Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Precautions Necessary in Confronting Sin

Recently I've been spending some time in Galatians 6:1-5. In studying that text, I've been impressed afresh with the precautions suggested by Paul for those who enter into the process of restoring a sinning Christian. These precautions protect the one in sin, the one who seeks to restore, and the church.

The person who seeks to confront sin and restore a brother or sister must do so with three vital things in mind.

Gentleness. We are to restore an errant Christian with gentleness. Luther writes in his commentary on Galatians, …do not aggravate his grief, do not scold him, do not condemn him, but lift him up and gently restore his faith. If you see a brother despondent over a sin he has committed, run up to him, reach out your hand to him, comfort him with the Gospel and embrace him like a mother…

Humility. The person who seeks to restore another must recognize his own vulnerability. He must understand that he too is susceptible to sin. He must not be deceived by what Timothy George calls "the myth of self-sufficiency." Those who restore others are not a kind of elite spiritual "special ops" group with greater skills and strength than their fellow believers. They are made of the same stuff and vulnerable to falling.

Accountability. When we seek to hold others accountable we must not forget that we ourselves are accountable. Each of us must carry our own load on judgment day. God will not evaluate us in comparison to another but in comparison to His Word and His will. Just like those who enforce the law must not think they are above it, those who restore erring Christians must realize their own accountability to the same standard of truth.

Church discipline is essential to the health of the church. As J.L. Dagg said, "When discipline leaves a church, Christ goes with it." But if we fail to carry out discipline in the right way with the right attitude, we can do more harm than good.

Do Muslims Worship the God of Christianity?

Justin Taylor has written an excellent post on the issue of whether Christians and Muslims worship the true God. I heartily recommend it.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

CT Review of Willow Creek's Reveal

Christianity Today has an editorial on the Willow Creek publication Reveal in which they published some results of a self study on the spirituality of their church. CT is sympathetic to Willow Creek generally speaking. However, the editorial does communicate what I believe is a very important criticism. The editorial states,

The study's answer suggests a disturbingly low view of the church: It concludes that the dissatisfied need to realize that "much of the responsibility for their spiritual growth belongs to them" (emphasis in the original). And "We [at Willow] have to let people know early on in their journey that they need to look beyond the church to grow" (emphasis added).

But according to the apostle Paul, the church is where each one is given a gift "so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:12–13).

For Paul, solid spiritual growth cannot be found "beyond the church," but only in its midst. The study rightly says, "Our people need to learn to feed themselves through personal spiritual practices." Unfortunately, the study fails to hint that these spiritual disciplines are intrinsically grounded in the ongoing life of the church. This implicit dualism (between private and corporate spiritual growth) suggests something different from Paul's view that it is in the body of Christ that we are joined together to "grow up into him who is the Head" (Eph. 4:15).

HT: Between Two Worlds

Monday, February 25, 2008

Curious George (Barna) and the Church

Barna Research recently released some polling data on alternatives to the "conventional church." One excerpt from the article states...

Each of six alternatives was deemed by a most adults to be "a complete and biblically valid way for someone who does NOT participate in the services or activities of a conventional church to experience and express their faith in God." Those alternatives include engaging in faith activities at home, with one’s family (considered acceptable by 89% of adults); being active in a house church (75%); watching a religious television program (69%); listening to a religious radio broadcast (68%); attending a special ministry event, such as a concert or community service activity (68%); and participating in a marketplace ministry (54%).

In addition to these six alternatives, Barna reports that...

Smaller proportions of the public consider other alternatives to be complete and biblically valid ways of experiencing and expressing their faith in God. Those include interacting with a faith-oriented website (45%) and participating in live events via the Internet (42%).

With the possible exception of the "house church" I find all of these alternatives completely unsatisfactory as a substitute for involvement in the local church. Any of these activities are acceptable as opportunities for spiritual growth. But none of them can take the place of a local congregation in the life of a Christian. Let me suggest a few reasons why I believe this to be true.

