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Podcasting #walklovedo Interesting Coincidences

When I first put a podcast player on my phone, I spent some time searching out local church podcasts. Its sort of nifty to meet folks and say, oh hey, I listen to your church’s podcast. The sermon last month on ABC was super cool and this can bring about some really nifty discussions. I’m guessing that it could also be a form of pastoral encouragement if said convo’s ever make it back to the pastor at hand.

Anyhow, there was this cool podcast about church as a practice room some weeks back. As a bass player, this was an interesting thing to ponder. It hit home again as I was listening to pastor Craig’s podcast on the drive home on Sunday where he was talking about church and growing in Christ. (Both subjects of which I will dig into another post) I wanted to go back and find that church as a practice room podcast. And while it was one of the main things I remembered, it wasn’t the title of the podcast episode… so I figured I’d likely not come across it again.

SoundLokSIR6 1920x1100

For last nights commute, I thought it might be interesting to listen to some podcasts from folks I met at #walklovedo so I pulled up Pastor Karyn’s church… She got all the ducks in a row for us musicians and even played flute some of the time on Saturday.

Well… it turns out church as a practice room was hers!!! Talk about an interesting coincidence.

Tough Stuff in the Bible and VBS curricula

So, yes, there is a lot of tough stuff in the scriptures… and in a sense, its a disservice to ignore that sort of thing and bury it as its too uncomfortable.

Then again, would it be appropriate to include in a VBS curricula?

  • David having Uriah killed to cover up his sleeping around with Bathsheba
  • The genocide of the Amalekites
  • The blessing of infanticide
  • Lot and his daughters
  • Judah and Tamar
  • The Daughter of Jephthah vs Abraham and Isaac

This sort of stuff would freak a lot of folks pretty fast… and the folks in charge of VBS would be run out on a rail.

And yet it seems perfectly fine by some to have young kids role play slaves, in combination with hijacking a language spoken in Africa.

I get that one can do the above, and spin it in such a way as to make it seem acceptable…. but deep down, is that really ok?

Is it an acceptable witness to ones community when the outcome is… our kid went to vacation Bible school and role played a slave, while the teacher kept telling them to work faster as they withheld supplies, and then tried to teach them some stuff about Africa and called Xhosa a click language.

Really… are us US Christian’s truly that tone deaf?

I think there are a few with an agenda, and I think there are a lot of well meaning Christian’s who find it hard to believe that someone wrote a curricula with a such an agenda. I think lots of eyebrows get raised a bit… but they see vast numbers of folks promoting it, lots of church folks working on it, and just by the masses of people involved, and seemingly widespread approval, it just has to be ok. Otoh, consider the following….

racist

 

liguistic racism

And the official spin

groupvbs

It smells really bad…

I think its perfectly fine to discuss the above in Sunday school, but as far as making it an integral theme of a VBS, role playing slavery and hijacking a language in a disrespectful way, its not cool at all.

The challenge this late in the game is a tough one… churches ordered the curricula in good faith, assuming it to be well vetted, age appropriate, and that it would make a positive difference in kids lives. Sadly, these seems to have been a major fail on all of the above. Fortunately there is some good news… but not from official channels.

fixes

Fixing it is a ton of extra work by a lot of volunteers…

And even if it can be fixed, part of the theme goes…. “When life is unfair, God is great” Ok, so how is that going to roll for the young kid who has been raped? Or what about the kid who lost both parents in a car crash? Or the kid whose parents died in Afghanistan, or returned home after multiple deployments with major PTSD? Will the teachings presented in this curricula help or hinder a child who has, or will experience severe trauma? Is theodicy really an appropriate topic for young kids, and is VBS an appropriate time to approach it?

