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Archive for February, 2007

Written February 04th, 2007 with No Comments »

My pastor preached an incredibly powerful sermon this morning about Christianity and culture. It was a powerful, powerful message. I listened to it twice too, because I played a part in the 9:00 and 10:30 AM services. It was awesome. A portion of the sermon was dedicated to exhortation re: the many, many “gospels” vying for hearts and minds in this postmodern culture of ours. There is without doubt no small number of heretical alternatives to orthodox Christian doctrine, faith and practice. Most of these alternatives sometimes look & sound very much like the real thing, but diverge in subtle but spiritually detrimental ways. My pastor had a picture of Elvis Presley displaying on the two big screens in our sanctuary and quoted one of his less celebrated lyrics to make the point. The lyric was from a song titled “Devil in Disguise”. It goes a little something like this: “You look like an angel. Walk like an angel. Talk like an angel. But I got wise. You’re the devil in disguise.” I think that is a seriously relevant lyric for the 21st century, Postmodern Christian sojourner. I know it resonated with me.

Written February 03rd, 2007 with 4 Comments »

I really dig gawking at and collecting images of Jesus. I don’t think I have ever stumbled upon a Jesus image collection quite as good as the one hosted by mattstone.blogs (nevermind the site’s overarching dedication to a syncretistic sort of pluralism). I especially enjoy the Anglo Jesus image wing. If you are aware of any other collections of Jesus images, drop me a note! Visual interpretations are so interesting, no?

Written February 03rd, 2007 with 4 Comments »

I just read a great article at Resurgence regarding the sharp differences between Emerging and Emergent. It is titled Essential Concerns Regarding the Emerging Church. (Tip: Jonathan Herron)

There seems to be a sharp and growing theological gulf developing between the Emerging Church Movement (Emerging Conversation) and one of its most visible, vocal and distinct streams - i.e., Emergent, aka Emergent Village. Emerging and Emergent are two different conversations.

The Emerging Church movement (Emerging with a “g”) is a very broad, trans-denominational, methodological movement dedicated to discovering, developing and actually living new forms of ‘doing church’ in our postmodern or emerging culture. More recently the conversation has turned toward deep & practical theological articulation (this is a good & necessary turn!). Emerging churches proclaim an unchanged Gospel from deep within an intentionally engaged culture and society. It is a historic and orthodox Gospel proclamation. It is Missional. It is Incarnational ministry. I love this conversation & the movement resulting. I have been listening, discussing and talking about it for years. I put my ear to the wall of this conversation during my undergraduate B.A./Theology studies back in 1999-2000; right after I picked up and literarily devoured Len Sweet’s Soul Tsunami while simultaneously registering for an account on a very early incarnation of THEOOZE. It’s my generation, after all! Where else would I go?

The Emergent Movement (Emergent with a “t”) is, on the other hand, an increasingly liberal religious movement trekking toward unorthodox possibility and potential. Some would say Emergent is already unorthodox, theologically speaking. Others would brand it as an outright heresy. These critics may be correct, if the often muddy theological positions and statements of Emergent’s leaders (Tony Jones, Brian McLaren and Doug Pagitt) are any indication. These positions and statements could be much less than outright heresy, as the trouble appears to sometimes be a problem rooted in bad theology and/or a lack of clear theological articulation. This would then result in a simple but understandably horrifying charge of misguided or inarticulate teaching, rather than heresy. I’m not sure which is worse, to be honest. I do know this: when Unitarian Universalists (who accept and advance everything and anything under the sun save a single/focused theological dedication) express interest in you and what you represent, you can bet the farm you are in some kind of trouble, theologically and methodologically speaking. You should be nervous and very open to hear & accept critical charge.

I do believe the Emerging Conversation (Emerging with a “g”) is laden with incalculable value. I also believe there is an unbelievable amount of God-honoring and God-glorifying potential in the resultant Emerging Church Movement. The value is evident in ministry as practiced by the Acts29 Network (Driscoll has distanced himself from Emergent, but there are questions regarding the number of Emergent leaning churches in the network) and many, many others who hold tight to the Truth of Christ’s Gospel & Missional/Incarnation ministry.

