Month: August 2006

The clothesline … what will you do …

Sunday evening we did not have services here on The Hill. Patty and I attended a Christian Forum on the subject, "Ecology, Environment and a Christian Response." A young couple attending our church was asked to be on the panel for the discussion. We wanted to hear what was discussed and we think, while Kristen carries Micah, they give themselves to asking hard questions and wrestling for answers. You could say, and we have, we are "kindred spirits."

Micah and Kristen have been spotlighted by the Oklahoma Gazette for their move to the Amber area and the project of living "green." Bob Waldrop, President of the Oklahoma Food Cooperative, and Dennis Williams, Professor at Southern Nazarene University, rounded out the group of panelists. The questions offered the panelists a wide swath to cut through the complexities and related issues created by questions about ecology and a life of faith in Jesus.

The last question posed by the moderator, "What three things would you recommend to us were we to begin considering ways to be environmentally friendly?" Everyone offered some great ideas. I was struck by the simplicity of the first. Growing up on 17th Street I recall the "clothesline." Two poles located at the north edge of the backyard with multiple lines running between them was a place we often gathered our clothes. We occasionally hid behind the drying clothes. I never once thought of it as environmentally friendly. And, when we did get a clothes dryer, I never thought we had become unthinking consumers. That was then.

Today, hearing Bob remind us of the thirst clothes dryers have for power I now realize the sensibilities of our day and times have changed. We know more today than we once did. We are still learning. Dennis noted much of what presents itself as "data" for the debate is relatively recent, within the past 100 years. Models are employed to work both backward and forward to offer speculation about our future. Admittedly, Dennis noted many times the "data" is manipulated and at some point a person must make a decision as to whether he is a "declensionist" or an "ascenstionist." This was not his reference to those who desired hell (declension) or heaven (ascension). It was not his attempt at humor but rather description. Either things are getting worse or they are getting better and at some point in the debate one must move from the paralysis of indecision and live based on their conclusions regarding this importnat matter. (I will save the eschatological implications Dennis and Micah rightly noted as grounds for the Evangelical penchant for the ostrich appraoch to the environment.)

Gas prices reaching and exceeding $3 gallon and with T. Boone’s prognostication for $4 gallon everyone is thinking about the cost of energy on some level. It would be a great time to seize the attention of careful consumers to alert them to ways not only to save but to aid in a proper understanding of "ruling and having dominoin" over creation. These power words often mute the intention. Rather than view ourselves as unrestricted takers of God creation, we would better see ourselves as "co-caretakers", as the late Rob Lacy noted in his "street" translation of Genesis. We team with God to care for his good world.

We are thinking about where to put a clothes line. We must move beyond thinking about where to put the clothesline. We must purchase the line and install it. Only them will what we say is conviction is really conviction. This assertion holds implications for more than just what we do with our convictions about God’s good creation. We would do well to re-consider what Kingdom means and just what our convictions are regarding the rule and reign of God in our lives and in our world. When these convictions become realities in our daily lives we may then tell someone of both our value and convictions, and so better than just words.

Thanks Micah and Kristen for calling our attention to God’s good world and ways we should think about our place in it.

Systemic problems with polity? …

Yesterday I wrote of systemic issues continuing to foster occasions where we fail to help and end up hurting. Today I find David Wayne, a.k.a. Jolly Blogger, noting systemic issues related to "standard" Baptist polity. What do you think?

Systemic … not incidental …

A few days ago I read an article by Ed Stetzer over at Christianity Today Online. When I read this some of the content of Stetzer’s article, "Can Mega Be MIssional?" came to mind. Ed admittedly cringed when writing the following but he wrote it nonetheless,

… but like it or not, the obvious desire to "celebritize" the Gospel presentation is everywhere – sports, music, even Hollywood. It seems that every celebrity who becomes a Christian is soon giving testimonies across America (can anyone say "Kirk Cameron"?). For better or for worse, people do listen to celebrities. Perhaps it’s a Christian practice because it’s a cultural reality (and yes, like very cultural practice it needs to be examined in the light of Scripture, but that is another article).

It’s not an accident that every megachurch on the Top 100 list in this issue is known locally, regionally or nationally for charismatic leadership, gifted communication and almost always, a well-known leader. Most megachurch leaders possess the abilities to inspire those around them to achieve great thigns and seem to have an innate talent to speak in a way that reaches through the chaos in people’s lives. As a church grows to mega status, these leaders also gain a platform of notoriety, becoming "celebrities" – and possibly widening the window for more people to hear the Gospel.

Now many have picked up on some of the obvious implication of the pastor in the Palm Beach Post. The need for better means of restoration when a pastor falls prey to his own decision making. Help for explosive growth so one may find a mentor to navigate potentially dangerous waters. Fincancial management skills. Integrity in resume’ preparation. Understanding the difference between accredited and non-accredited. Discerning the value of hard earned educational achievement above the microwaved variety.

