Yellowjacket, the list goes on), sentient robot Ultron has pestered the Avengers virtually since their inception, and tortured the psychic of Pym until he has undergone multiple personality disorder and any number of other psychological maladies. The robot who would be king has even tried to steal Pym's wife, Janet Van Dyne (The Wasp) to make his own (Jacosta) who, Bride of Frankenstein style turned her back on Ultron and allied with the Avengers.
In point of fact, Ultron is responsible for making two Avengers, not only Jacosta, but one of the Avengers most pivotal characters (an a personal fav of yours truly) The Vision. In many ways Ultron "made" the Avengers - whether its banding together to help their friend Pym through another psychological crisis or to fight Ultron as he, once again, tries to take over the world (where's Pinkie and The Brain when you need them?) it seems like just about the time we are done with the intrepid and seminal band of heroes, Ultron steps in and pulls them together again.
There is only one problem with the metal man - he talks way too much. Not all the pics of hi and that permanently open yap of his. When he recently invaded Tony Stark and his bio-armor and revealed himself as the female you see int he top left corner, and could close his mouth, I thought "Finally, he'll shut the ^#$% up." No such luck, this guy just can't get over himself and his need to yap, yap, yap.
Maybe next time he is captured, they'll rip out his vocal circuits, he'll grow them back, but two pages of quiet would be welcome bliss.
Friday, February 05, 2010
Where's The Church?
Galli’s essay is undoubtedly evangelical in its orientation. But I worry about his choice to locate the church at Golgotha, looking up to Jesus on the cross. While perhaps only symbolic, our formulation of the vertical will significantly alter the resources we have to bring to bear on the horizontal. And how we structure these issues matters, a point Galli clearly agrees with and uses against those who are advocating spiritual formation. But the Church does not look up at Christ on the cross, but rather looks up to the ascended Christ. By positioning the Church at Pentecost rather than Golgotha, we preserve and maintain the Church’s distinctly pneumetological character, a distinction that it might be said is particular to evangelicalism and our emphasis on the contemporary working of God through conversion.In my never to be humble opinion, both men have a good point. We do indeed "look up at the ascended Christ," but we must remember that the early church did so while still feeling the sting of the crucifixion.
Too often we stand in the glory of Pentecost without the requisite humility of the Cross. In point of fact, if we do not take the entire journey with Christ, cross to grave to resurrection then to be followed by the indwelling on the Spirit, our claims of victory are hollow.
There could be no Pentecost if there was not a crucifixion. Too often we rush to the former and ignore the later.
I attended university as the hand-held calculator came into vogue. My first 4-function cost well over $100. I took most of undergrad school on a slide rule because I could not afford a scientific calculator. There is a feel, an intuition, to higher mathematics that one can develop only when one has lived in the in the boredom and mechanics of arithmetic. There is an understanding of the "guts" of math that is missing in those who only know the buttons of a device when it comes to addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. When one can handle numbers as easily as one breaths, something that comes only with doing lots and lots of arithmetic, then the manipulation of algebraic equations, really just doing arithmetic in the abstract, practically happens in your head without effort.
Absent the arithmetic background, steeped only in the calculator, algebra and beyond becomes complex, difficult, and often done wrong.
So it is with Pentecost - it is the calculator. When we rush to its use, we first grossly underestimate its power and usefulness, but we also tend to misuse it.
The Cross and Pentecost are a package deal. The church stands at Pentecost, but the Cross casts an immense shadow over the crowd.
Thursday, February 04, 2010
Been There, Seen This
- They become a gossip group.
- They become a one-man show.
- They become a place to complain about the church.
- They become a place for crazy people to take over.
- They become an end in themselves.
As my title to this post implies, I think I have been in a small group somewhere that embodies each of those problems. I just want to make a couple of comments, one about small groups generally and one about that last "landmine."
Small groups are often just a way to try and make that which is inherently not intimate, appear intimate. In the end, one of the very important things about being Christians is to grow intimate with Jesus Christ. That means, I believe, that we must learn how to be intimate with each other so we can learn how to be intimate with Jesus. And since churches these day tend to be more about "the show" (excuse me "Worship") than anything else, intimacy is not high on the list of things happening in the church. So, staffs throw small groups into the mix as a way to create the appearance of intimacy in the church, but not having to be bothered with it themselves.
Now, no pastor can be intimate with the entire congregation, except in a church too small to actually support a pastor's salary. However, if pastors are not modeling, in a way apparent to the entire congregation, intimacy in their own lives forget it - small groups will never work.
Frankly, it is the appendage nature of most small group ministries that results in the problems listed here. If they are not tended and shaped and worked at very hard, they become precisely the problems these "landmines" illustrate.
And the last "landmine" is the strongest indicator of that. People want intimacy at the deepest levels, and they want to discover levels they did not know they had - levels only intimacy with Christ can reveal. That is why they tend to become ends unto themselves.
Churches need to learn intimacy in so many ways or small groups will continue to "go wrong."
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
Age and Leadership
The church needs all three types of leaders, and they need each other. We need the church to remain doctrinally pure, and we should desire more people to become followers of Christ. However, as I continue to work with younger leaders, I am convinced that if the church is going to thrive in this emerging culture, then we who are more traditional and pragmatic need to willingly and gradually hand over the leadership of the church to the younger generation. But the Younger must also be willing to listen to the wisdom of those who have preceded them.The church often ends up lurching because we do not do a good job of training leaders and then letting them loose. Several factors at play here.
