Category Archives: Ecclesiology

Ecclesiology is the study of doctrine pertaining to the Church itself as a community or organic entity, and with the understanding of what the “church” is — ie., its role in salvation, its origin, its relationship to the historical Christ, its discipline, its destiny (see Eschatology) and its leadership. It is, therefore, the study of the Church as a thing in itself, and of the Church’s self-understanding of its mission and role.

Diehard is a Christmas Movie

So @EdStetzer has been saying Diehard is not a Christmas movie… and after enough argument, he put a poll together to see folks thoughts. While the poll isn’t over, the results so far are interesting.

Poll on whether DieHard is a Christmas Movie or not. It is a Christmas movie by 63% when this image was captured.





I always considered it a Christmas movie, mostly because of Run DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis”. Since I was such a fan of the tune, I’d get raised eyebrows from my late wife, albeit we both enjoyed the Die Hard movie itself.

Granted, outside of the music, and maybe the decorations, I’ve often thought Die Hard to be an escapism sort of movie, similar to the Hallmark movies etc. It doesn’t deal with hardcore themes, its merely extreme escapist fantasy… At least that’s what I thought until I came across “Why you are Dead Wrong About Die Hard… and Christmas”

Some interesting commentary from the author @Bert_Fulks 
“All over the world, Christians celebrate Christmas as the day of Jesus’s birth.  The very foundation of Christianity proclaims that Jesus came to set the captives free from evil (Luke 4:18); to fulfill the Law (Matthew 5:17); and to offer himself as the groom who risks everything to rescue the bride (a biblical metaphor for restoring mankind’s relationship to God after Satan severed that connection)

If you’re a diehard Die Hard fan, you already see where we’re heading, because it should be obvious.

Its a really cool post, and the themes he pulls out of there are mind blowing… including a reference to CS Lewis. Its a must read!

And that’s the thing… so much of Christianity is boxed into the scriptures that we don’t make the connections to the obvious, even when they are right in front of us. This one really caught me off guard.  I’ve got a lot more understanding towards the folks who missed the obvious in this.

Claremont UMC Nativity



I wish I had an idea how to address the aforementioned disconnects.


Dwelling in the Word, My listening skills suck #walklovedo

I’ve never been a fan of the spiritual exercise “dwelling in the word” for a couple reasons. The primary reason for me, is that I generally need time to ponder and reflect and a few minutes doesn’t provide time for this. The second issue which spins out of the high speed nature of such a practice, is that outcomes tends to lean towards the superficial side of things which made me doubt whether it was worth doing at all. After running the exercise through 3 times over the weekend on a single bit of scripture during #lovewalkdo, I’m rethinking this.

In a nutshell, “dwelling in the word” consists of

  • Hearing a short bit of scripture in a group, followed by a couple minutes for reflection
  • Pairing up with a reasonably friendly looking stranger to discuss said scripture for 4-5 minutes
  • Pairing up with a second set of folks, where each person presents what their partner originally shared for a couple minutes
  • Then as the set of 2 pairs, trying to discern what God might be saying for another couple minutes.

I believed one pitfall of this is that most of us have trouble with elevator speeches, and even more so are greatly challenged when it comes to creating an elevator speech on the fly based upon some scripture which one hasn’t had much time to ponder with. After this weekend, I’m don’t believe this is the mountain I was making it out to be. Rather it seems something that would become less and less of an issue the more one practices doing it.

Another pitfall is that one person will predominate… which is something I struggle with, but the practice in and of itself limits it due to time compression. One has to be concise and cut oneself off to ensure we are hearing what others are saying. Along this line of thinking, is that over-analyzers such as myself need to be careful not to get hung up on their own thoughts, such that the words of others get crowded out.

Over the 3 days, I heard the views of 9 other people during the process as well as presented 3 thoughts of my own. That is 12 different views. Out of those 12, I remember mine clear as a bell, as well as the thoughts of 6 others somewhat… but try as I might, I can’t remember the other 5 at all. Granted, their is an element of cominging going on with this which muddies the waters.

