Saturday, February 07, 2015
Friday, February 06, 2015
What Is MIssion?
The very existence of the calendar reminds Christians that, as Robert Louis Wilken put it, “Christianity is a culture-forming religion.” Mission unfolds as nothing less than the re-making of human patterns of life and existence around a new story with cosmic implications.Please think about that, deeply. The mission we have been given is to form cultures - to change the world totally. It is not to make converts or count confessions.
YES! To change the culture we have to convert the people. YES! The culture cannot change unless the people change. YES! Evangelism is a part of changing the culture. BUT! Evangelism does not comprise our mission. It is at best the foundation for our mission. Our mission is the broadest possible mission.
Years ago, in rural Minnesota where my father was raised, people would buy a piece of land. Once they got enough money together they would build the basement/foundation of the house. They would then proceed to live in the basement until such time as they could raise enough cash to build the house. Sometimes this would take years, even decades. I went looking for pictures of this on the Internet - can't find them. My guess is the practice has been outlawed. It did produce some unsightly neighborhoods - dirt lots, choked with weeds except for the path taken by the pick-up parked next to a concrete slab with a tilt-up door on top. Sometimes people would emerge from the slab and get in the truck. It was strange.
It honestly seems to me like that is the state of at least the Protestant Church today, if not the church generally. It is an uncompleted edifice - functioning, but yet an eyesore. Incomplete and as a result the lot around it rots in disuse.
We pat ourselves on the back and tell ourselves we have a mission - we go on a short term mission and feed some people that really need feeding and we run an event at home and add a few names to the roles. We find a survival strategy, but we ignore what we are called to do.
I am currently reading a book about the Six-Day War in Israel. The Israeli army is so small in comparison to its neighbors that it simply cannot practice defensive warfare. It cannot simply seek to survive - it will lose any battle played on such lines. Their only option is aggressive offense. That's where the church is today. We are playing defense, which will end in our demise. We have to play offense, but offense on global terms - the kind of big mission offense referred to in our opening quote.
We have to try and genuinely change the world.
culture mission survival the church
Thursday, February 05, 2015
The Secular Value of Religion
Religion, especially communal religion, provides important benefits for everyone in the liberal state—even the non-religious. Religion encourages people to associate with and feel responsible for others, to engage with them in common endeavors. Religion promotes altruism and neighborliness, and mitigates social isolation. Religion counteracts the tendencies to apathy and self-centeredness that liberalism seems inevitably to create.< br />Movsesian is here discussing legal argument to preserve religion's place in the US constitution. These are good arguments, but I fear they hold less and less water becasue religion is FAILING to be those things. Consider the counter argument:
To be sure, religions don’t always encourage civic fellowship; to the extent a religion promotes sedition or violence against other citizens, society does not benefit.
A growing number of legal scholars question whether a justification exists for protecting religion as its own category. Yes, the text of the First Amendment refers specifically to religion, they concede, but that’s an anachronism. As a matter of principle, religion as such doesn’t merit legal protection. Instead, the law should protect individual conscience, or private associations generally. In fact, it’s not just scholars. In the ministerial exception case a couple of years ago, the Obama Administration argued that the Religion Clauses did not even apply and that the Court should decide the case under more general associational freedom principles.Evangelicalism particularly, but religion generally aids that argument everyday. On every level, from the lack of institutionalization that seems so prevalent in churches today to the preaching and teaching that discusses personal fulfillment and leaves most other considerations by the wayside - WE put individual conscience ahead of societal good and we FAIL to counteract the "tendencies to apathy and self-centeredness."
Individual pastors setting up individual churches, or para-church ministries, seeking "success" in ministry rather than the greater good of the church and therefore the world erodes the reasons religion is protected in our constitution. And hence we contribute not only to our own decline, but the decline of our civilization.
My mind turns to the prophets of the Old Testament as they saw the people of Israel follow a similar path. Israel, the nation through which God intended to save us all, plunged into ruin, not becasue of bad government, but becasue of faithlessness to their Lord. Something worth thinking about.
church decline government society
Related Tags: Illuminated Scripture
Wednesday, February 04, 2015
To be an Evangelical is to profess that one’s highest allegiance is to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is to confess that salvation is in Christ alone and that we do not save ourselves, no matter how good we may be. It is to recognize that God’s grace is freely given and that we can do nothing, not even deciding to follow Jesus, to merit it. That is Evangelicalism at its best.What I find most extraordinary in this formulation is that the very adaption of marketing technique corrupts the Gospel on some level. The Gospel is so broad and so encompassing that any attempt to encapsulate, commodify or reduce it is to do it injustice - it is to make an idol or image.
All the same, there are many elements of the North American Evangelical movement with which I find it difficult to identify. I am not keen on some of the subcultural distinctives, including the celebrity culture associated with the television preachers and Christian contemporary music. If the Gospel becomes a marketable commodity, Jesus’ call to take up our cross and follow him, and even to suffer the consequences of so doing, loses its urgency and may be ignored altogether. No longer does the Gospel shape our lives from the ground up and in their totality; it becomes a mere add-on to whatever lifestyle choices happen to appeal to us at the moment. [emphasis added]
This is deep theological truth. Why have we been so quick to to lose sight of it? Screwtape comes to mind. To create sin for an apparently noble cause is the ultimate in temptation.
Our return to deep truth must begin on our knees. It must begin with our confession of our turning towards this temptation. we have been suckered.
Tuesday, February 03, 2015
He has learned that the answer to bad religion is not the Nones but good religion.Couldn't agree more. What's interesting is what ends up being bad religion and what ends up begin good religion. McKnight contrasts the book in question, which decides "good religion" is liberal with another book that decides its conservative.
I find it fascinating how so many of the same conclusions about what is bad religion (For example, bad religion "fosters nominal commitment to Christ and the church.") can lead to such differing conclusions on what good religion looks like. This reveals an enormous gap in in How American Protestant Christianity thinks about things. That we come up with entirely different constructs to solve a problem we are in agreement about means that one of us is not thinking through the whole problem very well. The line between salvation and sanctification is simply not well drawn.
Before our problems can really be solved we have to solve this underlying issue. We have to learn how to draw this line. Otherwise we are simply grafting worldly agendas onto our minimally drawn faith. All agenda must be drawn from our faith, not pasted onto it.
I ask you, who is Lord when the agenda is pasted?
Christianity agendas good thinking
Monday, February 02, 2015
As the people of God we have both dominion and stewardship over all of creation, forgive me, that is a given. It is not arguable. What comes after that is not as the filmmakers contend a political discussion, it is in fact a discussion of what composes dominion and stewardship. With dominion we are permitted to use the planet, its resources, and its forms of life as we see fit. Is it good stewardship then to allow a species to pass from existence? If it happens because of the intrusion of man is it definitionally bad? To make a statement about dominion and stewardship is to dodge those questions, or to use dominion and stewardship as apologetics for your view on those questions. It assumes answers to the questions that flow from dominion and stewardship rather than deal with the hard questions.
I don't want to attempt in this post to deal with those harder questions, I just want people to start to think about this properly. Dominion and stewardship do not, de facto, lead to support of carbon markets or any other scheme to "save the environment." There are thousands of question between point a and point b. They need to be considered in turn, they need to be considered that stewardship does not equate to "preservation" it equates to "good use," they need to be considered in humility both regarding our sin and our limited intellect (at least in comparison to the creator.)
Stop telling me I am a steward of creation - about this there is no argument between us - make your case for what that means.
Christianity creation good thinking stewardship