Disclaimer: About This Blog

THIS BLOG IS: my personal journey of how I am rethinking some of my spiritual beliefs.
THIS BLOG IS NOT: intended to point fingers at people who I think are wrong.
I do not believe the final judgement will be based on how many correct answers we get on a theology exam. I believe many people throughout history have had genuine relationships with our Lord and Saviour Jesus, despite holding questionable beliefs and practices. I make no claim to having it all figured out or being your judge. If we end up disagreeing over these topics I pray we can find a way to demonstrate grace.

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Wealthy Church

The Roman Catholic Church is said to have billions of dollars in assets. It it hard to determine how much money that 'church' has. Some people suggest it is the wealthiest organization in the world.

A common critique of the church is how can we spend so much money on our buildings when there are so many people in need.

Did the protestant reformers change course on this issue? Every week people give to their 'church', and the bulk of the money goes towards staff and buildings. There are mega church buildings that compete with the extravagance of the older Catholic churches.

But if we look to the early church:
  • Those who had wealth gave very generously
  • Money was given to anyone who was in need.
  • I can't find evidence of church budgets that supported programs, buildings and staff
Acts 4:34-35 (NIV)

There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.
Are we to give money to primarily support buildings, staff, and programs... or is the giving priorities of the New Testament church meant to be different? Are we following the book on this one? Is there room for further reform?

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Asleep in the Pews

Is most of the church asleep in the pews? Most of us manage to physically stay awake, but we are far from being fully engaged and fully participating in most of the Sunday morning event. Should we then wonder why many seem to be spiritually asleep? Is there a connection with how we structure Sunday mornings and the health of the body? Are there some members of the body who are getting more than their share of spiritual exercise, while other parts of the body are barely alive from inactivity?

First I want to define what I mean by fully participating: Where each member of the body is using their spiritual gifts, allowing God to work through them to others in the body. Actively doing what they are called to do for 'one another'.

So although I appreciate those who serve by setting up chairs, ushering, making coffee, cleaning, tech support, etc - I'm not counting this as fully participating.

If God has something to say at a typical Sunday morning church gathering, how many people can he use to speak through?
  • the pastor/guest speaker
  • one or two other members selected to speak briefly
  • songwriters (usually not someone at the gathering, but selected by someone there)
  • Sunday school teachers (important role, yet limited to ministering to children)
The way Sunday mornings are structured does not give much time for most members to:
  • Instruct one another
  • Love one another
  • Honor one another
  • Agree with one another (we don't even know what most people are thinking)
  • Serve one another (we may serve the Sunday morning event, but is that all this means?)
  • Bear with one another
  • Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs
  • Submit to one another
  • Teach one another
  • Admonish one another
  • Encourage one another
  • Pray for one another
The way it is structured allows the pastor and a few others do most of the above, but restricts the rest of the body from fully participating.

Why do we 'do church' this way?

The early church did not sit in pews (or rows of chairs) passively listening to the same person give a 20 - 50 minute monologue week after week. Yes Jesus and the early church leaders spoke and preached. However the preaching was often done to those outside the church. There would have been teaching done inside homes as well... and Paul did speak so long that someone was bored to death literally... But I believe when Jesus or the early church leaders spoke it was often more of a dialog with the audience. The audience would often throw in comments and questions. The system with pews and a pulpit that encourages a passive audience was introduced into Christianity much later.

The early church also did not have a choir or worship band 'lead' them in singing. I don't personally really understand what this would look like, but I believe they simply allowed the Holy Spirit to lead them in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.

They likely didn't have an 'order of service' that shaped what the morning was going to look like in advance. Yes, someone would have planned what they would eat if there was a meal with the gathering. But I doubt they planned in advance who would speak, pray, greet, sing, etc... and I doubt they put time limits on them.

If God has something to do or say through someone to the rest of His body I think the Sunday morning gathering should be a place where this is allowed and encouraged to take place. Is this an unrealistic pie in the sky dream?