Maybe the daugher of Jephthah would be more appropriate. Afterall, Sunday school keeps telling the story of Abraham and Isaac…

Ponderings on Sharing the Peace

Its interesting to ponder the sharing of the peace, especially so as to how it is practiced, or not practiced across a multitude of churches. Near as I can tell, its origin of the practice spun out of the need to make oneself right with others prior to eating the bread and drinking the cup. Ie one was to seek out those who they had wronged and make amends during this time slot in reference to 1 Cor 11. Alas, over the centuries the practice and meaning of the practice has changed…

I remember my doc years ago telling me how much he disliked sharing the peace, as in his opinion, hand to hand contact followed shortly thereafter by communion was just asking for trouble from an infectious disease perspective. I think of a friend of mine who was in the last stage of cancer, who couldn’t shake hands as he was undergoing chemo. I’m not so sure how loving ones neighbor plays out in this, especially across a diverse congregation where its likely not prudent for everyone to engage the same way. Tradition / peer pressure conformity is a powerful thing to go up against, no matter how wise individual approaches might be.

That being said, I have come across some fascinating approaches to sharing the peace. In some churches, it is done with a wave of the hand, or a nod of the head, thus precluding any human contact. In one church, vials of hand sanitizer were present in every pew next to the Bibles and were diligently used by everyone. While hand sanitizer is not 100%, its a whole lot better than doing nothing.

And yet in some churches, sharing the peace ends up being a massive hugfest, which in todays climate due to things like #metoo and #churchtoo is thankfully becoming less and less prevalent… to say nothing of being off putting to visitors, or perhaps offputting to visitors not of the same mindset.

And yet for some, the human connectedness of a handshake or hug is a huge deal and helps them connect with the congregation at large. I think of my late wife, and how she’d have me roll her ambulance gurney from one side of the aisle to the other for her to shake hands with folks in the pews. The little kids thought it was pretty awesome, as well as some of the seniors. For her, despite being immuno compromised, the connectedness was of much greater importance than was the risk of contracting another’s illness. And yet for others, like my friend who passed away a while back, the mutual hand wave was more than enough.

Christian Unity and Uniformity of Beliefs

You know trouble is on the horizon, when someone says, the Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it without truly thinking things through. The Bible says a ton of stuff for sure… alas man’s leaning towards self-deception, man’s inability to see things clearly, and our old Adam zest for power muddies the water a great deal when it comes to how we interpret what the Bible says. 33,000 is a figure often quoted as to the number of distinct Christian belief systems… and yet within those belief structures, when you start asking questions at the pew level, you will often find even greater diversity.

Did God intend for potentially millions of different interpretations of the scriptures?

Genesis 11 suggests God has issues with too much like minded thinking. Ie, God’s confusion of languages and scattering of peoples with respect to the construction of the tower of Babel.

And yet, we have Jesus prayer for unity in John 17…

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one,Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

So what gives with this… is God changing his tune, or do we have something hosed up in how we are reading this?

I think the answer in part is the trinity.

One issue in The Shack film, is the bit where in papa had the marks of the cross. For theological nerds, this heresy known as patripassionism is problematic as it makes the Son and The Father one, rather than 2 distinct persons. Ie, within the teachings of the trinity, Jesus is God, the Father is God, but Jesus is not the Father, nor is the Father, Jesus. For many folks though, this distinction is probably glossed over… on the surface it seems we theological nerd types may as well be arguing over how many angels will fit on the tip of a pin.

But this is key… the Father and Jesus are distinct persons. Consider John 17:22-23 taken to an extreme, is Jesus suggesting that we are to be God in the above text too?

And while I don’t necessarily think God’s plan was to have millions of interpretations of the scriptures, I think its also pretty clear his thoughts on being one do not equate to 100% uniformity in beliefs either. Consider the later part of Galatians 3 where Paul talks about oneness in Christ, there is no Jew nor Greek…. and yet Romans 11 is pretty clear that he didn’t throw the old covenant away with the bathwater either.

Its also helpful to ponder 1 Cor 13, where it talks about us seeing dimly, and the passing of gifts, ages, and time as well as growth in Christ.

