Tuesday, July 28, 2015

There is always a “but” to unverifiable, unaccountable God-talk claims

Okay, now for disturbing some people I am sure.

Last night, on the late side, we had some visitors who boldly (with cheerful smiles) proclaimed, “We thought God would have us visit.” I actually didn’t have a problem with that, for I, too, believe God puts things on our hearts to be obedient to (although Christians would be hard pressed to demonstrate that particular “thought” of their’s from Scripture). But (and, there is always a “but” to unverifiable, unaccountable God-talk claims), it took me until the New Haven Register post that a woman, while on her porch at 4:30 this morning, was fatally shot. I pastor a church a few blocks away in that very same neighborhood. So, Big Picture thoughts interrupted my very biblically motivated discomfort with these innocent and cheerful God-talk claims. So . . . for more important thoughts.

Let’s turn this in another direction:

Where are these God-tells-me-things-Christians at 430am in a hurting, depressed, struggling neighborhood? Why can’t all these nice, delightful, God-talks-to-me-Christians hear God’s call to go into these hard places with the light and love of the gospel? Despite my good suburban Christian FB friends’ dislike (maybe even distain) for my thoughts on suburbia and exurbia (posted here and elsewhere), it is still true, nonetheless, that there is more Scriptural evidence to actually “hear” a voice, a call to urban settings where the poor live with violence and insecurity than calls to the well affluent neighborhoods and communities.

Perhaps it is true God told these nice Christian folk to pay a visit. Maybe not (only judgment day will reveal that). But one thing I know on this side of judgment day, if you are going to claim God talks to you, perhaps that voice should be closer to voice one can hear from Scripture. Perhaps, maybe even listening to the cries of our neighboring poor who live with violence, insecurity, and hopelessness. Time for more of us to hear more rightly, I’d say; listen more biblically.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

The evangelical addiction to (almost all white) conferences

Evangelical Christians are a conferenced-people. I think we probably have more conferences on every subject for every age group than almost every other subculture group, business, or religion. I know I have been a consumer (or is that connoisseur) of conferences myself. Over the years as an attendee and as an organizer (and sometimes a volunteer), I have noticed that most of our evangelical conferences are, well, white.

I am particularly focused on youth-type conferences. Got a do something with those church teens and something for those families from church whose kids are off the summer and have too much ideal time on their hands. So off they go to big and little, state and national, and even global conferences. But whether by design or default, the attendees are mostly white. White. And by white, I mean mostly suburban and exurban youth from evangelical churches. (Please, O, please show me I am wrong on this.) Yes, I know there are exceptions, but truly, I don’t think I am that far off base here.

I was struck by this looking at pictures promoting the 268Generation Passion 2015 conference and, as well, pictures of a regional camp here in the Northeast. No, or very few, urban kids, and even fewer minority teens at these national or regional conferences. Beside the want of money for registration, travel, and food, many urban teens that would be good candidates to attend or benefit from such conferences, there is summer school obligations (like for graduating high school), other academic “camps” and programs (so there is potential for a future outside of their neighborhoods), sports (as a potential means for post-high school education--maybe even future employment!), and then there are summer youth employment programs that are designed for urban (and rural as well) youth and youth from low-income families who need such employment programs before ended up unemployed as an adult for lack of work history. Mostly white, suburban/exurban youth are not as “busy,” can afford not to worry about an economic future, and, as well, can afford the time and costs for these conferences (the big regional ones and the national and global mega-conferences, at least).

Something is wrong with this. Youth from suburban and exurban evangelical families are sure privileged with regard to the evangelical conference addiction. But I am also wondering that the lack of non-white and urban (I include rural) youth at these venues and occasions have the unintended (and God I am hoping it is unintended) consequence of not seeing more urban youth move toward ministry, missions, Christian maturity, church work and, thus, ultimately continuing the vacuum and lack of urban adult christian and church leaders.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Some Grieving in July 4 2015

On this 4th of July 2015, I am burdened to share . . .

