Thursday, October 30, 2008

let me get this straight, you don't want me to follow you?

In the Gospels, Jesus is constantly doing stuff that throws people for a loop. There's the one time he actually pays his taxes by sending Peter fishing! There's another time when Jesus lets a prostitute wash his hair with her perfume. (I've never thought about it before, but probably the perfume that she used to attract men in her business endevors.) Like I said he's always doing things that are a bit suprising.

Perhaps you've heard the story about when Jesus met the man with a Legion of demons. He, of course, cast the demons from the man and into a herd of pigs. This is not the suprise. The suprise is when the guy asks Jesus if he can become his disciple Jesus says no. Instead he directs the poor guy to go home and tell everybody what has happened to him. So the man goes to the Decapolis and begins to tell his story; and everybody is amazed! 

The next time Jesus comes back to this area in chapter, large crowds come out to see him and the bring their sick to him to be healed. How did they know about Jesus? Well, perhaps the guy who had been so dramatically changed. Maybe this is what Jesus intended? How would these people have ever heard the good news that Jesus was here if the man had followed Jesus? 

I one time heard this story described as, "Maybe Jesus doesn't want you to follow him..." which is very unnerving. Where will you go that Jesus is not going. Where will you go that nobody else will go. Where does the truth of God take us?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

fall picture essay

Fall is upon us, the leaves in Wilmore are changing! Here is a picture of a branch from a tree that we park under!

Here is a picture of Stephanie with her class at the Wilmore Daycare! She gets to spend 8 hours a day with these little toddlers! They have so much fun together!

It's the end of October, which means that the Fall '08 Semester is nearing mid-terms! So Dan is hard at work doing school work!

October 19th Stephanie ran a marathon! it only took her 4 hours and 24 minutes to run 26.2 miles! Good Job Steph!

Here's Dan doing more homework! He and his Powerbook are inseparable it seems

For her birthday, Stephanie got to ride a horse for the very first time (the ponies at the Zoo do not count.) There was a nice stable up the road from the seminary that also provides riding lessons to the community. Here is a nice picture of Stephanie riding the horse Aquarius (a.k.a Gluestick)

In down moments, Dan likes to take naps!

In down moments, Stephanie likes to read, our friend Kristen got her hooked on Jodi Picoult books.

We hope your Fall is going well! Less than 2 months to Christmas!!! 

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Who or How?

How should we live in the world is the question that the church must deal with. Over the past 150 years or so we have failed to adequately ask this question. Instead we’ve been focusing on heaven and hell and who will live there. I believe at some level these questions are related, but difference is one of perspective. (The first is asked from a position of security, the other from a place of insecurity.)

The Bible seems interested in talking about who will be in heaven only when talking about how they live here on earth. That’s interesting because the major theme of Protestantism deals with salvation by faith not works. Now I am a Protestant in this regard, I believe that salvation is not something I gain by what I do, but by believing in Jesus Christ. So how do we reconcile the difference here?

The book of James says that true religion, that is pure and faultless loves those on the bottom of the ladder (James 1:27). This passage echoes the prophets and the Torah of the Hebrew Scriptures; a person can’t read through the Old Testament for very long without coming across how to live. These Scriptures are written to a specific who dealing with how to live. I think this is teaching us the who and how cannot be separated.

Interesting in the Hebrew Scriptures there is very little conversation about what happens to the who in the afterlife. Take the book of Daniel for example, it follows the life of four Jewish boys in Babylon, you’d think as they’re dealing with the fall of their society there would be talk about heaven, but there is surprisingly no conversation about the afterlife – even in the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Instead we find discussion about how to live in a foreign land among people who do not believe in YHWH and the hope that God will provide for the who here and now.

In the book of Revelation, the book most often used to discuss the final destination of the who, is focused on how to live amidst persecutions. The major fault in many modern readings of this book is to only see pictures of afterlife. The book is addressed to seven churches in Asia. The author gives instruction to these churches then spends the rest of the book talking about troubles that will come, but how these troubles are nothing compared to the glory of God. Discussion on the afterlife is focused on providing strength and reward for how these church live faithful lives.

We’re spending so much time asking whether this person or that person are going to be a part of the who that we have failed to ask how we are to live. The who is a question dealing with status and power struggle. We are the ones who are right; we’re the one who are going to heaven. This is the language of a people fighting a culture war. This is not the language used in the Scriptures. The language of the Scriptures (how language) is the language of strength. If you don’t believe me re-read the stories of Daniel 7 or Revelation 19, in both stories God does not need to move in order to defeat the beasts – they just lose.

What do you think? Should we be asking the who question or should we be talking about the how?

Sunday, October 26, 2008


I often mistake my identity with what I do. This is because my culture has trained me to think of myself as a producer. I am only as valuable as my performance. I may not have been explicitly told this, but it is everywhere. Sports, movies, Politics, pop culture, and even the church...all teach the Gospel of Productivity.

