Monday, May 30, 2005
(Warning: if you are not grown up enough to read about sex, here is a link to Mr. Rogers)
Some women have sex all of their adult lives and never orgasm. I am a marriage and family therapist, so I get the inside story on these situations. Sadly, it’s more common than you want to believe.
Usually what happens with these women is that something has contaminated their sex life. Some of these women got some really bad advice from their mothers – "Just lie there and take it; the more you cooperate the quicker he’ll be done." Others were sexually abused as children. Still for other women, it is their husband’s demands (unusually high frequency demanded or perverse behaviors) which inhibit her satisfaction. Some women got some bad religion as a girl – "Sex is dirty." I could go on and on, but I think that you get the point.
Yet, with all of this, the truth is that sex is good, healthy, and in the larger picture, necessary.
Some Christians take bread and wine their whole adult lives and never commune. I am a Christian, so I get the inside story on these situations. Sadly, it’s more common than you want to believe.
I grew up in a church that required weekly communion of it believers. It happened like this: At the appropriate time during the Sunday morning worship serve, four men would stand behind a large wooden table that said, "This do in remembrance of Me," in Old English script, hands folded in front of them in the fig leaf position. Stock prayers, always including the statement, "in a manner pleasing to you," were uttered first for the cracker, then for the grape juice (never real wine), and then for the contribution, which was done with the communion, though "separate and apart," and, "as a matter of convenience."
There were some problems with communion.
It was the same every time. It was called the center of the worship service, but was never treated very special. Rarely was it ever explained except for the fact that it was Jesus’ flesh and blood and that we should feel real bad that we did this to him, and in fact keep on doing this to Him every time we sin.
It also flowed from church-culture context of legalism – you have to do this or else you are sinning. Growing up, I took a lot of communion, but I never really got communion. I never really learned how to commune. The obligation, the unexplained ritual, the stock prayers, the rote communing did not really penetrate. The whole exercise got contaminated from the very beginning.
Yet, with all of this, the truth is that communion is good, healthy, and in the larger picture, necessary.
The solution is to slow down, take a deep breath, let off with the pressure, and experiment without obligation. Certainly it takes the cooperation of two and the demands of none. When it happens, it is great, and when it just doesn’t, oh well, it doesn’t mean anything for the relationship. Part of connecting is the effort to connect. Celebrate each other with joy when it works and flow with grace for each other when it doesn’t work.
Friday, May 27, 2005
Feel free to comment on what you think about this.
1. Commitment to God in the Way of Jesus:
We are committed to doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with God, as the Scriptures teach. In the words of Jesus, we seek to live by the Great Commandment: loving God and loving our neighbors – including those who might be considered “the least of these” or enemies. We understand the gospel to be centered in Jesus and his message of the kingdom of God, a message of reconciliation with God and among humanity.
We are committed to a “generous orthodoxy” in faith and practice – affirming the historic Christian faith and the Biblical injunction to love one another even when we disagree. We embrace historic spiritual practices such as prayer, meditation, contemplation, study, solitude, silence, service, and fellowship, believing that healthy theology cannot be separated from healthy spirituality.
2. Commitment to the Church in all its Forms:
We are committed to honor and serve the church in all its forms – Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Protestant, Pentecostal. We practice “deep ecclesiology” – rather than favoring some forms of the church and critiquing or rejecting others, we see that every form of the church has both weaknesses and strengths, both liabilities and potential. We believe the rampant injustice and sin in our world requires the sincere, collaborative, and whole-hearted response of all Christians in all denominations, from the most historic and hierarchical, through the mid-range of local and congregational churches, to the most spontaneous and informal expressions. We affirm both the value of strengthening, renewing, and transitioning existing churches and organizations, and the need for planting, resourcing, and coaching new ones of many kinds. We seek to be irenic and inclusive of all our Christian sisters and brothers, rather than elitist and critical, seeing “us” we were used to see “us versus them.” We own the many failures of the church as our failures, which humbles us and calls us to repentance, and we also celebrate the many heroes and virtues of the church, which inspires us and gives us hope.
3. Commitment to God’s World:
We practice our faith missionally – that is, we do not isolate ourselves from this world, but rather, we follow Christ into the world. We seek to fulfill the mission of God in our generations, and then to pass the baton faithfully to the next generations as well. We believe the church exists for the benefit and blessing of the world at large; we seek therefore not to be blessed to the exclusion of everyone else, but rather for the benefit of everyone else. We see the earth and all it contains as God’s beloved creation, and so we join God in seeking its good, its healing, and its blessing.
4. Commitment to One Another
In order to strengthen our shared faith and resolve, and in order to encourage and learn from one another in our diversity through respectful, sacred conversation, we value time and interaction with other friends who share this rule and its practices. We identify ourselves as members of this growing, global, generative, and non-exclusive friendship. We welcome others into this friendship as well. We bring whatever resources we can to enrich this shared faith and resolve.
So, what do you think about this one?
Thursday, May 26, 2005
What happens when an environemnt good for some things to grow is, at the same time, toxic for others to grow?
For example, palm trees don't do so well in Minnesota (or any cold region). Or, alcoholics don't do well in bars.
When there is a problem, most people's initial response is to assign blame, decide on a winnder, and try to fit everything else into that model. If palm trees don't grow in Minnesota, then there must either be a problem with palm trees or Minnesota. If someone who has a weakness for alcohol, they must be flawed, or else alcohol itself is evil. So, then the hunt is on to figure who is right, who is wrong, and how to decisively determine this with empirical evidence.
This "who's to blame?" response is natural, but is not actually helpful. It's a tool of the modern era that is power-centered, hierarchical, and oppressive.
Although you could go on forever trying to determine who is to blame, even if you could find the answer to the question, pursuing that answer completely misses the point. It's not that the environment is necessarily evil, nor is it that the object in the environment is necessarily evil either, but rather the combination can be said to have poor results.
