Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Postmodern Ministry Design

Reading "Already Gone" has given me some interesting ideas about the future of ministry to post-moderns (ages 20-30). See what you think of this three-pronged approach:
  1. "Search and Rescue Operation." The church is going to have to go after their sons, daughters, neighbors and friends if they ever want to see them again in church. As well, one good "rededication invitation" will not suffice. Decisions for Christ will be daily movements toward Christ, three steps forward, two steps back. The deciding factor will be a friend, a Christian who genuinely cares about restoration. The friend will walk him through a process of "untangling" his life in daily, humble discipleship. Together they will untangle the consequences of sin and the judgmentalism of the church. The goal will be committed restoration and full involvement in the local body.
  2. "Full-bodied" Discipleship. In order to influence the postmodern world, the church is going to have to step up. No more obvious hypocrisy. No more passive attendance. The church will have to embrace discipleship, not only as it relates to Christ, but as it relates to following Him in the areas of human relationships, vocation, economics, education, church membership and commitment, and future leadership development.
  3. "All Hands on Deck" Involvement. This type of discipleship is total. It is labor intensive and time consuming. It demands monster amounts of authentic prayer. Every disciple will have to work toward congruence between what they believe and what they do. And, it will take more than sitting in a pew for two hours on Sunday morning. Personal involvement and lasting commitment are the only things that will be respected.
It's time to get at it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Fear and Control- "Be Not Afraid"

It occurs to me that Jesus tells his disciples not to be afraid so much because they continually find themselves in situations that are out of their control. A boat in a storm. An approaching figure. A God big enough to silence the chaos with one command. I wonder if Jesus intentionally put them into these situations so that they could learn to trust Him.
What trouble and anxiety occurs in the heart of one who has no stability in Christ! Here a relationship fire arises, there an economic crisis. And it all depends on you to see it through. All your energy, strength and determination are stretched to the breaking to settle those fires. Then, you look up to see the whole world's on fire. Your heart sinks. You have no strength, no resources, no ability to manage the blast. And no one else to rely on.
The follower of Christ need never fear that blast. He has a Friend who loves him, who is incredibly gracious and all-powerful. He will never know that kind of hopelessness and isolation.
However, he will still undergo the trial of faith- learning to trust God in face of the evidence. "Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief." It takes discipline to trust. Discipline to wait. Discipline to put the impossible into God's hands and not to flinch. May God give us more courage.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Why Should I Obey God?

Why should we obey God? A Bible school student in our church had to write a paper to answer this question. She concluded that we should obey because God is your creator and because He is our loving Father. I told her I had some additional ideas and she wanted to hear them once she had completed her paper. So here they are.
  • Growth in holiness (Rom. 6:19-22; I Peter 1:22; I Thes. 4:7)
  • Maintain my freedom in Christ (Rom. 6:15-18)
  • Gratitude (Col. 2:6-7; 3:15-17; Heb. 12:28-29)
  • Character Formation (II Peter 1:3-11)
  • Witness in the world (I Peter 2:11-12)
  • Power (Eph. 3:14-19)
  • Duty (Luke 17:7-10)
  • Reward (II Cor. 5:9-10)
They all fall under Matthew Henry's category of "twisted interests." We obey God because He gets the glory and we grow in our satisfaction and happiness with God. The Christian life is not platonic. The highest virtue is not selfless love. It is a passionate love for God which recognizes in Him the greatest of all joys.
On this subject, we have to be careful not to be more 'spiritual' than scripture is. If scripture lists duty or reward as a motive, then we ought not to set it aside because it doesn't fit our template. God knows our frames. His enticement to reward is also a sign of his grace.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Vindication of the Widow

Shame. Disgrace. Humiliation. Reproach. For the widow in Isaiah 54, all these came as a result of her sin. Her past was even one in which she found God Himself fighting against her. The consequences of her sin were brutal.
The postmodern world is a battlefield of torn, twisted, brutalized people. The church has a responsibility to extend grace to these people. Not the usual kind of presumptive grace that excuses sin now and in the future, but the strong arm of grace that commits to walking with a person as they untangle their lives. Postmodern ministry will take lots of prayer, time, work, and patience, but it is working with the hand of God as we help to restore the years the locusts have eaten.
This is where Isaiah 54 holds out particular hope. What a gracious God we serve! He invites the widow to enlarge, stretch out, lengthen, strengthen her hope in God and to remember her reproach no more. God says he will bring back the wayward widow with 'deep compassion.' He forgives her past and signs his own name on her vindication. No one can bring an accusation now because God has wrapped His cloak around His prodigal wife to protect her from the storm.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sweet Sleep

It is a blessing to work hard and sleep well. A friend of mine from Korea posted this quote on her Facebook page:

"Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones. And when you have finished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake." ~Victor Hugo

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Jane Eyre's Cousin Needs Some Work

St. John Rivers wants to be a good parson. He wants to accomplish the heroic, to please his Commanding Officer. His quest for significance makes him a missionary candidate headed for India. He desires to wed Jane Eyre because of her skills as a "help meet" on the field. But Jane complains that "his sole desire in proposing to me is to procure a fitting fellow-laborer."
Bronte characterizes St. John with three faults:
  • He does not always see the people he serves, people become means to serve what he presumes are God's ends. He does the same in his 'love' for Jane.
  • He doesn't see the heroic he does do, like strolling out into a snow storm when he gets news of a dying parishioner. So the hard measure he uses on others, he also uses on himself.
  • He misses the joy of Rosamond Oliver. She was a beautiful young woman. They shared a mutual attraction and her father would have been favorable to a union. But he never considers her because she is different than he is (he can't see her in India). Worse, it seems to me he can't imagine a world where duty to God and joy and contentment in life are not mutually exclusive. It may even be his 'austere Calvinism' that prevents it.
Here's the error, summarized by Jane: "He is a good and a great man; but he forgets, pitilessly, the feelings and claims of little people, in pursuing his own large views."