Saturday, September 21, 2013
Friday, September 20, 2013
I praise the servants of God who do not smother their earthly good in the sawdust of seminary or doctrinal decrepitude that holds back scientific experimentation and open inquiry in scientific domains. I praise the servants of God who do not merely sanitize and perpetuate genres of art and literature but improve the expression of God’s beauty and the beauty of his creation. There are times when I wish that God could have left me alone and not called me into ministry. I can find a life direction without too much help, and I like doing things that matter. God had his own reasons both for advancing his work in this world and for effecting my own salvation when he called me for ministry. When I went to a Christian university, I went through a classics program that left me with a love for goodness, truth, and beauty and a taste for all three at once. Perhaps the rigors of what God has called me to do will force me to integrate those things with efforts to expand the Church — and the expansion of the Church should be good, true, and beautiful. At the same time.
As invigorating as it can be to have a call from God, God’s call to ministry is a weighty and nearly unnatural obligation that runs against the way “normal life” is supposed to work. When Jesus said that you must be last when you want to be first, that means that you really have to be last. Sometimes God commands people to be last. If God has not called you to the ministry, why not break away from the theological-industrial complex? Why not dedicate yourself to a career that is intrinsically interesting to you rather than to a prepackaged professional ministry lifestyle just because you think it is interesting to God? Perhaps more people considering professional ministry should bind themselves never to enter professional ministry so that they force themselves to unite material betterment of this world with the spiritual betterment that we as Christians already know that it needs. Let us encourage talented Christians, instead of leaving technical fields for the ministry, to continue onward and upward in living life as God calls it to be lived rather than wasting their talents to maintain a megachurch.Nathan is on to something really important here, but I think this post is subject tot he same problem that affects so much of modern Christian thought. Nathan writes of the individual, he fails to take the broader view. The reason so many people move to ministry when they ought to be "in the world" is that fail to see God's broader plan for the world. They perceive God in the church, but not in the world. It is not just a question, as Nathan puts it of:
...Christian publishers, Christian music labels and others of their ilk perform vital functions. The silver bullet argument against this very blog post: if you want patristic theologians’ writings to be available, somebody has to bind, print, and sell the books.It is not a question of vitality or functionality. The world is God's. The victory Christ won makes it so.
When we work "int he world," we are working in God's kingdom, just as surely as if we are working in the church. The world may not know it yet, the world may not acknowledge that which it knows, but that does not change the fundamental fact that it is God's Kingdom. All work is God's work. Thus all work is in answer to God's call.
The picture is bigger than our call.
call ministry work
Thursday, September 19, 2013
Here it comes...
We'll get to these questions soon. For now, I want to note that bad news is an essential piece of the Christian Gospel, the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. If we don't grasp the bad news, we won't understand the good news. And if we don't feel the horror of the bad news, we'll miss the joy of the good news. Too often these days, Christians downplay the bad news because we don't want to put anyone off. But, by ignoring the bad news, we diminish the amazing goodness of the good news.You know, the idea that we would be saved, when we really did not need saving that much is, I think, the very definition of cheap grace. But you know what gauls me most of all is how the "bad news-less" gospel that is so prevalent today trivializes the sacrifice of Christ. Of sure, we talk about worship, we sing our happy-clappy songs and dance our joy, joy dances, but what kind of worship makes the ultimate sacrifice in history into a sort of "oh that's nice" event?
And yet, I can see the eyes rolling in the pews when I bring this up. "There goes John again, all sackcloth and ashes, I want to be happy!" All I can say is there is no happiness like the happiness one can feel when one understands the depths of depravity from which Christ pulls us with His sacrifice.
THAT is the peace that passes all understanding.
bad news grace joy sin
Related Tags: Illuminated Scripture
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
"To live is Christ...
...to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21).
So, we keep following Christ, loving God, loving neighbor, and telling others about the new life that on Jesus Christ, the God-Man, can give to those who believe in Him. Whether we Christians live or die, we belong to Christ and it will always be our privilege to glorify Him only!Mark then goes on to offer a laundry list of the things that we are not privileged to glorify - you know, the things that get in the way of our relationship with Christ. Sometimes, I think that's the real point.
I have heard people warp the whole "Jesus Über Alles" thing into whatever their personal agenda happens to be. They become worship fetishists based on the word "glorify," or they make feeding the poor the ENTIRE purpose of the church because Jesus talked about it in the Sermon on the Mount.
The point of making it ALL about Jesus is that He is a person with all the complications and interests and breadth that involves. He can't be pigeon-holed or limited. In point of fact Christ is so large and complex, that to attempt to focus on him is to be consumed.
But in our communication sensitive world we only want to tell people positive things. But we need to hear the negative. I simply cannot describe all that Jesus is, I lack the language, the intellectual capacity and the time to even attempt it. But I can say what He is not based on what is getting in between me and Him today. Maybe, just maybe we need to rethink our communication strategies.
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
But there is more to the decline of the malls than the rise of the digital world. The Boomer generation has been the generation of bigness and sprawl. Their parents, in the aftermath of World War II, moved numbers of them to the new and massive suburbia. Large malls would soon follow. Most large megachurch buildings were constructed primarily for the favor of the Boomers.
But the children of the Boomers, Generation X and, even more, the Millennials, have been pushing for more intimacy and smallness. They triggered the unprecedented growth of Starbucks. They have been the key movers in social media, which has fostered a new online intimacy.
Among the Christian Millennials there is a desire for greater intimacy in church. They are in many ways triggering a new small group revolution. And though they may not have an explicit aversion to large church facilities, neither are they attracted to them.
The Future Size of Church Facilities
As there will still be large malls twenty years from now, so will there be large church facilities whose worship centers can accommodate 2,000 or more in one service. But you will also see a discernible difference in megachurches in ten or twenty years. Fewer of these large churches will have large facilities. More will have smaller worship centers and multiple venues, many with multiple gathering times and days.Interesting, but I always return to one question when I read stuff like that. Is not the cart before the horse? Should not the church be shaping such trends not following them? Shouldn't the church be defining the purposes and uses of intimacy and large public gatherings?
We complain that the culture is leaving Christianity behind. Maybe that is because We are not leading culture.
church culture trends
Monday, September 16, 2013
There Is No Private
Your private life. Your public life.
They are inseparable.
You can try to manage two identities.To my way of thinking, there is something very wrong with pastors or anyone else thinking that they have a different public and private life. Public is not a stage and we do not pretend to act like Christians. Either we are Christians or we are not Christians. There is no act.
Presenting a public persona that is different for your private, and therefore most heartfelt, persona represents a lack of faith somehow. It is as if you do not really believe this Christianity stuff enough to let it into your home - "It's just for out there."
There is a flip side to this. That is the person who deeply believes, but is embarrassed by his/her failings. Even then, you do not believe in grace. And as a leader it is a failure to model the reality of the gospel.
I, for one, do not expect perfection in my church, but I do expect a gracious handling of failure. One that begins with confession. Grace only occurs when we confront our shortcomings.
I think the question really is "Where are we leading people?" If we are leading them in the way of Christ, we lead them through confession to grace and eventually towards perfection. But if we are leading simply to perfection, how can we claim to be Christ's? And how can we lead them someplace we do not go?
confession grace leadership