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Good News Your God Reigns

Isaiah 52:7 (New International Version)

How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
"Your God reigns!"

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Church Metrics

Some good thoughts from Micheal Frost.

How do we measure success in kingdom work? Is it how many baptisms, how many attend church services, how much money is being given?

Were these the measuring sticks to kingdom work in Jesus day?

Growth of a mustard seed may be harder to measure than growth of other trees. It's growth is more random, messy, and out of control.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Do Us All A Favour

This is for myself, as well as anyone else who has a hard time being deep-spirited friends with brothers who you think don't have it figured out like you do.

Philippians 2: 1-4 (The Message)

"If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand."

I know a lot of Christ's body is a long way from getting this right.

And lately I'm recognizing I am too.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Walmart Greeters

Do Walmart greeters make you feel part of the Walmart community?

I grew up in a small village with one small local general store. Mr. Jackson was always there to welcome everyone who came in to get their daily grocery needs, and pick up the mail. He actually became the unofficial mayor of the village because of his real connections with everyone in town on a regular basis.

Does the Walmart greeter even compare with the Mr. Jackson I grew up knowing?
Do I even read the greeter's name tag as I walk by?

Did the early church have users or greeters?

This isn't a huge issue for me. I don't really have a beef with users and greeters. I'm just wondering...

Is there a difference between someone welcoming me into their home, and asking me how my week was, and the users and greeters found in most churches?

The small general store I grew up with was very personal. The early church met in homes, you can't get more personal than that. As stores and church gatherings grow we loose the natural personal connections. And our Walmart greeters are an attempt to fill that void.

But do they really make people feel connected? Or do most just walk past as quickly as possible. I know I usually simply smile, exchange short greetings, and keep moving.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Prayer for revival

I heard a brother say today that he feels God is moving in His people. Calling his people into a renewed personal relationship with himself.

I pray this is so. And I'm hopeful it's true.

Not just doing more Christian stuff, or getting it all right. But just getting closer to Jesus.

I pray that as God calls His people closer to himself, they will also be drawn closer to each other. That they will recognize other members of Christ's body that they may have overlooked before as a result of some lesser disagreement. And that as members of Christ's body we will build each other up, encourage, love, pray for, teach, ect... as God gifts and leads each of us.

I pray that following Jesus will become a reality, not just lip service.

Are we following a book? Are we following traditions? Are we following other people who have studied about God? Or even following other people who know God?

Or are we following Jesus? Do we know Jesus personally?

To follow Jesus we will need to learn to know His voice. I pray we will learn to know our Lord, to know His love for us, and learn His will for us.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Playdough Scripture Romans 14

I'm going to take a bit of a different twist with my regular Playdough Scripture series.

Here's a passage that is a challenge for myself, and I think I'm not alone on this. We have a tendency to judge each other on many disputable matters. There are countless issues that Christ's 'church' has divided and fought over. I am guilty of judging those who still maintain these divisions, or who hold tightly to traditions that are not central to scripture.

I encourage you to think of a type of Christ follower that you have felt judgmental about, see if you can rephrase some parts of Romans 14 to fit. I think it may do us all well to look at this passage through some of our current issues.

PLEASE NOTE: the following is NOT Romans 14... it is not meant to be scripture... it may have some similarities to Romans 14... but it's been squished and reshaped like playdough.

I'll contribute a few, please include yours in a comment.

"Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man's faith allows him to view the 'church' as all those who follow Christ, but another man, whose faith is weak, accepts only those who go to a church similar to his. The man who see's Christ's church as all those who follows Christ must not look down on him who does not, and the man who thinks his traditions are best must not condemn the man who doesn't, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. "

"One man considers the teachings of John Calvin to be a great way to understand the gospel; another man doesn't. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards Calvinism as special, does so to the Lord. He who sees a different emphasis in scripture does so to the Lord."

"Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way. If you think one way of doing church is better than another, fine, but do all you can to make sure your brother who likes a different tradition still knows you love them."

"For the kingdom of God is not a matter of doing church activities, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men."

"Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of different traditions. "

"So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God (and on your blog... ???)"

Thursday, May 6, 2010

My 95 Thesis - Point 8 - Sola Scriptura

Here's my 8th Point in My 95 Theses.

Is Sola Scriptura an essential to the faith?
"Of the five Solas, Sola Scriptura best encapsulates the heart throb of the European Reformers. A key question posed by Martin Luther was, what is the final and ultimate authority for life, faith and worship? Has God given a sufficient and final decree through which all activities of human existence are to conform? Or does the Church along with tradition have the right and authority to impose binding legislation upon the hearts and minds of people, even when such legislation clearly violates Scripture? We hold that the Bible and the Bible alone is the only ultimate and reliable source of God’s personal revelation to mankind."

Does Scripture teach Sola Scriptura?

That seems like a basic question. If you hold strongly to Sola Scriptura, yet don't see Scripture teaching it, do you need to believe it? I see irony if it is only a tradition handed down from the reformers...

There are certain themes in Scripture that are certainly central to our faith. Love and Unity are two that come to mind. How many verses are there that support the position of Sola Scriptura? If Sola Scriptura is less essential than Love and Unity, it may be a good topic for discussion, but not worth creating or maintaining divisions over.

So, are there lots of verses that support the idea? There seems to be one verse that comes up in every discussion of Sola Scriptura.

2 Timothy 3:16 (NIV)
"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, "

All Scripture... which Scripture? Was Paul talking about the 66 books we now call the Bible, some of which were not even written when he was writing this letter to Timothy? I think not.

But even if he was holding our leather bound book in one hand while he made this statement, he never said it was the only authority or revelation of God to us.

And let's not forget the main point of this verse... the point is that Scripture is useful ... "so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (vs. 17)

So what's my concern? Are we missing something by holding tightly to Sola Scriptura?

My concern is we've placed less value on the things Jesus did leave with us to guide us. He did not write a book and leave it with us saying "follow this book". But he did leave us his Holy Spirit to guide us. His followers are also called His body, and we are to allow members of Christ's body to encourage, teach, build up, instruct, and submit to each other.

John 14:15-21 (NIV)
"If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him."
John 14:26 (NIV)
But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

OK... so what I am left to hold on to? I think the early church confirmed that these books were the best books describing the life of our Lord, and the life and teachings of the early church. There are other early christian writings that may also shed light on the early church. But there was reason for enough doubt and they were excluded from the canon.

I believe the 66 books we cherish do point us towards knowing the Word of God. Jesus is the Word of God. I believe it is possible that God spoke clearly to the authors as they penned the books in the Bible. I hope all of it is 100% accurate. It would make sense that a loving God would want to preserve an accurate written account of who He is. But even if it isn't 100% accurate, I am thankful that I hold a book that reveals to me who God is, and that He wants to relate to me in a personal way. In that relationship I can hear God's words to me.

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Monday, May 3, 2010

Playdough Scripture 1 John 2:14

"I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and have studied the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one."

1 John 2:14 (Playdough Version)

Is the Word of God a book that we read and memorize, or is it something that is alive and living in us?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Jesus Sends Out the Twelve

Just a few thoughts on two passages in Mark where Jesus sends out the Twelve.

Mark 6:6-13 (NIV)
"Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits. These were his instructions: "Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra tunic. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them." They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.

Jesus modeled the calling. In previous passages He went from town to town preaching and healing. The training the 12 got was more like an apprenticeship than a training with an academic focus like we are most familiar with. So after the disciples observed the calling that Jesus had, they were sent out with the same calling. Preaching that people should turn to God, and healing the sick as they went.

Mark 16:15-18 (NIV)
He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well."

Here is the passage we often consider when we think missions today.... or at least we consider part of this passage.

Is there a connection between the two passages? Has the message changed? Are we to preach a similar gospel that Jesus and His disciples preached? What about the emphasis on healing, should that still be part of our calling? What about money?

Or was this just the calling of the 12?

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