Mad Props to Chuck Colson

There’s not a lot of Chuck Colson that I am that into. I’ve got an inch and a half book about Being the Body that he wrote (a gift) that isn’t that high on my list, even in my book buying fast (the two inch Josephus has to come first…). But, Colson has hit a dinger on this one.  Even if you just read the beginning and picture the story – you will laugh.

Colson’s frustrations are shared by me. That is why I was so super amped to see David Crowder Band last week and will at the NYWC. That is why I think Bono is a worship leader. That is why I liked the Newsboys before they put out worship albums. That is why Mat Kearney, Coldplay and P.O.D. are staples for me when I am worshipping (How P.O.D.’s song “Goodbye for Now” isn’t an Easter classic by now…I have no idea!). These bands/singers/songwriters write from talent and say something that is worshipping God from the relevance of world my soul lives in. Problem is, these are also very talented musically and don’t write G-C-D songs. We did U2’s Beautiful Day for a church youth service – and it was hard. Our student worship team is learning a DCB song – and having a hard time. But with the complicated music comes valuable lyrics that are moving a generation.

One disclaimer, however. Colson’s statment:

the gospel above all else is revealed propositional truth

Had me scratching my head. Does he really think Jesus died on the cross to make a propositional statement? Puh-leeze.


Interesting things

I am going to post a couple of interesting things. I am not going to post my thoughts on them. If you want to know my thoughts, post yours in the comments.

1. Mars Hill Michigan: In this week’s message Rob Bell tells the people that they need more volunteers in the children’s ministry because the last couple weeks they have had to turn kids away. He says that it is wrong – they need to take care of their own children. What are the implications of telling this (being honest) to your congregation?

2. Leadership Network: Has put out a report on finances in larger churches. Our own church is facing some similar issues…how are our finances helping/challenging us? It is a question that SACC’ers have to answers.

endnote: Sacc’ers? What a dumb term James…..but better than SACCians, or SACCites, or SACCese…I guess.

McLaren on emerging obligations

On page 256 of A Generous Orthodoxy, McLaren develops 8 (9 really) “emerging obligations of a generous orthodoxy…in regard to other religions in God’s world. He admits to building on the work of David Bosch, a missionary in Africa.

1. We must willingly accept the coexistence of different faiths in our world willingly, no begrudgingly.

McLaren uses the analogy of a parent loving a child being different from approving of what they do. This seems like a simple task in theory, but in practice we know that it is not. The whole ‘love the sinner, but hate the sin’ really falls apart in conversations like this, because the sin is the identfier of who the sinner is. The two become inseparable. So we are to love the whole package with the mature understanding that love is not equivalent to approval. I think this has even further implications if we want to talk about the western church culture that gives love if they approve (of your dress, habits, culture, skin color, political views, etc.). There is a sick under-culture that surrounds Christiamericanity that witholds love from those who are unapproved, making me a judge of who God loves and who He doesn’t. This may be sin in its ugliest form.

2. Having acknowledged and accepted the coexistence of other faiths, Christians should actually talk with people of other faiths, engaging in gentle and respectful dialogue.

In a modern context, dialogue and debate are engaged in with the intent to conquer and colonialize. You argue in order to defeat (humiliate) the other person, and turn people over into your particular viewpoint (can you see why I don’t like talking to most advocates of calvinism?). This viewpoint rolled over into evangelistic methods, which created a divide-and-conquer method which sold very well.
In a postmodern context, dialogue and debate is engaged in for mutual benefit. If I engage in discussion with more poeple who disagree with me, I can understand them better and, perhaps more importantly, I understand my own positions better, irregardless of their conversion. This does not mean that I do not want others to convert. It does mean that I am not interested in humiliating people into the kingdom of heaven. Rather, I am interested in people knowing me for my love of them, their position, even their identifying sin and then wanting to know where that love comes from – the saving love of Jesus.

3. We must assume that God is an unseen partner in our dialogues who has something to teach all participants, including us.

Many Christians think we own God – like He is a good and service that we are peddling to the world. These people are wrong. That’s as blunt as I need to be.

4. We must learn humility in order to engage in respectful dialogue.

We do need humility but, like McLaren, this humility can quickly look like arrogance. I have heard comments from people who sat under Pagitt’s and Jones’ teachings and thought their apologies were a bit patronistic. I am pretty sure that this would not have been their intent, but people will not always take it the way it was intended. When we are talking about a new kind of Christianity, we must be aware that we are changing something that is very close to many hearts and will cause passionate reactions and discussions.

5. We must realize that each religion is its own world, requiring very different responses from Christians.

It is interesting that the assumption is that all people prescribe to a religion. This is more and more true in our more and more postmodern world. Especially here in the pacific northwest, where their are more and more who choose “none” as their religious affiliation. People here are not institutionalized Christians, but they are spiritual and many love Jesus.

6. Only at this point are we ready to reassert that conversation does not exclude evangelism but makes it possible.

Once again, in a postmodern context, listening earns trust. There is no substitute for showing value in another person than giving them our most precious commodity, time. We must earnestly hope for the salvation of all people – knowing that listening to them and learning their story is more than a good method of saving people. Know this: listening = knowing = loving.

