Saturday, March 28, 2015
Friday, March 27, 2015
"Stated simply, the most common factor in declining churches is an inward focus."I grow very weary of reading this in place after place after place. One cannot focus outward without some work on oneself. I would argue that one of the biggest reasons the church has lost the culture war is becasue we have been so outwardly focused that we no longer know what we are. We have grown for the sake of growth rather than grown towards the Lord. We add people labeled "Christian," but do we add people that behave like the label we attach to them?
The key here is not to be outwardly or inwardly focused, but to be both. However, the inward must precede the outward. Moses had his wilderness time. Between Damascus and ministry, Paul spent time in training and growth. Even Jesus had to grow up. And even one He was grown Jesus would often steal away to be alone with His Father or a few of His followers.
"Outward focus" is marketing advice, not spiritual advice. It's useful, but it is not the end of the story. Yet so many churches think it is, and a cultural wasteland where Christianity is considered irrelevant is the result.
church focus marketing v evangelism
Thursday, March 26, 2015
A quick answer to this question might simply quote biblical imperatives that tell us to confess our sins (for example, James 5:16). Or, we might note that people throughout Scripture confess their sins, so we should follow their example.I agree there is a supernatural element to confession that something happens there that is out of our reach in some fashion. However, I don't think appeal to such is going to have much affect in the many faith communities that overemphasize grace and under-emphasize our sin. If they were interested in the supernatural aspects of Christianity, they would not have the issues they have.
But, deeper reflection suggests that, as the saying goes, “confession is good for the soul,” and even more than just the soul. Truly, our forgiveness comes from God’s grace in Christ, expressed in Christ’s death for us. We don’t earn forgiveness by confessing. But, when we tell God what we have done to dishonor him, we open our souls to receiving our forgiveness in ways we cannot comprehend. What is ours in truth becomes ours in experience.
Certainly there is a practical reason why we confess. There is, a mistake admitted is a mistake unlikely to be repeated. Confession is the difference between cheap grace and transformative grace. It's just that simple. Forget the theology for a minute and concentrate on the simple reality. We may never understand the theology, but we can deal in the practicality.
Go and confess. Yo may find your life improves.
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
"Though it's difficult to isolate any one factor as the most dangerous," Rainer said, "the steep numerical decline of these churches was most noticeable as the congregation started focusing on their own needs. They became preference-driven instead of Great Commission driven."I think that is really fair, but there are some important questions associated with this observation. NAmely what does it mean to be preference driven and what does it mean to be Great Commission driven?
You see I have had there very thing quoted to me in "worship war" situations and yet I cannot help but think that when they do the precise opposite is what is happening. People keep pushing for "contemporary worship" in the name of reaching out to the community, and yet the vitriol with which the war happens would indicate that it is really about preference. (Isn't it really about preference anyway? And people will deride things like Sunday School and other programs of spiritual development becasue they are not outwardly focused. And yet, for any mission orientation to be truly effective do we not need mature Christians?
I grow weary of platitudiness and word driven Christianity. We must act and act with decisiveness. It must not be action for the sake of action, but it must be action that understands the very depths of genuine Christian faith. It must be action that prompts Christian maturity in order to produce Christian mission - not babies making babies.
There is too much at stake.
church maturity wisdom
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Foundations For Thinking
In Ephesians 5:6-8, Christian ethics is based not on God's commandments, but rather on our new identity in God. We are not to deceive or disobey. Why not? "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light." There is an "ought" here: You ought not to deceive or disobey and you ought to live as a child of the light. This "ought" is based on the "is" of your new identity: Now you are light in the Lord. If we want to find out what we "ought" to do (and not do), we need to pay attention to the "is" of our identity in Christ.We accept much behavior in this world because in a desire to be God's we think "love" outshines all. But I wonder if the Love we are talking about really reflects the love of God. Christ acted in love when he chastised the Pharisees. Christ acted in love when he confronted the woman at the well with her sins.
If this philosophical conversation seems a bit obscure to you, consider the following example. On April 14, 1984, while standing before family, friends, and God, I pledged myself in marriage. I became the husband of Linda. That wasn't my entire identity, but being a husband became a central part of who I am as a person. Now, if I were tempted to be unfaithful to Linda and shared this temptation with a friend, he might very well say to me, "Mark, what are you thinking? You are a married man. You are Linda's husband. Be who you are!" Of course, my friend would be right in this exhortation.
Mark is right, but it requires a very clear eyed view of who Jesus is, and who He was. It cannot be some mamby-pamby idealistic vision of a cosmic grandmother that loves us "just the way we are." Jesus is the living incarnation of the God that flooded the planet and destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. He is the incarnation of the God that ordered Saul to completely destroy his enemies and his prophets to marry hookers. These things are all as much a part of our identity in Christ as is the feeder and healer and benign teacher.
Love is not acceptance, it is character shaping. Sometimes shaping a character means acceptance and sometimes it means chastising. Sometimes shaping a character means helping and sometimes it means leaving someone to suffer in their mistake. Sometimes shaping a character says "I love you" and sometimes it says "You are wrong." Wisdom is knowing when those times are. Grace must be at play when we fail to be wise.
My identity is in ALL of God and His character.
character ethics love wisdom
Monday, March 23, 2015
How To Think About Things
The glorious run of “Who am I to judge?” has often become a tool to reverse the moral order. It can confuse the liberation that comes from acting rationally within metaphysical and moral order with acting “freely,” wherein nothing exists but what “I judge,” whatever I choose.It saddens me what a confused age we live in, where unconditional love = unconditional acceptance. That means we, in the name of love, are supposed to passively accept it when someone engages in behavior that harms themselves and/or harms others. That makes no sense if you think about it.
My wife worries about me constantly. Often to the point where I get annoyed. "Drive carefully." -- "Don't fall," she says as I stumble with my bad knees. As much as I bristle at how childish I feel as she admonishes me as if I were a child, they are expression of her deep love for me. Love wishes to save its object from harm.
"Ah," you may counter, "Where's the harm in, say, homosexual practice?" There is a deep theological answer that has to do with the fact that simple disobedience of God's command harms us on levels unimaginable. (God does after all declare such behavior as an "abomination.") I also believe that the difference in sex drives between men and women will lead, should homosexual behavior become readily acceptable, to demographic disaster. Men always in search of easy sex will choose the easiest place to get it - other men. And women, always in search of bonding will turn to other women who bond so much more readily than men do. But many choose not to believe in God, or refuse to look that far over the horizon. "Where's the harm tonight?"
I have no ready answers. Thus if the society at large chooses to legitimize completely homosexual practice, I am without argument. But when God's church does so it blesses abomination. It places its imprimatur upon that which God has specifically declared wrong. It is, theologically, no different than if we had a thief come into church with his loot and prayed with him a prayer of blessing on the bounty that had befallen him. The church simply is no longer a credible moral agent.
It makes me weep.
acceptance love morality religion thought