Saturday, July 30, 2011
Dave Sim (?)
Eastman and Laird
Friday, July 29, 2011
Good Words Can Also Be Used For Coercion
"Exactly," I said. "Neither did she." Didion binds the disparate pieces together in a manner that is both disturbing and confusing; in that way we begin to get a sense of what it felt like to be in Los Angeles in the late '60s. The important lesson here was that "I don't know" is sometimes the best answer.I started out really liking this piece. Too often as Christians we rely too heavily on our own understanding. Our faith is full of mystery and we should embrace the mystery as opportunity for the Holy Spirit to work.
At times in this process we come to an impasse. We reach a point where we either cannot uncover the meaning of seemingly disparate texts, or we cannot find agreement among a variety of interpretations. One need not go far from here—click around this site, or follow the links out to related blogs and publications that play host to theological discussions—and there are considerations that give way to debates before devolving into arguments where the underlying understanding is that the other side isn't seeing what seems so plainly there. These are often perfect opportunities to choose silence, and to admit, "I don't know."
And yet, this response is rarely received well. In 2006, Brian McLaren, writing on the leadership blog on Christianity Today's website, came to his "I don't know" moment about the church's response to "the Homosexual Question." He reached a conclusion that I echoed earlier this month. McLaren writes, "Perhaps we need a five-year moratorium on making pronouncements. In the meantime, we'll practice prayerful Christian dialogue, listening respectfully, disagreeing agreeably."
But there is a difference between "I don't know" and humility about what we do know. There is a difference between a clear cut ethical imperative and the unloving, unhumble, heavy-handed enforcement of same.
The homosexual question is not an "I don't know" moment. Scripture is clear that homosexual behavior is wrong. But that said, we have been cruel in making that clear, and unChristlike in confronting those so engaged. We truly do not know about humility and love.
But we cannot let that lack of knowing be used coercively to change the plain standard. We cannot let one lack of knowledge be turned into another - we must rather build to more knowledge.
Thursday, July 28, 2011
Church and Ministry
The article mentions other “non-traditional” ways churches are reaching out, “such as tattoo parlors, music venues or even bars. They may host heavy-metal concerts, skateboard competitions, motorcycle shows or even body-piercing events to spread their message.” One church promotes its ministry with business cards that use the slogan, “Hate Religion?” written in the style of a blood smear. “Other churches have begun to draw younger crowds with rock music and a come-as-you-are message,” such as the Current Church in my own town of Franklin, which shares building space with a Christian concert venue called “The Gear.” The article says this style has allowed them to attract “a mostly 25-and-younger crowd” that would normally not be interested in church.Hmmm...sound familiar? Mike goes on at great length to write about what is, and what is not a church. I have to agree with him. He writes from a theological and diversity perspective in this post. I want to take a practical one. Mike says the ability to call these ministries a church is based in:
Two things I would like to say in response to this author’s observations.
- One, this is not news. We in the Christian culture have been watching this happen for years. Internet Monk itself has been looking at these developments and critiquing them for over a decade now.
- Two, what I wonder is: can we call these communities “Churches” in the truest Biblical, historic, and traditional sense of the term?
Without denigrating what these folks are trying to do, I sincerely wonder: IS THIS CHURCH?
I am going to argue, “No.”
Today, “church” is defined by many as a community that practices evangelism and discipleship.Many forget the discipleship part, but that is a post for another day. As mike points out, this is an insufficient definition for a church. Practically, this is a recipe for the institutional version of a shark - a self perpetuating eating machine, growing only so that it can eat more and reproduce.
A church, on the other hand is supposed to me much more than simply self-perpetuating. It is supposed to be an outpost for the Kingdom on God in hostile territory. I have used the analogy to a Calvary post in the wilderness before. It is a place of sanctuary and a place from which the new nation advances. It is leaven in the loaf, a city on a hill.
Yet, a church this limited is about itself, not about its role in the greater whole.
Many people have talked about the church moving in this direction to survive. "It's necessary," is the constant cry. Christ advanced the kingdom by dying.