As a Christian, I do not attribute malicious or racist motives to our white European settlers. America is, originally, “a land of exiles, of fugitives, of those escaping persecution” (and yes, of opportunists, too). Personally, I don’t consider America a land of immigrants and try to refrain from actually referencing the early settlers and influx of people as such, but people, even now, simply seeking freedom (sometimes from persecution, sometimes for personal prosperity for their families). For the original pilgrims, essentially, “the Indian-White encounter was a cultural train wreck” (I would not be here if it weren’t, for I am part Delaware Indian); it was not a plot to overthrow the Indian. (It might have turned into that and, boy, we got so much wrong as we “progressed” as country.)

I agree with the person who wrote that European whites really wanted freedom from other whites, and basically that’s all.

Perhaps this is simplistic, but we stand, we live, we prosper, even in our repentant and lamenting space as social justice minded Christians as result of our history and systems of privilege--we’d find this true of every nation-state wherein we might have been born. (I don’t find our social justice advocates moving into the demographic neighborhoods clashing with white privilege nor giving up the privilege the very system they speak against has given them.)

I believe some of our calls for repentance and lament as social justice minded Christians isn’t as clean, transparent, or honest as we proclaim. I don’t doubt the sincerity of many who seek a more just and fair society, but I often listen and read and, like the fundamentalism of the past (and often way too present), it sounds like a new law, an arrogance of “we’ve got this repentant thing right and you don’t.” It is the new “deeper life,” a set up of who is more spiritual, of saying who God loves and who He does not. Who is in and who is out. Who has it right and who is wrong. And, it is, now, the new “privileged.”

I wish I were more skilled at the elegance of words to explain what I see and hear in what I read and listen to and what I feel on this matter. But all I know, I need God’s grace and mercy.

The church present (as it is right now) is, and I fully acknowledge and grieve, too close to the nation-state; and, as well, too much of the social justice rhetoric and action is mirroring just the other side of the aisle and is as political, and is attempting to create a new nation-state in its image. Therein, it is, in the end, all about power: who has it, who wants it, and how to keep others from it. I am very much sympathetic to the social justice cause (we do have, as church, plenty of lamenting and repenting to do) Yet, I have found I am marginalized and considered without any leverage to speak on these matters because I am a white male--this racism runs both ways. The clash I see and feel cannot be pleasing to God, nor is it reflective of His Son’s instruction to take up “your cross and die” for, even, those who hate you, who get it all wrong, who call you names and kill your children. “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

I cannot imagine God is pleased in how His social justice minded daughters and sons are displaying his image. Herein I am greatly grieved, even typing with tears. Somehow, church, we need to do it better, more Christ-like, more humble, more from that awful position of hanging on that cross we are to pick up and die upon.

American without Christianity and Churches at their most pagan

Just remember this weekend, when we reflect on what we have come to think as the center piece of American values, “All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” thank the Judeo-Christian worldview. The framing of the declaration’s thoughts could not have been done under any other religious or secular philosophical worldview. Yes, we haven’t always gotten it right, but the full potential for this declaration would not--and still is not--possible under any other worldview. The further we part from the Judeo-Christian worldview the more we will be subject to mere brute force (of others) and the power mere human-beings can muster to exercise over another. These comments are not to affirm the current cultural wars (which I deplore and are self-serving on the church’s part), for they too are merely about power (men, in particular, who fear the power of control over our culture is being taken away from them), not the gospel of Jesus Christ. My comment is purely an apologetic one, in that separating the foundation, which is certainly religious and specific to Christianity, from the sustainability of our nation will most certainly lead to the exercise of power over the weakest of our neighbors (which should be the church’s chief moral concern). In this, I am completely unapologetic of my faith being an integral and necessary expression of my existence as an American. Take that away from us (or from any of you) and this nation will not be able to sustain its creed that all of us are created equal and we, as individuals, are endowed with certain unalienable rights.

