From "The Good Fight," an interview with Matt Chandler in the current issue ofLeadership.
"I'm unapologetically Reformed, but nine times out of ten I cannot stand the Reformed community. I don't want to be around them. I don't want to read their blogs. They can be cannibalistic, self-indulgent, non-missional, and angry. It's silly and sad at the same time. Reformed doctrine should lead to a deep sense of humility and patience with others. How it produces such arrogance baffles me."
Matt Chandler is the pastor of The Village Church in Highland Village, Texas. To read the rest of his interview in context, pick up the Summer 09 issue of Leadership journal or subscribe by clicking on the cover in the left column.
Everyone knows that John Piper believes in the supremacy of preaching, but what about augmenting the spoken word with video clips or dramas? In this short video Piper answers that question. Here's an excerpt:
"I think the use of video and drama largely is a token of unbelief in the power of preaching. And I think that, to the degree that pastors begin to supplement their preaching with this entertaining spice to help people stay with them and be moved and get helped, it's going to backfire.... It's going to communicate that preaching is weak, preaching doesn't save, preaching doesn't hold, but entertainment does."
Piper concludes as only he can--by making light of the issue with laughter while still invoking the possibility of eternal damnation. He says:
"Nobody is going to go to hell because of this...in the short run."
The situations in Iran and North Korea continue to concern us and our government, but where is the most dangerous place in America?
New York City? Detroit? Baltimore? Chicago? Los Angeles?
Large cities such as these have received a lot of attention as havens of crime, disorder, and mayhem. Violent crimes and societal concerns seem common in our concrete jungles.
But what about cities like Irvine, California; Lake Forest, Illinois; Plano, Texas; and Ellicott City, Maryland?
Irvine, California, was given the title, "Safest City in America" (over 100,000 people) by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on June 1, 2009. I would like to submit that suburbs just like this may actually be the most dangerous places in America.
The Bishop of Durham says ordination is a gift not a right.
The leadership of the Episcopal Church has voted to remove any restrictions on the ordination of clergy in same-sex relationships. The battle over gay ordination has been fierce within the worldwide Anglican communion for years, but this new development may finally lead to the schism many have been predicting. Writing in The Times of London, Bishop N.T. Wright has reacted strongly to the American church's decision. Here is an excerpt:
The appeal to justice as a way of cutting the ethical knot in favour of including active homosexuals in Christian ministry simply begs the question. Nobody has a right to be ordained: it is always a gift of sheer and unmerited grace. The appeal also seriously misrepresents the notion of justice itself, not just in the Christian tradition of Augustine, Aquinas and others, but in the wider philosophical discussion from Aristotle to John Rawls. Justice never means "treating everybody the same way", but "treating people appropriately", which involves making distinctions between different people and situations. Justice has never meant "the right to give active expression to any and every sexual desire".
Such a novel usage would also raise the further question of identity. It is a very recent innovation to consider sexual preferences as a marker of "identity" parallel to, say, being male or female, English or African, rich or poor. Within the "gay community" much postmodern reflection has turned away from "identity" as a modernist fiction. We simply "construct" ourselves from day to day.
Is the church being hypocritical about sexual ethics?
by David Fitch
I know this is little late, but for me, nothing illustrates the current state of the church's witness in regard to sexual issues in America better than the Ms. California/USA pageant episode a couple months ago. It was an embarrassing irruption of the Real that any follower of Christ has got to wince at (it's so embarrassing).
Here a woman prances before the media in a minuscule bikini (ironically designed by another ex-evangelical, Jessica Simpson), a woman who had ("sexually-enhancing") cosmetic surgery, who had been in a revealing photo shoot of some sort, and she is asked about her position on same sex unions. She responds by saying, "I think in my country, in my family, that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there, but that's how I was raised."
The next day on the Today show, she said "I don't take back what I said." She added that she "had spoken from my heart, from my beliefs and for my God. It's not about being politically correct," she said. "For me, it's about being biblically correct." Using the "B" word - "biblical" - in front of the cameras makes her an evangelical stereotype. In the process she becomes a symbol of evangelicalism's lack of political (communal) credibility to witness to the gay/lesbian populations.
By saying what she said about gay unions moments after the swimsuit competition, Ms. California was basically telling the world, "We do the same things, but for gay people it's sin. Lust is good, objectifying my body is normal, the fulfillment of all desire is good." Then, on the other hand, she says to the gay and lesbian world, "But you can't do any of this, because you're different."
Rethinking the church's relationship with the gay community.
