Tag Archives: church

At Church Today: Mothers' Day Service & 2nd Timothy 3:16

Today at church, we celebrated Mother’s Day, with an interesting twist in the sermon.  I walked into church dreading the worst, a message about Osama Bin Laden and his demise, because last week that what I witnessed at work.

Thankfully, that did not happen. Instead a surprise came.  The pastor focused on 2nd Timothy 1:1-5, but the meat of his sermon came from verse 5 as well as 2nd Timothy 3:16.  In verse 5, the pastor noted, Paul says that he recognized that there was a faith that lived in Tim’s grandmother, and then in his mother Eunice and now Tim.  This passage emphasized the role of Jewish parents in the raising of their children in the stories of the Torah.  So, when one comes to 3:16, the pastor continued, the verse is not about a proof-text to defend inerrancy but describing how Jewish-Christian children were to be raised, in the context of the family.  That is why in verse 3:15 Paul is talking about Tim being weaned on God’s holy word from his days as an infant (see, children’s ministry is important).  Scripture is an instrument provided by God for the faithful to know the will of God, but that this knowledge cannot be understood apart from Christ Jesus, or community (our mother, the Church– as Clement of Alexandria would say).

Hard Knock Life (Church Anthem): The Christian Intellectual

I am not much of a Jay-Z fan, but in the late 90s, his Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem) was one of my fave tunes on the radio. Today, I had a conversation with a fellow blogger and the topic at hand was the tragedy of Christian anti-intellectualism. Now, this is not a post to bash this or that layperson who is uninterested in my or your fields of discipline; this post is a protest against those fellow Christians who are openly hostile to those of us as Christians who love God with our minds as well as our bodies and souls. I do not believe that this hostility is started by a hatred of religious scholarship per se, but it is a reaction against individuals who are involved in theological, biblical, and religious academic tasks. In other words, to put it bluntly, it is the religious studies scholar who is seen as threat to a churchly anti-intellectual’s religious life. It is just the presence of someone who asks the hard questions that causes the churchly anti-intellectual to behave in a negative manner, for that person seemingly wants the community to know that they have all of the answers. Michael Halcomb & Madeleine of ManM wrote post today, based on their real life encounters with churchly anti-intellectuals (churchly because I refuse to call those who despise the life of the mind Christian).

I know what it is like to be told to shut up during a Bible study, or to remain silent during Sunday school when perhaps I hear a statement that I know not to be true or contrary to what I have learned in my studies.  Yes, I have even laughed either during or after a worship service for hearing truth claims that I do not affirm. And Yes, I have encountered hostility about the content of my blog posts, especially the one promoting non-violence [yes, I know, glory be!].  Being a Christian thinker is a hard knock life, because the very community that nurtured you, the Church, has people who see you as a barrier between them and their Jeebus. On the other hand, to be openly Christian and an intellectual, the mainstream of academia does not take to kindly to persons who associate with the laity and the religious.  So, no high church communitarians, I will not be glorifying THE CHURCH as the end all and be all of the Christian intellectual task (why should I pay homage to a community that continues to marginalize myself and others like me who enjoy reading and debating?); and no to you, secular, mainstream naysayer, I will not disassociate myself with Layperson A & B or C just because they are not “enlightened” enough for you.

So, this re-hashed version of Jay-Z’s Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem) is for you, Christian thinkers who have experienced the pain and rejection distributed by churchly anti-intellectuals:

“From sittin in the library boppin
to reading some of the hottest ya’ll  ever seen
For droppin some of the hottest verses rap has ever heard
From the dope spot, so you won’t mock
fleein the churchly scene, you know me well
from nightmares of a lonely cell, my only hell
But since when y’all people know me to fail? Heck naw
Where all my peeps with the  fast lips, cheap shots
And if you with me, read a book and what-not
I’m from the school of the hard knocks, we must not
let outsiders violate our blocks, and my plot
let’s stick up fo’ others and split it fifty/fifty, uh-huh
Let’s help the po’ and stay real jiggy, uh-huh

(the children’s choir sings the hook):

It’s the hard knock life, for us
It’s the hard knock life, for us!!
Steada treated, we get tricked
Steada kisses, we get kicked
It’s the hard knock life, for us
It’s the hard knock life, for us!!
Steada treated, we get tricked
Steada kisses, we get kicked
It’s the hard knock life!!
.. It’s the hard knock life!!
……………. it’s the hard knock life!!

