Good Job CT

April 29, 2005

Its good to see Christianity Today occasionally publish articles that are gently subversive.  Yesterday, I ran accross an article by Howard Snyder that challenges the assumption that church buildings are a good and essential thing.  Now, this is hardly a newsflash for many of us…but to see CT go after this assumption is a big step.  Traditional churches cling to buildings, as do seeker churches.  It is assumed that the only reason you shouldn’t have a building is if you can’t afford one.  Here’s a snippit of the article:

Many Christians sincerely believe that church buildings are "God’s
house"-holy places, set apart for divine purposes. And many church
buildings do indeed give glory to God in both their architecture and
their use. Still, this view can easily distort biblical teaching about
Jesus Christ and the church, causing an exaggerated focus on buildings
and budgets, and eclipsing the biblical focus on Christian community (koinonia)-close Christian fellowship seven days a week, not just a few hours on Sundays.

Snyder suggests we demolish our ecclesial building fetish by:

  • turning buildings into
    seven-days-a-week multi-use facilities;
  • sharing facilities with other
    organizations or churches;
  • moving most church functions into homes or
    other venues.
  • Some churches have found that the most faithful option is
    to sell their real estate and invest the money in missions and ministry
    to the poor, where the long-term dividends are much higher.

A Call for Conversational Analysis

April 23, 2005

We all know people who are intensely dissatisfied with the Church.  They feel as though the church is inherently broken and long for something better.  There is nothing wrong with feeling that way, to a point.  It gets problematic, however, when the person in search for the authentic church seems to wear their dissatisfaction as a badge.  I’ve seen many people go through a conversation similar to the fictional account below:

Gary the Eschewer of Church: Yeah, I mean, the church is called to be like Jesus for the world…and all I see is churches being whores to the world.  That just sucks.

Church Attending Leon: Yeah, you’re right on man. [notice the fundamental agreement]

Gary the Eschewer of Church: I mean…all I want is a church of people who love each other, who spend time building community with each other, who reach out to people where they’re at without all the programming, a church where everyone has a real role, [insert other particular desires for the church here].

Church Attending Leon: Yeah, that’s what I’m looking for too.  Honestly, I think my church is a lot like you’re describing.  You should check it out. [Now it is possible that Leon doesn't really understand what Gary is looking for, but it is also quite possible that Leon DOES indeed understand what Gary wants, and belongs to a community in which Gary might genuinely find satisfying.]

Gary the Eschewer of Church: Yeah man.  Yeah. [Diverts eye contact, because he really isn't interested in checking out Leon's church...even though he doesn't know anything about it.]

I’ve seen this sort of conversation play out.  I’ve hear rants from people who hate the church and long for something authentic…but I have never heard someone looking for anything completely novel…and usually someone who is a part of something incredibly similar to what that person is looking for will approach that person.  Sometimes, the person is happy to find a church like what they want, but many times, the person seems to be unwilling to recognize the possibilty that a church which even remotely resembles their "dream church" exists.  Why is that?  I have my own theories, but I want to hear yours first.

Bad Day

April 22, 2005

My wife is in the hospital (she had her appendix removed).  Last night I came home to sleep, with the hopes of heading out in the morning to join her at the hospital (which is on the other side of town).  Lo and behold, I get outside and notice that my car is gone.  It is then that I notice the city sign that informs me that the street is unparkable on Friday (today) starting at 7:00am.  It is 9:00am at the time.

The really good part is that in order to get my car out of the impound lot, I need proof of ownership and a driver’s license.  If I can procure these things, then I can take my car and go visit my wife in the hospital.  The problem is:

1) My wife is the technical owner of the car…I cannot get the car, only she can, and SHE’S IN THE HOSPITAL.
2) Technically, I don’t have a valid driver’s license…it expired last month and I haven’t renewed it yet.

This day sucks.  At least my wife is recovering well.