Let me transfer this dynamic to church life. Some people thrive in large megachurches. They take comfort in large numbers, in well-oiled programs, slick marketing, and so forth. However, some people just drown in this mass of bodies, the feeling of personal smallness, in the massive amounts of energy it requires to keep the Queen Mary afloat.
So, is the problem with megachurches or with "weak" people?
Let's jump over to the other metaphor. What if megachurch is the bar the person who gets drawn toward too much alcohol (too much church) should never go? What if this person is too easily drawn into church pride, frantic activity, perfectionism, etc that it drains the soul of its love and energy and spirit? What this person really craves is a small community of loving people - sips of "church" not gulps.
I really like the part of the emergent order that says, "We are committed to honor and serve the church in all its forms... rather than favoring some forms of the church and critiquing or rejecting others." There is room for megachurches, for house churches, for denominations, for all kinds of churches in the church.
The effective result of affirming the church in all of its forms is affirming people in all of their forms. There is no one right way to do church for all people, but there is a church form that is more suitable for certain person types. And if there is a person for whom no church structure is a fit, then more new churches need to be planted.
To cram a person into a church type that does not help, but actually causes damage to them is not at all what Jesus had in mind for the church. Forms are unavoidable, but declaring that one form is best for all people is completely avoidable.
We need every possible variety of church because there are so many kinds of people. That is why the era of cookie cutter churches is over. New churches in the emerging culture are opening the door to people for whom church has been toxic. Oh yes!!!!!!!!!!!!
If you want to learn more about this kind of deep ecclesiology, go get a book calld, "A Generous Orthodoxy," by Brian McLaren and also begin reading the Tall Skinny Kiwi's series beginning here.
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
AC: Yes, please, have a seat. There is lots of room at the table.
BM: Don’t mind if I do. He pulls up a chair to the table. Alex, how can you drink that stuff?
BM: Your coffee has no flavor.
AC: Your coffee has no coffee.
AC: Brian, I’m concerned about the church.
BM: You too?
AC: Yes. It’s so fractured and splintered. Do you think this is what Jesus meant for it to become when he began the church?
BM: Alex, we might be of the same heart. I look around and it hurts to see the fighting, the in-grouping and out-grouping, the vying for position – it’s depressing.
AC: I’m not depressed.
BM: Well, you’re a better man than I am.
AC: You may be right, but let’s not talk about that. What I want to know is how to solve this problem.
BM: I’ve been thinking about that, too. Do you think it’s possible?
AC: Of course it is.
BM: You seem so certain.
AC: Brian, do you see this? Holds up constitution. This is like our Bible. It is a governing document that, if followed, assures us of rights, freedom, and liberty. The Bible does essentially the same thing. All we need to do is be honest and look at it. An honest look at the Bible will render the same results from everyone, I am certain.
BM: Curious. Unity through uniformity.
AC: People are rational and a rational reading of the text will reveal an agreeable truth. Brian, we will be one as Christ so desired. The church can be restored!
BM: Interesting. As I pondered Christian unity, I remembered a poem I wrote when I was in high school. It was about my friend, my imaginary friend. I wrote about her…
AC: Wait a minute, your imaginary friend was a girl?
BM: Yes, is that strange?
AC: I’ve just never heard of such a thing.
BM: I’m sorry, but what I was saying was…
AC: Seriously, a girl?
BM: I liked girls, OK, I still do, for the record.
AC: It’s just highly unusual…
BM: Noted, can we move on? Campbell nods. This poem is called Harbinger of the Dawn.
AC: Why did you still have an imaginary friend in high school?
BM: Just let it lie, would you? He clears his throat. Harbinbger of the Dawn
AC: Harbinger, I like that.
Just as Brian was about to recite the poem, they were both shaken by a loud noise pumping out of an oversized, 80’s style boom box covered in worn stickers of Pope Leo.
“We’re no gonna take it,
No, we ain’t gonna take it,
We’re not gonna take it, anymore…”
They both looked and saw a man spinning on his head. He than flipped up to his feet and began break dancing.
AC: Ah, my good friend Martin Luther. Martin how are you good man?
ML: I can’t stop dancing.
BM: Martin, I’ve been meaning to ask you, what do you think of Lutherans?
ML: I want to open up a super-sized can of Whoopass on them all.
AC: Martin, you really need to reign in your tongue. No one is going to take you seriously with such a foul mouth.
ML: That’s the problem. People have taken me too seriously. Now I’m out here dancing to reform the reformation. Sorry guys, gotta go, and I’m taking my music with me.
BM: I got to hand it to the guy, he puts it all on the line. Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, my poem.
Harbinger of the Dawn
A song in the darkness, Like
a prayer thrown into the night,
Yearning for the light, longing
for the sun. She sings of beauty
she cannot see, of hope she
does not know…
Just then a man ran through the Starbucks with his hair on fire, punching himself in the face, screaming at the top of his lungs, “The flames are coming! The flames are coming!”
AC: Who is that?
BM: I can’t tell with the burning hair and facial bruises, but it almost looks like Jerry Jenkins.
AC: Hmmm. That’s quite a stunt. So, you were reciting.
BM: Yes, let’s see
…of hope she
does not know. Then, from the far-
thest horizon, something sang
back. It sang in blue and orange,
pink and purple, and blood red.
Their music harmonized, like
Lovers, as a crescendo
of light filled the earth, and…and…
AC: Brian, what’s wrong? Is that it?
BM: That green man in the robes, the one hovering by the coffee bar, is that Yoda?
AC: No way, Yoda is short. That guy is tall. It looks like, well, it looks like a Tall Skinny Kiwi.
BM: It’s Andrew Jones. Andrew, come on over and have a seat.
AJ: About the church concern you have. He sips his coffee without touching the cup.
AC: Yes, we seek unity. We are both sick and tired of the fractured and dismembered body of Christ.
BM: What do you think is the solution, Andrew?
AJ: Clouded your thoughts are. His eyes narrowed and then he said, one solution there is not, The Rhizome Cowboy, ride he must.
BM & AC: Huh?
AJ: Thinking I must do. A blog I must post. At that Andrew floated away.