The church is a place of relational mutuality, not personal isolation. How does one have koinonia while watching a religious broadcast or surfing the web? How do I pray for and with someone in "electric church?" How do I follow the command to bear the burdens of others in "electric church?"

The church is a place of mutual accountability, not personal anonymity. I can surf the web anonymously or go to a concert without any accountability. The church is a place where you have to rub shoulders with people and live together in accountability. I can avoid the corporate discipline of church life in "virtual church." How do I follow the leaders God has placed over me in "virtual church?" There are none. I run everything.

The church is a place of shared ministry, not personal preference. In "web church" or "my own personal spiritual activity church" I get whatever music I want. I get whatever preaching I want. I can pick and choose what ministries I support. In real church, I am one of many members who comprise one body where the members are interdependent and my personal preferences don't always dictate what happens. I depend on others and they depend on me. We harness our gifts and passions toward common goals established under the Spirit's direction.

In short, these alternatives to the conventional church are evidence of the "cafeteria style" mentality the church growth movement has produced among evangelicals. We go down the line and pick and choose what we want. I'll have a little gospel, some of my favorite music, I don't like that doctrine, etc. We season it to our taste and enjoy having it our way. This approach requires no humility, no love, none of the "one another" attitudes so prevalent in the New Testament.

Perhaps I'm cynical but I don't think it is any mistake that the article closes with some information about Barna's new book co-written with Frank Viola called Pagan Christianity. The book is written according to the report to...

...explain the origins of many common routines widely used in conventional churches, ranging from preaching to communion. The early Christians met almost exclusively in homes and had few of the trappings that characterize 21st-century churches and services. Many of the church habits in place today were not apostolic or biblical practices but are vestiges of pagan practices adopted by Christians in the third century or later.

It's really convenient that at the same time Barna and Viola are challenging some of the accepted practices of church life Barna issues his report about how many people are trying "alternatives" to the church. Just coincidence? Maybe. It appears that the church-trashing tendencies seen in Barna's previous book Revolution are intensified in this new book.

I am no pie-in-the-sky apologist for the church. I know she has her problems. I don't think everything about her is perfect now, though, thanks be to God, it will be one day. I am not suggesting that new and non-traditional methods are always wrong or that old and traditional methods are always right. However, I do think that biblical principles related to the church are important. It seems to me that George Barna is making a case that some things which have been biblically associated with what a church is are no longer valid. I have a problem with that.

I'll take the New Testament over polling data every time.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Pastor Oprah at It Again

Oprah Winfrey continues to promote her brand of nebulous spirituality with the Course of Miracles by Marianne Williamson. Through Oprah and Friends Radio and on her web site, Oprah provides daily lessons from the Course in Miracles. This course is a hodge-podge of new age ideas and psychobabble intended to help people move from a mere material perception of the world to a spiritual perception of it.

A cursory review of the daily lessons demonstrates the new age foundation upon which these lessons are built. Williamson encourages us to jettison our preconceived notions of reality by telling ourselves that all we see has no meaning (lesson 1). Later, we are then to tell ourselves that God is in everything we see - the table, the chair, the wastebasket, our body, etc. (lesson 29). People can change the world because it is a world of their own making (lesson 32).Your mind is part of God's mind (lesson 35) and it is God's mind with which you think (lesson 45).

Thanks to Pastor Oprah for making this kind of spiritual deception available to millions with her endorsement. This is in keeping with Oprah's eclectic approach to spiritual things. All roads lead to heaven. God is in everyone and everything. Get in touch with the spark of the divine inside yourself. Jesus is not the unique Son of God and only Savior of the world. He is one spiritual master among many who has found the path to enlightenment. The Bible is not the uniquely inspired Word of God. It is just one book of spiritual wisdom among many others.
Oprah is a nice lady. She does a lot of nice things for people. She gives a lot of stuff away. She helps the underprivileged. But she is doing a spiritual disservice to herself and the public by giving the impression that sincere spirituality of any form is pleasing to God.