The scripture at the heart of #walklovedo was Micah 6:6-8

With what shall I come before the Lord
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Thus out of the 12 views shared:

  1. In Ethiopia people walked everywhere, including in the middle of highways.
  2. In the Ethiopian church, Christian education focused on rote memorization to an extreme. This was a requirement (It was freaky how my original partner and I had an Ethiopian slant to this)***
  3. Don’t remember
  4. Walking humbly can be considered walk prudently and confidence in our beliefs is part of this.
  5. The scriptures point out the failures of works based salvation, and how futile our sacrifices are.
  6. The first born sacrifice of parents due to bad theology when their kid comes out as gay and they disown him/her, their church disowns him/her, and the kid attempts suicide. ***
  7. Don’t remember
  8. Don’t remember
  9. That only the super wealthy could possibly be able to make such sacrifices. Ie, who could own thousands of rams or ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
  10. That burned up offerings turn to ash, and our bodies return to dust, but what we do matters, even though justice may take generations for change. “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice” MLK***
  11. Don’t remember
  12. Don’t remember exactly, but talked about errant Christian radio, and how despite heartburn, it is useful to listen so we are ready to respond.

Thus the listening failures for me tend to occur when the second set of views is added. In part, this could be do to that fact I’m not presenting their views to the group, and as such memory circuits are not engaged in a similar fashion. There is also an issue that comingling of ideas tends to occur more so at that stage than earlier. Over time and with practice, I would expect listening failure to become less of a factor.

In his book “Joining God, Remaking Church, Changing the World” Alan Roxburg describes dwelling in the word.

Dwelling in the Word is different from the practice of Bible study. In Bible study we analyze a passage in order to get at its basic meaning. Usually such analysis depends on study guides, commentaries, and teaching summaries. The goal is to get a clear understanding of what the text was intended to say and, sometimes, how to apply it to our lives … Dwelling in the Word is a different practice with different goals and therefore a different method. “Dwelling” suggests sitting before and living with. We bring ourselves and wait (or dwell) before the text in a spirit of receptivity. Dwelling is not driven by the need to get the text right, but by the desire to listen for how God might be addressing us. We might say Bible study is how we read the text; dwelling is letting the text read us.”

I think its a fascinating approach, but its also one where in a critical mass of willing parties is needed… and to get buy in by such a group, it truly needs to be experienced in a positive light. I never liked it in the past, nor did I see much value in it as it was a random thing we’d do on some Sundays and about all I could remember was how rushed and superficial it was. Light bulbs came this past weekend, as it was a daily practice with the same set of scriptures over a 3 day period with hundreds of folks from 74 different churches.

Could one get buy-in from folks attending the average 65 person church? Is it sustainable in a smaller church since one will eventually run out of “reasonably friendly looking strangers” Can it work successfully when its mostly lay persons as contrasted with sessions where in there was a 1:4 chance of having a pastor in said group?

Pondering Cohabitation

Pastor Bryan Carter preaches on cohabitation yesterday, and then has his church step up to the plate in a huge way. To say my mind was blown would have been a severe understatement.

Yesterday I preached on cohabitation and we invited cohabiting couples to accept the challenge of stepping into marriage. We paid one month’s rent for those who want to move out and will marry those who desire to get married with a free wedding - dress, tuxedo, rings. #church

It’s a really intense Gospel message both in word and in deed and its non-judgmental too.

its out of my scope of experience, being my late wife and I didn’t cohabitate before marriage, and we didn’t get around to living with each other until we’d been married for over a year… which isn’t such a good thing either, but it was what it was.

And I totally get that economic issues throw a wrench into the works, the same with the best laid plans. Back in the day, not living with your newly married spouse was pretty uncommon, in today’s world it seems most folks know at least a few couples who do. Back then, cohabitation before marriage was pretty common, I’d say maybe 50% of couples, vs in today’s world, its seems more like 95%. I remember some friends freaking out having to “hide” so as to not loose their church jobs… those sort of policies make me wonder if the cart is being put before the horse a bit.

