Christian, don’t begrudgingly affirm God’s Word

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This past week, the folks at Hillsong found themselves in a bit of a pickle as founder Brian Houston, when confronted on the question of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. In attempting to provide a winsome answer, he said that it’s too important to reduce down to a “yes or no answer in a media outlet,” which many conservative evangelicals took to mean Houston and Hillsong are fudging on what the Bible says.

Fast forward a couple of days. Houston clarified, saying, “My personal view on the subject of homosexuality would line up with most traditionally held Christian views. I believe the writings of Paul are clear on this subject.”

Houston’s not alone in doing “the dance”—not wanting to deny the Bible, but wanting to keep entry to the faith as free from obstacles as possible. Tons of pastors (and “pastors”) have faced this. Even Joel Osteen (who has the most inoffensive to unbelievers personality on earth!) has been ambushed on the question. In the end, he said he didn’t believe it to be God’s best for people.

Public personalities like these aren’t alone in doing the dance. At some point or another we all do it. And as I’ve watched it happen (and occasionally been caught in it myself) time and again, one of the inevitable pieces of fallout is we wind up just having to come out and say what we were trying to not say.

This almost begrudging acceptance of the truth—we really do have to say what the Bible says.

Now, I get it. Many people want to avoid putting up a stumbling block to unbelievers coming to faith. They don’t want to be seen as “those Christians”—the ones who are always fighting about this or that, or who are considered hateful or bigots. But dancing around the Bible isn’t the answer.

We don’t really need to do the dance. We don’t have to be backed into a corner where we begrudgingly accept what the Bible says. Not if we are viewing the Bible as we are meant to.

If the Bible is the word of Truth (James 1:18; Ephesians 1:13; 2 Timothy 2:15), shouldn’t we be more comfortable standing by it? Not with a begrudging acceptance, but with a heartfelt confidence?

Shouldn’t we be willing to treat God’s word as, well, God’s Word?

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

A few by Gary Thomas ($2.99 each):

Also on sale is Your Guide to Writing Quality Research Papers: For Students of Religion and Theology for $2.99 and John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace by Jonathan Aitken for 99¢.

Adventures of a church introvert

Yep.

Theological Revolutionaries and their Potty Talk

Erik Raymond:

The only thing more difficult than understanding this moral confusion is keeping up with it; a new story seems to come out daily.

When you think through what is being said there is a common theme. These headlines have just as much to do with theology as they do anthropology. At every turn, the moral revolutionaries are asserting their claim to divinity, or at least to their ability to act like they are.

Resources on domestic abuse

Moody has put together a helpful collection of resources based on Justin and Lindsey Holcomb’s book, Is it My Fault? (reviewed here). Bookmark this (pastors and counsellors, especially).

5 Bad Substitutes for Discipline

Tim Challies:

There is nothing easy about parenting, and nothing easy about the responsibility of training our children in obedience through discipline. Because discipline is unpopular and unpleasant, parents often find themselves looking for substitutes. In her book Parenting Against the Tide, Ann Benton lists five poor substitutes for disciplining our children—five poor substitutes that fail to address the heart.

Three Reasons to Attend Corporate Worship

Matthew Westerholm:

“Why do we have to go to church again?”

Children ask this question on a semi-regular basis. I know my three boys have given me many opportunities to answer it. As a worship pastor, I am embarrassed to admit that I have found myself facing another service and asking the same question: Why again? Did we fail last week, or do it wrong? Was last week’s service not enough?

I have not always had good answers at hand, beyond a biblical command not to neglect meeting together (Hebrews 10:25), but over time I’ve drawn encouragement from a broader view of Scripture and godly Christian authors. Having faced the challenge to frame those encouragements in ways that kids can understand, and my own heart will accept, allow me to pass on my best three answers:

So why should we attend corporate worship?

God Wants Us To Want

Darryl Dash:

I used to think that God was happy with our grudging obedience. Do the right thing, grit your teeth, and everything is good with God. I’ve been increasingly learning that God doesn’t want us to do the right thing so much as he wants us to want to do the right thing. Big difference.

The Pagan Heart of Today’s Culture

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Nature abhors a vacuum. A bit cliché, perhaps, but true nonetheless, especially as we consider the cultural landscape of the West. As Christianity’s influence in wanes, something else is rising to take its place. But what? According to Peter Jones, it’s paganism, or Oneism. In The Pagan Heart of Today’s Culture, the latest in P&R and Westminster Theological Seminary’s Christian Answers to Hard Questions series, Jones introduces readers to this belief, grounding his study by showing the connections between three other isms—polytheism, Gnosticism, and postmodernism.

