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Archive for the ‘ecclesiology’ Category

Media (books and movies) should not be censored.  Original authors may censor their own works, in a sense, by omitting immoral content.  Should this resolution be adopted, there would be no fast-forwarding unwanted scenes in movies.  Ideally there would be no need to fast forward, since creators of media would not put inappropriate things in their works.  But this highlights a clash of values, where the artist and consumer may not agree on what is appropriate.  Refusing censorship increases freedom.  As a consumer, you have the freedom to reject a whole work – but you should not take someone else’s work and chop it up to use for your own ends.  This applies market pressure on producers to only present works whose content is not morally objectionable.  Ratings could be helpful in deciding ahead of time whether to watch a movie or read a book.  Or ratings could be a form of censorship, especially as the government limits audiences based on ratings.  Governments having the right to censor gives them too much power over the education of the populace.  Movie ratings of R and NC-17 have legal restrictions associated with them.  The government also controls who is sold “mature” materials.  Does it control who views them?  Is there a legal penalty for, say, parents letting their children view NC-17 films?  Individuals are welcome to censor for themselves, or for children, so long as they censor in whole.  Why is censorship a bad thing?  Objectionable content and explicit material sometimes get an idea across in the way the creator thinks is best or most powerful.  Explicit material negatives may outweigh the positives of being exposed to a new idea, for some consumers.  Also media tends to be complex with multiple subpoints versus one whole idea – so you may only be censoring a subpoint by fast forwarding one scene.  How do we judge criteria for including (whether the idea is important enough to be presented via explicit material)?  If the consumer is to make his own judgment call, how can he before viewing the piece and seeing how the scene ties in with the entirety?

Proverbs says*: the righteous foresee danger and take precautions. The fool goes on and suffers the harm, so we ought to prepare to live in third world conditions.  Third world conditions are defined as being without running water, electricity, plumbing, or transportation systems (for some examples).  The reason we should be ready is to survive and to help others survive.  We need to plan, to figure out what will be the most effective means of survival.  Stockpiling food is probably not a good long-term strategy.  Stock-piling guns so we can take food from other people or to hunt for more food was suggested, arguing that there is a concentration of food in the city that would not quickly run out.  But there is a difficulty of transporting food from where found and grown to where people are gathered in cities.  So maybe we should spread out, buy several acres and start a commune.  It would need to be protected well, grow food, raise goats and chickens.  And if the goal is survival, we might want to make sure that the members have skills needed to contribute to the commune (and exclude those who wouldn’t be assets).  Is this a realistic foreseen danger, that our country will suffer third world conditions?  Why should we believe that the prophets foreseeing this danger are righteous (or prudent as in the verse) and that we ought to follow their “wisdom”?  Reasons for suspecting upcoming danger are: specialization of skills, and the direction of our economy.  Is prevention possibly more important than preparation, and how should we balance these in priority with limited time?  Are we putting too much emphasis on one proverb or teaching?  Is not the proverb referring to an imminent danger seen just ahead – not a risk of possible danger?  How would we do this and store up treasure in heaven?  There are other benefits of preparing skills that could be useful even if the danger does not come to pass.  It would be unwise to not prepare at all.  What about “seeking first thekingdom ofGod” because our heavenly Father knows our needs?  The ability to produce necessities could help neighbors, whom we are commanded to love.

*Proverbs 27:12 (NLT, closest I could find to what was quoted in the resolution) says: “A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.”

A healthy marriage is one that fights… WELL.  Fighting well is defined as with respect but no violence and without avoiding the conflict.  Never fighting is bad.  An assumption was made that there will be internalization of an offense, leading to growing bitterness, if it is not addressed between them.  The other extreme is that of violence, doing injury to one another.  A good marriage is in the middle, acknowledging and dealing with disagreement as a couple.  If the wife is obedient, isn’t there no fighting?  How does fighting well contribute to the purpose of marriage?  If conflict exists, married couples must deal with it well.  But is the existence of conflict a sign of a good marriage?  How frequently should conflict arise to prove a good marriage?  Is fighting the best way to deal with it?  Is conflict sinful?  The debaters speaking seemed frequently to assume that conflicts arose when one person sinned against another, but are there other reasons for conflict?  Is fighting sinful?  When you fight you have to work through a disagreement.  Repentance (of sin if there was sin causing the conflict) is more important than fighting. Why doesn’t the wife just submit as a way of dealing with it?  A wife should sharpen her husband (as opposed to always being silent and never expressing a dissenting opinion).  An example was given of a polygamous marriage in which one wife is sharpening her husband because that is the sort of relationship they have, but the other wives are to submit quietly and contribute to the household (think Jacob and his four wives, Rachel being the one he really wanted the emotional relationship with).  Assuming there is conflict, fighting badly and avoiding the conflict would not, either one, be productive responses.  A good marriage is one that communicates, that works as a team, and those virtues are hindered by the bad extremes of dealing with conflict.  A couple should decide in conference whether an issue is worth fighting about, and if not, let it go.  Allowing bitterness to grow (through avoiding conflict or not) is sinful.  It is a spouse’s spiritual duty as a Christian ‘brother’ to confront sin.  But it is less important to fight about non-sin.

Entertainment is wrong.  Entertainment defined as anything you do simply for pleasure or fun.  If you have more purposes, it is not entertainment.  Entertainment has unintended benefits.  Why would it be wrong?  It distracts from beneficial behavior.  It causes people to ignore good works.  It selfishly seeks gratification.  Laziness is bad.  Could we just say that entertainment shouldn’t be placed above something more beneficial?  Should people always do the most beneficial thing?  Being conscious of your motives is essential.  Are there other restrictions on fun or pleasure besides motives – extravagance of spending, content, frequency?  There is such a thing as Christian pleasure.  We are not choosing between something fun and some good work, but good works that can also be fun – or at least bring us pleasure as we honor God with our lives.  Friendship is impoverished when people cannot connect on pleasures and interests.  Does this resolution lead to justifying entertainment by adding other motives?  Or do we add entertainment to other central motives so that we get enough fun in?

