Saturday, July 10, 2010
Friday, July 09, 2010
Value and Civilization
As a thought experiment, pretend you are a complete innocent, knowing nothing about this society (I am talking here about the developed world as a whole—not just the Golden Calf that conservatives and liberals alike have made out of the United States of America, worshipping—what?—themselves? their demographic and historical good luck?—as they dance about singing its praises). After observing this society, what would you say its values are? It seems to me the first and last thing you would say would be money, and, more broadly, the refusal to believe in limits of any kind. After that, you would probably say health—that is, the refusal of mortality. And finally, you would presumably say pleasure.Much of this started as a discussion on American exceptionalism. I think critics of American exceptionalism miss one of the major points.
Money, health, pleasure. Fine things all (I am emphatically not being ironic; they are indeed fine things). But as a basis for a civilization, for a values system? It is one thing to be selfish; it may well be hard wired into us. But stupidity isn’t, so at least we should not be stupid.
American was designed for GOOD people. Money, health, pleasure are only good values when tempered with restraint and moderation. The rub is, it is not up to government to make good people, it is up to culture, and culture is formed by any number of sources - most importantly THE CHURCH.
Are we out of balance? Absolutely, but the answer is not to shove government into the business of making people GOOD - that's a proven loser.
The problem, frankly, is that in pursuit of all sorts of the wrong things, the church has punted on its role to shape culture. Yes, the church has met unparalleled competition in that department in recent years, but we should be thoughtful enough and creative enough to overcome the competition. In fact, I would go so far as to argue that if we had been doing the job properly in the first place - forming GOOD people instead of a GOOD cultural veneer, the competition would have never stood a chance.
America is exceptional, provided that all its parts do their job. Time for the church to stand up and get busy.
Thursday, July 08, 2010
What IS Our Job?
My personal view is that it is not our job to transform our culture, let alone the world. Our job is to do the specific thing God has called us to do, whether that is evangelizing the neighborhood, working against the sexual slave trade, relieving world hunger, or whatever. Our job is to do that faithfully and well–and to let God take care of transforming the culture.I agree with that statement, but I think it requires some additional analysis. First of all - some of us are called to do things that are culturally transformative. Some are called to politicians and bureaucrats. These people are part of the church and their role is vital.
Transforming culture is an incredibly complex thing that no person or group can possibly grasp. It’s something that happens, but it happens over centuries. The process is so slow that it is indiscernible to us except in hindsight. I think talk about transforming the world usually fills us with dreams and visions of our own power, when really our vision should be on the people we’re are seeking to love in Christ’s name.
Secondly, in a democracy or republic such as ours, sometimes, and only sometimes, the church MUST serve as a resource for those people. A politician needs the demonstrated will of the people behind him or her to get things done. The church can ideally fill that role - on an as needed basis.
In the end I would restate things this way. It is not the church;s job to transform culture. It is the church's job to make disciples. Disciples will change culture - particularly when there are enough of them to constitute a clear majority. The problems arise when the church puts changing culture ahead of making disciples.
Of course, many are concerned that culture stands in the way of making disciples. That simply represents a lack of faith. Jesus Christ is the most winsome human ever to have existed. If we can but mirror that, then we will make disciples - regardless of culture.
Related Tags: Illuminated Scripture
Wednesday, July 07, 2010
How To Kill A Church
- Wrong team members
- Bad vision
- Control Freak
There are two things that Ron does not discuss in this that I think are vitally important.
The first is that nothing - and I mean nothing kills discipleship faster than micromanagement. If the idea is to build better disciples, and I think that is pretty much the aim of all we do in church, but we do it for them - they are not going to grow up. Parents know that about kids, but it seems like church leaders just cannot figure it out about other Christians.
The other is that if things like "insecurity" and "control freak" are your reasons for micromanaging, then you may want to deeply examine your motives for being in ministry at all. Chances are very good you got into ministry not from some sense of calling, but in an effort to overcome your insecurities or becasue you like to "be in charge."
Neither of these points help the church be the church - and that, after all, is why we are here.
