Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The need for stories

It's an amazing aspect of being human.
We long for stories.
They make us laugh, cry, and experience every emotion in between.
We spend billions of dollars to be told stories in various forms of media.
Why?
We long for the complete story. Every story tells us about an aspect of our humanity from things we are capable of doing to things we wish were possible. Stories engage our senses and take us too a different place.
The beauty of stories, even the worst ones, is that they reflect some aspect of the image of God in man. They reflect something that we can relate to and something that we feel.
Through the characters in stories we turn into a world where the hero is something we think we can aspire to, or the villain is someone we are fascinated with because we sense our capabilities of evil.
There's a problem with stories though. They can't tell the whole picture. They fill a little aspect inside us, but they cannot complete us.
One story does. The real story of Jesus coming to accomplish redemption for humanity. Every story in the Bible points in some way, implicitly or explicitly, points to our need for redemption or God's provision of redemption for humanity.
This is wonderful because God's story, creation, fall, redemption and consummation can speak to us in a way that Star Wars, Crime and Punishment, the Da Vinci Code or The Illiad cannot. It speaks to us in a way that changes our lives and leads us to a real relationship with the Creator of heaven and earth.
This brings me to preaching.
Those who preach God's Word must not be afraid to go to the stories in the Bible and use them to explain how they speak to the human condition.
It's not just post-moderns who need to hear stories, but everyone. Sometimes in conservative churches, we love to preach epistles and prophets and use the instructional material to teach doctrine and warnings to the people of God.
While we do need doctrine and warnings, we must realize that we can derrive these from the stories in the Bible.
We must use them, and use them not in a moralistic way, but in a way that is relevent and transcends time and context.
The message in these stories is timeless and can speak to any culture in any context in any generation.

Monday, June 27, 2005

The end of an era

Twilight is upon me and soon night must fall.

Last night was Billy Graham's last sermon in the US and probably his last one ever. He's been preaching for decades and I must say I'm sad to see him go.
I haven't been a "fan" or "follower" of the man, and I realize he's not perfect, no one is, but at least there has been someone that points people to Christ and Christianity in such a public manner. Yes, Rev. Graham's theology may not be perfect and he has probably "compromised" in some peoples' minds, but still the simple truth of the Gospel has been proclaimed before many, many audiences. He has also served as a visible picture of our accountability to God which was put forth to the American public every time he appeared on TV or on the radio. People know how he is, even those who are not Christians and when they see him they are confronted, directly or indirectly with the Truth of the Gospel.

It seems like he doesn't have much time on this earth, and that he'll never preach to an audience again, and I feel a little sad on the inside. On one hand I know that, even as someone who's watched a sum total of two sermons of his on TV, I'll miss seeing his presence in the media, but on the other hand, I will be happy to see a saint go to glory.

It's just weird. You grow up seeing someone in the news on TV, mentioned in sermons, articles and whatnot, and you never really expect them to leave. But now Billy Graham is leaving to fade from our minds and away from the public eye.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Anyone watch the NBA Finals?

I didn't either.

I can't figure it out. When the NBA was on I was glued to the TV during Jr. High, High School and through College as well. Now, I could care less.

Back in the day (ages 10-14 or so) my room was covered in Magic Johnson posters and Lakers stuff, now you'd be hard pressed to find anything NBA related in my possessions.

I still watch football, NCAA & NFL and I still watch MLB baseball, but I don't watch the NBA.
I don't know if I could name 25 NBA players, but I can name starting pitching rotations of many MLB teams, and I can name many, many, NFL lineups as well.

The NBA just doesn't have the attraction that it used to.
I watched a sum total of about 10 minutes this whole season, and maybe 20 minutes last season. I don't care about it anymore.