In the following resolution, ‘Church’ is defined as the assembling of Christians as described in the New Testament.  Because Pigfests are so much like Church, we should let women be silent.  (This was my resolution, and as a female, I refused to say anything more after this for fifteen minutes.  A few women continued to contribute, but the debate was mostly carried by the men present.)  Pigfests are not enough like Church, in that they are not claiming to be church; only then could rules about Church apply.  Churches, definitionally, have leadership structures that Pigfests lack.  Is women’s silence useful for something in particular?  (after a pause in conversation) Things get decided faster!  The New Testament says that where two or more believers are gathered, that is Church.  So if Christians are driving in a car, the women shouldn’t talk?  If only two Christian women are present there would be no talking?  That would make for less gossip (though men gossip also).  Is a Pigfest more like church than those (in car, 2 women) gatherings?  New Testament Church was a gathering devoted to doctrine, teaching, and reading the Word of God.  New Testament church gathered for edification (one of the stated purposes for Pigfests).  New Testament Church is for worship.  Where is the verse about women being silent?  There is a scarcity of conversation when men who are used to women participating are faced with women being silent.  1 Corinthians 14:34 was read: “Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says.” (NKJV)/“Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says.” (NIV)  The verses assume that women are present, listening.  A husband or father can benefit in at least two ways from the “asking at home” in verse 35: 1) He needs to pay extra attention to be able to answer, 2) The man has the responsibility to participate at Church, whereas the woman just observes and has a more objective perspective.  These two perspectives are joined at home through the personal interaction with the women who saved up questions and thoughts.  How do unmarried women get their questions answered?  (In jest, it was suggested that unmarried women did not belong at church and should be out finding husbands instead.)  Unmarried women can learn from fathers.  Most “churches” in theUnited States let women speak.  Does silence mean what we think?  Why ‘let’?  Corinthians also says a few chapters before that women praying and prophesying in Church should have their heads covered, allowing speaking in some circumstances.  Both passages deal with subjection and are perhaps driving at a deeper concept that would be applicable at Pigfests.

Churches should draft all attendees to serve in preschool nursery care during service.  (My summary is not based on notes for this one, but on memory of segments caught while I was preparing dinner in the adjacent room.)  Assumes churches have nurseries.  Give visitors a few weeks before requiring them to serve.  Should service be determined by gifting, desire, request of elders/deacons, or by mandatory rule?  What are the dangers of having someone who is not a Christian or who knows nothing about taking care of children serving in those ministries?  Why are parents often expected to serve when they’re the most burnt out?  Specifically mentioned was the class of empty-nesters and older people who could be a help to young parents.  Parents need a break from children.  Why this ministry above others?  Evangelizing children is so important because you are so much more likely to get a conversion from people before they reach adulthood.  And the kids are ready to be learning truths about God and stories from the Bible that will benefit them their whole lives.  But is that what Church is for?  The same people tend to serve in many ministries and get burnt out, but a draft would ensure that those accustomed to coming to church as only consumers would contribute.  (Again, I apologize for not having more detailed notes.)

Fasting is bribing God to do what you want Him to do.  Does it always work – that God gives us what we want when we fast?  The Bible does say, of fasting, that God rewards what is done in secret.  But that reward might not be granting what we ask.  Bribery is wrong when it perverts justice.  Fasting is different from prayer.  It puts us in the mindset or mood to accept God’s will.  But people in the Bible initiate fasting when they really want something (example of Esther).  Are there other motives than asking God for something?  Should we fast merely to be open to find what God’s will is?  The act of fasting, apart from God “answering” in some way, practices self-denial and being open.  The hunger is a reminder that we are hungering for other things.  It helps us remember to pray, to practice for or relate to famine and starvation in the world.  Jesus talked about praying in secret and fasting in secret, not seeking the praise of men.  Jesus’ disciples did not fast, Jesus said, because they had the bridegroom with them.  So fasting is an appropriate response when separated, a sort of mourning.  Is Jesus with us now?  Matthew 6 contains Jesus’ teaching on fasting.  Feasting is the opposite of fasting.  Jesus also said that some demons came out by prayer and fasting.  Why did Jesus fast for 40 days?  Does the Old Testament Law have instructions for fasting, especially why?  Was there some tradition of fasting when separated from a bridegroom?  Husbands and wives, in 1 Corinthians 7, are allowed to be separate from each other only for a time of fasting.

Premarital sex is not wrong; you just have to marry the person.  Is marriage, then, to be seen as a penalty?  Paying the dowry was also required by the Old Testament law.  Fornication is often forbidden in the Bible.  The Hebrew and Greek words translated fornication are mostly associated with harlotry, or descriptions of sexual immorality or sin which would include the other sins listed in the Old Testament Law: incest, homosexuality, beastiality, rape, and adultery.  Is a male paying for dinner sufficient payment for relations to be considered prostitution?  If the woman cooks a man dinner, is she paying him?  What is the penalty in the Mosaic Law for visiting a prostitute?  Is almost barely permissible really “ok”?  What if the woman doesn’t want to marry the man?  Are they then sinning?  If the father refused, in the Old Testament, they didn’t have to marry.  It is not beneficial to prove that unwise things (as being debated: premarital sex) aren’t sinful.  Would the couple be sinning if they repeatedly had sex before they were married?  Is there a time limit before they must marry?  What is the impact of telling people they’re sinners if they aren’t sinning before God?  There are positive instructions in the Bible to keep our bodies pure, not prostituting them.  Women, at least, are also told to be chaste – and what is the definition for that?  The Old Testament allowed a man to annul his marriage if he discovered that the woman he married was not pure – not a virgin.  Is it a fair argument that because the Mosaic Law does not treat premarital sex with the same consequence (death) as other sexual sins, that it is not immoral or sinful?  The law about requiring a couple to marry is a protection for a woman, who gets one chance to choose whom she marries.  It is better, Paul said, to marry than to burn – not to give in to the burning and then get married.  What are we doing to teens who engage in this behavior but are not encouraged to marry?

*A Pigfest is 15 minutes long, and I am glad that such a topic cannot be thoroughly explored in that time.  Pigfest topics often spur further conversation, study, and debate after the party has ended.  I am aware of many such discussions and investigations following this particular resolution.  In the interest of spurring people on to holiness, I am adding some notes that were not covered in the debate.  1) It is almost impossible for premarital sex to occur without sinning in some other way – especially in dishonoring parents.  2) If Jesus’ relationship with the Church is to be well-pictured by weddings and marriages of Christians, then there will be abstinence until marriage.  Abstinence also accords with the way God instituted marriage.  3) As our ceremony and vows are not described in biblical accounts of weddings, it is hard to determine what constitutes a marriage before God.  However, the act of intercourse, it is made clear by the law in question, is not sufficient to make one married.  4) The biblical understanding of harlotry comprised more than our modern understanding of prostitutes for hire; it very likely included all premarital sex.  5) Christian virtue calls for purity, self-control, fleeing youthful lusts.  6) Marriage that is supposed to be a life-long commitment, recognizing submission as ordained by God – not governed by force or passion – is not starting out on a good foot if it is begun in insubordination to parents, giving in to lusts, and letting self control rather than be controlled.  7) We ought to hold Christians to the high standard of God, and in the New Testament era, to exercise church discipline on those unrepentant about their sin – so long as we identify sin for what it is.  8) Christians should be clear on the source of their understanding of what constitutes sin.