This comment above is about the nature of Christianity and the founding framework for establishing what is known as the USofA. Without the Christian worldview, this nation could not have been founded or sustained as it has. With that said, yet tomorrow, Sunday July 5th, will be American churches at their most pagan, for almost every single one will sing patriotic American songs as a component of its worship (some will even say the pledge of allegiance some will honor the American flag and/or the US military, and some will sing military songs of victory and conquest), syncretizing Christianity and Americanism into one bland (banal) civil religion. I call on all faithful Christians to protest (at least) in silence during such songs and pray God forgives us of this idolatrous worship. God will not judge our nation because of Gay Marriage; God will most certainly judge the church in America for its idolatry.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Right and Left: Just a set of political views and a politically defined civil religion

I am aware of the progressive evangelicals’ gripe and, rightfull and fair, criticism of the evangelical right’s attachment to the republican party and politics; what I don’t see is any awareness that there is an equally unhealthy alignment by the progressive evangelical to the democrat party and simply owning politically left agendas. Without any meaningful critique of the left, its policies, and party by progressive evangelicals, they offer, not the gospel nor faithful biblical interpretation, but the same sin of the right, namely a set of political views and a politically defined civil religion.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

BARRIERS MILITATING AGAINST AN OPEN DISCUSSION ON EVANGELISM

We do not typically approach the subject of evangelism and social action impartially, but with political, demographic, and religious preconceptions and biases. Opening up a conversation to re-assess the nature of evangelism is difficult, especially when social action and issues of poverty are injected into the discussion. The intent of this volume [Wasted Evangelism] is not to debate the subject, or to review the history of the various positions regarding evangelism and social action, but to offer an exegetical and biblical theological approach to the question, Can social action be evangelism? It is important, nonetheless, to recognize there are barriers that can militate against an open discussion on the subject of evangelism and social action.

For many, the meaning of evangelism is self-evident because of its association with “proclamation” activities (e.g., preaching, proclaiming, witnessing, etc.). Evangelism’s etymological relationship to the term “good news” (i.e., the evangel) can box one into defining evangelistic activity as passing on information, that is, to tell, preach, or share the news of Jesus Christ--that is, to evangelize. For many conservative evangelical Christians defining evangelism any other way causes the gospel (i.e., the news) to lose its meaning, robs the people of this important information, and diminishes the work of salvation in Jesus Christ. Evangelism’s strong association to the news of the gospel suggests to some that anything outside verbal, cognitive-based activities is a threat to the fundamentals of the faith.

Additionally, those who have the highest interest in evangelism are often those least interested and least skilled in critical, theological reflection. Since evangelism is understood as a self-evident activity, rarely is the subject examined exegetically or evaluated theologically, but is usually consigned to matters of practical theology (e.g., missions, preaching, personal witness, church outreach programs, and church growth). (Meaning is often confused with application [See chapter 6, “Significance Before Application,” for a model on developing relevant and authoritative application]) This, then, does not promote biblically relevant criteria to precede the discussion and, thus, limits the possibility of new, creative, and potentially sound understandings of biblical evangelism.

Within evangelical circles, to advocate that social action can be evangelism is challenging, for such subjects as poverty and the poor are often relegated to the private sphere. Therefore, anything related to the public arena of rights, laws, and taxes or the confronting of social or governmental systems on behalf of the poor are often associated with the “social gospel” and the theologically liberal church. Although historically the church was deeply involved with issues of poverty, a “great reversal” took place between 1900 and about 1930 [Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture, 86; also Moberg, Great Reversal; Henry, Uneasy Conscience; Nicholls, ed., In Word and Deed]. Evangelical fundamentalists turned away from their social responsibilities as a reaction against the social gospel that was perceived to be aligned with liberalism, which had diminished Bible infallibility and inspiration and weakened biblical views of sin, hell, salvation, and the deity of Jesus. When civic and political social concerns became suspect in the minds of evangelical academics and popular revivalists, social action responsibilities took on a minor role for much of the evangelical Christian community [Marsden, 86]. Anything associated with the social gospel was considered a distraction and, to some, a betrayal to the fundamental essence of the gospel (i.e., the information, that is, the news of Jesus Christ). This history spills over into any contemporary discussion on evangelism and social action.