When Andrew Marin's three best friends "came out" to him in three consecutive months, the self-proclaimed "Bible-banging homophobe" wanted desperately to understand his friends' experience. So he moved to Boystown, a Chicago neighborhood populated primarily by GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender) folks. He founded The Marin Foundation in 2003, to build bridges between the GLBT and Christian communities. Leadership assistant editor Brandon O'Brien asked Andrew what his experience might mean for the local church.
Why should the average pastor care about improving the conversation between his or her church and the GLBT community?
We are currently running the largest national scientific research study ever conducted about in the GLBT community. Preliminary data reveals a statistic that stands out above all the others: eighty-six percent of the GLBT community was raised in a denominationally based religion. This tells me that the Christian community's mindset about gays and lesbians is often flawed. It's not an "us versus them" issue; it's actually "us versus us." Up to age 18, 86 percent of the GLBT community is in our churches, sharing our pews. And who knows how many future GLBT people are still in the "closet." We need to be asking, How can the church be a safe place for them to talk about their struggles and attractions.
His unexpected message to church leaders: fully embrace your Christian identity.
By Skye Jethani & Brandon O'Brien
Eboo Patel is not the most likely seminary professor. His credentials are not the issue. Patel earned his doctorate from Oxford University, and he is a respected commentator on religion for The Washington Post and National Public Radio. He has spoken in venues across the world, including conferences for evangelical church leaders.
What makes Eboo Patel an unlikely seminary professor is that he is Muslim.
The editors of Leadership first encountered Patel at the 2008 Q Conference, where he challenged 500 Christian leaders to change the rules of interfaith dialogue. "Muslims and Christians might not fully agree on worldview," he said, "but we share a world." Patel spoke of his enduring friendships with a number of evangelicals and his desire to move beyond the "clash of civilizations" rhetoric that dominates Christian/Muslim interaction. While holding firmly to his belief in Islam, he also affirmed church leaders. "Even though it is not my tradition and my community," Patel wrote after the conference, "I believe deeply that this type of evangelical Christianity is one of the most positive forces on Earth."
We were intrigued, so we contacted Patel to talk more about the ramifications of increasing religious diversity in America, as well as his outsider's perspective of the church's response. Patel gave us more than we bargained for. He invited us to attend a class he was teaching on interfaith leadership at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago.
The following is an excerpt from a chapter called "Internet Campuses - Virtual or Real Reality?" in the bookA Multi-Site Church Road Trip: Exploring the New Normal, by Geoff Surratt, Greg Ligon, and Warren Bird (Zondervan, 2009). This picks up mid-chapter; so to bring you up to speed, we're talking about the strengths and weaknesses of internet campuses as they relate to spiritual growth and formation.
Even if a church does a good job of creating an engaging and life-transforming online worship experience, it may not be enough. What about the rest of what it means to be the church? When I pressed Troy [Gramling, senior pastor of Flamingo Road Church in Florida] with this question, he said that both physical and internet campuses are trying to do the same thing: help people take the next step from where they are to where God is calling them. "The first step is accepting Christ," Troy explained. "That can happen anywhere. The next step is baptism, and we have discovered that can happen anywhere as well." Indeed, in 2007 Brian Vasil baptized a new believer online for the first time. They didn't use virtual water or a cheesy clip art graphic. It was the real thing.
A young woman from Georgia who had never attended any of Flamingo Road Church's physical campuses gave her life to Christ during a service on the internet campus. She wanted to be baptized, so she contacted her campus pastor, Brian, via email. He spoke with her on the phone about her decision to accept Christ and about her desire to be baptized. Then he helped coordinate the event. She was baptized by her mother-in-law in the family Jacuzzi tub with the Flamingo Road internet family watching via webcam and rejoicing in the significant moment for one of their peers. That's taking the next step. For those involved with the church, it was the real thing.
Recently I needed to repair my car and chose a mechanic across the street from Kenwood Towne Center near Cincinnati. Typically, when a mall is too proud to call itself a mall, the shops are upscale, and Kenwood is no exception. So while my vehicle was repaired, I went to the mall for an overpriced cup of coffee.
My eye caught an unexpected store name. In bright pink letters across the entry was "Justice," with a heart dotting the "i" for good measure. Seeing no photos of Martin Luther King or Gandhi or Dorothy Day, I looked up again to make sure I had read the sign correctly. Then I noticed a banner below the sign, which simply said, "Limited Too is now Justice."
Even entering the store, I knew that my definition of justice had very little to do with the products peddled by "Justice."
But the rebranding of Limited Too is part of a larger social trend. Justice is hip, even in our churches. Over the past five years, church after church has made justice a more prominent part of their stated mission, objectives, and vision.