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.

Ponderings on Donald Miller Dustup

So Donald Miller wrote a series of why he doesn’t go to church posts and its caused more than a bit of a stir. He is a fairly big time Christian author, so as one might expect, his honesty caused no small amount of teeth knashing and other bits. Alas, out of 526 blog comments I read, no one tore their clothes… not sure what that means, but it was interesting.

There were two things struck me with the commentary on Donald’s series… First, many of the issues he brings up are spot on. Secondly, I perceived an underlying tone of many of the most ardent objectors that seems to indicate they are trying to convince themselves they are holding to a right position. If my perceptions are correct in this, no wonder church growth has been going negative… its not just more folks not believing.

Its not a new deal either. Folks have been leaving churches behind for centuries. You have folks in early Christian and other histoircal writings leaving the church for the desert. You have the Didache going so far as to state  itinerrant preachers and prophets who stick around for more than a couple days are not cool. Alas, leaving to get closer to God is probably not the largest cohort of folks leaving, but it most certainly is part of it.

My guess is that the larger number of folks who don’t attend is that church doesn’t seem as relevant to their life as it once did. In folks I’ve talked to over the years, Jesus most certainly is as important, or even more important than when they were regular attenders, but formal worship not so much. I’ve heard many a story of folks digging into the scriptures more, praying more, and being closer to God post leaving than they did when frequent attenders.

individual vs communal vs scaling vs bidirectional vs unidirectional

Thus we are at a paradox, but I sort of wonder if we haven’t been there for much longer than is apparent. My guess is a lot of things served as masks, and now that a couple bits have changed, the light penetrates deeper than it did in the past.

In the glory days of church growth, attendance was often by social command. Christian privilege was also a huge deal. If you didn’t show up, your name was mud. If your kids didn’t show up, your name was mud… peer pressure kept a lot of folks in churches. One problem with this of course is the lack of authenticity it creates. Ie Christian for 1 hour on Sunday and then its turned off until the next Sunday. A positive side is that repetitive experience, even if ones mind is 99% turned off can have lasting effects.

Beyond the social pressure of worship to maintain Christian privilege, we also have the scripture bit about not forsaking the assembly. I’m not convinced this is anywhere near the global prescriptive we read into it. Ie, its one thing to be encouraged to assemble to stay on track to build one another up etc… its something else when it becomes just another must do thing to get the suffering over with as quickly as possible. From Donald Miller

The subtext of these comments seemed to insinuate that God wants us to suffer for Him. But not suffer by reaching the poor or by being outcast, suffer, literally, by standing in a church service singing songs you don’t find catchy. Really?…..

He’s not calling us to be sanctified through dutiful boredom.
Yep, the whole gnostic leaning thought that we go to church for the spiritual side and we should ignore feelings and such is pretty counterproductive. Granted I’m not saying church services should be like a Journey, Grateful Dead, Def Leppard, Vikings, Packers, Bears, etc (insert favorite concert or sporting event here), but they ought not to be totally ignore folks feelings either. I remember a Catholic priest friend some years back telling me if he consistently didn’t get anything out of going to church, he wouldn’t be going either. I think he was right on the mark with that. Church cannot be a one way deal… consider the bride of Christ thing, and how no one in their right mind would enter a marriage if it was only a 1 way deal from the get go. Of course recognizing this is one thing, addressing it another. The trad vs contempo vs mixed vs integrated vs age specific thing is likely a bandaid deal.

I think there is also an issue of expectations… remove the social pressure to attend, and the scrutiny increases. Consider that Acts 2:42-47 presents a pretty hardcore model for church… Such might fly and sort of does in some university constructs in part due to their transitory nature… but in a regular community, such is near impossible human nature being what it is. Consider the following discussion from Carson T Clark and a church leader related to his ordination process.

After I’d carefully laid out my understanding, he replied something to the effect of, “That sounds more like AA than a church.” Wanting to make sure I was understanding him rightly, I asked for clarification.
He explained that that degree of transparency about psychological struggles, intellectual doubt, broken relationships, spiritual confusion, and the like was simply impractical for a local church setting. It was unfeasible.
“People may need to go outside the local church for that kind of growth and healing.”

