Folks are flipping out about Rob Bell's theology again. What's your take?
by Url Scaramanga
Popular and controversial pastor Rob Bell has a new book launching at the end of March, Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Has Ever Lived. The topic has given new fuel to Bell's critics who have been looking for definitive evidence that his theology strays from orthodoxy.
Although few have read the book yet, the official description from the publisher does raise some eyebrows:
Fans flock to his Facebook page, his NOOMA videos have been viewed by millions, and his Sunday sermons are attended by 10,000 parishioners—with a downloadable podcast reaching 50,000 more. An electrifying, unconventional pastor whom Time magazine calls “a singular rock star in the church world,” Rob Bell is the most vibrant, central religious leader of the millennial generation. Now, in Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, Bell addresses one of the most controversial issues of faith—the afterlife—arguing that a loving God would never sentence human souls to eternal suffering. With searing insight, Bell puts hell on trial, and his message is decidedly optimistic—eternal life doesn’t start when we die; it starts right now. And ultimately, Love Wins.
In response, Justin Taylor has already written a post on The Gospel Coalition's site. While reluctant to declare that Bell is definitely a universalist, Taylor believes all indications point to that conclusion.
N.T. Wright gives a biblical case for the full inclusion of women in the orders of the church.
N.T. Wright is one of the more popular theologians today. When his views about the atonement are not stirring debate, then perhaps his understanding of the role of women in ministry will. In this video, Wright outlines the prominent role of women as apostles (Romans 16) and the counter-cultural fact that a women was the first person commissioned to announce the news of Jesus' resurrection (John 20). He chooses to read 1 Timothy 2 in light of these texts.
God's intent is for men to lead the family, and a church is a family. Agree?
The church is a family, and God has designated men to be the head of the family. That is the argument put forth by Bill Kynes in this Gospel Coalition video defending a complementarian understanding of the sexes. Does it work for you? Continue the civil dialogue below.
We begin a new video series looking at the different viewpoints on women in church leadership.
10 percent of Protestant senior pastors are women. That number has doubled in the last decade. But the issue is still debated and divisive. What role should women have in church leadership? Are certain responsibilities given to only men in the church, or should responsibilities be determined by gifting and maturity alone?
In the coming days we'll be posting a series of videos from both points of view. We realize this is a hotly debated and contentious issue, but we trust that Urbanites will be able to express their views with respect and with humility. First we hear from Rose Madrid-Swetman who co-pastors a church with her husband in Seattle.
Mortality brings a new definition of success and appreciation for God's grace.
The upcoming March/April issue of Catalyst Leadership features an interview with Matt Chandler. Just over a year ago he was diagnosed with brain cancer. Through surgery and ongoing radiation and chemo treatments, Chandler has maintained his leadership role at The Village Church and kept everyone up to date on his journey through his blog posts. Skye Jethani spoke with Chandler to hear how cancer has impacted his view of leadership, the church, and himself. Here is a preview of the interview:
How has fighting cancer changed your perspective as a leader?
It’s made me think a lot more about my mortality. For example, if I die and The Village Church falls apart, do I care? I’ll be honest, I don’t. It seems to me that when you look at history, God raises up certain men for certain seasons in certain places. He pours out his Spirit on them, and when they’re done its very rare for God to continue the work that was done uniquely through him. If I die and The Village ends, I’m alright with that. If believers here find a place where the gospel is preached, and people are being saved, and the mission is being lived out, then I will not have failed.
If I’m going to die in two years, I started asking God what I should do. I put a lot of pressure on myself because in our culture there is the expectation that a ministry has to flourish even after you’re gone. That’s unfair, unhistoric, and maybe even unbiblical. Realizing that took a lot of pressure off of me. I had peace to just faithfully do what I’ve been doing here since day one. Then just let go and see what the Lord does with it.
It seems like many in ministry define success by perpetuity--if something keeps going it’s a success. You’ve rejected that.
That’s right. And because they define success that way they cannot let go. They’re focused on “their legacy.” That’s why we see churches with senior pastors in their 70s and no succession plan. They can’t let go.
Have you noticed God refining your character, and not just your view of leadership, through this crisis?
Absolutely. I noticed that some of my cynicism died this last year. Maybe it’s because I’ve been backstage too many times, but I’ve tended to think the worst about other evangelical leaders who have had a lot of success--the kind of success I’ve had. I just assume they’re sellouts because they market themselves in a way I wouldn’t, or because they wear expensive jeans and keep their tans in the winter. I was really quick to judge.
