Friday, December 7, 2007

The "Blight" of Postmodernity

It seems that from every conservative, evangelical corner, there is one clarion call: postmodernism is bad for Christianity. This postmodern world does not hold to absolute truth; it questions everything, including all we hold dear. Unless the blight of postmodernism is stemmed, our faith may be lost. Really?

Admittedly, I'm not an expert in postmodernity. In fact, I don't know much about it. But I won't let that stop me from making a few observations. These aren't complete (they may not even be correct!), so I may give this another go later.

My thesis: what we call postmodernism may be the best thing that's happened to Christianity. Here's why...
  1. It is forcing us to get back to what it means to be witnesses in the world. For too long, we have relied on mass evangelism, gospel tracts, and canned presentations to share the good news. Now, I'm not knocking mass evangelism, but I am knocking gospel tracts and canned presentations. They turn far more people away than they positively affect. Postmodernism is forcing us to examine what Jesus did and what the New Testament teaches as it concerns sharing the gospel. And that has to be a wonderful thing. We are now seeing that, to be a witness, we have to first earn trust. Maybe that takes a while, maybe it comes quickly - circumstances will dictate that. Postmodernism is forcing us to serve, bless, and heal those around us because we have spent far too long asking something from people rather than giving to them. And as a result, our reputation with them stinks. We are being forced to see people as people, not as spiritual scalps.
  2. Questioning is not a bad thing. We have entire generations who have accepted the facts of Christianity, but may not have accepted the Truth of Christianity. That's why Billy Graham says that at least 50% our church members are not saved. The facts of Christianity are the virgin birth of Jesus, His atoning, sacrificial, substitutionary death, His bodily resurrection, and His soon return. Those are the facts. Many hold to them. But the Truth of Christianity is Jesus - following Him, letting Him shape you, believing He is who He says He is and can do what He says He can do to the point that it changes you. What I'm saying is this: there must be a time where your faith moves from a mere body of facts that you give mental assent to and becomes sum and substance of who you are. It's not your parent's faith or your youth pastor's faith or your spouse's faith - you have owned it because you have internalied it. Postmodernism is forcing us to examine what Scripture says it means to be saved. That's a good deal. And BTW, why are we afraid of questioning? Are we unsure of the Truth of what we believe?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

We need a little Christmas

My wife and I went to our local community college's Christmas concert last night - choir and orchestra. It was really good...lots of talent. The choir did a medley of Christmas songs, among them "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas" and "We need a little Christmas". I really like those songs - catchy tunes.

So anyway, as they sang "We need a little Christmas", the thought that's been running around in my head for years resurfaces. You see, I agree that we need a little Christmas. But the question is, "Whose Christmas?"

Main Street tells us that a "little Christmas" is buying your family more than they need and more than you can afford, then buying presents for extended family - presents they will regift at the next party they go to, and then buying gifts for your office. I don't need that "little Christmas.

Hallmark tells us that a "little Christmas" is a huge family, all dressed to the nines, sitting around a roaring fireplace, sipping cider, a mammoth tree decorated by Martha Stewart surrounded by amazingly wrapped presents in the background, smells of a meal cooked by Rachel Ray wafting through the room, and all looking out a huge picture window as snow falls on the horse-drawn carriage. Now, I could stand a bit of that "little Christmas", but come on, that is as unrealistic as the Baylor Bears in a bowl game.

From the more "spiritual" and charitable among us, we hear that Christmas is a time for peace, or that it's a time to buy toys for kids who won't get any, or that it's the time to volunteer at a soup kitchen, or to invite a lonely family over for Christmas dinner. I think that's getting closer to the correct idea of a "little Christmas", but why are those things just a once-a-year deal?

So here's the thought running around in my head. A "little Christmas" must be tied to the original one. You remember, right? Simple. Smelly. An unwed teenage mother. A birth among sheep dung (this is a family blog), flies from cows, and dirty hay. A feed trough that doubles as a crib. Shepherds who were told far more than they could grasp. And a baby. THE baby. Not, "Awwww, isn't he cute? He's got his mother's eyes. How much did he weigh? Aren't those dimples just precious? Can I hold him?" No, not that at all.

It's like this. Awe. Staggering, mind-numbing, speechless awe. God. God not just as a man, but God as a baby. The infinite becomes as infant. The omnipotent becomes breakable. When you do speak, you break out in praise. It's all you can do.

No wonder Mary "pondered those things in her heart." So should we. We need a little Christmas.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

What does God "hear"?

First, thanks to all of you who have asked me to blog. Not sure why you want that, but nonetheless I appreciate your interest. Seriously.

I've got a question that I need help with, but let me tell a story that will give you the context. Last week, I got a call fairly late at night from somebody who had visited our church. This person had a daughter in the hospital who was dying, and wanted me to come by. I did. I found out this person was an adherent of a non-Christian cult (they believe Jesus was created, thus is inferior to God and clearly, not God; they also believe that Jesus did not bodily rise from the dead), as were most of the family. There were at least 2 clergy at the hospital from that religion, and they all prayed for the girl. I also know that there was a huge prayer chain from that religion that sought God's intervention.

I prayed with the girl's father, I called my wife to call our prayer chain, and the next day I asked my email list to pray. Well...the girl recovered, miraculously in my estimation. I heard the doctor tell the family she had an hour to live, maybe 3-4 at the most. The girl survived the night and began a rapid recovery from unstoppable bleeding and from being without oxygen for several minutes. Again, methinks a genuine miracle.