I think that the NBA has that figured out as well. I noticed in a magazine that you could buy highlight DVDs for Father's Day of Jordan, Bird, Barkley, and Johnson. Those guys are retired.
What about current stars?
I only see Lebron James in commercials. When I was a teen it used to be that you would see commercials by more than just one NBA star. Think Mr. Robinson's neighborhood, Right Guard, McDonald's and hordes of Nike commercials.
Now, I see very little if any NBA related commercials.

Am I watching the wrong channels?
Have I just grown out of the NBA?
Or did the NBA leave me?

Maybe I'll figure it out someday. In the meantime, I'll watch some baseball and keep up with college recruiting and the NFL.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Trust

My wife and I rescued a rabbit from the wild. Had we not intervened she would have died and not be well over 1 year old as she is now.
It's kind of interesting to me to see her. She is getting tamer and tamer as time goes by.
She knows where her food comes from. (and believe me she eats better than 99% of domestic rabbits)
She knows that we give her good things.
She knows that we let her have free reign of our apartment, hours upon hours a day, except she's not allowed in the room.

Yet, despite all of the good provisions we have given this little rabbit: life, food, shelter, love, attention, spoiling, and so on and so on, she still doesn't trust us completely.
She still tries to run in the bedroom the second the door cracks open.

Even though she is treated better than 99% of all rabbits, she still runs away when we try to pet her and so on.

She initiates attention on her terms.

Sometimes I feel like I treat God that way. I have many, many good gifts in life, but still I have a tendancy to not trust him, and sometimes, even to look the other way and do my own thing.
And it's funny really, I see this played out in my little bunny, and do it myself. All the while God sees me as more than a pet; I'm his child, and sometimes I wander, yet he keeps loving, feeding, caring, protecting and keeping me.

Life is beautiful.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Who's our woman at the well??

John 4 tells us a very familiar story about Jesus approaching a Samaritan women at Jacob's well. Many of us are familiar with the picture of salvation as "living water" that Jesus employs to show the woman that salvation quenches that inner thirst for significance, spiritual healing/renewal and faith in the One greater than ourselves which brings us eternal salvation.

But stop for one moment and put ourselves in Jesus' position. Here Jesus intentionally shows love and compassion to someone that he knew was divorced five times, not of the "right race" and was a woman.
He still talked to her.

This was taboo in his day.
He still shared the Gospel.
She was an outcast.
He showed her love and compassion.
She still did not understand.
He continued to reveal salvation to her.
She did not deserve it.

Jesus teaches us a lesson in this story. What is it? I think it's obvious, but not emphasized. We all have friends, relatives and people we know who need the Gospel. There are those people who are like this woman- outcasts in our society; people that we "shouldn't be talking to", but the example of Jesus shows us that even the "worst" person isn't outside the redemptive reach of the Gospel.

I think that is good fuel for evangelism, and it's a good reminder that a God who saves the worst of people is a loving and gracious God, and that also leads us to thankfulness rather than cockiness when thinking about our salvation.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Outdoor services, building community and connecting with the past

Yesterday when I was in Western Pennsylvania, my wife and I attended church with her parents.
It was a service that served to kick off the summer season, as well as celebrate Father's Day. The interesting thing was that this service was outdoors. Now, what made it interesting to me was the ambiance.

This church has been around since the late 1800's/early 1900's and is in the vein of the classic rural American country church. Having the service outdoors gave me this overwhelming sense of community and connection with the people gathered and with the American church of the past.

I am not claiming that there was something truly mystical going on, but I did get a sense of what it would have been like to worship "back in the day" with a goat singing along with the congregation, and the rooster crowing while the pastor was preaching his sermon.

It just seemed to take me back to another time before internet, automobiles and so on; something simple and something beautiful.

Now, I do not mean that our modern conveniences are bad and should be avoided, but I think that it's good every so often to slow down, do something different, connect with each other and connect with our past.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Freedom of conscience won

It seems like the Baptists aren't the only ones who believe in this concept.



