An Open Apology to the Local Church

An Open Apology to the Local Church

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2014/april/open-apology-to-local-church.html?paging=off

Though much have I attended you, late have I loved you.
Katelyn Beaty/ March 7, 2014
An Open Apology to the Local Church

Image: iStock

Dear Church,

I trust this letter finds you sustained by your Groom as you face bombings and threats on one side of the hemisphere, and attacks of a more offhand sort on the other. By now you have likely received word of a popular blogger confessing his boredom with your recent Protestant iterations, noting that he instead connects with God by building his company. At the least, I was heartened to see it spark a lively discussion about who you are and what exactly the Spirit had in mind when he showed up in Jerusalem 1,980 years ago to kick off this whole crazy thing. (I imagine those are sweet memories for you, seeing your people giving their things away with abandon, like it was the end of the world.) As you near your 2,000th birthday, we rugged individuals in the land of a thousand denominations are wise to get reacquainted with you.

Outside your walls, of course, you continue to be derided for all manner of intolerance, backwards thinking, and political apathy. But inside your walls, at least from my narrow vantage of Christendom, you are quite the hot ticket these days. A whole generation of evangelical Christians has grown impatient with inherited ways of gathering together.

From pastors like Eugene Peterson, we have learned to question modes of worship that mimic the mall and the stadium. From theologians like Robert Webber, we have discovered a much longer and richer history than our Sunday school teachers ever mentioned. We bandy about words like ecclesiology and sacramentality to demonstrate our new, sophisticated ways of thinking about you. Just this week, we wore our ashes proud. And when the popular blogger confessed to finding you a bit hard to get through, we were quite ready to pounce with charges of individualism and narcissism, and proclaim our love for you, the institution.

You might think I’m writing to throw my lot in with your strongest defenders. After all, I’ve faithfully attended one of your high-church Anglican iterations for seven years, watching with disdain as peers hop from building to building, seeking an “awesome” and “powerful” worship experience (and attractive members of the opposite sex). Instead, I’m writing to apologize. While claiming publicly to have loved you as Christ does—like a spouse—in spirit I have loved you like an on-again, off-again fling. My faithful attendance suggests a radical commitment to gathering with your people. But many Sundays, my heart is still in it for me. And while I think the blogger is ultimately misguided about his relationship (or lack thereof) with you, I can appreciate his honesty. At least he’s not leading you on.

Here’s where I need to confess my true feelings about you, Church: The romance of our earlier days has faded. The longer I have known you, the more I weary of your quirks and trying character traits. Here’s one: You draw people to yourself whom I would never choose to spend time with. Every Sunday, it seems, you put me in contact with the older woman who thinks that angels and dead pets are everywhere around us. You insist on filling my coffee hour with idle talk of golf, the weather, and grandchildren. As much as I wax on about the value of intergenerational worship, a lot of Sundays I dodge these members like they’re lepers. (This is of course my flesh talking, to borrow a phrase from one of your earliest members.) Many Sundays I long to worship alongside likeminded Christians who really get me, with whom I can have enlightening, invigorating conversations, whom I’m not embarrassed to be seen with in public. I confess to many times lusting over one of your sexier locations, wondering if I would be happier and more fulfilled there.

It hasn’t helped that you have made growing demands of me, something I also confess to resenting. Truth be told, it strikes me as a bit clingy. I’ve now served on the church board, played piano at Friday night worship services, taught Sunday school. You also want me to give you money every week—when I still have student loans to pay off? I am there not to be served but to serve, of course. But I do wonder when these investments of time and energy will pay off. A bit of appreciation from fellow members would help.

While we’re at it, let me make one more confession: I resent how much you want to go out these days. I don’t understand why we can’t stay inside and reconnect over a cup of wine. After a stressful workweek, I want to be renewed and refreshed, to feel myself falling in love again with the Groom. I want the kind of connective mornings we had when I first met you. I admit to finding our morning routine a bit snoozy as of late, especially on Sundays led by a guest preacher. (Another sports metaphor?) And you think going out and mixing it up with refugees and orphans and homeless people is what we need? Granted, their needs are a bit more tangible than mine, but I’m starting to think mine are being ignored entirely.