Too, I believe there is huge potential for ecclesiastic disaster in the direction embraced by the Emergent stream. More importantly than church damage, I think it can do serious and irreparable harm to the spiritual health and eternal destinations of individuals. Why do I say this? Well, because I went “there”. I’ve been “there”. I began in the same place - for the same reasons - as the Emerging Movement (Emerging with a “g”). I then stepped upon and followed the same path Emergent now trods (Emergent with a “t”). I ended up a complete liberal, as is the Emergent stream too. I dove headlong into a complete religious relativity, theological liberalism and pluralism. I, for a season, foolishly discarded the truths of Personal God, Inspiration, Virgin Birth, Trinity, Resurrection, Atonement, and the Deity and Sufficiency of Christ. In short, I lived religious liberalism. I’m here to tell you that it is no life to live! I was seriously, seriously misguided, wrong, and full of a humanistic sort of hubris that blinded me to my own lack of a theological, ecclesiastic and practical foundation for my ministry and life. I only awoke to my precarious spiritual situation when I was suddenly thrust into a prolonged setting full of sick, dead and dying people and members of their suffering, grief-stricken families. I quickly discovered I had nothing - zero - to honestly say to them. I realized that I could not minister to them authentically from a completely liberal religious position. Why on earth was I there!?! My intellectually fancy and hopelessly self-deluded liberal constructs (which ultimately proved to be neither intellectual, nor fancy) made no serious difference - at all. I could not help them. I have since repented for my foolishness after trying in vain to live reality according to junk standards thinly set by a seriously disjointed liberal theology, life and faith. A historic and orthodox Christian faith, tradition and practice form the center upon which my feet are now firmly and immutably planted. Jesus Christ is sufficient! Emergent (Emergent with a “t”) seems to be unfortunately trekking away from this center, if it is not already gone.

The Emerging Church is a valuable lesson in Incarnational and Missional Gospel ministry. It will become far, far less if it ever exchanges the true Gospel of Jesus Christ for theological and philosophical relativity and pluralism. The growing distance between Emerging and Emergent seems to indicate a strong dedication to Gospel Truth by more than a few individuals and groups within the Emerging movement. There is always a danger of actually becoming swept away by the detrimental aspects of the culture into which you dive deep and deeply minister; I think this is the strong current by which Emergent is or soon will be swiftly swept away, as are all liberal religious efforts which stray far from Gospel. There is so much talent there … would they not just re-discover the sufficiency of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I for one pray they do …

Written February 03rd, 2007 with 2 Comments »

Can a consumer church be transformed into a missional church? Yes, it is possible! It will take a heap of work, and more than a little help from the Holy Spirit, but it can be accomplished. A well written article published at Leadership Journal highlights the specifics relevant to a transformation of this sort. I especially took note of what the writer (Chad Hall) referred to as the “Two Distractions” that can thwart missional transformation. Hall writes: “But if being missional is the essence of being the church, why isn’t every church missional? Because many churches have turned attention to matters that distract and deter from the mission. Two main distractions often block a congregation’s missional expression.” What are these two distractions? Hall continues, “The first is self-preservation. The institution is the means to do the mission. The church serves the mission, not vice versa … The other primary distraction is church growth. When the emphasis is on bringing the world to the church, the church’s mission of going to the world can get lost.” Ponder it. See article: Missional Possible: Steps to Transform a Consumer Church into a Missional Church.

Written February 02nd, 2007 with No Comments »

I am fascinated by trends, traffic and statistics. I think things like social networking and blogging trends are beyond interesting, especially as they concern this growing religious blogosphere of ours. It’s all fun.

I just fed a few of my favorite religious blogs into Alexa not only to see how things are going for each of them, but also to gauge how well my own blog has recovered from the complete delete I inflicted upon it a few months ago.

Alexa Traffic Stats

Ben, the writer behind Open Switch, is doing absolutely amazing! He has really taken to this medium and has succeeded in unimaginable ways. Kudos, brother!

I also entered Andrew’s TallSkinnyKiwi, who I respect and read daily. He’s doing quite well too.

I love Joe’s Evangelical Outpost too, obviously. Man, Joe’s blog has a traffic spike going on there the size of Everest! Get Religion’s spike is close, and very, very respectable in its own right, but still falls well short of the Outpost’s. Get Religion is another great religion blog, and a daily read o’ mine.

Overall, I think my own poor and abused weblog has recovered from the righteous cleansing I dealt it a few months back.

These are some of the best religion blogs in the sphere, so put ‘em in your feed readers! Have fun everyone! Keep up the great work!