Carson T Clark’s view was probably close to the Acts 2 texts…. I’ve seen many a recent grad carry similar idealism, only to have it blown to bits when its execution is attempted. This is not to say its not valid and/or that it can’t be done via picking and choosing bits and pieces here or there, but holistically it can’t work. Churches are hospitals for the broken, run by broken people, and crashes and burns are inevitable, its not a matter of if, but a matter of when… which is why such can work out better within a university context that a traditional parish… ie the membership is continually moving, long term scars and institutional pluses and minuses don’t have enough time to become dominant. This does pose a problem for the recent grad though… their experience has created Acts 2 expectations in a given form which is near impossible for a typical local parish to meet. (Or at least if they are brutally honest, it is near impossible to meet.)


World Vision Blow up and People of Strong Faith

Its really not about you. There are people of strong faith who had significant heartburn over WV’s decision to change their employee agreement to provide for local church autonomy as concerns same sex marriage. There are also people of strong faith who applauded WV’s decision and were dismayed at its reversal.

The issue of whether SSM is aligned with, or counter to the scriptures is not the big deal. The issue of whether the ancient creeds of the historical Christian faith have been cast aside to the point that SSM is a bigger deal than the trinity is not the primary issue at hand either. This is not to say such is not important, especially over the long haul, but they pale in comparison to something else right here, right now.

The big deal today is the weaker brother and sister as well as those who were trampled upon.

Folks comments on Christianity Today ventured into the domain of the darkest corners of the internet… I’ve seen more of the light of Christ coming from 4chan members than from CT.  Others noted this as well.

The most disturbing aspect of this is the folks in tears over loosing their faith. It is a tragedy.

The brood of vipers behaviors actions appeared the last straw for many. One person said, “I was hanging onto Christianity by a thread, its now been broken”. There are many similar stories, and no doubt even more that will never be known. I think such is quite likely destroying the work of God which Paul preaches against in Romans 14.

It didn’t need to happen this way…

Certainly Pope Francis is no advocate of SSM, but his approach is one of pastoral sensitivity, not of do a little evil that good may come. Even his statements concerning civil unions while very much supporting his church were of a pastoral nature rather than condemnation.

Our own Pastor Nadia, in her no-nonsense manner stated the following after the WV reversal.  “I’m very disappointed, but still happy to support their work. The critique of pulling support for charity due to an employee hiring practice I disagree with has to cut both ways or it’s bullshit.”

The fire, brimstone, brood of vipers bloodbaths that went on this week are a negative witness and counter to the Good News of Christ… who would really want to be a part of that? The actions done in the “name of Christ”, no matter which side one is on are repulsive. Imagine how folks would feel if rather than SSM, this was an issue over divorce or remarriage?

We need to pray for the weaker brothers and sisters who faith was destroyed or nearly destroyed this week. We need to pray for GLBT-Q folks, both celibate and married for healing and ask for forgiveness.The hatred and vitriole WV employees have experienced this week has to be incredible demoralizing and they need prayer as well. Lastly, we need to pray for those who whom WV serves… imagine being a teenager in an impoverished country and hearing about this?

People of strong faith, its really not about you.

*My general comment policy is to allow all comments, short of spam which I can readily identify and/or excessive TLDR. For this specific post, any comments relating to SSM from other than a pastoral nature will be deleted. There will be no blood bath, brood of viper, or related garbage on my blog, no matter how well you feel its supported by the scriptures. All other comments are welcome.

Transfiguration Sunday and the Wisconsin Bible Ban

Its human nature to try and extend exceedingly cool / awesome times, and Peter doesn’t disappoint in last Sunday’s Gospel reading. “Hey, lets build some places to stay at, this is awesome…” Alas God had other plans. Perhaps even more so, Peter James and John were instructed not to talk about i, at least for a while. While we don’t have a ton of insight into the personalities of James and John, no doubt this must have been an especially trying deal for Peter.

Get your world rocked, and be on top of it in a huge way…

You want this to never end!

The top of world experience ends in a flash, and no, you can’t talk about it, at least not for a while.

Many Lutherans in Wisconsin back in the late 1800’s were on top of the mountain in a lot of ways. Tobacco while labor intensive was a huge money maker and the wheat market was nothing to sneeze at either. Many folks did quite well for themselves, and not only that, they had have a fair bit left over and many chose to invest in their community.  Many churches were built as were many schools…  Rather than 1 pastor who would circulate among a boatload of congregations, many congregations found they could now afford half a pastor, and some even a full one. Granted, not everything was perfect… folks would have a bird over this or that and because giving was abundant, congregations could split, and build a new church a mile away or less… and bring on their own pastor from the myriad of synods that had come into being. Pastor density was pretty high as were the numbers of growing congregations. As a result, it was not unreasonable that many felt the Bible should be read in schools. The belief was so commonly held that even the State Superintendent of Public Instruction added the KJV Bible to the recommended book listings for the entire state. Ascribing to sola scriptura, even many legal minds who might have had fits over the constitutionality of schools picking one faith over another, felt that as long as interpretation and doctrine were left out (reading only) in the school room, there would not be any problems as concerns church and state separation.

When your faith practices are a majority and/or share much commonality with others, its easy to gloss over the headaches and problems that others outside a majority faith practice endure. You are on the mountain top, you want to stay there… you likely don’t even notice the impact on others who are not right there with you.

Not every Christian practice ascribes to sola scripture. Not every Christian practice ascribes to even the same translation of the scriptures. Even within the Lutheran traditions, there are often significant variances as to what is believed to be an obvious interpretation. As a result of the readings of the scriptures in schools, minus doctrine and interpretation, some students actually changed from one faith practice to another. In other cases, commonly held interpretations ended up not being anywhere so obvious. For the most part, these issues not even on the radar screen of the majority and complaints to school boards were often dismissed off hand. Over time, the conflict eventually made it into the legal system going all the way to the Wisconsin supreme court, where upon Bible reading was banned from the classroom… Folks came off that mountain pretty fast… but unlike the restrictions on Peter and crew, there was no small amount of vocal teeth knashing over it. Consider the following from the WI supreme court transcript.

The drift of some remarks in the argument of counsel for the respondent, and perhaps, also in the opinion of Judge BENNETT, is, that the exclusion of Bible reading from the dis-trict schools is derogatory to the value of the Holy Scriptures, a blow to their influence upon the conduct and consciences of men, and disastrous to the cause of religion.

The dialog over the  loss of Christian privilege rippling through a fair bit of the blogophere doesnt seem to be a whole lot different than those words penned over a century ago. The bottom line is actually pretty simple though… Christianities vibrancy or lack there of is not a function of legislation. The followup to the above from the transcript hits this head on.

The priceless truths of the Bible are best taught to our youth in the church, the Sabbath and parochial schools, the social religious meetings, and, above all, by parents in the home circle. There, these truths may be explained and enforced, the spiritual welfare of the child guarded and protected, and his spiritual nature directed and cultivated, in accordance with the dictates of the parental conscience. The Constitution does not interfere with such teaching and culture. It only banishes theological polemics from the district schools. It does this, not because of any hostility to religion, but because the people who adopted it believed that the public good would thereby be promoted, and they so declared in the preamble.

Coming down off the mountain of privilege back in 1880 looked to have had a mighty fine landing… may we do likewise.

Calculus Matters – ELCA Membership Decline

@Feralpastor posted a excel chart of ELCA and predecessor groups membership levels from around 1950 up until recent times. A quick glance might lead one to think doomsday scenario… but I thought I saw some wobbles in the data.

As a result, I pulled the data off the ELCA website and took a look at the 2nd derivative… basically how quickly the change in membership numbers are changing, or in car talk, whether we are braking or stomping on the gas.



While a near continual loss of members since the ELCA”s inception is not good, to see such a change in rate of decrease is a significant positive.

The following graph adds in the yr-yr loss of members in green.


In a nutshell, we are no longer in brake lock up mode post CWA09, In fact, once the 2013 numbers come out, I would not be surprised if we are back to the same state we were in pre CWA09 as concerns the yr to yr loss of members.

Causality is always a tricky thing, and often is not correlation, but I’ve been pondering this for years and more and more my hypothesis seems to make sense. Namely I believe the ELCA since its beginnings has been undergoing a long term shift to higher Fowler models.

The predecessor bodies were quite ranging in approach. Some catered to a lower Fowler model, some catered to a higher one. Since the ELCA”s formation, many CWAs have leaned towards a higher numbered model. This seems to correlate with the negative peaks in the 2nd derivative as folks self selected out. The overall trend to a smaller size would also make sense, as the higher numbered Fowler models embrace smaller numbers demographically. Ie, a Fowler 2 or 3 is often a growing stage, where membership decline is pretty common in a Fowler 4-5.

Authentic Rocking World Worship

I previously wrote about music that blows chunks, but which endures due to the memories associated with it. If you take the same music, and spin it out in front of folks lacking any memory connection, the chances of them being impressed is about nil, and they may well think you are off your rocker should you sing its praises.

I’ve been pondering how this relates to worship. A friend of mine describes almost every Sunday service as sort of like seeing a arena rock concert for the first time. (Feel free to replace arena rock concert, with Opera, jazz, country, whatever…). I’ve heard the same from a number of folks over the years… the worship service rocks their world. Such views are not limited to full bore high church liturgy with a massive organ, they could be low church with a folk band, or even without any music or liturgy at all. Even more so, for some folks this is a near weekly occurrence.

Such is not my experience. There may be a profound sermon here or there, and I do have a real affinity towards weekday morning masses at a Catholic church… but worship rocking my world, um no.

In fact, when I look at Revelation and such… and things going on 24/7, its like hmmm. I get that we will be changed, I get that super holy stuff has to be rock my world awesome beyond belief, but its such an abstract thing, it just doesn’t connect.

On the other hand, as a pilot, the words of a tv copy editor wing walking for the first time rings very true. I get exactly what she is saying.

Thanks to Jane and Charlie, I now fully understand the poem “High Flight” by John Magee.  I paraphrase, but I truly felt I touched the hand of God.

Very few people will believe or understand this, and most of you will think I’m high (never did drugs, for the record) but strange as this sounds…at one point the wind stopped clawing at me. The motor roar stilled. I was suspended in a peculiar time and place where I felt the presence of, well, quite frankly, my grandparents and guardian angel slightly behind me on either side. And I felt their happiness and approval.  For just a moment, I felt the ethereal presence of those who at one time loved and protected me as if they were physically at my back. Call me nuts as my last name means in German, but there you go.

There in likely is just a tiny view of what the Revelation text talks about… I capture this in a plane should I be in “flow”. An old friend said similar things about being in the midst of storms in his boat on the great lakes. As a bass player, I’ve caught fleeting glimpses of this too if I’m literally rocking the stage with 5000+ Watts of power so to speak…

I came across the following this evening as yet another descriptor of encountering God’s hand so to speak.

…an intimate connection with the God who created us, an inner peace unlike any our five senses can provide?  It’s scientifically inexplicable. It’s mystery beyond any words.  Yet there is where we most clearly experience and encounter God.

I can try and attach memories and run with them, but unless in the cockpit half upside down, on the stage, or in the storm so to speak, merely attaching the memory doesn’t make the connection. It has to be authentic… a memory attachment alone won’t work.

This then brings me back to folks for whom worship rocks their world. If it makes such connections as above, it cannot be an attached memory thing, it has to be real, it has to be authentic.

It makes me ponder…

Outrage Limiter

Back in the 70’s, Gene Simmons did this blood spitting thing for the rock group Kiss. It brought about a fair bit of lamenting at the time as to how horrible it was… but it worked as intended, going outrageous made his mark on the world, it sold a ton of records, and made him a boat load of money.

In the 80’s, Ozzy did this thing with a bat on stage…

Back in the pre-code days of Hollywood, many of the early talkies were pushing the sex envelope in a huge way, it was outrageous, and it sold lots of movie tickets.

Is it any wonder what we had a meat dress a few years back, or something totally bizaro a couple days ago?

Sex and shock sell… if there were no market, they wouldn’t. If the outrage was too great, the market would reject it, but it rarely does. Its no longer just an artist like Gene Simmons coming up with an idea, its high level market research driving ideas to appeal to a given demographic to maximize profit. In fact, I would not be surprised to find out that datamining is a significant driver…

Folks have been chatting about the evils of capitalism on steroids, sexual exploitation, declining morals, loss of community, extreme individualism, loss of Christian privilege / influence in society,  self esteem going too far, artists selling out, the death of eros… and I sort of agree to a point with all of them, but I think the answer is something far more foundational.

