The Gospel for Postmoderns pt. 1

Do you know the most significant date in the history of Christianity?

It's not Constantine's edict which made Christianity the official religion of the global superpower of it's day. It's not the schism between Catholic and Orthodox churches which was the first of hundreds of divisions in Christ's body. It's not the day Luther nailed his 95 theses on the Wittenburg door, and set in motion what would later be called Protestantism. In fact, we don't even know the date exactly.

But here is what happened... Peter, the rock of the earliest church, experienced a second conversion. (It's recorded in Acts 10.) God shattered his notions of righteousness, with a threefold vision of non-kosher foods and a voice from heaven declaring: "What God has made clean, you must not profane." And then he entered the home of a Gentile - something prohibited by the rabbis. What he witnessed that day, turned his faith on its head...and yet it was somehow a familiar feeling to him who was with Jesus as he mingled with tax collectors and sinners. Peter began to speak to this household of gentiles: "I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him." To Peter's shock "the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word" and he said "Can anyone withhold the water for baptism from these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?"

And so it began. The first non-Jews became Christians. Chapter 11 of Acts includes Peter's report to the church at Jerusalem which concludes with their exclamation "Then God has given to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life." And then began the debate. What would it mean to be a Christian, but not of Jewish culture? Here's what they concluded: "...we should not trouble the Gentiles who are turning to God, but we should write to them to abstain only from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from what ever has been strangled and from blood." These, they concluded were the only cultural carry-overs they (and/or the Holy Spirit would) require of non-Jews. Circumcision: not essential. Kosher diets: optional.  

Every generation faces this same quandary: What will it mean for the next generation to be a Christian, but not of our generations culture? What is required of the emerging generation? Can we simply let them try to follow Jesus as they discern is best? What will it mean for them to follow Jesus, but be post-modern? What do YOU think? (And then I'll tell you what I think).

Redemptive Creativity

Apparently a respected Christian leader asked another for advice about how to spend his next season of ministry and was told, "It's easier to create something good than to fix something that's broken." Of course, this is nowhere more true than in church world. It seems that about the easiest thing to do these days is to plant a church full of 20yearolds. As a 135 year old church wrestling through how to find God's future for us, we know it's not easy. But I take comfort in knowing that in the eschaton (the end) God isn't going to make all new things, he's going to make all things new. So while I'm serving here, I'll count myself in good company of the one who once created all new things, but now is committed to a redemptive creativity.