There are also demographic barriers to an open discussion regarding the association between evangelism and social action. Over the last seven decades, people have been moving out of urban centers and into the suburbs, including Christians and their churches. The twin demographic forces of urban flight and suburban sprawl contribute to the evangelicals’ disassociation with issues of poverty and the poor. As a result, this social transformation helped reinforce a one-dimensional understanding of the gospel [Note 1], which determines, for many, the nature of evangelism. Suburbanization of American society has moved much of the evangelical communities of faith outside populations affected by poverty. Rather than church communities promoting social action on behalf of poorer communities, the (upward) mobility of American families toward the suburbs demand that suburban churches serve a socializing and stabilizing function. Not a very likely set of social forces that will generate social change on behalf of the economically vulnerable hidden outside their neighborhoods and unknown within their circles of friends and acquaintances.

The barriers reviewed here are not exhaustive, but are limited to those most relevant to the arguments and conclusions of the following studies. To overcome these barriers, we will turn our attention to the text of Scripture, particularly the Gospel of Mark, as a basis for entering into a discussion on the biblical relationship between evangelism and social action.



Note 1--A one-dimensional gospel indicates solely a person/God dynamic relationship; whereas a multi-dimensional gospel includes the person/God dynamic and, also, creation/God, person/creation, and person/person. Wasted Evangelism considers the multi-dimensional gospel more representative of a biblically sound narrative definition of the gospel.


From the Introduction to Wasted Evangelism: Social Action and the Church’s Task of Evangelism (Wipf & Stock).

Saturday, May 02, 2015

A wasted evangelism anti-rant: We actually might be guilty, too

“There are more idols than realities in the world; that is my ‘evil eye’ for this world; that is also my ‘evil ear.’” ~Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols

“The privilege of churches . . . can shroud the gospel in such middle- and upper-class consumer-oriented style and content that salvation subtly becomes more about providing a warm blanket of cultural safety than about stepping out into the bracing winds of spiritual sacrifice. Such patterns in a church’s life can easily, if unintentionally, lead to a focus on consolidating and extending power instead of identifying with the powerless. The former is a lot more like a comfortable bed to sleep in than the latter. No wonder we don’t want to wake up, let alone get up and get going in the work of justice.” ~Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship

We are taught, as evangelical Christians, (sadly by our church leaders, preachers in their poor interpretation and privatized sermons, and in our “at church” experience), to respond to anything that is not personal (that is anything that is “public") judgmentally--what I mean by “judgmentally” is politically. We respond through the lens of our definition of “American” rather than our identity with the One that hung on that cross. Additionally, the looting, the fires, the rioting (which has nothing to do with the actual issues facing minorities living in urban areas and is more wanton and organized by outsiders) is a distraction for the Christian. The MSM is distracting us with what and how they are covering this (and all these) events. The conditions that have led to both the black vs. police issue AND the rioters (note I said “rioters” not riots) is BOTH the result of--and this is where white suburban Christian ranters turn their listening abilities off--the result of BOTH the crony, senseless politicians in these urban setting AND the suburban, building-centered Christianity we have come to identify as our evangelical Christianity. I wrote about this in two of the chapters in my my book Wasted Evangelism: Chapter 1, “Widows in Our Courts” (based on Mark 12) and Chapter 5, “Idolatry and Poverty.” We, suburban Christians, are, in part, guilty (complicit) in allowing AND providing the foundation for the dynamics of these urban centers where these incidents and riots are now happening. We, too, are a people of unclean lips and dirty hands. Our ranting keeps us from that guilt, and hinders God’s redemptive power to be experienced among these people and for these fellow human beings.

From “Idolatry and Poverty”, A duplicitous, self-righteous double standard in the “burbs”
“Often, non-poor Christians respond to the poor as those living in a socially constructed reality that is mostly alienated from those living with the effects of poverty. The non-poor Christian’s participation in non-urban life causes a need for continuous reaffirmation of a biblical plausibility for their [own] social-location, which alienates rather than connects them to the economically vulnerable. Without a sociological imagination, many non-poor Christians are not fully aware of their own socially constructed exurban reality, nor how it has been formed, which can lead to duplicitous, self-righteous double standards toward the poor.”

