Why would Portland's openly gay mayor want to speak with Christian leaders at Q?
by Skye Jethani
"What was the highlight of the conference?" I asked another attendee. I wondered if it was Kevin Kelly, "senior maverick" at Wired Magazine, talking about technology and theology. Or maybe actor/director Mark Ruffalo talking about faith in Hollywood.
"I know it sounds strange," he replied, "but it was seeing the relationship the churches in Portland have with the city government." He went on to explain that he was from Atlanta--a city where nearly every city official is a church-going Christian. And yet the church in Atlanta doesn't have nearly as good a relationship with the city as in Portland. "It was very convicting," he confessed.
He was referring to the interview between Kevin Palau, president of the Luis Palau Association, and Portland Mayor Sam Adams--the first openly gay mayor of a major US city.
“Welcome to Portland. Have you gotten high yet?” That was how Donald Miller welcomed the 600 participants of Q to his hometown. As a very “progressive” and “post-Christian” city, Portland is a colorful backdrop for this year’s Q Gathering. Much of the city’s cultural texture was captured by a clip from Portlandia that played during Miller’s welcome:
Gaby Lyons, the founder of Q, added his welcome. He reminded the room full of iPads, faux-hawks, and black framed glasses that the event is called "Q and not A" because we don't have all of the answers. That launched a day of engaging conversation and some controversy.
The new issue of our free digizine, Catalyst Leadership, is now online. This time we're covering how technology and entertainment values are changing the way we worship. The issue includes articles and videos by Andy Stanley, Britt Merrick, Louie Giglio, Chuck Swindoll, Dan Kimball, Keith & Kristyn Getty, and more. Check it out at www.catalystleadershipdigital.com.
Leadership's senior editor Skye Jethani will be in Portland later this week for the Q Gathering. He'll be giving us a few live updates and reports from the event.
While there is no shortage of ministry events around the country, Q offers something different. Talks are limited to 9 or 18 minutes (and there is a large countdown clock visible to the audience that keeps presenters accountable). And speakers originate from different cultural sectors, not just the church. For example, here are some stats released by the Q organizers about who will be attending the Portland gathering:
37 Years Old
Channels of Cultural Influence Represented at Q:
13% Social Sector
9% Arts & Entertainment
3% Government and Politics
New survey finds white, wealthy evangelicals love the free market...most others don't.
by Url Scaramanga
A poll conducted by Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with Religion News Service was released this week that finds more Americans (44 percent) believe Christian values are at odds with capitalism than believe they are compatible (36 percent). However, a closer look at the research did find some exceptions.
White evangelicals, for example, were more likely than other Christians or the general population to think positively about free-markets. 44 percent of them said that businesses unregulated by the government would still behave ethically. (So much for the doctrine of total depravity.) White evangelicals also believe religious leaders should speak out about social issues but not necessarily economic matters.
Minority Christians, in contrast, said church leaders should be speaking about both areas. Economic issue like home foreclosures were at the top of their list; 76 percent of minority Christians considered it important, while only 46 percent of the general population.
Robert P. Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute, said, "Minority Christians have a deep theological tradition of connecting faith and economic justice, and we see that link in the survey. Because minorities in the U.S. generally continue to have lower incomes than whites, economic issues are also more salient in these congregations."
Consider who is celebrated in most churches. Typically it is the person who is engaged in “full time Christian work”--the pastor or missionary, or people who pursue social causes that result in a big and measurable impact. (Who isn’t talking about William Wilberforce these days?) Similarly, those who behave like pastors or missionaries periodically in their workplace, neighborhood, or perhaps on a short-term trip overseas are praised for these actions. But a church will rarely, if ever, celebrate a person’s “ordinary” life and work.
For example, Andy Crouch tells about a pastor he met in Boston. The pastor recounted the story of a woman in his congregation who was a lawyer for the Environmental Protection Agency. She played a vital role in the clean up of Boston Harbor--one of the most polluted waterways in the country. But the pastor said, “The only time we have ever recognized her in church was for her role in teaching second grade Sunday school. And of course we absolutely should celebrate Sunday school teachers, but why did we never celebrate her incredible contribution to our whole city as a Christian, taking care of God's creation?”
Here’s the problem--when we call people to radical Christian activism, we tend to define what qualifies as “radical” very narrowly. Radical is moving overseas to rescue orphans. Radical is not being an attorney for the EPA. Radical is leaving your medical practice to vaccinate refugees in Sudan. Radical is not taking care of young children at home in the suburbs. Radical is planting a church in Detroit. Radical is not working on an assembly line.
What we communicate, either explicitly or implicitly, by this call to radical activism is that experiencing the fullness of the Christian life depends upon one’s circumstances and actions. Sure, the man working on an assembly line for 50 years can be a faithful Christian, but he’s not going to experience the same sense of fulfillment and significance as the one who does something extreme--who cashes in his 401k and relocates to Madagascar to rescue slaves.
A new survey finds most pastors don't believe Scripture requires giving 10 percent.
by Url Scaramanga
A recent survey from the National Association of Evangelicals finds that a majority of pastors do not believe the Bible requires tithing. In this report from CNN, Leith Anderson and Brian Kluth discuss the survey and the theological basis for the tithe.