Betrothal should last at least one year consisting of spending a lot of supervised time with no physical intimacy.  Why so long?  Can you back out of a betrothal?  Parents would be more comfortable giving their child in marriage after such a year.  In that year a couple could learn about conflict resolution and be more mature about their relationship.  The goal would be less divorce, discovering compatibility.  Pre-arranged marriages (which had basically no interaction before the wedding) also have less divorce and are more mature, since they start with a commitment to work through the marriage.  Short engagements save you from temptation.  Should we be saved from temptations?  Long engagements enable you to save money for a wedding.  It is possible (preferable?) to know people well before you get engaged so that you wouldn’t need a year-long betrothal to get to know them.  Shouldn’t Christians just be able to have a good marriage with anyone else who is a Christian?  Why do we need all these conditions and preparations?  (For example, arranged marriages work in many cultures.)  Parents know their kids well.  Who better to decide whom they should marry?  God might know better.  It would be beneficial, in the proposed betrothal situation, to have that support and accountability that comes from the supervision.  But wouldn’t such support and accountability be just as useful if it were instituted at the beginning of a marriage?  Should community help (not supervision) end at the wedding?  Church discipline should be an option for divorce or marital problems, a further example of accountability after the wedding.  There is value in a vow.  Following people with church discipline (the only way to effectively do it in this age of church choice and denominations) can get you sued.  Do the right thing anyway; help couples to have a good relationship and hold them accountable for sin.  A show of hands revealed that there was almost unanimous support present for short engagements.  When people get married for love, then the ‘butterflies’ go away and they don’t feel like being married any more.  (Would the butterflies go away because of the year-long highly supervised, get to know each other very well betrothal?)  Some husbands ‘testified’ that the butterflies haven’t gone away.  Awwww….

Gluttony is one of the most prevalent and least talked about sins in America.  The silence is surprising given the number of health problems related to gluttony.  Gluttony is defined as desirous of food to the point where you put it above God.  How would it be put above God?  Testimony was reported of one whose “soul reached out to eating food,” that it was a focus of his life.  If gluttony was so prevalent, more people would be 400 pounds.  But there can be gluttony even in a culture with much higher risks of suffering starvation.  Gluttons desire to eat – and they aren’t picky about eating good food; in this way as in other ways, it is similar to drunkenness.  It is, however, harder to tell when a person is being gluttonous.  Obesity or lack thereof is not proof of gluttony – or of not being a glutton.  It is not gluttonous to occasionally, at feasts (think Thanksgiving), eat too much.  Why does our culture address it – when it does – as a health issue or a corporate issue instead of as sin?  The main verses addressing gluttony were found and read, particularly those in Deuteronomy and Proverbs.  Bulimia – partaking without consequences of nourishment – might be related to gluttony, though it is likely associated with other mental health (spiritual?) issues more.  If someone struggles with gluttony, it should be treated as sin – and deliverance should be sought by acknowledging it to be sin.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Divided the Movie

 

Made by a young pair of brothers, Divided the movie is the film version of the Family Integrated Church propaganda.  Careful oversight was given by Scott Brown, of the NCFIC, and he was also interviewed extensively in the documentary.  The film follows the research of Philip  Leclerc into the fruits, philosophies, and history of the youth ministry church model.

 

Divided consists mostly of interviews.  It begins by talking to the authors of Already Gone, Britt Beamer and Ken Ham, who discuss the statistics about youth leaving the Church and at what age they stopped believing orthodox Christianity.  One problem they identify with modern youth ministry is the lack of substance being presented in lessons and sermons at events.  This leads to man on the street shots of students after a Christian concert, and surveys of various youth leaders and conference directors for youth pastors, showing the pervading philosophies of being relevant and giving the students an emotional experience – intentionally not dealing with points of Christian doctrine beyond Jesus’ love and sacrificial death.

 

Some former pastors and youth leaders are interviewed about why they left the youth ministry model (much as the filmmaker’s parents had chosen to do).  An enlightening testimony suggested that teaching the “right things,” worldviews and Christian theology, still resulted in a majority of students leaving the faith by the end of high school.  This presents a contrast to the first segment, where the flawed worldview of average youth ministry was uncovered.  One church planter stated that if you just read the Bible, you would not think of doing church the way we do it today; his church is trying to function more biblically, and one aspect of that is to eliminate youth ministry.

 

Next is what I see as the strong point, the most useful part of the documentary, dealing with the history of age-segregated church, beginning with the origins of Sunday school classes for children.  The rest of the movie seems unlikely to enlighten or persuade anyone, as the philosophies of each side (pro-youth ministry and pro-family-based discipleship) are not tested against a biblical standard.

 

Afterward, Philip Leclerc interviews a series of leaders in the FamilyIntegratedChurchmovement, who point out that the Bible’s prescription for discipling children is that their parents train them up, and that youth ministry – separate from the main meetings and activities of the church – is never mentioned in the Bible.  Questions are brought forward, like the argument that since parents are not taking responsibility for training their own children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, if the Church doesn’t, the youth will fall through the cracks.

 

I found a few things lacking in Divided.  At the end of the movie, I felt that the criticism against youth ministry was directed at its fruit: people who abandon belief in God and the Bible.  But the alternative put forward is not judged by the same measure.  I remain curious how successful family-centered discipleship and family-integrated churches are at retaining the next generation.  The filmmaker’s mentors are full of ideals which they claim are biblically based.  If the fruit is different from what statistics show for youth in the past several decades, this gives us hope.  If the fruit is the same, perhaps more is going on than negligent parenting and segregated churches.

 

The movie relies on the worldview of its audience to refute the postmodernism of most youth ministries which is put on display in the first half of the film.  Though presented as the unwanted results of age-segregated ministry, we are left to judge what is wrong with the youth interviewed based on our own notions – whether we would judge them for their style of music or dress, for their poor communication skills, for holding to false doctrines about creation, for caring about authenticity and relationship, for lacking discernment, for laziness, for postmodern relativism.  And if we only notice a couple of these, perhaps we are absorbing the rest of their subtle messages as true – or maybe we are judging everything they say as wrong because of the other things they are packaged with.

 

This highlights the next difficulty I had with the movie: some of the youth and youth leaders made really good points about what is valuable to people, what they expect – even need – to find at church.  When a student says he is looking for people who will tell him the truth and be real with him, and that he values a mentor for being involved in his life, surely the Church could learn from those needs.  A woman who leads training for youth pastors points out that they need to be relevant to the everyday lives of kids.  True – who has more relevance to the ins and outs of a young person’s life than the family he lives with?  Who is more real to him than his own parents?  But this point was not made, this challenge not extended to parents who are choosing to take up the biblical mandate to be spiritual leaders to their children.  Also, those concerns recognized by the representatives of youth ministry are really universal needs, not applicable just to teenagers, but also to adults.