“These three ways of thinking have become strangely connected,” he writes. “Together they help explain the nature of today’s pagan worldview and its opposition to the truth of the gospel” (5).

Three isms and Oneism

Each of the isms described in this booklet represent pieces of a larger puzzle that, when seen together, describe a worldview ultimately about one thing: the end of distinctions. No longer will there be need for the distinction between male and female (sound familiar?), right or wrong, good or evil… “a rejection of the opposites is in fact…a fundamental aspect of religious paganism, so that postmodern philosophy fits surprisingly well with the religious yearnings for the morality and spirituality of inclusion—pantheistic ‘all is one’ wholeness” (9).

This is seen not only in postmodernism, but gnosticism and polytheism as well. Ultimately, these ideas all coalesce in the end of the distinction between Creator and creation. And this is the great lie we see in Romans 1:25—that people exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshipped and served creatures instead of the Creator. That, in essence, is what Jones calls Oneism, and it is a deadly snare.

Twoism: the Achilles’ heel of the “all-is-one” fantasy

Contrast this with Twoism, or, rather, biblical Christianity, a view that embraces distinction—male-female, right-wrong, Creator-creation. This, Jones says, is the only significant challenge to the rising tide of paganism, which is why there is such a strong effort to snuff it out in our day:

Twoism is the Achilles’ heel of their “all-is-one” fantasy. Twoism must therefore be spoken of and lived out with love, courage, and coherent clarity before a hostile world progressively enveloped by the delusion of the unifying Oneist lie. And as Paul implied so long ago, the future confrontation will be between not simply thinkers but spiritual worshipers, the worshipers of creation and the worshipers of the Creator. (35)

Jones’ challenge isn’t to engage in more culture wars in the sense some may fear. He’s not telling us to run around calling people pagans for doing yoga, for example. Instead, he’s challenging us to live out our faith as we’ve been called to—to be people who celebrate the differences between male and female, as well as between humans and the rest of creation, and who rejoice in the difference between God as our Creator and ourselves as created beings.

This is something we so easily forget, isn’t it? That while we should be informed in our thinking, the call is not to be the best apologists out there and present the clearest argument: Our call is to be people who obey our transcendent Lord, the One through whom and for whom all things were created.

A solid and accessible introduction

The Pagan Heart of Today’s Culture does not represent the end of a journey, but the beginning of one. If you’re intrigued by the concepts of Oneism and Twoism, or if you’re confused by them, Jones unpacks these concepts in greater detail, particularly in One or Two and Gospel Truths, Pagan Lies, both of which I would highly encourage reading. However, if you’re looking for an accessible and solid starting point, this is the book to get.


Title: The Pagan Heart of Today’s Culture
Author: Peter Jones
Publisher: P&R Publishing/Westminster Theological Seminary Press (2014)

Buy it at: Westminster | Amazon

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Who or What Were the Nephilim?

This is an interesting discussion.

The Magic of Music

R.C. Sproul Jr:

Music, I believe, has many of the same qualities. I suppose it can trend toward the thinking side. You see this in those songs designed to help us memorize information, the sing-song collections of data bits favored during the grammar stage of a classical education. And certainly there is music that leans more toward emotion with little thinking. Speed metal would be a fine example. I suspect if the “singer” in the speed metal band were to screech through the phone book it would make precious little difference to the experience of the average listener. The music itself says, “Be mad” even when the lyrics might be an ode to a daisy.

Let Your Dim, Sin-Stained Light Shine Before The World

Josh Blount:

If exhortations to “be an example” have ever fallen on your shoulders with the weight of the world, take heart. There’s a way out from under the burden. Here’s the solution: our message is not about achieving perfection, but about receiving redemption. Do you realize what that means? You don’t have to be perfect!

Bible museum sponsored by evangelical to have evangelical perspective

In other news, water is wet. (HT: Dan Darling)

Three Lessons on Loving One Another

Jonathan Parnell:

The scene could not have been more inauspicious: a low-lit room, full stomachs, and the dirty feet of a dozen grown men. This is not where you’d expect to find one of the world’s greatest lessons in loving one another.

But it was here, nonetheless, in the upper room of a common house in first-century Palestine, the night before Jesus died, that we learn how to live together as the church in this world. The apostle John tells us the story, showing us three unforgettable parts.