Friday, February 22, 2008

NFL Changes Rules on Super Bowl for Churches

CT Liveblog reports that the NFL has now reversed an earlier decision to prohibit churches from showing the Super Bowl broadcast on big screens. This will be a welcome decision I'm sure. Super Bowl parties have become standard fare in churches across the country.

On one hand, I think this is great. Why shouldn't large groups be able to watch the Super Bowl together? I fail to see how such gatherings would be bad for the NFL or the viewing public. Surely sports bars shouldn't be the only places where lots of people are allowed to gather to watch the biggest NFL game each year.

On the other hand, I have been resistant to cancelling our Sunday evening service for the purpose of a Super Bowl party. This year we had several groups of people watching the game after church in different homes. We caught the second half. Call me old fashioned, but I have a problem with suspending the worship of God and the preaching of His Word to make room for a football game. I enjoy football. I watch it a lot during the season (especially college ball). But football is not important. The church is.

I'm glad our congregation will be able to watch the big game next year on a big screen if we choose to do so. But don't look for us to cancel our worship service to watch it. We aren't trying to say that football is evil or watching TV is evil. I guess it is just one way of making a statement that we don't want popular culture to set the agenda for our church.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Wake Up Call for the Church

David Wells posts this wake-up call for the church over at 9 Marks. For a review of the book Wells mentions (Pagan Christianity), go here.

As a side note, it seems with Barna's recent books, he is more and more influenced by what he finds in his polling data and less and less influenced by the Bible. Just my opinion.

Monday, February 18, 2008

What Is Essential?

I'm leading another round of our Welcome Class at Country Acres. Periodically we offer this class to those who are interested in becoming members or just finding out more about our church. In discussing our doctrinal distinctives, I quoted the often used phrase from Augustine, "In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things love." One of the men in the class asked, "What do you consider essential doctrine?" A worthy question indeed.

I found this quote from Richard Baxter in the context of his comments on 1 Corinthians 12:12. It is an interesting commentary on what is essential to Christianity. Remember as you read this comment that Baxter is using the word "catholic" to refer to the universal church made up of all true believers. He doesn't mean Roman Catholic.

In a few words, every man that doth heartily believe in God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, by a faith that worketh by love, is a true Christian. Or every one that taketh God for his only God, that is his Creator, Lord, Ruler, and felicity, or end, and Jesus Christ for his only Redeemer, that is, God and man; that hath fulfilled all righteousness, and given up himself to death on the cross in sacrifice for our sins, and hath purchased and promised us pardon, and grace, and everlasting life; and hath risen from the dead, ascended into heaven, where he is Lord of the church, and intercessor with the Father, whose laws we must obey, and who will come again at last to raise and judge the world, the righteous to everlasting life, and the rest to everlasting punishment: and that taketh the Holy Ghost for his Sanctifier, and believeth the Scriptures given by his inspiration, and sealed by his work, to be the certain word of God. This man is a true Christian, and a member of the catholic church; which will be manifested when he adjoineth a holy, sober and righteous life, using all known means and duties, especially baptism at first, the Lord’s-supper afterward, prayer, confession, praise, meditation, and hearing the word of God, with a desire to know more, that his obedience may be full: living under Christ’s ministers, and in communion of saints, denying himself, mortifying the flesh and world, living in charity and justice to man; he that doth this is a true Christian, and shall be saved, and therefore a member of the catholic church as invisible; and he that professeth all this, doth profess himself a true Christian, and if he null not that profession, is a member of the catholic church as visible. These things are plain, and in better days were thought sufficient.
Baxter was stating things that were considered basic to true Christianity during the Puritan era. How different this is to the postmodern minimalism so often espoused in some circles today. Baxter was trying to charitably state the essentials of Christianity so as to include only those things that were common to all true Christians, not just this or that sect. We would have to admit that his list is considerably more robust than the "everyone who loves Jesus" list so characteristic of modern evangelicalism. Was Baxter overstating the case? Or have we so understated it that nearly anything passes for true Christianity in our time?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Local Church Involvement Waning Among Evangelical Elite

