Monthly Archives: May 2008

It’s the End of the World as We Know It, and I Feel Fine

I spoke about the “end times” and the rapture and all that at Element last Sunday night. It was part of our Coffee Shop Theology series, in which topics/questions were submitted and voted on by our community. It’s been a long time since I spent any energy exploring end times stuff, but in my younger days it greatly animated me. The Thinklings themselves sort of started as a discussion group for a book called The Sign by Robert Van Kampen, about the so-called “pre-wrath rapture” of the church.

But I’ve long been burnt out on that whole scene. You know how new Calvinists enter the cage phase? I went through a rapture cage phase, the time after I abandoned pretribulationism and became absolutely geeked out on what I was learning.

As the old Calvinist joke’s punchline goes, “Whew. Glad that’s over.”

I’ll tell you what I’m thankful for: I’m thankful that the end times began when Jesus cried out “It is finished” from the cross, that his bodily resurrection was a down payment on my future, and that someday I will be changed. That’s a gospel-driven end times. That’s an end times that excites me like no number of charts and diagrams and newspaper-wielding speculations ever could.

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Missional Motive, Impact, Effectiveness

Bill Kinnon asks the million dollar question:

I confess that I’m really not interested in hearing theories anymore. I want to know how the missonal profundities emanating from the particular guru are applied in their own lives – right now. Not last year, last century or last millenium. But. Right now.

“Where are you plugged into a local expression of a missional community? How does that impact what you are sharing with us?”

Jesus lived what he taught the disciples. We should have no less expectation of those who want to disciple us.

On a similar note, just as I’d weaned myself off of my addiction to Mark Driscoll he apparently goes and says something really good and provocative:

And all the nonsense of emerging, and Emergent, and new monastic communities, and, you know, all of these various kinds of ridiculous conversations — I’ll tell you as one on the inside, they don’t have converts. The silly little myth, the naked emperor is this: they will tell you it’s all about being in culture to reach lost people, and they’re not.

A few folks are bristling at those remarks, and I admit I don’t have the context for them, but I think he may be on to something. In fact, I read David Fitch’s good and helpful rebuttal and don’t find it much of a rebuttal at all, but a clarification that is nicely compatible with what Mark appears to be saying.

Mark Driscoll is saying: “Lots of people, frequently the most vocal …

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No Words

No blogging today.

Pray for Steven Curtis Chapman’s family.

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The Brilliance of Jesus

Oh, now here is something we tend to overlook or, if we even consider, fail to invest in: that is that Jesus, being God in the flesh, was the smartest man who ever lived. Does Jesus ever show up on anybody’s list of the greatest thinkers of history? Gurus, perhaps. Sages, maybe. The world may think him “wise” in some Confucian sense. We think of him as an idealist, as an enlightened man, as a revolutionary. But generally speaking, we also tend to regard him as naïve or simple. Like Friedrich Nietzshce, we tend to think, “If he had lived to my age he would have repudiated his doctrine.”

The world does not regard Jesus as savvy or practical, and if we within the Church will be honest with ourselves, we must admit that our frequent failures to obey his commands stem essentially from our practical disbelief that he could really be right about the way to think and act. But if we really believe Jesus was who he said he was, we know we have recorded in Scripture and at our reading convenience, the greatest human mind of all time.

How vast is the wisdom of Christ? As vast as the resources of almighty God. Revisit that exciting post-resurrection scene from the road to Emmaus in Luke’s Gospel and remind yourself how all-encompassing Jesus’ knowledge is (and how all-illuminating our knowledge of Jesus can be).

Jesus comes on these guys unawares and basically reveals the Bible to them. He illuminates Scripture …

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Baby Factory Churches

Jonathan Brink at Missio Dei posts a great piece on Baby Factory Churches. An excerpt:

There’s a tremendous allure in numerical growth. Numbers look cool. We look cool when the roster says, “600″ or “6,000″. We must be doing something right, right? But I would ask the question, “Are we creating baby factories?” Does our numerical growth come at the expense of the real responsibility of parenting that leads to maturity? Getting people in the door is the easy part. Leading them through the spiritual formation to maturity is the hard part. Are we parenting them in a way that leads to perpetual immaturity?

And I get the allure of new converts. Having a baby is a really cool experience. The day my daughter was born radically changed my life. It’s new and wonderful and awe inspiring to see new person just arrive. But that moment in the hospital is the beginning, not the end. Birth is the beginning of a long journey that ends when my children can reproduce maturity, not a baby. Making babies can take six minutes. Making healthy adults takes a lifetime . . .

And my wonder over the last ten years is have we abandoned the parenting process in our practice of spiritual formation. Have we forgotten the need to create elders and instead chosen to have lots of babies, only to create a world that is deeply immature and incapable of mature reproduction.

Jesus spent three years with twelve people, an astounding thought in today’s …

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Say it With Me Now: What You Win Them With is What You Win Them To

Yesterday I linked to Ray Ortlund’s modest proposal, and I suggested that although it is a nice idea, it would never happen for reasons that would make me sound like a jerk if elucidated.It occurs to me now that my silence may have implied I didn’t want to sound like a jerk to Dr. Ortlund. That is not the case at all. I didn’t want to repeat the same “woe is the Church” stuff I’m getting tired of myself, lest I seem like a jerk toward other churches.