Granted, I see a lot of young folks who are dating one month, and 2-3 months later are moving in together. And maybe it works for some, but for others, it seems a huge gamble to put a new relationship to such a test, where in if something goes sideways, it easily becomes a toxic trap without an exit strategy for one or both partners.  I think its super awesome that his church is stepping up to the plate and providing for an exit strategy in those situations.

Another issue which seems more and more common today, is that young and old have written off marriage, as a tradition of old, that no longer makes much sense. When I look out at the huge numbers of Christian’s getting divorced, or staying in toxic marriages / suffering abuses, to the point of poisoning their kids… it makes me wonder about this as well.

And yet, the scripture used in yesterday’s message was Hebrews 13:4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.

That’s a pretty high bar, and yet in my 21 years of marriage, I think of sanctification that came about as errant bits of our lives were worn away over time as the two of us became more and more one. I’m still trying to figure out how to do that as a widowed guy, but that’s far outside the scope of this post! Lol

I do wonder how marriage can be honored by all?

Sure,the obvious stuff like marriage partners not doing adultery, or cheating, or engage with prostitutes makes sense, but I think its equally as important to consider the non-obvious, not only for the marriage partners themselves, but for everyone of all life stages.

There are some church practices that dishonor marriage, such as shot gun weddings, as horrors, we can’t have scandal, so this couple has to get married now, even if they really aren’t in a position to fully consent to a life long commitment. Another dishonoring practice that some churches endorse is early marriage for young folks to avoid sexual sin… which then turns right back around years later with divorce and upended family dynamics which not only injures the partners, but also their kids. Lastly, I tend to think the body of Christ does a pretty poor job of teaching about the permanence of marriage vows, short of the obvious exclusions. Granted, when folks are in the midst of romantic love, they are exactly hearing things clearly…. but still there seems to be a sense of the temporary rather than permanence. I’ve sent a few young folks over to my caregiving is tougher than tough post… and they come back with, well that will never happen to us. Any my response is, you can’t predict it, hopefully it won’t, but your vows need to be strong enough to honor it should it happen.

A young friend of mine will celebrate his first year of ordination as a Catholic priest in a couple months. Prior to being ordained, he spent nearly a decade of intense study and discernment, as it is such a huge and life long commitment to enter the priesthood. And yet, when it comes to marriage, young folks spend 10x or more hours on wedding planning, than they do on premarital counseling… and unlike the priesthood where their are processes to step aside, the marriage vows, short of a few exclusions are for life.

And this is where things get strange. I’ve known a lot of cohabiting couples over the years, and many of them do get married. I think of my old friend Tom, who we’d bug on this periodically… he’d been living with his girlfriend for 10 years, they were together 5 years prior and had a couple kids. So every once in a while, Hey Tom, when you going to get married, and he about dropped us on the floor when he said, a “couple weekends ago”. The thing is, he and his wife totally got the lifetime aspects of the marriage vows, and they went in eyes fully opened. In a lot of ways, I think his marriage was a lot more holy than those who did everything right on the surface, but rushed through it without thinking a whole lot. Granted, it is hard to know the heart… which brings me back to the above church.

In the message notes, a number of myths and truths are presented. As some seem very foreign to my own experiences over the years, my guess is they are unique to the culture in that church and perhaps surrounding area. Ultimately though, we have the same scriptures to guide us.

Lastly, it seems the church sees premarital counseling as an integral part of the marriage process and as such require 12 weeks of it. My best guess is that couples are free to step out at anytime should they run into any insurmountable barriers and the church will be there to walk with them through it, or to provide an escape path away from it.

What an incredible witness to the Gospel!

Worship Preference, 24/7 Christianity, and Hospitality

I came across an interesting post entitled Extrovert bias or biblical imperative? and it got me thinking quite a bit. I tend to think of worship as a holy and sacred space… but at the same time balanced with the messiness of humanity. Ie, when I hear babies crying up a storm to the point where its hard to hear at times, I think cool, this is a sign of a healthy church… even if it means the scriptures or sermon get obscured at times. Otoh, I am very much against worship practices that seemingly exclude the sacred to embrace humanity, ie hugfests, love bombing, group therapy church growth models, etc.

