Saturday, February 05, 2011
As devout Catholics and faithful Mormons step forward boldly, evangelical Protestants appear in cultural disarray. The most popular of the new generation of evangelical pastors—Rick Warren and Joel Osteen—stay out of the cultural fray. Evangelical youth may have orthodox opinions on marriage or life, but they're increasingly reluctant to voice those opinions, lest they appear "divisive" or "intolerant." In fact, at times it appears as if much of the evangelical world has retreated into a defensive crouch, eager to promote its universally-loved work for the poor while abjectly apologizing for the cultural battles of years past.As I read this stuff, one overwhelming thought ran through my mind - selfishness. Let me lay this out for you a bit.
Simply put, we evangelicals are blown and tossed by the cultural winds. Right now, the winds are blowing against us, and our young people are reluctant to engage. But God is sovereign, and the fate of the nation is in His hands, not ours. And if we fail, there are others—some from an ancient tradition, some from a new one—who may very well carry out His work with more faith and courage than we ever could.
On a spiritual level Evangelicalism has sought, more than anything else, to grow. That can be reinterpreted to me, culturally conform, for marketing teaches us that it is in such conformation that growth lies. It could even be argued that we have come to measure our success as Evangelicals by our growth, not be any of the other measures that the gospel presents us with.
We live in an incredibly narcissistic age. Therefore, the question that many come to church with is "What's in it for me?" We, desiring to grow, try to give them that. We give them Starbucks coffee. We give them all sorts of self-help advise. We certainly do not straddle them with denominational baggage that they might have to learn or that might somehow hold the church accountable. We also certainly stay away from controversy for controversy is uncomfortable and that's not "for me."
What more, we design our churches so that it is all done for us. We design our "service opportunities" to be minimal invasive - not too much time or effort, just enough to say "I contributed." "Mission trips" are vacations with a little light construction and a few rounds of golf or a visit to a tropical beach - just enough effort to say "I did mission."
Leadership, be it cultural or political, is about service. If we do not teach people how to do service in church, how can we teach them how to led culturally or politically? After all, what is in cultural or political leadership for them?
But what truly and deeply bothers me is this is what we are teaching, actually not teaching, people when we are trying to get them to worship a Lord whose service extended unto death, and whose example we are called upon to follow. How can we say this picture fits with the scriptural mandate to:
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.I do not think we can! Our political and cultural lives are not separate from our spiritual ones. The are instead deeply intertwined. But that interweaving consists not of some proper stance on issues or correct choice in movies, but in the depth and humility of our character - in our willingness to serve.
If we believe, and we sure seem to, that we have the "true gospel." If our theology is really better than that of the Catholics or Mormons, then it should produce better results. If these pieces are to be believed, it is not producing results at all - at least not the ones scripture intends.
Makes me wonder.
Stan Lee was always a bit lame when it came to naming characters for the comics - he tended to lean on the whole cool adjective thing - The "Uncanny" X-Men. But when it came to naming the group of bad guys we examine today, I think he just flat out ran out of ideas - I mean the "Sinister Six"?! But, of course, it is possible that this lame name was a reflection of how lame these guys were as individuals. I have no doubt that such a name represented the full extent of their creative abilities.
Which brings me to the point of this latest series-within-a-series we have been doing here looking at groups of bad guys. What do you do when you have a bunch of incredibly lame bad guys - you form an incredibly lame group - in this case the Sinister Six!
I mean first of all - six what? Meatballs? No wait, that would be the "Savory Six." I know strippers - no, that would be the "Sexy Six" (not to mention completely in violation of the Comics Code Authority. So the absence of a noun is a problem. But so is the necessity for alliteration. Would they not be better served with a more descriptive name like the "Six lame villains hoping that sheer numbers will make them less lame...guys."
Yeah, that's the ticket.
Friday, February 04, 2011
Do You Hear What I Hear?
However, amidst all that role baggage, no role can be more important for the church leader than leveraging godly wisdom and experience to better the functioning of each member of the body of Christ. Yet when was the last time a church leader sat down with you or me to help us discern our spiritual gifts and God’s direction for our ministry?Leaders develop relationships to develop leaders to develop relationships to develop other spiritual gifts - or however many layers of leader you need. That's not how the church seems to function - it seems to function on a "you come, we entertain" model.
One of the reasons I think the megachurch model is inherently defective is it automatically precludes the leadership of the church from having any relationship with the majority of individuals within the church’s body. How can a pastor or elder spot the gifts in a person’s life if that person is just one in a sea of anonymous people?
Helping people find their gifts and understand the Spirit’s voice requires relationship. It means an investment in the people in the seats that goes far beyond great preaching. And too few church leaders are capable of making that investment.
Sad, but true.
Thursday, February 03, 2011
Church v Business
Prior to entering ministry, my wife and I owned a small business. It was small in the sense of how economists measure businesses, but it was a big business to us. Whenever you have to make payroll for almost 40 people (including yourself)…that seems big. This was my second venture as an entrepreneur. The first was extremely successful, but this one was not. An opportunity came to sell and we quickly accepted. We learned tons of principles from that negative experience that still help us today, but it was a very challenging time for us personally.Then he goes on to list those principles.
My skin crawled a little as I read it. The driving force in business and the driving force in ministry are entirely different - cross-pollination like this must be done very carefully or one risks losing that driving force.
- Business sells to the masses - church works with one person at a time.
- Business wants to give their customers lower prices - Jesus demands the highest price of all.
- Business strives to operate efficiently - church is by definition inefficient.
- Business seeks productivity. How do you even measure it in a church?
- Business seeks to give people what they want. Church seeks to change what they want.
Related Tags: Illuminated Scripture
Wednesday, February 02, 2011
Our lack of conversation in the Church about them on any sort of national level bothers me to the extreme. What we don’t talk about says as much, or more , as what we do.The problem Dan wraps this discussion around is the economy. The fact that there is not a "national discussion" is not the scandal Dan thinks it is - this stuff should be handled quietly and on a local level.
I believe we Christians are too isolated within our ghettos, yet at the same time I wonder about the viability of the ghettos we’re in. And while the other guys’ ghetto may look good, perhaps it’s more sick than ours.
But I will put it to you plainly - Who in your small circle has been affected and what have you done about it? A lot of people are too embarrassed to accept "help," but have you had them over for supper - or gone out and picked up the check? Have you dropped by with leftovers? Have you planted a vegetable garden, which always produces more than one family can possible consume, and shared the bounty?
There are a lot of ways to help without rubbing people's faces in their misfortune. Are you doing it?
Tuesday, February 01, 2011
The End Is Nigh
It's not at all that I don't care what's going on in the lives of Cheesehead or Zoecarnate or Sarcastic Lutheran. I actually care more than ever. But I don't have time to check in every day.I do not think blogging is over, bu I do think it is maturing. Personal interaction has moved to Facebook, Twitter, et.al. - leaving behind largely serious stuff. That's not all bad.
My own blog numbers are down too, and so I suspect that others are feeling the same.
Do I miss the numbers? Sometimes - but I also know that those that read now read becasue they are actually interested in the topic at hand and not in "who's hot," or reading whatever is passing for the "blog of the week." That's a good thing.
Blogging is not passe, but it is serious.
Monday, January 31, 2011
Evangelicalism, New Day or Old One?
Here’s my big point:Evangelicalism is changing. What used to be called “fundamentalist” is now occupied by the word “evangelical” and we have in the case of Mohler a genuine fundamentalist — and I’m using this word analytically and not derisively — who is reshaping evangelicalism because he’s reshaping the SBC. A number of folks in this article call Mohler a fundamentalist. The term fits. Big deal, it’s a part of evangelicalism and I embrace them as my brothers and sisters, even if we squabble every evening at dinner.Actually, that is a big deal since fundamentalist and evangelicals were at odds just a few decades ago. I think McKnight is right on here - but the reason is what bothers me. Evangelicalism, lacking an institutional core (can you say "denomination") is whatever the common consensus defines it to be. And since the press goes a long way towards shaping the common consensus and left secular press would like to paint Christians as fundamentalist neanderthals - which sometimes, not always but sometimes is a category Mohler is apt to fall into - they are going to force us in this direction. It does not do the Christian witness much good.
In another post elsewhere, Joe Carter looked at some trivialities that in many way also define evangelicalism:
- Making Converts.
- The Sinner’s Prayer.
- ”Do you know Jesus as . . . “.
- The Altar Call.
- Protestant Prayers.
- The Church Growth Movement.
- Chick Tracts.
Put these two things together and what do you have? Fundamental trivia! Am I being a little harsh? Perhaps, but my point is valid.
Lacking institutional foundations and gatekeepers, Evangelicalism is doomed to never be well defined and prone to constant shifting. Yet the church is supposed to be something unchanging in the midst of change - truth standing firm when all else is in chaos.
There is a lot to like about Evangelicalism, but it should always have been a movement inside the institutional structures of denominations. As a stand alone movement, it has run its course - it really is shaped more by politics than theology or religion broadly. It should exist to reform, not compete.