Saturday, October 22, 2011
Friday, October 21, 2011
Killing God's Work
This is a stark portrait of a church in deep trouble. The status of the Church of England as the established national church has granted its leaders a false sense of security and importance. There are more principled reasons to oppose the very idea of an established church, but this practical effect is no small matter.There is a heck of a point here, but I think he may make a bit too much of it. We see a similar trend in the traditional denominations of this nation - relying on the cultural dominance they once enjoyed, they now are dying. Maybe no establishment, but culture has moved on, and that, I think is the key to what is happening in England as well.
The formality of state occasions may provide drama and a sense of vitality, but these are masks. How many in the congregation gathered for last week’s royal wedding knew any of the words to the great hymns that were sung? Only three percent of the nation’s population attends Church of England services even once a month. Given current trends, few Anglican parishes will have ministers in just a few decades. Like many other historic churches and denominations, the Church of England is passing through decline, and it faces nothing short of demise unless these trends are somehow reversed.
As valid as the institutional question of establishment may be, the more important factor in this pattern of decline is theological. Churches and denominations decline when they lose or forfeit their passion for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and for the Bible as the enduring, authoritative, and totally truthful Word of God. If life and death are no longer understood to hang in the balance, there is little reason for the British people to worry about anything related to Christianity. If a church is not passionate about seeing sinners come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, if there is no powerful biblical message from its pulpits, then it is destined for decline and eventual disappearance.
It's not about establishment nor is it about cultural dominance, it is about change, vitality, and a genuine sense of commitment to Christ. It is about idolatry. The Church of England made its established status an idol, and sacrificed it's commitment to Christ on that idol.
The American traditional denominations are far more problematic. Relying on cultural dominance, one would think they would transition with the cultural. The problem is the culture has moved away from church and they failed to use their dominance to constructively influence culture. What we are really looking at here are two extremes on a spectrum. The Church of England has come to resemble the Catholicism of the Reformation - corrupted by political power. The church in America has so focused on the individual that it has forfeited any role in the political or the cultural.
What scares me is that what has arisen in America - Evangelicalism and Pentecostalism - continues the trend and does not fight it.
If the church is to survive in either nation it must reclaim that which it has lost. In our nation it must become more culturally engaged and properly politically engaged. But that involves sacrifice.
Are we willing to make it?
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Insecurity and Success
Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, "When the church is absolutely different from the world, she invariably attracts it. It is then that the world is made to listen to her message, though it may hate it at first."Which forces me to ask the question - Why is the love of God not enough to make us feel both important and liked?
Some time ago a group of church leaders decided that they didn't want to be hated. They focused just on attracting more and more people.
But if we're here to offer something the world can't provide, why would I want to copy the world? There is plenty of television. There are plenty of talk shows. There are plenty of comedians. But there is not plenty of worship of the true and living God.
You think it's rooted in a deep insecurity that we have as church leaders?
Yes, I do. I think you've put your finger on it. We want a crowd to make us feel important and liked. But why is getting a crowd our focus? Jesus never suggested that crowds were the goal. He never addresses getting your church to grow. Never. So why is that the emphasis today? [boldface added]
Think about it.
Related Tags: Illuminated Scripture
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Squaring Up Love
Love is not some insipid woolly emotion offered to everyone in the same way irrespective of their response. Love is passionate. Infinite love is infinitely passionate.I called this post "Squaring Up God" because that is the carpenter's term for making something "true." To build almost anything, you have to start by taking that which is skewed and making it "true," which means a straight and perpendicular line. Once you have established that, the rest of the structure comes together pretty easily.
God’s love has content.
But God is not carelessly indifferent as some imagine him to be. God’s anger burns with a holy fire precisely because he loves. It is not that love and anger are set against each other, and that somewhere in the middle a lukewarm God is forged. No, God is wrathful because it hurts him to see the destruction sin has wrought in the ones he loves.
The whole argument of Romans is that God is faced with a dilemma. How can he be just and the one that forgives sins? It is only in the cross that a solution to this is found. It is not that Jesus saves us from an angry God. He himself is angry at sin. He is both the refuge and the one from which we must run. He chooses to offer us a way out. Then he warns us, that since this is the only way out, if we trample all over the offer, there is nothing left for us but wrath.