AC: I just don’t understand those Jedi’s. Brian, I need to go in a minute, so would you please finish your poem and then make your point.
BM: Oh, I am finished.
AC: What? It’s ends with, “…and…and” – Seriously, that’s how it ends?
BM: Alex, how does the Kingdom of God end?
The question made him choke on his plain black coffee and spill it all over the floor.
BM: Oh I’m sorry. Would you like to finish off my coffee?
AC: I don’t know; there is so much in it.
BM: That’s what makes it so good.
Monday, May 23, 2005
Could Anakin be our Christ figure? Read this and find out.
Let's get beyond the obvious problems and go to the things that do fit. Immaculate conception? It was the will of the force that Anakin was born of the Midiclorians. He was born to restore balance to the universe. Think about that for minute.
1. There was once balance in the universe (Eden).
2. Something got it out of balance and that imbalance lasted for generations (Sin).
3. He was prophesied about.
4. Balance can be restored again (redemption, salvation).
5. He was tempted in every way.
6. Restoration eventually is found in Anakin's death (crucifixion).
7. After his death, he lives in his people through the spirit.
8. There is still work to be done after the balance has been restored.
I love the Star Wars double trilogies because the story is soooooooo goooood. It is the classic battle between good and evil. It touches on temptation, generational sins, free will, powers greater than we know of, spirituality, love, hate, hope, fear, triumph, confusion, celebration, grief, racial reconciliation, racism, greed, generosity, sacrifice, selfishness, change...etc.
I think that there is a special message in the Star Wars movies for fathers and sons. Reconciliation, at any age, is possible. Many sons who have had lousy fathers have spent their lives fighting their fathers, swearing they will never be like them, hating them. The irony is that their very means by which to avoid being like the father is the very way to become most like him. "Luke, it is your destiny."
Forgiveness, not hate, is the way of change. Wow, isn't that beautiful?
But what you'll also find is that the church is an audience. They act in much the same way as the group of people at the movie theater act. They attend, pay attention, want to get something out of it, critique it when it's over, and then splinter off back into their real lives.
Just because people are all together in the same room does not mean that they are united, productive, spiritual, or anything. All it really means is that they decided to show up in the same room.
Even if what brought them together unites them and that uniting thing is a good thing, such as, "It's good to be with brothers and sisters in Christ," or "This is a place where I can pour out my heart in worship..." Even if there are good reason for these people to come together, if that is it, then there is a certain degree of shallowness in the church.
That is church as audience, maybe some interaction, but predominantly audience.
Jesus Christ did not come to earth in human form, endure mistreatment, die and raise from the dead to gather an audience.
He wants more than that; He wants an army!
Jesus wants an active army of compassion mobilized to take love to the world like it has never seen before. Although there are some spectacular exceptions, the church is generally more interested in self-preservation, political action, and power.
American church structure has much to do with that. It too easy to believe that church happens in neat and confined segments of life. It's not solely the people's fault that they think this way either. It is tmore so the fault of church structure.
So, what's the structure solution?
I'd like to say small groups is the answer. Small groups need to be the core structure type of the church. I'm not saying do away with all buildings and large gatherings for worship. What I am saying is we need serious redirection on this matter. Large gatherings don't advance the kingdom like small groups can.
Small groups have the potential to be relational, personal, safe, spiritually forming, potent etc.
But here is the problem with small groups: When a church launches a small groups "program," those small groups are assimilated into the existing structure rather than actually making an real structural change. It's human nature to change as little as possible. So, rather than use small groups as they can be used, we just chalk them up as another great program.
Although your church probably has small groups of some kind, they have probably been an add on rather than a transformation in your church. They probably take the place of a Bible class or take the form of a Bible class. Or maybe they are social, but shallow. We try to make then neat and clean, but get frustrated with the children, cleaning the house, the one-more-thingism and so on. They need to be more than that.
We need a church structure that is not so much big event oriented, but regular small gatherings.
Small groups are small platoons of the armies of compassion. This is the place where service can get done on a personal level, connections can be made, family can be experienced, etc. When a small group moves its energy toward some goal of service, compassion, and love, LOOK OUT!!! Who is going to stop them? When small groups are freed to be the church without being saddled with "add on" or "one more thing" status, then the world is blessed by the church. That is the time when the church begins to resemble armies of comapssion and not a fat audience stuffing itself with churchstuff.
Friday, May 20, 2005
1. The Visa/MC donate button (on every post).
2. A google search bar.
3. Adsense ad tower lower right.
4. Homefront bookstore, which is an Amazon affiliates thingy.
5. My "Reads" list is set up throught Amazon affiliates as well.
What I want to know is this:
1. Which of these, if any, takes away from what I am trying to do on this blog?
2. Did you notice anything offensive besides an overt attempt to sell ads? What I mean is, did anything nasty appear on my blog that a nice Christian boy like me would never approve of?
3. How tempted are you to actually click on anything here?
What’s got my head spinning today is the idea that being judged and being saved by grace are not opposites. Being saved does not necessarily negate judgment and judgment is more like a telling of the truth. I’m not sure that to make of it all.
What I find more useful is Jesus’ use of Hell. Apparently Jesus takes the prevailing view of Hell utilized by the Pharisees and turns it back on them. Kind of a so-how-does-it-feel approach to their harsh methods the Pharisees used in how they treated people. Clearly they did not appreciate being on the receiving end of their use of Hell. So, they killed Jesus.
The Pharisees used Hell against the “sinners” and tried to scare people into being moral. Jesus used Hell against the Pharisees and tried to show them that being good was of equal or greater value than being moral.
Mere morality requires no real goodness, but true goodness is moral. It’s kind of like morality is a subset of goodness and not the other way around.
What I find most disturbing is that the view of Hell I have known my whole life is almost identical to the Pharisee’s view, not Jesus’ view. I’ve been on the wrong side of Hell my whole life. I wonder how much this idea has impacted how I have treated people. I fear looking into that because I think it will expose things about me that are embarrassing, humiliating, and regrettable.