Market driven art eventually rings hollow as the market will at some point see it for what it is, an emperor with no clothes, no meaning, just a means of efficient leveraging the actions of the masses… this being a primary driver of why interest in pop music generally declines with age. Its not so much us geezers crabbing about the music of the younger being a bunch of noise, as much as it is that BS detectors improve with age.

Some of the 70’s and 80’s music I played and grew up with blew chunks, some of the 30’s and 40’s music my Dad grew up with also did. Its the same today… a cohort of good music from each generation will survive and thrive over time on its own, another cohort, even if it blew chunks, will survive and thrive due to the memories attached to it, but huge sectors will die on the vine, and for good reason.

If you followed this far, you are probably thinking, why on earth is this on a church blog… Just replace the word music with church practices.

We may not have pastors taking a bite out of a bat in a sermon, but there are a few church practices in each generation that jump the shark. We also have a fair number of practices deriving their meaning via institutional memory rather than standing on their own.

The BS detector for each generation as they become more and more proficient with handling information overload becomes more sensitive. Is there any wonder that the target market for pop music has been trending younger and younger for years? If not for attached memories, there likely would be a pretty abrupt cutoff in the high school range…. not unlike what we see in church membership demographics.


Penal Substitionary Atonement, and the Dangers There of

The early church fathers for the most part did not ascribe to substitutionary atonement. For sure, some scriptures do very heavily lean that direction. Yet, other scriptures end up throwing a pretty massive wrench in that direction. Whats perhaps the most troubling, is it appears some contemporary preachers go so far as to nearly equate the Gospel to penal substitutionary atonement.

I’ve often found it interesting that the early church fathers did not hold so such. Origen (185-254 CE) presented the ransom theory

He suggested that, as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve, Satan had acquired a formal dominion over, and ownership of, all of humanity and the rest of the world. In order to free people from the grip of Satan, God agreed to arrange the death of Yeshua, his son, as a ransom price to be paid to the devil. This would formally compensate for Adam and Eve’s sin, and would release humanity from Satan’s grip. Origen wrote: “The payment could not be [made] to God [be]cause God was not holding sinners in captivity for a ransom, so the payment had to be to the devil.” Origen believed that Satan accepted the offer because he assumed that he would end up with ownership of Yeshua. The devil didn’t realize that Yeshua would escape his clutches. God deceitfully pulled a “bait and switch” operation by resurrecting Yeshua a day and a half after his death on the cross. This left Satan without any reward. Yeshua had escaped Satan’s grasp and was reunited with God. Origen concluded that humans can then be reconciled with God if they trust Yeshua as Lord and Savior.

A couple disturbing things I’ve come across over the years are the following.

1. Folks who have seemingly walked away from Christ, often see God’s actions in PSA as cruel and barbaric.

A blogger over at arewomenhuman stated the following:

I couldn’t stomach the thought of standing in church and singing hymns thanking God for killing someone “for” me.

Another good discussion of this is presented in “The cross is an Insult to Forgiveness”

I’ve often wondered if the doors to trinitarian heresies are opened by PSA. For many in the pew, its almost as if the focus shifts to God torturing Jesus. Its as if Jesus was not God, and as such, it seemingly pretty much throws the trinity by the wayside. Anselm’s (1033 to 1109 CE) satisfaction theory (which predated PSA), in his Cur Deus Homo (Why God Became Man) presents the following:

  • Chapter 6 “…the price paid to God for the sin of man [must] be something greater than all the universe besides God….Moreover, it is necessary that he who can give God anything of his own which is more valuable than all things in the possession of God, must be greater than all else but God himself….Therefore none but God can make this satisfaction.”
  • Chapter 9 “…God, he will possess omnipotence….He can, then, if he chooses, lay down his life and take it again….Therefore is he able to avoid death if he chooses, and also to die and rise again….the gift which he presents to God, not of debt but freely, ought to be something greater than anything in the possession of God….Now this can neither be found beneath him nor above him….In himself, therefore, must it be found….nothing can be more severe or difficult for man to do for God’s honor, than to suffer death voluntarily when not bound by obligation; and man cannot give himself to God in any way more truly than by surrendering himself to death for God’s honor. Therefore, he who wishes to make atonement for man’s sin should be one who can die if he chooses.”