And yet, people can have a intense need for certainty. Struggles with the mysteries of faith can become really hard at times…  The whole bit about working out your salvation with fear and trembling is not really applicable to the dude the Samaritan found alongside the road, the pilot who came within seconds of death, or the husband whose wife just died in his arms. In those times, Jesus is reaching out, just as he did for Peter, but it may not feel like such…

And while we do have certainty in the resurrection… the error is one where in we take said certainty from beyond the scriptures into our personal and/or tribal interpretations of said scriptures. Consider what could happen if one built their faith on rapture theology, and then learned about Darby later in life where in things start to unravel. And while basing ones relationship on the rapture is an extreme… building God into an exclusive box of ones own making generally doesn’t work out too well.

And for the box rattling that The Shack film brings about I am grateful.

Valley Girl is Best (rabbit hole and nerd alert)

I’ve been using the WEB (not internet, but World English Bible) translation since ~2004 when I first got it for my palm pilot. Today was the first time ever that the use of metric units stood out. Pastor was reading John 11, and I was following along on my Palm… and she reads “about 2 miles” where as mine said about 2.7 km in John 11:18

Ok, so we have a big problem.

2miles = 3.2km, not 2.7km,

Certainly, I’ve often used the phrase, its about 2 miles (which in my own parlance generally equates to between 1 and 3 miles), but maybe its been years since I went there, so maybe its between just out of sight and 5 miles away… but I would never use the word about followed by significant digits which imply a level of precision beyond the scope of “about”. Yep, its a metrology nerd thing.

Granted, this is not a huge theological deal, as the scriptures are not a surveyors manual or scientific textbook, but obviously something is hosed up somewhere or another. So its time to derust some Greek.

Fortunately ?? ??? ??????? ????????? is common among all the Greek source texts I could find, so its a good starting point.

?? is a screwball adverb which hosed me up in Greek class some 20+ years ago. As such, lets consider it in isolation first to see what spins out. (Greek words in isolation are like playing with fire… its almost always going to give you something hairbrained and wrong, (but such can also be sort of cool at times)! 🙂

The simplest approach to this is to go into valley girl mode.
Bethany was near Jerusalem, like 2 miles away. 

Alas, simple is not necessarily correct, ?? when used in combination with numerical data changes meaning… Like turns into about, or nearly, which to me slips into the realm of lower precision such as my own parlance as described above.

Ok, cool, we now have the translation pastor used
Bethany was near Jerusalem, about 2 miles away.

But… this doesn’t help me as to why the metric conversion is in error, to say nothing about the precision implied with the significant digit (the decimal place), thus back to the source texts.

??? has a multitude of possibilities, but the good thing is that no matter how weird one gets with the possible translation, it doesn’t screw with the precision of measurement or type of units. We got lucky with this. I’ll just call it “away” to make like simple, but “off” works, as would “distant”… but one could venture into weird mode too I guess.

??????? ????????? is pretty simple, there is no ambiguity of the number of units of measurement. Fifteen is fifteen is fifteen. It is what it is.  ??????? as a unit of measure is also quite clear. A stadia is a stadia is a stadia. This too is clear.

Bethany was near Jerusalem, about 15 stadia away.

The rubber hits the road when we try to define what on a earth a stadia is…

The ancient world didn’t have international standards bodies to determine consistency of measurements… they probably didn’t have much of a standard at all, beyond what could be carried from point A to point B without being damaged, lost, or vandalized enroute. Thus we have a ~30% swing as to stadia to meter conversion factors with the Olympic measurement at 176.4 meters being the shortest, and the Phoenician-Egyptian conversion at 209.2 meters being the longest. The most commonly accepted conversion factor is the Italian one at 184.8 meters/stadia… which gives us.

Bethany was near Jerusalem, about 2.6km away.

argh, this doesn’t match either.

So, lets get practical, and just use technology, it should be easy to pull up Jerusalem and Bethany (Al-Eizariya) on a map and have google calculate the distance. Whoops. this is not going to work either, as both are so large today, that its near impossible to determine accurate starting and ending points…. not the least of which that Al-Eizariya is located in the West Bank (where google sat data leans sparse).