What Compels Compliance?

Tullian Tchividjian, from his upcoming devotional, It Is Finished: 365 Days of Good News:

Preachers who think that simply telling bad people to be good—applying the boot to the tires of our spiritual lives—will actually produce compliance misunderstand the law’s purpose. The law tells us that compliance is required but the law is incapable of producing a compliant heart. We would all agree that compliance is a laudable goal. We want people parking legally and we want people loving their neighbors as themselves. But how might compliance actually happen?

What I have learned, and am learning, from my experience at Mars Hill Church

Dave Kraft:

The observations and lessons learned came mostly from my experience at Mars Hill; but as I read about what’s going on in Christian leadership as well as what I’m learning in my coaching high- level leaders at other churches, I’ve come to understand that my experiences at Mars Hill are not unique.

What I saw first-hand while on staff at Mars Hill is happening in other churches and Christian ministries around the country/world. I deeply regret that I didn’t speak up more often sooner than I did.

Why is it so tempting to toss the Bible?

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For the last few weeks, I’ve been trying to figure out where to start with a review of God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines. Like I seriously don’t even know where to start. It’s the same problem I have with trying to read and thoughtfully critique anything by Rachel Held Evans or the folks involved with Christianity21… all of whom claim to take the Bible seriously, yet routinely reimagine what it says.

(This is not the beginning of a book review, by the way.)

Believe it or not, I actually get where they’re coming from. I remember some early conversations I had as a new believer where I would say some pretty stupid and arrogant things—more than once the phrase, “Well, that was just Paul’s opinion” came out of my mouth. This wasn’t because I didn’t believe the Bible, I just didn’t understand it.

Over time, I got a better sense of what was going on in the Bible, but challenging passages still present themselves. How do we deal with the Bible’s contention that Christians should not intentionally become romantically involved with non-believers? Or that marriage is strictly to be kept between one man and one woman? Or that we’re to forsake all—even our families—in order to follow Jesus?

Honestly, there are times when I can see why it’s tempting to adopt a more novel reading of some of these passages (or abandon them altogether). I mean, who really wants to tell the Christian woman with a non-believing boyfriend that they shouldn’t be dating? Who really enjoys the scorn that comes from being against every “reasonable” person in the West (in the eyes of the media, at least) on the issue of same-sex marriage? Who looks forward to the awkward moments at get-togethers when family members’ eyes glaze over when you talk about what’s going on in your life?

And so the temptation comes to light. And far too many of us—whether willingly or out of sheer exhaustion—give in. We reinvent ourselves as “doubt-filled believers,” which too often seems like choosing to be blown about aimlessly by the wind. We try to maintain our identity as evangelicals, even as we saw off the branch upon which we sit. We try to do what we can to get along with everyone, but in the end please no one.

We’re too Christian for some, but not enough for others. You can’t win playing that game.

Which takes us back to the question: why is it so tempting to toss the Bible? Because it’s easier. The Bible is dangerous and obeying is it costly.

When “fighting the good fight,” it’s often us who take a beating. When running to “finish the race,” we hit a wall that’s almost impossible to push through as every muscle in our bodies screams for us to stop.

But even then, we don’t give up. Tossing the Bible might seems like the easy solution in our moments of weakness, but it’s a losing proposition. We may not want to be on the wrong side of anything, but if I had to choose, I’d rather not be on the wrong side of Jesus. I’d rather, in as much as the Lord strengthens me, to say with Paul:

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10)

What about you?

Culture as common grace

Martyn Lloyd-Jones

People tend to glory in Shakespeare, as if he were responsible for his powers, but he was not. He had only what he had received. All these gifts that man and women have come from God. And that is why true Christians, as they look out, not only upon creation, but even at culture, discover a reason for glorifying and for praising God.

You see, what is wrong with culture is not the thing itself, it is rather that people give their worship, their praise and their adoration to those men and women who have produced the works rather than to the God who enabled them to do it. But if you look at these things under the heading of common grace, you will see that they all bring glory to God because it is through the Spirit that He dispenses these general gifts to humanity. We shall be reminded later of how our Lord Himself tells us that God sends His rain upon the evil and the good and causes His sun to rise on the just and the unjust—it is the same thing. The God who sends rain and sunshine and gives crops to the evil farmer as well as to the Christian farmer, dispenses artistic and scientific gifts in exactly the same way, indiscriminately, to bad and good, saved and unsaved. It is a work of the Holy Spirit.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Great Doctrines of the Bible vol. 2: The Holy Spirit, 25-26

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Bryan Liftin’s trilogy is on sale for $1.99 each:

Also on sale:

“Any actor who says he wasn’t influenced by Bugs Bunny is a liar… or a hack.”