PCA Assembly Rejects Resolution about Removing Christian Children from Public Schools
Chattanooga, Tenn. – The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America voted on Thursday, June 16, to reject a resolution to encourage Christian parents to remove their children from public schools. The resolution was offered by the Rev. Steven Warhurst of Kingsport, Tenn.

The resolution asked the General Assembly to "encourage all her officers and members to remove their children from the public schools and see to it that they receive a thoroughly Christian education, for the glory of God and the good of Christ’s church."

The Bills and Overture Committee recommended that the Assembly reject the resolution and approved the following reason, "We strongly affirm that it is the responsibility of Christian parents to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, it is not appropriate for the General Assembly to make such a recommendation as contained in [the] Personal Resolution to all the members of the PCA. Rather, the education of covenant children is best left to the wisdom of Christian parents under the pastoral guidance of local church Sessions."

PCA Resolution on public schools

It looks like my denomination will be voting on a resolution encouraging PCA members to not send their children to public schools. I remember when the SBC tried this a year or so ago at their convention.

Here is the text of the resolution.

Whereas, The Bible commands fathers to bring up their children in the training and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4), and all parents who have had a child baptized in the Presbyterian Church in America have taken a vow to strive by all the means of God's appointment to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (BCO 56-5), and
A truly Christian education begins with the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 9:10), and teaches children to think biblically about all of life (2 Corinthians 10:5; Romans 12:2; Deuteronomy 6:6-9), and
Whereas, The public school system does not offer a Christian education, but officially claims to be "neutral" with regard to Christ, a position that Christ Himself said was impossible (Luke 11:23), and
Whereas, The public schools are by law humanistic and secular in their instruction, and as a result the attending children receive an education without positive reference to the Triune God, and
Whereas, Some courageous teachers in our congregations disregard this law. Obeying God rather than men, they try to give their students a truly Christian education (Acts 4:18-20). This resolution should not be construed to discourage these adult believers who faithfully labor as missionaries to unbelieving colleagues and students. However, these rare exceptions should not lead anyone to believe the public schools are regularly giving children a truly Christian education.
Whereas, Sending thousands of PCA children as "missionaries" to their unbelieving teachers and classmates has failed to contribute to increasing holiness in the public schools. On the contrary, the Nehemiah Institute documents growing evidence that the public schools are successfully converting covenant children to secular humanism, and Whereas, We are squandering a great opportunity to instruct these children in the truth of God's word and its application to all of life;
Therefore, be it resolved that the 33rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America encourages all her officers and members to remove their children from the public schools and see to it that they receive a thoroughly Christian education, for the glory of God and the good of Christ's church.


I was unaware this was on the docket for business this year at the general assembly and right now, I am not sure what I would vote if I were in a position to do so right now.
I completely understand the reasoning behind this resolution and I firmly believe that public education does more harm than good in many places, but at the same time, I am sympathetic to people, like my wife, who went to a rural public school and did not encounter the broad secular humanism that goes on in larger school districts. And what about those kids who do go to public schools and make real impact? Do we want to just eliminate that? Granted, I realize that I am thinking of a slim number, but I still think that the Gospel can impact anyplace at anytime. I also see this as something that goes against one of the main reasons I was initially attracted to the PCA: changing culture. I didn't think that we'd give up like that.

I know that this resolution has at least one big backer, Dr. D. James Kennedy, who has more influence than most do in the PCA and in evangelical circles in general, but I don't know how this resolution will go. I guess I'll see on Friday.

Also: you have to understand that I come from a perspective where I do not have children, and I imagine I will see this issue differently in the future, but for now, I just don't know what to decide. I see good things about this resolution, as well as bad things.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Weighty matters

Lately, I have been looking at myself in the mirror and when I do, I am confronted with the fact that I do not take care of my body in a way that glorifies God.

Right now, I would be more healthy and probably happier, if I exercised more, ate better, and dropped about 15-20 pounds or so. In December 2001, I looked at myself in a picture and saw that I was overweight, so I proceeded to lose 30lbs by May 2002. That was great and all, but I didn't really do it for the right reasons, although I secretly think it helped me get a wife. j/k

Anyway, as I look in my mirror, I am confronted that I do not take care of my body in way that pleases God. While, I fully believe I can eat a Hardee's thickburger to the glory of God, I think that I've eaten one too many of late. I eat too much fast food, too much ice cream and too much junk. Now, I am not saying that everyone who is overweight is sinning, or not taking care of their bodies because there are legitimate reasons, I am mereley pointing out that like so many Americans, I've succumbed to the easy availability of food that's not good for me.

I'm still trying to figure out how to deal with that. I don't think it's a good idea to blame my rural roots, or the easiness of fast food. I think it's deeper than that. I don't think that taking care of my body is a high enough priority. That has to change. Too often we Christians preach against this and that, all the while we destroy our health by eating whatever we want. I don't want to be the guy who preaches on sin while feasting at the buffet the night before. That's not the Gospel in action.

I am reminded of Anthony Hoekema's Created In God's Image where he talks about exercise and weight as an applicitory response to realizing that we are created in God's image. God gave us bodies which are good gifts, and the Christian more than anyone else, should be the one who realizes this and applies this concept to their lives. When that happens, we seek to take care of our bodies, not because we want to look like a cover model, or actor, but because we know that God created us in his image and has given us good bodies to take care of.

I'm still learning this.
I need to learn it more.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Help me out

Click on the picture below for a great contest that won't result in spam. I'm being serious, no spam.

June Giveaway

Ahh, kids...don't they just say the darndest things

Sometimes kids can really say things that make you think.

For example, this past weekend we were in Oklahoma for a family reunion (not with my family, but my wife's which is weird since they're not from Oklahoma) and I was talking to a little girl. Picture a cute little three year old, Greek girl just chattering away, and then she asks me if I can see an "ouchie" on her foot.
Well, I tell her no, and she is happy to hear that.
Then, she looks at my elbow where I have been battling a small patch of psoriasis for years with little success even though I have seen some very capable doctors for treatment. Once she sees this, she begins questioning me how I got my "ouchie".
I tried to explain to her that it wasn't really a cut or anything, but something that is just there and hasn't gone away and probably never will, even though I use medicine.
Then, this three year old looks at me and says, "If you ask Jesus, he can heal it for you."
A seminary student just gets a lesson in faith and prayer from a three year old.
That one challenge completely floored me because I realized that I had never prayed about my elbow because I relegated it to a part of my life that I didn't need to pray about.
I have to say that I was really convicted about leaving "small things" out of my petitions to God. And it's so silly because I had just preached on Luke 11:5-13 which covers praying boldly to God, and even in that, I did not see that my elbow is something worth praying about.
I think I realized that day why Jesus constantly taught that children are special to him and that we should not look at them as so inferior because they have a trust that sometimes we cannot let ourselves have because of our pragmatism and cynicism.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Taking back Sundays

I find it interesting in many evangelical Christian circles the importance of keeping the 10 Commandments posted in public areas, but the unimportance of practicing all 10 of them.
What do I mean by that?
We think that Sunday = a day to work ourselves to death and stay busy. Seriously, think about all of the activities that many of us are involved in on Sundays: ballgames for the kids, tons of shopping, catching up on work that we neglected from Monday-Saturday, and generally not finding anytime to really rest and reflect on the week ahead and the week past.

I am not saying that the only activities we should be invovled in on Sunday are church, rest, Bible reading, but I do believe that Christians could do well to use the good gift that God gave to us: a day of rest.

I used to stay extremely busy on Sundays and not use the time as a day to really rest. When Monday came, I was ill prepared for the week ahead because I was tired, sluggish and in need of rest. So many times, we see people who suffer from "burnout" or are exhausted, because the entire weekend has been spent running from here to there, taking care of business and staying too, too busy.

I believe that American Christians especially, have dropped the ball on this day. We go to church Sunday morning (or saturday night if we're too busy), then spend the afternoon working, shopping, and not really taking any time to enjoy the day. Then if we're lucky, we go to church that night, or attend small group (small groups are great!) and then maybe we'll take an hour or so before bedtime to sit on the couch and take a break, or maybe not.

We live in a society that tells us to be busy at all times, and there are a lot of great things to do for fun. We work so much during the week and have little time to take care of things during the week. There are pressures in life that tell us we need to finish this or that, but you know what, it is good to take some time to rest. God was so gracious when he established the pattern of 6 days work, 1 day rest. He actually gives us a day to rest. That's an extremely gracious gift, and we would do well to actually take some time on our Sunday and treat it differently than we do the other six days of the week. It will really make a difference.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Church websites

I look at church websites all the time. Why? Because I find it to be an interesting way for a church to advertise itself, and I like to look at churches I am familiar with to see if their website really reflects what the church is really like.

I do have some thoughts on church websites, which I think are helpful.

Every church should have some indication of their basic core beliefs. This is a helpful thing because many people looking for churches are intersted in that.

I also think that it is helpful to have a link that describes the staff, like an introduction to the pastors and other people that lead in worship, or work in administrative capacities. These are also helpful when they have photos.

Links to audio sermons. Put them in mp3 format, or wmv. The only problem with wmv is that it takes longer for dial up to download, so mp3 is better. Audio sermons are a good way for people to get a hint at the flavor of the church they are interested in. Audio sermons are also a good way for others to listen. Usually during the semester, when I am studying, I listen to many sermons online if they're available.

Pictures, pictures, pictures. You don't have to have pictures of people with names being mentioned if you're concerned about privacy, but pictures of the facilities, or of a worship service are helpful.

A short history of the church. There's another good way that people can connect to a potential church and learn more about where they are visiting. It's also a good way for people who look at church websites (like me) to learn more about other churches.


Principals for church websites

1. Every church should have one. There is a real benefit to having a website. It's a way of advertising for more visitors/members, and it's a way to have a presentation of the gospel on the web.

2. Don't make your church seem different than it really is. If your church has 50 members, don't make a flashy website that fools people into thinking when they walk in that there are going to be 300 members. Be honest. Obviously, there is no reason to talk about numbers, but do not make your website look like your church is something that it's not. That's dishonest.

3. Use pictures and audio. This is a good way for interaction and learning.

4. No midi files. They are annoying. No one wants to hear a midi start up automatically because they sound bad, and also they are a pain to turn off.

5. History. Let the surfer get a sense of your congregation's history and core values. It's a good way to attract new members and visitors and it's a way for the congregation to connect.

6. Make your website as good as it can be. This is your church that is being promoted and shared. You have to find someone who can create something that is fresh and easy too look at. Spend the $70 a year for hosting and a real url. Don't rely on a free service because they repel visitors to your site.

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Similar to this topic, but I must admit that I know my website needs work done, and I have been trying to find some good templates, or help on designing a few pages and graphics for my personal site which this blog is a part of.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Weddings

My wife and I went to a wedding last night at historic Forest Park in St. Louis. It was a small wedding, but still very beautiful.
We did not know the bride or the groom, but I intern for the bride's father, who happened to be the officiant, so we went.
Weddings are such a sacred time, and I think that Christian weddings are even more solemn because a Christian wedding is a time for the celebration of God's goodness, a time to worship, and a time where two people are joined in a relationship that symbolizes the union of Christ and his church.
I know that many non-Christian weddings carry similar aspects, and because of common grace, the applications are still there, but for my money, Christian weddings are more special.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Sunday Worship for June 5, 2005

This is the service I will be leading twice on June 5.