Article in Quodlibet Journal

April 14, 2005

I have an essay up on Quodlibet Online Journal called Defending von Balthasar’s Apology of Holiness. Check it out.

Chris, the Kingdom, and Jim Wallis

April 13, 2005

Check out an excellent post by my friend Chris Brenna. Chris and I see pretty eye-to-eye on issues of politics.  We are often maligned because of our neo-anabaptistic political stance.  I think this latest post of his is perhaps his most succinct and practical explanation of how Christians ought to get involved politically.  Check the post out.  Here’s a sample:

And that is the crux of what bothers me about Jim Wallis and his
movement. They are so myopic that they have replaced the biblical
mandate of Christian love and service with public policy. It seems that
the greatest good one can do is to change laws to effect a woman like
this on a macro-level. Let me say emphatically that I don’t deny the
potential value of public policy. To those fellow brothers and sisters
in Christ who plan to make a career of it, I say, more power to you. Do
what God is calling you to do. But I am desperately pleading with
anyone who is involved in the Sojo movement, don’t reduce Christian
politics to public policy, voting, and the democratic process. If that
is the primary way we bring about the kingdom of God, I think we serve
a tyrranical God.

The Church and Branding

April 12, 2005

Is it impossible for a church in America to NOT engage in some form of branding?  Most churches feel the need to have a logo, letter-head, a website, a core demographic, a purpose statement, etc…things which exist in part to distinguish that church from other churches.  Churches "brand" themselves to compete with other churches in the free market.  Doesn’t this sound like a relatively bad thing?  What is the alternative?


April 5, 2005

I’ve irked some people with my previous post.  In my post, I say that the examples offered by Willow Creek as they move towards multiculturalism will be worthless.  That isn’t meant to say that they suck and they’re worthless.  I’m not saying that at all. 

My point is that their experiences
will be worthless because no one else can mirror their process. In
other words, the way they arrive at at multiethnicity will be
fundamentally unduplicateable. I am glad they are moving in the right
direction. Where they come from doesn’t destroy the good they can do
now. However, it is difficult to take them seriously as a guide in this
area, since they made the change after amassing great resources and
clout, and they made the change in such a way that only mega-churches
can duplicate their process.

So, my statement of their example being worthless is in regards to
their contribution to church systems implementation, not in regards to
their example being one worthy of emulation.  Does that make sense?  I tend to exaggerate and overstate, but I wanted to be clear about what I am overstating.  I am saying that they won’t be a worthwhile guide for other churches in this area, not that they stink…though I do think they have their fair share of issues.

A Quote from Hybels

April 2, 2005

I just read this in an interview on Christianity Today.  Bill Hybels says:

Willow Creek started in the era when, as the book
noted, the church-growth people were saying, "Don’t dissipate any of
your energies fighting race issues. Focus everything on evangelism." It
was the homogeneous unit principle of church growth. And I remember as
a young pastor thinking, That’s true. I didn’t know whether I
wanted to chance alienating people who were seekers, whose eternity was
on the line, and who might only come to church one time. I wanted to
take away as many obstacles as possible, other than the Cross, to help
people focus on the gospel.

So now, 30 years later, as I read this book [United by Faith], I
recognize that a true biblically functioning community must include
being multiethnic. My heart beats so fast for that vision today. I
marvel at how na?ve and pragmatic I was 30 years ago.

My first reaction is "praise God!" It is good to see one of the largest proponents of the homongenous unit principle reject the principle.  My second reaction is one of consternation.  I get grumpy with the number of people I know who build something the easy way…taking the path towards quickest success, and then later try to become honest.  It is like the dieter who uses pills and slimfast to lose the weight and then tries to eat healthy after that.  It sets a horrible model for the rest of the Church, when people need how to start a multiethnic church in a healthy way.  The thing is, WIllow Creek, by exercise of might and is really moving towards multiethnicity…and they’ll probably write books about it and tell everyone else how to do it (and I guarantee they will).  The problem is, the example and experiences they’ll be offering will be mostly worthless.