 

Throughout the movie, the experts skirt the issue that the way we do church is fundamentally unbiblical.  We have not sought God’s design for our gatherings and Christian life.  The Church that was intended to be a community has become an institution full of programs, and people fill slots and categories and statistics instead of being directed by needs and gifts in the Body.  Perhaps parents are abdicating their spiritual roles because the Church isn’t allowing discipleship to happen among its members, leaving parents ill-equipped to train their children – but also leaving pastors ill-equipped, unsupported by the edification they are supposed to receive from the rest of the Church.

 

Finally, there is the question of whether people who are middle school, high school, and college age ought to be considered adults, invited and expected to contribute their spiritual gifts (if they are believers*) to the unity and edification of the whole church just as the rest of adults ought to be (but often are not).   I say “the rest of” because until the last hundred years, people in their mid-teens and beyond were counted adults.  In the very least they were not considered children.  And on the assumption that youth ministries are dealing with children rests the crux of the argument made by the Family Integrated Church proponents.  They argue that parents own the responsibility for the spiritual growth of their kids.  But if they’re not kids, in the biblical sense to which the commands would apply…

 

And even if they are children, if they are saved*, they are members of the body of Christ and the instructions about Church should apply to them.  They ought to receive instruction and admonition from any believer who is so gifted and led.  Parents are responsible, and not to shirk their duties towards the children God has entrusted to them, but they are not alone, and do not own exclusive rights to their child’s discipleship.  Perhaps they ought to do “catechizing” and “worldview training” at home instead of expecting it to be done at church.

 

I appreciate the call Divided puts out to parents to fulfill their God-given roles in the family.  The documentary shows the variety of people who believe in family integration, and the different reasons people practice it.  Exhorting the Church to be unified by ending age segregation is a great start.  When asked about children whose parents are not believers (the original target of Sunday schools), Family Integration proponent Scott Brown suggested an intense, personal solution: sound families should bring those children into their home during the week to witness to them and disciple them (sending them back to their own families with deference to the parents’ authority), and have those children sit with their family during church meetings.  The family is upheld as an important player in education and morality.  Ultimately, Divided exalts God for designing well, however dismal the results of man’s corruptions of church and family.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

 

*If a child is not yet a professing follower of Christ, should he be required to attend Church gatherings with his parents?  Should he be allowed to participate if he is there?

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Biblically, married couples should not use birth control. The Bible does say that children are a blessing, and commands us to be fruitful and multiply.  Barrenness is in a list of curses that will come on a people or a country that disobeys God.  God controls the womb.  Do we also forbid attempts to get pregnant (in vitro fertilization, for example)?  What about Natural Family Planning – no chemicals, surgeries, or other medical devices?  Is the issue taking control?  Avoiding blessings?  Or not valuing children?  Do we make exceptions for certain couples, for those with dangerous health  problems associated with pregnancy?  Yes, children are a blessing, but God describes many things as blessings, and we do not pursue them all.  Singleness is a blessing.  That blessing excludes parenthood in most cases.  Can you really choose and the blessing still be a blessing?  Who gives blessings?  Wasn’t the command to be fruitful only given to Adam and Eve and repeated to Noah?  It may be our right to pursue blessings, but as Christians, aren’t we supposed to lay down our rights in deference to God?  The Bible describes children as arrows in the hand of a warrior; if Christian couples are declining to have kids, are they shirking their responsibility to further the kingdom of God as best they can?  Our worldview has shifted, even in the last century, to see large families as abnormal or even undesirable.  Before this century it was the common teaching of Catholics and Protestants that birth control was wrong, that God wanted them to accept as many children as He granted.  We have biblical examples, if not mandates, of people regarding blessings.  Did anyone good ever refuse something that was a blessing?  What about the story of Onan where he acted the kinsman-redeemer but specifically avoided the possibility of conception in the union?  He was condemned.  But maybe he was condemned for the motives and implications of the act?

Christians become more like the world as they withdraw from the world. In what way would you describe those prime examples of religious seclusion: Amish and monks in a monastery, as being more like the world?  Worldly is defined as self-centered, reluctant to share our faith.  Though that is not particularly world-like, as they are eager to share their beliefs.  Perhaps it could be argued that Christians withdrawing from interaction with the world are growing less godly or less obedient (are we not called to be salt and light?) rather than more worldly.  There are many monasteries that, while pursuing a life apart, still engage in ministry to the community, to the “world.”  They do teaching ministries and nursing, for example.  Has not the US church become a club, withdrawing from the world in their exclusivity, because we are neglecting the command to reach out?  What made it become a club?  Maybe that itself was a consequence of becoming like the world, and inviting the world in on its terms.  If the world wants to come to church, shouldn’t they want to come for the truth?  Christians are commanded to be somewhat separate: more hospitable to other Christians than to nonbelievers; also to know who is “in” and who is “out” in order that outreach might be a definite, stand-out activity.  We as Christians are known by our love to one another.  Being so separate that the difference is obvious is a witness.  The Bible teaches Christians to engage in BOTH discipleship AND evangelism.  1 John instructs us NOT to love the world or anything in the world.  Those Christian leaders most recognized for being engaged in the world and having a large impact or effect on the world – are they having an impact for the Kingdom of God?  Billy [Graham], Joel [Osteen], and Rick [Warren] are “ruining the kingdom of God.”  Our interaction with the world should be one of confrontation.  And perhaps “Christians” in the US aren’t real Christians, so withdrawing from responsibilities to love their neighbors is a natural reaction.

(First Ever 2 Minute Debate!)  The Sun will go out before Jesus comes back, so we should colonize other solar systems. Jesus said He was coming back soon.  At that point the world had only existed for 4,000 or so years, so the absolute maximum that could have meant would be A.D. 4,000.  There is no way the Sun is burning out in 2,000 years.  If we’re still around then, though, and He hasn’t come back, maybe then we’ll look into colonizing other solar systems.  Plus we have better things to do than worrying about the survival of humanity after the earth.

Confessing sins to fellow disciples is essential for healthy community. Don’t we already confess sins to each other?  It just starts out with, “It was SO cool…”  Seriously, isn’t there a danger of confession turning into bragging?  If I tell you my sins, doesn’t that encourage you to gossip about me?  Disciple is defined as one who is pursuing godliness, trying to grow spiritually.  So the discretion used in confessing to disciples can guard against some dangers.  Another danger is the power of suggestion introducing a type of temptation to others.  But confession could – and should – be made without details.  The benefit of hearing sins confessed is to realize that other Christians are struggling with sin – maybe even the same sin – too.  That gives assurance that the temptation and failure is not a sign of being unregenerate.  Should confession be private (accountability partner) or communal?  History has recorded many times where revival followed public confession.  Pastors often set the example of public confession, apologizing for faults during sermons.  It is probably more important for leaders to confess publicly.  So what?  Now everyone knows that everyone else is a mess just like them.  How does that build healthy community?  Congregations can pray for each other when they know the need, support each other, and rejoice in the victories.  But people don’t have to wait until they’ve conquered sins to start confessing.  And a meeting could involve some confession and some victory reports.  Confession invites intimacy.  Public confession facilitates repentance, whereas not having to tell anyone about it lets a person “get over it” without being truly sorry.  Isn’t God sufficient pressure to invite true repentance?  Being one with God is tied to being one with others.  The Christian response to confession is forgiveness, especially if you were wronged by the sin.  But the Bible does record times when men confessed their sins and received judgment.  Take Achan, whose whole family was stoned with him even after he confessed.  Still, a case can be made that the stoning of Achan’s household was good for the community, which is the wording of the resolution.  Reality has Christians experiencing consequences even though we’re forgiven.