2. It is possible that PSA may open doors for spiritual abuse and/or the replacement of God’s love and grace with toxic soteriology, even more so without the solid grounding of the trinity. Arewomenhuman presents the following:

Substitutionary atonement requires us to accept that it’s alright for God to behave in ways that would be considered cruel and capricious from anyone else. It requires that we claim God is “good” in a way that doesn’t resemble what we would call “good” in any other context. It preaches a patriarchal God who brooks no defiance and demands perfection from others that “he” doesn’t live up to, and doesn’t have to live up to. In so doing it provides a script and model for authoritarian, hierarchical, abusive relationships between human beings that mirror the authoritarian, hierarchical, abusive relationship between God and humans.

While I’d be in error to attribute causality, my experience with multitudes of de-churched folks over the years, has often indicated that when PSA leans towards or replaces the Gospel, spiritual abuse is often right around the corner.

I wonder if perhaps the early church fathers anticipated this danger, and thus shied away from PSA? They had the same scriptures we do today, and its not as if there were not historical discussions seemingly pointing to PSA… but it was left by the wayside.

Confirmation Sucks, A Rebuttal Pt 1 of 3

Rob Hahn presented an interesting article entitled Confirmation Sucks… and while I agree with him as to a number of points he made, my thought is not that confirmation sucks, but more so that there is a lot of room for improvement. Its not so much in the confirmation process itself, but moreso the often lacking Christian education leading up to it.

His analysis of the focus on knowing “about” God vs. “knowing” God is pretty on the spot though. The ELCA has a multitude of amazing resources that can do a great job of presenting much information about God. Where the rubber hits the road though, is making the connection from knowing about God to knowing and experiencing God.

Robs primary objection, is that the focus ends up being more knowing about God, than knowing and experiencing God. Sadly, the resulting outcome of such is pretty predictable. For far too many, they just walk away after confirmation. They were able to jump some hoops, parrot back some information, and then they think, yep, done with that… Most certainly the statistics of youth falling away from the church lend credence to such analysis.

Where I think his analysis falls apart is his assumptions that knowing about God from the get go is not that important, that one can learn what they need to later on. Granted, such a view seems to align with Luther writing’s quite a bit… most assuredly Luther was not impressed with confirmation, albeit he did not prohibit its usage. It’s also true that the apostles didn’t go through a lengthly training program before Jesus asked them to follow Him (all one has to do is look at some of the outlandish statements and questions they asked to find they were pretty lacking Christian education wise).


It is quite true that “knowing” God for some, can come about the hard way through experience, when everything crashes and burns. Its also true, that “knowing” God can come about an easier way, through knowing God a little bit, and knowing a fair amount “about” God first, so that when the hard experiences come, one is somewhat ready.

Yes, scripture alone doesn’t bring one to that point of view… but most assuredly tradition, reason, and the experience of others certainly reinforces it

Yet another aspect that I think is important is God’s action in confirmation. Again, Luther dint hold such in high regard… but then we must consider a couple bits of scripture. First, God’s word doesn’t return void, as noted in Isaiah 55:11, albeit such is something far outside our scope as humans to understand. And yes, we can hose things up as demonstrated in Mark 7:13. Perhaps such might be part of Lather’s justification for his views. On the other hand, it’s pretty easy to see the incredible retention aspects of confirmation when someone returns to the church after a 20-30 year absence. I’d say that without God acting, such would be impossible…

Lastly, there is the basic ad psyche principle of material learned first is retained to a greater degree than later material. It should also be noted, that if later material ends up being in conflict, it could take a long time and significant effort to relearn things another way. Perhaps this is best illustrated by the following video where Father Barron discusses you tube heresies.

Imagine how ones world would be rocked if they grow up in one Bibliological reference frame, only to have to relearn what their church actually teaches years later. Multitudes of conflicts and internal struggles show up due to vastly different Bibliology, with CWA09 being one of the most recent examples of differing reference frames in conflict.

Confirmation is just too important not to be taken seriously. Part 2 will look at some of the problems in greater depth, and part 3 of this series presents some solutions..