Related Tags: Illuminated Scripture
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Frankly, I wouldn’t trust anyone who promises, “More than Church.” Now maybe this Christian group just found a catchy slogan, and thought it said something that might encourage people to try them out. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. But whether the slogan is used or not, American evangelicalism has filled the land with churches promising people “more than church.”Agreed, and I could talk about it forever. But instead I think I will add an oft quoted thought of G.K. Chesterton's:
Folks, there is no more. It is what it is. Of course, we can dream, and pray, and work to make it better. We most certainly should do that. But there is no starting over, and there is no escaping the hard realities that accompany the project of being the church in the world.
We shouldn’t expect anything different from that.
“Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”I'd much rather go to a church that is working extra hard at actually being a church.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
When I press people on why they think single pastors are treated with suspicion, 99 percent of the time I get a list of fears rather than actual evidence:What I find most amazing is how very opposite this is of some churches that demand singleness of their clergy and I also wonder how much of the fear expressed here is rooted in the scandal that has rocked those churches? But then I know of a lot of scandal involving married pastors and married parishioners. Fact is, sex is a powerful thing and sexual sin, when it happens, does not respect singleness or marriage, it just, sadly, happens.
“What if he’s gay?”
“What if he flirts with all the single women at church?”
“What if he tries to steal a married woman for himself?”
“There must be something wrong with him because he’s single.”
“Aren’t single pastors more likely to molest our children?”
What we see here is simply fear of something different - something not the norm - at least the norm in our immediate circle. Have you ever thought about how much you define normal by your experience? Not by statistical norms, but by your own personal observations.
I truly wonder what the church would be like if we learned to embrace a true variety of expressions - not sinful stuff mind you - but just different stuff. Churches tend to be defined by a certain social "norm." It's a church with a strong singles ministry, or a church with a strong ministry to marrieds with young kids, or marrieds with youth, or single parents.
Some of this is driven by the fact that similar people tend to flock together. Much is also driven by the fact that the church views itself as having limited resources and chooses to target those resources.
I wonder what would happen if we came to understand that there is much to learn from people outside our "normal" and that the resources of the church, if we truly rely on the Holy Spirit are limitless?
Monday, July 25, 2011
Is Social Media Killing The Church?
Over at my friend Mike's blog there was a recent discussion about why Millennials (also known as Generation Y) are leaving the church. His question was, why are they leaving? Most of the answers took aim at the church. Churches are too shallow, hypocritical, judgmental, or political. Many surveys have shown these attitudes to be widespread among Millennials. Consider the Barna research summarized in the book unChristian. Young Christians and non-Christians tend to feel that the church is "unChristian." Too antihomosexual. Too hypocritical. Too political. Too judgmental. That's how young people see "the church." And it's hard to blame them.Let's assume he's right here - and I think he does have a point, even if there are some arguments to be made with the particulars. Can social media "replace" the church?
So why has mobile social computing affected church attendance? Well, if church has always been kind of lame and irritating why did people go in the first place? Easy, social relationships. Church has always been about social affiliation. You met your friends, discussed your week, talked football, shared information about good schools, talked local politics, got the scoop, and made social plans ("Let's get together for dinner this week!"). Even if you hated church you could feel lonely without it. Particularly with the loss of "third places" in America.
But Millennials are in a different social situation. They don't need physical locations for social affiliation. They can make dinner plans via text, cell phone call or Facebook. In short, the thing that kept young people going to church, despite their irritations, has been effectively replaced. You don't need to go to church to stay connected or in touch. You have an iPhone.
But my argument at Mike's blog was that the church has always been this way. Is the church of 2010 much different from the church of the '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, or '90s? I don't think so. So, yes, the church is screwed up. Always has been. The church has been a depressing constant over the generations. So the change isn't with the church. The change is with the Millennials. If so, in what way and how has this change related to the church?
Well, if all church is about is the relationships, then yeah it can. But church is about that and more. There are the educational, inspirational and sacramental aspects of the church. Maybe most people are not in church for those things, but that is indication that something is very wrong in church, far more wrong than the complaints of "too shallow, hypocritical, judgmental, or political," particularly when it comes to the sacramental aspects of the faith. I mean let's face it, it requires community to have communion.
But people do not value these things, and so social media does come to replace what people do value about church. So the question becomes, how do we restore those things as values?
Maybe, if we start by valuing them ourselves....