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What I Read Online – 04/03/2013 (a.m.)

03 Apr
    • Knowing who to aim at. On Good Friday, our congregation was made up of our usual attenders, visitors from other local churches, and various guests who don’t usually attend any church at all. So, was the sermon aimed at Christians, non-Christians, interested seekers, dis-interested guests, or all of the above? I wasn’t clear on that in my own mind. There is a difference between explaining and applying a passage to a mature Christian of 60 years, and investigating the same verses with a sceptic.
    • There are many cultural factors that influence this spirit of the age, from the dominance of a scientific paradigm, which points constantly to the future as the source of something better, to the celebrity culture of Hollywood, with its constant production of new stars. Here, however, I want to focus on just three: the pervasive entrepreneurialism of the modern age; the obsession with youth culture; and the fixation on big personalities. These three factors are closely linked in the culture of the modern evangelical church.
    • There is nothing wrong with this in the field of economic endeavor. When it impacts the church, however, it creates an environment where there is both disrespect for the way things have been done—and indeed thought—and where in practical terms there is a shift toward the kind of people who embody entrepreneurial values. This means a bias to the young. It also means that there will be an assumption, perhaps initially implicit but increasingly explicit, that the problems the church faces are by and large technical in nature.
    • While there certainly are technical aspects to church—such as good places to meet, decent acoustics, proper ministerial preparation, friendliness, and so forth—most, if not all, of such things can be safely located in the realm of “common sense” and may be generally communicated without turning to technical sociological vocabulary or the expertise of a consultant.
    • The major problem for the church is not technical but moral: human sinfulness.
    • While no one would argue against the church doing her best both to retain her young people and to attract other young people to join, the means by which this is pursued is a topic for serious conversation.
    • The irony of the preoccupation with youth is twofold. It has actually led churches to take their cultural cues from that sector of society least qualified to offer mature wisdom rooted in experience and age.
    • In addition to the obsession with youth, there is another problem prevalent in the American church, and that is the cult of the Great Leader. This is a particular problem for the American church because of the predilection of American culture to invest supreme confidence and hope in individuals.
    • God’s desire from Genesis 12 forward was that Israel would become a missionary force of spreading the glory and blessing of God to the surrounding nations; or, in the language of Isaiah 42:6, that they’d be a “light to the nations.”  That Israel largely failed in this task should not minimize the fact that global missions has always been at the center of God’s plan and a passion in His heart.
    • So if you are a high schooler, read this book carefully and thoughtfully, and then loan it to your parents. Chances are pretty good that they’ll benefit from it as much as you will. If you are a parent of high schoolers, or concerned for the welfare of high schoolers you know who are not your own children, put a copy of this book into their hands and encourage them to read it. Better yet, work through it with them, or at very least read it before you give it away. They won’t mind, especially if you tell them that the reason you are giving this book to them is because you have found it so helpful yourself.
    • Harris’ desire in this book is to encourage Christians to hold the truth high without putting people down. He calls for Christians to be guided by both truth and love, to be guided in equal measure by orthodoxy and humility, qualities that are complementary, not in opposition to one another. As J.D. Greear says in his foreword, “Getting doctrine right is a matter of life and dead, but holding that doctrine in the right spirit is essential too. A great deal of damage is done by those who hold the truth of Christ with the spirit of Satan.”
    • The driving passion behind our pursuit of biblical orthdoxy is “not to prove ourselves more right or better than someone else but to better worship the holy God, the one who forgives and accepts us for Christ’s sake alone.” He looks to Tim Keller and says “if we make a good thing like correct theology the ultimate end–if being right becomes more important to us than worshiping God–then our theology is not really about God anymore. It’s about us. It becomes the source of our sense of worth and identity. And if theology becomes about us, then we’ll despise and demonize those who oppose us.”
    • Therefore, as I woke up on this Monday morning for the first time in 33 years without the official mantle of pastor, the only tears that came were tears of thankfulness. And under them was a great joy. It is finished. It has a completeness to it. God started it. God sustained it. God ended it. And I have loved it. And I love looking back on it, complete. Imperfect in a hundred ways, but not because it was too long or too short. Being Bethlehem’s pastor has been my life. But now it is finished. And I am thrilled at what lies ahead — for her and for me. Especially in a thousand years.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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Posted by on 03/04/2013 in Current Issues

 

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