What makes the article fascinating is its focus on the family… not in a Dobsonian way, but in a church family as a whole, as well as a nuclear family and how all could work together for the benefit of both. Since I view the body of Christ, as composing all Christians, past, present, and future, as well as geographically unlimited, this was an issue I had not thought very much about.

I think back to my younger days as a 20 something single guy, and how some families invited me into their homes. I think of how many times a group of us would cross denominational lines to help move a new pastor, or provide music, or just to celebrate Jesus despite our doctrinal differences. I think the author is spot on with her comments about biological families extending their reach reach and the richer fellowship that spins out of such.

The brings up some objections to her prior post, and I would be one to object to it. I don’t see worship as a social function, albeit part of it can be that, but rather that social functions are what the church, a local body of believers does as a result of worship, not what they do during worship. I don’t think its a black and white line to be crossed… but when worship gets decoupled from the sacred and holy to embrace humanity, warning bells go off. Admittedly I could be wrong in this, as the scriptures are less than clear, and we only have snap shots of the writings of the early church fathers.

Personal preference wise, I’d prefer to walk into church in silence, sit in the pew as prelude music starts, worship corporately via singing, the scriptures, the lord’s prayer, communion, followed by praying silently, and leave in silence during postlude music. The focus is totally on Jesus. The togetherness of a thousand folks singing Amazing Grace rocks, as does hearing the words of God in community, as does praying the lord’s prayer with a thousand others. Whether its hymns, chants, praise chorus, organ, or distorted guitar doesn’t matter much to me, albeit I do tend to prefer worship in a language I understand.

Scripture wise, we’ve got the 2 or 3 together thing, so that should be enough… but during my late wife’s illness, where we were Easter Christmas attenders and TV church the rest of the time… it falls short. Even the church of my youth with a hundred members fell short of the oneness and intimacy present within large assemblies.
But the above are worship preferences short of the 2 or 3 together thing.
And then there is how the church lives out its mission beyond the hour or two of worship on Sunday and/or Christian education programs. Does Jane allow church folks to use her guest bedroom, or Tom, his truck and tools on his days off work? Do they do this, knowing that Tom’s truck could be damaged, or that Jane’s husband could end up in the ER due to a drunken house guest? Do they continue to follow the sharing prescribed in Acts, even though bad things happen? This is where hospitality gets very real…. and its an amazing witness to the Gospel to see it lived out 24/7.
This 24/7 bit is where the one-body, one-family, one-people identity gets real. Its the service projects where folks come out of the woodwork where you get to know one another, much more deeply than 5-10 minutes of small talk pre or post worship. Its the small groups, where you start to understand where diverse folks are coming from, as contrasted as to what you might think on first meeting. Its the hanging out during the week, or being invited to someones home where you get to know someone, where the building up in the body of Christ occurs.
I needed corporate worship big time after my wife passed away. I did not need the hurtful words of well meaning but inept church folks. For a long time, I’d come late, and leave early just to avoid the headaches. I’d often attend daily mass at a Catholic church, even though I’m protestant.
And where does or should hospitality enter into the worship arena?
If I look to my personal preference when it comes to worship, there isn’t much room for hospitality, short of maybe running into a few stragglers after I finished praying in the pew. In many ways, my personal preferences would not be welcoming to newcomers at all. And if a single worship experience like that is all that a newcomer sees, its pretty likely they won’t be back. But, just as the dude who ran into the injured fellow alongside the road, worship preferences have to take a back seat at times.

But the pendulum can swing too far. Getting so wrapped up in hospitality / fire fighting with the problems of others pre-worship can and does lead to one being physically present in worship, but with their mind somewhere else.  In a few cases, worship may need to be sacrificed… consider a fellow parishoner who just got a cancer diagnoses and needs to talk. Walking on the other side of the road to protect ones own worship can leave them hung out to dry. Listening them to be a bit might well help them to hear the preaching of the word, even if it compromises ones own.


Worship Should Be Exceedingly Boring?

