Archive for April, 2011

Sharing the Life of Christ

April 30th, 2011 No comments

I heartily approve of the mission statement recently adopted by our Session: “Sharing the Life of Christ.” The first reason I like it is that it’s concise. I used to work in big companies that had those horrible mission statements nobody could repeat or even knew existed, half a page of fashionable buzzwords strung together, like “strategic,” “teamwork,” and “partnering.”

By contrast, our new mission statement passes what I call the “Tee-Shirt Test”–it’s not too big to fit on a Tee-shirt. (Another simple test: which is easier to say: “our mission statement” or the mission statement itself? If it’s not a toss-up, your mission statement needs to be shorter.)

The second reason I like “Sharing the Life of Christ” is that it’s a mission statement. It tells us what we’re doing as a church. There’s a reason God put us here, and we’re doing it. Even if we fail, we’ve done our best, but hopefully, our mission statement will help us succeed.

The Bible records many places where Jesus gave instructions to his disciples. The most famous, perhaps, is the Great Commission in Matthew 28: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all I have commanded you.”

There are any number things we could be doing to fulfill the Great Commission, but, given our size and our limited resources, there are probably only a few we can do well. The entire Christian church can and should go to all nations, but if we attempted to do that as individual Christians, we’d spend our whole life in airports, and not have any time for making disciples or teaching them to obey Jesus. A mission statement helps us decide where to focus our efforts.

I’m excited to have this new tool to help us be faithful in our calling to be disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, and I hope you are too.

Over the next several weeks, I’ll let you know what I think it means for us to share the life of Christ. I’d love to hear what you think. What is “the life of Christ?” How do we share it? Who do we share it with? Let’s talk!

(Cross-posted at the Desert Hills Presbyterian Church blog.)

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The Seminary Bubble

April 25th, 2011 No comments

Via Twitter, I saw a fascinating article on Forbes’ blog about the “Seminary Bubble.” Excerpt:

After all, what matters more to the customer, the member: the ability to discuss the relationship between Paul Tillich’s theory of ultimate concern and Karl Barth’s version of neo-orthodoxy in light of the demythologizing textual hermeneutic of Bultman, or the ability to keep the congregation/audience’s attention for twenty minutes with a relevant sermon about family life? Seminary tends to give you loads of the former and little of the latter.

I might quibble with the word “customer” there, but then, I’m seminary-trained and quibbling is my stock-in-trade. Other than that, there’s a lot of truth to it. The theological gibberish in that quote is spot-on. God forbid I ever say anything that stupid from the pulpit.

I’m not sure 20 minutes is the target any more, either. It’s still the norm in the mainline, but the point of the article is that the mainline is hardly a standard any more. My guess is that a lot of “customers” want more than 20 minutes worth of sermon. Anything worth doing is worth doing. Also, as people become less and less familiar with Christianity, liturgical rites and ceremonies are increasingly arcane. You can’t devote most of an hour to incomprehensible mumbo-jumbo and assume it’s relevant to people just because you’ve eliminated references to Barth and Tillich.

(As an aside, the writer says the disconnect also has to do with politics. This is a stock complaint. “The mainline denominations are populated, barely, with Prius-driving Democrats, while evangelical churches are packed with Nascar fans who vote Republican.” That may be true, but 1800 years ago, the Temples were filled with rock-ribbed devotees of Juno and Apollo, and Christians were in the arena. So what?)

That’s not to say there aren’t some real insights in the article. Read the whole thing. The gist is that seminary is expensive but doesn’t necessarily produce people who “succeed” in ministry. (That’s another word I can’t help but quibble with: success in ministry isn’t necessarily measured in a church’s budget or seating capacity.)

When I speak with less-well trained ministers, the less tactful of them tell me something that boils down to: “we equip the called, and [your denomination] calls the equipped.”

Maybe. But my guess is it has at least as much to do with assuming pastoral ministry is something you can learn in school. It’s not a question of who’s called, or not always. It’s a question of how you equip them.

Paul didn’t send Timothy off to seminary. A lot of people at “successful” churches — especially church planters — have spent a fair bit of time either in what amounts to an apprenticeship, or belong to networks that provide more support than a denominational superstructure provides. (For a hilarious-but-tragic example of denominational indifference, see Eugene Peterson’s Under the Unpredictable Plant.)

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Why No Sermon Podcast?

April 4th, 2011 No comments

Here’s why there’s not a sermon podcast again this week. See the yellow highlighted region?

Too-Quiet Sermon

That yellow portion is the sermon. The microphone was off, or something. I don’t know if it was something I did wrong, or something in the soundbooth. (Occam’s Razor says it was me.) But the past couple of weeks, it’s been one thing after another. Sorry!

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Seventy Times Seven

April 2nd, 2011 No comments

I stumbled on this video (unofficial/fan) for the David Meese song “Seventy Times Seven.” I haven’t heard the song in 10 years, but the message is evergreen.

Hearing the song started me thinking: I believe I have a David Meese album. So I checked, and, yes, I do: three, in fact — but I never ripped them into iTunes. Well, that would explain why I don’t ever hear this song any more.

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