On the other hand, maybe that is the judgment of God on me (telling the truth about me) and that if I do know that truth about me, then I will have the opportunity to change, be motivated differently, to love more.
Oh God, lead me into your goodness and strip away anything less than you desire.
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
I remember the day Eric challenged him to a contest, yes, a literal spitting match. They both stuffed as many pieces of Hubba Bubba in their mouths as they could on that fine June day in Minnesota. Then they climbed up on the wooden structure (can't remember what in the world it was), lay on their bellies on top of this thing and did a simultaneous, "Ready, set, GO!"
Then they started spitting down the side of this wooden structure from the top. Loogie after loogie streamed down the wall of this structure they lay on. The rest of us cheered wildly for Eric. The first stream of spit to reach the ground indicated the winner, and loogie champ. We pulled for the underdog as Greg was undefeated in this glorious event.
In just a couple minutes (which is actually a long time to relentlessly spit repeatedly as fast as you can), it became clear that, once again, Greg Rushing could not be topped. He was in deed the Loogie King of Shannon Court.
Can we all agree that hocking loogies is disgusting, nothing to fight about, and an impressive waste of valuable body fluids? Isn't the picture in your mind kind of repulsive? Does it make you want to hop up there and join these boys in their spitting match, or does it make you wish you had never even heard about it?
Granted, I know this kind of thing is attractive to some of you, but for the rest of us, we either never had an attraction to this or we grew out of it years and years ago.
So, what would you think if I said that this is what the church looks like to people who are watching from the sidelines?
When churches have their turf wars, theological debates, parade their affirmations, trumpet their declarations, dump valuable resources into proving the irrelevant, bicker, fight, split, and on and on and on, they are as appealing as a couple of immature boys hocking loogies for pride.
The church had better start caring what the world thinks of them.
"For God so loved the WORLD that He gave His only son..."
I’m very intrigued by the idea of a “building-less” congregation, of a series of home-churches rather than a singular meeting-place. What resources have you come across that speak to this idea? Are there any congregations out there that have embraced this approach? I gotta tell you, I think it offers some exciting possibilities, specifically in providing an experience that is different to the “church” experience that so many people have decided isn’t for them. Any insight you have would be cool.
Tim, your wish is my command.
Websites with loads of resources:
House Church Central
House Church Network
House Church Blog
House 2 House
Touch Outreach Ministries
DAWN Ministries - Simple Church
House Chruch Conventions & Seminars:
National House Church Convention
Touch USA Training
Some Books You Might Check Out:
The Church Comes Home
House Church Networks
So, You Want To Start A House Church?
Cool Quotes about using other people's buildings:
Jesus' strategy was to go where people were already hanging out. This is why he went to weddings, parties, and religious feast day celebrations...Taking the gospel to the streets means we need church where people are already hanging out. We need a church in every mall, every Wal-Mart, every Barnes and Noble.
Reggie McNeal (The Present Future)
The church's evangelistic task...demands that every barrio, apartment building, and neighborhood have a church faithful to God's word established in it.
I hope this gets the wheels turning even more.
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Please send me an e-mail and I'll get you a book. Geez, 43 straight hits, you deserve something for that.
Monday, May 16, 2005
So here it goes. Church Buildings…
1. …intoxicate churches. When a church builds a building, they feel productive, permanent, and powerful. They get their ecclesial status symbol and talk about it. They give tours and, as I heard one church deacon about the building his church met at, “we’re proud of our building.” When a church has a building, it gets a lot of attention. And all of that attention while being directed toward a building is necessarily not being directed toward serving people. It is hard to have a building and not focus on it.
2. …dictate finances. In many churches, over 33% of their contribution goes to keep the building open. Now, that does not include anything that happens in that building, but just to keep it open. That is principal, interest, insurances, maintenance, repair, utilities, filling it with stuff, etc. If a an annual church budget is $100,000, then the first (and I do mean the first) $33,000 is eaten up by the building before any minister happens, before any poor are served, before anything remotely missional happens.
3. …say, “Size Matters.” The biggest the building the more the temptation there is for church pride. “Look how successful we are,” as you ponder the grand edifice. Suddenly the church is measured in bricks and not love. The easiest things to measure are the most tangible. Without a good amount of persistent focus, then people of a church will gravitate toward their building as their measure of success.
4. ...promote churches as spiritual service providers. The building is the place to go to get spiritual. It is the place of spiritual consumerism. You go there and get some spirituality. Rarely does a building promote spiritual production. Nope. It promotes self-contained spiritual consumables, like Bible Happy Meals, that are tasty for a moment, but when they are digested, there was little nutritional value. Inn fact, a steady diet of these Spiritual Happy Meals will get you sick. The church was meant to be a disciple-making machine, not a spiritual service provider.
5. ...perpetuate worship bingeing and purging. Since the building is the place where worship happens, you go and get all you can get there, and then leave feeling like you got your fill for the week. In some churches you get a little mid week gluttony. It encourages a weekend worship binge. Then you have to wait for the next weekend’s time to binge, while starving yourself half to death until it happens. Although worship does happen when everyone gathers together, if that is all it is, then there is the significant danger of becoming a “worship bulimic.”
6. …produce fellowship fraud. We can grip and grin on Sunday morning and call it fellowship. We can coffee and doughnut before Sunday school and call it fellowship. But what qualifies as fellowship is so minimal it is crazy. We try to create “fellowship time” in little 15 minute chunks of time here and there when the church doors are open. Who are we kidding? What this so easily devolves into is a kind of Sunday morning networking exercise. We build shallow relationships with hand shakes and smiles hoping for favors to be lent and borrowed. That’s not bad networking, but it also is not fellowship. On another note, buildings block fellowship in that they give this community of people so much to divide about that has nothing to do with the kingdom.
7. ...are underutilized. If a business were to use its facilities like a church uses its facilities, the shareholders would revolt and have the CEO’s head on a platter. Church building are 90% empty 90% of the time. Why sink over one third of the tithe (Oh if only it were a full tithe) into something that is almost never used.
