8.31.2005

simple and easy

After reflecting on my last post I feel I ought to add this: Yes, it really could be that simple, but "simple" doesn't mean easy.

8.30.2005

Jesus as Missional

Since adding Scot McKnight's blog The Jesus Creed to my sidebar, I've been spending a fair amount of time there, lately. I find his posts and the discussions that follow them to be very enlightening. He's been talking about what it means, from Jesus' example in Matthew, to be missional. There are three posts as of today, and he promises a lengthy discussion on Matthew 9.35-11.1. So far I have been challenged by both the simplicity and power of his thoughts.

I am moved by the fact that what seems to motivate Jesus in his mission is compassion and that what gives force to his mission is prayer. All of this seems so basic, I suppose, but it's easy to forget. Compassion is rather difficult to muster sometimes. And I've never met anyone who would say to me, "Yeah, I pray enough."

In his latest post he encouraged us to pray for God's enabling (authority for mission) and wait to be filled with the Spirit. I asked him what it meant to be filled with the Spirit. How will we know we are full of the Spirit and ready for the mission? His answer was that he wished he knew. So do I. But, he says, that is what the life of faith is all about, trusting the Holy Spirit to be at work when we seek to be faithful in following through on "the creed" to love God with all that we are and love others as ourselves.

There is nothing I long for more in my life than to be in step with the Holy Spirit and to have Jesus irrevocably formed in my life and heart. There is nothing I long for more than for the same to be true of my wife and children, the leaders in my church and the congregation as a whole. But how do we get from here to there? Scot says pray for it. Can it really be that simple?

8.24.2005

church marketing and pat robertson

I just got the latest issue of Relevant Magazine (what a great magazine). In addition to all the latest fads, music and the upcoming television season I found Jason Boyett's column, "Pop Culture Ruminating", which led me to churchmarketingsucks.com, a fascinating and worthwhile web site. There is a lot there. I may post on something I find there in the near future. It raises the question, of course, as to what is and is not marketing. In some sense, I suppose, spreading the Good News always entails some manner of marketing, doesn't it?


So now that I've discovered the above web site, I cannot ignore what I discovered there, though a bit late. I cannot believe Pat Robertson. After all my blogging, thinking, wrestling and discussion on what it means not to be judgmental, some things call for judgment of some kind (call it "discernment" if you like). What is the "Christian" response to this stupidity? Concerning President Chavez of Venezuela, Robertson said on national tv, and I quote,
You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war.... We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with.

Surely the most loving thing here is make a "judgment" call. Mr. Robertson is an embarassment to the Good News of Jesus. If Jesus could speak, he would blast him, I think, if that's not too strong of a term for it. I seem to recall some blasting going on from time to time in the New Testament. Apology or no apology, this is the kind of thing that does violence to the gospel, is it not? Okay, bloggers everywhere are probably weighing in on this, so I'll shut up. Others, like my friend Jay, will do it better, I'm sure. I just had to say something.

8.20.2005

a new look

I thought I'd try to brighten up this pace a bit, with the conversation being so heavy these days. A new look never hurts, huh?

8.19.2005

Thanks for all your thoughtful and sometimes humorous responses (Steven) and emails. Well, I finished Boyd's book and I don't believe that John Wilson's reveiw gives it a fair shake (see below). It is unkind and unfair to throw out the book's major premise as quickly as he does.

Boyd's whole point has been how we treat those outside the community of faith -- we ought to withhold judgment and learn to love them instead (our true calling). Judgment, Boyd rightly says, is God's job, not ours. What does this mean, however, in the context of church? Boyd believes that through the ministry of teaching and preaching the Holy Spirit disciples the community of faith. This means being unafraid to speak the truth from the pulpit, even without fear of offending others. In that context we are not judging but speaking the truth, even while we continue to demonstrate "outrageous love" to all.

The other place we speak words of discernment (which differs from judgment in Boyd's understanding) to others is when we have been invited to do so in the context of community. It is a part of Christian community to love one another enough to engage in just this kind of honesty and authenticity. If people have entered our community, they are basically saying they are willing to have their opinions, lifestyles and besetting sins challenged and brought under the light of Scripture and Spirit, just as I am (we are).

People may opt not to be a part of our community because some of the truth spoken or shared. They did the same to Jesus, Boyd would say. I'm not entirely comfortable with that, but I understand what he's saying. It's all well and good to say people can and may leave if they want, but that doesn't make it easy.

8.18.2005

I am into the last chapter of Boyd's book (two posts previous, I think). I am still convinced he's onto something. Our "job" is to love others unconditionally, not to judge them. It is in loving them that we invite them into the celebration, the Kingdom and back to the "Garden of Eden", so to speak.

