Churches are dying, but the Church isn’t.
It would be like saying humanity is dying because thousands of people die every day.
Sadly we lose loved ones often. And it breaks my heart every time I counsel someone who loses someone close to them. Death is a destructive force.
Yet just because thousands of people die every day (about 150,000 to be exact), does that mean that humanity is dying?
150,000 people die, but more than twice as many are born every day.
But what if this wasn’t the case? What if 150,000 people died every day, but new people were never born?
This is the bedrock of evangelicalism, and yet what does it mean exactly?
For example, in one of Paul’s letters, he says, “To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord)…” How can this be God’s Word when it clearly states in “God’s Word” that it’s not God speaking?
This got me thinking on the nature of scripture. This is a heated debate in this day and age, and I am nervous to even address publicly. In fact, it’s nothing new that division in the church is often related to how we read and understand scripture.
All the same, I cannot help but reflect on the single most important verse in our canon related to the nature of scripture and it’s authority. It’s a familiar one. Paul, in a letter, says to Timothy:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
For the sake of argument, let’s say this applies to the Old and New Testament (even though it was written before the New Testament was completed).
What does it mean for scripture of be God-breathed?
Here are some popular interpretations:
I’ve been reading Andy Crouch’s book, Culture Making, and I am struck by a section on how he talks about changing culture. He says you can’t do it by imitating it, criticizing or critiquing it, or consuming it. You change culture by creating it. You make something new to replace something else.
But here’s the problem with creating culture:
The philosopher Albert Borgmann has observed, human cultures have the strange yet fortunate property of always being full. No culture experiences itself as thin or incomplete… Consequently, cultural change will only happen when something new displaces, to some extent, existing culture in a very tangible way.*
You see, cultures always feel they are full. They always think they have it all together. They always assume they have everything they need to be happy.
I recently saw an ad on my Facebook wall that made me just a little frustrated. I’ll get to that in a second, first some background.
According to persecution.org, there is a wide range of persecution in the world:
In some instances, that suffering can be as horrifying as the execution of Christians for their faith. In others, that suffering can be the loss of a job for representing Christ in the workplace. Both are forms of persecution that exist in the modern, and both must be addressed.
America is not on that list.
Yet, for some reason, many Christians today feel persecuted in America. In fact, some will even argue that this article is a form of “persecution” against American Christians. (In a world where Christians are killed for their faith, I don’t pay much attention to claims that a blog post by a no-name pastor is actual persecution against the church.)
So here’s the ad that frustrated me:
When I saw this Facebook ad, I clicked on it to see whether it would be about actual persecution happening in the world, or whether it was just feeding into the American persecution complex.
I recently took a class with Mike Slaughter, the lead pastor at Ginghamsburg UMC. He’s basically a rockstar United Methodist, which means you either love him or you hate him. I wasn’t sure which I would feel. I have to admit, spending a week at Ginghamsburg challenged me in a lot of ways and inspired me in a lot of other ways. I have never met so many passionate, humble, caring people—many of whom serve with no pay. And it takes a special leader to create an environment of this kind of service. I could write an entire paper on what I learned from that class, but that brings me to my real point: why Mike Slaughter is legit.
I actually did write a paper for the class, and I included in the paper a long list of strategic action steps for the following the year. They were a variety of ministry-related objectives. I had 8 of them in total.
Then I got my paper back from Mike Slaughter (which I got an A on, by the way). But one of the comments that stood out the most was the 9th action step he added to my list. And that’s why he is legit.
Don’t let ministry be your mistress.
As my wife and I have spent the last couple evenings packing, we’ve been running into all kinds of interesting things. For example, I recently found this poem. I wrote it a number of years ago, and yet it’s message rings ever true.
Today I drove a guy to Toledo.
Let’s just say I don’t always pick up people along the side of the road, especially if it means missing Small Group.
This time was different. I can’t really say why here, but if you ask me in person, I’ll explain. Either way, it was definitely a God-thing.
Like many times people are looking for a ride, it started with “I need a ride just out of town.” Which became ” I need a ride to Maumee.” Which turned into “just the other side of Maumee.” Do you know what’s on the other side of Maumee?
I often look at life in the context of ratios. When it comes to helping people, I consider the amount of work you have to put into something compared to the results. Sure, this might be unhealthy, but indulge me for a second.
There is a lot of talk in the UMC about division and schism. You can read some thoughts about it over at David F Watson’s site.
One of the things I’ve learned from this whole conversation is that there is such a thing as “Restrictive Rules.” To be honest, I had to google their definition. Which at first, I realized that it’s an American political term.
So I added “UMC” to the google search. Then I found it: a definition can be found on the UMC’s website: