So, I went on my lunchtime walk today and had a ‘conversation with God.’ Do you ever wonder if such conversations are possible, or even if they are, how you can tell them from just conversations you are having with your self, perhaps your higher self? Well, that’s NOT the topic of this post, but I do plan to address that in one of my future books (sigh, when I get to them!).
Today, as God often does when I’m not sure where I’m going, like the Cat in Alice in Wonderland, He asks me “what do you want?” (a variant of “Where are you going?”). I love that conversation, which goes something like this:
`Cheshire Puss,’….`Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’
`That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.
`I don’t much care where–’ said Alice.
`Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.
Jesus did something similar with the paralytic at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-15), asking him what he wanted – not because it wasn’t clear, but because the paralytic needed to be aware and focused on it himself.
What do I want more than other things? It’s hard to know, but what seems to be King of the Hill of my heart for many years (though sometimes it gets knocked off by my desire to write books) is my desire to lead and be part of a different, better kind of Church. So God (or higher self ;) instructed me to write it down. What would that church look like? Here’s my outline. I guess each item could be a post in itself. We’ll see if I get that far.
The New York Times has an interesting article on churches that use violent video games to draw and engage teenage boys as part of their outreach and service to youth. Of course, the use of such games has those on both the far right and far left balking, and even Focus on the Family is “still trying to figure out…our official view on it.” But look, it’s not a big deal, OK? Put your religious hackles down and pull up a chair, ’cause I think I’ve got it mostly figured out. We need to examine
- Part I: The Christian view of war, aggression, and violence (this post)
- Part II: Specific objections from the political left and right
- Part III: The real issue – what ends and means to those ends are really appropriate for Christian youth groups?
My brother’s old church actually preached harshly against gays, and the pastor used some unkind epithets. He asked me about it, and this is my response. And even though I have never disobeyed any of these principles in the pulpit, I have here on this blog. Regardless, what can we say about speaking harshly or offensively to others, biblically speaking?
Losing a loved one is a painful event. But we also don’t want to lose the clear memory of who they were. There are a few things you can do to honor and remember those who are no longer here.
1. Give in their name
- Remember the noble causes they supported and give something in their name. It is common to donate in such a way that a permanent remembrance is created, like a park bench with their name on a plaque.
Yesterday I had lunch with NeoFundamentalist, who is actually a pastor here in my area. We talked about the history of fundamentalism and evangelicalism, modernism, and the mistakes made in each camp. Discussion also turned to how to fix these doctrinal and practical mistakes, and NF has obviously thought about this more than me. Today, I see that he has put some of it into writing in a good post entitled NeoFundamentalist, Remonstrans, and the Culture of Criticism. I’ve excerpted a few main points below, but you can also just go read the thing yourself.
Purpose can be defined as “the application of one’s self, with its talents, to a noble task.” This begs the question, what are the available noble tasks here on earth? And what makes a task noble? I submit that we must pursue an ethic that promotes life and
happiness health for all living beings, and especially humans.
Currently, I attend a small country church of about 100 people. And I do mean country – many of the members are farmers, and I’d bet that more of them own shotguns than computers. But a strange thing is happening – as the fields yield to housing developments, more middle class suburbanites are coming to church, and the question has arisen – what kind of church do we want to be in order to serve both our existing and new populations? This is not an easy question to answer.
But while we are thinking about it, a number of things have come up that we do NOT want to do. Church membership rolls are an interesting thing to study, and our view of them will color how we view people and ministry. But needless to say, our membership commitment means nothing if we are not a vital, active part of a body of believers. While you can become a Christian without belonging to a local or intimate body of believers, you can’t become a mature Christian without vital church involvement.
Aaron, nice post. However, while you are addressing some extremes that need attention, I would like to also present some extremes we should correct, along with some balanced principles which I think xians should be pursuing. But my concern is not so much with making unbelievers happy with us (although that may happen as some imbalances are fixed – and of course, that is a laudable goal), but with making believers mature.
There are three ways to reform bad religion. These methods of reform may be described as modernization, restoration, and liberalization.
