Saturday, September 07, 2013


Comic Art


Friday, September 06, 2013


What Makes A Church?

John H @ BHT:
I posted this on my Tumblr, then decided it would be worth mentioning here, too. Luther’s seven marks of the church:
  1. The public preaching of the word of God, rightly distinguishing law and gospel.
  2. The sacrament of baptism.
  3. The sacrament of the altar.
  4. The office of the keys, publicly exercised.
  5. The ordination or calling of ministers.
  6. Prayer, public praise, and thanksgiving to God.
  7. The possession of the holy cross in the suffering of the saints.
He comments:

ISTM that one root cause of the “evangelical circus” is the rejection of the seventh mark and its replacement with the direct opposite: the saints’ well-being and the absence of the cross as marks of God’s work. In fairness, though, most of them have got mark #6 pretty much locked down…

I think more than just the seventh mark is rejected.   I would also contend that the sacraments, while practiced are effectively "desacramentalized."  Kind of like the mainlines still practice a form of confession, but it is not held as sacrament.  Baptism and the Eucharist have become so trivialized in their practice as to be robbed of meaning.

Likewise, in many churches, the bar for ordination is so low that it too is robbed of meaning.

I don't think the problem is that we are not doing the things of church - it is HOW we do them.  They have become, for lack of a better word "profane."  We have made the sacred and heavenly somehow earthly.  Of course, these could be viewed as consequences of what John H contends....


Friday Humor

Thursday, September 05, 2013


Cool, Daddy-o

Chaplain Mike:

“Building Congregations around Art Galleries and Cafes as Spirituality Wanes”
Amy O’Leary, NY Times 12/29/12

* * *
If we can’t have our megachurches, we’ll find another style that suits us.

Amy Leary’s recent article in the New York Times shows that the spirit and principles of the church growth movement are alive and well among evangelicals, even as the evangelical world and subculture they created continues to wane. Leary begins by pointing to a warehouse “church” that is “part of a wave of experimentation around the country by evangelicals to reinvent ‘church’ in an increasingly secular culture.” 

If I hadn’t seen those words just last week, I might have sworn this was a piece from the 1970′s or 80′s.

Read the article and note the catchwords the author picks up from those she interviews. It’s all about “marketing the church to millennials” and “connecting with the community” and “drawing more traffic” in venues and with approaches that will ostensibly appeal to those who are “spiritual but not religious.” In order to reach such people, the thinking goes, we too must appear spiritual but not religious and disguise our faith in “post-Christian” wrappings. “Many have even cast aside the words ‘church’ and ‘church service’ in favor of terms like ‘spiritual communities’ and ‘gatherings,’ with services that do not stick to any script,” she writes.

The article reinforces a suspicion I’ve always had about these kinds of approaches. Leary quotes Warren Bird, director of research for the Leadership Network: “For new leaders coming out of seminary, ‘the cool thing is church planting. The uncool thing is to go into the established church. Why that has taken over may speak to the entrepreneurialism and innovation that today’s generation represents.’”


Just listen to the words of Houston Clark, whose company “designs spaces and audio-visual systems for churches nationwide.” Catch the motivations inherent in the approach. “Every generation wants their own thing. Kids in their late 20s to midteens now, they really crave intimacy and authenticity. They want high-quality experiences, but don’t necessarily want them in huge voluminous buildings.”
For me, there’s the rub. We want our own thing. We crave the experiences we define as essential. We want them in the form and fashion that we denote as “high quality,” when and where we want them. I’ve observed that this is not only the mindset of the people we’re trying to reach, but it is often our “ministry” mindset as well. Why would anyone want to go to an old, boring, traditional church or ministry and be forced to deal with all the crap I don’t enjoy instead of having continual excitement and gratification in a cooler setting?
The entrepreneurial spirit that aims to satiate people’s craving for ever new experience is alive and well. We call it “ministry,” and it’s cool to be a part of it.
I don’t know. I always thought this ministry thing was about people and building relationships and sharing Christ together.