REVEAL's Key findings

If you haven't heard about REVEAL, you're behind the times. Here's your primer. REVEAL was the culmination of a three-year process of research designed to measure how people grow spiritually, what types of activities or practices trigger (or hinder) spiritual growth and how the church has met—and failed to meet—their unique needs. Willow Creek's research was both qualitative and quantitative, including more than 2.6 million data points from more than 11,000 completed surveys, including 510 electronic surveys from MPPC congregants. It represents one of the most serious efforts yet to learn about how people become like Jesus. Using advanced research methods, Willow compared and correlated spiritual feelings and attitudes (love for God, love for people) with behavioral responses (tithing, evangelism, serving, etc.) to determine predictiveness. Predictiveness is the degree to which we can predict whether or not a person is likely to behave in a certain way. After analyzing church activities, spiritual behaviors, demographics, life stages and other factors, they concluded that nothing was more predictive of a person’s spiritual growth—love of God and love for others—than his or her relational closeness to Jesus Christ. Our Mission Study Report similarly concluded, “Yet, despite apparent differences, virtually everything we read about and learned from the healthiest Christian churches and faith communities across time, revealed their centering on Jesus.” REVEAL’s Findings First, it is interesting to note what REVEAL did not find; neither gender nor age impacted spiritual growth significantly. Moreover, patterns of spiritual growth (beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that mark the spiritual journey) were consistent across all seven churches surveyed despite differences of region, denomination and size. The stability of this pattern was a critical finding and indicates that the broader REVEAL findings could be used to help discern a path for spiritual growth for all MPPC congregants. Six Key Discoveries 1. Involvement in church activities does not predict or drive long-term spiritual growth. While church involvement did drive behavior somewhat—the more people participated, the more likely they are to serve, tithe, etc—quite startling was the finding that higher levels of church activities alone did not have a direct impact on growing the heart or predicting an increasing love for God. However, there is a “spiritual continuum” (based on relational closeness to Jesus Christ) that is very predictive and powerful. All the measured behaviors, attitudes and beliefs related to a growing love for God and others advanced in lockstep with this four-stage continuum that is centered on a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. (More information on the four stages is provided in Chapter 4.) Four Stage Spiritual Continuum: • Exploring Christianity (10% of MPPC respondents): “I believe in God, but I’m not sure about Jesus. My faith is not a significant part of my life.” • Growing in Christ (17% of MPPC respondents): “I believe in Jesus, and I’m working on what it means to get to know Him.” • Close to Christ (29% of MPPC respondents): “I feel really close to Christ and depend on Him daily for guidance.” • Christ-Centered (25% of MPPC respondents): “God is all I need in my life. He is enough. Everything I do is a reflection of Christ.” 2. Spiritual growth is all about increasing relational closeness to Christ. REVEAL discovered the four segments or stages of spiritual growth based on how respondents described their relationship with Jesus. The study found that those who similarly described their relationship with Jesus also responded similarly to questions about spiritual attitudes and actions, including questions about “drivers and barriers” to spiritual growth. This conclusion reminds us that God has planted in our hearts the desire to grow in intimacy with Him; and as we draw closer to Him, we see dramatic changes in how we live our lives and relate to others. The research suggests that this intrinsic instinct for God can also be nurtured by two external elements: church engagement and personal engagement. 3. The church is most important in the early stages of spiritual growth. Its role then shifts from being the primary influence to a secondary influence. As people grow and move along the spiritual continuum, the church’s role shifts from providing organized teaching and connection opportunities to providing serving opportunities. The most catalytic church activities noted by segment are: Exploring Christianity: • Early connection opportunities with Christians are key • Weekend (seeker) services are critical Growing in Christ: • Weekend services remain important • Small groups rise in significance • Serving people in need through the church Close to Christ: • Weekend services and small groups drop in importance • Serving in church ministry and other opportunities gain ground Christ-Centered: • Church’s primary role is to provide serving opportunities • Serving the poor is significant • Opportunities to mentor and be spiritually coached 4. Forms of personal engagement in spiritual growth are the building blocks for a Christ-centered life. As church engagement declines in impact on spiritual growth, personal engagement becomes increasingly catalytic. This makes sense when we remember that spiritual growth is all about growing our relationship with God through a deepening relationship with Jesus Christ. As with any intimate relationship, the most devoted disciples of Christ spend markedly more time, energy and attention on their relationship with Christ, particularly through core personal spiritual practices such as Bible reading and reflection, solitude and prayer. Further, as people advance along the spiritual continuum, they