The problem with that gospel is that it’s false. It’s a straight up lie. Our value is not tied up with performance; if this were so, we’d all be in trouble. The problem is that it’s everywhere! This mindset brings with it a large amount of insecurity: If I do notperform, I am going to be out! Heidi Klum on Bravo’s Project Runway says every show, “In fashion, one day you’re inthe next you’re out.” This is in all of life. It’s a rat race. There is no peace, only insecurity. 

The whole world has been evangelized with this message, and we must get the truth out! We must tell people that they’re living a lie. As a Christian I believe my worth as a human being comes from God’s love for me. God’s love for me never changes, regardless of my actions. He proved his love for us on a cross. This means that my worth can never change!

Worth, in this mindset, is an intrinsic reality- one that is unaffected by what I do. It does not go up or down with my productivity, or does it change when I purposely do good or evil; God continually loves me. 

This impacts how we treat the other in our lives. If God loves everybody regardless of who they are or what they do, how should I treat them? I should treat them as God does, with love. I should be willing to sacrifice myself for them. The problem is the productivity mindset is so entrenched into the way we view the world we miss this. We see the other as our opponent. We see the other as less valuable because of what they can do for us. We make life about a rat race with them. Unless we see the worth in all of humanity, we're only perpetuating the myth that worth comes from what we produce.<

All the conflicts and wars in the history of the world have their root here.

Monday, October 20, 2008

What is our hope in?

Over the past 100 years historians have begun to look back and define these times by economics and war. Think about it - the Roaring 20's and the Great Depression; World War II and the Cold War; and the fallout from Vietnam against Reaganomics of the 80's. We have been taught to see the world through these lenses. This is usually played out as times of Properity (i.e. the Roaring 20's) are good times and the times of Recession and want (Vietnam's fallout) as bad times.

We organize and record that which matters to us. Obviously economics matters to the Western world, because our hope is in our money! Obviously war matters to us, because we believe that it is through violence that our world is made better. This is not to say the bad times are not bad - it's never cool when people suffer - but does this mean that everything that happens in these times is bad? Times of Prosperity do bring along many good things - like jobs - but should we just say everything is good?

Money and war come back to the fact that we like to take care of ourselves. If I am an independent person, I need money to provide for myself. A person in poverty, has two choices: go without or have need supplied by another. So it makes sense that a time when economics are in a slump would be understood as bad - because many people aren't able to provide for themselves. The same goes for war. We were able to stand up and destroy evil! We did it with our muscle and brains! We created strategy and it worked exactly like we thought it should. When we fail at war, just like economically, we're in a tough place.

I believe that the church is a group of people who believe that economics and war are not the hope of the world. Instead we believe that Christ is our hope. If this is true, what are ways that we can subvert the popular understanding of the world around us?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Is a Pastor a professional?

Over the past couple decades the church has seen the rise of the professional pastor. The old school model of being a pastor is much different than the model that a pastor now follows. What has resulted is the mindset of ministry has changed - in good ways and in bad. Let's start by breaking down the old school model of ministering vs. the new professional model.

In the Old School model the pastor does not have an office, but a study. It is called a study, because that's what happens there. Offices are where office work is done, pastors study for their sermon. The pastor is frequently going to the hospital, people's houses, having people come into their study (at least half of a week is spent with people). We should also note that in an old school model, the pastor usually does not have a huge staff; often pastors are by themselves in churches of 250-300 people! The programs are instead run by volunteers or the senior pastor. Planning for events and programming falls into the responsibility of church boards, thus relieving the pastor from having to be on top of every detail of every program in the church.

So, in the Old School model pastors spend most of their time either with people or preparing for sermons.

The Professional model takes this Old School model and tweaks it just a little bit. First off, the pastor is now operates as the CEO/President of the church. This is a drastic shift in role of the pastor. This means that primary on responsibility is the job of dreaming up, planning, and executing programs in the church. Usually churches have pastoral staff, usually a youth pastor, a congregational care pastor, and/or a worship pastor. The pastor works in an office, because more than just studying is happening there.

What to think?
1 - I think we should note the the addition of professional pastors has created an atmosphere where growth happens. Often in the Old school model, churches would stay the same decade after decade. Actually the Old School model has much to blame for many of the issues found in the church today.

2 - The professional model, often looks in all sorts of places to help develop the church and its ministries. Today I was given a photocopy of the Harvard Business Review by a pastor. It discussed Pixar's technique for creating kick butt movies that everybody loves! Thus we see that it is open to a multitude of avenues of thought.

3 - There is a shift in priority. No longer is working with people the focus, developing the church is the focus. While yes, developing the church is really focusing in people, there is a subtle difference. One is dealing with the individual, one is dealing with programs. In this mindset a pastor may spend most of his or her time pouring into the development of a small group of leaders. The pastor must be strategic in time management, because one must prioritize responsibilities.