Well, this letter turned out to be more negative than I wanted. But with all the conversations about your central place in the life of God’s people, I needed to put all my cards on the table. And to apologize. Because even though in practice the aforementioned blogger and I are worlds apart, in spirit we are more similar than might be assumed. The difference is that I mask my Sunday morning self-centeredness with a “nuanced” theology of worship.

I believe your Head would have choice words to describe me. Make no mistake: Until he changes my heart from the inside out, stoking in it an ever increasing flame of sacrificial love for you, I’m no better than a whitewashed tomb—or, to put more fine a point on it, a worshiper who in truth longs to get back under the covers.

In remorse—and hope,

KRB

Katelyn Beaty is managing editor of CT magazine.

My (Initial) Thoughts on Jesus Calling

Jesus Calling by Sarah Young is a little devotional book that has exploded in the Evangelical Industrial scene.  I have had people ask me about it many times.  So here are my thoughts having read most of it last summer on a trip.

(1) We all need to learn to hear God’s voice and speak in God’s name.  I am unashamedly a Spirit-filled believer who affirms that God does speak (usually through impressions, leadings, etc.) to apply the Scriptures and bring His personality/energies directly into our lives. 1 Cor.  Chs 12,13,14 are clear there is a prophetic gift, available to all, to encourage, console, and build up.  John Howard Yoder the esteemed and disgraced Anabaptist theologian put Anabaptist and Pentecostal theology well when he said,

“The New Testament does not abolish the priest or the prophet. It abolishes the laity. Everyone is in some sense prophet or priest.”

a) These leadings – if we speak them or act on them – more than simply words of peace -need to be tested by Scripture (first order and trumping revelation tested by the church and time) and spiritual community of a real local church small group.

b) Just because it claims to be God’s voice – our bias should be caution.

2) Sarah writes in a way that reflects how millions of Spirit-filled believers themselves “hear” God’s voice.  This is nothing new.  She just cleaned, edited and marketed it well through the Evangelical Industrial machine.

3) HERE comes the concern.:”The machine” that produces religious goods & service (AKA the sad state of theology in music and pop christian writing) has a non-Biblical agenda: reselling you the parts of the American Dream/Material Dream that conflict with teachings of Jesus.  Lulling you to inaction on the Kingdom while making you think you are acting in  false-peace.

3a) The Holy Spirit speaks to empower and push us into the edges of the world that need the love of the God in the Gospel.  Not just giving away material things but giving and going to SPEAK the Gospel to those outside the Kingdom.  Sarah’s ability to discern God’s voice should include sharing Jesus and those uncomfortable conversations.

NOW in her defense – I believe she has had those at one point – given her mission.  BUT not providing those as well gives a very one-sided shallow Jesus.  The Spirit speaks not only for comfort – but to empower us to enter VERY HARD situations for His glory.

3b) Folk Religion Jesus, Angels, etc. is an idol in the American Church.  If Jesus doesn’t challenge our hearts – then it might not be Jesus we are hearing. OR we simply have not matured enough to hear the “hard sayings” of Jesus.

SO (for now  – this is a rough draft)

Read it, use it, make sure you are asking – “Jesus, what thing large or small should I/we be doing to bring Your peace, love and hope to others?”

Ask the outward questions. Know the Holy Spirit “makes Jesus real” (AW Tozer) but not just the parts that soothe but also thrust us out into His mission of love.

 

Elders and Gender

Shel – The Christian & Missionary Alliance has gone from having women elders to not having them, to “allowing” churches to have women on the board but not  call them elders.  All of this based on a certain priviledging of Paul over Luke and in particular a Certain kind of reading of Paul.  M. Bell makes some good points:

Elder Qualifications: Difficult Issues in Translation and Interpretation

21 Feb by

ephesus-artemis-temple

Temple of Artemis, Ephesus

I have been having a wonderful experience leading a small group through the Sermon on the Mount.  We got side tracked a couple of weeks ago when we started talking about how we interpret the Bible, and so we spent one evening going through Michael Patton’s Biblical Interpretation in a Nutshell  This is an excellent resource and is really worth reading.

