Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Preachers and Preaching II

The Jollyblogger points out....

"My point, ..., is simply that a church that is driven by an expository ministry will be more biblically grounded. If the ministry is expository-centered it should produce a hunger for the Word of God and sense of accountability to it in their lives."

I guess after a period of assessing what the essence of ministry should be, I am coming to terms with the limits of the main activity, preaching. I, of course, am stealing my title from Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones. I read his classic while I was 18 the first time. I was looking for the wrong thing at that time in my life. Now that I re-read it in my 40's, I see how vital preaching is to the church. You are right in your comments. I was dealing with more of a self-centered issue for myself, that is how does one address those who are sitting in the pews but not following the excellent exposition. The temptation for myself is to look at the limitations and get frustrated. Sorry if I misrepresented the Jollyblogger's position.

Truth Is Beautiful

"Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out."
Proverbs 20:5:

"They search out iniquities; they accomplish a diligent search: both the inward thought of every one of them , and the heart, is deep." Psalms 64:6:

In 1 Samuel 6, the Philistines set up a little truth test. They were suffering plagues, they thought it was a result of the presence of the ark of the covenant. While this is their suspicion, they want to check it out for sure, so they tied a cart to cattle who had calves. Cattle who have calves will not normally wonder far from their young. They put the ark on the cart. If it returned to the Israelites, the God of the Israelites was the cause of their trouble. If it did not, there was another cause. In this way they tested their theory.

While the Philistines in this passage are evil examples for the most part, the principle of cross checking really isn't a bad one. Our hearts are complex and we really don't understand them. Instead of juxtaposition our thoughts and emotions we should see how they fit together. We do this with our senses all the time, we hear a noise, we look to see what it was. Our emotions and thoughts should cross check each other also. My friend the Jollyblogger talks about the complexities of mind and emotions in our experiences and the validity of each. I encourage you to look at his article. In response to the old Campus Crusade illustration, I say that it fit a particular problem, emotionalism being used to judge facts. For that particular problem, the illustration fit, but the illustration breaks down, as all illustrations do. (Or else they would not be illustrations!) The illustration does not address the whole of emotional life, nor does it address the complex and sometimes baffling relationship between emotions and thoughts.

Some Observations (or Opinions) On The Subjective experience

1. In a court case, the verdict is often an extremely emotional experience for the accused, but the verdict is based on the facts. The New Perspective on Paul criticisms the Reformed View by saying that the legal language used to explain a right standing with God is too sterile, too tied up in legal language. I actually think they are thinking of hypothetical courts, not the kind where you or I actually receive a verdict. Courts are an excellent way to explain our position with God. We will be judged by the facts not a mere feeling or thought. God judges rightly. I wanted to write more about this in my paper on the New perspective on Paul but it did not fit my thesis.

2. The fact that Jesus died on the cross is true whether my thoughts or emotions acknowledge it or not. In this sense, both my thoughts and emotions need to recognize the fact. Who would go to a concert and not want watch the movements of the orchestra as they play. Their movement and expression are displayed as they express the whole of the piece.

3. In our education of our youth (and ourselves) we must train their (our) affections. Post-modernism says that anything I (or someone) likes is ultimately unarguable. While most youth who argue from this position would not recognize the statement, what they are saying is that ascetics is more important than epistemology. In reality, our emotions and affections are sinful and must be trained, just as our sense of morality and our minds must be trained. The big flaw in our post-modern world is that we stopped training our sense of morality and our affections and let them run ramped. (I am making an artificial dichotomy between the three for the sake of discussion. Integrating the three in discussion makes discussion messy.)

4. For the existentialist, creating valid subjective experience through acts of the will is an important goal. While there are some positive things going on here, I see it as too self-centered to be Christian.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Again the Christian Ghetto - Anger and "YOU ARE NOT THE BOSS OF ME"

Reading Spencer Burke in his chapter in the Stories of Emergence: Moving From Absolute To Authentic, he defines Christian Ghetto. He says it's "where real people with real problems are kept at arms length". That is a little different than how I defined it earlier, but I'm not arguing against his, I'm even affirming his idea. The Presley song about the Ghetto talks about an "angry young man". Burke echoes the same anger and disdain I have seen in the underprivileged. While he may have, humanly speaking, things to be angry about, I see expectations as part of the issue. But the other issue is simply the phrase that children use when a sibling, perhaps a year or two older, becomes pushy. They shout in a very emphatic tone, "YOU ARE NOT THE BOSS OF ME". That seems to be a lot of what I'm reading in the emerging church literature. While they are seeking to be authentic, they are authentically independent. A part of genuine Christian community is mutual submission. It sounds like to me that the emerging church has forgotten our not so distant past. The place where I saw the most inauthentic communications was in the mainline church I was a part of where pastors hid their true theological positions in fear of loosing their jobs. In the evangelical church we must work to let people question and explore and at the same time maintain adherence to true doctrine. It is possible to do both, you will need the Holy Spirit's guidance, trust that he will do a work in the hearts of young ministerial students and not be lazy in the task of leadership development. I also was surfing Open Source Theology site. There they have a poll which asks why people are drawn to the emerging church, 39% are looking "theological integrity and creativity". Where the evangelical church as a whole has failed, we should repent and again find the grace of God. We must be careful about movements that are bolstered by anger and which fail to understand that freedom does not means we are free to NOT love our brothers. I get the feeling that the emerging church will just be a retelling of the story "Animal Farm". Absolute truth is not at odds with authentic life styles. Authentic life styles are not at odds with absolute truth. It seems that it is more about style and power rather than a heart that is seeking God authentically and a community that is a true covenant community.