Is worship really just about entertainment / personal fullfillment? Certainly if one follows the style wars, such seems to be the case. Some are entertained, reach emotional highs, or find inner peace via the liturgy and an organ or chants, others find similar benefits via a folk, polka, or even a rock band…

Even the following from 8 reasons the worship industry is killing worship this AM points to the personal entertainment domain.

Just like good art, Christian worship demands our engagement. In a sense, worship should be exceedingly boring in that it doesn’t offer that over-stimulation that the masses crave. But to those who really give themselves in participation, it is more entertaining than the anything media (mainstream or Christian) can offer, because it offers something so radically alternative to fallen mundanity.

So, if we are looking to escape the mundane, change seems to be the answer, as over time, pretty much any form of worship is going to loose its grass is always greener over there appeal at some point. The thing is… worship isn’t just about us… its a lot bigger than that.
Somehow it seems discussions of worship devolve inwards rather than as a means of connecting to God and to the body of Christ as a whole. Certainly its a lot easier to engage in worship style wars, rather than to ponder the connections we share across a whole multitude of Christian churches, even those who are drastically different than us. Likewise, its easier to ponder painting an offshore church somewhere than it is to engage with and enter into fall cleanup tasks for a church or community center with declining and/or greying membership within a 50 mile radius… even more so if they hold to differing beliefs!

Imagine what might happen….

Thanks to for the image.

Image courtesy of

And yet, just because worship isn’t only about us, it doesn’t mean we should become gnostics and deny our anthropology. After all, we were created in the image of God… would He really approve of boredom in worship, even if we achieved all the other facets?

Likewise, service to others as a form or worship doesn’t mean we should deny our beliefs. Would God really approve hiding our light, or worse, selectively withholding our gifts to try and manipulate others into believing as we do? The body of Christ is pretty huge, I fully believe it can do this… I think the bigger question is to whether we are willing to go there.

Rose Colored Stained Glass Windows

I’ve been plowing through some of my old bass stuff, and came across Rose Colored Stain Glass Windows from back in the 80’s. It was especially cool back then, as a bunch of us were within inches of opening for Petra… but alas it was not to be. That being said, the music stayed with me over the years, this tune especially.

Its written from the standpoint of an church / belief system, where in they are so apart from the world with their white knuckle sin avoidance thing or related polity, that their light from within is so dimmed, that it doesn’t reach very far, if it does at all.

Looking through rose colored stained glass windows
Never allowing the world to come in
Seeing no evil and feeling no pain
Making the light as it come from within, so dim, so dim

On a church level, yep it can absolutely resonate if one is not careful.

Going a bit further, it easily reaches down to the individual level too. In the days immediately after my wife’s passing, lots of folks said, hey, come over and we can talk… ok cool, and it ends up I end up wearing the listeners hat, as there are a ton of hurting people out there. Under normal circumstances, this would be fine… but I had a ton of stuff to process myself. More than a few times it was like, egads, my grief is tough enough in and of itself, and now I’ve got a ton of others folks issues and concerns to deal with too.

Granted, I did hose myself in this boundary wise, as grief tends to seriously impair judgment and boundaries on all sides… so traditional coping mechanisms I’d used to deal with other folks pain didn’t work worth a hoot as my boundaries were shot to bits. Fortunately an amazing friend did lend an ear and walked with me as I processed the grief of my wife’s passing. On the one hand, its pretty freaky how quickly the clouds of grief left as concerned my late wife, on the other, the rose colored stained glass windows as concerns others shot up to the moon the first week couple weeks…

Obviously they can’t remain there for too long..

Out on your doorstep lay the masses in decay
Ignore them long enough, maybe, they’ll go away
When you have so much you think, you have so much to lose
You think you have no lack when you’re really destitute

Thus, the challenge, those rose colored stained glass windows are super comfortable, and one could argue that they do assist greatly with self care… but there is a point when they need to be taken down. I’ve had some fascinating super deep convo’s on walls, windows, vulnerability and boundaries this week… I’m about 30% of the way academically, but the big challenge will be reconstructing the boundaries within the construct of a new normal, whatever it is to be. I was starting the process back in early June, but alas that form of normal was not to be, so a new season of construction is in order. The rose colored stain glass windows remain.

