Saturday, May 30, 2015


Comic Art

Artist Jim Starlin 

Friday, May 29, 2015


Success and Transformation

Ed Stetser:
Most churches do a good job of measuring what Micah Fries calls the "three B's"— budgets, buildings, and baptisms.

Those are helpful, he said. But they don't always show whether a church is fulfilling its mission to make disciples.

"Every church should ask two questions," said Fries, director of ministry development for LifeWay Christian Resources. "'Are we healthy?' and 'Are we making disciples?'''


Ballew said that there's difference between success and transformation. A church can grow its membership and still not affect its community.

"You have to decide - are we here to grow a church, or are we here to make a difference?" Ballew said.
This is important and meaningful stuff, but I find myself worried. Those wonderful words are spilled in a effort to sell, "...the Transformational Church Assessment Tool (TCAT)—an 80-question, online survey that looks at a church's spiritual health." I cannot help but wonder if such a thing can be reduced to a single tool of any sort. For one thing such tools produce uniformity, and one must wonder if uniformity is what is needed in this circumstances.

Secondly is spiritual transformation even a mechanical process. Yes behavior is a part of it, but in many way it is secondary - resultant from much deeper acting my the Holy Spirit in the lives of man individuals. Can we squeeze the Holy Spirit into a survey?

Mentoring, apprenticing, these words keep coming to my mind. I cannot help but think these are where the difference will be told.


Friday Humor

Thursday, May 28, 2015


Another Cultural Front

The NYT carried a piece called "The Dark Side of Sharing." It's all about "sharing economy" the internet was supposed to facilitate and how t may or may not facilitate "community." It seems to lament hat the various internet communities may end up *shudder* competing with one another.

The worldview contained in this op-ed is, to my way of thinking, frightening. All the talk about a "sharing economy" on the internet smelled of socialism to me. The authors fears of "Competing communities" is precisely what happened with communism. What's the old adgae? "Those who do not study history are doomed...."

All of this involves a really warped view of charity and sharing. As Christians we worry about abortion and same-sex marriage, but do we worry about deeper things? Things that shape the world's view of really fundamental stuff like "sharing." I read this piece and I see another front in the culture wars.

And I weep.

The church's failure to truly affect this culture is deeply frightening. All the money time and effort we have put into trying to evangelize the nation and the world and we seem to be failing in such myriad and miserable ways. My only solace lies in God's sovereignty - which is a lot of solace. But I cannot help but wonder when the church will wake up to all that is happening around us and start to get serious.

I am not smart enough to know how to fix all this, but one thing I do know. Like the movement started by Christ, it will not happen with a large organization of vast resources. It will spring up from a few deeply committed individuals that simply want to get it right. I pray that I can be such an agent in my immediate surroundings.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


Is Discipleship Really That Shallow?

Ron Edmondson lists "10 Indications a Church is Making Disciples." A few examples:

The church takes care of each other well.

The leaders of the church are most likely to give up “their” seats, park further from the building, or do whatever is necessary to help the Body.

Members care that others needs are met more than their own.

These are all good things, really good things, but somehow listing them in this fashion just seems wrong. Listing them this way creates a legalistic spin on what should be deep and abiding character change.

I've been in situations where people compete to see who can do more of stuff like this - which ends up not being very disciple-like at all. Real Discipleship will be achieved when this things happens as a matter of course and not as a result on expectation or admonishment. That is how deeply Jesus wants to affect us - so that not only are we a really nice servant, but so that we don;t notice when we are a really nice servant.

I have also seen people in response to lists like this turn into some sort of milquetoast. That is not God's intention either. Humility and service do not entail aloss of personal worth or identity.

Lists turn character into legalism. ISn;t that what Christ was all about combating?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


Shallow Analogies

Mike Bell @ iMonk analogizes church to a pizza parlor.The analogy holds up pretty well, but it illustrates the problem of dealing in analogy - you try and sell pizza - church tries to change people. That is a pretty fundamental difference. So, when Bell says:
Here is the problem, like the pizza consultant, when your solutions don’t address why people are actually attending less frequently, you are likely to end up with the wrong solutions.

Take me for example, for a number of reasons, I am very close to burnout. When I hear words like “active”, “committed”, “involvement”, and “monitor attendance”, it is going to produce the opposite of the intended effect in me. If I hear these words from the pulpit on a Sunday morning, I am going to be less likely, not more likely, to attend the following week. I am burnt out and you want a larger commitment from me?!?
I think, maybe the issue is that Bell should be more committed. Changing people takes genuine deep life long commitment. Asking for more commitment is not necessarily a bad thing.

The problem is, I think, that we ask people to commit to church instead of to God. Commitment to church should flow from commitment to God, but if we do not do things in the right order, it may not. Church growth can and will occur if the community in the church is deep and abiding and truly reflects the image of God. But if that community reflects the image of Wal-Mart, well, who wants to commit anything to Wal-Mart?

Maybe we need to step outside the analogy sometimes and look at the deeper issues.

Monday, May 25, 2015


The Use of Authority

Jenny Frank @ Desiring God:
God is sovereign. He does not need us. He could display his power much more neatly and efficiently without us, but that has never been the point. Why does God choose this peculiar path, employing dirty, broken pottery to host and reflect his glory?

The fact that he does speaks to his relational nature — that he is eternally, wonderfully the great Three-in-One. He doesn’t intend to reveal himself to us, or through us, without communing with us in the process. His power is surpassing, not bypassing.
That statement should have deep implications for how Christians do cultural and political engagement. If we are to follow God's example, the legitimate exercise of sovereignty must be preceded - PREceded - by winning hearts and minds. Thus, if our nation is no longer "Christian" in its nature it is not becasue we have failed to use authority properly, but because we have failed to win the culture on non-authoritative levels.

The United States is relatively unique in history in that it delinked these two things - culture and authority. It recognized the wisdom that Ms. Frank here teases from scripture. Stable states come from government responding to culture, not dictating it - just as God understood that to restore His created order to the world He had to win the culture, not simply reign sovereign over it.

It is the job of the church, separate from governmental authority to win the culture for God's purpose - government will flow behind. And yet the church today responds to culture and is molded by it rather than molds it. It is a miserable failure on our part.

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