Valley Girl mode seems best after all… Bethany was near Jerusalem, like 3km away!


Street Preaching, 2nd Use Disconnect, and Questioning

When a receptive Christian back story is missing, some approaches to evangelism no longer work very well. I think of the street preacher discussion on @JimHazelwood video set from the New England Synod Assembly. The street preacher could have just as easily been trying to sell gold plated buggy whips to a person who just brought a brand new car. He was seemingly manufacturing things out of thing air and was trying to sell them as obvious truths.

Consider this attempted 2nd use of the law for another example

“…this opening of ourselves up to question is central to our Christian duty. Near the heart of the Christian message is the declaration that we are in the wrong, that our subjective position is radically compromised, and that we must be put to rights by someone else.”

Without a framework of the a specific type of evangelical Christianity underneath, this verbiage outside of the scriptures could just as well have been a foreign language.

Granted, its easy to see the dark triad to say nothing of the theology of original sin in the world, but without serious reflection, it is for the most part non-obvious on a individual level today. In some ways, presenting the God-man gap as the first step of evangelism is easily perceived as something manufactured and an end justifies the means to gain converts and their money. I don’t think it computes all that well anymore as a first step, and perhaps not even at all until much later.

God Man Gap

Professor John Hoffmeyer expands on this a bit.

 ….I’m now wondering if we are offering an answer to a question that is no longer being asked.  Is that possible?  Let me be clear, I am not questioning our theological structure, nor am I doubting our core understanding of Justification by Grace through Faith.  Rather, I’m raising the possibility, that in the 16th century people did experience, feel, think about and have a “terrified conscience”, and therefore Luther’s re-forming of the faith resonated culturally as well as theologically.  Our panelists may suggest that in the 21st century people are not experiencing, thinking or feeling a strong sense of having a “terrified conscience.”  If this is the case, we may be providing answers to a question few are asking.

This lack of alignment begs quite a bit of wrestling and pondering. I came across the following and the author puts in words what I’ve been trying to nail down out for weeks.

The wrong questions force reality into ill-fitting frameworks of understanding. People who take the appropriateness of their questions for granted are people who presume the universal applicability of their terms of understanding, of their ways of perceiving and framing the world, not alert to the possibility that reality might only be rightly understood on quite different terms.

One could take this a couple different ways. One path might be to double down and try to bend the seekers reference frames to a 16th century model prior to engaging them. Such often falls into the domain of the fire and brim stone street preacher. Ie, first create an environment where a person aligns with Luther’s terrified conscience model prior to the Gospel, to drive folks to ask the “right” and canned answerable questions. Anecdotal evidence suggests this does work some of the time. Other anecdotal evidence suggests bending as an ends justifying the means thing doesn’t last, as the re-framing eventually springs back to normalcy, ie its a borderline theology of glory.

The other possibility is to consider that a near exclusive 16th century framing is not really viable in the 21st century. Luther seemed to consider that in his commentary on Galatians 5:8, not by throwing the terrified conscience out completely, but by making it situational.

Satan will circumvent the Gospel and explain Christ in this his own diabolical way: “Indeed Christ is meek, gentle, and merciful, but only to those who are holy and righteous. If you are a sinner you stand no chance. Did not Christ say that unbelievers are already damned? And did not Christ perform many good deeds, and suffer many evils patiently, bidding us to follow His example? You do not mean to say that your life is in accord with Christ’s precepts or example? You are a sinner. You are no good at all.”

Satan is to be answered in this way: The Scriptures present Christ in a twofold aspect. First, as a gift. “He of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption.” (I Cor. 1:30.) Hence my many and grievous sins are nullified if I believe in Him. Secondly, the Scriptures present Christ for our example. As an exemplar He is to be placed before me only at certain times. In times of joy and gladness that l may have Him as a mirror to reflect upon my shortcomings. But in the day of trouble I will have Christ only as a gift. I will not listen to anything else, except that Christ died for my sins.

