Tag Archives: Christians

(part 1) The Living God vs. our dead idols

 

The Holy Fire did not consume the bush

 

Fire:

1. Normally destructive

2. A consuming chemical reaction

3. In art, symbolism, movies, and maybe in the human psyche, fire is seen as a living being, of sorts.

For example, witness lines of the film, Backdraft, 1991.

Robert De Niro’s character- Donald ‘Shadow’ Rimgale: It’s a living thing, Brian. It breathes, it eats, and it hates. The only way to beat it is to think like it. To know that this flame will spread this way across the door and up across the ceiling, not because of the physics of flammable liquids, but because it wants to. Some guys on this job, the fire owns them, makes ’em fight it on it’s level, but the only way to truly kill it is to love it a little. Just like Ronald.

Many times we function in life as if God is an idea. God may be getting frozen in our mind. Static. Stiff. Or maybe we think of God in relationship to things past: Bible stories, fixed doctrinal positions, the holy and immovable One.

Yet God is the only Living God. The Highest. All the other things we worship are dead, or they can make us numb, dead-like. Getting our fix of whatever…people, gossip, technology, gadgets, velocity, power, status, (etc. maybe you can think of others) are all tertiary distractions, fool’s gold. They don’t bring life, or growth, but instead more craving.

Let’s share a bit, shall we? Please list a dead god you’ve worshiped. (If you can, include some adjectives about it.)

Thank you for reading. 🙂

Innocence and Purity

 

My diagram for a "System" of Purity

 

Our freedom allows us to make choices that determine our purity and our innocence. So, freedom always includes responsibility, and purity can be regained. It is innocence that is untried.

In the cases were guilt may plague us, we may seek healing in the spiritual discipline of life confession, and then find it our acceptance of love and forgiveness. This happens best in Community, with the support of siblings in Christ.

This is also an act of worship.

Please share you thoughts on this, or a related theme.

Or you may tackle one of the following. Thanks.

• What have been your influencers with regards to purity?

• How has the media impacted your view of purity?

• What is the biggest struggle regarding your faith and your purity?

Resource used: Pages 126-8. Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us (Adele Ahlberg Calhoun -IVP Books ©2005)
For further reading: “Real Sex” -Lauren Winner

Prayer: Benediction

photo/link by Rolf Potts. (St. Petersburg, Russia Midnight sunset near Nevskii Prospect)

(I’ll be a professorial substitute on Thursday, and I’m really looking forward to it. Below is the prayer from Dr. Laurie Mellinger’s lesson plan for that night. It’s the Benediction Prayer.)

I post it today for your personal reflection. Sometimes we don’t make the time to collect ourselves this way. Here’s a our chance today. Maybe it’s also something you’d like to share with someone else.

Let us receive Your words

and treasure up Your commandments within us;

Make our ears attentive to wisdom

and incline our hearts to understanding;

yes, may we call out for insight

and raise our voices for understanding.

Let us seek it like silver

and search for it as for hidden treasures,

that we may understand the fear of the Lord

and find the knowledge of God.

For You, Lord, give wisdom;

from Your mouth come knowledge and understanding.

(Share your comments and reflections)

Jesus, WORST TATTOO EVER!

What a FIND! Introducing painter Stephen Shelby Sawyer. (art4god.com)
Steve, doesn’t just do art FOR God, but ON God.
He probably means well, but
when I first saw this image called “No Appointment Necessary” I threw up a little in my mouth.
Shortly after pondering that, I laughed my butt off at the lunacy of it all. It’s probably that smoldering look in sexy Jesus’ eye that tickles me. This hunky American Jesus is totally peacockin’! If you’ve got it, flaunt it, right JC?
If you’re wondering where the Holy Spirit is, I proposed that he’s in Jesus’ hair.

BTW. Wicked hot triceps, Jesus. I mean, Steve. Yes, we noticed!
(Hey friends, if you think THIS Jesus is hot, wait until you see him in, the Sabbath, painting. He’s reclined and “resting”. Right. He looks like he’s waiting for, oh, well never mind.)
Steve has also painted Jesus as a super buff boxer at least four times. Round 15 is the sexiest I’ve seen of that series. (And his hair is crazy gorgeous, like Jesus uses Wen shampoo.)

