Are we finding our way out of the cold cellar?

28 10 2008

In The Root of the Righteous, A.W. Tozer begins the chapter “Christ Died for our Hearts” with the following: “The human heart lives by its sympathies and affections. In the day that will try every man’s works how much we know will not come in for much consideration. What and whom we have loved will be about all that matters then. For this reason we can never give too great care for the condition of our inner lives.

“The vital place of the moral sympathies in human character has not in recent times received from our religious teachers the attention it deserves. We are only now emerging from a long ice age during which an undue emphasis was laid upon objective truth at the expense of subjective experience. The climate in evangelical circles was definitely chilly. We made the serious mistake of taking each other as criteria against which to judge our spiritual lives instead of comparing notes with Bible saints and with the superior lovers of God whose devotional works and inspired hymns linger like a holy fragrance long after they themselves have left this earthly scene.

“The reason back of this huge error is not hard to discover. The movement toward objective truth and away from religious emotion was in reality a retreat from fanaticism. Bible-loving Christians half a century ago were repulsed by certain gross manifestations of religious flesh on the part of some of the very ones who laid claim to the most exalted spiritual experiences, and as a result fled from wild fire to deep freeze. Bible teachers became afraid to admit the validity of the religious sympathies. The text became the test of orthodoxy, and Fundamentalism, the most influential school of evangelical Christianity, went over to textualism. The inner life was neglected in constant preoccupation with the ‘truth’, and truth was interpreted to mean doctrinal truth only. No other meaning of the word was allowed. Objectivism had won. The human heart cowered in its cold cellar, ashamed to show its face.”





Small groups need a mission

23 10 2008

Scott Boren knows what works and what doesn’t when it comes to small groups.  Both of his books are excellent resources for anyone engaged in forming or leading small groups.

I recently read his latest book, How Do We Get There From Here?: Navigating the Transformation to Holistic Small Groups – here are a few of the points that really stuck with me:

♦ Small groups only work when they exist to change the world.

♦ The only way to train leaders is to mentor.

♦ The focus of small groups must be to expand the group ultimately to start new churches, train new pastors and impact the world.

♦ Small groups will not work if they are just about deep knowledge without reference to practical ways the group can live out what they discuss.

♦ Small groups have three core requirements:
    1) Members must be discipled
    2) Leaders must be coached and invested in
    3) The church must value small groups above all other church activities/functions

♦ Effective small groups need to:
    1) Be holistic in nature
    2) Meet for a task
    3) Have a stated purpose of reaching nonbelievers
    4) Be intentional at raising up new leaders and multiplying groups

You can read the Introduction here and a second sort of introduction titled Navigational Hazards here (where Scott discusses eight typcal hazards encountered by churches intentionally moving toward small groups).





The real theological questions

23 10 2008

David Fitch had a post Tuesday that provides a crystal clear example of the feeling many of us are experiencing… “just when I learned all the answers they changed all the questions.” His illustration is a real world experience from a person taking an intro to theology course who rewrote a series of standard questions from that course:

Intro to Theology Course Questions:

ECCLESIOLOGY: How does your church compare to the purpose and pattern of the Early Church?
SOTERIOLOGY: A person from a Roman Catholic background asks you why you don’t pray to the Virgin Mary. How would you answer that person?
SANCTIFICATION: In your desire to become Christ-like, what quality of God’s character do you need the most?
THEOLOGY: What do you consider to be the greatest of God’s attributes and why?
ANTHROPOLOGY: A new Christian, who is concerned for his unsaved family members, asks you where his deceased grandfather, who never heard the gospel, is in eternity. How would you answer him?

Student’s Rewrite of the Questions:

ECCLESIOLOGY: I don’t need church. Organized religion really bothers me – I’d rather just go for a walk in the woods and meet with God there.
SOTERIOLOGY: The whole idea of only one way to God is ridiculous. It’s so arrogant to say that Jesus is the only way. I’ve met a whole lot of people who are kinder and more compassionate than the Christians I’ve met. Those people seem more in touch with God.
SANCTIFICATION: God loves me unconditionally. I know there are some issues I need to deal with eventually, but don’t throw this legalism on me and give me a code of rules I’m supposed to live by. That’s not the kind of God I want to serve.
THEOLOGY: Jesus dying on the cross is so bloody and violent. How am I supposed to believe that a God who kills his own son in cold blood would love me?
ANTHROPOLOGY: Christianity is all about men. God is a man, Jesus is a man, pastors are men, etc. How do I, as a woman, fit into a faith that seems to be all about men?





