Saturday, August 13, 2011
YES, THEY COME IN COLORS NOW!
Friday, August 12, 2011
The Role of Religion
Have you heard? "God hates religion." That's what a friend told me recently, with what I thought was unwarranted confidence.This is a great piece taken on its own terms, which is the argument about "spirituality v organized religion." But it does fail to address what I consider the key issue in the discussion of the role of organized religion - just as the church amplifies our spirituality, it also amplifies our sin. Many are the times I think the church has done more damage to God's name than it has good.
Surprisingly for some of us, she's not alone in her thinking. Here at the tip of the Bible Belt, in North Carolina, that conviction seems to be more common than it was when I lived within earshot of the mission bells along California's "El Camino Real."
The "religion is evil" narrative tends to be spoken with a curled lip turned toward Vatican City, so for the sake of space, let's just look at Christianity. Influential American pastors in the Reformed Christian tradition like Mark "Mars Hill" Driscoll say the same thing my friend did; when they talk about people calling themselves "spiritual" rather than "religious," the "God hates religion" card gets played.
For Driscoll and pastors of his ilk, the key piece of evidence for their claim is that Jesus criticized the legalism and hypocrisy of the Pharisees, who were the most self-consciously religious and dogmatic people of his day. Protestants of the "low church" persuasion blend the Pharisees with Martin Luther's anger into a fog, until it seems to them that "organized religion" does more to obscure God than to reveal Him. In well-intentioned efforts to set the rest of us straight, they then proclaim that "Christianity is not a religion; it's a relationship."
That's a clever formula with a questionable premise, because it can only be true if "religion" and "relationship" are mutually exclusive terms. The problem, of course, is that they're not.
The answer, of course, is to hold the church more sacred, not to do away with it. The answer is to take it far more seriously than we do. It;s one thing to say that cutting the grass will wait until tomorrow, or painting this room just is not that important - it's another thing altogether to punt on the church.
God is patient, but oiur lives are limited.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Trust The Limp
Jacob got his name changed at the climax of the pressures he had been living with. God forced him to face his character issues. He carried a limp after that, as a reminder of the Lord’s severe mercies. But he also carried more of the favor of God.I think this is right, but here's my question - the world does not typically "honor" limps in this way. We tend to like our leaders flawless. Hence most in ministry professionally that I know, if they are not using ministry to hide form their limps, hide their limp from everybody else. Problem is, this valuable lesson never then gets passed on.
God was not only birthing a nation through the man, He was making the man a demonstration of the process He uses to make His servants fruitful. Fruitfulness usually must take place inwardly before God risks doing much with us outwardly. And fruitfulness, among other things, is a product of brokenness.
I don’t really trust a man who doesn’t have a limp somewhere. If you haven’t been through some storms, failures, and persecutions, I wonder if anyone really knows what you’re made of? If there’s not brokenness, there’s very little room for God’s pure power to be understood and demonstrated.
I think this is why Paul said, “For this reason I delight in persecutions, trials, afflictions….For when I am weak then I am strong…” 2 Cor 12. He understood what I call “the law of acknowledged weakness”.
Paul definitely walked with a limp!
Our limps are not just lessons for us.
Related Tags: Illuminated Scripture
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Not An Oxymoron
I often wonder how many people are stuck in their relationships in a cycle of repeating the same things over and over again. They repeat the same misunderstandings. They rehearse and re-rehearse the same arguments. They repeat the same wrongs. Again and again things are not resolved. Night after night they end the day with nothing reconciled; they awake with memories of another bad moment with a friend, spouse, neighbor, co-worker or family member and they march toward the next time when the cycle will be repeated.He has hit on the real key here. Confession is the beginning of transformation. Is it any wonder then that we talk of it so little these days. People want to come to church; people want to "worship" (they want to sing cool songs and have fun anyway); but the last thing they want to do is change. Change, after all is hard.
Here is the point: no change takes place in a relationship that does not begin with confession. The problem for many of us is we look at confession as a burden, when it is actually a grace.
This is not news - this is 12 step stuff.
But what's more, this draws a clear line between cheap and real grace.
It's easy to say I love you - it's hard to change you life for them.
If you are a doctor, would you rather help someone cope with their symptoms or cure them of their illness? The church seems to have settled for the former when we are the only place where the later is possible.
Tuesday, August 09, 2011
I hardly recognize today’s pastors as doing the same job as the typical pastors of my younger days. Of course, expectations were changing at the time, as I could see from what was crossing my desk when I was a pastor and what was happening at the megachurch just up the road.I agree, and I have two very important reason.
I have real respect for faithful pastors. I have similar respect for young pastors who are seeking to be shepherds. But I have no respect for those who, under various banners, have turned the church into a business and the calling of a pastor into the work of a CEO and salesman.
The first is that no one is picking up the slack on what the new pastorate is leaving behind. Pastoral calls are being left far behind. Maybe hospital calls, but when was the last time someone called on a member of the congregation? If the pastorate is going to abandon this function then it has got to make sure someone is doing it.
Secondly - such pastorates take away a lot from "lay" leadership. It used to be the executive functions were handled by elders. This went a long way to create ownership for the church for everyone involved. Now the pastor owns the church and the rest of us are just along for the ride.
Depersonalization and possession - are these moves towards selflessness? I don;t think so. That's a problem.
Monday, August 08, 2011
Growth as Byproduct
How to Make a Church GrowKeith's point?
Don’t worry about uplifting worship times, awesome praise teams or incredibly gifted worship bands or dynamic speakers or cool videos or special programs or targeted ministries or awesome marketing or a big, sprawling building or sufficient parking or offering seeker services or traditional services or progressive services. Some of that may come, but fend it off as long as you can.My point? We cannot make a church grow. It's not about what we do. We may be able to make the audience grow, we may be able to make donations grow, we may be able to make the staff grow - we may even be able to make the building grow.
Tell them about Jesus. Show them Jesus. Win them to Jesus.
Only the Holy Spirit can grow His church. If we will just get out of His way.