September 30, 2011
Silent prayer seeks a communion that is beyond words.
September 30, 2011
Silent prayer seeks a communion that is beyond words.
September 28, 2011
New survey finds most pastors will. Is that right?
A new poll conducted by LifeWay Research reports that 58 percent of Protestant pastors would perform a marriage ceremony for a cohabitating couple; 31 percent would not, and 10 percent were undecided.
There was some variation between mainline and evangelical pastors. When asked, "Will you perform a marriage ceremony for a couple whom you know is living together?" 68 percent of mainline pastors said yes compared with 57 percent of evangelicals. 24 percent of mainline pastors and 34 percent of evangelicals said no.
What do you think? Would you marry a cohabitating couple? Why or why not? You can also check out what others have been saying in response to the survey at Christianity Today's website.
September 26, 2011
Reaffirming a theology of vocation and cultural flourishing in the church.
Ingredient Two: Cultural Flourishing
As I discussed in my first book, The Divine Commodity, when church institutionalism grows out of control, we come to believe that programs rather than people are the vessels of God’s Spirit and mission in the world. When this occurs we begin to honor people for their involvement in, or service for, the church. But what they do with the remainder of their time gets little attention. When this assumption is reinforced over decades, a hierarchy of importance is established with church leaders (pastors and missionaries) at the top. Others are then only celebrated when they behave like pastors or missionaries, or when they leave their “worldly” professions to devote themselves to “full-time Christian service.”
What I’m describing is the contemporary Western church’s abandonment of a theology of vocation. During the Reformation church leaders began to apply the term “vocation” (Latin for “calling”) to all believers and not simply the clergy. It was understood that all callings were valid before God, and each glorified him and provided a critical service in the world. In other words, the life of the painter, politician, or podiatrist is just as God-honoring as that of the priest when done in communion with Christ and for the benefit of others.
Effort has been underway to recapture this theology for the American church. Andy Crouch’s book Culture Making has helped us re-engage the cultural mandate in Genesis 1, and Gabe Lyons’ has articulated the “7 channels of cultural influence” through the Q Gatherings and website. But what would this look like if embraced by a local church?
September 23, 2011
What is the link between Christ's mission and prayer?
September 21, 2011
What does the Gospel say to us amid the death penalty debate?
Last week death was interrupted. Duane Buck was set for execution. His execution would have been the second last week and the eleventh this year in Texas alone… and two more executions are scheduled soon. When Presidential candidate Rick Perry celebrated his 234 executions as Texas governor in a recent debate, the audience roared in applause. As a Christian I found that deeply disturbing.
There is an incident in the Gospels where Jesus is asked about the death penalty.
Here’s the scene. A woman has been humiliated and dragged before the town, ready to be killed. Her execution was legal; her crime was a capital one. But just because it’s legal, doesn’t make it right.
Jesus interrupts the scene – with grace.
He tells all the men who are ready to kill the woman, “Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.” And of course he reminds us all that if we have looked at someone with lust in our eyes we are adulterers. If we have called our neighbor a fool we are a murderer. You can hear the stones start to drop, as the men walk away.
September 19, 2011
What if a church embraced the idea of institutional impermanence?
A few weeks ago I had lunch with Darren Whitehead from Willow Creek. Darren is a great bloke (I can say that because he’s an Aussie), and we talked candidly about our experiences in the church, in leadership, and the way we see church adapting to the shifting culture. Toward the end of our lunch he asked me if I’d ever considering working on a church staff again. “I’ve learned never to say never,” I replied, “but it would have to be a very different kind of church.”
“Like what?” he asked. I rattled off some half-baked answer, but his question has lingered in my mind. What kind of church would I want to help lead?
As I’ve ruminated on that question, I’ve gone back and read a number of articles, blog posts, and editorials I’ve written in the past few years–pieces about the church’s narrow definition of mission, the tendency to over-institutionalize church, the false-belief that perpetuity equal success, rediscovering a theology of vocation, and the danger of making mission an idol at the expense of communion with God.
With all of these ingredients now in the mixing bowl of my mind, I’ve decided to give a more than half-baked answer to Darren’s question. What follows is not a complete recipe but an experiment. It’s my way of welcoming other cooks into my mental kitchen. I want your thoughts and feedback. Am I on to something, or am I completely out to lunch? And please don’t take these ideas as a criticism of other models of church. God has used, and will continue to use, many different churches to accomplish his purposes.
I am calling this experiment Church365, and so far I've outlined 5 ingredients. Here's the first:
September 16, 2011
Our prayer life should look like a child spending time with his father.
September 14, 2011
After 73 years of wearing his underwear on the outside, why has Superman decided to abandon his briefs?
For years I’ve been trying to help people see that popular consumer culture is a form of religion. It offers us a sense of value, identity, and context that traditional religions once provided. Similarly, pop culture has sacred symbols. How do I know this? Because when one of these symbols is altered the faithful will rise to protest the act of irreverence.