Anderson explains that while most evangelical pastors don't believe the tithe is required, most report that they give at least 10 percent and that the Bible encourages us to give far more. But Kluth reminds us that giving in the US has been declining for years, and therefore continued teaching on the tithe is helpful.
What do you think? Does emphasizing tithing actually limit Christian giving? And what do you read behind the survey's findings? Are pastors not taking the issue as seriously as in the past, or are they merely taking the New Testament's words about giving as more weighty than the Old Testament's? How should giving be taught today?
Why the call to radical mission is not the solution to consumer Christianity.
by Skye Jethani
“How radical do I have to be?” the suburban mom asked. She had recently read a number of Christian books decrying the self-centered nature of much of the American church. The authors had apparently had enough of the consumer orientation of their congregations. As a remedy, each of the books calls readers to live a counter-cultural life of radical sacrifice and mission. The books, while inspiring, left this woman feeling “exhausted.”
“I totally agree with the their assessment of the church. We are too self- centered,” she explained. “But how radical is enough? Should I sell my house and car? It is wrong for my kids to be attending a private school? Do I need to move oversees and work with orphans? I want to really experience the Christian life, but now I’m wondering if that’s even possible here in the suburbs.” She was looking for my pastoral advice. What I told her is not what I would have said 5 years ago.
I agreed with her that consumer culture has impacted the way many Christians view their faith. As sociologist Christian Smith has remarked, many Americans view God as a combination divine butler and cosmic therapist. And the church is often seen as a dispenser of religious goods and services for the enjoyment of those who put money in the offering plate. My unease about Consumer Christianity reached a crescendo a few years ago, so I actually wrote a whole book about the epidemic.
But what exactly are we to do about consumer Christians? The solution I hear in many ministry settings, and the one I would have given 5 years ago, is to transform people from consumer Christians into activist Christians.
Learning from the revivals of the past may help ignite one today.
For me, the word “revival” usually brings to mind sweating, red-faced evangelists berating sweet old church ladies for letting their spiritual fires fizzle. I often offered my most fervent prayers at revival meetings during the 37th stanza of “Just as I Am,” because the preacher believed someone in the congregation needed to do business with the Lord. He wasn’t going to end the invitation until that burdened soul had its chance. Lord move in power; I’m ready to go home!
With A God-sized Vision: Revival Stories that Stretch and Stir (Zondervan, 2010), Collin Hansen and John Woodbridge restored my image of revival. This global history of revival from the 1730s through the 1950s covers familiar events in American church history—the First and Second Great Awakenings, the Businessmen’s Revival, and the Evangelical Boom of the 20th century. But what I found most interesting were stories of spiritual awakening worldwide, in places like East Africa, China, India, Wales, and Korea.
One of the authors’ great accomplishments, then, is correcting what may be a common stereotype of “revivalism” for many Americans. If they’re right, revival looks different in different places. For businessmen in North America in the mid-nineteenth century, revival began not with tents and sawdust trails, but with lunch-hour prayer meetings. In Korea, the movement of the Spirit ignited with the confession of sins—big ones, like adultery and murder—and brought missionaries of different denominations together for the gospel. In India, it began when Hindu convert Pandita Ramabai provided room, board, and education for helpless Indian women and orphans and encouraged them to pray for a mighty work of God.
In line with our recent discussion about the overlap in Christian and Muslim theology about God, let's talk about t he chaos that has erupted in response to the burning of a Quran by a pastor in Florida. There is a lot of rhetoric on the airwaves about the incident and speculation about what motivated Pastor Terry Jones. In this video CNN's Fareed Zakaria offers a sober and insightful understanding of the incident noting that the violence in Afghanistan is about politics just as much as religion.
Many, including Secretary of Defense Gates, asked Jones to refrain from burning the Quran because the action would put innocent lives in danger. He obviously did not listen and instead exercised his First Amendment right to burn the book while others paid the price.
What's your take on the pastor's actions? Here's mine: It's relatively easy to burn a Quran in rural Florida, Pastor Jones. Next time you feel the need to "stand up for the truth" consider traveling to the Middle East first. Then you can own the consequences rather than expect someone else to.
The latest issues of Christianity Today includes an interview with Yale professor Miroslav Volf about his new book Allah: A Christan Response. Volf grew up in Yugoslavia where Christian and Muslim communities have cooperated and clashed. The dedication page of his book says,
To my father, a Pentecostal minister who admired Muslims, and taught me as a boy that they worship the same God as we do.
In the book and CT interview, Volf says there are very clear differences between the Christian and Muslim understandings of God--the Trinity being chief among them. But this alone shouldn't cause us to ignore that which we share in common. And his interest isn't merely theological. He recognizes that living in peace depends on the outcome of this conversation. Volf writes:
“Muslims and Christians will be able to live in peace with one another only if (1) the identities of each religious group are respected and given free room for expression and (2) if there are significant overlaps in the ultimate values that orient the lives of people in these communities. These two conditions will be met only if the God of the Bible and the God of the Qu’ran turn out to embody overlapping ultimate values, that is, if Muslims and Christians, both monotheists, turn out to have a ‘common God’” (pages 8-9).
What do you think? Is this an important conversation to have, or is it a non-starter? And is there a difference between saying the Christian and Muslim understandings of God share some important aspects, and Volf's assertion that we have a "common God"?