Jesus keeps showing up in culture.
Jesus keeps showing up in culture.
This week Molly and I travelled to Fayetteville, Arkansas. Molly took part in New Church Leadership Institute, a conference which is part of the Path1 Initiative of the United Methodist Church. I took pictures, researched, wrote a portion of my thesis prospectus, spent time with my brother (a student at the University of Arkansas), got some rest, and made a few new friends. It was an enjoyable week on a number of levels.
After speaking with Molly and other church leaders I’m left with the impression that hope remains for renewal at the level of the local assembly–there are people within the church who believe that they are called to plant churches where people are welcomed, introduced to Jesus, discipled, cared for, and loved. There is also commitment to the goal that new churches would in turn start new churches, which I hope is an indication that a leveling of sorts would occur within congregations, all the saints would be equipped for the work of the ministry, and some persons outside of clergy (without pensions, health care packages, and conference mandated salaries) might be sent out to foster small communities of people desiring to follow Jesus Christ. These people may lead their faith communities while working bi-vocationally and may be without any official office or title.
Such a move might resemble early Methodism, shifting the church into a chaotic mode which may leave many uncomfortable. In my opinion, church renewal and revival will require the presence of chaos, will force rethinking of traditional methodologies, and will by necessity break through bureaucratic red-tape of the established system. While it may be true that great gains can be made through strategic planning and technique, it is my belief that a radical turnaround for established denominations such as Methodism will require a a return to something much more elemental, such as questions of being. The claims which we make about reality, rather than our outward forms, will open more doors for the proclamation of the gospel than close attention to affinity groups, geographic growth regions, and careful marketing campaigns.
Dependence on the Holy Spirit, disciplined cultivation of ministerial character, and passionate care of people–which in my opinion are simple, core commitments–deserve more attention in discussion of new church starts. While the outward form of “what works” is important, the successful establishment of new communities will only yield so much good if what lies at the core of our communities (such as what the gospel says about reality) is left unattended.
My prayers this week have been with those starting new church communities, those whom God may call to start new churches, and those persons who currently do not claim Jesus as Lord whom such new communities may have opportunity to befriend, welcome, and instruct in the Christian way. That is a commitment I have made, for until I become convinced that church leaders are turning focus to the Author and Perfector of our Faith over and above (but not in spite of) technique, strategy, and careful planning, I am not sure what else I can do. I am not sure there is anything better which I can do.
May God raise up persons who would represent Christ well in this generation. May God embolden our witness, calling us to champion justice, testify love, and embrace unpopularity for those things which we may be called to protest or proclaim in accordance with the truth.
This article from the BBC notes that a lawsuit filed in the state of Nebraska against God has been dropped. Here is an excerpt:
A US judge has thrown out a case against God, ruling that because the defendant has no address, legal papers cannot be served.
The suit was launched by Nebraska state senator Ernie Chambers, who said he might appeal against the ruling.
He sought a permanent injunction to prevent the “death, destruction and terrorisation” caused by God.
Judge Marlon Polk said in his ruling that a plaintiff must have access to the defendant for a case to proceed.
“Given that this court finds that there can never be service effectuated on the named defendant this action will be dismissed with prejudice,” Judge Polk wrote in his ruling.
This isn’t the first time God has been called to the courtroom…for an example, read the book of Job.
Chambers’ case is interesting. I’m wondering where, specifically, he got this idea:
He said God had threatened him and the people of Nebraska and had inflicted “widespread death, destruction and terrorisation [sic] of millions upon millions of the Earth’s inhabitants”.
I think this is an example of how widespread litigation has become as an avenue for those seeking justice. In a world without a common, agreed upon morality, all we have is the courts.
Molly and I support Compassion International, and invite others to do so as well. For $32 a month you can support a child’s education, well-being, and personal development in under-resourced areas around the globe. Molly and I exchange letters with our Compassion child who is from Brazil, and are encouraged when we hear what he is learning, what he is interested in, and how he is doing. Compassion is a Christian ministry, which will be clear from the statistics below.
Here are some significant stats from a recent Compassion update:
This week I’m in Fayetteville, AR. I’m blogging from The Common Grounds, a coffee and espresso bar on Dixon. This week has been great–plenty of time to write, think, and read. Above is my drink of choice, the Americano.
Posted in Cultural Commentary, Theology, tagged America, Ben Witherington, Election 2008, Financial Crisis, McCain, Obama, Politics, Presidential Election, Voters Guide on October 9, 2008 | 5 Comments »
For those engaged in the political process this piece from Ben Witherington is a short, worthwhile read. Witherington is the Amos Professor of New Testament for Doctoral Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary. Witherington does not tell you who to vote for, thankfully, but offers some helpful guidelines for Christians evaluating both candidates and carefully discerning for whom they should cast their vote.
Witherington speaks strongly to his readers, saying:
There is really no excuse for laziness when it comes to being an informed voter, especially when we now have such a wealth of information online, and through other viable sources of news about candidates. Do not use the ‘cop out’ of ‘they’re all just the same’, or ‘no politicians are trustworthy’ or ‘I don’t have time for this’. If you have time to enjoy the freedoms you have in this country, then you certainly have time to become an informed voter. Period.
This November Witherington encourages us to do our homework, vote even if we are frustrated, avoid being a one-issue voter, consider character, prioritize the issues, and to think and pray before casting a vote. He doesn’t break down either McCain or Obama issue by issue–he doesn’t need to. Others have done the work. We just have to tap into the resources.
I would fall in to the category of “frustrated voter.” This comes after watching the debates, reading plenty of print material, and intense discussions with friends about the issues. I’m particularly frustrated that an $850 bailout bill was passed by Republicans who said that the $700 billion proposal was too expensive, and am miffed that a bill which was around 3 pages when initially proposed expanded to a 400 page document in a week. If any incumbent voted FOR the bill in my district, which I need to check in to, then they may have lost my vote. I don’t see our next President addressing the outlandish fiscal policies which have guided Washington in recent years, likely because our elected officials are benefitting in some way. Obama and McCain have too much at stake to offer strong words and a solid plan for how our finances are and should be managed, likely because that would ruffle the feathers of their most wealthy political supporters.
I plan to vote in November. That doesn’t mean that I don’t think it stinks to be part of American democracy right now.
For those that don’t know, Tim Tebow is the quarterback for the University of Florida Gators.