Tuesday, July 06, 2010
Making Scripture Trite
Anyone can face moments of loneliness--times when you long for companionship or when you want to be seen, to be known and to be loved. Whether you're married or single, surrounded by friends and family, or by yourself, these moments can lead to sadness and fear. But the Bible reminds readers that God knows us, loves us and that God hears our cries. Finally, they remind us that God is always with us.It's a slide show and it sort of gave me the shivers. Somehow, I just do not think of scripture as being that utilitarian - nor do I find words, even scriptural words, that comforting in times of genuine emotional distress, loneliness or otherwise.
Use this collection of Bible verses to ease feelings of loneliness. [emphasis added]
I have most certainly felt intensely lonely in my life. I have also found that the answer usually lies in getting up and going to be with someone. Sometimes, that's hard, I know - but then that is what the church is supposed to be for. When we are lonely and we seek God's face in words, we fail to realize that God is in our fellow Christians - we enhance our isolation rather than get out of it.
Secondly, this approach is just proof-texting at its very worst - its reducing Christianity to something I plug in when I have a felt need as opposed to something that consumes and transforms me.
Like everyone - I went through a stage like this, where I combed the Bible to find verse to help me with situation X, but more and more I find that more distraction than help. Because it is not servant lie, it stand in the way, I think, of genuine communion with the Holy Spirit - the ultimate answer to loneliness.
Monday, July 05, 2010
Though consistent church attendance is required in Scripture (Hebrews 10:25) and was practiced by the early church (Acts 2:42-44), 35% of professing believers today choose not to attend1; this should give any thoughtful Christian pause. The days are not long past when church attendance was almost universal in America; even most unbelievers went to church. But if attendance is any indication, it seems that now a full third of people who claim that their Christian faith is "very important to their lives," don’t see the local church as an important part of that faith. Assuming that we do not have to prove to the reader that this development represents a significant problem with a variety of dangerous consequences, we should concern ourselves with locating the origin of this change. Has a seismic shift taken place in the way Christians think about church? Have churches themselves changed such that they are now less attractive to believers? Could it be a mixture of both? To what can we attribute this drooping attendance? How should the church address the issue? The situation is a grave one; the salvation of souls and the health and sanctification of saints is at stake (Hebrews 3:12-13)! A thoughtful book, saturated with penetrating analysis is needed. Unfortunately, "What to Do When You Don’t Want to Go to Church", by Peggy Palau (the wife of evangelist Luis Palau) and Peggy Sue Wells, is not that book.In the critiques of the book the author makes this very cogent analysis
To be completely fair, it doesn’t seem that the authors entirely intended to write such a book. What they did write (or more accurately, what they compiled), however, is something like a folksy pep-talk for those Christians who are too lazy or too traumatized by past experiences to go to church. Whatever its faults, on the whole, the book does manage to achieve its aims. Even the least motivated person wouldn’t find it difficult to complete; weighing in at 200 pages of large print on small paper, it is not a hefty or challenging volume. And the tone is an effective mix of stern and sympathetic, perfect to motivate the lazy and defuse those who cling to past hurts. Yet despite these benefits, the book’s analysis is all too shallow to be widely useful. Though the conclusion is dead on (go to Church no matter how you feel), the book fails to discern and address some of the deeper reasons why so many have abandoned the church.
:The authors show little understanding of the purpose of the church. Though they advocate going to church in order to bless others, most of the book reinforces the notion that the church simply exists to serve the felt needs of the believer. Too many of the authors’ arguments boil down to the notion that we should go to church because it’s a really good way to get what you want (even though we don’t intuitively think so). In the early part of the book they tell us "the key words that define church are connecting and belonging. We long to belong and feel connected").That idea needs to be spread to so many things. In the end, WE, not just the church, exist to glorify God. I think that is the problem I have with Evangelicalism most of all - its about what God has for us, not what we have for God, or more aptly, without God we are and have nothing.
Connection and a sense of belonging may very well be the objects of our desires, but our sense of our needs doesn’t determine the nature of the church. The church exists to glorify God, to preach his Word to the world, to build up believers and to show God’s character in our unity, self sacrificial love and holiness (just to name a few reasons!). Though believers should connect and feel like they belong in a congregation, telling them to attend church for that reason alone seems a bit like encouraging people to go the Louvre because the gift shop is great.
If you think about it - we do not need to be sold on God - He needs to be sold on us, but the glorious thing is - He is already sold on us.