One of the more awkward ones, is Fireman’s Prayer, Jesus is tucked in close behind a firefighter, and helping him, by holding his hose. And No, I did not make that up.
I thought I didn’t like Thomas Kinkade. But, Steve, you kick his buttocks.
If you don’t like this art, does it mean you don’t like Jesus?
Did anyone ever tell Steve that Jesus was not attractive?
Isaiah 53:2 (prophecy fulfilled)
He grew up like a small plant before the Lord,

like a root growing in a dry land.
He had no special beauty or form to make us notice him;
there was nothing in his appearance to make us desire him.

What if you got a tattoo of this picture of Jesus with a tattoo?
I will give you $100 if you do it.
It’ll be totally BEAST, dude.
Or, maybe the universe would explode. Not sure.
Give it a try: Give this image a caption.

DYING Churches: “The boneYARD” interview with John O’Keefe

boneYARD, by John O'Keefe

In his new book, boneYARD: creatives will change the way we lead in the church, John O’Keefe tackles an issue rampant in the United States: the overwhelming trend of dying and dead churches. He also speaks to a pet topic of mine: the prevalent misguided practices that give churches supposed membership growth. [What I’ve called, “Poaching from the Choir”.]

You may know of John through his creative project ginkworld.

Here are his interesting answers to 6 questions about the issues discussed in boneYARD. Your comments or questions are welcome.

1. John, you use the terms “industrial church” and “conceptual church”, and so on, referring to eras. Can you briefly explain the terms you use; and -Do you think most churches are caught somewhere in the middle, or have they been fallen behind?

The industrial church is a church that centers on the principles of “Maxwellian Leadership.”  The ideas that grew out of the Industrial Revolution, where there needs to be a “CEO” (Pastor) and “Vice-CEO” (Associate Pastors) to control the organization.  The central motive of this style of leadership is to see the church as a business, and everything the leader does centers on benefiting the organization.  People are seen as assets and they are used to benefit the organization – “what will help the church.”  They are very logical, linear, and focused on profit.  For them, profit is defined in terms of the offering and getting people in the pews.  But, if the attendance is going down, and offerings are going up they do not see a problem.  I read an article earlier where it explained how the Evangelical Lutherans are declining in numbers (most churches are), but that there was no reason to fear because giving was on an increase.

The conceptual church is forming today.  Leadership (if that is even a valid term in a Conceptual Age) focuses on the organism; the organization holds little value.  Everything a conceptual leader does focuses on the person, the organism, and centers on how we relate to others.  In the Conceptual Age we think in terms of personality traits of a conceptual leader; people have personalities, machines have qualities.

While some are in the middle, struggling to find their voice, even fewer are in front of the curve, in my research I have found most churches are far behind the curve.  They are stuck in the idea that they need to keep doing what they have always done, and those outside the church need to change to fit into their world.

2. Do you think it’s apt to say that for a great many churches, an increase in membership has more to do with (as I like to say) “poaching believers from other churches”? (Or poaching from the choir.)

I love the visual of “poaching.”  Sometime back I wrote an article entitled “Three Kinds of Fishing” where I saw the possibilities as pole fishing, net fishing, or tank fishing, but I love the visual of poaching.   I believe most churches are growing because of poaching.  Poaching is easy for the church.  I love churches that advertise on Christian Radio; the question we need to ask is “Who are they trying to reach?”  I don’t know any “non-follower” listening to Christian Radio.  Churches that advertise on Christian Radio prove the point.  Their ads are targeted to those already going to church and say, “Come to our church, our pastor is cooler, our music is better, our service is exciting, and we will not bug you to get involved.”

Some churches even go as far as to count people who come from other traditions as “new believers.”  The Baptists and the Non-Denominational Church of Christ are the ones who do this the best.  I use to attend a church is Las Vegas called Central Christian (Currently about 15,000 people), when it was just over 300 people.  One of my family members was attending the church also and he was required to be “re-baptized” in order to become a leader in the church.  Even though he had been a follower for years before he attended the church.  They counted him as a “new believer.”  Soon, he left Central and started to attend a Southern Baptist Church in the area, and was required to be “re-baptized” and was counted as a “new believer.”  These churches count everyone who was not baptized in their method as a “new believer.”  This inflates numbers, sure – but more than that, it tells everyone who is not “one of them” you are wrong and we are right.

3. What’s the difference between church growth and kingdom growth? and, What is your best nugget of advise for those in ministry regarding church growth and kingdom growth?

Church growth centers on growing an individual church, so taking from another church is seen as an easy form of church growth.  Kingdom growth centers on growing the Kingdom, and sees people in other traditions as part of the church universal.  Kingdom growth centers on not caring what church the person is involved with, but that they understand the love and grace of God.  When I was at 247 we use to have teens coming to all our events, and many times those teens would ask about our services.  I would encourage them to get connected to the churches their parents attended and go as a family.

