Saturday, August 07, 2010
Friday, August 06, 2010
I agree with Brent about how redundant the Christian blogging community is, which is why I probably have fewer friends in it than I might otherwise. I have never seen the point of writing what I thought could be found a dozen other places online. And while I’m pretty sure everything that I’ve written could be found elsewhere, I haven’t found that place yet.Matt has a point here, but I think he is missing the bigger picture. I think he is creating too clean a divide between blogging and social networking. I think blogging is less about content and more about community building - and it takes that community a step deeper than one can with Twitter or Facebook. However, it too has limits.
But the more important point Brent makes is that blogging is essentially vain. And while he means that in the sense of ‘pride,’ I actually think the Ecclesiastes notion of ‘vanity’ is a better description: empty, meaningless, chasing after the wind.
Good conversations in blogging are increasingly rare. It’s mostly words, words, and more words, with very little substance and depth. We can only survive in the shallows for so long–eventually, we must head off to the depths, to the books and the treatises and the classics.
Frankly, to go much deeper than blogging goes now requires a level of trust that can only come with face-to-face contact, and then there is a hesitancy to have discussion that have been so intimate in a setting, like blogging that is not so intimate.
Sadly, there are many barriers that can prevent a blogging community from becoming a personal community, but it can be hoped that the "lacking" Anderson expresses will drive one to find a personal community in a different venue. If so, then blogging has made a valuable contribution indeed.
As to blogging being "vain." Well, the writer of Ecclesiastes tells us that all is vanity. I also think that the lesson from that marvelous book of scripture is not that content removes the vain aspect. Rather the lesson is that it is the Holy Spirit that grants meaning to our exercises. I even think the Holy Spirit can add meaning to a blog post that was written in vanity.
Vanity is about our standing with God as writer, or reader, of a blog, or any other endeavor. I too have had the sense of lacking that Anderson expresses. My response to it is to seek God's face in prayer and scripture - confession and surrender. When I am true to that effort, the sense of vanity, in all things I do, tends to disappear.
Thursday, August 05, 2010
If we tell others, "I forgive your sin" even though they refuse to acknowledge their sin, we remove the very incentive the gospel places upon them to confess their sins and to seek forgiveness. If we take preemptive action by granting forgiveness of sin to those who do not repent, on what basis could the church ever follow the procedures of Matthew 18:15-17?I have had a little more experience in my life where forgiveness has been demanded of me without so much as apology than I would like. Such is little more than justification of the behavior of the offender. Simply put, if they thought they did something wrong - they'd apologize, an act that implies repentance.
There is a proper biblical or gospel order. We are to imitate God. God forgives the sins of those who repent (cf. 1 John 1:9). Likewise, we must always grant forgiveness to those who repent (cf. Luke 17:3).
In Mark 11:25 Jesus calls us to be forgiving. Scripture requires us to distinguish between being forgiving, which is the virtue of always being ready and eager to forgive, and the act of forgiving, which is the actual remission of the sin done against us. Thus, as God is always forgiving, which means that he is eager and desirous to forgive, and as God forgives those who repent, so godliness/Christlikeness is to be and to do the same.
In the personal realm, to forgive the unapologetic is to ask to have the offense repeated. I think most of us have experienced that, often to our great displeasure, and in some cases deep pain.
In the spiritual realm it is nothing short of cheap grace. Think about it for a minute - Christ died so that we could be forgiven. He was resurrected to complete the job and transform us, as He was transformed. When we demand forgiveness without repentance - when we claim forgiveness, but change not our lives, we leave Jesus nailed on that cross - He never gets to the tomb, He never walks among us.
Yeah, He has paid the price, but the job is not complete until we change has He is changed.
I do not want to leave Jesus nailed to the cross.
Related Tags: Illuminated Scripture
Wednesday, August 04, 2010
But I also see that holding church office is a great way to mentor members to become stronger spiritual leaders. Ongoing officer training gives the opportunity to teach such things as:I personally think it should be mandatory for leadership.
* how to pray out loud with people
* how to visit parishioners in the hospital
* how to lead a devotional lesson
* how to articulate one's faith
The hope would be that all church members could do these simple things, regardless of the specific job descriptions of our church officers. Yes, they might need to know some theological dogma and be able to identify some Bible stories and passages. But they also need to be mentored in spiritual practices most of the time.
