The Upshot of Being a Stranger in a Strange Land

This is a fascinating read on why women are out-performing men in today’s economy.

As I read it, I couldn’t help being a pastor, researcher and communicator that there might also be connections to why the Christian Church has historically tended to grow the most when it was in a position of least influence. Perhaps there really is something to being “strangers in a strange land,” or to use biblical phrasing, “aliens and exiles.”

Something to consider.

Why Men Fail – NYTimes.com (HT: David Brooks)

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New Books: Church, Gospel, World, Reforming?

Well, yesterday I came home and had several new books waiting for me.  I thank the folks at Crossway who keep on sending me good and interesting reading material.  I want to highlight a couple of these and tell you all to be on the lookout over the next couple of months for some reviews.

The first book to mention is Total Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis.  This book had been previously published only in the UK, but thanks to Crossway and the new publishing banner of Re:Lit, it is now available here.  I have only scanned through the book, but the first chapter is promising.  The gospel is word-centered and mission-centered, so our churches need to be based on the word and on mission – love it!  I actually first about this book from a friend of mine over in South Africa (cheers Stephen!)

Book #2 – Wordliness, by multiple authors, but edited by a pastor’s pastor, C.J. Mahaney.  I wasn’t sure what to think of this book when I first started seeing it pop up on the web, but knowing C.J.’s other books (Humility: True Greatness and Living the Gospel-Centered Life) and pastoral heart (if you need some exposure, go check out his blog), I’m confident that this book will be insightful and helpful in discerning where and how the gospel applies to our world in our cultural situation.

Book #3 – Reforming or Conforming edited by Gary W. Johnson and Ronald D. Gleason.  This book appears to be a collection of various scholars critiquing the emerging church movement.  I haven’t dove in at all, but I will be interested to see if they distinguish between emerging and emergent.  Some of the chapters do seem fascinating (like “It’s Wright, but is it Right? An Assessment and Engagement of the “Emerging” Retreading of the Ministry of Jesus.” Caveat: I find myself being hesitant to read books like this.  I have read some thoughts by some of these guys on the internet and find myself not agreeing with their conclusions.  That being said, I do find myself appreciating the concerns they bring up.  Reading this will hopefully bring the fundamental issues to the front with constructive critique and positive assessments instead of just the reactionary tendencies demonizing those who differ.

Book #4 – Death by Love: Letters From the Cross by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears.  This book looks fascinating.  Its written as a series of letters addressing real live situations and people, with the full theological truth of the gospel.  I wasn’t expecting that, and I like it.  I honestly can’t wait to get into reading this one.  It seems to have a lot of potential of to help all pastors and lay leaders alike appreciate the depth of theological reflection, without losing sight of its pastoral implications.  This book also features some helpful answers to FAQ’s concluding each chapter (thank you Dr. Breshears for that!).  This is similar to their previous book, Vintage Jesus.

So, if you haven’t already done so, you should subscribe to my blog (button on the top right) and watch out for these forthcoming reviews.

Tim Keller on Denominational Renewal

Well,

It’s actually Tim Keller commenting on Greg Thompson’s talk from the 2008 PCA Denominational Renewal conference, and I think it is well worth the time linking and encouraging you all to read.

Click here for the full article.  Here’s a sampling:

As I read this terrific piece, however, it made me think about how we actually will have to do denominational renewal. The PCA is the great and tense place that it is because it is perhaps the only Presbyterian denomination that hasn’t purged or lost one or two of its historic wings. George Marsden says that Reformed churches have always had what he called ‘doctrinalist’, ‘pietist,’ and ‘cultural-transformationist’ wings. Weirdly, they all grow out of aspects of Reformed theology. Historically, they’ve produced some major splits–Old Side (doctrinalist) from New Side (pietist) in the 18th century, Old School (doctrinalist/pietist) from New School (reformist) in the 19th century. The OPC, though a doctrinalist church, grew and then shed a pietist wing (New Life Churches.) The CRC, though basically a cultural-transformationist denomination, had a doctrinalist split off (the URC.) In God’s providence, the PCA has significant numbers in all three wings.

Appropriate Accompaniment or Dishonoring Distraction

Appropriate for Worship

Alright, so I’ve recently visited a church where I felt that the musical worship aspects were just so-so. But after the service the musicians were jamming and it was out of this world good. So it got me to thinking (that and the Christian Worship class I’m taking this semester):

Is it appropriate to allow skilled musicians to play to their ability within the context of corporate worship?