In short, Michael Patton shows how the process of interpreting starts with understanding what the text meant to the ancient audience, extracting the timeless truth being taught, and then applying that truth to our circumstances today.

This process is not without its pitfalls.  Many will read the same text and come to different conclusions as to its meaning to the ancient audience.  This of course then leads to a different formulation of the timeless truth, which then leads to a different application.

I would like to walk us through one passage which has had many different interpretations, in order to show how difficult this process can be, and to maybe give a slightly different take on the passage.

The passage that I would like to look at is 1 Timothy 3.  The list of qualifications for Elders and Deacons:

3 Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full[a] respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

8 In the same way, deacons[b] are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. 9 They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.

11 In the same way, the women[c] are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.

What you may not have realized is that I may have already influenced your understanding of this text.  How?  I called it a list of qualifications.  When we read this text in just about any translation we read a comma delimited list:  distinct items, separated by commas.

One of our problems in reading Koine Greek is that it has no punctuation.  So the translators have to supply it for us.  This can result in different understandings of the text.  For example, Bruce Metzger points out that in Revelation 5:1 the scroll held in the right hand of God can be understood as either “written on the inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals” or “written on the inside, and sealed on the back with seven seals.”

Why is that important here?  What if the text in 1 Timothy 3 is not a list but a primary point with a series of secondary points?  What if we understand that the first phrase should not be followed by a comma, but a colon?

We would then read the start of verse two as:  “Now the overseer is to be above reproach:…”

Is the primary concern of this passage about being above reproach?

Several things tell me that in fact it is:

  1. The importance of being above reproach or its semantic equivalents is repeated over and over in the passage.  Above reproach (vs 2), worthy of full respect (vs 4), a good reputation with outsiders (vs 7), not fall into disgrace (vs 7), worthy of repect (vs 8), nothing against them (vs 10), worthy or respect (vs 11), trustworthy in everything (vs 11).

  2. The concept is the first one introduced in each of the first three sections.

  3. It also serves as a summary statement at the end of the first section.  That is, not only must the overseer be above reproach (inside the church) for all of the first set of items.  “7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace…”

  4. Opening and closing a section with a summary statement or parallel summary statements in stylistically quite common among Hebrew scriptural texts.  While Paul was not writing in Hebrew, he was well versed in the language.  (For those who have had to write essays for School, we do the same thing in our language.

  5. All of the items listed in this chapter could quite easily fall under the category of being “above reproach.”

  6. The context supports it.  Paul begins his instructions on behaviour in the previous chapter.  2:8:  “ Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing.”  The “therefore” here is very important.  As a seminary professor once said to our class, “Whenever you see a therefore, you need to find out what it is ‘there for’.  The reason for the therefore can be found in the first four verses of chapter 2.  “ I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

So if I was to summarize all of chapter two and chapter three into one summary timeless truth it would be this:  “God wants all people to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth so therefore…  you had better act in a way that is above reproach.”

When we do this, not only do the sub points become secondary, they are given clarity.

Let us look at the second item for example.   The Greek is literally “of one woman, a man”.  Translators have a great difficulty with this one.  Consider these:

  • Faithful to his wife (NIV)

  • The husband of one wife (KJV) (ESV) (ASV) (NET)

  • Married only once (NRSV)

  • Be faithful in marriage (CEV)

  • Committed to his wife (The Message)

  • He must have only one wife (The Living Bible)

  • A one woman kind of guy (Seminary professor translation)

You will note that the translations vary in their emphasis.  Some are very male centric, some try to balance the idea of maleness with the idea of faithfulness, and some completely make the text gender neutral.  Some focus on the concept of “one” wife, while that emphasis is dropped from other translations.

It is no wonder then that interpretations and application are all over the board.  Interpretations range from:

  • Elders must be men.