June 5, 2005

Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

PRELUDE

CALL TO WORSHIP Psalm 100 in Unison

1 Make a joyful noise unto the LORD all ye lands
2 Serve the LORD with gladness;
come before his presence with singing
3 Know ye that the LORD he is God
It is he who hath made us, and not we ourselves
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving
and into his courts with praise;
be thankful unto him and bless his name.
5 For the LORD is good and his mercy is everlasting;
his truth endureth to all generations.

*HYMN OF WORSHIP #8 Praise to the Lord, the Almighty

*INVOCATION

CONFESSION OF SIN Psalm 32:1-4 in unison

1 Blessed is he
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
2 Blessed is the man
whose sin the LORD does not count against him
and in whose spirit is no deceit.
3 When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night
your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer.

ASSURANCE OF PARDON Psalm 32:5

Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”—and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

CONFESSION OF FAITH The Apostle’s Creed

I believe in God the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:

Who was conceived of the Holy Ghost,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead and buried.

He descended into hell.

The third day he rose again from the dead.

He ascended into heaven
and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints
the forgiveness of sins
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.

Amen.


HYMN #52 O God, Our Help in Ages Past




PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION AND THE LORD’S PRAYER

“Our Father, which art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever, Amen.”

SERMON TEXT Luke 11:5-13

LK 11:5 Then he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, `Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, 6 because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.' 7 "Then the one inside answers, `Don't bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can't get up and give you anything.' 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man's boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.9 "So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

SERMON “Pray Boldly”

Chaplain Intern Bobby Griffith Jr.
Intro: Can you imagine what it would be like if I could take this phone, or if you had one yourself, and with the touch of a button, you could call the President. And not only could you call him, but he would be the one who would listen to you and you could ask him for advice and guidance. You could call him and say, “Mr. President, I have this problem at work and I don‘t know what the right thing to do is, can you help me?” or “Mr. President, I need some help with my spiritual growth, got any good ideas?” That would be pretty amazing wouldn’t it and I believe everyone in this room would jump at the chance to have such direct access to the President, and I believe we would all use it as much as possible. But what about God? Everyone of us in here has direct access to him, anytime we want or need, and he’s there for us. And in this passage our Lord is teaching his disciples and is teaching us that God is our loving Father who is able to help us, and that we must be persistent in our prayers to him and that we must approach him with boldness and fervor. But so many of us don’t take this passage seriously. We are timid in our requests to God for spiritual growth and power, or else we don’t ask him at all. But we know we must do this, this passage teaches us and this morning we are going to look at four areas that we can use to enable our prayer life and enhance our spiritual growth. In this, I am going to use an acronym for the word pray which will guide each of our points, persistence, reliance, assurance, and you.

I. Prayer requires Persistence
A. Persistence shows dependence
B. Persistence shows desire

II. Prayer requires Reliance
A. Reliance on self
1. Faulty
2. Fails
B. Reliance on God
1. Faultless
1. Failsafe

III. Prayer requires Assurance
A. Know that God is available
1. He is always looking
2. He is always listening
B. Know that God is able
1. Our earthly friends can fail us
2. Our heavenly Father never fails

IV. Prayer requires You
A. Communication builds relationship
1. Communication shows faith
2. Communication shows friendship
B. Communication builds resolve
1. Constant communication = consistent communication
2. Constant communication = consistent communion

What can we take away from this today?
1. Prayer is not a magic formula
2. We must ask more than once
3. Trust God

*HYMN #410 My Faith Looks Up to Thee

*BENEDICTION Numbers 6:24-26

"The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace." Amen.


*POSTLUDE

Friday, June 03, 2005

Wha' happened?

I just finished That Old Time Religion in Modern America: Evangelical Protestants in the Twentieth Century by D.G. Hart and it amazed me to read the events which were recorded. Dr. Hart basically showed the decline in Christian influence over American culture occured in the 20th century. He basically shows a rise and fall effect of conservative Christian influence over the culture and how Christians basically "lost" in certain decades and so on.