The way Protestants teach salvation by grace alone/faith alone/Christ alone leads people to faith in intellectual assent, not to faith in the Spirit of Christ (true salvation). So we shouldn’t teach that gospel?  Or we need to be very careful how it’s explained?  Christians tend to use terms with people who don’t know what we mean, like faith; in our culture it is understood as intellectual assent.  So if that isn’t what we mean, we need to define our terms or use words that anyone can understand.  Sometimes there aren’t words for concepts (some tribes have been discovered with no word for mercy or forgiveness): in such cases, longer explanations and even demonstrations may be necessary.  Part of the cause of false conversions in America today is that salvation is sold as a ticket out of hell…  But if it is true that we are saved by faith alone, why does it matter how an evangelist explains the gospel?  The gospel of intellectual assent is a Holy Spirit-less gospel; it doesn’t lead them to God.  Isn’t the Holy Spirit capable of using weak words to nonetheless convert hearts?  It is the Christian’s responsibility to be as clear as he can.  When we talk about salvation, we rarely mention that the choice brings a cost: lordship of Christ, sacrificing, how much easier it is to live without morals.  We say “God has a wonderful plan for your life” but look at Paul’s life.  Are we being dishonest?  What about using a word like “mistake” instead of sin?  Doesn’t that give the impression that your rebellion against God was an accident?  But that could be an attempt at using an understandable word when no one knows what sin is anymore.  Are there better words, though, like “wrong”?  Originally it was understood that converting to a certain religion, with its doctrines, had consequences.  It meant a conversion to that lifestyle as well.  How do we know when people are understanding us?  If our lives back up our message, we become our own visual aid.  Even the word saved can be misleading.  Most people don’t experience a feeling of danger because they were born spiritually dead.  They are not presently in Hell, so they don’t realize the importance of being saved from it.  But if you use the word “changed,” that implies that something happens to you but also that you are different.  And you are not only changed, but also changing.  Some people do get saved out of fear of Hell.  But the Great Commission was to make disciples.  To make changed people.  Aren’t Justification and Regeneration equal and indivisible parts of salvation?  Hearing the message of salvation from Hell gives people an appreciation for God’s grace, because they have a concept of His wrath.

Are you tired of being buffeted by your fan?  (Did you even know you were being buffeted?)  Try the new and fantastic Dyson* Air Foil Fan.  It works like a jet engine.  Some people have noted that wind is naturally, uh, well, buffeting, so that style of air propellant might be preferred by some people.  But when is the last time someone invented a new fan?  Start saving now!  *Dyson, the inventor, is now “Sir Dyson.”  He was knighted by the Queen.  That’s how cool his fan is.  (The preceding paragraph should not be taken as an endorsement of Dyson or any of its products or ideas.)

Christians, for efficiency, should focus on saving kids dying of natural causes than the much more difficult task of keeping other people (parents) from killing them, as in pro-life work. Both victims want to be saved.  There is less resistance from authorities and parents to saving people who are starving or without clean drinking water.  Aren’t both causes of death the result of hardened hearts and sinful people?  Maybe even the result of our sin?  So the task involves overcoming hard hearts either way.  But the resolution was about saving lives, not changing hearts.  It is easier to save people – physically – from natural threats.  But the reason to save either children is to give them a chance to hear the spiritual message of salvation by grace in the future.  Don’t pit two good things against each other.  Doing something here in your spare time is easier than packing up the family and moving to Africa to dig wells for drinking water, and corresponds better to a lot of peoples’ callings.  The Bible talks about blood guilt for a nation that commits the shedding of innocent blood; doesn’t that put some priority on us addressing the deaths in our OWN nation?  But our influence isn’t just national anymore; it is global.  And blood guilt is a global phenomenon.  Shouldn’t we start at home?  Don’t do something just because it is easier.  But we weren’t talking about easy; we were talking about efficient.  And efficiency implies limited resources; our God who is sending us to care for the weak and needy is not limited.  Unless you consider that He is limited by human willingness (our willingness to obey or others’ willingness to receive).  Are we going for results?  The biggest number of people helped?  Shouldn’t we just be trying to glorify God in whatever we do?  Is it wrong to use wisdom, taking efficiency into consideration, to make that choice?  Jesus said that thousands were starving but Elijah was sent to only one widow.  So one needs to take into account personal conviction and direction from God.  Have God’s values.  Whatever you do, do it heartily.  Efficiency is a worthy consideration, but not the sole motivator.  We need God’s direction.  And what if those we save by using our energies efficiently end up transforming the world and saving people from other kinds of death as well?  Are we not furthering the kingdom of God by saving multitudes from starvation and disease – thus ingratiating the world to us and our message?

