Archive for January, 2012

New Call!

January 27th, 2012 No comments

I’ve accepted a new call. Assuming that all the denominational processes work themselves out, then effective March 12, 2012, I will become pastor of Jewel Lake Parish in Anchorage, Alaska.

You can’t photograph a church, but here’s the building they meet in:

Jewel Lake Parish (Church)

(Click to enlarge).

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Tab Sweep – Small Groups, Hitchens, Mainline Planting

January 16th, 2012 No comments

A quick list of some things I’ve read lately that are worth sharing:

First, the short but provocatively-titled “Taking Our Groups Off Life Support.” Key graf:

If we are going to take our groups off life support, we are going to need permission to re-imagine what gospel-centered community looks like. We will not change the preconceived view of groups by making participation a requirement for membership or by changing the names of our programs from “ministries” to “groups.” Small groups will thrive when they become the place where we experience life-giving transformation.

Second, “Learning from Christopher Hitchens,” an appraisal by Albert Mohler that is less a eulogy than, well, what it says: “Lessons Evangelicals Must Not Miss.” Mohler lists five such lessons, such as this one:

4. Hitchens did not hide behind intellectual scorn and he did not fear the open exchange of ideas. … Hitchens … was willing to debate evangelical Christians and to allow the debates to be publicized and published. He did not attempt to shut down debate by insulting his ideological and theological opponents.

Very much worth reading. If an outspoken atheist were admirable in so many ways, should not Christians be equally so, if indeed, not admirable in many other ways as well?

And finally, Landon Whitsitt tells young mainline pastor types to plant a church:

Am I the only one who sees a problem here? Not only do we want to “screw up the church,” but we also want the little old ladies pay for it? And then we have the audacity to be aggrieved when it doesn’t pan out? Come on. I thought we were smarter than this.

I’ve had concerns about the local-church-as-fixture (you know, “First XYZ Church of Anytown, U.S.,” celebrating a hundred years of doing the same thing) ever since I read Alan Hirsch’s The Forgotten Ways. I’m not sure convinced a local congregation was ever meant to survive for more than a brief season. Our expectations to the contrary seem to me to be baggage we’re carrying from Christendom. See also Whitsitt’s follow-on.

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Best Tim Tebow Article

January 13th, 2012 No comments

I don’t follow football very closely, but as a former Coloradoan, it was good to see Tebow shake things up with those come-from-behind wins most of this past fall.

And after the win last week against the Steelers, it’s been impossible to miss all the coverage. There’s a new/old song about him, the inevitable Hitler/Downfall parody, and an incredible number of articles debating whether he’s as awesome as his fans think he is, or just “fool’s gold.” But this article by Rick Reilly is the best one I’ve seen:

I’ve come to believe in Tim Tebow, but not for what he does on a football field, which is still three parts Dr. Jekyll and two parts Mr. Hyde.

No, I’ve come to believe in Tim Tebow for what he does off a football field, which is represent the best parts of us, the parts I want to be and so rarely am.

Read the whole thing.

(And if you’re curious, the Atlantic has a good article by Owen Strachan that addresses the really important question: Does God Care Whether Tim Tebow Wins on Saturday?)

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Fresh Year!

January 2nd, 2012 No comments

Happy New Year!

The writers of the New Testament used two different words for “new.” One of them, neos, is more familiar to English speakers. It’s where we get our prefix neo-. Some hospitals, for example, have a special unit to care for neonates, or newborns.

The other word, kainos, is less familiar to us; the only English word related to it is a technical word used by geologists. In the Bible, however, kainos occurs more frequently in the Bible than neos.

What’s the difference between these words? Neos has strictly to do with the age of something. For example, in Luke 15:11-32, the story of the prodigal son, the younger brother is the newer one, the neoteros brother. His brother is presbuteros, is older, than he. (That word for “older”, by the way, is where we get our term Presbyterian, which is used to describe a church governed not by clergy but by elders.)

Kainos has less to do with the actual age of a thing than neos. It refers instead to something’s freshness. When Jesus taught, people marveled not at how young his teaching was, but its revolutionary novelty: “They were all amazed, and kept on asking each other, ‘What is this? A new teaching—with authority!'” (Mark 1:27)

The distinction between new/young and new/fresh is a useful one. Not everything new is fresh. In a world of knock-offs and derivative ideas, the easiest thing of all is to come up with something that’s new but not innovative. Look at Hollywood: there are new movies in the theaters every week, but how many of them are tired retreads of the same old stories?

Even in the Old Testament, we hear God alert us that he is doing a new thing (Isaiah 43:19). In the New Testament, we learn its newness is the kainos type: not young but fresh. Jesus brought a new teaching. Paul tells us that those who are in Christ are new creations, and when he proclaimed Jesus, people were eager to hear his new teaching. Near the end of the book of Revelation, John has a vision of the new heaven and new earth, and he records Jesus’ words: “He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!'”

Our God is a God makes things new. He does so not by making those things younger, however: how could even God do that? Instead, God makes things new by refreshing them and giving them renewed vitality.

Which brings me back to “Happy New Year!” 2012 is a new neos/young year, but will it be a new kainos/fresh year? Will the year 2012 be filled with novelty and innovation, or with another twelve weary months of the same-old, same-old? The Bible gives us reason to believe God desires to do new things in us and through us. My hope that 2012 is a new year for you in the very best way.

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