4 - The pastor becomes task/goal driven. Evaluation in the Old School model is very tough to do as it is pretty subjective. If the people in the church feel loved, and the sermon is good on Sunday morning that pastor is doing a good job. If not, then he''s in thin ice. The Professional pastor can be judged more objectively through a study of the church programs. Church begins to be treated through the lens of how tasks are accomplished. (Even if it is just a small level of speculation)
What do you think?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Chris Heuertz stops by ATS

Chris Heuertz, the executive director of Word Made Flesh, came to Asbury to speak in chapel today. When I was a student at IWU, he made a stop - preaching there for an entire week (I remember him, because he (1) brought a fresh view the world and (2) because he wore jeans in chapel.) - and both times I've encountered his teachings I have walked away changed.

His ministry works with the most vulnerable people in the world: women and children in the sex trade, AIDS victims, those enslaved in sweatshops, those literally under the boot of injustice. His takes on many issues were hard and made me very uneasy - as they should. Here are some of the things that he talked about that made me think:

1 - Clothing Tax: He has a relationship with an Indian family with 5 girls who work in a sweatshop. One time he wore a shirt from the Gap when he was with them. The girls looked at him and said they worked in the shop that made that shirt. What's sad is that shirt cost him what they get paid in 6 weeks of work. That's tough because clothing made in sweatshops makes up the majority of products in the states. The only way to avoid buying it is to make your own clothing (a la Shane Claiborne...who by the way is going to be at Asbury, Nov 4). So every time he buys clothing like this, he imposes upon himself a tax, which he sends to that people in India. 

2 - We need to change our language. We should be careful not to dehumanize those being oppressed; often this objectification starts with how we discuss people. This means we do not call people "prostitutes;" instead people being forced to prostitute themselves. We don't say the poor, but people who are poor. 

3 - Short Term Missions Trips = Voyeurism: When short terms missions teams go into places around the world to see the places of great oppression, this should be seen as voyeurism. Social justice is the 'cool' thing to talk about in the Christian world, and people want to see the bad side of injustice. The problem is that the people on the underside of power are just that people. There is really no difference between a missions team going to a brothel, "just to look around" and a peeping tom. (The last line is mine; don't assume that Heuertz thinks this)

4 - The Wounds of Christ: He spoke in chapel on the wounds of Christ. He said that the only way to recognize the glorified Christ and the corpse in the tomb is the wounds. He made a very brilliant play on the story of Thomas. His point was that Thomas didn't believe because until he saw the wounds. There are so many people in the world who don't believe the church because the body of Christ is not evidencing the wounds. 

5. - Righteousness and Justice> Chris made the point that our lack of righteousness leads to injustice around the world. He talked about how the way that we live effects the rest of the world. Our greed results in sweatshops in India. Our lust results in the trafficking of young boys and girls all over the world. Our partying results in foreign corruption and mob activity. If we were to become righteous in these areas, these injustices would go away.

What do you think?

(Asbury podcasts all of it’s chapels. Search for Asbury Theological Seminary at the iTunes Store.)

Thursday, October 09, 2008

What is a Pastor?

A pastor is a Biblical Scholar. A pastor has been trained in the art of not just interpreting the text, but of explaining it in relevant ways which lead a congregation to apply the truths within it. This is because the Biblical text is the DNA of the church; it is these ancient writings which explain who we are.

A pastor is a theologian. A pastor must be knowledgable about the theological truths that center the Christian community. This is because theology is the codification (which is just a fancy word for labeling and organizing) of the truths we learn from the text.

A pastor is an artist. It is through the arts that the pastor communicates to his people; whether the spoken, the written, or the musical. The pastors job is to engage the people entrusted to their care with the Truth, but must be cerative with how it is presented. If the pastor ceases to be an artist, the text will not be properly engaged.

A pastor is a lover. These actions are all done out of love. The pastor does not do anything for the goal of any reward; simply out of love. When a pastor stops loving, their calling dies out.

Public Enemy #1

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Jesus did not come to die.

Jesus did not come to earth to die. 

This belief (that Jesus' purpose was to die) is the biggest misconception today in Christianity. The point of Jesus' life, in my humble opinion, was not to die! If death was his purpose, it would have made logical sense for Herod to kill him when he was an infant. If Jesus purpose was to die, why did he spend 3 years teaching his disciples? Why debate with the Pharisees, rabbis, scribes, and priests? Why heal the sick, touch the lepers or eat with the sinners?

The fact of the matter, is Jesus is trying to do something else with his life. It is this purpose that leads him to heal, teach, touch love, debate, eat, and even go to the cross. Also, we should probably notice that Jesus goes out of his way to be killed, it is not an accident that he is killed. It is very purposeful. Not everybody was crucified, Jesus seemed to have done enough to make the right people angry in order to warrant the cross. So where ever Jesus is going with his life, he is heading in a very intentional fashion.

I think Jesus' mission was focused on living. He was bent on restoring life. Not on death and dying. Even his death resulted from challenging a religion that was no longer bringing hope to people but instead was power hungry, abusive, and was filling its coffers with dirty money. If we are to understand his death we should begin to ask questions about why he was killed. (funny I just wrote a post about that: here)

How should we understand Jesus' death? I think we should understand Jesus death by studying his life.

What do you think?