This is so good:

HT: Barnabas

Christ and Pop Culture’s Precarious Reality

Richard Clark provides an update on how you can help CaPC achieve an important goal: sustainability!

The Feminist Conundrum

Chris Martin:

I ask the same question I asked before to feminists, and really just everyone generally: we cool with this? Is this the sort of empowerment we’re cool with?

Are we cool with empowerment even at the cost of self-objectification?

I’m not comfortable with the female body being flaunted as a means of power, but if the female is OK with it, am I supposed to be?

Is it sexist of me to think women are demeaning themselves when they objectify themselves?

Is Marriage “Just a Piece of Paper”?

R.C. Sproul:

In the past few decades, the option of living together, rather than moving into a formal marriage contract, has proliferated in our culture. Christians must be careful not to establish their precepts of marriage (or any other ethical dimension of life) on the basis of contemporary community standards. The Christian’s conscience is to be governed not merely by what is socially acceptable or even by what is legal according to the law of the land, but rather by what God sanctions.

Unfortunately, some Christians have rejected the legal and formal aspects of marriage, arguing that marriage is a matter of private and individual commitment between two people and has no legal or formal requirements. These view marriage as a matter of individual private decision apart from external ceremony. The question most frequently asked of clergymen on this matter reflects the so-called freedom in Christ: “Why do we have to sign a piece of paper to make it legal?”

Does Titus 1:15 Mean Christians Can Watch South Park?

Mike Leake:

It’s Wednesday evening and fifteen Bible college students are huddled together in a single dorm room. In a couple of years these students will be sent out into the wild world of church ministry. Some will be pastors. Some will be youth pastors. Others music ministers. And some will end up selling insurance. But on this night they are shoulder-to-shoulder in this tiny room, fixated on the television screen.

South Park is on, and these guys are following their weekly tradition of catching a new episode and laughing along.

How can guys training for the ministry watch South Park together for entertainment?

Does ISIS Represent True Islam?

This is an important conversation.

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Silver bullet ministry

Craig Schafer:

By all accounts I am a stereotypical, standard, plain vanilla, suburban church pastor. And that’s pretty much what the ministry is like at our church: there is absolutely nothing hip or cutting-edge about us. We’re not a funky inner-city church plant. We don’t meet in a disused theatre.

We’re not close to any major tourist attraction. We haven’t started several networked extension services. We’re just a normal, suburban church. It is true that people say two of our pastors look like movie stars—but they mean Ben Stiller and Jack Black, so I’m not sure that really helps us in the attractional ministry stakes. (Having said that, they’re both better pastors than I am, so it is very handy to have them around.)

All the same, I think it’s instructive to reflect on how gospel-centred DNA drives the ministry practice in stereotypical vanilla suburban churches like mine—and quite possibly like yours.

Listening When You Shouldn’t

Leon Brown:

If you notice someone is hurting, and that person begins to share the details of the situation, you may want to consider asking that individual to refrain from sharing specifics of the circumstances, which may include names, dates, location, etc. I know it may be difficult, but many times we have no business knowing all of the details. Do not let curiosity lead you down the wrong path. Do not let your desires to be sympathetic cause you to hear details you should not. You may end up getting involved in gossip, hearing false details, and making wrong conclusions. We need to be there for each during difficulties, but even then we must be cautious.

Jesus-Juking for the Gospel

Derek Rishmawy:

Still, I wonder about the modern-day “Christ” party among us. It’s pretty easy to spot that sort of thing on the progressive wing of things: people who boast about being anti-power, anti-empire, anti-celebrity, anti-Evangelical-entertainment-industrial complex, all the while getting “I am of Boyd” and “I am of Hauerwas” tattooed on their firstborns. (You Anabaptists know I still love you, right? Well, some of you at least.) Deeper still, though, are the theological approaches that tend to relativize formal teaching structures in the name of the some vague, ‘way of Jesus’–modern-day heirs of those that Luther and Calvin deemed the “enthusiasts” during the Reformation.