Problems w Conservative Argument Against SSM….

A fellow from my aviation universe posted a seemingly very well thought out conservative argument against SSM. It was not meant to convince, but more so to help others understand his opposition to it. I have to give the author types a lot of credit, there was a lot of thought put into it, and unlike the hating types, these Christian aviation folks really seem to be trying to walk a Christlike path. It did receive a lot of praise, from the conservative crowd… but crickets from most everyone else.

The problem is the vastly different frames of reference… the appeals to the scriptures, the focus on love and the hope of the Gospels are shared by both camps. Likewise, the same scriptures used by those against SSM marriage, are also commonly used by those for same sex marriage…. and thus we have vastly different outcomes from mostly the same reference material.

Being Pastor Steve and I have spent way too much time arguing back and forth over the years on this very issue, I thought it would be worth shedding some light on things I discovered over the years.

The following factors are at play:

The weighting factors leading to approval or dismissal of higher criticism as concerns the 7 clobber texts (6 here, plus this one) plays a huge role. If all we had were today’s English translations, things would be pretty easy to sort out. Alas, even something as simple as reading the texts in the original languages sends a drastically different message, and that alone should raise the red flags. In addition, since we have a ton of Greek and Hebrew manuscripts and literature of that time period, even more of this shifts into a land of intense gray with higher criticism. There is no easy way to resolve this…

The perception of antinomianism (anti-law) is at the hands of both parties.  In the case against SSM, if one merely dismisses the 7 clobber texts without the use of higher criticism, such a charge seems quite reasonable… the proverbial, these scriptures are too hard to hear, so we won’t consider them is very much anti-law..

On the other hand, if one looks to Matthew 25 and the greatest commandments, follow by Jesus explicit statement that the law and the prophets hang from them… the argument against SSM ends up coming from the bottom up, rather than top down… and thus, we end up anti-law mode in reference to the greatest commandments. Consider how often Jesus worked on the Sabbath… which really was more important  big picture wise than adhering explicitly to the third commandment.

Both of the above antinomianism scenarios are very hard to understand by the opposing parties on the opposing side… I’m not quite sure how to get past this one either. Belinda suggested that looking at the scriptures as a whole vs proof texting might be a helpful route.

Another factor that plays off of this is the difference between complementarianism and egalitarianism in marriage as concerns consent. Within the construct of egalitarianism, consent plays a huge role, where as its downplayed a fair amount in complementarianism. While this difference plays out mostly in the haterz realm with straw man arguments (ie what next, marry your dog or pet fish), I’ve often seen a semblance of decreased focus on consent circling through specific sectors of the conservative domain… which often leads to errant assumptions that one is talking about the same thing, when in reality they are not. I think this is one of the easier things to process through such that both parties can understand.

Lastly, a somewhat over shadowing aspect is sanctity/disgust as defined in Haidt’s Moral Foundations Theory. I remember when a couple young gal friends of mine told me some years they were moving in with each other and starting a relationship. In my mind, the relationship was a most beautiful thing, but I also had some concerns about cohabitation aspect / the lack of church community support and preparation that would be available to them if they were not same gender. Even today, all these years later, I find the churches inaction in this domain bordering on negligence. No doubt it will change with time… but still, isn’t every relationship worth supporting? And there in lies a huge difference in the sanctity/disgust domain… many would not find such a relationship a beautiful thing, some might even find it borderline disgusting.

Despite all of the above seemingly impossible paths going forward, I came across the following from Brandon’s blog where he publishes an anonymous story of a young Catholic girl trying to process SCOTUS decision… there is much wisdom in the young. I think the next generation will do us proud in a variety of ways.

Ponderings on Radical Runaway

A very idealistic young fellow goes on an overseas mission and finds out things are not as expected in a huge and very abusive damaging way. A crisis of faith ensues. He comes home only to find his church isn’t exactly a shining star either….