Written February 02nd, 2007 with 3 Comments »

Theology discussions at microbrews and pubs is on the rise! I have read more than a few opinions and news stories on the subject; Mark Driscoll & Mars Hill write about it; and my own seminary holds ‘theology at the pub discussions’ (see: Theology on Tap) in our city. Is theology served with a side of alcohol a good idea? Is it Biblical? Does it matter? I personally do not think alcohol or the recreational use of alcohol is inherently sinful, at least no more than is the eating of a nasty, processed, & possibly cloned fast-food chain hamburger. I won’t even mention what soda, pop, or soda-pop does to your system. Everything and anything void of moderation and spiritual discipline is a bad thing. I can attest to as much. The New Testament warns against drunkenness, and a spirit of drunkenness, not drinking. Yes, you can drink too much, or you can watch too much television. Both are detrimental to your overall spiritual well-being. You can eat way too much oatmeal & peanut-butter sandwiches, or you can foolishly down two-six packs and wake up in some parking lot. Balance is a good thing! A lack of balance is bad, obviously. Also, I would be very intentional about relieving recovering alcoholics from any pressure incurred by your advertising or pushing of theological discussions at microbrews or pubs. Peer pressure can be awful for those Christians in our midst who may not yet be where others are, as far as Christian maturity is concerned. The Apostle Paul exhorts Christians to be very intentional about brothers & sisters who are not quite as mature (1 Corinthians 8). We should do nothing that causes them to falter and/or fall. The final verdict re: theology at the microbrew or pub must be your own. It comes down to conscience. I would, however, suggest you get to building a theology of alcohol. Times seem to be calling for it! A Concluding Note: Personally, I prefer a great coffee and cafe, to alcohol and pub, but that doesn’t make one better or worse than the other, of course.

Written February 02nd, 2007 with No Comments »

I just discovered MyFreeMusicFriday. Where have I been? Oh yeah, stuck in seminary requirements. What is MyFreeMusicFriday? The following equation seems self-explanatory: (Free + Music x Friday)Great Artists = Who We Are! Today’s free Christian music: “Kingdom Comes” by Sara Groves; “This Is Certain” by Jake Smith; “Miss Texas” by Shaun Groves. Off you go! Download yourself some great Christian MP3s.

Written February 02nd, 2007 with 2 Comments »

The real thing is always better than thin imitation. This fact alone will prove to be the undoing of a declining liberal theology. Well, that and the fact that liberal theology is hopelessly confused, as any honest and minimally bright liberal theologian will attest.

Fun with Mint

Written February 01st, 2007 with No Comments »

My vocational ministry picture is becoming clearer! Praise God! I graduate from seminary in May, so a clarifying picture is more than welcomed. Church planting looks more and more like the direction toward which we will be trekking. I am, however, remaining completely open to whatever it is the Lord has for us. It is an exciting and slightly terrifying time in our journey. I thank God for the wonderful leaders and mentors he has placed in my life. My pastor/mentor is a gift from God. I also just had a sit down with the Bishop at the local Panera Cafe (coffee & scones). We had an exciting and very, very encouraging conversation. It’s good to be surrounded by dynamic people dedicated to dynamic Gospel ministry. It’s awesome.

Written February 01st, 2007 with No Comments »

The Incarnational ministry philosophy is one in which the idea of redemptive analogy is emphasized and prioritized in a very, very intentional way. In other words, the ministry message - the Gospel of Christ - is delivered in a manner relevant to the people living within a specific culture (e.g. Western Postmodernity), without being inherently modified or altered in any way, shape or form. The Gospel always remains the same (orthodoxy), in the face of culture shifts & changes. It’s about ministry flexibility & methodological adaptation. So, to be as effective as possible, church planters reach for the Incarnational and the redemptive analogy so as to successfully communicate the Gospel in an understandable and/or relevant fashion. An Incarnational mission seeks not to be an attractional community. The point of Incarnational ministry is not to attract & invite people out of their communities and into a separated sacred place or community of sorts, but to actually introduce them to the work of the Living God that is already unfolding all around them, in their everyday journeys. The Incarnational mission is actually an effort to help them to become redeemed participants in this sacred activity. Their participation may in-fact lead to more than a few cultural shifts and changes, as a result of the redemptive process itself, but it never intentionally advances the idea of community apart from their community. The corporate gathering then becomes a very, very necessary time of celebration (of all God is doing!) and further instruction and edification (Christian discipleship!). Incarnational ministry is experiencing a revival as of late, thanks largely to the Missional Movement arising within the Emerging Conversation. It is not, however, a brand new phenomenon. One of the clearest presentations of Christian Incarnation or Missional practice - apart from Jesus himself, who is THE redemptive analogy in flesh form - can be seen in Don Richardson’s 1962 evangelical mission to headhunting cannibals (the Sawi) in New Guinea. Richardson recounts his experiences and story of these events in the book Peace Child. Peace Child is a must read for ministers embracing a Missional or Incarnation philosophy of ministry. All of this is especially important as we prepare to take the Gospel of Christ to an unarguably postmodern culture here in the US.