Saturday, July 04, 2015
Friday, July 03, 2015
When I was a teen, I bought into the very fashionable assumption that the local church would only cramp my style and put a barrier to “authentic spirituality.” I stopped attending for a while until I got wind of a hip, cool church across town that was full of attractive, young, relevant people. The music was great, the preaching was edgy, and the atmosphere was exciting.I find it fascinating that he thinks the "local church" is the difference. I think relationships are the difference. Now granted, you cannot have relationships if church is too far away, but you can have relationships at some distance when you work at it.
For months, I drove all the way across town, nearly an hour each way, to attend services at the church that “got it.” It was a booming place, with six fully packed services each weekend. And if I arrived late, I was turned away because the fire department was keeping a close eye on the safety capacity.
It all ended for me one week, when the pastor said something that disturbed me. I remember it something like this:For those of you who come here every week thinking attendance makes you good with God, you’re wrong. Some of you are driving from the other side of the metroplex, and are not really connected to the church at all. If you’re just coming here, not involved in a small group, not serving with nursery, parking, or ushering — if you’re just here to hear the band or listen to me talk — go somewhere else. You’re a leech. And quite frankly, we could use your seat.That was a harsh thing for me to hear, but I can attest now that it was a most loving gift to me. That was my last weekend at that church, and I began searching for a local body where I could serve in a context of real relationships.
More Than Showing UpI continue to grow in my love for the local church. One of the ways God has grown my love for the church is by teaching me that worship is more than showing up.
I also think the mega-church, which churches that "get it" often are, also can make it very difficult to form relationships. But again, the key is relationships - not necessarily the church, or its locale.
This, I think is reflective of the modern age. Some today do not understand the difference between a genuine relationship and one created in the electronic world, and carefully controlled in the real world. Relationships cannot be controlled, they are wild and unpredictable things. That very lack of control is a big part of the issue. God is kind of the same way.
church relationship unpredictability
Thursday, July 02, 2015
The Time We Have
Like Frodo, we may not like this. If we’re honest, we might also say, “I wish it need not have happened in my time.” But the truth is that we cannot choose to live in others times. We cannot skip immediately to the future when God reigns and all of creation is united under Christ. We must live in these evil days.Well said Mark, and 'Nuff Said.
But we have a choice about how to live. We can choose to walk worthy of the calling with which we have been called (Eph 4:1). We can choose, by God’s grace, to be careful how we live, to live wisely, and to redeem the time given to us (5:15-16). As we look at our lives and the world in which we live, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time given us.” Will we live as the world dictates? Or will we set time free from the clutches of evil, using it for God’s purposes? Will we, like Frodo, heed the call given to us and live for the sake of redemption?
All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. Well spoken, Gandalf.
good time wisdom
Wednesday, July 01, 2015
What Draws People To Church
Serious evangelical spokespersons and teachers try to emphasize the movement’s worldview, its doctrines — in short, its truth. Bebbington’s fourfold model has often been cited: conversionism, activism, biblicism, and crucicentrism, as a basic skeleton upon which the various evangelical churches, missions, and schools form their bodies. And despite that skeleton, those bodies do indeed come with a variety of shapes and sizes and features. Southern Baptists are not Nazarenes, and the Church of God folks around me here in the Midwest don’t look at all like evangelical Presbyterians. Furthermore, just because you attend a non-denominational church doesn’t mean the specific cultural characteristics of your group match the culture of the other non-denom down the street.He goes on to point out that it is this culture that really forms people.
For folks on the ground, what usually makes the most difference is not the statement of faith. It’s the culture. The (often unspoken) question is: Do I, can I fit in that world?
Can I live with the style of the building and the sanctuary, the kind of music and the songs they sing or don’t sing, how they practice the various elements of worship, the kind of “personality” the church exhibits, the way people dress, the language with which they converse, the way they do the children’s programs and the youth group, the Christian celebrities, books, and media they endorse, the way people pray, how people talk about public issues and politics and culture, the style and approach the pastor uses in preaching, the colleges their students go off to attend, the camps, recreation and vacation spots church members prefer, the methods by which the church receives giving and donations, how accessible the pastors and other leaders are, the way the congregation makes decisions, and so on.