The segregation of youth from the general congregation is both a good and a bad thing. Kids want to do things us old folks don't, but they have to be a part of the whole church, they are often treated as a "church" within the church. As leaders emerge in this mini-youth-church, they think they should be able to step into leadership in the adult church. If they viewed their small leadership in the larger context, they'd learn they still need to learn.
Which leads to the second issue, most young people want serious leadership when they are way too young - I know I did. Frankly, I think it is natural, but because they are not a part of the broader church, they decide to go somewhere else to be leaders. We lose a lot that way.
But under this scenario, they come back in a revolutionary fashion instead of a transitional one, in part because the old folks keep wanting to hold the reins.
The bottom line problem is the desire to lead, to accumulate power as opposed to the desire to serve. Most young people want to lead to use it as a platform to explain why they are the way they are. Most old people want to lead to preserve what they have built. Both are wrong, we lead to serve the led.
That's the essential lesson of leadership that only age, and then only sometimes, can teach us.
Tuesday, February 02, 2010
The Vision Thing
Regardless of who you are or what books you have read, if you attend a church, they have a vision. I don’t care if they are a house church, mega-church, mainline, or inter-denominational; at one point, there was a vision. If it is / was a good vision, it starts with the Gospel and transformation. Everything else (aesthetics, methods, music style, etc.) comes secondary.See that pretty much everywhere. In some senses I cannot blame whoever is making decisions in the church. See, here's the thing. The Gospel and transformation is hard and not a lot of people are going to sign on for that. Yet the church has to support itself and that means butts in the pews and donation is the plate. The author, Don Dudley takes this set up as an opportunity to admonish the church jumpers of the world. I look at it a bit differently.
It’s all down hill from here.
The problem is, most people do not pick out what church they go to based on vision. Instead, they pick through secondary things. Very few people research what the church stands for before they go. They research the style and MAYBE the doctrinal stances.
Often, we are left with only a few people who still see the vision and chase it. The rest are just consumers. Arguments flair up between those who have completely bought into the vision, and the rest. People get upset and leave the church.
I wanna ask why it is that the "few people who still see the vision and chase it," are not using that vision to draw in the people that are there for all the "wrong" reasons. There is a vision problem if it does not attract people. As I said before, not a lot of people typically are willing to sigh on for "the Gospel and transformation." But if they are not, it's because we are not doing it right.
Here's how it ought to work. In 1989, I stepped into the Pontiac dealership looking to buy a reasonable car - a two-door, mid-size. But sitting there on the lot was a slightly used 1989 Bonneville SSE - an absolute automotive work-of-art. And - because it was slightly used, the price was right where I wanted it. I had that car for 20 years, put 200,000 miles on it and it is still being driven by a friend. It was not what I went to the dealership for, but it was so much better than what I was looking for, I just had to buy it.
People come to church for a lot of reasons, most of them have nothing to do with the real reason the church exists. That's to be expected. The problem is the real reason the church exists is supposed to be so attractive, such a deal (like the Bonneville) that it's what the people that come will end up buying.
If that is not happening - something is wrong with "the vision." That's where we need to start.
Monday, February 01, 2010
Where The Line?
First the necessary disclaimer - it is possible to love a gay person while at the same time decrying homosexual behavior as a sin. A lot of what I do is a sin too, people love me, I love them. That's not at issue. What's at issue is what the church says is and is not sin. That can't change. We ordain sinners every day, but we DO NOT knowingly ordain people that claim their particular sin is not sin, at least publicly, they may rationalize their private behavior privately to themselves that way, but not publicly.
The issue that Toby raises is an interesting one. It is an effort to introduce a confession (formal document of doctrinal belief) to the church. It is one rooted in the evils of apartheid and it decries racism. Toby rightly projects forward that such a confessional base could in the future be used as weapon in the gay ordination fights since the primary argument of the pro-ordination forces lie in the language of racial discrimination.
So, the question is, do we oppose something that is essentially good, if not very necessary, because it might lead to mischief?
I come back to one unassailable fact, all the problems discussed here are rooted in making broad generalizations out of what are essentially private issues. A person stuck in homosexuality, a private issue, tries to justify it by forcing public acceptance - a broad generalization. So to make the broad generalization, based on the possibility of future problems, to oppose the adoption of this new confession only escalates the problem, pushing it ever more broadly public, when it should be dealt with privately.
But bottom line, should the confession be opposed? Yes, but on the grounds that it is not needed given the state of racial relations in our church, not because it might be used in the ordination battles. That is a fine distinction, but an important one.
The bottom line is this - our response to the pro-gay-ordination forces has to be over and over and over again, "No, but I love you." "You're wrong, but I love you." "That's not right, but I love you." They may, like the rich young ruler that confronted Christ, walk away - at that point they are in Christ's hands.
But to escalate the battle into a battleground where there is, as of yet, no fight is to say things like "NO! And I don't want you near me." That's not the redeeming message of Christ.
Sunday, January 31, 2010
Sermons and Lessons - Special Edition
The great faith of this mother who breaks all boundaries out of love is a model and challenge for our time. The Canaanite women would not accept the idea that Jesus was only sent for certain people. Her faith melted that barrier. It calls all of us to receive what Jesus has to offer and to push the limits and boundaries ourselves as we present that same Jesus and what he offers to others. We need to make the church a place to which a modern Canaanite woman, disadvantaged, despised and marginalised within society can come with her plea for mercy and grace and we need to make that church a place from which the word goes out, as from the Lord himself, “You have great faith. Your request is granted!”Read the whole thing.