Anyway, I am going to list some of my thoughts on why I think the Christian dominance wained during parts of the 20th century.

1. Conservative Christians became too comfortable- it seemed that instead of continuing to influence everyday culture, American Christians became lethargic in their influence.

2. Too reactionary-again, this comes from lethargy. It's like being asleep in a hammock on a nice summer day, when you were only going to rest, and having a horsefly bite you on the nose. You get mad because you were caught off gaurd.

3. Dispensationalism- I know this is could irritate some readers, but bear with me. There appears to be too much of a widespread focus on the "end times" so that the pessimism of how "today" should be really led to some of the lack of reaction to many things that were taking place in the culture.

4. Retreat- Christians lost much of the culture. Instead of working to transform traditional and new art mediums which were gaining popularity in the 20th century (especially early 20th), they retreated. I will say that Christians were the first to really make radio a viable media option early on, but it became so focused on the subculture, that it wasn't accessible to the broader culture. Also, many Christian subgroups became known more for what they stood against, rather than what they stood for.

5. Infighting- I think this is a no-brainer to me, and Dr. Hart did not touch on this topic because his subject matter did not really lend to it, but I think it is worthy of consideration. So much infighting goes on in Chrisitanity today, but even back "in the day". A few things come to my mind. Carl McIntire separating from the Orthodox Presbyterians and Westminster Seminary over minor issues in practice; the many Baptist infightings such as Independents not liking the Southern Baptists (and vice versa), and Independents accusing John MacArthur of not "believing in the blood". There are hosts of other things which have transpired over the past 90 years or so, which really could have been avoided. I think this is a key point to consider even today with some of the infighting which goes on over matters which could be handled in a different way.

For me, the bottom line is that Christians need to be more aware of how the "outside" is percieving us, and that the way we treat each other and the way we interact with the broader culture has real implications, not only for the present, but the future as well.

Oh, and can we please stop fighting against modernism, post-modernism took care of that for us.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

What should a church look like?

I was thinking about this the other day, partly because of a Christianity Today issue from a few weeks ago, and partly because of some impressions I have seen in other areas.

But I want to pose the question, what should a church look like?

By that, I do not mean polity, or what the building looks like, I mean the people, since the church is the people.

The reason I bring this up is because it seems there are so many churches that do not look like their neighborhood. This can be explained by several surface reasons. One being that the church is in the city and has been in the city since the neighborhood was made up of one particular racial demographic and well, the church is still made up of the same demographic, but the neighborhood isn't. Another reason, and this one is pretty unique to the United States, and that is the plurality of churches with almost every theological persuasion known to man. If someone is a dispensational, hymn preferring, calvinistic Baptist, chances are you can find a church within one hour of where you live. If someone is a dispensational, hymn preferring, non-calvinistic Baptist, same thing. If you're someone who is a Seventh Day Advenist, or Church of Christ, you're in luck, as long as you don't mind driving in some areas. If someone is a Reformed Presbyterian, chances are.....and so on and so on. And this goes for those who are theologically liberal as well. Our country abounds in churches.

From my experience, churches have been slow to react to the changing demographics in their areas. This seems to have been the case in my home city, Oklahoma City. I am not picking on any church in particular, but from my observation, when one area of the city changed from predominately white to Spanish speaking Hispanic, the churches were slow in meeting the needs of their neighborhoods. That's not to say, there wasn't food and things of that nature, but I mean a real push to intigrate these folks in the churches. Now, I am speaking from the point of an evangelical, so it is understandable that a lot of Roman Catholics moved into the area, but there were some evangelicals as well. It was just done slowly.

I understand this to be the case in other parts of the country as well, where neighborhood demographics changed, but the neighborhood churches did not. This is something that must be taken into consideration.
It is understandable that not everyone in the neighborhood attends the neighborhood church, but the neighborhood church should be there for the neighborhood, and the people MUST KNOW THAT.

If anyone else has any thoughts, I'd like to hear them.

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