discover that they participate in these practices because they want to, not because they are obligated to, and thus, the church need not “handhold” those moving into later stages of growth. The most catalytic forms of personal engagement at each particular stage of growth include: Exploring Christianity: • Prayer • Bible Reading Growing in Christ: • Bible Reading • Frequent Prayer • Spiritual Friendships/Mentors Close to Christ: • Frequent Reflection on Scripture • Daily Prayer • Frequent Solitude • Tithing • Spiritual Friendships/Mentors Christ-Centered: • Daily Reflection on Scripture • Daily Solitude • Spiritual Friendships/Mentors • Evangelism • Tithing • Serving Those in Need Independent of the Church 5. A church’s most active evangelists, volunteers and donors come from the most spiritually advanced segments. Considered one of the most significant yet surprising findings, REVEAL discovered that the more one grows, the more one serves, tithes and evangelizes. Given this finding—and its potential impact for the Kingdom—churches should do everything they can to increase the number of those who are fully surrendered disciples of Christ. 6. More than 25 percent of those surveyed described themselves as spiritually “stalled” or “dissatisfied” with the role of the church in their spiritual growth. In addition to the four stages noted above, REVEAL also highlighted two other groups of respondents: “Stalled” and “Dissatisfied.” The “Stalled” group wrestles with lost momentum in their spiritual growth while the “Dissatisfied” group is unhappy with all major church activities (weekend services, classes and small groups) but continues to fully participate in them. While there are differences in the two groups, in both cases they still look almost exclusively to the church to lead their spiritual growth. Thus, the church can address the heart of their unhappiness by helping them realize that much of the responsibility for their own spiritual growth belongs to them. • Stalled: “I believe in Christ but I haven’t grown much lately.” They tend to be found in the early to middle growing stages of the continuum. Those in the stalled category have experienced a season of exceptional growth but are now unhappy with their current stagnation. They are not prioritizing their spiritual life, and therefore, investing significantly less time in personal spiritual practices. They also have relatively higher rates of emotional issues, addictions, and inappropriate relationships. This indicates that the church can play a role in helping them get back on a vital spiritual growth path. • Dissatisfied: “My faith is central to my life and I’m trying to grow, but my church is letting me down.” They tend to be long-time church congregants and come from the more Christ-focused group. Though they are disappointed with major church activities, they are still highly involved in them. More than 60% of this group is considering leaving the church. Since they want the church to challenge them and keep them accountable, the church can provide tools such as a personal growth plan or spiritual mentor to spur further growth and help retain them. Other Important Discoveries While there were many other interesting findings from the REVEAL study, the Task Force is highlighting three of them: 1. As they advance along the spiritual continuum, people express a growing need for a community of spiritual friendships that “holds me accountable.” Spiritual relationships play an increasing role as people grow. In all stages, spiritual friends or spiritual mentors/confidants were viewed as more important to spiritual growth than a person’s small group. Respondents also expressed an increasing need for these spiritual friendships to be authentic, truth-telling relationships where they can be held accountable for their actions. (In addition, the Christ-centered group is committed to mentoring or helping others grow spiritually.) 2. Pain and difficulty in life can be times of exceptional spiritual growth. This can refer to emotional pain due to a life circumstance, a struggle with a major decision or coming to a crossroads in life. In times like these, it is crucial for the church to provide ways of coming around people to offer appropriate care and support. 3. People want seven primary benefits from their church. The top two needs are critical across the board for all stages. The next five vary in importance depending on the stage, with the first three being most essential in the earlier stages of growth and the last two more relevant to the advanced stages of growth. The top two suggest that what people want is actually what most church leaders agree they need:
Top Two Church-related Benefits for All Stages: 1) Challenges me to grow and take next steps 2) Helps me understand the Bible in greater depth Five Church-Related Benefits that Change Along the Continuum: 1) Provides compelling worship services 2) Helps me feel like I belong 3) Helps me develop a personal relationship with Jesus 4) Helps me find relationships that encourage accountability 5) Provides opportunities to serve those in need
In general, churches are doing a reasonably good job meeting these needs, with 60-80% very or extremely satisfied. However, there is a wide discrepancy in the average satisfaction level between the top six and bottom six congregations. This indicates that best practices do exist. Notably, the churches that had the most positive responses to these top benefits had significantly smaller “Dissatisfied” groups. This indicates that addressing these expectations will lower the number of “Dissatisfied” congregants and help to prevent some of the more Christ-centered people from leaving the church. This is excerpted and edited with permission from Menlo Park Presbyterian Church's Growing Faith Task Force Report, of which I was a member.

