December 30, 2011
The most talked about issues on Ur this year were...
Another year of conversation is coming to an end on Out of Ur. Thanks to all of our writers, contributors, and commenters. It's been a great year. Like many others, Urbanites were caught up in the controversy surrounding Rob Bell and his book Love Wins. But matters of church and state were also a frequent topic of debate. Women in leadership, same sex marriage, and Mark Driscoll also made a showing. (Sometimes I wonder what on Urth we'd talk about without Driscoll's bombastic opinions on YouTube.) More surprising this year was a series of posts about single pastors by Mark Almlie. Clearly it's an under-discussed topic.
Here's a look back at the most talked about posts from 2011.
Rob Bell: Universalist?
Folks are flipping out about Rob Bell's theology again. What's your take?
by Url Scaramanga
Are We Afraid of Single Pastors?
Where did the prejudice against single pastors come from, and how do we move past it?
by Mark Almlie
Ur Video: Driscoll on Mr. Moms
Should stay-at-home dads face church discipline?
by Url Scaramanga
Continue reading Most Popular Posts of 2011...
December 28, 2011
Rob Bell's farewell epistle to Mars Hill gives a glimpse into his faith and values.
This week marks the end of Rob Bell's leadership of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Bell is moving on to new callings in California including creating a television show.
A few weeks ago he said his goodbyes to the congregation he founded and which provided him the platform to speak to Christians around the world. Bell wrote a lengthy farewell epistle to Mars Hill containing his parting wisdom and gratitude. I've excerpted a few sections of the letter below for you to respond to.
Continue reading Farewell Rob Bell...
December 23, 2011
Merry Christmas from everyone at Leadership Journal.
December 21, 2011
Sam Rainer predicts incarnate preaching returning to popularity within a decade.
'Tis the season for presents, and parties, and pageants, and...predictions. At the end of every year we often speculate about what the future will bring. What trends will gain momentum, and which have 'jumped the shark.'
Sam Rainer, president of Rainer Research, recently issued a list of 10 (unexpected) church trends that will surface by 2020. The last one caught my attention. Rainer believes the excitement around video-venue preaching will pass away like so many Milli-Vanilli cassette tapes. He writes:
The trend towards more transformational leadership will quell the popularity of video-venues in which a single teaching pastor is projected to multiple sites. The Internet and podcast boom brought with it a cultural wave of electronic teaching. While this trend has been positive — more sound teaching is readily available (for free) than ever before. Eventually, however, the wired generation will desire a more local, personal touch than the man-on-the-screen. By 2020, more campuses at multi-site churches will feature a campus pastor who teaches, and more people will seek out this type of local connection.
Continue reading Is Video Preaching on the Decline?...
December 19, 2011
How Christians went from opposing over-consumption at Christmas to demanding it be done in Christ's name alone.
A few years ago I was walking through Woodfield Mall, the largest one in Illinois, just before Christmas. I was disappointed to see that Santa’s grotto, where children waited in line for a brief one-on-one consultation with Mr. Claus, had been transformed into an enormous promotional display for the upcoming movie, Happy Feet.
Apparently the mall’s managers were not bothered that Santa was difficult to see among the huge images of computer generated penguins, and clearly nobody was disturbed by the geographic discrepancy–penguins only live at the South Pole and Santa resides at the North Pole. Sadder to me was the absence of the enormous Christmas tree that had stood at the center of the mall since my childhood. It appeared that Santa had sold his season, and his soul, to Warner Brothers Studios. I was, however, comforted by the irony of the scene–the character that had commercialized Christmas a century ago had fallen victim to his own devices.
Christians have always had a strained relationship with Saint Nick. Although his origins are rooted deeply in church lore, his association with the secularization of Christmas has made him a persona non grata in many churches and Christian communities. But many of us forget that Christmas itself is a holiday of dubious origin. For example, the Puritans were stridently opposed to the celebration of Christmas. They could find no biblical support for the holiday, and they believed (correctly) that it was originally a pagan festival now masquerading as Christian one. This view was widely held in America throughout the 19th Century. In 1855, newspapers in New York reported that Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian churches would be closed on Christmas Day because “they do not accept the day as a Holy One.” And by the 1860s only 18 states officially recognized the holiday.
Continue reading Skye Jethani: The Wrong War on Christmas...
December 15, 2011
The deaths of Steve Jobs and Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth reveal the church’s captivity to cultural values.
Earlier this year, on October 5th, an influential and visionary leader died. His life forever changed the American experience, and his legacy will be felt for generations to come. An ability to see a future many thought impossible marked his work even as he inspired others to dream of that future. “No” was an unacceptable answer for this man; the status quo was meant to be shattered. Countless people see the world and its possibilities in profoundly different ways because of his passion and drive.
In a strange twist, October 5th was also the day Steve Jobs died.
The first man, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, was pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabaman, and an early leader in the Civil Rights Movement. Rev. Shuttlesworth was a catalyst at seemingly every stage of the movement for racial equality: forming the influential Southern Christian Leadership Conference, participating in sit-ins at segregated lunch counters, joining the Freedom Rides during the summer of 1961, and pushing for the Voting Rights Act of 1965. For his efforts, at least three attempts were made on his life. When his home was bombed in 1956, the young pastor boldly claimed, “God made me dynamite proof.”
How many people in your church have heard of Fred Shuttlesworth? Too few, surely. How many sermons, in the Sundays following his death, cited his as a life worth imitating? Not many, I’m afraid. In contrast, I have a hunch that the life and death of Steve Jobs was fodder for countless sermon illustrations in the days following his death. This, I believe, is a missed opportunity. Whatever their many accomplishments may be, our culture’s heroes—and Jobs was that and more to many—should not always be our heroes.