D. Michael Lindsay has written an intriguing piece about the powerful evangelical elite and their decreasing involvment in local churches. Presidents, CEOs, athletes, and other high-profile evangelicals are largely unconnected to the local church. Lindsay provides an interesting and, in my opinion, sad glimpse into the world of the faith of the rich and famous.

Lindsay states, "Community is a virtue for most religious traditions, but evangelicals have excelled at it. Declining church commitment among these leaders, therefore, is ripping at the very fabric that has distinguished American evangelicalism."

He concludes by saying, "Organized religion is perhaps the one factor that could motivate people to bridge the gap between rich and poor, especially now as more of the faithful move into the halls of power. To turn the tide, clergy around the country must engage and draw in these leaders. Otherwise, affluent believers will continue to leave their congregations — and their fellow believers — behind in their ascent, creating a gated community of the soul."

Jesus Cosmetics and Cosmetic Jesus

A retailer in Singapore pulled controversial cosmetic products after Christians complained of being offended. The cosmetics featured pictures of Jesus and included lines like "Redeem your reputation and more" as well as "Looking Good for Jesus" and "Get Tight with Christ." Christians said that the products trivialized Christianity and Christ in particular.

I agree with the Christians in Singapore. This sort of thing does trivialize Jesus. Ironically, though many Christians in the USA would be offended by Jesus cosmetics, we seem less offended by a cosmetic Jesus. The cosmetic Jesus is a staple in many circles today. It is the Jesus who offers you "your best life now" without saying anything about sin or repentance. It is the Jesus who has a lot of how-to messages about marriage and parenting and career but says almost nothing about wrath or atonement. It is the non-offensive Jesus who cares more about your feelings than your eternal soul. It is the "icing on the cake" Jesus whose role is to add a dash of spirituality to an otherwise self-centered life. It is the Jesus who doesn't talk about taking up crosses, dying, suffering, holiness, mortifying sin, or other threatening messages.

People like the Cosmetic Jesus. He doesn't tamper with your life too much. He goes down easy. You can pretty much add him to whatever else you have going in your life without major adjustments. His role is to make you look good and feel good about yourself.

But that's just the problem with Cosmetic Jesus. He's cosmetic. Sure, he doesn't demand much and he doesn't make you uncomfortable. The problem is that just like his demands are shallow, so are his benefits. Cosmetic Jesus doesn't give deep and abiding joy. He doesn't provide real comfort when your child dies. He doesn't offer a solid foundation for life when crises or tragedies sweep into your life like an F5 tornado. Cosmetic Jesus flees when you get a cancer diagnosis. He dissipates like a morning mist when you lose your job. And when its time to die, forget it. Cosmetic Jesus doesn't like tough questions or tough times.

At the end of the day, Cosmetic Jesus is much more dangerous than Jesus Cosmetics. What we need is the real Jesus if we want real life and real answers. Don't settle for substitutes.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Must Read Reviews of Rob Bell's NOOMA Videos

Some of you have no doubt already found these reviews by Greg Gilbert over at Nine Marks. They are excellent reviews of Rob Bell's NOOMA video series. Bell has become somewhat of a celebrity through these videos and his national speaking tours. He is influencing many evangelicals, especially young ones. These reviews get at some meaty issues regarding not only the NOOMA videos, but by extension, the whole emerging approach to the gospel itself.

Thanks Nine Marks.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Concerning Announcements

In one of my pastoral daydreams, I imagined that Paul had penned a lost chapter of the First letter to the Corinthians. In this chapter, he was seeking to correct an announcement problem in the Corinthian church. My thoughts drifted. What would it say…Hmmmmmmm….