The Death of Adulthood

Matthew Lee Anderson:

We’ve reached the end of adulthood in America according to AO Scott. Or at least of the patriarchal version of it, anyway, which Scott sees in three paradigmatic dramas of our era—Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and The Sopranos, whose protagonists and their downfalls allow us to “marvel at the mask of masculine incompetence even as we watched it slip or turn ugly.”  On Scott’s reading, “in doing away with patriarchal authority, we have also, perhaps unwittingly, killed off all the grownups.”  It’s a provocative, sweeping hypothesis of the sort that are useful for engendering conversations, even if it doesn’t stand up under analysis.

And it may not.

Are You Leeching the Local Church?

Ryan Shelton:

When I was a teen, I bought into the very fashionable assumption that the local church would only cramp my style and put a barrier to “authentic spirituality.” I stopped attending for a while until I got wind of a hip, cool church across town that was full of attractive, young, relevant people. The music was great, the preaching was edgy, and the atmosphere was exciting.

For months, I drove all the way across town, nearly an hour each way, to attend services at the church that “got it.” It was a booming place, with six fully packed services each weekend. And if I arrived late, I was turned away because the fire department was keeping a close eye on the safety capacity.

It all ended for me one week, when the pastor said something that disturbed me.

Facing Leviathan

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Influence. Leverage relationships. Eschew formal authority. Develop compelling values… this is pretty much what you see in all the best-selling leadership books. And while it’s not all bad (although not all good, either), it begs the question: if influence is the silver bullet, why isn’t it working? 

Mark Sayers, senior leader of Red Church in Melbourne, Australia, may have stumbled onto the answer, and, as he writes in Facing Leviathan: Leadership, Influence, and Creating in a Cultural Storm, it’s less of an issue of technique or style than one of worldview.

A clash of worldviews

 

We are in the midst of a battle between what he describes as “mechanical” and “organic” values—a move away from traditional values surrounding leadership, which includes authority and power toward fluid, creative and (sometimes) leaderless leadership styles. And while some argue that this is our “evolving beyond” the modernist approach to life and leadership, Sayers argues it’s actually a reversion. It’s the reassertion of the values of Romanticism.

“Romanticism arose in reaction to the Enlightenment,” he writes, “attempt[ing] to create an alternative to the mechanical worldview. It would base its ideology on the suspicion of power and structure… They preferred emotion and experience to reason and the empirical.” And while the Englightment (or modernist) vision imagines the leader as hero, “the Romantic vision imagines the creative genius as a heretic, always pushing the boundaries and breaking taboos” (26-27).

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Go take a look at any of the leadership books littering your shelves and you’ll see this conflict front and center. But Sayers goes deeper than the Romanticism vs Enlightenment ideology clash—those two are merely alternatives to the Christian worldview, options that fail to stand up against the true battle:

The real battle in which our culture is engage is not between the mechanical and the organic but rather between the pagan and Christian worldviews. A Christianity that attempts to model itself on the hero or the genius will be a faith that has little potential to speak the good news to the West. Instead, we must rediscover the truly radical vision of leadership found within the Bible. A model of leadership… that dared to proclaim in pagan streets and squares that God had lowered Himself to come and live in the mess and muck of human life, within history, in time, in human flesh. (29)

Christlike leadership

The first and last chapters—and the passage above in particular—makes Facing Leviathan worth reading. Sayers succinctly and precisely identifies the battle within our world, and the struggle within leadership circles. We’re essentially fighting the right battle with the wrong weapons. We’re combating “leader as hero” with “leader as heretic,” preferring to be hip over being heard. And both approaches leave us—both leaders and followers—wanting.

The leader as hero types quickly tend to veer into becoming overbearing and authoritarian. I once knew a man who seemed more like a supervillain than a human being in this regard, laughing maniacally whenever he learned an employee had purchased a car or a house. It meant, from his perspective, he owned them—they needed their jobs, and he delighted in that fact. Followers of this type often feel beaten down and abused. But I’ve also seen the leader as heretic, too, and it also quickly falls apart as they’re too busy deconstructing what already exists to figure out how to move forward. Followers of this type are typically frustrated by the lack of forward direction, which feeds into their distrust of authority, which then makes them even more frustrated, which then…

We don’t need more heroes, and we definitely don’t need more heretics. We need something better. “We must become leaders who are deep in a society of the spectacle that produces shallowness” (115). In other words, we need leaders modelled after Christ. We need people who are, as Sayers calls them, rebuilders, those who are quietly “getting on with the job.”

“Our culture of deconstruction no longer makes sense to them,” he writes. “The culture of deconstruction that has come to dominate the church no longer helps them. It hinders them. They are the rebuilders, partners with God in the rebuilding of His creational order” (217). These are the kinds of people we need to become, he argues, people less concerned with worrying about “moving from the mechanical values to the organic values,” and instead “living wholeheartedly for the God we find in the storm” (218). And out of that comes something compelling and beautiful, something deep in a sea of shallow. Maybe even leaders worth following.

Weaknesses punctuated by the author’s strengths

There is so much strength to Facing Leviathan, particularly when Sayers is exercising his considerable skills as a cultural commentator, that it’s hard to find much fault with the book. But what weaknesses do exist come from its author’s strengths.

Sayers is clearly gifted as a cultural commentator, but is not nearly as gifted a biblical one, as demonstrated by his novel (but not entirely unorthodox) approach to Jonah throughout the book. Jonah isn’t the first book I’d go to tease out lessons on leadership, but maybe that’s just me. I’ve seen it done occasionally, but the results have always left me wanting. Jonah is a powerful illustration of the gospel, to be sure, but I’m not sure he really fits the mould of either the “heroic” or “heretic” leader. Instead, he, like the rest of us, is a deeply confused, broken, sinful, selfish, individual—one who desperately needs the saving work of the One whom he foreshadows.

As borderline blasphemous as it might seem to say “I wish he hadn’t included discussion of this or that biblical passage,” I’d almost rather he’d have not bothered with it since it lessens the impact of the rest of his writing. His theologically informed reading of culture, the arts, and literature stands on its own.

Nevertheless, I would not let this prevent me from recommending this book to most any reader, especially those in a position of influence (or leadership). By recasting our leadership principles as a conflict between worldviews, Sayers will surely cause its readers to rethink what they’ve read in the latest leadership bestseller—and perhaps reconsider their approach to Christlike leadership.


Title: Facing Leviathan: Leadership, Influence, and Creating in a Cultural Storm
Author: Mark Sayers
Publisher: Moody Publishers (2014)

Buy it at: Amazon

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The Sin in Our Cynicism

Jonathan Parnell:

Cynicism is a problem.

Maybe it’s not explicitly on your radar, but you’re sure to have felt its force. Cynicism is that sneering bitterness toward all things true and deep. It’s the subtle contempt trying to contaminate the cheeriest of moments — that slow, thick smoke of pessimism toxifying the oxygen in the lungs of our hope, suffocating any glad-hearted embrace that God did something meaningful in our lives and strangling our childlike faith to opt for “another angle” on why things happen the way they do.

Dethroning Celebrity Pastors

Joe Thorn:

Celebrity Pastors do not simply build themselves. They are built with the help of fans. It’s not wrong or idolatrous to get a photo with a person you admire. Nor is it dangerous to love the preaching or teaching of a particular leader. But at some point admiration turns into allegiance, and allegiance gives birth to adoration, and adoration, when it is full grown, produces idolatry. I am not sure exactly when the line is crossed–maybe when we start asking well-known pastors to sign our Bibles. Maybe. But the line is well behind us when a leader’s word is more valuable to us than God’s word and when they become our authority.

The Importance of Persuasive Preaching

Eric McKiddie:

It would be nice if persuading our congregations of these things was as simple as constructing a sound argument. Unfortunately, even bulletproof logic can fail to change people’s hearts. In the midst of our sermons, we often think that we are articulating a biblical position with impeccable precision, all while the young professional struggles to see himself as a part of the story we are telling, the stay at home mom can’t see how this applies to dirty diapers, and the high school student is just plain bored. This happens every week to every preacher.

My Thoughts on “Boyhood”

Russell Moore offers his take on Richard Linklater’s 12 years in the making new film.

Let’s do some catalytic visioneering… and stuff! Because we’re leaders!

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I have to be honest: I really, really miss the days when leaders were cool with just being called managers or leaders. You know, when people weren’t adding qualifiers to boost their self-importance self-esteem?

Today, instead of being managers, we’re leaders. But not just leaders, catalytic leaders. Visionary leaders with fireworks shooting out our rear-ends with every decision we make. (And not just because of the Taco Bell we ate at lunch.)

We get it, okay? You’re a big deal. You’ve got people skills, dag-nabbit!

But could you maybe shut up about it?

There’s a problem in leadership circles when you have to declare yourself a catalytic, visionary such-and-such with mad woo skills (which is just as creepy as it sounds). The problem is simple: you’re clearly not one.