Granted, one might suggest this is only a third law type of thing, ie only for believers, and that 16th century framing is an absolute for the seeker… I think that is running dangerously close to the diabolical explanation Luther attributes to Satan. I’m also more than a bit concerned that it opens the door to spiritual abuse and forms of passive aggressive behavior, neither of which have any place near the Gospel.

Millennials Don’t Find Jesus There?

I’ve read upwards of 1100 comments across the blogosphere on the Rachel Held Evan’s blog post on the Millennials. Within her post, she has the controversial statement, “we’re leaving the church because we don’t find Jesus there.” Um, ok…

In reading all that commentary, certainly there were a number where it seemed that Jesus was the last thing on folks minds… some suggested that the we need more morality and OT stuff in church in Sunday school and if we have enough fire, brimstone, and condemnation folks will come back. Others thought way cool, we can have more liturgy, the old organ hymns, and all sorts of high church stuff and get out of our financial bind. Others seemingly blamed everything on LGBT folks, evolution, and critical thinking. A few were pretty blatant and told folks they were not wanted, and should go away. In some cases, the comments were so extreme, it makes one wonder where the fruits of the spirit are or if something else is there…

As such, it does seem pretty reasonable to come to the conclusion that Jesus isn’t there, or as some have said. “Jesus has left the building”

On the other hand, when you have that the 2 or 3 are gathered thing,  the word is being preached thing, to say nothing of the omnipresence thing, Jesus is there… Alas, just because He is there, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee that folks are listening… much less acting on His words.

In part, it seems the seed scattering thing may apply. Seeds don’t always take root, some wither away, some seeds get eaten by birds… which then may get re-scattered with fertilizer in another location (Hat tip to Pastor Steve on that one!)…  but this is only a part. It explains much of the off the wall, non fruit of the spirit stuff in the blogosphere, but it would be an exceedingly rare church where no seeds took root at all.

More so, I wonder if Jesus not being there thing is a framing issue on the part of the congregation and projection issue on the part of the millennials.

Many evangelical churches focus on the individual more so than the communal, but do so in a tribal like manner. Things like personal piety, holiness, purity etc end up as as huge deals, in some cases, perhaps swinging into Ecc 7:16 territory as to over-righteousness when they become idols… Rachel Held Evans had some good depth on this with Sex and the Path of Holiness a while back.

A few of the vibes I picked up from social media seem to lead some credence to a more Sermon on the Mount / Matthew 25 focus among the millennials than individual piety. Homelessness, food shelters, poverty mitigation, and wealth disparities seem to rank pretty high on the hypocrisy detection meter of millennials… Ie, if you preach on sexual abstinence, Dave Ramsey, and patriotism but not on poverty, global hunger, or the least of these, its reasonable for the projection and framing not to align, with the result that Jesus appears absent.

Another aspect of framing, is the lack of intellectual rigor, sort of the reverse of Ecc 7:16. More than a few millennials came to the conclusion that Jesus is not there as he doesn’t exist. While one can debate whether Christianity is intellectually viable, it seems far too many churches take the stance that it isn’t, more so by actions than by words. Canned and know it all answers, bad apologetics, and in general philosophical ineptness set the stage for this. Its not evolution, science or critical thinking that’s the problem, its a problem of our own making.

Lastly, I think a timing issue is involved. Jesus did a ton of ministry in a lot of places over a very short time frame. Millennials having recently come out of university experiences where you go from knowing no one, to hard core discussions of theodicy in a month are not conditioned to wait… This shows up in a soc media where folks are making yea or nay judgment calls on communities with only a one or two visits.

Bottom line, Jesus is there… but there is a sort of hiding of Him going on.

 

 

 

Proof Preaching to the Choir and the World

A recurrent theme of some sectors of Christianity is a need to reinforce their beliefs, perhaps even more so in light of the world having significantly different ones. The most obvious of this is the whole creationism/evolution debate, but there are many others, existence of God, historical existence of Jesus… the whole Evidence that Demands a Verdict type books etc. Some folks tend to think that just as they believe, so should everyone else and see said proof preaching (more commonly known in Christian circles as apologetics) as a means of evangelism.