  • Elders must be married (and therefore not single, divorced or widowed.)

  • Elders must be married to one person (As opposed to multiple people. This issue has come up in African situations that I am aware of.)

  • Elders cannot be remarried (whether widowed or divorced)

To:

  • Gender and marital status is not what is being discussed here.

  • It is about the type of person you are in relationship commitments.

  • Elder’s must be faithful to their significant other.

What I would argue here is that all these interpretations fail to see the proverbial forest for the trees.  The timeless truth that is being communicated has to do with the importance of being above reproach, but more specifically, being above reproach so that it does not become a hindrance to the gospel. (God…wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.)  The question we need to ask ourselves then is not so much what it meant to above reproach so not to hinder the gospel in the ancient culture (although that has some bearing), but what it means to above reproach so not to hinder the gospel now.

Let us take the issue of whether or not the intent was to restrict eldership to men.  In that culture would women in that leadership position have been a reproachable hindrance to the gospel?  Quite possibly.

I have not touched on historical/cultural issues here, but here is a quick quiz for you?

  1. Where was Timothy when 1 Timothy was written?

  2. What do we know from scripture about this location?

  3. What do we know from other sources about this location?

  4. How might that impact our understanding of this passage?

Short Answers:

  1. Ephesus.

  2. Acts 19:21-41.  Ephesus housed the Temple of the Goddess Artemis.

  3. The temple of Artemis was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and had tremendous influence in the region.

  4. This can impact our understanding of the passage in many ways.  One of the best books on the subject is:  Paul, Women Teachers and the Mother Goddess at Ephesus: A Study of First Timothy 2: 9-15 in Light of the Religious and Cultural Milieu of the First Century.  It is out of print and hard to find, but worth the hunt.  (The picture by the way is that of the Goddess Artemis)

If we are to properly apply this passage we must ask a slightly different question:  What does being above reproach for the sake of the gospel mean in our society today?  How would it apply to our elders?   Would restricting eldership to men be above reproach and help to advance the gospel, or would it be reproachable and serve to hinder the gospel?  I would argue that the latter is true, and that restricting women from leadership positions is now considered very reproachable, and I have personally seen how it has hindered the gospel.  In this case, because of the timeless truth that is being communicated, our application might be very different to the first century application.  Not being faithful to your partner, on the other hand could be considered just as reproachable and a hindrance to the gospel today as it was in the time of Paul and Timothy.

There is so much more that I could say on this topic and I have just begun to scratch the surface.  I am very interested in how my ideas resonate with you.  Let the (cordial) debate begin!

Final note: I do need to give credit to Miguel Ruiz, as the idea for this topic came from a facebook discussion that we had on a facebook post he had made. His perspective may differ.

Best Exegesis on Divorce and Remarriage I’ve Read in a While Dr. Keener

http://www.craigkeener.com/when-would-jesus-permit-divorce/

Shel: I’ve had several people ask me about this over the years.  I also have a family full of divorce.  Craigs first post: http://www.craigkeener.com/why-did-jesus-warn-about-divorce-mark-101-12/

then the follow on:

When would Jesus permit divorce?

22 February 2014 by Craig Keener

In the previous post, I emphasized Jesus’s teaching on preserving and, where possible, restoring marriage. Jesus used graphic language to challenge some of his religious hearers’ insufficient commitment to marriage. In doing so, however, he was not seeking to make matters worse for those whose marriages were being broken against their will. Indeed, as noted briefly in that post, these were the very people that Jesus was defending.

Here I will first raise a problem—a way of reading a verse that some have used to prohibit and even break up remarriages. I will then show from the context of Jesus’s larger teaching on divorce, and other New Testament interpretations of his teaching, that this first way of reading the passage takes Jesus’s point out of context.

When Jesus speaks of remarriage after divorce as “adultery” in Mark 10:11, what does he mean? When used literally, adultery means sleeping with someone who is married to another person, and/or sleeping with someone other than one’s own spouse. (Most of the ancient world gave more license to the husband so long as his paramour was single, but the New Testament does not allow this double standard.) Thus, if Dedrick is married to Shamika and sleeps with Shonda, that is adultery.