Fishing in Christendom

13 10 2008





Five things

13 10 2008

Andy Stanley closed the last session of the Catalyst Conference last week talking about stuff that he has on his mind. Tim Stevens summarized those five things on his blog Friday:

1) To reach people no one else is reaching, we have to do things no one else is doing (Craig Groeschel) – we have 175,000 people within 10 miles of Northpoint, and we aren’t reaching them. We aren’t going to reach them by building another church building. We have to do something no one else is doing.

  • Become preoccupied with those you want to reach rather than those you are trying to keep.

2) The best idea for reaching the next generation isn’t going to come from the existing generation, it’s going to come from the next generation.

  • If you are over 45 years old, you aren’t going to have any good ideas. It’s your job to recognize the good ideas.
  • Don’t do to the next generation what the previous generation did to you.
  • Be a student, not a critic.

3) I’m looking for what can’t be done in church, but if it could be done would fundamentally change the church.

  • It always used to drive me nuts that the communicator and the leader had to be the same thing.
  • Multi-site solved this. Now the great leader doesn’t have to be the teacher.
  • Like that, you may be the one to crack the code on something no one else has figured out that will fundamentally change our “business.”
  • Pay attention to people who are breaking the rules. It’s the rule-breakers who are oftentimes the problem solvers.

4) If we got kicked out by our board, and they hired a new guy, what would the new guy change or do different? Let’s walk out the door and walk back in, and make those changes.

  • The problem with ministry is that we’ve fallen in love with the way we’ve done ministry.
  • It’s not “no pain, no gain” — it’s “no pain, no change.” Without pain, there typically isn’t any change.
  • Ask: “Where are we manufacturing energy?” The things we aren’t very excited about, it takes energy to get it done, but the results aren’t stellar.
  • Acknowledge what’s not working. Own up to it. And own up to why you aren’t willing to do anything about it. What is it you fear? You need to deal with that. It is a leadership lid for you.

5) When your memories exceed your dreams, the end is near. You look back with smiles and lots to celebrate, but you don’t have a lot to work forward to.

  • Are you willing to be involved in the future more than the present?
  • Don’t let success overshadow your vision.
  • Success breeds complacency and complacency breeds failure.

Need ideas about what to do next?  …these sure are some great starting points.





The Bottom Billion

2 10 2008

Being “missional” is a recognition that our mission as followers of Jesus is to advance His Kingdom in the world.  As North Americans we have historically viewed that mission as primarily being outside our culture – we are now waking up to the reality it is also very much within our culture.  So, does that mean we stop doing “foreign missions?”  I don’t think it means that at all – in fact I think it would be very selfish to do so.  I do think, however, that there are critical things we need to learn about other cultures (just like there are things we need to learn about our culture) if we are going to be effective and good stewards of what God has given us and the life we  are called to live.

I had not heard of Dr. Paul Collier until I recently stumbled upon him on Ted. Dr. Collier is a professor of economics and Director of the Centre for the Study of African Economics at the University of Oxford. He is a leading authority on African economics with a focus on the causes and consequences of civil war, the effects of aid, and the problems of democracy in poor countries.

What he has to say is not only very interesting but has has direct implications on how we can best help the poor and the consequences if we don’t. The gap between the developed and the developing world and the bottom billion widens ever year. Failure to act effectively will have disastrous effects on our next generation.

A few additional notable items:

  • In January United Nations Secretary-General Ban Kimoon declared 2008 to be “the year of the bottom billion” citing the work of Paul Collier. 
  • Marvin Olasky interviewed Paul Collier last year in World Magazine linked here
  • “One of the most important books on world poverty in a very long time.”–Richard John Neuhaus, founder of First Things Magazine