7. We must continually be aware that the “old, old story” may not be the “true, true story.”

This one hurts the most. Many times we are not aware of the misconceptions that other religions have on Christianity. Some believe that God had intercourse with Mary to produce Jesus. To those of us old in the faith, this sounds silly, but for many it is what they have been taught since an early age. We must be aware that re-education may be an early step in evangelism.
Also, we need to be aware that we may have misconceptions about other religons that actually hinder our evangelistic efforts. Our old stories about them may not be true either.

8. We must live with paradox.

There will be people in the world who are more in tune with the song of God than us. Some who live more lovingly than me. Some who show more mercy than me. Yet, when I speak of my faith, it is a loving, merciful faith. How do I put this together? One would naturally assume the answer is to work harder, creating a works based faith. Or, perhaps, we would speak of the forgiveness of God, yet we must be sure not to cheapen our Savior’s sacrifice on the cross. Many times, our best response is going to have to be humbly living in paradox. This goes to the point of Dwight Freisen coining the term, “paradoxy”, meaning paradox and orthodox at the same time.

9. If members of other religions are under threat, we must seek to protect them.

Were the wise men Jews? Were they following God’s leading or astrology? What are we going to do with the apparent fact that God draws all men unto Himself? As a nation full of Christians, known as a Christian nation, what are we doing to help Arabs come to the Lord?

McLaren, a Generous Orthodoxy

It has taken me some time, due to my own slacken-ness to finish this book. It has an interesting full title:

A Generous Orthodoxy : Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant,
liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative,
fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, catholic, green,
incarnational, depressed- yet hopeful, emergent, unfinished Christian.

This book took me a very long time because the first half was less motivating to me than the second half. Or, maybe, I was more ready for the second half? Either way…

McLaren, a fantastic thinker and teacher, begins with 100 pages on Jesus, including a warning chapter (chapter 0), that kind of sets the stage. Then he takes each adjectif and builds a chapter around it. It seems very much an apologetic for McLarn himself, after having recieved harsh criticisms regarding his theological questioning. After reading this text however, I don’t see how people are pegging him as a universalist, but peggers do like to peg.

Anyways, here’s some motivating quotes and questions:

p.23, “…clarity is sometimes overrated…”

How badly do we need to know before we believe?

p.111, quoting a mentor of McLaren’s, “Remember, in a pluralistic world, a religion is valued based on the benefits it brings to its nonadherents.”

p.160, “…we wanted clear assurance that God didn’t like the people we didn’t like, and for the same reasons we didn’t like them.”

This was convicting to me. How do I really love the people I don’t like. More than being a horrible cliche?

p.195/6, redoing TULIP, “T = Triune Love … U = Unselfish Election … L = Limitless Reconciliation … I = Inspiring Grace … P = Passionate, Persistent Saints”

p.240 “I must admit that, apart from a miracle, I see no human power capable of standing up to the expanding empire of global consumerism, which author Tom Beaudoin ominously calls “theocapitalism.”

p.256, eight thoughts on postmodern evangelism – this will be a separate post with thoughts

p.267, “In the previous chapter, I suggested that Jesus didn’t come to start another religion, which would include the Christian religion.”

First thoughts: Uh-oh…but after reflection I have to ask, then why did Jesus come? To seek and save the lost, right? To begin a disciple-making movement right? To bring fulfillment to the law right?

Trendy Justice

Dan Kimball has a  post on the trendiness of social justice in american/western churches. I have noticed this ever since I heard it remarked that “missions trips/service projects” are the new “worship” for youth ministry.

Brown is the new black.

This worries me on a couple of levels:

  1. I worry that as a trend that it will lose its emphasis. I worry about this because of my own personal passion for the poor. Oppression against the poor is a worldwide issue and fighting it has become a major part of my philosophy of youth ministry. Perhaps because of my early involvment with world vision, or just because of God-given desire, I try to leave a wake of students who are passionate about serving the poor because they see Jesus in the eyes of those they serve.
  2. I worry that this movement in youth ministry is cheapening the mission/service trip. Much like, I think, the youth ministry worship movement cheapened worship. We ended up with songs like, “coming back to the heart of worship” that revealed the way we betrayed with our worship. Perhaps some day we will need to get back to the heart of social justice.

These kinds of concerns beg several questions that I think are relevant:

  • How do youth ministers engage social justice issues? How much do we remain counter-cultural when the culture is about AIDS in Africa and the invisible children? Do we fight AIDS in Africa, like Bono? Or do we educate ourselves and do things about AIDS in China and India? Or do we find other less popular areas to serve in? Areas that the world is not noticing because the light of celebrity hasn’t yet shone on it?
  • How do we treat trends in youth ministry that affect the very theology of salvation working in the students we are entrusted with? Do we pragmatically use trends? How much do we interact with them?

And then practically,

  • How do we bring this home? What does it look like in my town/school/church/home?
  • How long are these trends (games and fun>>>worship>>>missions trips>>> ???), and how do we adapt earlier?