I think the best thing I can share with churches today is to not concern yourself with growing your church, center on growing God’s Kingdom.  When we focus on growing God’s Kingdom we move out from the walls of the church, and into the communities we are called to serve.  We desire to share the message of hope with people, who need to know the love of God through Christ, and we are avatars of Christ to the world around us – we are the incarnation of Christ to the world.  Our care is more for inviting people into God, and not into our church.

4. There will always be left-brained thinkers. If the new era of leadership is right-brained, as you say, what should these people do?

Change, embrace their right side.  Keep in mind, being right brain dominate does not ignore those who are left brain dominate.  The idea in a Conceptual Age is that right brains will be the dominate side and left brains will play a subordinate role.  In my research I came upon a study I mention in the book that says 98% of us are born right brain dominate and creative, while 2% are born left brain dominate.  Over time, our educational system causes those numbers to flip, causing 2% to be right brain dominate and 98% left brain dominate.  It is amazing that our educational system flips the numbers to left brain dominance.   This is because, in an Industrial Age, we need more left brain thinkers to “oversee” others.

5. In your opinion, does the “bone yard phenomenon” (of vast numbers of churches closing) have anything to do with apprehending church and/or the church building from a materialist and modernist vantage point? And how can we do better?

While I believe it matters little where a community of faith gathers, for the industrial church the building has become an albatross.  Some churches spend more on building upkeep then they do on ministry and care.   Between salaries, mortgage payments, utility bills and upkeep a major part of the budget is spent just to keep things going.  Because of that, the leadership focuses on keeping the building afloat, and less on reaching those who are not followers of Christ.  So, they strive and strive to increase the numbers in their pews to fill their coffers and less on bringing people into a life changing reality that Christ offers all people.  This is one of the reasons I believe the church is comfortable with poaching.  If they are poaching they are attracting givers who will help keep the building going.

6. With all the churches closing, and new ones not meeting the needs, is there any way out of the boneyard?

You bet there is.  I see all the churches closing as a good thing, not a bad thing.  I see the churches failure to reach a new generation as a good thing as well.  Why?  Because it is causing us to wake-up, and move out of the church.  Many churches are waking up to the realization that what they are doing is not working, so they are now open to change.  The only thing that is holding them back is that they do not know how to make the change.  Keep in mind, deciding to change and actually changing are two different things.

Conversation about change is a waste of time, we simply need to change.  The future looks bright for the church willing to make the change and reach a conceptual mindset.  While boneYARD is not a program, I believe it is a good starting point to make those changes.

Thank you, John.

If you would like to try for a free signed copy of boneYARD, leave a comment, and tell us if you’ve seen churches closing in your region, Or, tell us the approximate % of worshipers per Sunday in your church that may be the product of poaching.

Hipster Pundit, Brett McCracken Responds to 5 cool questions

Here is the much-anticipated interview with Brett McCracken, author of Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide. Thank you, Brett! This was fun.

Brett's face in the City

5 Questions for
Brett McCracken


1. Does the hipster Christian phenomenon pivot on the “Be in the world, but not of the World” Scriptural directive?
I think the hipster Christianity phenomenon is absolutely about this notion of how to be in the world but not of the world (with emphasis, perhaps, on the “being IN the world” part). Christian hipsters want, above all, to engage with the culture at large. They want to have a meaningful dialogue and cooperation with the wider world, rather than being cut-off or segregated from it. Rather than having a Christian music industry, a Christian movie industry, Christian this-that-and-the-other, these Christian hipsters long for a faith that is relevant in and among the culture. They don’t want to be set in opposition to the culture, but rather they want to be productively engaged with it. Their instincts tell them that if Christianity is true, it is not something meant to be separatist, overly legalistic, and anti-everything. Rather, it should be something that speaks into every aspect of life and illuminates the beauty and wonder of existence. They resonate with the famous C.S. Lewis quote that says, I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen. Not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.

2. If you could communicate one thing to your readers that they would remember forever (and in so doing, change them forever), what would it be?

Wow, that’s a big question! I guess I would want to communicate the notion that the “coolest” thing about Christianity has little to do with how trendy, cutting-edge, and “of the moment” it appears to the culture, but has everything to do with the transcendent truth of a Gospel that changes lives.