From “Widows in Our Courts”
“Readers/listeners on this side of the text [of Mark 12] are not only urban congregations that have a natural association with vulnerable populations, but suburban and exurban church communities, as well, stand before the Mark 12 poor widow vs. duplicitous scribes episode. Churches located outside of urban settings are not exempt from being readers/listeners of this story [just] because they are removed from urban poverty. In fact the suburban and exurban church’s departure and distance from poverty might actually be a cause of poverty. Suburban churches should consider whether they are participating in the same socio-economic system that has removed social, financial, and human capital from the social service, housing, labor, healthcare, and workforce development systems that should be available to the poor in urban centers.”

These quotes and the quotes above are from my book, Wasted Evangelism: Social Action and the Church’s Task of Evangelism which can be obtained from Wifp & Stock or through Amazon and CBD.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Again MinWage is hitting the political-speak: Please Reconsider MinWage

When the government regulates wages, it is, apart from the market, actually determining the value of an hours worth of work, which in turn determines the cost of a service or product for the consumer. MinWage truly works counter to the free market. (It is, really, a type of price control.) In the end FederalWageControl determines how much a poor person (or an entry level worker) should make and then everything adjusts, so that person still remains on the bottom. Like I have said and argued before, it keeps poor people poor.

Focusing on “the wage” rather than the wage-earner is easy. It is harder to focus on the schools (and unions) that are leaving our children intellectually poorer and unready for the world of work. It is harder to commit resources for training and re-trainig. MinWage is another form of wealth distribution, but in this case making the employer do the (dirty) work; yet it is temporary, and will leave the untrained and unskilled wage earner, still at the bottom as the economy adjusts and costs of products, services, and housing rises. Pols will seem the hero when the MinWage rises because the ill-effects are delayed, but these will come. The pols that support MinWage hikes care less about the poor, than ultimately their immediate image and reelection.

Additionally, higher MinWage will also provoke the employer to hire more skilled entry level workers in order to have a more valued hour of work (productivity), which in turn will increase unemployment among the unskilled, under education, and undertrained, making it harder for the poor to find employment.

I am against minWage because I am for the poor.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

An open confession: the vast amount of biblical ink on the subject of poverty

I fully recognize and confess I read the Bible within a very right, suburban/exurban, mostly white hermeneutic, even from a privileged life that made it possible to read over (not see or hear) the vast amount of biblical ink on the subject of poverty and the poor. I repent and seek to be a better reader of Scripture, God’s inspired, inerrant Word.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Ephesians 3:1-6 (and vv. 11-13) scaring the hell out of me

Seriously . . . deeply impacted by the text I am preparing a sermon from for next week: Ephesians 3:1-6:

“For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles--assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”

1. What are we (those claiming a call to ministry) willing to suffer so those outside can find access to the Father (3:11-12)?

2. Whatever we think of the issues facing the church today, we still need to fully affirm that ALL have access to the Father; for if all do not have access, then we determine who gets in and who doesn’t--which means only some have access to God. This, then, is NOT the gospel.

3. This passage is the “minister’s” (or lay-leader’s) fulfillment (the obedience) to Jesus’ words “take up your cross and die” and “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many.” Reread Paul’s Ephesian text, including vv. 11-13 and say it ain’t so.

I remember telling some bible college students who were complaining about the rule to take off baseball caps inside,

“If you can’t take off those caps now, what makes you think you’ll be able to die for your faith in some god-forsaken land when all indication seems God has abandoned you?” Can’t help but think those words I have had to eat myself. Where is the sacrifice today? Where is my sacrifice, my willingness to suffer--really suffer, not figuratively suffer--for those outside who are in need of access to the Father”

Inner city teens and children facing the odds of continued poverty or death? Who is willing to actually do what Paul did on behalf of the Gentiles? Christians in the middle east living with an ISIS target on their heads? Where are our so-called missional Christians preparing to sacrifice their lives in the middle east--right in the path of ISIS?

Our comfort is our god, way too much. We confuse our desire to be safe, secure, and well resourced with God’s peace about our callings (as ministers and, as well, as lay-people).

This text is scaring the hell out of me. If you are a Christian, you shouldn’t be able to read Ephesians 3:1-13 with any measure of comfort either--and it should scare the hell out of you, as well.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Wasted Evangelism: Social Action and the Church’s Task of Evangelism

Emil Brunner once remarked, “For every civilization, for every period of history, it is true to say, ‘show me what kind of gods you have, and I will tell you what kind of humanity you possess.’” For the Christian and Christian community, however, it is: Show me what kind of association you have with those living with the effects of poverty, and I will tell you what kind of god you worship.