So here's my question...Did God hear the prayers of the non-Christian cult? Does God hear the prayers of non-believers? I'm confident God heard my prayers, and the prayers of many of our people, because we see Jesus as our Great High Priest and because we understand at least a little of James 5.16. But what about the prayers of the non-Christian cult? I'm listening.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

What do we do?

We are called to reach the world that does not know Jesus. It's our mandate, our commission, our reason for existence. Yes, I fully agree that we live to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. But He made it crystal clear that to do that we must engage pre-Christians with the Good News. At our church, we feel that the best way to do that is to serve, bless, and heal in order to build bridges.

We need to be honest...pre-Christians seldom come to our worship services. Surely, all churches have more than enough folks who have been inoculated with a form of Christianity - they have been baptized, sprinkled, confirmed, prayed with, prayed for, they joined a church, whatever - but they are not followers of Jesus. And we have a serious, too-oft ignored obligation to present them with truth. Yet still, we have few "seekers" come to our worship services.

So...what do we do? Format our worship services to attract them? Well, almost everything has been tried with only a modicum of success. We've changed music, done small groups, shown videos - all with little to show for it. Don't get me wrong: I'm all for varying musical styles, all for small groups, all for different venues of proclaiming the word - but worship services are primarily for those who already follow Christ! To think that we can somehow format a worship service to attract pre-Christians is to use 1950's thinking. It may have worked then, but it does not work now! We have ridden a dead horse long enough. Paraphrasing Rick Davis, "If you'll get off the dead horse, you'll get where you're going faster and it won't smell as bad."

Most churches are 50 years behind, more likely 2000 years behind. E.g., Jesus went to where lost people were! And where He went, He served, blessed, and healed. Reckon what we ought to do?

I don't have the answers. Instead, I've got questions...Where do we find them? How do we bless them? How do we serve them? We better ask (God), and we better get busy. Can you help me?

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Serving, Blessing, and Healing

One of the core values at the church where I pastor is that we follow the model of Jesus as we relate to the world...we serve, bless, and heal.

Each year, like so many cities in the south, we have a fair. Ours runs 9 days, and attracts 200,000 visitors - almost the population of the county. For years, I wondered what we could do to reach some of these folks. God showed us something last year, and we did it again this year.

We rent booth space (it ain't cheap) and we give away stuff! This year, we are giving away a 32" LCD HDTV, an XBox, a BBQ grill, some homemade pen and pencil sets, and various other prizes. There is no catch, no cost, no information required (other than the person's name), and no strings attached. We just ask people to give us their name, for verification purposes in case they win. We don't contact them; they contact us via our website to see if they won a prize.

After they sign up, we ask if there is anything we can pray for them about. Most of the time, people say "yes." We ask if we can pray on the spot, and most allow us to. We don't try to shove tracts or church literature at them, but we do try to see if God is working in their lives. If we sense that, we pursue that as far we it goes.

Most people are skeptical. They think there must be some "bait and switch" going on. They think we will put them on some mailing list or proselytize them or otherwise hound them. They are wrong. But yet, we see many who will walk around us when they realize that we are a church, not stopping to see that this is nothing more than a way to bless a few folks with some neat stuff...and prayer.

Why is that? Because the church has such a rotten reputation with pre-Christians. We have so long ignored them or used them that they cannot fathom that a church just wants to bless, to give (as opposed to asking), to strings attached. We're trying to make headway. We're trying to build bridges. We're blessing, serving, and healing. Are you?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

William Tell Overture

A tribute to all moms. Enjoy!

Truth and Wisdom

When I began to blog again, I said I would not self-limit the parameters. Thus, a little Bible study today...

Our church is going through a study by Anne Graham Lotz called I Saw the Lord. It's good, pointed, convicting, challenging. In last week's lessons, Psalm 51 was used. I've read Psalm 51 a hundred times, maybe more, but I saw something this time that really opened my eyes.

One of the things I remember learning in seminary was that Hebrew poetry contains many couplets - a compound sentence that expresses the same idea in two ways. E.g., "It's a clear day; the sun is shining." Basically the same thing, expressed in different words. In any case, in Psalm 51.6, David says to God, "Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place." (NIV). It's a couplet - the same thought expressed in different words.

So I was struck with the thought (God, I believe) that if this is a couplet, then there is a symbiotic relationship between truth and wisdom. I thought more...
  1. If you have truth, you will have wisdom.
  2. If you have true wisdom, you know the truth.
  3. If you hide the truth (deception), you do not have wisdom and will thus make stupid decisions.
I shared this with my wife. She began to meditate on this and last night told me this: King David hid the truth (the whole Bathsheba thing) until Nathan confronted him. He then confessed, wrote Psalm 51, and spent a season of grieving over sin. The moral of the story: David hid the truth about Bathsheba, and thus made stupid choices about Uriah. But that's not the end of the story.

Bathsheba and David have another child - after David admits the truth. You know him - Solomon. And he's known as the wisest man in history. Coincidence? I think not! There is an unbreakable relationship between truth and wisdom! If we will live in God's truth, we will operate in God's wisdom. If we suppress the truth, stupid decisions are just around the corner.