3. Every writer has “haters”, what do yours complain about? (Mine complain about nipples, but that’s a rather long story, and this interview is about YOU.)
A lot of the critics of the book suggest that I’m not giving enough due to the cultural context and “mode-of-delivery” through which the Gospel is communicated. They maintain, rightly, that the Gospel always has to be presented in ways that are embodied, formed, packaged, and specific to the context/audience in which it is being presented. I totally agree. I’m not suggesting that the Gospel is just some nebulous cloud of ideas or concepts that we can communicate apart from form. Of course we have to consider the medium, the context, etc. All I am saying is that form influences content, and we have to be careful that the various new strategies we are undertaking (placing tons of emphasis on looking cool, cutting-edge technology, etc) are not negatively impacting the content of the message or distracting us from making sure we are communicating a deep, rich, transformative message. At it’s core, my caution in the book is that we not get so preoccupied with hip/cool/attractive packaging that we forget what is actually rich and powerful about the message itself.

4. To you, is “cool” more of a state of mind than anything? Why or why not?

Hmm, that’s an interesting question, because I think it is and it isn’t a state of mind. In the sense that the pursuit of “cool” is very self-conscious and a sort of existential endeavor to be “in the know,” I definitely think it is a state of mind. But then again I think that there are plenty of “naturally cool” people who never really think about or try to be cool. It’s not something they consciously strive for as much as it is just a side-effect of them truly liking certain bits of culture that happen to be fashionable or appear cool in a given cultural context.

These days, it’s hard to tell where “cool as a self-conscious state-of-mind” ends and “cool as a natural outgrowth of who one is” begins. The problem is complicated by the fact that cool today (as in, “hipster” cool) is largely defined on the superficial “how one dresses” level, so you have “true” hipsters who dress in a certain way but then you have the “I want to be cool” hipsters who can simply purchase the exact same look at American Apparel or Urban Outfitters. On a phenomenological level, there is no difference between the two. Both types signify “cool,” which we take to mean “elitist/snobby/annoying.” So whether one actually IS elitist/snobby/annoying doesn’t matter, because “the look” communicates this regardless.

5. Have you ever considered offering McDonalds a signature menu item? (For instance, like the McCracken Sandwich: 8 crispy strips of bacon, melted sharp cheddar cheese, and sweet horseradish sauce on crispy, lightly toasted Sourdough bread pocket.) [Seriously, that whole thing came to me in one package like that. It must be a God thing.] If you have not, this could plague your mind, and I’m sorry about that. I too am feeling hungry.

If I were to have a McDonalds signature item, it would probably include arugula, grass-fed beef and raw goat cheese, just to cover my hipster bases.

For a signed copy (For beginners, that means eXtra cool) of Brett McCracken’s book, Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide. You can link over, and leave YOUR comment. YOU might be the lucky winner.

Post here and share any questions, thoughts, comments, etc.

Thanks for reading.

Review: “Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide”

Um. Brett, Justin Bieber called, and he wants his hair back.

photo: Brett McCracken

I’ve finished with McCracken’s book and now it’s time for my “review” (which is an official sounding way of saying, I’ll be sharing my take on the thing.)

PLEASE NOTE:

You may (or may not) have read my previous post in which I set up a giveaway for a signed copy of Brett McCracken’s book, Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide. You can link over, and give it  a try: Maybe you’ll be the lucky winner.

BOOK REVIEW:

My Rating: 4.45 of 5 stars

(For Liger fans, this apparently translates to 94.5% approval score. [High])

[Within text HC= “Hipster Christianity”]

One sentence assessment (“Tweet Review” version):

Author, McCracken may end our present era of “cool Christianity” single-handedly.

Summary:

McCracken does much to observe and detail the Christian (cultural, or rather sub-cultural) landscape. This book serves as a mirror for Christians so they may assess whether their “image” (whether they may be primping it consciously, or accidentally) helps or hurts the greater cause of Christ. For a certain percentage of readers, (perhaps from rural, or smaller congregations), this book will seems other-worldly and depicting that which appears to be on the fringes of Christian culture. But for many semi-rural, suburban, and urban church folk, between the ages of 21-50, McCracken’s depictions will seem, at first, like standing in front of an embarrassing Fun House mirror. Then, it will give you the reasons and how-tos to do better.

HC exposes the self-referential, pop-culture influenced realm of many Christian leaders, and laity. His 12 descriptions of hipsters varieties can make you both laugh and cry.

