Saturday, July 14, 2012
Friday, July 13, 2012
Overstatement At Issue
Never mistaken for being soft or indirect, Driscoll shares his concern that too many people are editing God by picking which of his attributes they like and which they'd prefer to discard. "I love you," he says, "and I have to tell you the truth." The real fireworks begin at the 4:30 mark on the video.Driscoll then goes on to engage in the time honored tradition of overstatement. It brings to mind two question for me. Firstly, at what point does overstatement become lying? Secondly, as Christian attempting to teach the truth, does that mean we are supposed to offer it with all it subtleties which are often more than the listener can even comprehend?
Generally speaking I would never choose to engage in overstatement in a public presentation - conversation sure, but in a speech or sermon, I'd try to avoid it. The problem with such public venues is that you have no control over "the echo" - that is to say who will repeat it in what circumstance.
But more generally, I think that if we are people that are truly transformed by Jesus we do not need to engage in overstatement to drive our point home. If Christ is aline in us, our non-verbal cues and lives themselves will add the force to our point better than overstatement ever could.
When tempted by overstatement, it is often best to turn to yourself and ask why you feel it is necessary, and then pray about that.
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Thursday, July 12, 2012
“Being privy to this type of exchange and countless other [Facebook interactions] on a daily basis proved to be a very valuable tool for ministry. What happened to me is an example of what some social media experts call “growing bigger ears”, or using social media to become better informed about constituents and what they care about. The concept highlights social media’s unique two-way quality. That is, social tools are not intended to simply broadcast a message out into the world. Instead, what separates social media from all other forms that came before it is its unique capacity to facilitate an ongoing, real-time conversation among the people it connects. Therefore, the value that social media offers to anyone in ministry resides precisely in its capacity to create a feedback loop.If a church is so big that it needs social media for a feedback loop, well....
Social media can do a lot of things in a church - building community most importantly - but if the pastor does not have a lot better feedback loops than that, we have a problem. Either the church is too big or the pastor is simply not listening.
Even in a bigger church there are many ways to "hear" that pastors often do not tune into to. Body language during a sermon can tell the pastor all he needs to know. The din level during the friendship greeting, or as people file out speaks volumes. Do people cluster around and talk after or make a beeline to their cars?
Personally, a pastor that needs social media for a feedback loop needs to work on his listening skills, not his computer skills. He may be a little too focused on his ministry and not on those to whom he ministers.
Related Tags: Illuminated Scripture
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Living WIth Cash
But back to this God and money business: what does it mean to choose one? Do you have to sell everything you own and live in some intentional community in an urban core or far-off farm? Can't you serve God and also make a decent living? Isn't it possible to live in some harmonious balance where God is your Numero Uno, and you own your own house in the suburbs with modest but tasteful landscaping and a two car garage? Or, in this economy, isn't it possible to serve God and keep the lights on or afford insurance?The problem is not how we spend our money, but who we are, and who we serve. She is sort of on point here when she talks about the money working for us and not us working for the money - but it goes a bit deeper.
Of course it is possible... at least I hope it is.
I'm not sure how it will play out in my own life - at least not yet - but I suspect that on a grander scale it might play out like this: families and individuals still need to eat, to pay the bills, to attend to their own health and well-being - so money isn't completely out of the picture. But perhaps in choosing God over money, money becomes nothing more than what it actually is: a tool. With money or affluence removed from our list of goals, room is created for new goals: dignity, compassion, hospitality, fruitfulness, wholeness. If these are the goals, then money can be used as one tool among many to help achieve them. If these are the goals and money is simply a tool, then rich and poor can move towards each other to fill in that ever-widening gap created by love of money.
Perhaps I'm utterly naive, but I believe it is possible. And I also wonder, what do you think it might look like if more and more of us chose to serve God alone? What would it look like in your own life or the lives of your neighbors and friends? What would it look like for people you've never met who fall into tax brackets you'll never see or live in countries or neighborhoods you've only seen on the news? Or, if you have chosen to serve God alone, what insight can you share?
See I am convince that whether it is money, or any of the other thousands of possible idols in our live, there is not legalistic formula for how to deal with it - there is only Christ and the transforming of the Holy Spirit in our lives. I you have a generous spirit, then the money thing will work itself out naturally.
So that means the answer is not to try and figure out what to do with your money, but instead drop to your knees, confess you don't know what to do with your money and then allow the Holy Spirit to go to work. Next time you have a money decision to make, do it again. You will probably make a number of bad decision, but slowly they will get better,a nd some of the good decision may surprise you.
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Tithing to mainline churches has reached its lowest level in at least 41 years. Of the smaller amount churches are receiving, a smaller proportion of church funds is serving the needy outside the congregation. These are two of the findings from an analysis of mainline churches' tithing and giving patterns from 1968 to 2009 by Empty Tomb, Inc.He's right about the need for self-examination. There are lots of nits I could pick with this post, but I want t focus on the call for self-examination - where does it start?
As churches receive less, they may need to retain a higher proportion of their resources in order to meet their operating costs and retain their staff. Yet "turning inward and valuing the happiness of its members" over the needs of others is "moving on a spectrum toward pagan values," argues co-author Sylvia Ronsvalle, Empty Tomb's executive vice president. Such trends, she says, require careful examination, not a knee-jerk defense of the church.
Yet the astonishingly low tithing levels found in the report ought to provoke self-examination. It is not only spending on physical services that has declined, but spending on missionaries as well. If American churches had devoted the same proportion of their resources to benevolences in 2009 as they had in 1968, then another $3.1 billion would have gone to the needy. And if American Christians had tithed a full 10 percent of their income in 2008, then the church would have had another $172 billion at its disposal for missions and services. This would have been more than enough, suggest the authors, to send missionaries to every unreached people group and all but eliminate the deaths of small children because of starvation and disease.
The starting point is the fact that the churches discussed put themselves ahead of others. The figures make it plain - no argument, no spin will change it - the churches clearly elected to give less to mission for the sake of maintaining their own programs and staff.
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.There it is in plain language - mission giving should be the last budget item cut, not the first.
So, examine yourself indeed - and look to spiritual formation for your answers.
Monday, July 09, 2012
Art and Discovery
One turning point in Thomas Merton’s life came at age 18, when he visited Rome. In The Seven Storey Mountain, he tells how he began touring churches throughout the city. He was not attending services, but found himself attracted by the art in the churches. It began speaking to him and awakening an interest in Christ.In recent years as I have traveled Europe, I have had experiences similar to Merton's.
His words are eloquent testimony to the power of beauty to point people toward the sacred.
It is not shocking that the hyper-rationality of modern American faith is problematic. The problem is the alternative we offer - the hyper-emotionalism of a good it of Pentecostalism. It seems that only art can balance these two things properly.
That is something that the multi-purpose room/sanctuary of the modern church seems to have forgotten - but would be well served to remember. Across Europe many churches are now museums - but their beauty still speak to those that visit - I know it has to me.
Across America failed churches stand empty, or repurposed as warehouse or factory space. Who does that speak to?
Be sure and go read what Merton has to say.