But Jesus here seems to be saying that if Dedrick divorces Shamika and marries Shonda, that is still adultery despite the official divorce; that is, he treats Dedrick as still married to Shamika. In other words, he speaks as if human, legal divorce does not actually end a marriage in God’s sight.

The question is: Does Jesus mean this literally, or is he simply using a graphic way of warning against divorce? I argue here that he is using a graphic way of warning against divorce—that he is using hyperbole, that is, a rhetorical overstatement to drive home a point. Keep in mind that the point of hyperbole is not so we can dismiss its message, saying, “That’s just hyperbole.” Rather the rhetorical and literary device of hyperbole is a way to challenge us to examine whether we are living up to its message. How we take this matters: strongly warning against divorce is not the same as denying that God recognizes the legitimacy of new marriages.

Like (but even more than) many of his contemporaries, Jesus used graphic hyperbole to communicate many of his points. Anyone who is not willing to recognize that a given teaching at least might be hyperbole, before examining it, needs to reimmerse himself or herself in Jesus’s teachings. A camel does not normally literally fit through the eye of a needle; scrupulous Pharisees did not normally literally gulp down camels whole; and we have no record of Jesus’s first followers moving any literal mountains. These were graphic ways of communicating a point.

Moreover, the literary context of at least one of Jesus’s divorce sayings involves hyperbole. Just before his teaching about remarriage and adultery in Matthew 5:32, Jesus warns that whoever looks on a woman to covet her sexually has committed adultery with her in his heart (5:28). I often tell my students that I am proud to see that none of them has committed this sin. How do I discern their innocence? The solution to this sin, which appears in the next verse, is for the transgressor to tear out his eye. In fact, nearly all of us recognize that command as hyperbole—a graphic way of underlining the point that we must put away sin. No sane reader will follow this command literally.

Further, it may be relevant that Jesus does not tell a woman married five times that she was married once and that all the rest of her relationships were adulterous. Rather, he says that she has had five husbands but the man with whom she lives now is not her husband (John 4:18). One could argue that Jesus is speaking literally in John 4:18 but figuratively in Mark 10:11, or one could argue the reverse; but one who affirms the authority of both texts cannot easily have it both ways. Further evidence shows which reading is likelier.

Matthew and Paul recognize exceptions to Jesus’s graphic statement. In Matthew, Jesus says that a man cannot divorce his wife and remarry unless the wife is unfaithful (Matt 5:32; 19:9). (Some try to make the exception here something narrower than adultery, but the Greek term is actually broader than, rather than narrower than, adultery. It is only the context that limits it even to adultery.) The basis for remarriage being adulterous would be that God did not accept the reality of the divorce (all monogamists recognized that a valid divorce was necessary for remarriage). Here, however, God accepts the reality of the divorce if the spouse was unfaithful.

Yet if Shamika is not still married to Dedrick, how can Dedrick still be married to Shamika? If even an explicitly guilty party is not married to their first spouse in God’s sight, we cannot say that God literally regards the first partners as still married, or that remarriage is therefore literally adulterous. That a true follower of Jesus should work to preserve their marriage is clear, but that anyone should break up remarriages as adulterous unions, as some suggest, is not.

Paul explicitly allows the believer abandoned by an unbeliever (someone who is not following Jesus’s teachings) to remarry. (Laws in Corinth treated marriage as a matter of mutual consent; the departure of either party legally dissolved the marriage.) When Paul says that the believer is “not under bondage,” or “not bound” (1 Cor 7:15), he uses the exact language of ancient Jewish divorce contracts for freedom to remarry. This is precisely what the language meant when people in antiquity discussed divorce, the issue that Paul addresses here.

