Saturday, August 21, 2010
Friday, August 20, 2010
And finally, we need the right tools to measure spiritual formation. There are some good tools available like Randy Frazee's Christian Life Profile and Monvee.com, which John Ortberg likes.I think the idea of a "tool" to measure spiritual formation is somehow just wrong - any tool will tend towards mass production, and one of the big points of spiritual formation is that it is highly individualistic.
I think the biggest problem facing real spiritual formation in the church is that it is an apprenticeship program and we want to run churches like a diploma factory.
What Willard does get right it this:
The church will start to change when the leadership changes. A pastor with a vital spiritual life will will apprentice someone in the church, and so on, and so on, and so on.
What can pastors do to change this dynamic?
Change their definition of success. They need to have a vision of success rooted in spiritual terms, determined by the vitality of a pastor's own spiritual life and his capacity to pass that on to others.
If I were setting out to truly change the church in this fashion, I would do it one person at a time. - forget "tools."
Name a profession, and you will find that education does not equal professionalism - that can only be gained with time and experience. Pros know pros - and pros know when rookies become pros. It is not measured, it just is.
I have taken up woodworking as a weekend distraction. I recently made an arts&crafts end table for a couple as a wedding gift. They profess to love it. I have pointed out to them every rookie mistake I made on it. Until I pointed it out, they had not seen it. My response was "a real woodworker will see this thing coming a mile away."
That's what being a Christian is like.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
This One Is "Just Right"
- You can do a lot of things in a mediocre (or poor) way, or you can do a few things extremely well.
- Over-programming creates an illusion of fruitfulness that may just be busy-ness.
- Over-programming is a detriment to single-mindedness in a community.
- Over-programming runs the risk of turning a church into a host of extracurricular activities, mirroring the “Type-A family” mode of suburban achievers.
- Over-programming dilutes actual ministry effectiveness.
- Over-programming leads to segmentation among ages, life stages, and affinities, which can create divisions in a church body.
- Over-programming creates satisfaction in an illusion of success; meanwhile mission suffers.
- Over-programming reduces margin in the lives of church members.
- Over-programming gets a church further away from the New Testament vision of the local church.
- Over-programming is usually the result of un-self-reflective reflex reactions to perceived needs and and an inability to kill sacred cows that are actually already dead.
Related Tags: Illuminated Scripture
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
The "Bad News" Of The Gospel
Jehoiakim had one of his servants read the scroll of Jeremiah’s prophecies out loud. As he listened, the king would take a knife and cut off portions of the scroll, burning them in the fire that the king used to warm himself (36:21-23). Jehoiakim showed no interest in hearing God’s word through Jeremiah: “Neither the king nor his attendants showed any signs of fear or repentance at what they heard” (36:24).I think there are two levels where this is true. One is the obvious level about rules we do not like. Admonitions about homosexual practice are increasingly ignored - certainly by the Episcopal church, and soon by others. But I think that almost minor compared to the more general level on which we experience the central truth Roberts identities.
If you’re receiving these Reflections, you surely care deeply about Scripture and its truth. I doubt that you’d be tempted to imitate Jehoiakim in any literal way. But there are parts of God’s Word that are difficult to hear. Yes, it is full of good news and reassurance. But it is also full of corrections and admonitions. Scripture cuts to the heart of our sin, calling us to repentance. And sometimes we’d rather not listen to such challenges. At least I’ll admit that sometimes I’d rather not pay attention to the parts of the Bible that unsettle me. So, though I’d never actually cut them out of the Bible and burn them in my fireplace, I do tend to ignore them.
Too often, way too often, the gospel is offered as a means of self-improvement, without acknowledgment of the fact that the road to such improvement begins with repentance - and further that each step on that road begins with a prayer of confession. We want to be good, but we want to ignore the fact that we are sinners.
In fact, I think it fair to say that we try to do away with the "rules" that most confront us with our sinfulness. Rather than confess, we change God's church in a way that there is, apparently, nothing to confess.
But what is truly amazing about these facts, is that we cheat ourselves out of so much that is so good. We are the one major impediment to actually achieving the state of blessedness that we so desire. In taking the shortcut, we never arrive at the destination.