Wasted Evangelism: Social Action and the Church’s Task of Evangelism, A journey in the Gospel of Mark by Chip M. Anderson

What is the relationship between the gospel and the church’s responsibility toward the poor? Can social action be evangelism? Wasted Evangelism is an exploration in the Gospel of Mark on the subject of evangelism and social action. A proclamation-centered definition of “evangelism” based on the etymology of the word “evangelize” and a few isolated proof-texts is devoid of much of the biblical content that Mark offers to us through his Gospel, detaching the concept of evangelism from the narrative meaning that Mark gives to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In Wasted Evangelism Chip Anderson develops an exegetically based, narrative understanding of biblical evangelism, which, according to Mark’s Gospel, includes God’s care for the economically vulnerable and his concern for the issues of poverty. The studies gathered in this volume propose that social action should not be considered a separate, distinct responsibility for the church, but is rather a vital component of evangelism. A close examination of Mark’s Gospel and the biblical texts associated with idolatry, poverty, and justice provides an opportunity for church leadership to rethink the evangelistic activities of their churches and to reconsider what it means to engage their surrounding communities as agents of God’s kingdom.

http://wipfandstock.com/wasted-evangelism.html

Saturday, April 04, 2015

When is a church not the church (i.e., not the “fullness of Christ")?

When is a church not the church (i.e., not the “fullness of Christ")?

When a church (i.e., church leaders of an addressed-church) pulls most, if not almost all, of its members and attendees away from their own neighborhoods to attend “services” and be involved with a building-centered church (somewhere completely separated from their own neighborhoods), that church-building (where a group meets as “a church") is then set in a neighborhood-less church. This negates at least in principle that THAT addressed-church is not the fulness of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23) in THAT place; but, merely a social group of people joined together in like values, with somewhat similar demographics and class, and seeking similar aspirations--a club, more than a church as the New Testament imagines a church to be.

Rethinking church.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

“Inner man” as God’s new temple (Eph 3:16): Beyond church growth by the numbers

"The Dynamics of ‘Inner’ Sacred Space (Eph 3:16): The Church-Temple as Revelation of God’s Reconciling Mystery and Its Potential for Church Growth Outcomes”

Some of the paper’s quotes . . .

“Furthermore, most building-centered churches are neighborhood-less, that is disconnected from the built space the addressed-church is located; the building-centered experience is designed to move people away from their neighborhood communities in order to develop and isolate the building-centered church community--again, separated from the built environment; programs and activities are designed to keep people returning to the ‘building.’”

“The prayers [1:15-22 and 3:14-19] are self-actualizing and actually fulfills what is requested of God on behalf of the Ephesus church--the prayer is initially answered as the believing community hears/reads the words of Paul’s petition.”

“In other words, Paul is helping to revise the church’s mental and social map of their world in that place (Ephesus et al.). As they had experienced before coming to faith in Messiah Jesus, the temples and their experience of the temples revealed and created habits that molded them according to the deities represented in and through the temple, now as God’s temple, they are to do essentially the same, reflecting God in Messiah Jesus. Their natural ‘bandwidth’ was limited by their previous social and cultural experience. As suggested in the words of Leonard Sweet, ‘When the root metaphors change, so does everything else.’ This seems to be what Paul is after in Ephesians.”

“There are enough hints, allusions, word plays, and inferences to draw the conclusion that Paul intends us to understand that ‘the saints who are at Ephesus’ are indeed God’s temple in contrast to the plethora of pagan temples in the region and who are the fullness of God ‘in’ Ephesus.”

“They are God’s temple, with Messiah Jesus as its cornerstone (2:20), a building created and being built, not by human hands of stone, wood, and metal, but by God’s words through his apostles and prophets as the work of Messiah’s death is made effective, filled with his Spirit, and ever expanding, right there in (a) place; built as a temple to reveal the mystery of God’s reconciliation work in Messiah Jesus. The reconciling work of the cross becomes flesh in (a) place. The local church, as God’s temple where his fullness is housed, is to be a revelation of God, his mystery in Messiah.”