Church Information Technology

I wonder what kind of software pastors need in other countries where mission work is being done. Pastors in overseas countries are often balancing another job. They work extremely hard at both jobs to make it all work. I wonder if a church management software suite would help them or if they would say they would rather have a pastor's library on a CD-ROM. Gathering the data of needs on the mission field would be difficult and would take wisdom. A lot of times I find that when you are attempting to define a software requirement, people have an extremely difficult time understanding their own needs. They also have a difficult time understanding the cost associated with a whim. Articulating what they desire is a challenge. No answers today, just questions.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Ranger Dedication

I encourage you to check out the Jollybloggers tribute to Pat Tillman. The part in the creed which says that a Ranger will never embarrass his country is something I found especially true. While in a Middle Eastern country I asked a young Ranger some questions to find out about some rumors. He was extremely polite, and extremely professional. Being in the Rangers is hard work. It requires true dedication. I'm impressed with the organization and the professionals within.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Preachers and Preaching

Reading Jollyblogger's entry on "Another Sign of the Apocalypse", he addresses the issue that if a church is in conflict, then there may be a lack of biblical expository preaching. The preacher, as a messenger of God, has a tremendous responsibility. But the amount of time that the preacher has to exposite the Word of God is limited. The "drip method" of instruction is something that my wife and I use in our homeschool. The drip method comes from an illustration where an Israeli kibbutz farmer saw that an orange tree was growing under a leaky faucet. He later developed a drip system for irrigating the orange grove. As the story goes, it was very successful. I'm not sure if this story is true, but that's the way I heard it. I attempted to find the source but could not. In our homeschool we have several subjects where we do a small amount each day. For instance, we use a grammar text called "Daily Grams". Little by little the kids have learned grammar.

The weekly Sunday morning sermon needs to be reinforced with other scripture intake. The Scottish reformers took seriously the idea of family worship times. More modern efforts have looked at personal devotions as being the answer. Christian radio might have some role in putting the Word of God in people's daily life. Small group Bible studies also can have an important role too. By the way, the weekly sermon is the main event in the life of the church. It's where we listen to God as His Word is preached.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Elvis Has Left The Parking Lot

"Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid." Matthew 5:14

""Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him" 1 John 2:15

Today on the way to work I listened to a radio story about Noi, a film about a Icelandic student who is trapped in his isolated village. The story mentioned that the father in the movie is an Elvis fan and "The Ghetto" figures big in expressing how the boy is caught. Since I had just written about a Christian ghetto, I started thinking about another ghetto I had visited. While in Germany I visited the Juda Gasse in Worms. Worms was as a part of the SWM; Spyer, Worms and Mainz, the three cities along the Rhein which had sizable Jewish populations. I can't remember whether it is Yiddish or Hebrew but SWM means "onion". The Juda Gasse was a Jewish Ghetto. The Jews in Worms did not choose to live there. It was imposed upon them. In contrast, the Christian ghetto is self-imposed. One of the marks of the ghetto is containment. In the Presley song the young man turns angry from his environment. Our self-imposed containment need not make us angry. If we step back from something in the mainstream culture, let us be pleased to do so and not be angry. In other words, we need to maintain a sense of humor. Humor is seeing the obvious in surprise form. If you define humor you can't see it. I don't think I'll be seeing the movie just because I doubt it's my genre. At the same time, I thought about the Christian ghetto and wondered with it really existed and whether we could really engage our culture with the gospel message. Oh,...its time to park and get out.