Chapter 17

Now concerning announcements, I do not want you to be ignorant brethren. When announcements are given, let there be only two or three and let them be given in order. Let the announcements be brief. Otherwise, those who are new worshipers and unschooled in the way of announcements, will they not say you are mad? It is better if announcements are written down and submitted to the church office so that the staff may make them. Are announcements more important than congregational singing or preaching? May it never be! Therefore, use your announcement time wisely and thus maintain a suitable balance in the service.

Let him who gives an announcement be careful lest he fall into temptation and a snare. Truly each one who gives an announcement considers his information to be holy. When giving his announcement, a spirit of rambling may overtake him and he may begin speaking in an unnecessary tongue. Let every man who makes an announcement pray that his announcement may be brief and to the point. Such announcements are edifying to the church.

Earnestly desire such announcements, but especially that you may read the bulletin. Announcements are of some value but the bulletin is greater. For now we announce in part and we know in part. But the bulletin gives full and detailed information so that your knowledge of ministry happenings may be complete. One who makes an announcement edifies a particular ministry. But the bulletin edifies the whole church. So then my brethren, listen to the announcements but do not neglect the bulletin.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Critical Connection between Community and Communion

We are in the midst of a series of sermons on community at our church. In preparing to preach this week at our monthly communion service, I was struck by the unbreakable relationship between community and communion in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34. In this passage, Paul has some hard things to say to the Corinthian church about their communion services.

He tells them that when they come together, it is not for the better but for the worse. The specific reason is that there are schisms in the church evidenced by the mistreatment of the poorer members by the more affluent members. When they came together for a meal and the Lord's Supper, those who had food and drink indulged themselves while those who had nothing to bring sat on the sidelines and watched. As part of this gathering, the church was supposedly eating the Lord's Supper. Paul tells them unequivocally that it was not the Lord's Supper they ate but their own.

This behavior was characterized by Paul as "despising the church of God" and "shaming" their Christian brothers and sisters. By their mistreatment of others in the church, they demonstrated that they viewed the church of little worth. In addition, Paul characterizes such behavior as a failure to discern the body of Christ. In other words, they were either missing or ignoring the fact that the Lord's Supper is not only a picture of Christ's sacrifice but also a reminder of what that sacrifice purchased - a covenant community of believers. In 1 Corinthians 10 Paul said that the one loaf is a reminder that we are one body.

How serious was this failure? According to Paul, some of the Corinthians were sick and others had died under the disciplinary judgment of God. When they partook of communion with so little concern for the oneness of the church, they were eating and drinking judgment upon themselves. This was dead serious.

Paul exhorted them to examine themselves in order to avoid participating in the Lord's Supper in an unworthy manner. The unworthy manner refers to their sorry treatment of one another which was evidence that they did not take seriously the implications of the supper. By taking the time to examine themselves they would avoid God's discipline upon them.

Studying this passage again has opened my eyes to a much broader horizon of what it means to examine my heart in preparation for communion. I have often confined that examination to the idea of having a proper understanding of the elements and what they represent. But the issues are much deeper. It is quite possible for someone to have a precise and correct theological understanding of the meaning of the supper and still partake of it unworthily. If our attitudes and actions demonstrate a lack of love and value for our brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to repent lest we mock the meaning of the Lord's Supper.

Communion must always have an element of community. When we partake of the Lord's Supper, we are reminding ourselves not just that He died for me but He died for us. The body broken for me was broken for all my fellow believers. The blood poured out for me was poured out for all who rest in Christ by faith. To treat that community with contempt is to violate the sanctity of the Lord's Supper and to place myself in danger of God's discipline.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Why Rick Warren is Right...and Wrong

Rick Warren is promoting a new reformation among evangelicals. This article gives a brief summary of what Warren means by that. This is not something to ignore because Rick Warren is, like it or not, one of the most influential evangelical leaders today. His Purpose Driven books and church network have had an indellible impact on the evangelical landscape. Of course, popularity doesn't mean he's right. I'm just stating an indisputable fact. He is an extremely influential voice in American evangelicalism at present.