Your vision is seen in what you’ve accomplished, not by what you say you’re doing.

Your ability to move people to action is less important than what action you’re calling them to.

Your charisma is less important than your character.

Who are we trying to kid, honestly? The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced it’s ourselves.

We want to be seen as important. We want to be seen as big deals. We have a brand to uphold and promote, after all. We want to matter… because, well, we are deeply insecure. We are unsure of our ability to lead faithfully, so we mask it in bravado. We are insecure in our relationship with Christ, so we look to our performance for comfort.

But it’s a little bit like a foodie blog operated by someone who only knows how to make Kraft Dinner. The disconnect is often obvious to everyone but us.

“Let another praise you, and not your own mouth,” says Proverbs 27:2, “a stranger, and not your own lips.” There’s a reason the Lord inspired these wise words. When we praise ourselves, we reveal our insecurity.

But, brothers (and sisters, too!), we do not need to be insecure. The fruits of our labors will be apparent to all in time, if they are not already. And in time, if the fruit is good, the lips of another will praise our efforts. So we don’t need to!

Leader, let another praise you. Worry less about calling yourself a catalyst or a visionary. Vision and charisma is fleeting, and your security is not in those things anyway.


Photo credit: Pulpolux !!! via photopin cc

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The Evangelical Persecution Complex

Alan Noble offers a thought-provoking piece:

The Christian church itself has a long history of telling stories of martyrdom and persecution. The stories of saints’ lives often center on their sufferings for Christ. For example, Fox’s Book of Martyrs is a popular and classic text recounting notable martyrdoms throughout church history. The purpose of these stories is to inspire and strengthen Christians, particularly those who will later face persecution. But they were not designed to function as aspirational fantasy. And that is the real problem with many persecution narratives in Christian culture: They fetishize suffering.

I will be a unifying Christian

This is a lovely piece from Thom Rainer.

The Unbelonging

Lore Ferguson:

I’ve always been a fan of the fringe. If you can stand on the sidelines and affect change from within, you’ve followed the model Christ set forth well. I watched a movie a few months ago in which the principal characters return to high-school incognito. They’re so far removed from high-school that what was cool then is not cool now. The jocks are jerks and the nerds are neat. What happened?

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Finally, the Christian Encounters series is on sale for 99¢ each:

Look! A Distraction!

Tim Challies:

Distraction is one of the costs of life in a digital world. Paul Graham says it well: “Distraction is not a static obstacle that you avoid like you might avoid a rock in the road. Distraction seeks you out.” We surround ourselves with devices that bring us so many good gifts, but even these good gifts exact a cost—the cost of distraction. The iPad that allows me to read the Bible anytime and anywhere also barges into my devotional life with notifications and alerts. The phone that allows me to stay in touch with my family while they are far away also wakes me at night with its buzzes and flashes. It giveth with one hand and taketh away with the other.

We are learning. We are learning the costs so that we might also learn the solutions. Here are three of the costs of all of this distraction.

Stealth Calvinist Ninjas

Derek Rishmawy offers some constructive criticism to Roger Olson’s subtly titled “Beware of Stealth Calvinism!”:

What I want to point out in the middle of this is the bald-faced cynicism of the post. Here we don’t simply have a theological correction, dispute, or caution about inadvertent theological drift. No, here we have a warning about Calvinist tactics in general, about their alleged strategic maneuvering to crowd out and stamp out divergent thought by “stealthily” taking advantage of people’s ignorance.

I know I’m a lot younger, but if we’re dealing in anecdotes, I suppose part of the reason I find the whole thing silly is that three out of the four Christian colleges nearby me, including my own seminary, are explicitly non-Reformed, and the fourth is definitely blended. Fuller has, maybe a few Reformed theologians, certainly not of the militant sort. They’re not cranking out Calvinists ready to take over churches there. But maybe that’s just a Southern California thing.

The Folly and Hubris of Richard Dawkins

Eleanor Robertson at The Guardian:

Dawkins’ narrowmindedness, his unshakeable belief that the entire history of human intellectual achievement was just a prelude to the codification of scientific inquiry, leads him to dismiss the insights offered not only by theology, but philosophy, history and art as well.