8. …determine staffing. Since buildings require bigger is better, when bigger happens, every next staff member needs more specialization. Children, youth, family, worship, etc. Along with each staff member there comes the necessary staff support: secretaries, office machines, storage, etc. The cost of staffing increases dramatically. In fact, in larger churches, there is a minister of administration – basically someone to organize everything. Whew!
9. …duplicate resources. Almost everything that does or should happen in a church building can happen in the home. All else can happen in rented facility that will get the most possible use for the dollar. In short, church buildings are completely unnecessary, but nearly every church has one.
10. …fragment families. A church building creates a situation in which we believe we need to separate people to give them what they need. Yes, developmental appropriateness is important. But at the same time so is intergenerational relationships. Children have their own thing, teens have their own thing, seniors have their own thing, parents have their own thing, etc. Even in the worship service there is much division. Have you ever heard or experienced this? “When we go to church, I never see my kids.” Is this really family friendly? What is supposed to be the most important thing (church) breaks up our families into age groups. What exactly does this teach our children, teens, seniors, parents?
11. …retards church planting. It is not even debatable, church planting is the most effective church growth method. Yet, go suggest to your leaders that you want to plant a church within driving distance of your building and tally up the objections.
It’ll drain off our best members
Our budget will suffer.
Why do we need another church?
It’ll cause a split.
What are you up to?
You won’t hear them say, “I’ve been praying about this for years.” “Praise God, He’s raised up a church planter right here in our own church.”
You might get some encouragement to go to Africa (where they really need help) or to the heathen in the Northwest, but not in your hometown.
12. …promote outsourcing your tithe. You turn your contribution over to the experts who spend it for you. Now, I’m not against community money and collections. The early church did it. However, they gave to a specific cause, and 0% of their dollars went to support a building.
OK, that is enough for now. These are my very abbreviated issues with church building, and in fact, these are not even all of my issues with church buildings. I’ll probably write a lot more about this later and somewhere else.
Thursday, May 12, 2005
The church is in crisis.
Now, you might look at the wonderful megachurches like Saddleback and Willow Creek or perhaps Wooddale or Southeast Christian and be completely perplexed that I would say there is a crisis. Churches offer more varieties of ministries, have better facilities, have more talented ministers, have Broadway level performances, and more than could ever have been imagined 100 years ago. So, you might ask, “Mr. Grumpy Pants, what’s the crisis?”
I’ll start with my denomination in this post and then generalize to the church.
I’ve blogged a lot recently about the Christian Affirmation crafted and signed by 23 leaders in the Church of Christ. I want to use this affirmation and its intents (as best as I understand them) as an example of what is happening many denominations.
In short, I think that the Christians Affirmation to recapture a sense of identity for the denomination known as the Churches of Christ. The signers sense that the identity of Churches of Christ has been smeared, smudged, blurred into “a homogenized and undifferentiated Evangelicalism” ( J.J.M. Roberts). On this point I agree with them somewhat. And I also think that this is not a good direction for the Churches of Christ. So, I have agreement with the signers on what is happening with Churches of Christ in some places and also that this is not a good thing.
Their solution to the problem of diffusing into “a homogenized and undifferentiated Evangelicalism” is to reclaim the history of the Churches of Christ. This is the place where we diverge. Their solution is to turn back from whence we came. They want to do this, of course, without legalism. I applaud the sentiment, but I just don’t buy it.
Divergence #1: We cannot return to what we once were without being legalistic. If we “return” and are not legalistic about it, then we are not returning to where we were. When I say legalistic, I do not necessarily mean a mean-spirited, vicious, and cruel kind (although our history is none too pretty in regards to this kind of legalism). Rather, I mean treating scripture as a legal document. We cannot go back to the presuppositions that supported the Churches of Christ. We cannot treat the Bible like an acultural legal document. However, if we "return" that is exactly what we will be doing.
Divergence #2: Even if these leaders of the Churches of Christ could bring a clear sense of identity for Churches of Christ (which is like putting toothpaste back in the tube), it does not solve anything in the Christians world. In fact, their solution, even if it could be accomplished, only fuels a further identity crisis for the entire Christian world. Solving this Church of Christ identity crisis is like bending down to pick a nickel while ten dollars falls out of your pocket.
Here is what I mean: If the only problem in the Christian world was the Church of Christ identity crisis, then this effort would make sense. However, the identity crisis in all of Christianity has to do with the fact that every single denomination is doing what Churches of Christ are doing, trying to do, find its unique identity. So, if we solve our problem, then we add to the greater problem. Solving our problem this way is the problem!!! If every denomination actually did find its unique identity, then we all would necessarily be divided.
It would appear as if the body of Christ has Multiple Personality Disorder. So, rather than integrate personalities, the answer is to strengthen the distinction between the various personalities, all whom claim to speak for the whole body, but necessarily conflict with each other. However, clarifying each personality actually makes worse the disorder. Sure, a clear identity for each specific personality gives that personality some peace, but it damages the whole. You see, the bad solution is actually the problem itself.
There are bigger fish to fry than spending our efforts reclaiming something that is actually itself quite flawed. “How can the Churches of Christ be a blessing to the world?” is a better question to answer than “How can we know we are different than other denominations?” In fact, if all denominations started asking the question, “How can we bless the world?” we might find that we have more in common than we ever thought. The “we” of Christianity might expand such that denominational distinctions become so secondary, so back burner that they become nice pieces of historical nostalgia, but have little effect on what it means to be church.
Somewhat related is Mike Cope's Blog Post today.
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
My favorite little piece of this is that one of the signers, John Mark Hicks, appears in the comments. He has humbly and courageously taken up some of the questions with readers. Thanks John Mark.
Just for that, you will be rewarded with a link on my blog sidebar under "Blogs of Note."
No, no, don't think me tooooo generous. He deserves a full link. :-)
Thanks to John Alan Turner.