Jesus' Last Meal, Part 5

The promise of the fourth and final Passover cup was this: I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God...  Exodus 6:7

For Israel, this promise led to them becoming a nation, having a special intimate covenant relationship with God. God called them his “treasured possession, his holy nation,” even calls them his firstborn son, and they cherished this promise, because it meant that they were loved. Of course, they weren’t the only people God loved, so when Jesus said he was going to pay the cost, he said it was about making a new covenant. He said, what I’m doing, it’s going to change the relationship between God and people forever. Everyone is going to have the chance to be called God’s son or daughter.

Paul has a beautiful line in Romans 8 where he says through the Spirit we are now the adopted children of God, and that through the Spirit we cry “Abba, Father.” Because this new covenant, we get to call almighty God, ‘daddy.’

Recently I spoke with a man who has two grown daughters that have refused to talk with him for 3 years. And this is a strong kinda gruff guy, who tells me before he came to Christ he used to kind of enjoy firing people, which he did a fair amount of. But this barrier in his relationship with his daughters breaks his heart. He sends them gifts and cards, but neither of them respond, and it wouldn’t be enough if they did, cause for each of them, he just wants to hug her and tell her that he loves her and have her call him “daddy.”

His daughters live out of the area, and he was telling me that he’s finally planning to do something more drastic. Next week he’s gonna go show up in the neighborhood of one of them, and he’ll go to the other daughter the following week and he said he’s going to drive a couple blocks from her house and call her and say “You’re my daughter and I love you, I want to have a relationship with you. I’m down the street, can I see you, can we talk?” And if she says “no”, he’s gonna tell her, “I’m staying at a hotel tonight so if you change your mind, I’m here, just give me a call, or just tell me where to meet you, cause I’ve come all this way because I love you and I want to have a relationship with you.” He told me that this is going to be really difficult, and that he knows he might be rejected, but that he loves them too much not to try. I’m sure he’d appreciate your prayers.

What if someone wanted that badly to have a relationship with you? That they’d risk rejection cause they just wanted to be close to you, to call you their beloved daughter or precious son? What if you could call someone like that ‘daddy’? At the core what we really wonder is if all those promises God made to a bunch of slaves thousands of years ago, to remove their heavy yoke, to free them from slavery, to redeem them, to make them his own, we wonder if all these promises are for us too, we wonder if maybe there’s freedom for us, too.

Well, the good news that we celebrate in the New Passover meal, the meal we call Communion, is something Paul says best... no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. (2 Cor. 1:19)

All God’s ancient promises are for you and they are fulfilled in Christ Jesus our Lord. And God says to us: I relieve you of your burden – now you can live with peace and joy. I free you from your slavery to sin – now you are free you to live well. I have redeemed you through my death – now you know what you’re worth. I claim you as my beloved child -- now you can call me ‘Abba.’ So as John comes up to lead us in communion let me encourage you, as you receive the bread and the cup, to receive and embrace these promises. Because in Jesus Christ, our Great Passover, these promises are for you.

Jesus' Last Meal, Part 4 (Maundy Thursday)

Jesus' last meal was a Passover Seder. Passover's were always eaten with four cups of wine in memory of the four fulfilled promises of salvation God gave Israel in slavery.

The promise of the third cup: I will redeem you with an outstretched arm… Exodus 6:6

Over the last several months, I’ve been becoming more and more aware of the reality that there are today 27 million people in SLAVERY, many of these are teen age girls who are tricked or kidnapped and thrown into dark wet, cockroach-infested rooms, starved and drugged and beaten and raped until there wills are broken and they finally agree to have sex with their first customer. And then they spend years servicing up to 10 or more men in a day. And it’s just so horrific it breaks my heart and makes me angry.

But, what just puts me over the edge is that when someone finally comes to rescue them, to take them out, to free them, often times they won’t go. They’ll deny that they are slaves. They’ll say they want to be there. Why? Because they are afraid and ashamed. They’re convinced that that they’re nothing more than bodies, so much so that they simply don’t believe they deserve freedom.