To him, the humanities are expendable window-dressing, and the consciousness and emotions of his fellow human beings are byproducts of natural selection that frequently hobble his pursuit and dissemination of cold, hard facts. His orientation toward the world is the product of a classic category mistake, but because he’s nestled inside it so snugly he perceives complex concepts outside of his understanding as meaningless dribble. If he can’t see it, then it doesn’t exist, and anyone trying to describe it to him is delusional and possibly dangerous.

Links I like

Bad Reasons to Switch to Expository Preaching

Eric McKiddie:

It’s never good to do the right thing for the wrong reason. This is because your heart is with the wrong reason, not the right thing to do. And as soon as the right thing to do no longer gets you the results you wrongly desire, you’ll ditch doing that right thing and either do a different right thing or a wrong thing.

This rule applies to expositional preaching: you must not take it up for the wrong reasons. I wouldn’t say that there has been a revival of preaching in our country (I hear of too many people looking for churches without an expository preacher within 45 minutes), it is gaining momentum. But in order for that momentum to be sustainable, pastors need to commit to it for the right reasons.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Four volumes from Crossway’s A Student’s Guide series are 99¢:

Also on sale:

Misconceptions about adoption

This is a really good two-part series on some of the misconceptions people have about the adoption process (here’s part two).

When Suits Become a Stumbling Block

Good satire is hard to come by, but when I find it, I’m always glad to share it:

There has been a lot of talking, debating, and hand-wringing among Christian bloggers lately about modesty; particularly yoga pants, making men uncomfortable by being attractive, and in general, ways in which to combat everyone’s favorite “evil”: lust.

Well, I’d like to hop on the modesty bandwagon and discuss something that I have personally struggled with for many, many years.

[deep breath]

Specifically, men in suits.

Want to get an education? Work at Starbucks.

This is a great example of a company investing in its employees.

Called to be uncool

ND Wilson nails it:

The power of the zeitgeist helped propel the agonies of race-based slavery, and the zeitgeist threw it away in a bloodbath. The zeitgeist gave us institutional racism, and when enough shame had been applied, the zeitgeist (at least officially) struck it down. The zeitgeist set the Medes and the Persians praying to Darius, and threw Daniel in the lions’ den (Dan. 6). The zeitgeist can kick up the fervor of ungodly war, and it can hang its head in cowardice when a true challenge comes.

The zeitgeist is a fickle master, because the zeitgeist is us.

Links I like

“The Slender Man Made Me Do It”: Compelled to Violence by an Internet Myth

SD Kelly:

As is becoming clearer over time, the internet only provides new outlets for our own pre-existing inclinations and biases. If we look for mayhem, we will find it. And then it will find us without further help.In trying to understand these girls’ unthinkable behavior, public attention turned to this figure. Who is Slender Man? Why were these girls apparently so convinced of his existence and, more alarmingly, willing to commit violence in his name? Out of this confusion, a simple narrative takes shape: young girls led horribly astray by violent, evil stories circulating freely on the web. What the public has learned about Slender Man in the last few weeks has enhanced our fears about the digital age. An age which involves hours spent immersed in an online world that trades in horror and gore, making games of both. And, in the greatest indictment of all, these games and stories appeal to kids, the demographic least capable of distinguishing between fantasy and reality.

Star Wars: Guardians of the Galaxy style

Yep.

In Justin Trudeau’s world, Christians need not apply

Rex Murphy offers an interesting bit of commentary on some of the latest goofiness in Canadian politics.

A New (and Old) Worldview Divides China’s Christians As Communism Fades

Katherine Burgess:

The hometown of ancient philosopher Confucius was a surprising place to build a multimillion-dollar megachurch. Yet local leaders hoped Qufu’s first official church would integrate Christianity into Chinese culture.

Instead, Confucian scholars condemned the 136-foot-tall project, planned two miles from the long-standing Confucius Temple. They saw it as a concrete symbol of a foreign faith’s threatening rise.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

After Teaching Churches How To Store Up Treasures on Earth, Speaker Faces Fraud Indictment

Ruth Moon:

A self-styled “socially conscious investor” who took his “Building Wealth Tour” to churches across America has been indicted on charges of defrauding investors of more than $5 million.

Fundamentalists, Liberals, and Evangelicals Charted

Michael Patton:

Tuesday night, at “Coffee and Theology” at the Credo House, I taught what might very well be the most important lesson I have ever taught for “Coffee and Theology.” It was over the necessity of creating a hierarchy of belief, helping people learn to distinguish between essentials and non-essentials, cardinal beliefs and non-cardinal beliefs, those things that we should be willing to die for and those things that are less important.