Joel Quile has accumulated a terrific list of Christian Pick-Up Lines. Click here to read them.
Here is a taste:
Joel's Top Ten Pick Up Lines At An Evangelism Conference:
10. Are you lost?
9. You know Jesus? Really? Me too!
8. Do you know the difference between making out and witnessing? (she replies: "no") Do you want to go witness with me?
7. Did it hurt when you fell from Heaven?
6. Is it a sin that you stole my heart?
5. My name is Will. God's Will.
4. I don't want to covet. I'm going to make you mine!
3. I picked David over Goliath!
2. Wanna go knock some doors?
1. You put the "cute" in persecution!
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
Part of the joy of being away from the tree was that finally the apple could prove that he was different than the tree, perhaps even a little better. This was a time of great adventure for the apple. The rock listened to the apple and just liked being with the apple.
After some time of celebrating and exploring this new freedom, the apple noticed a cut in his skin. His smooth and glossy red skin had a slit in it and underneath the skin near the slit was something brown and rotting. The apple looked at the rock and asked what was happening. The rock told the apple that something inside was dying.
This revelation was none too pleasant news for the apple. “Dying? What could be dying?” But sure enough, the rock was right and the apple felt worse and worse, even got depressed about this dying thing inside of him. In fact, the apple came to the point of despair. His heart broke.
Soon the apple was rotting through and through. He cried out to the rock, “What’s happening to me?” The rock said that the apple was growing. This only confused the apple since he was a full grown apple. Things that are full grown do not grow anymore. Furthermore the rock had now said that the apple was dying and growing. This did not make any sense, so he decided that the rock was not a reliable source of information and quit listening to the rock.
But his despair grew further. In his despair, he remembered the tree. He used to hang safely in the tree, growing and swinging. His stream of nourishment was never in question; it was always there for him. Now, he felt like he was in the desert with nothing to eat or drink. In short, his days as an apple were numbered.
At first he thought that he could roll back up the hill and hang on the tree again. But he soon found out that once you roll down the hill, there is no rolling back up. Not to mention the fact that no apple has ever been re-hung on a tree.
So, the apple gave trying to go home and just sat there and rotted. He rotted right down to the seed and seeped into the ground, thinking this was the end of him.
Then, after being in the ground for a while, he felt something. He something he had never felt before, but at the same time it was strangely familiar. Then he felt it again, only stronger this time. As the days went on, he felt this feeling every day. It was a new and kind of exciting feeling. It was almost as if he were growing again. In some ways it felt like the same feeling when he hung care free on the tree, but this was a much stronger feeling, more defined.
On the one hand he was enjoying this new life, but on the other hand, he looked nothing like an apple and sometimes longed for those days of appleness. However, those feelings of longing for the past would leave when more growth came. It was then that he realized that he was growing, just like the rock said he was. Maybe the rock knew something about him that he didn’t know.
So, as he continued to grow into a little tree, he got back in touch with the rock and they became friends again.
Then, when he was tall enough, he looked up the hill at the tree that was once his to swing on and play on and realized that he was in many ways just like the tree from which he came, though he was certainly his own tree.
The wind blew and he swayed in the wind just like the tree on the hill. And that Spring, his first apples appeared on his branches.
Monday, May 09, 2005
Becoming Unchurched #6
Becoming Unchurched #5
Becoming Unchurched #4
Becoming Unchurched #3
Becoming Unchurched #2
Becoming Unchurched #1
Becoming Unchurched Intro
Humpty Dumpty was a fat egg sitting precariously, yet pompously on a wall that separated one place from another. His arrogance was not supported by anything but his position in the kingdom. Though he was valuable and important in the kingdaom as all subjects are, he was fragile. He liked his view from above everyone else and found great delight in secretly being better than everyone else because he thought he could see more than they could.
As people worked in their day to day lives at home, at work and here and there, Humpty Dumpty watched and made decisions about these people. He figured he knew just how they should be. He had long explanations about how people should be, but in the end, it could be summed up like this. "People should be like me."
He would never say that out loud, but boil it all down and that is what it was.
One day, the winds changed and knocked Humpty Dumpty off balance. He fell and fell hard. He cracked, as an egg would do falling from a high place. All the king's horses and all the king's men came to help in the tragedy.
"Please," cried Humpty Dumpty, "put me back together!"
The king's men grabbed pieces of shell and scooped up pieces of broken yolk. The running whites were everywhere. The king's men were in a frenzy, deeply troubled by the tragedy.
Meanwhile, the women, artists, blue collar workers, peasants and all of the non-official people of the kingdom heard about the tragedy that happened to the egg who had made decisions about their lives without ever getting to know them. They felt terrible for him. So, they ran out to the wall to see what they would do.
When they got there, they saw what seemed to be a frenzy of futility. Instinctively they knew that Humpty Dumpty was broken beyond repair. Restoration was impossible. However, they had some really different ideas as to what to do in response. Although they could not restore him to his past self, they could renew him into something else, but at the core still the same thing.
One peasant spoke of making an omlet. One artist loved the idea and spoke about how she could really spice up that omlet and make it into something for everyone. Another woman just dreamed of how the wall could be torn down. It didn't, afterall, serve any real purpose. What was once thought to be a threat to the kingdom was really just a massive misunderstanding. And if that wall were torn down, these kinds of accidents would not have to happen.
The king's men got wind of these ideas from the peasant, artists, and women and became troubled, a few of them became angry. So they had a counsel meeting and decided to reaffirm the ways of the kingdom and what the original intent of Humpty Dumpty's eggness was and that it should always remain that way.
So they iussued a letter that affirmed Humpty Dumpty's eggness and tried to share the pain of the people by saying that the work of restoration is hard, but it must be pursued.
The people did not like this and wondered what would be made of their ideas about omlets and walls coming down. But they were not invited to make these kinds of decisions because the people in charge of the kingdom needed to make these decisions. In fact, when they tried to become part of the conversatrion, they were told that it is in the kingdom's best interest that only their leaders be involved inthis conversation.