The truth is, it is not enough to take their chains off it’s not enough to free them, slaves have got to be redeemed! The Hebrew word for redeem is Gah-al and it means either someone pays a ransom price, or someone takes care of their helpless relative. Either way, redemption is about a major personal cost that says to a person, “you’re worth something.” That is what former slaves need.

So when God’s people are in slavery, he doesn’t just say “I’m going to free you,” he also tells them “I’m going to redeem you with an outstretched arm…I’m going to go out of my way, I’m going stretch out my arm and extend myself and pour out myself for you.” And this is what Jesus was saying when he took the third cup, called the cup of redemption, and told his disciples: "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you." Luke 22

I just think about what must have been going through Jesus’ mind that night, as he sat eating this meal with his closest friends, knowing that his whole life has been leading up to these moments, knowing what was going to happen, that he was about to die a gruesome and shameful death. Staring that reality in the face and feeling the weight of that fear. And I imagine him, looking down into the red wine in his cup and thinking about the blood poured out the night of the first Passover, the blood of the firstborn sons and spotless lambs, just gazing into it, and knowing: what happened to them is going to happen to me. And then looking around the room at these dear, dear friends thinking “It’s worth it because, when what happened to the lamb happens to me, then what happened to the Israelite slaves is going to happen to those that I love, and they’ll be truly free, more free than the can imagine. And he says it’s worth the cost. It’s worth my death to redeem you. So he looked his friends in the eyes and he told them “this is my blood, and it is poured out for you and for you, and for you."

What if someone looked you in the eye and said, do you know what you’re worth? You’re worth everything to me. I’ll pour out my life for you. I’d die for you. It’s so cliché, but what if they did? What if you mattered that much? What if that’s what God meant when he promised: “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm”?

That was the promise of the third cup.

In the final post in this series, we look at the fourth cup.

Jesus' Last Meal, Part 3 (Maundy Thursday)

Jesus' last meal was a Passover Seder. Passovers were always eaten with four cups of wine in memory of the four fulfilled promises of salvation God gave Israel while they were in slavery.

The promise of the Second Cup was: I will free you from being slaves...Exodus 6:6

After this cup Jesus... ...took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.

What Jesus is saying here truly shocking, he saying: “From now on, the exodus, as great as it was, isn’t all the Passover is about, this salvation meal is even more about me. So eat the Passover in my memory, because I am the main event of salvation now. I am the new exodus. I’m the end of your slavery.”

Of course, Jesus had talked about ending slavery before, when he said: Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin [but] if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:34-36)

Several years ago, I was spending a lot of time with a high school guy named Sam. Now Sam was this kinda troublemaking kid who wore tight jeans, played the drums, smoked pot and worst of all...talked during sermons. I had a soft spot for Sam, but whenever I tried to turn conversation to God he’d just go quiet -- until one day we were riding in my car to go get Slurpees I had him read Romans 7 this really wordy section where Paul says basically “I don’t get it, I can’t seem to do what I want to do, instead I end up doing the very thing I hate.” And when Sam finished reading we were both silent for a second and then he said something I’ll never forget, he said: “That’s the first thing I’ve ever read in the Bible that makes sense to me.” He got it. He knew what that was like. And I’m sure you get it too. Cause we’ve all experienced what Paul was talking about.

Does anyone remember that anti-drug commercial in the 80s that has kids voices saying “I want to be track star or a nurse when I grow up” and pictures of drug addicts with a voice over saying “No one ever says, “I want to be a junkee when I grow up.”?

The sad truth is we’re all like that, we never wanted to become stingy, we never wanted to become an angry person, we never wanted to become stubborn or stuck in our ways, we never intended to be adulterers. We wanted to be good people, but somehow we just end up doing things that we know are wrong, things we despise.

And we wonder… What if life didn’t have to be like that? What if we weren’t slaves to our lesser selves? What if we could actually live like we wish we would? Be the kind of people we admire. Could that be what God was talking about when he promised: “I will free you from being slaves”?