Pew Potatoing and Learning to Land a Plane Pt 2

Pew Potatoing and Landing a Plane Pt 2. So, how does this play out in Christianity?

Valley’s, Mountain tops, and Plateaus

We are not all in the same place in our Christian walk. Some are in valleys, some on mountain tops, some in transition up or down, and yes, some on plateaus along the way. We see Elijah in a world of hurt w depression in a valley in 1 Kings 19. We see Peter in a world of hurt for denying Christ in the Gospels, another valley. Yet, we also see Peter on a mountain top, both figuratively and literally during the transfiguration. Plateaus seem surprisingly absent in scripture, albeit most certainly they do exist in ones Christian walk. In a lot of ways, I think plateaus bring us to trust God more fully, even though they are not so much fun being in them.


However, just as in learning to fly, their are times when static contemplation and synthesis can be perceived as stagnation or even back sliding leading to discouragement, yet are very much part of growing in Christ. The key to discerning / avoiding / dealing with discouragement is awareness and perseverance. Awareness that plateaus / pew potatoing occurs, and such is not always a bad thing if discerned properly… and that a plateau might well be viewed as a form of suffering, which then ties right into Romans 5 with perseverance.

Not only so, but we[co] also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. and hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

If we find pew potatoing, is it really a plateau in growth, or is it like the passive, unengaged flight student in rote mode? Some observations…

Travis hit on this a while back with the following as concerns the dangers of passivity and as he says, in-grown, self-centered worship.

When worship is turned into an excuse to avoid our calling, it is insincere at best and idolatrous at worst—we worship a golden calf made in our own image.

Another observation concerning passivity and lack of engagement from JessicaB:

…have never read the bible for themselves. Their thoughts and ideas about God and Heaven are mostly folklore and old wives tales that have been told to them by a grandma or neighbor…or tv.

I could literally elaborate on this into infinity. So I’ll cut myself off by saying: these generalized set of nominal christian’s I’m talking about…

Have never had their lives changed.

@rev3j stated the following on twitter:

in my experience it more often result in inoculations which prevent viral transference

well what I see in the gospels is two distinct groups of people disciples and the crowd disciples actively follow crowds worship praise & listen to messages but they aren’t disciples because they aren’t actively following. Jesus bids us follow

Pew Potatoing and Passivity Under Pressure

The saddest part, is when pew-potatoing gets put under pressure, it usually crashes and burns… just as what would likely happen to a passive unengaged flight student if left alone and unguided.

more in Pew Potatoing and Landing a Plane Pt 3 The flight instructor and the church

Pew Potatoing and Learning to Land a Plane pt 1

@khad came up with this interesting concept called pew potatoes… ie uber passive worshipers apparently watching a performance. Whats fascinating is how many parallels there are between pew potatoing and learning to land a plane.


On a positive note, such apparently passive time could be a time of percolation, not unlike the “learning plateaus” we run into when teaching students to land a plane… such is where different aspects of knowledge and practice intermix with one another over time, and then after a bit of a delay, light bulbs come on.


On a negative note, for a new student, or a new flight instructor, learning plateaus are often a source of massive discouragement, and such can even lead to self doubt… which then often leads to a complete loss of engagement. If left unchecked, this self doubt/loss of engagement path is most commonly followed by the student leaving flight training entirely.

Passivity and Rote Response

On an extremely negative note, a flight instructor does have to be on the watch, as some students are passive in disguise… they merely repeat rote actions. They may appear to have incredible skills, and be making incredible progress in a short period of time… but throw a few extra variables into the mix, and rote repetition fails in a huge way.

Passivity in disguise is one of those things which needs to be identified and nipped in the bud early on, or it can lead to a nightmare. Ie, a student pilot competent to pass the written, oral, and flight test, yet a huge danger to his/herself, such that no way would a flight instructor sign off on them.

Yet there are exceptions under narrow circumstances. Passivity and lack of engagement is not always a bad thing, sometimes, such as in a pinch hitter course for non-pilots, things like working the radio, and the basics of a/c control even if only achieved via rote do fulfill the desired objectives. Ie, in the event of pilot incapacitation, such can and has allowed a non-pilot to be able to successfully land an aircraft.

Part 2 will follow… So, how does this play out in Christianity?