Its easy to blame the victim, blame the idealism, blame the theology, blame the church… at the end there is healing, but there is much left in a land of grey too. Its probably hard for some folks to even consider, but for the grace of God go I thing applies tome.

5 Problems with Trying to Prove Your Radical Love of God

1. You Seek Our Your Own Suffering

2, You Constantly Feel Guilty

3. Theres no Room for Ordinary

4. Your Harder on Yourself and Everyone Around You

5. It Becomes All About What You Do

What he found out the very hard way….

It’s true, God doesn’t love us any less when we fail. But God doesn’t love us any more when we succeed, either.

The problem with trying to prove your radical love of God is that in trying to prove yours, you end up trying to earn his. Suddenly, your relationship with God becomes all about what you do, rather than what he has already done.

Jesus was the sacrifice to end all sacrifices, so there’s nothing more we need to do. If we were any good at being radical, there would be no need for Jesus. And that’s the whole point.

Jesus was radical so we wouldn’t have to be.

Seems like a message very similar to stuff from the late Rich Mullins. Here’s a deleted scene from the Raggamuffin film… the film was insanely long as it was, but this bit might have been just too hard for many to hear.

This is really nothing new… Luther wrote much the same in his commentary on Galatians way back when. Before that, even King Solomon pointed towards the same thing. My guess is one has to be in a fair bit of hurt at some point for grace to really hit home. Its far too easy a message to deflect as legalism can easily be pointed at some other guy.

Consider the “radical” type legalism Jonathan wrote about, folks think about it, but few follow through, so its not super common and the message doesn’t hit as hard as it probably might… Ie, many folks will say, I have no desire to “save the world” and they go one about their business, keeping this wisdom on hand for when they do come across a so called radical.

By the same token, Its easy to laugh at 1950’s legalism, ie, don’t smoke, dance, drink, don’t go to movies, don’t wear miniskirts as a relic of the past…. so this aspect of legalism doesn’t really hit home either.

However, if you want to get a contemporary firestorm rolling in some sectors, rather than legalism as we like to think of it, why not replace it with legalistic sexual ethics and marriage. Yep, I can hear the but but but but but type thing rolling in a huge way.

Jean Valjean, Stolen Cookies, and #chsocm

In Les Miserables, the main character Jean Valjean makes off with the churches silverware. He is caught, brought back to the church, where in the priest spins a tale that the silverware is a gift and admonishes him for forgetting to take the silver candlesticks as well. Such sets the stage for major change in Valjeans life.

Things are quite different at a church in Florida.

From the Palm Beach Post.

A homeless man stole cookies from a church in the 10700 block of Okeechobee Boulevard. A deputy found him sitting by the building’s entrance. He said he had been looking for assistance, pulled on a door and it opened. He helped himself to the cookies, but a cleaning person saw him and called 911. A church employee arrived at the scene and said the church would press charges. The man was arrested and taken to the county jail. The value of the cookies was $2.25.

Egads… what were they thinking? Talk about a negative witness to the Gospel. It made me wonder if they were some type of get rich quick type cult, or some entity which uses a bible with Jesus words removed or something… alas, no, they do have a statement of faith aligned with the southern baptist convention.

Something is way wrong somewhere in this… but then how many of us have given Jesus the bird by failing to act, or acting counter to the Gospels? Mistakes happen, even with the best of intentions. Perhaps the folks in charge had just finished double shifts and were not thinking? Perhaps the church had recently had its silver stolen, perhaps anything… and when you make quick decisions in the heat of the moment, the probability of blowing it ends up being pretty high.

In years past, the above would have been a non-event. The DA would have had a serious “you gotta be kidding” discussion with the church to get them to drop the charges, the kid would have spent some time in the grey bar hotel while it got sorted out, and short of the kid likely having a negative view of churches, that would be the end of it.

Alas, in today’s world, you never know what may go viral online. Granted, the Jean Valjean parallel, the anti-church views of many, and the mere insanity of it all set the stage for virality. The result is that the churches name is now mud. If you google it, the first link that comes up is negative google reviews, followed by news articles of their pettiness. In other words, the light of google lit up their darkness for all to see.