Maybe instead of tearing it up and throwing it in the fire, we should just follow the map God has given us.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Don't We All Have Special Needs?
Recently I had a great conversation with a friend of mine about how to incorporate people with special needs into the life of the church.There are just two comments I want to make here. Firstly, is being a Christian about cognition? I mean really? Does that mean that smart people are "better" Christians, than less intelligent people? (let's forget "special needs" for a minute.) We must realize that the presumption that Christianity is about cognition completely denies the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
For the most part, our culture and society tell us that those with "special needs" or "disabilities" are not capable of contributing to society. Individuals with special needs are not always able to live independently. It seems rather selfish to me really. When you serve someone who has a disability, from the get go you know it isn't going to be reciprocal. Or is it? For those with cognitive disabilities, we wonder how this person could teach us anything being that our ability to understand is better than theirs. Or are there other ways of understanding?
In our society we place a high value on verbal communication and cognitive understanding. But are these the only ways in which we learn and communicate? And to take it to the next level so to speak, are these the only ways in which God communicates to and ministers to people? If someone cannot cognitively understand that Jesus is God's Son does that mean they don't understand that at all?
People that know me tell me I am really smart - I'll let you decide. What I can tell you is this. My Christian walk has largely been about finding a way to push my cognitive skills to the sidelines so that I could experience the presence of my Lord and Savior - NOT JUST THINK ABOUT IT.
Second point - the line between "special needs" and something we all are, "needy," is pretty doggone indistinct. I know people that are so emotionally crippled that they can barely function, let alone "contribute." I can state with near certainty that every Christian has been in a situation rendered completely untenable for what we thought was "ministry" because someone in an emotionally needy state overwhelmed the room. I've even been in large worship services and small groups and everything in between where it has happened.
Theologically speaking, there is no distinction between "special needs" and just plain-old "needy." Both are symptoms of sin.. But here is where things get really tricky. Our inability to communicate with someone, whether their needs be cognitive, emotional, or otherwise is a function of our sin. Yep, in the end we are all in the stew together.
Here's what I think is the real problem. The incarnation is all about God meeting us where we are. But we keep trying to institutionalize and fit people into our programs. The fact of the matter is, as Christians our calling is to meet people where they are - and everyone is in an at least slightly different place. The lines that get drawn are not about how God sees someone, but about our efforts to organize ministry.
Maybe the problem is not someone with "special needs." Maybe the problem is our inability to meet people where they are.
Monday, August 16, 2010
The subject of Spiritual Gifts is very confusing. Christianity has done a fine job murdering this subject.And therein lies my beef with most of Pentecostalism.
Spiritual gifts are first of all spiritual. They are not physical gifts you were born with, they are spiritual gifts you are re-born with.
Spiritual gifts don’t show up by psycho-analyzing yourself. Spiritual gifts work by studying and knowing the Giver.
Spiritual gifts are not primarily exercised when we have a better self-image. In fact, spiritual gifts are best exercised when we have a very realistic view of who we are in the flesh plus a realistic view of who Christ is.
Spiritual gifts are not about you.
- "I am blessed by my spiritual gift."
- "My spiritual gift allows me to...."
- "As a person gifted to do x, I should not have to do y."
Which leads me to that most touchy of subjects - tongues. Consider:
I Cor. 14:5 - Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying.Tongues, it seems, is self-edifying. And that is OK - after all, it is given by God, but since it is self-edifying, keep it to yourself.
Being a Christian, in all its expressions - the gifts included - is about being pulled out of yourself and learning to live solely for God's benefit, which means typically for the benefit of others. I am so tired of evangelism that "sells" Christianity as a means of self-improvement, self-actualization, or simply self- help. That's not what it is. Those things happen, but they are by-product, they are not the point.
And the most interesting thing is that we cannot even hope to achieve them until we stop trying to. The more we talk about them, the more we are focused on them - the more we are focused on ourselves - the less likely we are to actually get whatever it is we come to Christianity hoping to get. I cannot help but recall the words to a wonderful hymn:
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.