Wednesday, October 28, 2009

All Things to All People

from Michael McKinley's new book on church planting:

"Not many books or church leaders these days speak anymore about the homogeneous unit principle—appealing to one homogeneous group of people. Somewhere in the 1980s or 90s church growth writers stopped using the phrase because they had heard enough complaining about it being biblically problematic. Still, they needed some way to target particular groups, so they began to speak in terms of “contextualization”—adapting yourself to a context. I don’t want to totally knock the good people-sensitivities involved with contextualizing. But the evangelical fascination with the topic makes me wonder if it’s just an updated version of the homogeneous unit principle: Pick your social demographic and appeal…I mean, contextualize to them.
When we start churches intentionally designed to appeal to a certain kind of person, we fail to heed the biblical mandate to become all things to all people (1 Cor. 9:22). It seems like many churches want to embrace the first phrase without the second. We want to become all things to some people. The problem is, becoming all things to some people, say, by rocking the tattoos and turning up the music often keeps us from reaching all kinds of people. After all, wooing one demographic (like urban young people) often means alienating others (like older people or foreigners).

It seems to me that Paul in 1 Corinthians 9 wasn’t saying that he would mimic the people he was trying to reach, you know, with a ripped tunic and Doc Marten sandals; he was trying instead to remove unnecessary offense whenever possible. He wasn’t telling them to sport goatees, he was telling them not to flaunt their Christian freedom in everyone’s faces. He was encouraging the church to be sensitive to their cultures, yes, but by being sacrificial in its love, willing to give up things it might not have preferred to give up. To this day, I enjoy punk rock. I could flaunt the tatts and plant a punk rock church that took its musical cues from Stiff Little Fingers and its attitude from the Clash. But how would this show love for the elderly women in my neighborhood, the same kind of elderly women who welcomed me to [my former church]? It seems like we should intentionally plant churches that will, as much as possible, welcome and engage people who are different and diverse with respect to age, gender, personality, and nationality….

Perhaps you’re thinking, “But young people simply won’t go to churches where the music is not tailored to them.” That may be partly true, but it’s only true insofar as they’ve been in churches with no biblical vision for reaching all people. But what if pastors everywhere decided to stop capitulating to consumeristic demands? What if pastors taught church members to lay down their rights for the sake of people who were different? Pastor, are you afraid that if you tried doing this, you might lose some of your market share?

So then, what should characterize a church plant that wants to reach people from all kinds of backgrounds? Well, it obviously needs to show intentional love to people from different cultures. People from other cultures will know pretty quickly whether they are welcomed or merely tolerated as a curiosity...

Also, the way that we order our gatherings can impact the way international believers feel. Many of the brothers and sisters in our congregation from other cultures were attracted by how similar our services are to the ones in their home countries. The music is different, sure. The way people dress is different, of course. Our services may be quieter or louder than what they’re accustomed to. But Christians gathered in churches in Thailand, in South Africa, in Niger, in Guatemala all do the same things: they pray, sing, read the Bible, and listen to the Word being preached. The more we focus on doing those things, the more “at home” international brothers and sisters feel. The more we import ... pop-culture into the church, the more specific and targeted our gatherings feel and the less comfortable these brothers and sisters feel."

Monday, October 26, 2009

Getting Rid of The Root of Bitterness

I'm currently reading a very good book that I purchased at a women's retreat called "How to Be Free From Bitterness" by Jim Wilson.

In chapter one, the author comments on Hebrews 12:15: "See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many."

He writes:

"Here it describes bitterness as if it were a root. A root is something that is underground and cannot be seen. But there can be visible evidence of its presence, as when sidewalks are lifted. Roots do other things. The fact that you cannot see roots does not mean they are not there. Neither does it mean that you will never see them. They drink in nourishment, and they do not stay roots under the ground. Eventually they come up....Beware lest any root of bitterness spring up, cause trouble, and defile many people, which means to make many people filthy."


"So the world has two solutions. Keep the bitterness in and make yourself sick, or let it out and spread the sickness around. God's solution is to dig up the root. Get rid of it. But this takes the grace of God. A man must know the Lord Jesus Christ... He is the source of grace. The world's solutions for bitterness shouldn't be used by Christians... The Bible says get rid of all bitterness. You must not keep it in and you must not share it. Surrender it to the Father, through the Son."