Continue reading Christian Saints vs. Cultural Celebrities...
December 13, 2011
Does the court's ruling signal the end of churches meeting in public schools?
Last week the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by an evangelical church regarding the ban against churches using public schools in New York City. The court's refusal to hear the case allows a lower court ruling to stand which means 60 churches will soon need to find new places to gather for worship.
One of those churches is Trinity Grace Church Brooklyn led by pastor Caleb Clardy. He has written an article for This Is Our City, a project with Christianity Today. Clardy reflects on the court's decision, and how churches ought to respond to the ruling.
Most troubling to Clardy is the disregard for local officials' relationship with the church. He points out that two other groups, a basketball league and a farmers' market, also use the school property on Sunday mornings. His church has an excellent relationship with both groups as well as school officials. Clardy writes:
Our country was founded on the right of its citizenry to make free and informed decisions. Yet it seems that more and more decisions of conscience are being made for us by high-level policymakers and by judicial fiat. Is this what we actually want for our city, and our nation? If MS 51 can choose to host the basketball league and the farmers' market and the theatre troupe and the voting stations, why can't they choose to host the church as well? I haven't yet heard a compelling answer to that question.
Continue reading Supreme Court Kicks Churches Out of NYC Schools- Is Yours Next?...
December 9, 2011
Do public displays of devotion violate Jesus' teaching?
If you are not a fan of football (or prayer), then you may be unaware of Tim Tebow. The young quarterback for the Denver Broncos has been outspoken about his faith in Christ. But what has been causing a stir on the field (other than his playing) has been his routine of kneeling for prayer. The sight of Tebow on one knee with head bowed has become so common fans have actually coined the word "Tebowing" to describe it, and a new website has been dedicated to photos of others Tebowing in pubic. (Check out Tebowing.com.)
But not everyone is happy about Tim Tebow's P.D.D. (public displays of devotion). The Daily Beast blogger and political commentator, Andrew Sullivan, questions whether Tebow is violating Jesus' teaching with his public prayer ritual. Citing Jesus' words in Matthew 6, Sullivan says:
"Prayer is not supposed to be a public event, designed to display your holiness in front of the maximum number of people.... Why does a Christian publicly repudiate the God he worships? And how has the reverse of Jesus' teachings become the orthodoxy?"
Continue reading Tebow, Jesus, and Praying in Public...
December 7, 2011
Why youth ministry is the cause of, and solution to, all of the church's problems.
What I find most interesting about Tony Jones’ thesis is the way it can explain far more than just the Emerging Church Movement. I think contemporary youth ministry may also help us understand the rise of the megachurch movement in the late 1970s and 80s (and perhaps other movements as well). The number of megachurches exploded in that time from just 10 in 1970 to over 500 by 1990, and most were led to mega status by baby-boomers with youth ministry backgrounds.
The whole notion of a youth culture really emerged after World War II. Television, Rock ‘n Roll, and the economic boom after the war resulted in a generation of young people with disposable income and the opportunity to express themselves in ways foreign to their Depression-generation parents. To reach this new breed of adolescents, first parachurch ministries and later churches started “youth ministries” that mimicked the styles and forms of the secular youth culture but with “safer” Christian content. Contemporary Christian music emerged, Jesus merchandise, and concerts. By the mid 60s, the church youth group became the preferred safe alternative to the popular youth scene marked by drugs and casual sex.
But what the young people engaged in these ministries learned indirectly was that the church should takes its cues from the secular culture; adopt the popular culture’s forms and simply fill those forms with Christian content. It was the youth groups of the 50s and 60s that formed the ecclesiology for the megachurches of the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Bill Hybels may be the clearest example. His vision for Willow Creek emerged directly out of his experience leading a youth ministry in the suburbs of Chicago in the 70s.
Continue reading Did Youth Ministry Create the Emerging Church? (Pt. 2)...
December 5, 2011
Important questions about what the pastor's role is supposed to be.
Our colleague at Christianity Today, Mark Galli, has written an article that has challenged prevailing assumptions about the role of pastors. He responds to the popular belief that healthy and effective pastors should be innovative leaders with dynamic personalities. In other words, pastors ought to resemble the qualities celebrated among secular leaders.
But Galli also responds to the negative connotations associated with "chaplain" pastors--those gifted in pastoral care, the shepherding of souls, and wired for peace and harmony. Some have even identified the presence of chaplain pastors as signs of an unhealthy church.
Continue reading Does the Church Need More 'Chaplains' or 'Leaders'?...
December 1, 2011
Tony Jones tells youth ministry profs to blame themselves for the Emerging Church movement they criticize.
Did the modern youth ministry movement create the Emerging Church? That’s the question Tony Jones addresses in a recent blog post. While presenting a paper at an academic conference, Jones fielded questions from professors of youth ministry primarily from evangelical colleges and seminaries.
Jones said to them, “You all have strong feelings about the emerging church movement, most of them negative. Well, you are directly responsible for the emerging church movement.”
He went on to describe how contemporary youth ministry shuns the “accoutrements of power (vestments, titles, special roles and rites). Instead, youth are encouraged to engage all of the practices of the community equally.” In other words, the rejection of structural authority and the focus on a flat structure of relational authority which has marked the Emerging Church Movement was learned in youth groups. Jones noted how many ECM leaders first had lengthy youth ministry experience within evangelical churches: Tim Keel, Doug Pagitt, Dan Kimball, Tim Condor, and Chris Seay.
To the youth ministry professors who may have a negative view of the Emerging Church, Jones said, “You taught them relational youth ministry, so what kind of churches did you expect them to plant?”
Continue reading Did Youth Ministry Create the Emerging Church?...