A big problem with this, is that often times the proofs aren’t anywhere near as solid as the folks who advocate them think. A given proof may be good enough for them, but to the world, its either so filled with inaccuracies, and/or bad philosophy, that rather than proving Christianity, it makes folks suspicious at best or disproves it at worst.

I tend to think there are 3 issues at hand with this.

First, is the level of evidence required. Some believers in Christ are likely not to need any evidence for said beliefs. Others might have come to Christ through something like Evidence that Demands a Verdict books and feel they need reinforcement. A few build doctrinal concepts (literal 7 day creation->100% textual accuracy of the KJV->Jesus is real)… If you push the creation idol a little bit, the whole faith structure shakes. Part of the error in this, (beside the Pelagian bit that we can come to faith on our own) is the assumption that all folks have the same need/same standards for evidence.

Second, many Christians are generally not skilled in the domain of philosophy and/or what they are arguing against, so they don’t necessarily know when they are going off into lala land. Philosophy is not the sort of thing one picks up with 1 semester of a university level course, much less a few Sundays worth of apologetics training. There’s also a tendency for closed ears, all the while a fervent belief that something is wrong and they can convince the world otherwise… often with arguments that fall flat to those skilled in a given field.

Luther is a prime example: Consider the following:

People gave ear to an upstart astrologer [Copernicus] who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon. Whoever wishes to appear clever must devise some new system, which of all systems is of course the very best. This fool wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but sacred scripture tells us [Joshua 10:13] that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth.

He should have known better, after all he also said… “All our experience with history should teach us, when we look back, how badly human wisdom is betrayed when it relies on itself.”

Thirdly, is the issue of do a little evil so good may come… Paul comes down on this pretty clearly in Romans 3, but the ends justifying the means is all too common. The mis-use of archutectural / historical / scientific evidence either by selective omission or bending words/sentences does a huge dis-service, especially when the full context can often be found via a bit of time with google.

While I understand the need to reinforce ones own belief system, there are some significant dangers in doing so via proof preaching.

The aspect of negative evangelism is a big deal… it sort of the reverse of “see your good works and glorify your father in heaven” especially as it takes so little light for the world to see a “do a little evil” type of thing.

In a similar vein, consider folks who put their faith in a geocentric universe as Luther did. The whole “God said it, I believe it thinking: doesn’t work out too well when we see scriptures dimly against a world with keener observation skills than those arguing against them.

A final aspect of proof preaching is that it can turn inward on itself and the rather than reinforcing ones beliefs, does the reverse. If one reads the following deconversion story of Rachel Slick, the daughter of a prominent apologist, the stage for deconversion was set early on. She put her views on Truth on a higher plane than the self authenticating witness of the Holy Spirit…. Dimly seen scriptures and doctrines of men often fail, either by experience or logic, and its a dangerous thing to elevate them over faith no matter how reasonable such a stance may appear.

My view parallels the late Rich Mullins.

If you want a religion that makes sense, I suggest something other than Christianity.  However, if you want a religion that makes life….than I think this is the one.” ~Rich Mullins

 

 

 

 

On The Community and Identity Thing Part 2

Community, identity, and spiritual experience are not found exclusively in the Christian domain. Jill describes religion in the following way.

It’s a way to make sense of a hectic and confusing world, and to find people who are making sense of the world in the same way. It’s a gathering of your own people. It offers absolution. It gives us rules to live by and helps to create a set of the shared values and beliefs that keep a society functional. It can encourage academic and spiritual exploration. It offers hope and light when we feel alone and lost. It promises to answer “why,” to give us a reason for our existence and a justification for the hardships we face. It maintains traditions, sometimes thousands of years old, through which we can understand who and where we are, connect to a past and situate ourselves in the long trajectory of human existence.