Institutional Church is fundamentally neither worse nor less biblical than any other form of church. Institutional Church is defined as that typical of the United States, including an order of worship, a building, pastors and elders.  Though theoretically the models may have equal ground, consistent tendencies suggest a flaw in the institutional model.  Are home churches any better?  Institutional Churches have the record for longevity.  House churches don’t usually last hundreds of years.  But maybe that isn’t the goal of a house church.  Where size is concerned, Institutional Churches tend to be larger, which guards against false doctrine and gives greater accountability.  Is that true?  Doesn’t the larger congregation provide anonymity, and so hinder accountability?  In denominations, a characteristic of Institutional Church, individual congregations are accountable to the denomination, particularly for their doctrine.  Jim Elliot said the Church is God’s, and it is important to Him, so if He has a way He wants the Church to meet and worship Him, we should do it that way.  [and this is my blog, so I can edit history and give the quote for real: “The pivot point hangs on whether or not God has revealed a universal pattern for the church in the New Testament. If He has not, then anything will do so long as it works. But I am convinced that nothing so dear to the heart of Christ as His Bride should be left without explicit instructions as to her corporate conduct. I am further convinced that the 20th century has in no way simulated this pattern in its method of ‘churching’ a community . . . it is incumbent upon me, if God has a pattern for the church, to find and establish that pattern, at all costs” (Shadow of The Almighty: Life and Testimony of Jim Elliot)  See also my website: www.ChurchMoot.wordpress.com]  The Bible describes a model of church that the Institutional Church does not match.  That is what makes it inferior.  For example, 1 Corinthians 14 says that when the Church gathers, every one has a teaching, psalm, prophecy, tongue – not just a pre-scheduled pastor.  But the Bible also teaches that there should be order, that everyone should not be talking over each other.  Isn’t that an “order of worship”?  The Bible does talk about pastors, though!  What is the role of a pastor?  When the New Testament talks about pastors and apostles and evangelists giving attention to teaching and preaching, doesn’t that suggest the sermon?  Preaching is primarily for evangelism.  Christians are to honor those elders especially who minister in the Word.  Shouldn’t a Christian convicted about these matters try to reform the Institutional Church?  How can he, when the means at his disposal are the very thing he wants to change?  You could keep the same people, the same congregation, but you would have to tear the whole structure down and start over.  The issue isn’t problems in individual congregations or even necessarily those “tendencies” to which Institutional Church is prone; it is the description of the Church meetings given in the New Testament.  Where did the New Testament Church meet?  How did they facilitate the Church in Jerusalem at thousands of members if it met in houses?  They didn’t all have to meet at once in one place.  Is it wrong to meet in buildings?  Buildings cost money to maintain.  The Early Church and House Churches can use that money for other things, not needing to budget for light-bulbs and parking lots.  And the money was administered not by a church fund, but entrusted to the apostles.  Would it be best to return to an Apostolic Model, then, or even recognize Apostolic Succession as in the Catholic Church?

What Americans call consumerism isn’t consumerism; it’s collecting and hoarding, so we should stop maligning consumerism. Why do we think of consuming as bad?  Everyone consumes.  But isn’t that the threat behind “carbon footprints” of every organism?  Hoarding is entrapping; it’s worse than cigarettes.  We store all this stuff in our houses and then we lose it by the time we “need” it.  But people find security in having backups for things they use a lot.  And the reason we need a backup is because our society has manufactured (or demanded the manufacture of) consumable products, things that break or wear out.  When something breaks, we have easy access to stores, which store replacements for you.  We don’t just throw out broken things, though; we get rid of things to make way for the “new” thing, the upgrade.  What should you do with things you’re not using?  You shouldn’t keep it unless you are highly efficient at your storage and make your supplies work for you, your neighbors, and friends (hospitality: see Pigfest February 2010).  Isn’t this hoarding just the “building bigger barns” as in Jesus’ parable?  Then again, maybe it is the responsible thing to do, to work hard now and save up (not just money) for later, like the fabled ants in The Ant and the Grasshopper.  But is consuming really bad?  If you’re really using something up, and people are able to keep producing it, go ahead and consume.  Stores aren’t always as accessible as efficiency would require.  Consumption doesn’t just cost money; it costs lives and freedom.  There are some economies purposefully enslaved, where the people are kept dependent and forced to manufacture that which we consume.  Consumption is not acceptable, then, at every cost.  Isn’t the hoarding we’re talking about a sign of a lack of trust that God will take care of us in the future?

The End.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Need

Lately I’ve been learning about needs.  And learning to admit that I have them: to myself, to God, and to others.  I was homeschooled in a way that taught me to be rather self-sufficient in my learning.  Usually if I read something in a book and thought about it hard enough, I could figure it out.  There are dictionaries and encyclopedias, all examples of removed dependence. Now we even have Google, where with a click and a pressing a few keys, I can access a world of help – and never have to admit that I did.  There have been times when no school books, long thinking, dictionaries, or websites could help me.  When I wanted my grandpa’s desk moved to my room, I needed help getting it down the basement stairs.  Often I have read the Bible and been unable to make heads or tails of it, even with the help of concordances and commentaries. But asking a friend, or a group of friends, has been enlightening.

I’m hungry right now.  It is about 1 o’clock PM, and the only thing I’ve had all day is a bottle of orange juice.  So my stomach has that familiar ache that asks to be fed.  Hunger is part of our lives because we are responsive creatures.  Though there are things we can discipline ourselves to do, typically we eat when we are hungry, drink when thirsty, sleep when tired.  We blink when dust flies at our eyes.  And those impulses are good, because we need food, drink, rest, and defense to stay alive.

Just now I have another sensation.  I want to be held.  Not given a hand-shake.  Not a quick hug. The desire is for prolonged contact, tightness blended with gentleness.  And the feeling is so much like hunger and thirst and weariness that I cannot think that it is unnatural or purposeless. Perhaps the need is less urgent…  Perhaps I will even survive if I am never held.  Do I NEED my mommy?  A husband?  I think these longings point to that.  Were they not balanced by morality taught in the Bible, I would just go after gratification.  Outcomes don’t change the fact that the sensation is related to the other need-based instincts.

The philosophy is going around the Christian community that the only thing we need is God.  I suppose this is true if you are saying, “The only thing we need FOR salvation is God.”  Just like the only think we need FOR hunger is food.  The only thing I need FOR good grades is to know the right answers for the test.  But we live in a cause and effect world.  God made it that way.  So to reach certain outcomes, we NEED certain prerequisites.

To say, “I don’t need food; I have God,” is nonsense.  It is possible to starve to death while “having” God.  With such a being as God, it is possible for Him to maintain life without food – but He rarely does so, and has not promised it.  From a certain point of view, God was all that starving person needed – to accomplish God’s will, to bring God glory, maybe even to be happy. But God was not the sole need if the goal was continued life.

As Christians in the Church Age, God has seen fit to put us as individual members of one body. Without those individuals functioning as ears, where would the hearing be for those of us who are eyes?  Such is the metaphor Paul uses.  To accomplish the good works God has prepared for us, we NEED other believers.  Use of spiritual gifts demands at the very least, objects.  Teachers have students.  Shepherds have sheep.  Most often cooperation is also required.  Discipleship is not accomplished by one person.  Repentance is much more successful when it is confessed to a community.  “One another” fills the teachings of the New Testament.  We NEED others.

In a similar way, husbands and wives NEED each other.  If God wants me to be married, I need a husband to obey God’s call.  To function as a wife, I need a husband.  Husbands are not God. They are not sufficient for all a woman’s needs.  They cannot give her purpose like God can. Wives do need husbands, though.  To “be fruitful and multiply,” a woman needs a man – unless God is going to miraculously intervene like he did with Mary, but that was a very special case not ever to be repeated!