The scriptures state any sin keeps us from God, but unlike someone running off with the churches funds, or a pastor having an affair, (which are localized), chucking Matthew 25 to the wind combined with social media, shoots a massive hole in Christian witness everywhere. The outrage is huge, both among believers and non-believers…. I’ve seen comment counts running in the ten thousands.

But, there is an individual at the bottom of this… If for whatever reason they thought they were doing the right thing, is all this anger reasonable? Sure, I get the fact that a young homeless kid may end up with a record over cookies, and Christian witness is severely compromised… but what if that church individual was sincere, albeit misguided that this was actually the best way to go? Believers vary widely in their knowledge and application of scriptures, to say nothing about making huge errors in judgement from time to time. Is there any room for forgiveness for them?

Certainly if there was a  church apology, a dropping of charges, and true repentance including covering rehab for the kid, such would go a long way and could turn things around.

Thus, I went looking to see what I could see.

I started with one of the churches pastors sermons on vimeo. It was based on the scriptures where Daniel refused to eat the kings food… a little too much prosperity gospel and moral therapeutic theism leaning, (using Chikfila profitability and ATT to demo a point is a bit out there), but overall it was pretty decent, and being a Baptist church, they had sort of an altar call thingy. My elevator speech summary:

One needs to be bold, and to prepare yourself ahead of the time to walk with the scriptures, not default to the principles of the king. The scriptures do not reside in a vacuum, neither does your witness. A line needs to be drawn, are you bold enough to do it? Do you trust God enough to do the right thing, or do you default to the ways of the world? God shows himself strong throughout the world.

Some good words there… so I would think repentance would be forthcoming. They do have the worlds attention. Its entirely possible to turn this around.

Shortly there after, I found this

 “The young man appeared to be under the influence. Since he was wandering around the neighbourhood, the officer suggested the best course may be to press charges for the incident which would enter the young man into the system where he could find help.

“The church staff member agreed. Although our church partners with PBSO to provide hundreds of meals for needy families, this time we agreed with the officer’s suggestion that the young man needed more help than just a free meal. We have contacts with rehabilitation programs. We do refer individuals to such programs and in retrospect we might have done so with this individual.”

Egads… as expected, such a response just fanned the flames some more. They have since pulled their facebook page, as well as their staff and pastor page on their website. This is crisis mismanagement 101 type stuff… granted, I don’t expect the average church to have a PR guru on staff, but its not like things spun out of control overnight. The event occurred on July 24th, there was plenty of time to get the ducks in a row, fess up, make things right, and turn an ugly situation around… but no, they dug a deeper hole for themselves.

#chsocm provides for amazing witness for a local church, even a small one can reach the world… but as easy as it is to show the Gospel, ones actions counter to it can also be propagated at the speed of light. Crisis management plans should be a key part of any social media activity… this is not the sort of thing you want to learn on the fly at the 11th hour.

AI Pastor and online church?

As I was singing in the cathedral today I was thinking about this

Real time audio collaboration tools, while amazing for 2 or 3 can’t compare to being in the midst of a thousand voices. Yet, those same thousand voices really can’t be there for the death of a family member or the 3AM suicide attempt of a teenager. In the future, I could easily see robotic hands and haptic glove technology outrunning the vast majority of in person communities in the 11th hour domain… its an exceedingly rare church that is will to, or even able to take on such a ministry.

Granted, none of the above in online only mode are truly better than an in person encounter… but when such scenarios don’t occur, online approximations are no longer an excuse for community not to take action, but are solutions to needs left unmet by the in person community. In an ideal world, in person and online would likely be complementary to one another, and/or fall backs for illness etc…

Certainly fear of irrelevance is a player in this, but there is also the issue of technology outrunning humanity. Considering that artificial intelligence is being paired up with robotics to create therapy bots for elder care. No humanity is needed short of the initial programming, and such fills in part of the gaps created by the fairly common distant, or non existent familial connection… but what if it goes beyond that? Is it ok that grandma is visited once a year being you got her a bot for the rest of the time? What about robopastors and robofaith formation?