But that was yesterday.

The reason I don’t think it would happen/work is because the average evangelical church already thinks it’s correcting the previous generation’s evangelistic errors. They already believe they are delighting the world with Jesus. “I mean, gee, look, we’ve got fog machines and power pop songs. We’re all about the fun. And as far as disturbing people with Jesus goes, just look at all the religious people who are uncomfortable here. We’re doing our job! We’re just like Jesus.”

Or so I imagine it would go.

See, my hunch would be that most churches would sign such a thing already believing they’re part of the solution (and that would include myself). But many of them are mistaken (and that could include myself, admittedly).

Overheard at two different blogs yesterday:

“Creating an over the top experience for our guests isn’t just a talking point, it’s a driving force behind Sunday mornings.”

“I’m sick and tired of Las Vegas and Hollywood outdoing the church.”

Yes. Ahem. …

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Measuring Success

The Heresy posts on the Church’s mixed priorities in what it “measures”:

Now imagine a school that measured how much people enjoyed the classes, how great the day care was, how inspiring the teacher was, the levels of enrolment and the amount of funding they had but only passively cared about the success of their graduates in the workplace. That my friends describes most of the church in North America today.

We need to change what we measure and how we measure our success.

· Do people have a proper understanding of the gospel?

· Do they love the people that can offer them nothing in return?

· Are people willing to sacrifice for others?

· Are people becoming more like Christ in their values and behaviour?

· Do they have life and freedom?

If we considered these things, we would realize the state we are in and we would change. As long as we measure things based on our own personal satisfaction or by the markers of organizational success we will miss the point.

Yup.

(HT: Dying Church)

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Unfailing Love

We began a new series at Element last night called “Coffee Shop Theology,” in which we’re answering and addressing submitted questions and topics. Last night tackled the question, “Why don’t I love Jesus as much as I want to?”

After briefly touching on the harsh reality that the level at which we currently love Jesus is the level at which we currently want to, I reframed the question to ask, “Why don’t we love Jesus as much as we ought to?”

There is an implied angst in the original question, and the more I minister with young adults the more I find this desperate frustration of wanting to do more, be more, experience more in the spiritual life is epidemic. We have this vague sense that there is a “there” to get to, but try as we might, we never get “there.”

This is when the gospel enters and works its wonder.

The truth is that no amount of doing/being/trying will get us “there” (wherever that is). And when we realize that harsh reality, the heavy truth that our efforts are constantly insufficient (that although we must obey the command to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, we can’t in actuality obey this command perfectly), we have two options: despair completely or despair of ourselves and press further into the perfect love of Christ.

Grace is so freeing.

Our love is a failing love. And that should grieve us. But it should also stir us to wonder over and rejoice in and …

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Pastoral Malpractice and the Gospel

Thom Rainer writes a great piece for LifeWay here. Some tastes:

What do I mean by pastoral malpractice? I mean ministers who stand and preach a gospel other than God’s rightful need for punitive justice against our sin and His wrath being appeased by pouring out upon Christ judgment intended for us. He in turn sets us in right legal standing before Himself, through faith in what Jesus has done, while simultaneously giving to us His holy righteousness.

Regrettably, too many evangelical churches have become centers for motivational speaking where congregants learn that “God helps those who help themselves;” that sin is something that keeps us from reaching our full potential, not an infinite offense against the Creator who demands from His creation unblemished righteousness.

I believe with every fiber of my being that the transformation of the church lies within the pages of the Bible. If individuals and churches are going to become effective incarnational witnesses in culture we must dig in. Paul, again to Timothy, says: “…you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:15-17).

How my heart pleads with God to transform our churches to being training and equipping centers that send people out into culture to be Jesus’ ambassadors. I’m not talking pious …

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Accumulation vs. Integration

It occurs to me that when Jesus looked out at a crowd, he was not moved to anxiety over their numbers. He saw who was there and had compassion on them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd.

The God-exalting love of Jesus makes our earthly ambitions of “growth” so much garbage.

When you look out at the people in your church, be they 5 or 500, 100 or 1000, do you ask yourself first “How can I bring in more?” or “How can I disciple the ones I’ve got?”

It sounds like an obvious question, and you can certainly ask both legitimately, but the bursting-at-the-seams megachurches who are now measuring the dissatisfaction and relative spiritual immaturity of their multitudes are evidence that only one question has predominated.

T.M. Moore writes:

We’ve been seeking crowds, not disciples. We’ve considered every possible means of getting the most people into our buildings and keeping them there, and we’ve attracted people on the basis of mere self-interest, so that what we have are congregations ecstatic to belong to some place that, in the name of the Lord, takes their self-interest as seriously as they do.

The American Church is addicted to the conspicuous consumption of the culture it means to transform. Would that we were as focused and intentional on the integration of current attenders into the radical life of discipleship to Jesus as we are on accumulating more and more and more bodies in our worship programs.

HT: Cruciform Life

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