The people were kind and did not revolt. However, they simply went on with their lives and saved Humpty Dumpty's life by turning him into and omlet and shared with him the wisdom of not sitting on walls. They also shared a dream with him about one day there being a kingdom without walls.
"Thanks," Humpty Dumpty said, "for making me into something new. You saved my life."
Saturday, May 07, 2005
I want to critique this kind of leadership in the Churches of Christ. There are several reasons why this kind of leadership is ineffective. I'm not saying immoral, mean-spirited, or evil - just ineffective. Here are my critiques.
1. Closed as opposed to open.
This is poor leadership because it closes the question. Yes, I know that they asked for comments and have opened (a little bit of) room for some discussion. When I say it is closed I meant that they have not invited us into the mystrey of discovery, but to the "truth" that they already know and we apparently do not, but should if we follow their lead. This is not really a conversation, but rather a gentle way to hand down an edict.
2. Controls the conversation.
This is bad leadership because they have prejudged who is allowed to be in the conversation. They actually believe that limiting the conversation will be in the best interest of the church. So, the more I don't say the better off I am and the better off the church is? Ah, ahem, is this thing on?
3. The path of proven failure.
This is bad leadership because they are traveling down a path that has been tried for two centuries now and has failed to accomplish its goal. Furthermore, the harder it has been tried, the further from the goal we have gotten. Unity cannot emerge from uniformity. It never has and it never will. Can we please stop gnawing away on this old bone?
4. Ivory Tower syndrome.
The all male theologians club just does not work today like it has in the past. Women are offended (and rightly so) as well as men (and rightly so) that only men originated, signed, and promoted this affirmation. The fact that a couple of women have signed on after does not really hold any water. Women had no initial voice in this thing at all. Furthermore, shleps like me were not involved. In fact, shleps like me cannot get involved. I am not an elder, teacher or preacher, so I do not get a voice. They won't even post my 5 questions in their comments section. Furthermore, the line between clergy and laity is clearly drawn by this kind of leadership. I though that we had erased that line. I thought that we were the priesthood of all believers, not just the priesthood of really smart guys with degrees and positions.
5. Paradigm stasis.
We are in the postmodern era, but this kind of leadership is from the modern era. What they see as courageous leadership by asserting themselves in this way is really like the old guy wearing colored socks with his shorts. They have yet to shift paradigms. This affirmation is a terrific rerun on the TVLand station for denominations, but is in no way an in touch leadership style relevant to the era in which we actually live.
6. Kingdom irrelevance.
Is this really what the leaders of this denomination are all about? It's not that it is evil, but rather it seems unusual. How can this be more important than serving the poor, feeding the hungry, living in peace, engaging the culture etc? If this is where the leaders are leading, to some sort of doctrinal correctness that can settle in someone's cognitions while service is neglected, then I am not following. This affirmation does nothing to help the Kingdom of God. It does, however, expose the lengths to which some will go to preserve their little corner of the Kingdom. The unbelieving world looks at the church and laughs because we can't even agree with each other on anything, so why should they?
7. It will succeed enough to call it a success.
I predict the result of this affirmation will be a success enough to get the signers excited about it, kind of like a Pat Buchanan run for the presidency. Pat can really solidify a certain part of the base, and man do they love him, but he will lose the run form president every time. So, no matter if he wins New Hampshire, his initial succcess will always result in big picture failure. It could be that this affirmation is a turning point in the history of this denomination. I hope it's not, but I fear it will be.
8. Insulting the internet.
The power of the internet is in its democratic leveling of the playing field. It is a way for massive communication to happen. It is not meant to be controlled. Leadership on the internet is probably the most democratic of all kinds of leadership since people will choose to whom they link and do not link. However, using a postmodern tool (the internet) with modern rules and hierarchies (closed forums for the elite few) is not a good mix. It's like hammering screws. Or perhaps what they are doing is like buying a Corvette and driving it 25 mph only on resdential streets. Come on, take that baby out for a ride. Open it up and see what she can do.
I'll stop there. I want to again express my respect for the men who signed the affirmation. I do believe their hearts are good. I hope that they listen as much as they would like to be listened to. That would really help their overall credibility.
Wednesday, May 04, 2005
There are at least five reasons why I don’t like this question. They are as follows:
1. It is laden with assumption.
Let me ask you a question: “When did you decide to quit smoking pot?”
Do you like this question? Of course you don’t. For one, it makes the assumption that you were at one point a pot smoker. For another it makes the assumption that you went for a while deciding that you should smoke pot. Third, it leaves no room for you never having smoked pot. And fourth, it’s really personal for a first question. It’s not a bad question in the right context. However, there are few right contexts for this question to be asked. Most of the time, this would be an offensive question because embedded within the question is the assumption of wrongdoing. There is blame in the question.
For the pot question to be appropriate there must have been a relationship, a connection, some prior knowledge and so on that makes such assumptions acceptable to the person asked this question. Busting out with it is just not right.
So, for the baptism question, it assumes too much. It assumes there is one thing or a clearly definable collection of things that combined result in salvation. It’s easy to spew out the 1 thing or the collection of things, but there has been some pre-existing thinking going on in order to get there. The Bible never says definitively that baptism is essential for salvation. Now, you can select a hermeneutic (command, example and inference is the c of c hermeneutic) apply it to scripture, cut and paste together a theology and get there from here, but Jesus never did that. So in essence, to get to baptism is essential for salvation, you have to do something unbiblical to get to your biblical posture. Not a good idea.
Assumed in this question are the following:
God has selected to limit himself to a singular human act.
Salvation is mono-dimensional, hinging on one thing.
God only intends for people to be right.
Correct knowledge is essential for salvation.
The question itself is value free and honest.
There are more assumptions buried in this question, but I will let it rest there.
2. It’s reductionistic
To reduce something as important as eternal life down to one question – one poorly constructed question is a really shallow sense of eternal life. What bothers me is how simplistic this sounds, but how immense the consequences are. Everything is on the line here. Everything is at stake. And to flippantly and unwaveringly attached the eternal home of the soul on this faulty question full of assumptions which is contaminated with a shallow hermeneutic is at best a tragic mistake and at worst a monumental heresy of galactic proportions.