We should note what the two clear exceptions have in common: in neither case does Jesus’s follower break the marriage covenant; it is broken by the other person. One person working hard can often lead to the restoration of a marriage, but it is not guaranteed; the partner has their own will and can still choose to do the wrong thing (1 Cor 7:16). Paul had to address a local situation that Jesus did not explicitly address. Today we might think of physical abuse as an analogous kind of situation where the abuser is the one breaking the marriage covenant. Beyond such extreme circumstances, however, we need to be very careful, recognizing that some people will take any excuse to opt out of responsibility for a marriage (such as burning the toast, as mentioned in the earlier post). Paul makes clear that we are expected to do our best.

Not only do the biblical exceptions suggest that Mark 10:11 includes hyperbole, but so does that very verse’s context. Jesus demands, “Therefore what God has joined together, LET no one separate” (Mark 10:9). The point remains that we must not break up marriages. Yet the wording shows that marriage is not indissoluble in God’s eyes; Jesus warns against breaking marriage, rather than arguing that it is impossible to break. That is, the context of Mark 10:11, like Jesus’s and Paul’s other teachings on the subject, shows that Mark 10:11 uses hyperbole.

Jesus graphically summons us to commitment to marriage. Yet to break up remarriages (the solution that some readers have argued) actually undermines his point. Moreover, Jesus is certainly not seeking to make matters more difficult for those divorced against their will, as some churches have done. Treating someone divorced against his or her will to “stand against divorce” can be like treating someone raped or murdered against his or her will to stand against those actions.

I recognize that short posts cannot address all situations; these two posts have explored principles, but pastoral counselors must apply those principles in a wide range of concrete situations. What I hope is clear is that the biblical issue is less about whether someone eventually remarries than about the need to be faithful to marriage to begin with. (From a counseling perspective, it is unwise to enter a new relationship immediately after a divorce even if one was completely faithful to one’s previous marriage; the wounded heart is too vulnerable and needs time to heal. But at this point the expertise belongs not to me but to pastoral counselors and related professions.)

The narrowness of the explicit exceptions reminds us, however, that Jesus wants us to value and be committed to marriage. The point of exceptions is that they must be a last resort (though of course someone in physical danger is probably already at that point). Counseling or therapy can often save marriages. But we need to recognize that just as prayers for healing are not always answered (everyone acknowledges, for example, that godly people are not immortal), neither are prayerful attempts to save marriages when they involve only one party.

Believers must do their best to preserve marriage, but we must not abuse those whose marriages have broken, especially if it was not their choice. Jesus warned some religious people: “If you had understood the meaning of these words—‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice’—you would not have condemned the innocent” (Matt 12:7).

“Online Campus?” = Worship Experience?

Shel: being highly influenced by neo-anabaptism and pentecostalism I cannot help but ask some critical (in the sense of “is it to be blindly assumed to be good”) questions about technology and worship.  Thom is a Southern Baptist, makes some great points here.  What do you think?  (see it all: http://thomrainer.com/2014/02/24/six-major-issues-regarding-the-digital-church/)

ipad-in-hands
24
Feb 2014

Six Major Issues Regarding the Digital Church

A point of clarity is in order. In this article I am referring to “the digital church” in a very specific way. I am not referring to the many uses of the Internet available to churches: church web sites; social media; and a plethora of training tools. Instead I use the phrase to refer to those churches that view a significant part of their constituencies to be online rather than in person.

The “digital church attendees” likely view the worship services online. They may be in some type of online small group. They have the ability to minister to others via the Internet. And they can support the church financially online as well.

Some churches now view these persons as integral participants in the life of the church. A small but growing number are willing to grant them membership. And many churches see the digital church attendees as an extension of the ministry of the church, even if they do not have full membership status.

This phenomenon is not transitory. It will be with us for the foreseeable future. As I speak with pastors and other church leaders across America and beyond, here are the key issues being discussed.

