Month: May 2011

The Loser Letters – Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?

In my days as a youth minister, limited as they were, I recall working with Scott hosting the late Larry Norman. The edgy controversial “Father of Christian Rock” offered some interesting lyrics and song titles. Who could forget, “ target=”_blank”>Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?” Rock and Roll and Christian lyrics stirred the emotions – often resulting in great conflict. Norman thought it unnecessary to suggest the use of certain instruments and a different beat were exclusively the privilege of others; most notably any Rock band deemed the tool of the devil.

Mary Eberstadt turns arguments around in her book The Loser Letters. For instance critics of Christianity are often quick to point out sordid illustrations of religion gone wrong – The Crusades and Slavery to note a couple. Rather than acknowledge every system people self-select is prone to ruination by extremists these instances provide fuel for some to suggest Christianity, and religion, is the problem. Eberstadt satirically suggests opponents of Christianity should take care lest it get out that history reveals a poor track record among admitted atheistic regimes. Read More

Community, Commitment and Conflict … Church?

A long-time family friend e-mailed me recently. We had talked a few months ago about a matter in his local church rising to the level of denominational point of contention. Henderson Hills Baptist Church in Edmond, OK made public a lengthy study into the relationship between church membership and baptism. Our state baptist paper waded into the discussion with a "special edition" – albeit a bit one-sided in the scope of its articles. I have been made aware this may in part be attributed to few who would write representing what appeared to be the church’s leaning. The local association of which HHBC is a part took a step to clarify its understanding of the matter. Since that time all has been quiet until last week.

The Elders of HHBC released a "Statement of Closure." Church polity remains the purview of a local congregation among Baptists. The community of faith that is HHBC trusts its leadership to its elders. This is an agreement of the community. It is a commitment. All communities, real communities, form around commitments. Agreement to these commitments may come in the form of taking up residence in a given local geo-political communnity – a town like Tuttle or Edmond. These commitments are both voluntary and involuntary. Since we do not move into a community under coercion – at least not in normal circumstances – the commitment to a community is voluntary. Once in the city limits of a given community, the new resident takes up the commitment to community and experiences the ethos of that community in which it now participates and may be involuntary. For example, if a community to which one moves is mono-cultural then the new resident involuntarily lives under the ethos of that culture. It may be the person grew up in a multi-cultural urban center.  His or her sensibilities  prefer a diverse culture. However, now living in a mono-cultural community  these sensibilities must be managed.

Reading an article Nathan recently pointed me to describes something of the resulting commitments made to community. Central to the development of community lie commitments to that  community. In a recent ETREK conference call Dallas Willard noted the commitment to the people of his church held his interest to continue participation. He acknowledged he could well find another church with which he might find greater agreement but he was called to the people with whom he continues to  learn to be a lover of God. In The Missional Church the writers quote David Lowes Watson, "we find narcissism … and individualism … masquerading as personal salvation and religious experience , … as privatized soteriology and spiritualized discipleship, … leaving the principalities and powers of the present world unchallenged." When our commitment is to ourselves we may well think we look for community and the greater good, but what we really look for is a therapeutic community in which we look to have not only our beliefs ratified but a place to continually be reminded we made the right decision at some point in time.

Conflict Eventually we face conflict. We all face the discomfort differently. We know the idiom, "Fight or flight." These polar opposites tend to undermine a third way – conversation. I am glad for the illustration of Henderson Hills. I am not naive enough to believe some people did not leave when the matter surfaced publicly. It appears however that after thoughtful discussion and prayer the community  found strength in its commitments to one another through the  conflict so that in the "Statement of Closure" it could be noted,

2. This difference  of opinion  does not indicate ill will, hostility, or a division among council members. It is simply different ways of looking at aspects of the subject of baptism.

3. We do not foresee a consensus of  understanding on this subject. Therefore, barring an unexpected and obvious divine  intervention, this matter must be dismissed in order for the council  and church to move on with helping people improve their relationship with God and each other.

Those who remained illustrated a commitment to one another. The matter is larger than any one individual’s opinion. Our greater allegiance is to the mission of God – bringing the realities of the Kingdom to bear in our communities and social environs in ways a the principalities and powers of the world may be challenged. When our ethics follow the virtues of the Kingdom the look, feel and experience of our relationships illustrate life under the rule and reign of God; a way of life calling others to join in the Kingdom of God.

Gerald, thanks for the e-mail. Henderson Hills we needed the  healthy illustration of commitment and conflict in the church for the glory of God and the blessing of the world.

Movie recommendation …

We just returned from a field trip; we went to the movies. Recommending movies can be a precarious undertaking. For example, I would recommend “Big Fish” to a maturer audience. Some who have seen it may be scratching their heads at this point. But, a couple of scenes where we see some breif female nudity, albeit faint and not necessarily sensuous – much like intros to old James Bond movies – would be enough for some. There is also the back side of Danny Devito that is far less inspiriing but again may be too much for others. Yet, the movie has some great connections to “storytelling” and the idea of a “big story” or “mega-story.” There are some great teaching points about how to help people connect to the “big story” of God and to see that really everyone is in God’s big story. I would love to dialogue about that one either in comments or by e-mail.

The real reason for this post is the movie we saw today – “The Village.” For those who find trouble locating a movie without gratuitous language, you will find not one “cuss” word.” There is a great deal of suspense and some “jump” in your seat scenes. Violence is implied but we are spared the process; we’re just given the results.

For me it holds out illustrations of what happens when you coerce by guilt and fear. You might refer to aintsobad’s post on Nat Tracy. I would love to dialogue about this one too either in comments or e-mail.

Driscoll Calls Out Conference Christians – Irony?

The spectrum is wide when it comes to opinions about “celebrity” Christians. There are those who believe there is a place for such a standing in the midst of a culture that adores its celebrities. The argument would go something like this. If everyone is going to choose a celebrity to “Fan,” then they might as well have Christians to “Fan.” Others see the notoriety many Christians celebrities command to be incongruous with the Way of Jesus. Still others contend every Christian leader runs the risk of being a celebrity in his or her own context. I have read Ed Stetzer wax eloquent in this vein.

I saw a “Tweet” about a blog post offered by Mark Driscoll. He titled his piece, “The Crisis of Conference Christians.” Prejudiced by my awareness of the ever popular Driscoll, I immediately considered the irony. It is not that Pastor Mark does not make some good points. He does. And, those who imbibe until tipsy on the social offerings he highlights should indeed be held responsible for more hearing than doing.

What struck me was that after leading his church into mega-multi-site territory, spoken at numerous conferences, and admittedly hosting a few events of his own, he now writes about those who are filling up their spirituality from the well he helps to produce and propagate. Read More

Friday Photo Extra – You

Can you look away? When he stares it is as if to say, “You.” We walked in the March of Dimes walk at the State Fairgrounds on May 7. Of course, I had to have the camera handy.

Waiting on it all to begin, Cohen is content to watch the “big people” around him. I check on him and there he was saying with those eyes, “You!.”

Enjoy! We do.

Read More