I know baptism is important, but it must be dealt with more sensitively than a sucker punch question like this. Too much is at stake to get this wrong.
I think people in the C of C get so crazy about baptism because it is clearly measurable. Faith is not clearly measurable. Repentance is, I guess, but it would require constant monitoring. Belief is not measurable; everyone lies (stretches the truth, is biased, deceptive etc) at some point and we don’t always pick up on it. None of these is an observable one timer like baptism. So, it is the easiest to turn into a formula. It saddens me that we so quickly choose easy over honest.
Yes, easy over honest.
“How is your son’s spiritual life?”
“Oh, he was baptized last year.”
“Whew. I am so glad to hear that.”
What’s missing in this little conversation that happens more often than we would like to admit is the essence of a life with Christ. Who cares if someone got dunked if that is all that is there. We automatically assume that if someone got baptized, everything else must have been in place. That’s a flying leap over the Grand Canyon – and not even Evil Knievel can do that.
3. It’s Overstated
It’s not enough to say it’s important, I will admit, but to say no one goes to Heaven unless they are baptized is overstated. We really want Mark 16:16 to end this conversation, but it doesn’t. We really want the thief on the cross to be some kind of once only exception that only Jesus can make. Well, Jesus can make as many exceptions as he wants and who is going to argue with him? We elevate it to essential to say “here is where we draw the line.” It’s useful for in-grouping and out-grouping, but it not necessarily useful in the actual process of salvation. Far too often do we flippantly use baptism as a litmus test for how to treat people. You know you treat “one of them” differently than you treat “one of us.” Baptism is the quick and easy test by which to know without actually having to get to know the person.
Yes, it’s useful for social decision making, expediency, and in-grouping, but it does not serve the Kingdom the way we overstate it.
4. It’s Formulaic
It’s been the fifth step in the process of salvation in many of our churches. Run ‘em through and get ‘em dunked. NEXT. People are not chemical s dumped into test tubes. Christians are not manufactured with a cookie cutter process and pumped out like an assembly line. Yet, we have adopted our culture’s concepts of how things are made and applied them to evangelism. If a frenzied consumer culture makes people shallow, then a formulaic Christian consumer culture makes shallow Christians – if it makes actual Christians at all.
5. It’s a short cut
Maybe I’ve already covered this, but I think that it is a short cut that allows people to think that they are something that they are not. Baptism is so frequently used as the end of something, the goal, the result, when it is the beginning. We treat it like the guy who gets married and then quits trying to woo his wife. He’s done. He got what he wanted and the game is up. Sure, we never say this, but we do this. Where is the discipleship? Where is the mission? Where is the life change that transcends quitting simplistic behavioral changes?
When we overemphasize baptism we under emphasize spiritual formation. We think a baptized person is a spiritually formed person. The person baptized picks up on it, changes a few bad habits, but is then spiritually retarded because he has not been shown anything else. He got his butt into Heaven, what else is there?
Spiritual short cuts are bad news in the long haul.
This post has been way too long and I apologize for that. So, in sum I will say that baptism is God’s gift to humans in so many ways. We should treat it as something sacred, not a formula or other things that are meant to increase its value, but in fact only hinde
Tuesday, May 03, 2005
Substantive comments offered in a spirit of charity will be posted below. Anonymous comments will not be posted. We encourage all to remember that we are speaking before God in Christ.
I can only interpret that my questions either did not qualify as substantive, did not qualify as comments (which they were not, they were questions), or in they were not received as given in the spirit of charity. No one has contacted me about my questions, nor were they listed on their website.
I am not upset about this. I am perplexed, but not upset. I could feel like I am being blackballed because I do not qualify to be in their moderated discussion, they do not include me in their comments and have not responded to me. I am not upset. In real life, this document makes no difference. It does concern me, though, where it is headed.
My biggest 2 beefs with the Christian Affirmation is it apparent posture (rightness) and the inclusion of acappella worship as one of the three most important things to affirm in the Christian faith.
Below is my off-the-top-of-my-head list of things I find substantially more important than acappella worship.
1. Loving God
2. Lving People
3. Worship in Spirit and Truth
5. Feeding the Hungry
6. Forgiving Sin
7. Healing the sick
8. Building Faith
9. Engaging Doubt
13. Honoring Parents
14. Training Up Children
18. Studying God's Word
19. Racial Reconciliation
21. Gender equity
22. Preventing Divorce
23. Loving Divorced People
24. Being stepfamily friendly
25. Supporting single parents
26. Loving orphans
27. Supporting widows
28. Making Disciples
31. Engaging the culture
32. Clean drinking water
33. Supporting Christian arts
34. Finding all of the gifts in the Body of Christ and using them to honor God
Bonus: 40 Days of Fat. Click here to learn more.
Sunday, May 01, 2005
For those of you who read this blog and are not in the Church of Christ, then this might seem a bit like trivia - because if it didn't mean so much to the people involved, it would be. Yes, this is pulling a bit of lint from the navel, but here we go.
I have constructed 5 questions for the 23 signers of the document (which appeared in the Christian Chronicle and has its own website). I sent these questions to the e-mail address they have asked comminications to be sent through.
The 5 questions are as follows:
1. Why make such a public statement (Christian Chronicle, website), but then extremely limit who is even invited into the conversation? (Will transcripts of these conversations be made available to rest of us who are not invited?)
2. If people do not adopt these 3 points as they are made in the Christian Affirmation are they in danger of Hell fire? If not, then why the fuss?
3. Is the Christian Affirmation an attempt to bring Christian unity?
4. Why elevate acappella worship to the theological level of baptism and communion when the Bible does not?
5. Is the Christian Affirmation meant to affirm Christianity, The Church of Christ as a fellowship, or to declare the Church of Christ as a fellowship comprises all of Christianity or is there some other intent?