I am struck by the systemic issues that helped create the problem. No, we should not completely absolve the pastor for his history of various indiscresions – be they financial or educational. But, when we measure success as we do invariably it will come home to roost. Every article I read pointed up the numerical success as the pastor moved from place to place. However, it is the getting from one place to another with the habit of indiscresion that gets overlooked. How is it a major player in the current SBC political machine offers a video endorsement not know about his "protege’"? Forgive me a moment of cynicism, although most reading here expect it from time to time.

What will come of the "big gun" who gave the ringing endorsement? When a "celebrity" endorses the next "celebrity" does it not fall to the kingmaker to take some of the brunt of the fall? Especially when the habit has been chronicled historically.

Before anyone suggests this to be another way to snipe at the "mega" pastors of our denomination, understand for nearly 20 years I have witnessed this on much smaller levels. Fellow pastors have relayed horror stories of the consequences of "ringing endorsements" from those in "lofty places." We are too afraid to tell someone, "No, I cannot recommend you." How uncharitable would that look? Forget the church about to recieve your blessed recommendation and the potential risk.

What’s more systemic about the problem may lie deeper than the lack of endorsement integrity. When a person is helped to the big table a real sense of obligation keeps the endorsee beholden to the endorser. Politics lie behind many of these moves. Getting the next "big gun" to the larger churches ensures a certain hegemony.

And, while typing this post, my brother Paul told me about this over at Art Rogers’ site. You see here why it is important to have people in place who you know will support you unequivocally. When the very question many of us have asked regarding the sufficiency of Scripture in the face of hegemonic protectionism becomes the presupposition of a chapel sermon and you have not vetted the speaker properly, the consequences may be explosive.

Losing the grip on power leads us to prop up those with whom we may knowingly have question but the stakes of losing one’s position outweigh the civilian casualties in our churches.

Striking conversion …

Growing up in a revivalist Southern Baptist tradition skewed my personal understanding of salvation and conversion. Countless revival preachers came giving stories of the fellow who repelled every previous attempt to "share the Gospel" but finally and wondrously came to trust Jesus as "he and the pastor" went calling. I believe these stories to be true. Yet, they were not true for me.

I was boring. Too fearful of the consequences of my actions I generally towed the line. Friends in high school hoped I would loosen up a bit and "be a normal person." The thought of coming home in a stupor from some illicit drug or alcohol terrified me as I thought what my parents would both do and think.

Reflecting on my own experience of grace I always thought I could be more effective if with great fanfare I could describe a "Gutter to the Gates of Splendor" salvation experience. My "testimony" was never as "good" as those I heard. What have I got to share in comparison? No story to write a book about. No "Cross and the Switchblade" here.

This morning Lyndl and I discussed our understanding of God and how from time to time we think we have everything so neatly packaged we could answer any question posed. I shared with Lyndl of a talk Dallas Willard recently gave wherein he talked about salvation and conversion.

Years later I think I have overcome the feelings of inadequacy because I cannot describe a "tragedy to triumph" experience. I believe I understand things a bit diferently than before and do not need a "once backslidden choir boy" story to illustrate the grace of God. Hannah’s story is much like my own.

Hannah came to my office this year. She had been talking with her parents about trusting Jesus. All she knew was she had seen her parents live out a life of faith and trust in Jesus and she wanted to express that same trust and be baptized. I told Lyndl today given the un-grace in our world it was indeed a striking experience of grace for Hannah to be born and raised to parents who would not only talk about but live out a confident trust in Jesus. Her experience of grace is no less supernatural. It is no less powerful. It is no less significant. We will help her understand the grace of God in this way so maybe she and others will avoid a skewed understanding of the grace work of God in her life.

Narcissistic view of “Church” …

One of the great things about Bloglines lies is the ability to clip posts you want to come back and read later. Taking some time to catch up on some clipped posts I came across a piece from Beliefnet. I read th Interview with Stanley Hauerwas on his book, A Cross-Shattered Christ: Meditations on the Seven Last Words. I found the  following Q & A intriguing in light of ongoing discussions about church membership.

Nearly every critique I have read related to "postmodernism" insists the logical end leads to narcissism, nihilism and relativism. Add to that the charge it questions the possiblity of our knowability of Truth. When I think of conversations regarding the church and membership over the past twenty years it seems to me all concern about narcissism, nihilism and relativism derives from a cultural and economic platform given to greed. When it is all about what I want, I will invariably create a God wherein it all works out well for me. This sentiment came along well before we grappled wth the likes of the French philosophers who recive the blame for our ethical malaise. Needless to say I found this question and response thought provoking when combined with the issue of just what do we look for in Church.

You say it reveals that "our assumption that God must possess the
sovereign power to make everything turn out all right for us, at least
in the long run," is idolatry.

It’s idolatry to think that to be a Christian means this is all going
to work out well for me. That’s not what God is in the business of
being God for. The idea that Jesus’ whole project was to make sure my
life would be OK is a far too narcissistic account of the crucifixion. (Read the entire Interview.)