Excellent points, two brief comments.  Firstly, consider these words, "It’s all about 'marketing the church to millennials' and 'connecting with the community' and 'drawing more traffic,'" I read that and it just hit me -

We are not asking people to buy something, we are asking them to commit to something.  Those are two radically different things.  Packaging sells something that you buy on impulse.  But impulse fades and we are talking about eternal commitment here.  It's kind of like the difference between meeting a potential spouse in a meat-market bar and meeting one at, well gee, church.

In the end that is a very useful analogy.  In courtship and marriage, attraction is one thing, but long term relationships are another thing altogether.  I think I need to not pursue this analogy any further before this port turns really crude.  I hope the idea is obvious.


Illuminated Hymn

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Wednesday, September 04, 2013


Pastoral "Needs"

Todd Rhoades looks at what a 21st century pastor "needs" to be:A 21st century pastor must be a globalist.

A 21st century pastor has to be a community developer.

A 21t century pastor has to be a discipler.

A 21st century pastor has to be a diplomat.

A 21st century pastor has to be an opportunity seizer.

I honestly do not know what to make of this list. Pastors have been traditionally too much of the academic and this list is way too much of the entrepreneur. The academic pastor worked when the congregation was committed. The entrepreneur builds a church when the congregation is just marketplace - but therein lies the rub - how do we move from full pews to commitment? Like Paul, in some sense the pastor must be all things to all people. Like in any business, it often takes different leadership to start a business than to maintain one.

The simple fact is that the skills needed in the pastor are tied deeply to the congregation that pastors serves. The only thing that can be solidly said about the what a pastor needs to be is mature in Christ.

You see if you are mature in Christ, the Holy Spirit will supply you with what you need in the moment and at the place.

Just a final thought/comment - the role of pastor needs to be seriously thought through generally. Were I to carefully analyze Rhoades' list here in church terms, I would call it what an evangelist needs to be, NOT a pastor. Somewhere, somehow, I think that confusion needs to be cleared up.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013


Being Zealous

Scot McKnight quotes at iMonk:
The freed do love others and, in so loving others, care for their moral development; zealots seek to control others, and therefore do not love others properly and do not lead others into moral development but into conformity.


Zealotry is to construct rules beyond the Bible and, in so doing, to consider oneself immune from criticism because of radical commitment. What we have learned is that such a radical commitment is actually a fearful commitment rather than a life of freedom.

McKnight is right on in his diagnosis of what zealousness looks like. His observation that it comes from a desire to "consider oneself immune from criticism because of radical commitment" and his other observations that it is born of insecurity are deeply insightful. But I do not think he sets this up well to provide a solution to zealotry. Given this presentation one would assume the answer to zealotry lies in dealing with the insecurity, but that is only part of the issue.

He observes elsewhere:
God’s people were not meant to be penguins, waddling all alike, but instead freed, separable, unique individuals who live in community.

I’ve never seen zealots who weren’t also judgmental; I’ve never seen those freed in the Spirit who were judgmental.
I shudder at his use of the word "judgmental" because people generally fail to distinguish between having sound judgement and being judgmental, and thus wisdom is often lost in the effort to avoid judgmentalism. But that is an aside.

The heart of his observation is that the judgmental do not understand God's vision for humanity. I think McKnight wants to make the case that we need to somehow love the judgmental into the kingdom. I disagree. Their judgmentalism will prevent them from ever experiencing that love.

Rather, I think the judgmental need to be taught and to experience the totality of God. That God is loving beyond understanding is part of that, but it is not all of it. We tend to think about balancing misunderstanding like one balances a scale, along a single axis. But God is not confined to a single axis like that. If we think two dimensionally then we run the risk of unbalancing the scale in the other direction. But if we deal with the entire multidimensional picture, the scale of concern becomes insignificant enough that balance on that scale just sort of takes care of itself.


Kitty Kartoons

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