Christian Ghetto - Blogging A Partial Solution

A few years ago, Christian ghetto was a common term for the state of Christian books, music, radio and other media. Searching the web on google , the term is still being used, I just don't hear it (read it) in my normal wanderings. The term is complex and multifaceted, but one aspect of the concept is that Christians have attempted to create their own baptized versions of the worlds media and products in order to step out of the mainstream media. The criticism is that these baptized versions of media lack creative excellence. I think that some of that has changed. Personally, I think Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) has improved (i.e. identified or deveoped more creative excellence) but the book market has gone down hill by over emphasizing trendy books. Obviously romance is a Christian topic due to the inclusion of Song of Solomon in the scripture, but I don't believe that should give rise to the Christian romance novel industry in it's current form. The world wide web has at times had its own ghetto effect, lack of creative excellence. By and large Christians have emulated secular models. The web in its early days was full of home grown web pages which showed personal interests and personal creativity. Academic types produced quality pages to support their teaching function. Then someone got the idea that they should make money on the web and for me, that is when a vast ghetto was created. Instead of personal creativity being developed, broucherware became the norm. Selling something, anything, everything became so pervasive that it's strident tones blocked out all other voices on the web. Speaking of strident tone (webbing here) the other thing that shut down creativity was strident tones. A large number of those who continued to create web pages were those who used strident tones in their communications. With the advent of blogs, I see a new chapter for the web and for Christian use of the media. We have a new opportunity for excellence in communication. Blogs are really just content development and management systems, but they are text centric for the most part. The Christian message is verbal vice visual. While there is a place for Christian video, movies, etc..., the verbal media of blogs has tremendous potential for excellence in creative communication of the Christian message.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

New Perspective on Paul

The New Perspective on Paul is new to me. I was assigned to write a paper on the topic on it. You can find a copy on my website.

Bottom Line

" 4 Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way. 5 And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house. 6 And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it shall turn to you again. 7 And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house. 8 And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you:" Luke 10:4-8 (KJV)

Talking yesterday, a woman mentioned that her church is debt free. Her church is considering building an additional structure on their property and they intend to remain debt free. Debt and real estate are common in the American church. The church has a lot of its wealth tied up in real estate. A years ago I read a book called Problem of the Wineskins: Church Renewal in Technological Age by Howard A. Snyder. The writer advocated using the wealth of the church in other ways than building programs. Having attended at least three churches which adopted this model, I see that ministry is often slowed down by not having a building. The churches eventually out stayed their welcomes in school lunch rooms, and despite being a source of income for the school districts, they were asked to find another location. The rental properties eventually had problems too. While in the short term, investing in people rather than real estate seemed more "godly". Finding the best use of funds, real estate or programs, is far from simple. There is no one answer and individual churches must find individual answers to the problem.

There is a sense, when Christians seek to use modern communications tools to spread the gospel message, funding sources and means are not ideal either. In the case of modern communication tools, rather than stating an ideal state, Christians merely adopt a funding model emulated on another organization. Some of those organizations are so big and influential that people adopt the model by assuming the model rather than conscious evaluation and embraceable. When using the Internet, do we allow click through advertisements? Do we pay for the communication means through a line item from the church budget?

A few years back my family and I subscribed to a tape club put out by Nest Entertainment. They produced quality animated videos, at first on Bible stories and later on heroes of history. Eventually they wanted to produce a movie and after they had almost completed the Swan Princess they were in financial trouble. Another Christian video producer, Big Idea Productions who make the Veggie Tales, were solid financially until they attempted to leave the video sales and get into a full production movie. I hope both have recovered, perhaps they have, but still the business model which they adopted was one that was different than how they had built their business. Both are excellent communicators of a Christian message, but both needed to focus on what they do best and quit emulating larger media companies. Success may have been their worst enemy.

One area that Christians pioneered in media and finance was creating the first infomercials. I don't watch much Christian television any more but in the 80's when I did, some Christian programming on broadcast television was 80 - 90% pleas for giving. This is one of the low points of the modern Christian use of media.

How do we finance our communications? We have choices when we establish a new work, but when we inherit a ministry or business, it is really difficult to change the funding model in mid stream. Paying off a debt may not be humanly possible with resources on hand. We can depend on God month to month to pay the mortgage or we can depend on God for a single pay off. Personally, I have tried to keep my debts to a minimum. I paid for my cars from my savings. The only major debt I have incurred after my wife and I got married is a mortgage. It takes dedication and principles to stay debt free.

Communication tools are expensive. If we use them to spread the gospel, how do we pay for them. Do we sell subscriptions to every kind of Internet information service possible? Are click through ads really all that effective at funding quality content? I respect the work of a couple of organizations. One is MIT's Open Courseware project which publishes educational materials from their courses on line for free. The other is Crosswire Bible Society which has produced such things as The SWORD Project. Both this secular institution and volunteer Christian organization use another funding model than the normal one used. I'm not saying I have all the answers. I'm just saying that we need to make decisions about how we set up our finances when we attempt to communicate the gospel message.

Early Blogger

My good friend the Jollyblogger has inspired me by his blog. I've been reading someone else's log, its not a blog because it was prior to the days of computers, but none the less it is a discussion his thoughts and life, Augustine's Confessions. If he could Augustine probably would have had a blog. He would lead the bloggers.