Is it distracting – as is usually argued – for talented musicians to incorporate various elements of their discipline (Improv or “soloing”, for example)throughout the corporate elements of gathered worship?

Is it a “sin” or simply dishonoring to God to not worship Him with the same skill and craft that one would employ in other contexts outside of the corporate worship setting?

I found this video on youtube to help illustrate the type of musical skill that I’m talking about (plus, I love Bela Fleck and the Flecktones). I think this clip for the most part captures a way of doing musical improv that is more about the song and band rather than the individual members, and that each member is contributing their unique part to create something that is rather phenomenal.

I almost want to go so far as to say there are some trinitarian elements evidenced in their playing together. Notice how the bass player (Victor Wooten – who is phenomenal) and clarinet player (No idea who he is, but he’s really good as well) “dance” together – blending their individual solos into a unified harmony (“Perochoreses” anyone?).

Can musical skill like this be incorporated into Christian, corporate or gathered worship and be Christ-centered, God-exalting and Community-edifying, or is it only distracting?

Training & Developing Elders

Here’s a great post that deals with one approach to training and developing Elders in the church. Check it out at Light and Heat (here). I’m wondering how other people do this?  If you have a plan (or some thoughts) post a comment and tell me/us about it.  You’ll help inform and shape future pastors – and we need all the help we can get!

Quotes and Links re: Journey, Acts 29, Alcohol and MBC

Here are a couple of quotes and links regarding this issue. I previously posted my inner response, actions and thoughts to this in my Thoughts on Thursday post, and wanted to try and keep the facts and murmuring separate from what I was trying to communicate there. Below you’ll find the quotes and links.

Quotes:

 

Scott Lamb:

Members of the Executive Board presented and passed a motion during the miscellaneous business session that sets down a “no-partnership with Acts 29″ rule for MBC church plants. I have not received the exact wording of the motion yet, but it is a confirmed piece of news from an EC board member.Don’t misunderstand, this does not mean that churches cannot be in partnership with Acts 29, just that if they are so aligned then they will not be able to receive MBC church planting funds. Never mind the fact that Acts 29 church plants in Missouri are thriving.I do wonder if the EB will be consistent and pass a reciprocal measure that keeps Cooperative Program dollars from coming into MBC coffers via such “polluted churches”. [Very interesting point; is the severance of funds mutual, or one sided?]

Darrin Patrick’s response on a blog regarding the initial News Story run by the St. Louis Post Dispatch (and an accurate assessment of what is true regarding the church):

It is really unfortunate that the reporter chose the title Beer and the Bible. He promised to make the article about our church, not the controversy. The content of the story is decent and toward that promise, but the title is distracting and will be disruptive to what we are trying to do in our state convention. The Journey’s policy on alcohol is that we do not personally encourage nor do we corporately promote alcohol as a church. The article could be read to sound like we have grown as a church because of our “beer ministry.” Totally ridiculous. We have a current event discussion once a month in a bar. Far from a “beer ministry”

Please pray for unity in our state convention so that we can stay focused on planting churches that reach people in culture.”

Timmy Brister (whose post is worth reading; link below)

“It is not enough to shake our heads and move on as though we think this situation is isolated to Missouri and Acts 29 churches. As we have seen, one state’s precedence becomes another state’s principle, and if they will do this to Acts 29 churches, what makes us think they will not do it to Founders or IX Marks churches? It is times like this that I wish some of our SBC leaders would step into the ring, even if they happen to disagree with the alcohol issue.”

Links:

Scott Thomas’ (Director of Acts 29) post on Dec. Newsletter (December 2007) – here

Steve McCoy’s post (January 2007) – here

Christianity Today article (July 2007) here

Mark Devine’s post/article (April 2007)here

Acts 29 Statement on Alcohol – here

Timmy Brister’s post – here

Thoughts on Thursday – Personal Fight and Insecurity

I read something that disturbed me earlier this week.

The headline (what disturbed me): The Executive Board of the MBC has voted to block funding for Acts 29 church plants, according to Scott Lamb.

The comment (which I am agreeing with) – “Brilliant. Anyone who would block funding for a church plant that looked like Darrin Patrick’s gospel-centered and biblically-faithful Journey Church in St. Louis isn’t biblically-faithful. It’s really that simple. [From Reformissionary blog. I’ll have some quotes and links following in another post for anyone interested in the story in more depth.]

 

As I read Steve’s post, I admit that I was mad…frustrated…but not sad. It seems that this kind of thing is fairly normal – groups and denominations squabbling over minor details, and failing to uphold the common denominators and mission we have as the church, representing God and influencing the world.