The reluctance to acknowledge these needs leads to weakness, as we attempt to live the Christian life in independence: praying by ourselves, serving by ourselves, confessing alone, studying alone.  It leads to the thinking that church is where we serve, but not where we are ourselves built into servants.  After all, if God is the only thing we need, we don’t need the discipleship offered from a community of believers.  And other believers don’t need us, since they have God. So when we gather, our purpose is either all about God (a sensory worship experience) or all about non-believers (let’s make it fun enough that they’ll stay to hear when we mention Jesus, the cross, and belief).  Problem is, that isn’t how the Bible describes church.  Believers gather for edification, fellowship, teaching.  Worship is rarely mentioned.  The possibility of non-believers present is addressed once.  Read Ephesians.  Read Romans, and 1 Corinthians.  Even the passages about pastors in 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and 1 Peter have the emphasis of building up.

When we think God is all we NEED, we reject His good gifts.  We do not ask Him for what we need.  Those people God has called to walk alongside us are not esteemed.  Our failure is discouraging, for when we fall, who will lift us up again?  I believe that God works in my weakness.  I do not believe this always manifests as a miracle.  There have been experiences in my life where I was trying to teach something, and my communication was weak or distracted. But other believers, equipped and brought forward by God, have joined with me and completed the lesson.  If I denied that possibility, I would have to believe that the lesson I was trying to teach never got taught.  Do you see?

God is rather fond of means and middle men.  When His word accomplishes universes, yet He creates angels to do His bidding.  Cooperation is not the most efficient possibility for the Almighty.  But then He created time, too.  God does not need anything more than Himself.  Since He set us in a world, not alone, with tasks to do by work and not by miraculous proclamations, we do NEED some things.  Some people.  And God.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I’m in between churches right now – between congregations. All summer and fall I’ve been casually attending the meetings of various friends. I can’t tell you how wonderful it feels to not be obligated to make an appearance at any one building on a Sunday morning. I might tell a friend I’m coming, or I might decide Saturday night. Some Sundays I sleep in. Sunday morning heathenism is rather refreshing.

Except it isn’t heathenism. A lot of what happens in those buildings on Sunday mornings is of heathen origin. But heathenism is a lot more than skipping a sermon and praise concert. It is a lifestyle of rejecting God, and that I certainly have not done.

I believe the Bible teaches Christians to gather regularly with each other. That isn’t something I have abandoned either. My recent experience is filled with times of fellowship and encouragement with other believers. We do ministry together, hold each other accountable for our walks with God, philosophically tackle the dilemmas we’re facing, study the Bible, and pray. During these times we also tend to eat, to play games, to laugh and tease, sometimes to work. Kids running around get swept up by disciples of Jesus, who – like Him – love children.

About a month ago some friends invited me to their church. I went that weekend. This week they asked me what I thought, and didn’t I like it (since I hadn’t been back). And I froze, because, well, I did like it. The people were friendly and the teachings were biblical and stimulating. But I don’t think I’ll join. This Sunday I did go back there, though. And my friends’ thirteen-year-old son confronted me, “I thought you said our church was just ‘ok’.”

Hard to explain. This particular church is on the good end of mainstream churches. They have good doctrine. A lot of their money goes to missions. Kids are with parents in church for most of the time, and youth aren’t separated from their families. The music isn’t too loud or too self-centered. With a congregation of about 50, the pastor and teachers can know everyone.

After pondering for a day or so, here is my answer to the thirteen-year-old friend: (it’s alliterative so I can remember!)
1) Plurality. There is only one pastor at the church. He’s the head man. I believe Jesus is the head of the Church, and that leadership beneath Him must be shared among more than one equal. Whenever real life cases are discussed in the New Testament, the word is used in the plural. (Elders) In this way they can model cooperation and problem solving. Congregations and pastors are kept mindful that Christ is the true head, and that the Church is His project. Also, when one is weak, there is another to be strong, the proverbial man to pick you up when you fall. Two are better than one and a cord of three strands is not easily broken. Pastoring is a lonely job, being at the top instead of a part of your congregation as friends and brothers. My Bible describes a different sort of dynamic, where pastors are respected for being respectable and where everyone is exercising his gifts for the good of all: pastors, prophets, discerners, helpers, administrators, on and on.
2) Property. This was quite confusing to my friend, who expects people to scorn his church for meeting in the club house of a condominium complex. Whether you own a building, rent it, or have borrowed money from a bank to claim that you own it, all represent instances where the Church of God has used resources God entrusted to them not to do what He has instructed: caring for the poor, widows, orphans, and missionaries – but to have a separate place to meet. I believe churches are meant to be gathered in homes. Limited in size, surrounded by hospitality and everyday life, the atmosphere of house church encourages the participation of everyone, the familial fellowship of believers, and the synthesis of sacred and secular.
3) Preaching. The New Testament describes and even commends preaching. Except almost always the lecture style sermon was delivered to an unsaved audience. It is a tool of evangelism. And evangelism is not the purpose of the regular gathering of believers. In fact, the church meetings described in 1 Corinthians are much more open and unstructured than what we usually think of as church. No one was scheduled to speak. Anyone (any man?) was allowed to bring a word, be it a prophecy, a teaching, a tongue – as long as he spoke it for the edification of the group. He may share a testimony of God’s work or an instruction or challenge the Spirit laid on his heart to give to his friends. A teaching might be towards an identified deficiency of understanding or may flow out of the studies individuals are making during the week on their own. Prophecy may correct the direction the congregation is going, may identify weaknesses and strengths among them, may warn them, or may give them hope and vision for the future. Some verses indicate that individuals may also bring songs of their choosing to the meetings of believers, with which to encourage each other.

Now that I’ve said those things, I do believe that there is a place for the lecture-style teaching we call sermons. I really enjoy Bible conferences, and am not opposed to worship concerts where the band has practiced and is intending to honor God. When I visit my friends’ churches, I usually view those services as conferences, and I look for the Spirit-driven gatherings elsewhere. At this stage of my life I’m not content with the small groups and Bible studies that have been getting me by. So I’m still looking, reading books and searching websites from people who are practicing what the Bible teaches about Church. I’m excited to see where that leads.

Some questions remain, stronger tensions between the familiar and the ideal: how is authority supposed to work in the church? Is it important? Is it a matter of exercising authority or of submitting to authority? How much should we submit? What shall Christians do for evangelism? Wouldn’t it be better to team up? But is it wrong to invite people in to hear the gospel, or should we go out to them? Are women to speak in the church meetings? If not, why on earth did Paul say so? – Just to prove I don’t think I know everything!

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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Treebeard, as an elder of Fangorn forest, takes a walk one morning, engaging the wood’s word of mouth network to call a meeting of the Ents.  Some Ents won’t come, too busy with their own thoughts and existence to heed the call of community.  Others will surprise Treebeard, waking and walking as they have not done for decades, to mark the importance of the moment by their presence.  The cause is that which the whole forest has been awaiting to arouse them. 
 