Prejudice is like a cockroach: it is able to get into the smallest of places, and it never seems to die. What’s worse is that everyone carries the cockroach of prejudice somewhere inside of them. Prejudice is a pre-conceived notion, an irrational assumption, a judgment against another without any evidence. We believers are called to rise above showing “personal favoritism” (James 2:1), because there is “no partiality with God” (Romans 2:11). Even so, prejudice against single pastors abounds.
Prejudice against single pastors
When I press people on why they think single pastors are treated with suspicion, 99 percent of the time I get a list of fears rather than actual evidence:
“What if he’s gay?”
“What if he flirts with all the single women at church?”
“What if he tries to steal a married woman for himself?”
“There must be something wrong with him because he’s single.”
“Aren’t single pastors more likely to molest our children?”
Fear. That’s what binds these comments together. Especially the fear of human sexuality/desire. As if human desire is a monster that can only be tamed by marriage. This fear certainly doesn’t come from being bombarded by national sex scandals involving protestant single pastors! So where does it come from? It is the cockroach of prejudice creeping around in the dark corners of our mind. It’s an irrational assumption that singles lack self-control, while married people do not.
Is Michelle Obama anti-church potlucks? Is Chick-fil-A anti-gay? Is Justin Bieber an evangelist? Is Al Mohler sexy?
by Url Scaramanga
This is your leader. Here are the links and videos you may have missed this week. Consume them and be disturbed. Live well and evangelize.
Michelle Obama tells churches to eat better.
The First Lady marked the first anniversary of her “Let’s Move” children’s health initiative by visiting two Atlanta-area churches, including Andy Stanley’s North Point Church. She called upon churches to help kids eat healthier. Who’s going to tell the Baptists that pot lucks and pie socials are killing our kids?
Chick-fil-A is pro-Christian (and anti-gay?)
They didn’t invent the chicken, just the Christian chicken sandwich. As the unabashedly Christian fast food chain expands beyond the Bible belt, it’s conservative values and Biblical branding is stirring controversy. A major gay rights group has launched a campaign against Chick-fil-A for its support of an anti-gay marriage organization
[Related...at least in my dysfunctional mind...is this video. Warning, the song will stay in your head for days.]
Need to confess? There’s an app for that.
Last month Pope Benedict XVI blessed social networks. "I would like then to invite Christians, confidently and with an informed and responsible creativity, to join the network of relationships which the digital era has made possible.” Now the Vatican is even endorsing a smartphone app for making confession. Next up, using Paypal to buy indulgences.
Reverend Cedric Miller of Living Word Christian Fellowship Church in New Jersey has banned Facebook. He's ordered about 50 married church officials to delete their accounts or resign and has called on married people in his 1,100-member congregation to delete their Facebook accounts. The problem isn't productivity lost to Farmville—it's adultery.
Miller said 20 couples from his church have had marital problems in the last six months after a spouse reconnected with an old flame on Facebook. "What happens is someone from yesterday surfaces, it leads to conversations, and there have been physical meet-ups. The temptation is just too great."
According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 81% of its members have either used or been faced with evidence from social networking sites in divorce cases in the last five years, including Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace.
In the most recent issue of Leadership, John Ortberg shares this important observation:
I once was part of a survey on spiritual formation. Thousands of people were asked when they grew most spiritually, and what contributed to their growth. The number one contributor to spiritual growth was not transformational teaching. It was not being in a small group. It was not reading deep books. It was not energetic worship experiences. It was not finding meaningful ways to serve. It was suffering. People said they grew more during seasons of loss, pain, and crisis than they did at any other time.
The same truth surely applies to pastors. We grow most in our leadership and maturity not through our successes but through our failures. So why are so many of our pastoral gatherings focused on celebrating successful ministries and triumphant pastors? Wouldn’t we be better served by learning from those who have failed; wouldn’t they be a better font of wisdom?
If you’re like me, you may walk away from some ministry conferences feeling worse about yourself and your calling rather than better. I’ll never be as gifted as the guy on the stage. I’ll never have a church that size and making that kind of impact in my city. I’ll never get my hair to do that no matter how much product I put in it. And the skinny jeans? Forgetaboutit. The cool train left my station 20 years ago.
Well, if you’ve felt that way someone has finally developed the conference for you: the Epic Fail Pastors Conference. (This is not a joke).
John Piper, D.A. Carson, and Tim Keller fight porn with theology.
Leadership Journal is now in its 31st year of publication, and it seems that church leaders struggling with pornography has been a constant theme we've covered through all of those years--even well before the age of the internet. Does the rise of Calvinism and the Neo-Reformed movement have anything new to add to the conversation? John Piper speaks with Tim Keller and D.A. Carson about the role of gospel-centered theology in fighting the temptations of pornography.
What do you think? Do they have anything new or helpful to add, or are these the same answers and ideas you've been hearing for years?