Saturday, December 04, 2010
Friday, December 03, 2010
I was recently in a discussion with some Roman Catholic friends that wanted to know if I thought the Shroud of Turin was "the real deal." My response was "we'll never know" - and I like it that way.
The "assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" lies at the very heart of who we are as Christians. Without it, we are in a very real sense no different than a secularist.
Sometimes as Christians we focus on salvation and works that we forget some of the genuine underlying things about being Christian. One of them is a belief in and contact with the supernatural. By definition the supernatural is beyond our science, mathematics and even our logic.
When we attempt to reduce faith in God into something that we can encounter on our own terms, as opposed to His, we reduce Christianity itself. It becomes in some sense our religion when in fact it should be us becoming God's people.
I believe a large part of the Christian walk to be a walk towards transcendence. We should be moving away from that which grounds us in the here and now and towards an eternal perspective. For only by gaining such an eternal perspective can we effectively be transformed in the here and now.
I have always thought that the best way to reach those with "logical" objections to belief in God is to change the subject. Somewhere in them is a piece of the transcendent God. It is to that which we must appeal.
Thursday, December 02, 2010
It's Time We Asked Ourselves...
It just seems like every time a bunch of evangelicals get together to do something like a blog (conferences...missions...politics)it:
- never really gets off the ground because all we do is talk
- It "burns out" relatively quickly
- It falls apart amidst scandal in the leadership
- it breaks down into infighting and the wider audience just goes away.
I know not every time (so don't bother commenting with counter examples) but it does happen with some frequency. There must be an underlying reason?
Well, I am going to offer my answer to that question - it may not hold true for historical evangelicalism, and it may not hold true for evangelical theology, but it certainly ho9lds true for evangelicalism as a movement.
That's it, that's all. We are interested in our expression of Christ. we are so busy with our ministry that we do not have time to devote to other ministry. We want the press for ourselves. We want the ministry affiliated with our organization. I could go on, but I won't - you get the idea.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!I wonder what a group blog written by people with such an attitude would look like?
By way of disclaimer - I am as guilty of this as every one else and have participated in group blogs and done the same thing - I dno not single out the group I linked to here - it is just an example.
Related Tags: Illuminated Scripture
Wednesday, December 01, 2010
The Balance of Leadership
MacDonald then goes on to describe what he considers 'consumer-driven religion' as something that has completely rewritten the job description of many pastors. He says: "They’re no longer expected to offer moral counsel in pastoral care sessions or to deliver sermons that make the comfortable uneasy. Church leaders who continue such ministerial traditions pay dearly."I think both MacDonald and Rhoades are right. Pastors switched "audiences" and the audience they switched to is demanding - that demand is not often expressed directly, but is rather expressed by how full the pews and plate are.
I clearly don't run in the United Church of Christ circles, abut I find MacDonald's assessment of the 'consumer-driven' church to be a little off-base.
If anything, I don't find these trends to be 'consumer-driven' but rather 'pastor-driven'.
Starting back with the old Willow "seeker sensitive' style of worship service, emphasis shifted to make the worship experience more palatable, not necessarily for the believer, but for the unbeliever. Music, message topics... literally everything was turned upside down in order to reach a target audience. Some still argue that that in the rush to be more relevant, the gospel was watered down. Of course, Willow has since changed its strategy because of a number of reasons. (and we could debate the whole SS movement all day long). But my point: this wasn't consumer driven. It was pastor-driven.
In fact, many of the church's that I have the opportunity to work with that are really kickin' it are FAR from consumer driven. They are staff and lead pastor driven. Services are crafted, not by what Jill or Jane in the pew wants to hear; but rather by what the leadership feels will make the greatest impact on their lives; and what will communicate the gospel in the most powerful and dramatic way.
Leadership is funny stuff - the best leader generally cannot take people where they do not want to go. Hence most military leaders are much more happy with an all volunteer force - everybody in the military wants to be there and will therefore do well. Hence problems in public education where education is not valued. Even the best teachers can educate to only a limited extent if people do not want to be educated. And finally, hence politicians seem to be all things to all people - they have to be to get enough critical mass to get elected.
See, leadership is really about assisting people on a journey they have already started.
So back to the church, MacDonald is right in this - we now view pastors as evangelists and they are not the same thing. Paul was an evangelist - Timothy was a pastor - hence Paul traveled and after a time Timothy had to stay in Ephesus. The roles compliment each other - but they are not the same thing. Evangelists "make" Christians - pastors "build" disciples. (I use quotes around those verbs to indicate that it's really the Holy Spirit and the individual that do that work, the evangelist or pastor is just an aid.)
We need both. The trend seems to be to have a central evangelist (the preacher) and many pastors (the congregation functioning in small groups, etc.) Traditionally there were many evangelists (the congregation bringing friends to church) and one pastor. I am unsure why we changed models - becasue to paraphrase Chesterton - I don't think it failed, I just don't think it was ever well executed.
The problem with the new model is it breeds immaturity in leadership and thus robs us of any leadership towards discipleship.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
The students shouldn’t wait for the commencement of “normal life” before they continue their studies, Lewis urges. “Life has never been normal,” he says.I would put it a bit differently - with Christ event he ordinary is extraordinary.
So keep after it—in whatever you’re doing. There’s glory in working as unto the Lord. There’s glory to behold in the mundane. There’s reason to learn in war time. There’s reason, in everything, to follow after Christ.
One of the things I really dislike about the growing of church staffs and the increase in "professionalism" in Christianity - and the same thing applies to shot term missions is the sense that we have to do something extraordinary to be a genuine disciple. I think that misses the real vision of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
Jesus did come to transform us, but in the sense that He wanted to transform us from child to adult, not in the sense that He wanted to transform us from beast to vegetable. Becoming a disciple of Christ is about becoming complete.
IN order to make his point very plain, a good friend of mine asked me when I went of Young Life staff, "What the f&^% would someone with straight A's in chemistry want to do this kind of ministry for - I think your gifts are plain enough." After I left YL, I had lunch with him and told him they were some of the wisest words I have ever heard.
Think about it.
Monday, November 29, 2010
The Place of Preaching
Our communities are filled with dying churches that relied for too long on the spiritual pithiness of a preacher to save them.Couldn't agree more. I've been in too many churches with great preaching and nothing else. Also been in churches that functioned well in the absence anything resembling good preaching. But the functioning of the church is only a side issue in some sense, the essential question is does preaching make disciples?
The answer is most assuredly not - disciples make disciples. Becoming a disciple is an apprenticeship, not a lesson. Preaching is a component of that apprenticeship to be sure, but it is not the whole thing. Further, someone that is truly becoming a disciple will find precious metal in dross preaching.
I love watching New Yankee Workshop. So much so that I have taken up the hobby of woodworking myself (see left). All I can tell you is watching in on TV and doing it yourself are two very different things. Norm Abrams has taught me a great deal about how to do stuff, but until I did it none of it had any genuine meaning.
Moreover - I never could do some of the things I saw him do on TV, but a quick trip to the wood working store and a discussion AT THE TABLE SAW with the guys there cleared up the mystery in seconds.
Preaching can reach our minds and our minds can reach our hearts - but only practice, with some help from seasoned veterans, can train our hands. Christ came to reclaim all of us - not just our minds and hearts, but also our hands.