Several years ago I was confronted with a situation in which a man in my congregation was having a sex-change operation. He and his wife were to remain married and, by their own description, consider themselves lesbians. They also intended to join the campaign in our denomination to change the policy/understanding of homosexuality.

My response at the time was to encourage them to worship elsewhere, where thier lifestyle would not be questioned or become divisive. To them this sounded as if I were kicking them out of the church. That was not my intention, but I can certainly see how it felt that way to them. I honestly felt that I had a responsibility to pastor the whole congregation, not just them, and that this was the best option.

I made one attempt to reconcile with them after they left the church, which they misinterpreted and used against me in a letter they wrote to the President of my denomination. My question is, did I do the "right thing" here or not. Was there another way, a better way? And is Boyd suggesting that I should have bucked the current culture(of my church) and simply let the chips fall where they may in terms of accepting this couple without judging them? I think his last chapter will help me on this, but I wanted to wrestle a bit with it here, first.

8.16.2005

I'm catching up on some online reading and thinking and I came across this post by John Frye on what it means to be or (or not to be) a pastor. It is an excellent post, worth the read. There is a follow up to it, as well, if you've got the time. The second one is on the "definition" of pastoring.

This is something I am constantly wrestling with, personally. I'm in a church of about 150 and I quite often do not feel I have what it takes to truly "pastor" that many people. How will I pastor when the church grows (and it will, God willing)?

I am nearing the end of what is either a controversial book or a piece of junk, depending on your point of view. The book is Repenting of Religion: Turning from Judgment to the Love of God, by Gregory Boyd.

It sounds rather ridiculous to say, as Boyd does, that our chief sin as human beings, per Adam and Eve in the Garden, is the sin of placing ourselves in God's rightful place, as judge of others. Boyd contends that what we are called to do is experience the unconditional love of God and allow that love to flow out of us to others. Instead, he says, when Adam and Eve ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil what they did (we did) was decide to judge others for their sins. Rather than drawing our life from God (via the Tree of Life), we draw our life from judging others, hiding who we really are, pretending to be better than we are and blaming others -- judgmentalism.

What would happen, Boyd wonders, if we learned to love others as we have been loved by God? Again, I admit that a book that seems to condemn judgmentalism can, in fact, fall into some level of judgmentalism itself. At least I think I can admit that. I certainly have not felt that way as I've read the book, but then again, I've already been wrestling with the fact that the second part of the Greatest Commandment is all about loving others as we do ourselves.

I'd like to know what it would look like in my life and in the lives of my church if we could learn, for say a whole month, merely to love one another and others outside our walls. Would we dissolve in a puddle of emotionalism and fantasy? Would sin run rampant in our midst because "dealing with it" and naming it were no longer what we felt we were to be about? Or would something else happen? Something I can't even imagine?

Someone help me here. Is there something to be said for forgoing all forms of judgment for the sake of loving others? Is there something to be said for focussing primarily on our own sins (the log in our own eyes) rather than the sins of others? Is Boyd way off base here? Am I?

8.03.2005

This week I will be finishing up a very lengthy sermon series (19 weeks) on Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Wow. What a series this has been for me personally. I have learned so much and gained so much from the extra, concentrated time I've been able to spend on these three chapters.

I won't say that I have everything figured out. I don't. Some of it is still difficult to connect with (post!) modern life in places. Some of my conclusions were not perfectly satisfying to me, although all of them were more so than any of the others I could have proposed on some of the more difficult passages. This is when preaching is best for me -- when I can learn so much while (hopefully) helping others learn as well. My prayer is that what we've learned together as a church will come to fruition in our lives. That our knowledge will result in changed lives, changed relationships and a changing world.

I must give credit here to the most helpful commentary I have ever read on this passage. Dale C. Allison's The Sermon on the Mount: Inspiring the Moral Imagination is outstanding and easy to read. He brings sense to things that often appear to have no sense. He ties things together in ways that most other commentators miss or ignore. He provides background information to issues that no one else raises. Wonderful.

8.02.2005

I was notified a few weeks ago that my blog site would be listed in our denominational magazine, The Covenant Companion. I did not realize at the time that there would be a little write up/description of my blog accomanying the address. I had assumed that mine would merely be one in a very long list of Covenant blog sites. If you're here because of that listing, welcome. I hope you find it meaningful and I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Knowing others might be reading this will help hold me accountable to write more consistently, but I make no promises. I like to write in order to reflect (which means I may not always make a lot of sense). I don't like to write just to have some place to write, even if I really have nothing to say or discuss. I like the idea of a conversation and a community, to whatever extent that can happen on line. Any who add comments help me to better understand my own reflections and questions. Thanks for the help!