That was the promise of the second cup.

In the next post we'll look at the third cup.

Christ, Our Passover

What if God's promises to a bunch of slaves 1000's of years ago have a second horizon for us? Listen to Our Passover, a sermon I preached for Maundy Thursday.

Jesus' Last Meal, Part 2 (Maundy Thursday)

I did some research into the ritual cups of wine in a Passover meal, and it turns out that as long as anyone can remember, the Passover has been celebrated around four cups of wine. At four times during the meal they would (and do) toast with a cup of wine, and with each cup they remembered one of God’s promises to them in slavery. And as I read these promises, I began to wonder if they weren’t just for the Israelites, but maybe there’s a second horizon on these promises, and maybe they were for us too.

I want to invite you to wonder with me as we walk through the promises of the Passover.

The promise of the first cup: I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians...(Exodus 6:6)

For four hundred years, the descendants of Israel had been forced to work long hours of physical labor, sweating under the heat of the Egyptian sun, afraid of their master’s whips, weeping with despair for the future of their children, praying to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for deliverance, and one day, God answered...and rescued them with plagues of boils and lice and locust and darkness and as the grand finale, he opened up the Sea and they walked through on dry land.

But in Jesus’ day, that redemption seemed so long ago, almost like a fairy tale, because at that time they were under another yoke: all they had to do was look out in the streets and see their people forced to carry the gear of Roman soldiers to know they were under the yoke of Rome. They looked to God to overthrow Rome and frankly that is what they thought Jesus’ was going to do, so on Palm Sunday they greeted him shouting “Hosanna!” Which means “Save us now.”

But Jesus didn’t come to free them from the Roman yoke, he came saying… "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Mt. 11:28-29

In Jesus’ day, people were carrying heavy burdens, but it wasn’t the Romans packs - even if Rome went away, the burden wouldn’t. Because the burden they were carrying is the same burden that people carry today.

At a Men’s Retreat a while back, I met a bunch of guys who were out of work and stressed and anxious and you could almost see the burden they were carrying and I’m sure it’d be me too if I was in their situation. But I met another guy there who was also out of work, but somehow you wouldn’t know it, he genuinely seemed at peace, smiling and whistling and trusting God. And it made me wonder...

What if my circumstances aren’t the yoke I’m feeling? What if I'd feel it even if my circumstances changed? What if our responsibilities, as important and pressing as they are, could actually sit lightly on our shoulders? And over that first cup we wonder: Was this what God meant when he promised “I will bring you out from under the heavy yoke?”

That’s the promise of the first cup.

In the next post, the second cup.

Jesus' Last Meal: A Maundy Thursday Reflection

The Last Supper by Jacopo Bassano, 1542
You’ve heard it called by many names:
The Last Supper.
The Lord’s Table.
The Holy Mass.

But it's a meal that Jesus would have simply called "the Passover."

My first experience with the Passover was during my junior year in college, I had decided to fast for a couple of days before Easter as a way of mourning the sadness of Jesus’ death. So I fasted Good Friday and I fasted Saturday morning and afternoon and then my roommate invited me to a Passover Seder. When I stared at him blankly he graciously reminded me that the Passover was the meal that Jews ate every year to remember their last night in slavery, the night of the 10th plague, when all the first born sons of Egypt died, but the Lord passed over the houses with the blood of a lamb on their doorposts and I thought, “This is great, I can break my fast early, and avoid feeling guilty because its a religious meal!”

So there I was on Saturday night standing around a table, because the Passover was originally celebrated standing, and I haven’t eaten in 48 hours and I’m just dying for a good hamburger or some lasagna but what I saw on the table was all kinds of funny looking and funny smelling foods.