 

Been there. Done that. What else have you got?

 

So when I read that the Missouri Baptist Convention is withdrawing all funding to Acts 29 church because of their “open handed” position towards alcohol (as opposed to having a clear cut policy for prohibition), my first reaction is one of animosity, not ambivalence. I’m really not shocked or surprised.

 

Are you? Read Matt. 23:23-24 then give me your answer.

 

No my first response is not of amazement at such a reality. Perish the thought that anything different might be possible! My first reaction is one of anger, and I am tempted to just stay there and let it fester.

 

But as I entertain that thought, I have to ask myself why am I really angry? When I ask this, I see my self peeling back a layer of my thoughts to see that really I am so angry because I’m scarred. I’m scarred because deep down what I’m really wondering is:

 

Is there any safe place?

 

Is there any place in the future for someone who wants to plant a church, with a goal towards living out their life of faith in the midst of the world around them (i.e. missional), within the already established denominations and groups of the evangelical world? Maybe I’m too worried about the “already established denominations and groups,” but that is my spiritual heritage. I don’t know how not to be concerned about this.

 

You have to pick your battles.

 

Scott Lamb writes: “This polarizes the issue of Acts 29 to the point that it is hard to be able to give any critique or praise of the movement at all. To be sure, there are some of both that any movement rightfully deserves. However, a misguided motion like this just makes the battle lines get laid down in all the wrong places.” (from 12.11.07 post; click here).

 

I read a story like this and I am faced with the seemingly uphill battle of convincing those who should be most for missionally minded churches, that they are actually a good thing, and not a threat to the establishment, just because they look, feel and maybe do things differently then what’s been done before. I’m staring down the eye of the reality before me, where sometime over my Christmas break from seminary, I’ll have to two conversations with people in my denomination regarding my choice of where I’m attending church while in seminary, because it isn’t our denomination’s church. Yet, its the place where my family and I have connected with God and with His people the most, and its a place where God’s kingdom is advancing and people are coming into a right relationship with God, and churches are being planted.

 

Yeah, its called the Journey. The same church that “sparked” the controversy between Acts 29 and the MBC.

 

I wonder if when Jesus said, “In this world you will have troubles,” (John 16:33a), he was referring to the seemingly endless infighting that’s going on? As a guy who wants to enter into ministry, I’m faced weekly with the reality that there are so many fights to be had, but only so much energy.

 

A time to throw down, not lie down!

 

So when I’m faced with my fear of there being no place in the future for guys like me, I need to remind myself the rest of the story. That yes in this world we will have troubles, “but take heart, for I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33b). So if I’m going to throw down, its going to be on the side of Jesus, whose ultimate fight is to build His church, against the gates of hell, and even against the straining infighting of those who should know what is of greater importance in the eyes our redeeming and reigning King. But this fight is one of faith, not of hands and strength.

 

Its a fight to believe in the promises of God.

 

Its a fight to believe that He is our provision in our times of need.

 

Its a fight to trust in His goodness, mercy and grace, when we’re anxious and scared.

 

Its a fight of faith to believe what King Jesus says:

 

“And I tell you, your are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church. And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matt. 16:33)

Francis Schaeffer Lecture Series – Emerging Church

Darrin PatrickHere is the content for the Covenant Seminary’s Francis Schaeffer Institute Lecture Series (that’s a mouthful, isn’t it?) on the Emerging Church. This was a series of talks given by Darrin Patrick, lead pastor of The Journey and V.President of the Acts 29 Network. Darrin is a guy who neither absolutely praises or bashes the Emerging Church movement. Instead, he gives a really good inside picture of it, while also standing somewhat outside of it and gives it a good critical assessment of its strengths and weaknesses. If you’re out there and you’re the least bit curious, or cautious, of anything that bears the label “emerging”, then listen to these lectures.

Audio Content (page – you can download the lectures individually)

Written Content (abridged notes from the talks)

Tim Keller – Contextualization

timkeller.jpgThis is the best quote I have come across on contextualization, and it happens to come from…you guessed it…Tim Keller. Much thanks to Darrin Patrick for talking through this and pointing to this definition about contextualization at the FSI Lecture Series this weekend on the Emerging Church (check out http://covenantseminary.edu in a couple of days/weeks for the audio – if they post it.)

Quote on Contextualization:

Contextualization is not giving people what they want. It is giving God’s answers (which they probably do not want) to the questions they are asking and in forms they can comprehend.