Modernization, in a religious context, is to discard exterior traditions while keeping the original, internal content and intent of the moral code. It is to change the outer forms of our communication and practice while still holding to the timeless inner truths they are meant to communicate. Modernism introduces much needed cultural relevance and modern means of communication (both language and technology) by which to deliver timeless, objective truths. While liturgy and tradition are of some value, in and of themselves they are not sacrosanct to a healthy faith (sacraments excluded), and may be abandoned in order to convey the timeless truths they represent.
Restoration addresses the reform of the internals of a faith. Restoration is not so much concerned with outer practices, but rather the internal, timeless truths that have been abandoned or warped by liberalism, fundamentalism, or any other kind of -ism that skews the balance of truth, returning to the original foundation of the faith. Of course, restoration only makes sense if the original foundation was sound in the first place.
Liberalization also addresses the inner truths of faith. Liberalism, however, discards or dilutes the content and/or intent of the original moral code for a new moral code that is usually less strict. And while liberalization is often accompanied by modernization or restoration, it differs in that it modifies the truths considered foundational to a religion. Liberalism rejects foundational objective truths by replacing them with "modern" truths, usually based in subjective morality, thereby throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
One note on liberalism’s opposite analog, fundamentalism. Fundamentalism can skew both the outer and inner expressions of faith – it can prescribe or prohibit outward forms, and it can also warp the inner truths of faith by making them harsh, not balancing truth with love, and misapplying truth in hurtful ways.
Here are some examples of modernization, restoration, and liberalization.
Robert over at echurch.com is asking about creating and supporting community within churches. He has mentioned funtionality similar to linkedin.com, as well as making other community and event functions available online. Robert, I have the following contributions to make:
What signifies a healthy church? Is it a building? Or the number of people who attend on Sunday morning? Or the number of activities the church has available? Or the number of people baptized in a given year? While all of these things might be ways that we determine whether a church is healthy, God’s definition of a healthy church as spelled out in the Bible is completely different.
Joe over at the evangelical outpost had a nice post on his struggle with attending church. Here’s my outline of what is wrong with most churches. But let me first say this – almost all of the problems in a local church are the fault of the local leadership, not the congregation.
Found a new great site from Australia called Faith Interface, and they have a really well thought out article on what I hope is a movement - Christians leaving behind the frailties of 19th and 20th century Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism for a more mature, balanced, intellectual, and powerful faith.
I highly recommend you read all of The Renaissance Christian, but you can also see my list of the main points below.
The video below is interesting, though a little hard core for me – it both appeals and repulses. But I like this quote:
All true passion comes out of anguish.
This wonderful cartoon from ASBO Jesus got me thinking about the whole vision thing. As a pastor, one of the chief difficulties is inspiring volunteers to pursue a vision. Here's my comments.
- Inspire, don't threaten.
- People are more important than the work or the timeline
- To inspire, YOU must be inspired, and keeping yourself motivated and 'inspirational' while going through life's normal ups and downs is a tough discipline.
- WITHOUT a vision, church is boring and lethargic. People like to be part of a ship that's going somewhere.
- Forging a vision that works first involves forging it with a team, not just yourself.
- God uses our own passions and experience from which we draw our vision and inspiration, but it is also GOD's vision and timeline that matter, and discerning which is which is tough. Having a team (see #5) helps lend some objectivity to help figure out what is 'me and God' and what is just 'me.'
- Aim at nothing, hit nothing. But if you do aim at something, be happy no matter what you hit, you are almost sure NOT to hit exactly what you were aiming at. Learn from it.
- If we love God and are like him, we will adopt his general priorities (John 15:10)
- God loves the church and it is His primary vehicle for His work until Jesus returns (Ephesians 5:25-27)
- Those who do not love the church do not love God
I believe this line of Biblical reasoning, and so does Derek Thomas of Reformation 21. I love this quote from his article Falling in Love with the Church — again:
Something is terribly wrong when professing Christians do not identify with the church and love being a part of her.
I have long contended that you CAN be a Christian and not be part of a church, but you can not really be a MATURE Christian without it, because a mature Christian loves what God loves, and God loves the Church and is using it to bring his gospel and love to the earth, no matter how imperfectly. Fulfilling the Great Commission through the Church is the primary work of God until Jesus returns, and we need to fit our gifts and passion and story into God's.
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Here are some reviews:
I found this really compassionate up to the part where they say Plastic Jesus. But maybe they didn’t mean to talk down. Otherwise, very meaningful.