The host filled all of our glasses with wine and we passed around several foods that were symbolic of our slavery. We dipped parsley in salt water to remind us of our sorrow and tears. We scooped enough horseradish onto unleavened bread that it brought tears to our eyes, like the tears our forefathers cried in Egypt, we ate this kind of apple sauce with raisins that was reminiscent of the mortar with which we built.

And I’ll be honest by this point, my inner biblical history nerd had emerged and I was really getting into it.

And then the host said it was time for the second cup, I'm thinking, “Second cup? I’ve hardly touched my first cup, shoot, I must have been so caught up in the moment that I have fallen behind!” so I did something that seemed reasonable at the time, but now I can only attribute to having not eaten anything for 48 hours: I grabbed my cup and pounded the whole thing. Before I even put the glass down I knew I had experienced a significant lapse of judgment. As I struggled to keep my balance and not spill anything, I was saying to myself, “I don’t think this is the Holy Spirit I’m feeling.”

Well, I made it through the night and despite the mishap, honestly, the whole experience made me curious about the significance of these ritual cups of wine.

In the next post, I'll tell you about the first one, and then another each post to follow.
You can watch the video of this sermon here.

Being Educated Beyond Our Obedience Pt. 2

More than any other in my short history as a blogger, my recent post "Being Educated Beyond Our Obedience" generated a lot of hits and debate. I responded to this on with this....

Hey Guys,

Wow, quite a lively debate here-though I do think it's gotten of topic quite a bit. I'm the guy who wrote the original post and want to speak to Jesse's question near the top:

"How can we fix this problem? Perhaps more sermons against this? I intuitively believe this is a deeper problem than more teaching will fix - it seems to me that we’ll need some kind of fundamental change in our system."

Jesse -- You've got to be dead right. How absurd of us to think that we can educate (teach) our folks out of being over-taught and inactive. The system is the thing. You look at how Jesus made disciples, teaching was just an element, whereas in most of our churches we depend on the teaching alone. I find that those with teaching gifts (myself included) tend to think that a good sermon can fix anything. It's like we're the guy who's only tool is a hammer and therefore sees every problem as a nail.

What we need is something like Jesus' model of discipleship which is summed up by no better work than "apprenticeship". Jesus' crew became like Jesus because they kept company with him, watched what he did and joined in. Remember Jesus and the 5000? Jesus said "You feed them" to his disciples. Remember the sending out of the 12 and 70? Matthew's Gospel is the best discipleship model I've seen - with a chunk of chapters on what Jesus did, followed by a chunk on the disciples doing the same, and concluding with a commissioning of the disciples to go reproduce "teaching them to OBEY everything I have commanded.'

If there is any steam left in this conversation - I hope someone will spend it on proposing a 'programmatic' solution to being educated beyond our obedience.

Related Posts:
Being Educated Beyond Our Obedience Pt.1
God's Word is Dangerous Entertainment
Confessions of a Glutton

Not all Humans are Equally Human

What does it mean to be human? Biblically speaking, it means I've been created in the image of God...and a million answers have been offered to define this. We are in the God's image because like God creates, we create, we have spirits, or because like God we can reason, or because we have a real capacity to love. And something about each of these rings true, but there is a dangerous analog to this. It means that when we cease to be creative, our humanity is diminished, when we become unable to reason we've lost some of our God-likeness, when we don't pray we're reduced to glorified apes and when we no longer love, we become a mere beast. Frankly, I think this is partially true. Not all humans are equally human. We look at Jesus, the ideal human, and we see in him all that humanity was intended to be. And we're not wrong to believe that the less we resemble Jesus, the less alive we are to our humanity. But I only say "partially true" because most essentially what it means to be human is that God has looked on us in a unique way. Humanity is not defined by human potential, capacity or activity. Humanity is defined by God. We are human, very simply, because God has loved us uniquely. For us (as well as for the cosmos) God sent his Son to die. The truth is, there is not easy answer our questions about beginning and end of life, but it does give us a better frame of reference for the discussion. What do you think?