  1. There is a lively debate regarding the status of the digital church attendees. What are the ecclesiological implications of the digital church attendees? Are they really a part of the church? Is physical presence necessary to be connected with a church? Should they be granted membership? Should they participate in communion/Lord’s supper?
  2. Many churches are using a “both/and” approach to the digital church. They have worship services and small groups where people gather and meet in person. But they also have an extension of their ministry that includes the digital church attendees. Some church leaders have shared with me the particular effectiveness for homebound persons and military persons deployed around the world. Only a small number of churches today are digital churches only.
  3. The digital church movement is growing. My information at this point is anecdotal, but I hope to have some good data from LifeWay Research in the future. Still, I have little doubt that the movement is growing and will continue to grow.
  4. Church leaders are struggling to find meaningful metrics for the digital church. Do such metrics as pageviews or unique visitors have any meaning for the effectiveness of the ministry? Do donations from digital attendees have any implications for the health of the ministry? What metrics are possible and also meaningful?
  5. Many digital church attendees are faithful financial givers to the church. I’ve been somewhat surprised to hear from church leaders about the financial support the church receives from the digital attendees. From my conversations, I’ve learned that the financial support is proportionate to the effort the church expends in connecting to digital attendees.
  6. The digital church is rapidly evolving. In a few months, much less a few years, we will know more about the digital church. For now, we know it is both growing and changing. This movement, for better or worse, may be one of the most significant in churches across the world for years to come.

I almost always ask for feedback from the readers of this blog. For this post, I particularly hope to hear from you. I know that many church leaders will be looking to this particular article to get insights from others. Please take a few minutes to share with the readership any insights, experiences, or opinions you have about the digital church. You readers are incredibly bright. I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Piano Lessons

You may not be aware, but this year we are homeschooling our two youngest children.  This is the trial year.  There are many reasons why we went down this path – and if you would like to know I would be more than happy to talk about it.  Let’s just say the school they were in and our choices failed us.

Anne is doing most of the heavy lifting and we have found various curricula that are working well.  My role in all of this is teaching music.

I grew up taking voice and piano, was in All-state and honors choir, and started as a music-major on scholarship in college.  Decided I wanted to go another direction as I got into it.

(that’s whole discussion)

So music it is.

At first I had reservation about teaching my own children – but as it has gone on we enter into a different mindset when doing lessons.  It’s weird role-shifting.  The amazing thing is they are learning and progressing!  We’ve used a simple music method and they are learning technique, theory, lessons, and a some repertoire.  They both made their first public performances at the MK’s christmas program and Christmas Eve.

It’s really wonderful to see their progress.

Who knew?

 

This I Agree with Farewell Don Miller…and Please Come Back

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/zhoag/2014/02/20/farewell-don-miller/ from Zach Hoag

But here’s the thing.

Don Miller has a persecution complex too, and it’s evident in the tweet above. And I would venture that his complex is driven by the nagging fear that he may have overplayed his Famous Christian Leader hand – and, in the process, bitten the hand that feeds him. The “witch hunt” is actually the sound of Christian fans recognizing something rather unchristian about all of his pontificating and the rather arrogant claim that he has superseded the church itself.

And that’s a strong point. See, I agree with Kevin Miller that we need a much loftier ecclesiology in the church. Perhaps not for the bulleted reasons he lays out – but definitely for the reason that Don presents.

To reject the gathering of the community for worship in word, sacrament, prayer, service, and fellowship is to reject the biblical and historic church. Don Miller is a brother in Christ, to be sure. But on this he has indeed taken flight from the Body of Christ, which is a tragic choice to make (and to encourage others in making as their Famous Christian Leader).

So in that sense, without hesitation, I also say, sadly: Farewell.

And: Please come back.

So what about you? Are you saying Farewell, Don Miller, too?

Those who use the organized organism local church to build their kingdom then trash the church

Those who use the organized organism local church to build their kingdom then trash the church cause me pain and anger.

Ala: George Barna, Donald Miller, Frank Viola

They would not have a platform, a paycheck, a bigger than life identity if they had not abused the broken and blessed local church, climbed up her, taken what they wanted, then cast her and all who love her down.  Those of us who see that God is always condescending to culture and organization to bring forth His plans.  Those who choose to “get dirty” in the mess – because until Jesus brings the kingdom back fully it’s always entering into and choosing to use and reject various aspects of culture and organization.

