Month: March 2007

Missional Theology and Biblical Seminary …

BiblicalRecently I was asked to recommend a Seminary to a young student. One of the first to come to my mind was Biblical Seminary. For the past few years I have worked with Biblical providing an innovative, collaborative learning experience called ETREK. An early conversation with Vice-President Sherry Kull led us to consider the differences between "missional" and "emergent." President Dunbar began publishing a newsletter. His most recent edition quoted from The Missional Church,

Christianity in North America has moved (or been moved) away from its
position of dominance as it has experienced the loss of not only numbers but of
power and influence within society"
(p. 1).

Vice-President Pam Smith sent an e-mail announcing the first online course at Biblical – Missional Theology. If you are interested in a good introduction to "missional theology" and find online learning a solid option, register for the course. Dr. Todd Mangum will be the professor. We have a running joke. He is Todd "the superior" and I am  Todd "#2." He is a fine fellow and has been a joy to get to know. Here is some information about Todd.

Dr. Mangum is ordained by the Southern Baptist Convention and serves frequently as pulpit supply in several area churches; he also is an active member at Grace Bible Church, Souderton. A recipient of the John F. Walvoord Award for Outstanding Work in Eschatology from Dallas    Theological Seminary, Dr. Mangum has presented numerous papers at the  evangelical Theological Society on a variety of topics including  premillennialism, dispensationalism, covenant theology, and the need to repair breaches among various segments of Bible-believing Christianity. He is currently working on a book that builds from his doctoral dissertation on the rise of progressive dispensationalism in American evangelicalism. He also serves as the faculty moderator at Biblical. Todd and his wife, Linda, live in Souderton with their three children.

The inauspicious activity of God … calling from the edge … ears to hear? …

Cacpic01Comparisons are inevitable. Southern preachers will eventually come face to face with Billy Graham. A generation or two fawn over the "simple gospel" presented in stadium after stadium. I confess to wondering why someone already given to follow Jesus, become a Christian, wants a steady diet of preaching found at a Billy Graham Crusade. Seems to me the need to move from one place to another must be more than moving from judgment to mercy.

Roxburgh and Romanuk describe the inauspicious places from which the activity of God comes. (Missional Leader, p.21) Since many have pronounced the end of the church it is refreshing to see these two connect the future activity of God coming from the most "God forsaken places"; and that from the people of God – even the church.

I was reminded of what has become one of my favorite articles by Father Richard Rohr. The edges may be the place from which we hear of God’s future. Content to reduce the "Gospel" to the "simple" runs the risk of a truncated understanding of God, his grace and "good news." For example, Daryl offers a quote from Guder via Adam on the matter,

In the exploration of the missiological implications of reductionism, I have stressed that the
reduction of the gospel to individual salvation…is the gravest and
most influential expression of the human drive for control
…A reduced gospel trivializes God as it makes God into a manageable deity.

Moving from one place to another becomes difficult when our understanding of the Gospel is limited to forgiveness of sins. We care little about the things God cares about. We care little about the world God cares about. In fact, we cannot see the world the way God sees the world because we are so consumed with the way we see the world. Our need for preaching then becomes therapeutic. We cannot change the world and do not believe God will. We need an avenue to cope with the difficult. Hearing repeatedly we made the right choice at a point in time keeps us insulated from trouble in the world and joining God in the mission in the world to which he sent the church.

Our focus then moves to moralizing. Holiness then takes on less about looking like God and seeing the world the way God sees the world. We tag on to our forgiveness something to make us feel like we may measure a dab of progress and end up battling to avoid worldliness in ways that matter little,

As for
worldliness–we worry about dancing and care less about the poor, or
war, or the marriage of Christianity and capitalism–it is barely worth
addressing the issue when it is raised in these situations, because it
is always used in a combative and resistant manner–it is a strong-arm
against the world, and it never holds. (Barry Taylor)

I am sure when Jesus stood and read the Isaiah scroll many considered
him a voice from the edge. We know others thought his origin
inauspicious (Nathaniel). Certainly his picture of "good news" evoked
more than what we have reduced it to,

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Luke 4:18-18,ESV)

May the activity of God rise from forsaken places to those with ears to hear the Gospel of God that sets the world to rights, grants forgiveness to people and forms them in mercy to live in the Kingdom realities until the return of the King.

Singing during worship in an iPod world …

Radio"All we will do in heaven is sing praises." And for the tonally challenged you can count on a new voice with "perfect pitch." No Simon Cowell to tell you just how "pitchy" you are. While I am convinced we will be doing much more than singing in heaven, the subject of music tends to occupy quite a bit of time as churches tussle over the old and the new.

A few weeks ago I attended a local Renovare Conference. George Skramstad led us to think about  worship and gave a brief trek through the history of worship. He mentioned a couple of things. He noted how at one time in the church no one would think of allowing Sinatra styled "crooning" in the church. He then played and sang a Steve Green piece that sounded like Sinatra. (For we who are Baptists, my brother reminded me of the Keach brothers who lobbied hard there should be no singing in worship for it was viewed as "frivolity" and "distracting" from the Word.)

One thing still tumbles around in my rock polisher – Skramstad asserted people today sing along rather than aloud. My parents and grandparents would look around at a morning worship gathering and may notice some are singing and some are not. One immediate conclusion takes us to the style of music. However, if Skramstad is correct, the radio, and even more the iPod, compel us to sing along rather than aloud. Too many tell me they cannot carry a tune but love to sing along. If they are thrust in a context requiring them to sing aloud, they will stand or sit idly. Given the opportunity to sing along, under their breath or a place in the room where they feel no one can hear them, they might chime in. When made to feel like the performance of the hymn is dependent on their singing aloud, they remain silent.

How we moderate expectations among those whose connection with music differs seems to take center stage for those trying to strike a balance. It may well be we need to spend a bit more time talking about the kinds of things we will do in the fulfilled Kingdom of God beyond "singing forever." Part of me wants to propose our attempt to wrest all the music from the devil has surely given the devil a place to thwart the formation of the people of God in their fixation over music.

Welcome Dean McGough …

Mike_mcgoughTom called yesterday while I was trying to find the hour of sleep I lost earlier in the morning. He let me know the new Dean of the Joe L. Ingram School of Christian Service at Oklahoma Baptist University would the guest at our associational pastor’s conference this morning. I made the short drive over and enjoyed seeing a few fellow pastors I had not in a while.

Mike told us his story. I found a common thread. Not only did he assert God continues to speak by his Spirit through the Scriptures, but the voices of those who helped him learn what it means to follow Jesus rang the same note. He recalled telling his mother at the age of 10 that he had become a Christian. She responded by saying, "I hope you know what you are doing." Some may have heard this as a swipe at a young boy who trusted in Jesus by a disinterested parent. I heard Mike retelling the story as a mother who unknowingly said the same thing Jesus said about those who would follow him. Before building a tower or going to war the cost must be measured – "I hope you know what you are doing." "Better know what you are doing."

Some years later Mike recalled hearing the same message from a Seminary professor, "Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me." "Better know what you are doing." I trust with a Dean who "gets" this preeminent message of Jesus, students will be helped in their course of following Jesus wherever he leads.