The Coca-Cola Company learned this lesson in 1985 when they released New Coke. And earlier this year when Gap changed their logo, hoards of angry white females rioted via social media. Gap relented and the retail deity’s image was restored.
The latest victim of pop-culture blasphemy: Superman. Photographs have leaked from the production of Warner Brothers’ new film Man of Steel showing actor Henry Cavill wearing a blue Superman suit without red trunks. When the film debuts in 2013 it will be the first time the character is depicted on screen without the red under(over)pants. Nerds are enraged.
The question I have is this: After 73 years of wearing his underwear on the outside, why has Superman decided to hide his Hanes?
I did a little snooping and discovered that when Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created Superman in the 1930s his design was derived from two sources–science fiction comics and circus strong men. The former gave Superman his blue one-piece uniform (all advanced societies wear one-piece uniforms, it’s a Hollywood fact), and the latter his red Speedo. The look has remained largely unchanged for seven decades–including five feature films.
But when Warner Brothers handed the responsibility for penning a new Superman script to Christopher Nolan and David Goyer, the same team behind Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, they wanted to bring the same realism to the Man of Steel they had brought to the Caped Crusader. But the Superman character, unlike Batman, is utterly unrealistic. He’s an alien who can fly, repel bullets, and fire lasers from his eyes. If we are to accept all of that, is it really too much to ask a modern audience to believe Superman would wear red underwear over his pants?
Yes, it is.
September 12, 2011
What can evangelicals learn from the “I’m a Mormon” campaign?
Newsweek dubbed it “the Mormon Moment” in June. There’s a Broadway musical about Mormon missionaries, two potential Mormon presidential candidates, Warren Jeffs in the media, and TV shows like Big Love and Sister Wives. It seems America is fascinated with--or, at least, can no longer avoid--the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
To those trying to decide what to think of Mormonism and its followers, the LDS Church is eager to lend a hand. In 2010 they launched major public relations campaign that is gradually going nationwide in print and on billboards. Online, the “I’m a Mormon” campaign has already reached the masses.
In an article in Church News, the official online source for LDS news, about the campaign, Elder L. Tom Perry summarizes the rationale behind the program. "A person's view of the Church is the sum of personal experiences they have had which relate in any way to the Church organization.” And so, in the words of the article’s author, “the best way for a person to change his or her mind about the Mormons is to meet one.” Thus the video campaign features testimonials from your average, everyday LDS members from every gender, ethnicity, class, and profession, the short videos introduce us to a folks we’re likely to resonate with.
And they are compelling. There’s Nnamdi, the Nigerian sculptor. There’s Rob, the former NFL player. There’s Jarem, “the founder and president of SymBiotechs USA, a prosthetics design and manufacturing company...a cancer survivor and an AKA (Above Knee Amputee).” The subtitle of Jarem’s video is “I built my own leg, I make the impossible, possible, and I'm a Mormon.” This is good stuff. I spent much longer than I meant to watching video after engaging video about extraordinary people.
But this post isn’t really about Mormons. The campaign has me thinking about my own religious affiliation, American evangelicals, and how we look to the American public at large. And whether it matters. And what to do about.
September 9, 2011
What is the link between prayer and social activism?
September 8, 2011
The modern temptation to depersonalize ministry.
"If people don't know their pastor, it's easy to put the pastor on a pedestal and depersonalize him or her. It's also easy for pastors, who don't know their congregations, simply to classify congregants as saved or unsaved, involved or not involved, tithers or non-tithers. These impersonal designations allow you to treat people not as they are, but as sociological or psychological categories."
Excerpted from "Pastor in the Present Tense" in the Summer 2011 issue of Leadership Journal. To read the full quote IN context be sure to subscribe to Leadership today by clicking on the LJ cover in the left column.
Eugene Peterson is the author of The Pastor.
September 6, 2011
Reflections from my visit to Ground Zero.
A few weeks ago I was in New York City and I visited Ground Zero for the first time. Here is a reflection I wrote later that evening:
Despite the ongoing construction of the Freedom Tower and memorial, it’s hard to absorb that 10 years ago it was a scene of chaos and carnage. This afternoon, like September 11, 2001, was a clear and warm day. I walked though the canyons of Lower Manhattan trying to imagine what it would have been like on that history-changing morning. I couldn’t.
I hadn’t planned to visit Ground Zero on my quick trip to New York. But yesterday I got an invitation from Greg Wheatley at Moody Radio to be part of a panel discussion on his program, Inside Look. The special episode will air around the anniversary of 9/11, and will focus on the events of that day and what’s happened since.
Pedestrian walkways around the site include many renderings of the memorial that is being built. Years of debate occurred before a final design was chosen, but I think they got it right. If you have not visited the website and seen the images, you should now. Most striking are the two recessed reflecting pools marking the footprints of the World Trade Center towers. The waterfalls filling the pools are a beautiful, and eerie, reminder of the falling towers that scar our collective memory. I read that once the memorial is opened to the public on September 12 and the waterfalls turned on, they will run continuously.