Saturday, February 28, 2015
Friday, February 27, 2015
On The Nose
The Church polices the boundaries of orthodoxy, of course. This requires negations, as the delicious denunciations of the Syllabus of Errors illustrate. But in the main Catholics tend to see the Church as self-sufficient, a world unto itself. Most Protestants sense this, and it can be very irritating to them.I think that describes perfectly what is wrong with the Protestant church - we are defined largely by being not Catholic. That said it also contains a warning for the Catholic church, it's not "self-sufficiency" it is Christ sufficiency. I think it is self-sufficiency that has lead to most the issues in side Catholicism, when they place the good of the church in front of Christ. (but then that is true for most churches when they err.
I can imagine a speaker at a “Future of Catholicism” conference discussing the ways in which Pentecostalism in South America puts great pressure on the Church. Protestantism is obviously part of the world in which the Church finds herself. Moreover, the Church has an ecumenical vocation, and that requires engaging Protestantism. But on the whole when Catholics discuss or debate the future of Catholicism the issues are almost always intramural.
But dangers aside, the Catholic presumption of self-sufficiency is for the best. The conviction that our future comes from within provides an important freedom. For when we’re too dependent on negation, we allow ourselves to be defined by changing winds of fashion. That’s because what we don’t do and believe depends on what others do do and believe.
The Protestant church, particularly in its evangelical expressions, works so hard to be in the world that it is often consumed by the world. At least when measured numerically, this greatly aids evangelization, but it hurts maturity. There is no place for the more mature Christian to retreat to to be fed and rest and revive. Revival in the Protestant tradition consists of returning to "the gospel message" getting fired up about it again rather than advancing in our own personal relationship with God, the church and the world.
The Protestant church is like someone wandering the wilderness aimlessly, the Mountain Men of religion if you will. The Catholic church is like the army - building outposts and reaching into the wilderness from those outposts. I wonder if that analogy might help the relationship between the two? The army could use a good scout from time to time.
Catholicism Protestantism evangelism
Thursday, February 26, 2015
Getting What You Want
If you were to ask me if I am an idolater, my first answer would be "No! I worship the one true God." That's true. But if you were to ask me if I worship anything besides or alongside God, I might be less confident in my answer. Then, if you were to ask me about my desires, I would readily admit that there is plenty of competition in my heart when it comes to yearning. Yes, I desire God. But I also desire lots of other things. Some of these are good things, things that are gifts from God, like the love of family. Yet, at times my desire for those things can exceed my desire for the Lord. Periodically, he and I have a good chat about this, which mainly involves my confession, reception of forgiveness, and then a renewal of my commitment to love the Lord more than anything or anyone, more than security, more than health, more than my family, more than making a difference in the world.The secularist would argue that this sort of "Christian advice" is really about coping with disappointment, that if all we desire is God, we cannot be disappointed. I can see and understand that argument, but why is that practicality a bad thing?
See that's the thing about God's instructions, they sound holy, but they are usually very practical as well. What I find most fascinating is the practical benefit the secularist ignores. If we desire God above all, it changes us, not just what we desire. We become better people and becasue we are better people, the world is a better place. If enough people desire God above all the world becomes a very nice place. That's very practical.
But there's the rub, see the secularist is not really holding to a point of view, they are holding to themselves. They can sense the change that would come and they want nothing to do with it.
So, the essential question is are you willing to be changed?
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
It Is A Discipline
Giving is a personal act, and every one of us should set aside an amount of money to give. Even children ought to be taught this. It might be a few pennies, a nickel, or even a dime. But they should be taught that they should give to the Lord.Habits shape us. That which we do habitually becomes a part of us. We no longer think about it, it just happens.
Some people might say, "I think that is legalistic. I like to just give as it comes to me. I like to give in the moment."
Yet Paul instructed the believers to set something aside ahead of time (see 1 Corinthians 16:2). In reality, is it actually legalistic to say, "I am going to take a portion of my income and set it aside to be invested in the work of the kingdom of God"? That is not legalism, friend. That is good planning and obedience. And it is a good way to live.