“The habits of church life need to move away from the building-centered experience to be the church in (a) place: non-building-centered outcomes.”

“Church growth outcomes should reflect the realities of what it means to be God’s temple in (a) place: Outcomes measured in the language of neighborhood.”

“The local church as the ‘thin place’ and ‘the space between’ . . . “ ["Thin place” = a sacred place or space, the place where the unseen mysteries of the heavenlies and the concrete places of the earth meet, touch. A thin place is where one can walk in two worlds, where the two worlds are fused together, where the differences can be discerned. As someone explained: “A thin place is a place where the boundary between heaven and earth is especially thin. It’s a place where we can sense the divine more readily.” The church as God’s temple is such a “thin place.” “Space between” = the commons or transitional space or place where boundaries are fluid, a mix of human activity, specifically that space between the build environment.]

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Neil deGrasse Tyson and believing in science (or not)

A clip on Sunday’s 60 Minutes showing a sold out crowded auditorium of dedicated followers, Neil deGrasse Tyson opened with this line:

“The great thing about science is that it’s true whether you believe it or not.”

To which the crowd wildly applauded and cheered.

Here’s the thing, no one in that audience (and probably most watching that 60 Minute segment) ever even thought of questioning his false statement. Yes, false.

You see, science is neither true or false.

DeGrasse said it all for show, to get around people actually thinking. Science, the discipline through which, using various methods, seeks to determine how things in the created world works. Tests are done. Data is collected. Conclusions are drawn. While it can be true or false that a scientific discovery (i.e., conclusion) has been made, or the data from the experiments and research is true or false, science itself is neither true nor false.

Scientists can draw conclusions that are true or false. And some conclusions are a leap that involves faith at its best. For instance, the existence or nonexistence of God doesn’t necessarily follow experiments that create “life” in a laboratory. Science does not answer metaphysical questions. Scientists and those who use science can believe science answers such questions--but that is sheer faith, not science.

In fact, many scientists see a Designer (yes, capital “D") behind creation and the known universe. The conclusions drawn after scientific experiments lead many scientists to see a Designer beyond the material creation, and thus further conclude that God exists.

I found it rather humorous that the premiere astrophysicist used such a line--either he is not as knowledgable as his degrees and bio suggests (which I doubt, for he is very knowledgable); or, he was conning his audience with a weasel statement or mere puffery in order to manipulate them. So, they’d respond with emotion, not thinking. I believe it was the latter.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Taking the crowds (that surround our churches) more seriously

After studying and writing on the Mark 3 Beelzebul passage about blaspheming the Holy Spirit (it isn’t what you think it is), I was fascinated by Mark’s use of the “crowds” throughout his Gospel. If we take Mark as inspired and the “crowds” as a strategic character in the gospel story, it seems to me we should grasp the “crowd’s” significance.

One specific characteristic of the “crowd” is they are always around Jesus, meeting and greeting him, listening to him, jumping over one another to be near to what Jesus was doing. Another, the “crowd” is sometimes believing and sometimes unbelieving, and sometimes, well, you just can’t tell one way or another. I have come to the conclusion that is the way it should be with the church, the local church today, who is God’s fullness, Christ’s body local. The church should be surrounded by the “crowd” (stop thinking just in a building). While the inner circle of followers and disciples are believing and learning obedience, the outer circle that surrounds the church (and sometimes crowding inside) is a little foggy on the issue, but they are out to be there--sometimes looking like believers, sometimes they won’t, and sometime you will just not be able to tell one way or another. We need to see the “crowd” around the church as a vital character in the church’s story in the community it finds itself home to.

Read the chapter in my Wasted Evangelism: Social Action and the Church’s Task of Evangelism:

“A Prelude to Judgment (Mark 3:20-35): The Beelzebul Episode and Its Significance for Evangelistic Social Action”


"My conscience is
captive to the Word of God"
~Martin Luther~

____________

"Anyone wishing to save humanity must first of all
save the Word"
~Jacques Ellul~


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