Enhanced by Zemanta

The Death of the Program Church…: A Guest Post by Pastor Brad McDowell

Rod: One of the very first friends I made at Brite Divinity School was Brad McDowell. Our conversations over the past five and a half years have been life transforming for me. One of my favorite things about Pastor Brad McDowell is his commitment to the faith. The following is a re-post from a facebook note of his, which I have his permission to copy on PJ:

Some folks get concerned that the church is dying. I think that’s a little egotistical to think that we humans could kill the church. We can hurt the church. We can maim the church. We can cry wolf so much that we become impotent. But not you, nor I, nor the Pope, nor the Southern Baptist Convention, nor Fred Phelps, nor any judicatory, nor any mega-church pastor can kill the church. God maintains control of the church. It’s God life that fuels the church, not ours.

I do believe the church is going through a metamorphosis, meaning that it is going through a death of sorts. The church as a whole is not dying. But the church we’ve all known is passing away. And a new church is about to emerge out of it. I’ve often talked about the Field of Dreams method of evangelism that the mainline church has used for the last fifty years. When trying to attract new members to a church, all you needed to know was “If you build it, they will come.” This meant that when it came to evangelism, we just got lazy. Our evangelism muscles have atrophied and when we don’t see as many people — especially young people — walking through our doors, we feel helpless to make any change.

There’s been a significant changing of the tide in how the culture around us views the church. We once had a designated seat next to all the staples of the local community: Mayor, Neighborhood Association President, and Pastor… The question when you met your neighbor was “Which church do you go to?” because church membership was a foregone conclusion. And now we would be bold even to ask “Do you go to church at all?”

I know a lot of folks that get frustrated by this new reality, which is to be expected. If you haven’t exercised for twenty years, put on 50 pounds and then someone asks you to run a mile, odds are you’ll be frustrated too. Or if you’ve had a butler to cook all your meals and a maid to clean the house for fifty years, and then all of a sudden you can’t afford them anymore and are asked to do all that work yourself again, odds are you’ll be frustrated too.

What I mean to say is that we enjoyed a certain luxury as the mainline church for the last fifty or so years. When you lose a luxury it is not injustice. It is not persecution. You can shuffle your feet and say “Woe is me” if you want to. But a luxury is not a “right.” And the only way to fulfill our mission as a church is to pull up our sleeves, get ready to get our hands dirty, get ready to go through the aches and soreness from exercising muscles we haven’t used in a long time, and get to work.

And I think if we choose to do that, we will discover a new life and vitality to our faith that will seem very unfamiliar and completely invigorating. We will be like Plato’s cave dwellers stepping out into the light that was casting the shadows – the only thing they had seen their entire lives. “So this is what it’s really like” we’ll say.

I believe that the church we know, that is passing away, is the program church. We have designed our church structure around programs: membership, outreach, education, worship (and then that pesky evangelism committee dangling off the side that doesn’t really seem to do much other than update the ad in the Yellow Pages). Schedule an event, invite people to come, host the event — this is the life of a church. Or this was the life of the church.

I believe the church that will emerge from this time of difficult transition is the relational church. Jesus’ expression of the greatest commandment was to love the Lord our God with all we have, and love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

The growing challenge in our media-saturated culture is how do we compete with the estimated 3,000 advertisements an average American sees on a daily basis? Option A is to try to compete. Put our ads of our own. Sell ourselves just as fervently, just as cleverly, as Wal-Mart and Nike and Coke and Old Spice and Geico and so on and so on and so on, ad nauseum. This is a tall task. And in investing so much of our resources and mental creativity, we run the very real risk of becoming like these companies in order to remain viable.

By why become a part of the noise when the gospel offers such a radical alternative? Option B is to be the church. Option B is to be something so radically different from everything else that is offered, that we cannot help but standout as something very strange, true, but also something authentic and unique. Option B is slow. Option B is hard work. Option B is loving God not just with our wallets, not just with our Sunday mornings, not just by squeezing him into my schedule between my workout and my 8am staff meeting. Option B is loving God with our whole selves. It’s loving other people until it hurts. I think I’m not the only one who senses a boundary in loving people. You can love them up to a point, and if you pass that point, it is socially unacceptable. Or at least weird. Option B is breaking down that barrier and loving them when they don’t deserve it. Loving them when it is not socially acceptable. Loving them to such an extent that most rational people would tell you you’re doing too much, you’ve gone too far. Option B is costly, and it is not safe.

But Option B, the only true option for the faithful church going forward, will establish a depth in relationships that will be something new even to the church right now, not to mention anybody who might witness how we do things. We will have people that know us better than our family members. We will have people that we can be completely vulnerable and honest with, instead of people that we are cordial with every Sunday. And because of this, we will know God more intimately, we will know God more deeply, and we will only want to know God more.

In the end, the question is not: will the church make it? God is in charge of the church. So long as God is alive and Christ has not returned, there will be a church. The real question is, what kind of church will thrive in the coming century. God is not going to abandon God’s people. The question is, what type of people is God going to use the most in the coming decades? The question is, are we ready to be that people

Brad McDowell is senior pastor at Ashland Terrace Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Nashville, Tennessee.

Enhanced by Zemanta