What better habit than giving? Not becasue of what the money does out there, but becasue of what it does to us. Suddenly the other matters more than the self. We have to practice that. Heroism does not come because we rise to the occasion, it comes because we have habituated it in a thousand small ways through the years. If you do not practice sacrifice, you will not sacrifice when it is most necessary.
We tend to think that money is somehow different than other things we give away like time and energy, but its not. The idea is to develop a mindset of giving of everything that is precious to us.
discipline giving habit
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
It has been said to the point of boredom that we live in a narcissistic age, where we are wont to fixate on our needs, our wants, our wishes, and our hopes—at the expense of others and certainly at the expense of God. We do not like it when a teacher uses up the whole class time presenting her material, even if it is material from the Word of God. We want to be able to ask our questions about our concerns, otherwise we feel talked down to, or we feel the class is not relevant to our lives.What this reflects is a deep, deep problem. There is no question that the Bible often is not directly relevant to a specific situation, but that is not the point. The point is that being a person steeped in scripture is one vital and important aspect of developing character and character gives us the tools to behave as a Christian in a situation where we do not have direct guidance.
It is well and good for the preacher to base his sermon on the Bible, but he better get to something relevant pretty quickly, or we start mentally to check out. Don’t spend a lot of time in the Bible, we tell our preachers, but be sure to get to personal illustrations, examples from daily life, and most importantly, an application that we can use.
This situation reflects the fact that we no longer want to hear that we are sinners that need to have our character reformed. We are all so happy with ourselves that we just need "a little guidance" for a rough patch. That's not even cheap grace, that's no grace. If we are not sinners, then grace is not needed.
The church caters to this because the church more and more appears in need of audience becasue audience fills the plates and pays the pastors and staff. We have quit leading and started following. We no longer lead people to Christ we beg them for attention.
What a lack of faith that represents, it means that we assume that the Christian life is not as attractive as the alternatives out there, so we have to bend the Christian life to be more attractive. If we do not find the Christian life attractive, what will none Christians find?
I need to pray now.
church leadership scripture sin
Monday, February 23, 2015
How To Learn To Lead
What we found, however, is that there is absolutely no statistically significant relationship between what you do before age twenty and your likelihood of assuming a very senior leadership role later on in life. It doesn’t matter where you went to school. It does not matter what grades you made. It does not matter if you were in extra curricular activities. It does not matter if your family was wealthy or poor. It does not matter in what city you were born. None of those things matter.I see several factors at play here - one is the organic nature of the relationships. There is such a thing as a bad fit between people - this stuff cannot be forced. The second is summed up here, "not because we’re trying to pass down a certain body of knowledge, but we’re really invested in this young person." That second factor says so much about the state of the church today. We have tried to reduce Christianity to a "certain body of knowledge" and then pass that on. But such is not really the nature of Christianity - Christianity is person formation.
At the same time, there are certain things that happen uniquely in Christian institutions of education that make a profound difference in your likelihood to succeed. Principally, it’s about having a formative relationship with a mentor. What we found is that a lot of schools and businesses try to create structured mentoring programs…say, a management training program where you take twenty new people and you match them up with a senior executive; or in my church youth group, we had basically a system where adult volunteers agreed to mentor a Bible study fellowship format with young people who wanted that.
Those are all well and good, but actually those don’t work very effectively. The real way in which mentoring works effectively is through organic relationships. One of the most important things that Christian institutions can do is create the ecosystem of opportunity out of which those relationships can develop. Unlike state-run institutions of learning or public schools in this country, which have a pretty bureaucratic approach to relationships, Christian institutions recognize we’re really about transforming the individual. We’re in this work, not because we’re trying to pass down a certain body of knowledge, but we’re really invested in this young person. I care deeply about this particular student. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to try and help them, if it means helping them get a job, if it means helping them navigate a family issue, if it means helping them learn a subject.
Small groups are supposed to be what makes this happen, but that forgets the whole "organic relationship" thing. So often small groups happen through all sorts of artificial mechanisms, rather than allowing the relationships to develop.
The easy way through this maze is to point to the institution and say the institution takes so much time that we cannot have time for this stuff. But we need the institution to help preserve a society in which this stuff can happen. So discarding the institution is not the answer. We simply have to be more committed to leadership.
There is no half way with God.