Warren's new reformation among evangelicals is, by his description, "about deeds not creeds." This second reformation is focused on doing good in the world. Some of the items on Warren's reformation agenda are things like fighting AIDS, assisting the poor, educating the underprivileged, and equipping leaders in the community. In addition, Warren wants to restore civility to our public discourse. He desires to see evangelicals broaden their agenda to include these issues beyond the narrow focus of the perennial moral crusades against abortion and homosexuality.

I agree with Rick on one level. I do believe that the Christian faith has implications beyond the traditional agenda of the religious right. Of course we want to end abortion. We also want to clearly define marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman. These are critical issues. But Jesus did talk about helping the poor. Jesus did talk about clothing the naked and visiting the sick and ministering to those in prison. Many evangelicals (myself included) often ignore these issues because they do not provide the political traction we desire. I applaud Rick for helping our movement to see that we should not allow political interests, even on the right, to completely define us. I applaud Rick for his emphasis on how the church will be the primary player in addressing these social woes instead of government. I think he is onto something here.

However, I believe Rick has made a mistake in creating a divide between what he calls deeds and creeds. This statement is typical of the postmodern polarization between orthodoxy (right belief) and orthopraxy (right practice). Though Warren would probably say he intends no such cleavage between the two, his "deeds not creeds" motto suggests that what we do is more important than what we believe. He was quoted in the article as saying, "I don't care why you do good as long as you do good."

This kind of thinking leads to some confusing and potentially dangerous conclusions. Evangelicalism has historically emphasized practice flowing from theology. In other words, what you believe influences and motivates how you live. The trend to separate our deeds from our creeds gives the idea that as long as you do good, it doesn't matter what you believe. It gives the idea that God is concerned about what you do, not what you believe. Again, I know Rick wouldn't say that. But the "deeds vs. creeds" language gives that impression.

The article quotes Warren as saying, "People are so worried churches are going to be about conversion," he said, "but everyone has a motive. Everyone has a world view. Christianity is a world view. . . . I don't care why you do good as long as you do good." Aren't churches about conversion? Don't we care why someone does good? I think so. Historic evangelicalism has insisted that good works flow from a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. What we believe (creed) leads to a surrender of our lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in saving faith (conversion). From this new relationship flows a new life (deeds) of good works. Our motivation for doing good does matter. If we are doing good to secure acceptance with God, it is a vain attempt at salvation by merit which leads to eternal damnation. If we are doing good because we have been given a new heart by faith in Jesus Christ, then it is pleasing to God.

In other words, if you believe the wrong things about yourself, the world, God, Jesus Christ, salvation, etc. then your deeds, however noble, will not be pleasing to God. The truth is that two people could be doing the exact same deeds but with vastly different results. One person who is not a believer in Christ could be doing good things for self-promotion or even as a way of gaining favor with God. These deeds rather than pleasing God would be actually contributing to the spiritual lostness and judgment of the person. Another person who is a Christian could do the same deeds with the result that God was pleased because the deeds were done out of love for God and fellow man and for the glory of God alone. What is the difference? The creed from which these deeds flowed.

So then, yes, by all means, we evangelicals need to engage in a broader agenda of issues for the blessing of our world. We need to escape the tunnel vision that our affluence and isolation have created for us. However, we must do this precisely because of what we believe about the gospel and God's purposes for the church. Rather than a subtle disconnect between theology and practice, we need a robust emphasis on sound biblical theology that leads to loving, Christ-honoring practice.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

An Important Reminder for American Christians

Today is the much anticipated Super Tuesday when Americans will be casting their votes in primary elections across our nation. There has been a great deal of media attention given to the role of religion in this race. One of the candidates is a Baptist preacher. This day ought to remind us that regardless of your religious or political persuasion, we live in a nation where there is freedom to voice your opinion and vote your conscience.