Side bar: speaking in tongues is a unique destabilizing gift for the local church and believer because it is a divinely appointed “folly” – God knew the local church gets into weird world power plays – so He built in a deconstruction mechanism that always empowers the margins.

But back to prophetic critique: When these men reject the church and call it all pagan – whilst FULLY benefiting from it and using this as the stage, prop, cash-cow, of their own enterprises they are no better – in fact worse (false self-righteous/holiness) – than the worst hipster prosperity gospeller.  They are spinning the same absolutes while denying the power of God in the brokenness.

….

 

From Think Christian: Alvin Plantinga on atheism

Alvin Plantinga on atheism

http://thinkchristian.reframemedia.com/alvin-plantinga-on-atheism

The New York Times’ philosophy blog recently posed the following question to Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga: Is atheism irrational? The emeritus professor at Notre Dame, who has written for Think Christian on the historical Adam, offered a number of thoughts in his cogent, congenial style.

One of Plantinga’s repeated claims in the interview is that while agnosticism may be a rational position to take, atheism is not. As he says:

Lack of evidence, if indeed evidence is lacking, is no grounds for atheism. No one thinks there is good evidence for the proposition that there are an even number of stars; but also, no one thinks the right conclusion to draw is that there are an uneven number of stars. The right conclusion would instead be agnosticism. In the same way, the failure of the theistic arguments, if indeed they do fail, might conceivably be good grounds for agnosticism, but not for atheism. Atheism, like even-star-ism, would presumably be the sort of belief you can hold rationally only if you have strong arguments or evidence.

The interviewer, Gary Gutting, also raised a common claim by contemporary atheists: that as science explains more and more of the natural world, it further erases our “need” for a creating God. “As a justification of atheism,” Plantinga responds, “this is pretty lame.” He goes on:

We no longer need the moon to explain or account for lunacy; it hardly follows that belief in the nonexistence of the moon (a-moonism?) is justified. A-moonism on this ground would be sensible only if the sole ground for belief in the existence of the moon was its explanatory power with respect to lunacy. (And even so, the justified attitude would be agnosticism with respect to the moon, not a-moonism.) The same thing goes with belief in God: Atheism on this sort of basis would be justified only if the explanatory power of theism were the only reason for belief in God. And even then, agnosticism would be the justified attitude, not atheism.

The interview also gets into materialism and neurophysiology, which is where my brain started to hurt. More on my level was Plantinga’s answer to this question from Gutting: “Since the world isn’t perfect, why would we need a perfect being to explain the world or any feature of it?”

I suppose your thinking is that it is suffering and sin that make this world less than perfect. But then your question makes sense only if the best possible worlds contain no sin or suffering. And is that true? Maybe the best worlds contain free creatures some of whom sometimes do what is wrong. Indeed, maybe the best worlds contain a scenario very like the Christian story.

Think about it: The first being of the universe, perfect in goodness, power and knowledge, creates free creatures. These free creatures turn their backs on him, rebel against him and get involved in sin and evil. Rather than treat them as some ancient potentate might – e.g., having them boiled in oil – God responds by sending his son into the world to suffer and die so that human beings might once more be in a right relationship to God. God himself undergoes the enormous suffering involved in seeing his son mocked, ridiculed, beaten and crucified. And all this for the sake of these sinful creatures. I’d say a world in which this story is true would be a truly magnificent possible world. It would be so good that no world could be appreciably better.

What do you think? Is atheism a more rational worldview than Christianity? Should Christians have to make a rational case for faith or does this limit our experience of God?

Sometimes you just need to reset

My old database had to die, it was time.  Lot’s of gems – but sometimes you just need a reset.  I am sure I will repost some things, but this is my goal for 2014 to share more original writing (if there is such a thing).

So to the three people who read this – watch out new stuff coming!  I do plan on keeping up my apocalypse posts though from time to time.

restart

reset

renew

revive

reprise

it’s like the old, but new.