I think it is fair to say; therefore, that most people are going to select a culture that does not challenge them too much, or challenges them only where they want tot be challenged and to the degree that they want to be challenged. That's not entirely unreasonable, when teaching someone it is possible to go too far, too fast and have them simply reject the teaching becasue for whatever reason they cannot keep up. But conversely it is also possible to have such "I can't do this" tantrums retard teaching generally. And what of those that want to pick up the challenge readily, deeply and rapidly? Do they simply get pushed aside to concentrate on the majority?
The answer lies, I think, in two important phenomena. 1) whatever the culture of the church, it has to be a culture that demands increasing maturity. Yes at different paces and in different way, but it must demand that everyone rise to the next small challenge. 2) The church has to have enough going for it to offer this wide variety of challenges.
Christ had mass meeting for the large crowds and small discussion with the twelve. Christ had those with whom He was quite close but who did not travel with Him. He seemed, almost miraculously to know where the people He came in contact with were,a nd how to move them forward in their individual journey with Him. The church needs, desperately, to develop that capability. None of us are Christ, I doubt individually we can do it like He did, but I do think we can develop that capability corporately. But to do so will require looking at the church as more than just "my ministry" or "your ministry."
I am driven once again to a thought I have had for some time. The church needs to work on itself for a whole to be better at reaching out.
church culture formation improvement outreach
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
I think, for example, of Victor Hugo’s novel, Les Misérables, which has been made popular through musical and film versions. Every time I have read the book or seen a dramatized version of Les Misérables, I am drawn to see myself from a different perspective. I see the ways I can be like Javert: driven, inflexible, judgmental. I am profoundly inspired by the Bishop, who plays a relatively small role in the musical and film versions of the story, but figures much more prominently in the novel. The Bishop is a man of deep generosity and self-sacrifice, one whose life matches the gospel he preaches. In light of the Bishop, I see how often I live for my own advantage, rather than for the sake of others. I am drawn to live more graciously, more freely.I would like to think that, but too often I encounter people that are simply self-delusional. (Myself included on occasion.) They see themselves as Superman when they are acting like Lex Luthor. (In point of fact Luthor often deluded himself into thinking his crimes were for the good of mankind.) I wonder how many times people have read Crime and Punishment where Rashkolnikov is deluding himself towards murder and think "there but for the grace of God..." when they are equally delusional towards some other crime?
Art can be an incredibly useful tool for self-examination, but only when we are trained properly in how to use it as such. And only when our view of ourselves permits it. Sin is a pervasive and awful thing and it can corrupt this worthy practice as easily as it can any other.
art self-reflection truth
Monday, June 29, 2015
Heck Of A Question
In his commentaries, N. T. Wright wonders, “Doesn’t Jesus want everybody to get the message? Yes and no. What he is saying is such dynamite that it can’t be said straightforwardly, out in the street.” It is not that Jesus speaks in parables because he doesn’t want people to understand. He speaks in parables because they refuse to understand. Through parables, Jesus can communicate with the people who are ready to listen, and no one else will understand enough to cause immediate trouble.I weep, almost daily, for those that refuse to hear. It hurts to see people that have so much right there at their fingertips and they simply refuse to grasp it.
But there is a flip side to this discussion of parables - and that is that Christ's ministry was not, I repeat NOT, entirely inclusive. Not everyone made it to the party. There were insiders and outsiders. Parables were a part of the sorting process. It seems like we do not sort in the church anymore. With the exception of the Jewish officialdom, Jesus did not spend a lot of time denouncing outsiders, He used subtle means like parables to sort and to reinforce the differentiation. We don't even do subtle stuff anymore - "All are welcome," "Come as you are." Maybe, but you only get to come so far as you are - even in Christ's ministry.
We cannot let the inmates run the asylum. Such is responsible for many of the ills that face the church these days.