You know those mission trips that "build a house in a day." There's a "trick." The houses are designed to specific dimensions so that the builders don't have to spend a lot of time cutting and fitting - they can use the materials as they come from the supplier. But to do that the foundation and frames have to be "true," or "squared up."
If we really want to know about God's love - we have to have a true vision of what love is. Adrian informs us of such here.
Is you view of God squared up?
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
And So The Church
Last week the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, gathered for its annual meeting in Phoenix. The media pounced when stats were released indicating SBC membership had shrunk for the fourth consecutive year. In addition (or should I say subtraction), the number of baptisms declined by over 17,000 in 2010 compared to 2009. This is the eighth drop in 10 years.To build anew, demolition is necessary. Before the are new wineskins, the old must be discarded. "It is no longer I who live," death, "but Christ who lives within me," resurrection. The cycle is undeniable and God's hand at work cannot be doubted. It's not remodeling, it's not a coat of paint or some new fixtures, it is demolition and reconstruction, from the very foundations.
A few years ago I interviewed Dallas Willard about the state of the church. The wide-ranging conversation touched on the lack of discipleship, the insecurity of ministry leaders, the church’s infatuation with business values, and the inadequacy of our seminaries. Finally I asked Dr. Willard, “Are you ever discouraged by all of this?”
“I am not discouraged,” he quickly replied, “because I believe that Christ is in charge of his church, with all of its warts, and moles, and hairs. He knows what he is doing and he is marching on.”
What is my point? I’m not saying we should put our heads in the sand and ignore the grim realities that face many churches and denominations in the West. We have been called to do our work in the garden of the Lord (1 Corinthians 3:5-15), and we will be judged for the faithfulness of our labor. But we must remember that the outcomes, the growth and fruit, belong to Christ and not us.
And holding firmly to this truth, we should not succumb to the doom and despair that seem to be worn with pride by many young church leaders these days. The truth is that some, even many, local and regional expressions of the church may well decline and die. But Christ is ever at work cultivating life out of death. Ultimately his Church will be just fine. So, while many both inside and outside the family of God take some perverse pleasure in declaring “The church is dead,” we can with full faith and confidence shout in response, “Long live the Church!”
The question is whether we will be among the demolished or the rebuilt. Will you allow your self to be demolished so that you can be rebuilt, or will you slap on a few coats of paint, hide the imperfections and try to keep the structure standing?
And here is where the faith comes in - we do not know what the new building will look like, not a clue, we can dream and imagine, but they are insufficient to hold the glory. All we can see is the demolition.
Are you demolishable?
Monday, October 17, 2011
Anger - Deal With It
A pickup truck stopped next to a SUV at a stoplight last week. A man got out of the truck, walked around to the SUV woman driver’s window, stooped down and picked up the still lit cigarette butt the young woman had just flicked out of the window. He said not a word but glared at the woman and got back in his truck.He then tries to figure out if the guy is acting out of anger or patience, setting them up as opposites.
Pickup truck man could hahttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifve been practicing either anger or patience. I do not know his heart. If he stops to correct every person he sees being rude I would assume he has an anger issue, even if it does help people stop bad behavior. He did not stop traffic or flick the butt back at the woman thereby escalating the situation.I see his point there, but he makes a fatal flaw in his argurement. Consider:
I have known both angry and patient people who work tirelessly for issues of justice. Some would say the important thing is their action. Others would say what is most important is their motivation. I bet it is both.
One of the seven deadly sins is wrath, or anger. Its corresponding Christian virtue is patience.When I first read that, the first thought that ran through my mind was that there is a distinction between wrath and anger. I turned to the dictionary and found little such distinction. But then I thought about it for a while and it occurred to me that in this narcissistic age, people would lose the distinction.
Anger can be righteous - or else God could not experience it. (Consider Deut. 9:20) If God can be angry,then clearly anger is not sinful. Wrath on the other hand has an element of vengeance involved and that is something God reserves exclusively for Himself. (Deut. 32:35) Wrath how we feel - anger is about justice, and we are to be instruments of God's justice.
Which brings to the point I think Mr. Maxwell should be making. Before we act in anger, we MUST make sure we have examined ourselves and are without vengeance in our hearts - for only then can we be sure we are acting in God's name.