[Think: über irony to the point of deprecation. Sometimes funny “haha”, and sometimes funny in horrible, cringe way.]

Mental vignette: (While reading it I pictured Tony Jones reading it also and saying the F-bomb 18 times, followed by, “I’m RUINED!” near a group of pre-school children, or a Social Media Bootcamp (consisting 4 over-protective parents, 3 folks over age 81, and 17 recently ex-Amish); and then–with added and great displeasure–spilling his Ristretto Venti with soy, and a hint of nutmeg on his stylish skinny jeans.)

General Style of the book:

Adjectives: Informative, funny/clever, intellectual, helpful, jargon-heavy (not always in a helpful way), thorough (both in historic overview and cultural contextual), hyper saturated with cultural references and information, well-intentioned (constructive) and non-cynical (a nice surprise!).

Will Most Likely be enjoyed by:

18-50 year olds (anywhere on a spectrum of Mildly Stylish thru and including Tragically Hip & Techno Savvy) who will no doubt find themselves pictured in the descriptions, much to their [combined] amusement and chagrin.

Could be improved by:

Realizing many of the 12 varieties of hipsters, who are the likely target audience, won’t have the attention span to read the whole thing.

Recommendation 1: Tweet a version of the book, in a series.

Recommendation 2: Write a “translation” for non-hipsters. Possibly include an emerald green decoder ring.

One surprising find:

Mark Driscoll is practically pigeon-holed as a semi-pervert, “frat-boy testosterone” laden, misogynist who’s hanging on to his election by some sort of  tiny, irresistible thread, but doing well at really just not getting it.

(Which makes it all so HiLarIOuS!)

It may be that I’m too cynical, but my unsolicited guess for his strange hyper-masculinity syndrome involves the preventative tactic that goes something like: “I’m so very manly, so please, don’t think I’m gay..because, of course, that would be extremely ridiculous, and, duh, of course, I’m total %110 NOT even a smidgen gay, or even homosexual, nor do I like to gaze at really burly men who workout in tight clothing, who drive even guys crazy…so we hope our scantily clad wife at home can ease that sort of burden after for me, I mean, other hot looking guys, who are NOT like me, when we, er…they work out.” Not that any of us have witnessed this, from pro-wrestlers, or firefighters, or policemen, or interior decorators, or hairdressers, or rodeo cowboys, or anything. [For that brand of insecure men, maybe it only takes 1 weird or ambiguous camping trip experience, or communal shower situation, to instigate this sort of overcompensation…Right, guys?]

But,  hey, what do I know?

Did I find out I that was a hipster?

Yes, a bit more than I liked, but not as much as I feared.

Publishers Weekly said:

Being hip is about valuing independence, freedom, and reinvention. But when evangelical Christian culture adopts hip’s rebellious nature, what happens to the message of the institutional church? In his book debut, magazine editor McCracken steps outside of his own hip subculture to question whether the quest to be hip is “turning Christianity into a shape-shifting chameleon with ever-diminishing ecclesiological confidence and cultural legitimacy.” This critical analysis reads like a sociological study aimed at evaluating a demographic segment of churchgoers. From the Jesus People of the 1960s to the Missional Church movement of today, McCracken demonstrates how hip came to collide with the values of the church. By bowing to trends in order to reach youth, Christianity may be sacrificing content and authenticity. McCracken’s analysis isn’t wholly scientific and unbiased; with lists like the “12 common types of hipsters” and an appreciation of pop culture, he may unintentionally fuel the very subculture he’s attempting to question. Yet his “gut check” offers a much needed perspective that will make Christian leaders question the direction of their postmodern undertakings. McCracken successfully sets the stage for an important debate.
Copyright
© Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

(link to amazon)

Faux-hipster summary:

It’s not lame. It’s cool. You may feel like you’re a dork after he exposes you for your hipster ways–SNAP. But yet, HC transcends cool, and that’s really what we all should want, dude.

Potential ramifications:

By reading it you may realize it’s the Unforgivable sin if one is labeled a hipster. That will be the “end of cool” as you’ve known it. Also it’s possible the multiverse could implode; or a black hole could suddenly suck in every Whole Foods before one can blow a clove-scented smoke ring. (BUT-If you’re gutsy you’ll take your chances anyway.)

If you’ve read the book, share your thoughts.

If you haven’t, ask your questions.

COMING SOON:

You’ll hear from Brett McCracken himself. He’ll be answering my (oh, so exclusive) questions, and you can leave questions for him to respond to.