In my tradition the bifurcation between running the secular institution and serving the spiritual body is too great. So many of the institutional decisions are devoid of apparent spiritual consequence so it is easy to ignore it. But that is not the point.
But with Christ it is less the "what" and more the "how." I have been in too many ugly and hurtful leadership meetings. Disciples should be people that could conduct God's business differently somehow. Disagreement does not have to lead to rancor.
But more, as the recognized leadership of the church, their example matters. If we pray before we decide - the congregation will see that and wonder. If we make hard decisions if the face of adversity with cheer and joy, the congregation will see that. And in so seeing they will see how Christ truly changes lives.
Tuesday, August 03, 2010
In addition, lectionary preaching is a wonderful alternative to the “whatever text strikes Brother Billy this week” method. Lectionaries bring Christians together, as many different churches read the same lessons and hear sermons from the same Gospel or Epistle passages. Lectionary resources allow preachers to share their ideas on how they will approach the text. And, of course, the lectionary keeps the scriptures front and center. You can’t just chase the issue of the day when the lectionary does its job.It is a rich post, but I have a very different perspective as someone who grew up in the liturgical church; someone for whom, at one point, the liturgy did grow stale and lifeless.
One of my favorite times in the worship service is the congregational confession. Standing together, saying in unity the words that agree we are all failures and all in need of grace, I really feel at home. It’s the same with the Apostle’s and Nicene Creeds, the Lord’s Prayer, questions from the catechisms and our weekly responsive Psalms. Together, as one body, no one showing off, we confess our sins, announce our faith and talk to God in the words He has given us.
I love the fact that liturgical worship isn’t every worshiper doing whatever he or she wants to do. I’m not one to criticize the particular behaviors of any group of worshipers, but I would like to suggest that there is something really wrong with a service where people are given permission to try and outdo one another in participation and enthusiasm. Now many of my friends call this being “free” in worship, but this sort of freedom seems to have certain predictable consequences.
Evangelicalism has become a cult of celebrities. Leading pastors are superstars, even cult-like figures of adoration and near-worship. Most evangelical worship encourages this imitation of the entertainer. Musicians, preachers, worship leaders all take their cues in style, dress and manner from the entertainment idolatry of our culture. Liturgical worship does not encourage this, and actually works against it by restraining the minister within the liturgy. The minister is the servant of the Word. He is ordained for the ministry of Word and sacrament, and his personality must become his servant that the Word might be heard and seen.
Yet it appears to me that the answer to deadness in worship is not sheer innovation. It is not rejecting the liturgy that brings to us the Christian tradition in the very words of scripture itself. The judgments of modern worship consumers on liturgy are not reliable. It will survive, and if we value it, it will thrive now and in the future. It will outlast polls and market studies, because it has outlasted every trend it has ever faced, and yet it continues to serve the church.
Spencer was right - liturgy will survive if Christianity survives. The problem is its wonders, depth and sincerity are a product not of the liturgy itself, but of those that practice it. I learned to love and embrace it - again - when my faith grew deeper than my creativity; when I learned to at least try, and let the liturgy help me long for God more than I long for self-expression.
As hinted in the quotes, liturgy moves us from consumers of worship to participants. As long as the Holy Spirit continue to make some into His disciples liturgy will survive.
Monday, August 02, 2010
There's Trendy and The There's "Trendy"
- Uncritically dismiss it due to its trendiness
- Uncritically absorb it due to its being embraced by others we know or respect; vicariously feeding on others’ excitement about it without personally digesting it ourselves.
- Consider what it means, and whether it is biblical; ponder what is true in it; ask why it is trendy.
A bit of obvious analysis actually, but in some sense it misses the point. And the example offered later that the underlying ideas of the Reformation were trendy in their time, completely misses the effect of modern communication in such a situation.
Critical analysis is something one does with an idea, by the time it has become a trend - such analysis is out the door, uncriticality is the name of the game.
Further more, modern communication technique is largely uncritical. Well done video does not allow for sustained argument or deep analysis. It imparts information very well, but argument and ponderance are very different from mere information. When we reduce an idea that require one ponder it to mere information that can be transmitted by modern technique, we remove much of the strength from it.
Ortlund is right that there is often something good and useful behind a trend. Most people never generally bothered to look behind a trend - but the tools of communication in this day and age actually make the trends more impenetrable. It is harder work to look there than it used to be.
Therefore, it seems reasonable to fight letting a good idea become trendy. The idea loses out to the image.