It is not that way in many places in our world. This article about religious oppression in Pakistan is a stark reminder that some of our brethren are living in places where openly practicing their faith leads to persecution and even death. Imagine what it would be like to be paid less for the same work just because you are a Christian. Imagine being ripped from your family and thrown into jail because you are a Christian. Imagine walking down your street feeling like an outcast with no opportunity because you follow Jesus Christ. For many of our brothers and sisters, this is not imaginary. It is everyday life.

This article also reminded me that religions have consequences. They produce certain kinds of societies. Some produce open and just socieities. Others produce closed and oppressive societies. Christian values have produced a society in America which allows those very foundational values to be embraced and defended or questioned and denied without fear of persecution. We should all be grateful that God in His providence has established and sustained our great nation. At the same time, we must never take our freedoms for granted.

Let us pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters. Let us pray for the light of the gospel of Jesus to shine in the dark places where oppression reigns. Let us also pray that our nation will continue to be a free nation where one may believe or not believe according to their own conscience.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Church Growth Movie

This video is posted over at Old Truth. I can't remember if I've ever linked to it before. I watched it again the other day and it reminded me afresh of the difference between God-centered, God-honoring growth in the church and mere worldliness. It's worth a look.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Franchise Churches - The Wave of the Future?

Read this post over at Out of Ur. It raises some interesting and admittedly frightening issues about the fruit of the church growth movement.

Are churches really franchises? Are pastors really owner/operators? Perhaps this kind of language is the inevitable outcome of a church growth philosophy that has been enamored with the Fortune 500 for decades. Is this really a better model for God's people than a shepherd and a flock?

I have heard some good things about the "mother church" mentioned in the post above. I know it is an evangelical church which has experienced tremendous growth. I know the pastor is well-respected. I assume they understand and are committed to the gospel essentials of evangelical theology. With that said, I still can't help but react to the pre-packaged, sterile, corporate model envisioned in the post referenced above.

Will McChurches preach a McGospel and produce McConverts? I think that our infatuation with numbers may have skewed our ecclesiology a bit. When I read about this I got the same sinking feeling I felt when I saw that a sister church in our community renamed their sanctuary the "megaplex."

I don't doubt for a minute the zeal of these churches to reach people with the gospel. I don't doubt their sincere desire to please the Lord. Obviously, their model has been successful by the standards of the church growth movement. I just think that sometimes our zeal to "grow" and "expand" our ministries clouds our thinking and makes it easier for us to adopt ministry paradigms that are more reflective of corporate America than apostolic teaching.

For Those with a Sense of Humor

And now for something completely different...

Look here

and here

and here.

Celebrity Theologians

Christine Rosen has written an interesting piece in the Wall Street Journal about some projects involving celebrities expounding on matters of Scripture and faith. In one of the projects called Revelations: Personal Responses to the Books of the Bible, readers are treated to the insights of U2 rocker Bono on the Psalms. Bono informs us that David performing for Saul was like the Spice Girls performing for Prince Charles. He also tells us that "David was a star" and the "Elvis of the Bible." Another project called Do You Believe?: Conversations on God and Religion gives us Jane Fonda's insight that Jesus was the first feminist, early Christians were seekers not believers, and that her faith is not about religious traditions or dogmas but a spiritual experience. How nice.

I rather appreciated Ms. Rosen's concluding paragraph:

Perhaps the entire project is a category error. We already tolerate the tedious and often ill-informed opinions of celebrities who feel obliged to enlighten us on matters of foreign policy and domestic politics. The conceit of "Revelations" and "Do You Believe?" is that celebrities' personal feelings about the Bible have something important to teach us about faith. It turns out that, although celebrities enjoy a certain cultural pre-eminence, they have yet to corner the market on spiritual insight.