How often do I follow the world's solutions, rather than the Biblical way of dealing with bitterness? This is a good word to start the morning off and to motivate me toward reading the rest of this book.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Living in the Middle Between Hope and Reality

Our Sunday School class that ended two weeks ago was on the book called "Living in The Gap Between Promise and Reality," by Iain Duguid. The study was based on the covenant promises found in the book of Genesis and examined the lives of Abraham, Sarah, Lot, and others.

Paul Miller also covers this theme with current application in the chapter titled, "Unanswered Prayer: Understanding the Patterns of the Story" of his book "A Praying Life."

Here are a few of the quotes that I found valuable and helpful:

"Every part of your being wants to close the gap between hope and reality. We will do anything not to live in the desert."

The denial approach to suffering is "filled with hope but doesn't face realtiy. For instance, some Christians try to sidestep suffering by insisting God has healed them..."

Determination approaches suffering by setting out to fix whatever it is that is causing the pain. "You have faced enormous obstacles before and overcome them, and you are going to do the same with this. You leave no stone unturned... By the sheer force of your will, ... you are going to make this happen... It's a short trip from determination to despair, where you realize that you aren't going to change the situation, no matter what you do. It hurts to hope in the face of continued (rejection/failure), so you try to stop hurting by giving up on hope... Despair removes the tension between hope and reality. Despair, in its own strange way, can be comforting, but it and its cousin, cyncism, can kill the soul."


"In contrast, people of faith live in the desert. Like Abraham, they are aware of the reality of their circumstances but are fixed on hope. Paul describes how 'in hope (Abraham) believed against hope' [Romans 4:18].


"The hardest part of being in the desert is that there is not way out. You don't know when it will end. There is no relief in sight... God customizes deserts for each of us... It is very tempting to survive the desert by taking the bread of bitterness offered by Satan -- to maintain a wry, cynical detachment from life, finding perverse enjoyment in mocking those who still hope."


"God takes everyone he love through a desert. It is his cure for our wandering hearts, restlessly searching for a new Eden. Here's how it works: The first thing that happens is we slowly give up the fight. Our wills are broken by the reality of our circumstances. The things that brought us life gradually die. Our idols die for lack of food... The still dry air of the desert brings the sense of helplessness that is so crucial to the spirit of prayer. You come face-to-face with your inability to live, to have joy, to do anything of lasting worth... Suffering burns away the false selves...

"After a while you notice your real thirsts. While in the desert, David wrote:
O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (Psalm 63:1)

The desert becomes a window to the heart of God. He finally gets your attention because he's the only game in town."

And this past Sunday we started a new Sunday School class on the Book of Psalms. How incredibly Providential. I love the Lord. He always provides the perfect manna in every situation. He is so good!

Quotes taken from pgs. 181-184 of "A Praying Life"

American Idol Worship

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Saturday, October 3, 2009

From Counterfeit Gods (Tim Keller's new book)

Excerpt from Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller:

"There is a difference between sorrow and despair. Sorrow is pain for which there are sources of consolation. Sorrow comes from losing one good thing among others, so that, if you experience a career reversal, you can find comfort in your family to get you through it. Despair, however, is inconsolable, because it comes from losing an ultimate thing. When you lose the ultimate source of your meaning or hope, there are no alternative sources to turn to. It breaks your spirit.

What is the cause of this "strange melancholy" that permeates our society even during boom times of frenetic activity, and which turns to outright despair when prosperity diminishes? De Tocqueville says it comes from taking some "incomplete joy of this world" and building your entire life on it. That is the definition of idolatry.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Vulnerability - Hollywood Style

Carolyn McCulley at Radical Femininity has an awesome post called Drunk: The New Female Tenderness? in which she shares about the current trend in Hollywood to portray male benevolence almost exclusively through the degradation of falling down drunk and out of control women. On the one hand, who could be in a more vulnerable state and in need of male benevolence than a drunk young maiden? In a strange way, this set up has parable-like qualitities about it, to which one might easily find parallels in Hosea, the Samaritan Woman, or the woman caught in adultery, and so forth. On the other hand, however, Hollywood's tales result not in the glorification of a just and forgiving, lifegiving and light-casting, merciful and all-knowing Creator, but rather creates its own opportunity to glorify sin, darkness, and depravity, while further obsuring male and female relationship roles.

Read Carolyn's excellent article now>>>