This is bare bones human need… It doesn’t need a terrified conscience, manufactured or otherwise to shame people to Jesus. It doesn’t need a third use of the law to keep people in an assembly no matter how much a community fails them. Its a much much bigger deal than just deriving ones identity through community.

It also can be fulfilled quite well by any number of religions or even non-religious entities.

Even in relative isolation, spirituality can be experienced. Consider the following from Libby Anne in what is a church.

My husband Sean was raised in a religious family, but he has never had what he would call a “spiritual experience.” I tried to explain to him what it felt like to be so lost in prayer as to feel at one with God and through him the universe, or to be enraptured during a particularly moving hymn in church. Because he had never had them, he couldn’t understand what I meant by a “spiritual experience.” Then he and I went to a concert together and I watched as the music transformed him. We took a walk in the woods and I watched as nature thrilled his soul. I explained to him that the feelings people have when they have “spiritual experiences” are the same feelings he gets at a good concert or during a walk through a patch of wilderness, or while looking at the stars or studying physics. And then he understood.

Where the rubber hits the road and sets Christianity apart from religion is the incarnation, Jesus, the son of God in the flesh… but if we put so many barriers in place, how will people get there? How does edification of the fellow believers take place? How does discipleship happen?

I think part of the problem is that much of contemporary Christianity has a low anthropology quotient. We far too often gloss over the basic human need for religion, we lean towards a moralistic pietism, or swing towards gnosticism in the pew, and then wonder why folks end up leaving the community of faith.

I tend to think a fair number of folks are checked out, but may still be present. Ie, they compartmentalize and are present for an hour or two every Sunday for worship and in some cases Sunday school, but they walk separately for the other 166 hours in a week. I know this all too well, as I’ve done it myself sometimes by circumstance, sometimes intentionally. Some are likely to argue “the Gospel is enough and scriptures tell us not to forsake corporate worship, that’s all we need…” I think they are missing the point, but such is for a different blog post.

In years past, there was a reliance on communal identity as a means of retention, but it was a masking thing. It sort of parallels the reliance on birthrate evangelism rather than the making of disciples and the spreading of the Gospel. Taken to an extreme, it leaves the door open to abusive and other practices counter to the Gospel.

Such is why I see opportunities abounding as identity through community becomes less and less a factor within Christian assembly.

Engineers, MBAs, Managers, and the Church

In the engineering profession, its not uncommon for engineers to have an intense technical focus… often times to the exclusion of nearly everything else. A coder friend of mine once said the length of his lawn was proportional to the technical challenge of the problem at hand. In addition, career progression, and for some, financial rewards are seen as afterthoughts, even if personally detrimental.

Some coders have poured thousands of unpaid late night hours into an open source project with few, if any hopes of financial return, all the while holding down a day job just to keep the lights on. They had a fire in the gut for what they were doing… to me, such sort of parallels Paul his tentmaking, and his zeal for the Gospel.

To an engineer, marketing MBA’s who are juggling to “get ahead promotion wise” or managers singularly focused on quarterly financial bonuses are often looked at like they are on another planet.

Within church/ministry organizations… there are many parallels to the business sector of marketing MBAs and managers… even volunteers want to “get ahead”. Jockeying for this or that, whether it be position or finances is common. Paul made a comment on Faith in Communities blog that I thought nailed it.

I have seen adjuticatories that reek of the worst of corporate culture (yes, the hint of sulphur), where “managing up” (sucking up to and manipulating bosses) supersedes “managing down” (taking care of the areas and people you are supposed to be taking care of), where image and politics are everything. In the business world serving one’s own career advancement takes priority over the servanthood of Christ

It seems a misplaced fire in the gut type deal… No doubt, human nature plays a role in this, ie pride, self preservation, greed, etc, but I think environment also plays a role. How many youngsters with fire in the gut for Christ, end up being hit with a firehose? How many pastors get so swamped with distractions and pulling here and there they nearly lose sight of the goal? How many coders and engineers are so focused technically, that Christian servanthood becomes nearly a lost cause? When was the last time, there was a real danger of a Eutychus type fellow taking a header out the window?