The tree-herders, shepherds of the forest, gather for a moot in the dingle.  A moot is a gathering for deliberative purposes.  So the Ents spent three days deliberating.  They took their time getting the facts and feeling the urgency of their participation in the world’s events.  At last they made a decision, and the conversation stopped.  Then it erupted in a communal shout, which echoed into a chant as the Ents left their little dell that seemed so remote as to be not part of the real world, and marched. 
 
No more waiting.  No individuals left to ponder whether they were with the group in the action.  All of the tree-people swung themselves over the hills in the gentle descent to their doom.  The decision had been built into their nature, and the making of it at last was only a matter of being clear that the need was legitimate.  So they went, making war on Isengard and breaking down the wicked stronghold that had harried their defensive borders for so long. 
 
Contrast this with the two days the hobbits spent in the House of Tom Bombadil, also in a forest that shares many parallels with Fangorn.  In that house they were protected and refreshed.  The hobbits heard many stories of history and the way of the world in the land where Bombadil is Master.  But when they were sent away, it was a thorough departure, not a continuation of the fellowship begun in the house, or even of the instruction given in the house.  And so they surrendered to temptation and deceit, almost losing their lives to the Barrow Wight.  Bombadil was willing to come to their aid, but not to go with them, having, as Gandalf explained, withdrawn into a little land within bounds that he had set. 
 
The nights with Bombadil and Goldberry comprised a vivid experience for the hobbits, opening their hearts to history and destiny in a way that little else could.  But it was disconnected from the rest of the quest.  Frodo and his companions could no more return to the House under hill than they could spend their eternal rest in Valinor before the tale was over. 
 
I think church should be like the Entmoot.  Don’t you ever sit in a gathering of believers, praying, singing, sharing the word of God, and just imagine everyone getting up and rushing the doors to take on the world?  What if we actually did? 
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn
 
(quotes taken from that all-three together Lord of the Rings that came out right before the first movie)
p. 467 – Entmoot = an assembly of the people in early England exercising political, administrative, and judicial powers.  Also an argument or discussion, esp. of a hypothetical legal case.  An obsolete definition (therefore the most likely intention of Professor Tolkien), a debate, argument or discussion. 
 
p. 467 – “Entmoot… is a gathering of Ents.”
 
p. 468-469 – “The Ents were as different from one another as trees from trees… There were a few older Ents… and there were tall strong Ents…”  
 
p. 469 – There were about 48 Ents present (and no young Ents or Entwives, due to the tragic history of the Ents).
 
p. 469 – “Merry and Pippin were struck chiefly by the variety that they saw: the many shapes, and colours, the differences in girth, and height…”
 
p. 469 – “standing in a wide circle round Treebeard…”
 
p. 469 – “a curious and unintelligible conversation began.”  (In jest:) Were they speaking in tongues??
 
p. 469 – “they were all chanting together”
 
p. 469 – “gradually his [Pippin’s] attention wavered.”
 
p. 470 – “But I have an odd feeling about these Ents: somehow I don’t think they are quite as safe and, well funny as they seem.  They seem slow, queer, and patient, almost sad, and yet I believe they could be roused.”
 
p. 470 – “But they [Ents] don’t like being roused.”
 
p. 471 – “However, deciding what to do does not take Ents so long as going over all the facts and events that they have to make up their minds about.”
 
p. 472 – “…but now they seemed deeper and less lesisurely, and every now and again one great voice would rise in a high and quickening music, while all the others died away.”
 
p. 473 – “…the voices of the Ents at the Moot still rose and fell, sometimes loud and strong, sometimes low and sad, sometimes quickening, sometimes slow and solemn as a dirge.”
 
p. 473 – “held conclave”
 
p 473 – “Then with a crash came a great ringing shout…”
 
p. 473 – “There was another pause, and then a marching music began like solemn drums… before long they saw the marching line approaching…”
 
p. 475 – “It was not a hasty resolve… we may help the other peoples before we pass away.”
 
p. 475 – “songs like trees bear fruit only in their own time and their own way: and sometimes they are withered untimely.”

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Already Gone by Ken Ham and Britt Beemer with Todd Hillard

Britt Beemer’s America’s Research Group was commissioned by Ken Ham to survey 1,000 former attendees of conservative Christian churches, who are now in their twenties, to discover why they left.  Already Gone is a summary of the survey results, and a challenge to the church to heed the warning and make the radical changes required to remain relevant – not only to the younger generations, but to everyone. 

Do you believe in the authority of Scripture?  Does your life demonstrate it?  Ken Ham poses these questions to young adult Christians both in and out of mainstream churches, to pastors, Christian teachers, to parents, churches, and educational institutions.  The subject of Already Gone is the generation of Christians my age (20’s), many of whom have left the church.  Of those who have left, there are two main groups: one whose worldview is mostly secular and skeptical of the Bible, and one that believes the Bible is true and applicable but has found the church irrelevant.  How is the church failing to deliver a biblical worldview to the children and youth who faithfully attend Sunday school, church, and youth group?  Of the twenty-something’s who remain in the church, are they submitted to the authority of Scripture, or is their search for a worship experience prevailing over God’s teachings about the Body of Christ? 

What about the parents, pastors, youth pastors, and Sunday school teachers who make up the older generation, the church establishment?  Have they sold out God’s teachings on the church for their beloved traditions?  How much of what we think of when we hear “church” is actually biblical?  Why is the most common accusation against the church that it is hypocritical?  The church in America is losing members so drastically that we need to radically reevaluate our practices and teachings.  Compromise cannot be tolerated. 

As founder of Answers in Genesis, Ken Ham must touch on his favorite subject: the foundational importance of Genesis, and how compromise on the historical and scientific truth of Genesis undermines all of Scripture, faith in God, and even the gospel.  He calls the church back to teaching “earthly things,” the correspondence between the Bible and reality.  Christians need to be equipped for apologetics from an early age, to guard against doubts and to answer inquiries from a godless culture.  This, more than music or games or attractive activities, is the only way to be relevant to people living in the real world and desperate for answers.

Already Gone is a fair, factual, and interesting treatment of the systemic problems in the church today.  Lest we become like post-Christian Europe, where church is a marginal pastime for a few elderly people clinging to vestiges of tradition in empty cathedrals, we must take action now.  Several reactions to the problem are presented, with their disadvantages and perks, but ever a challenge to study for yourself what God says about church and training up children. 

As a member of the generation under the microscope, on the edge of the traditional church and ready to flee, I was impressed by the willingness to take us seriously.  Some of us are leaving because we see the problems and want a church that does what a church should, and loyalty isn’t strong enough to keep us from looking outside our experience.  Ken Ham acknowledges, with some surprise, people in my situation.  I appreciated this book.  Even though I’m pushing for the more extreme reactions mentioned (abandoning Sunday school and traditional trappings: buildings, sermons, and orders of worship), I have a lot of respect for the way Already Gone ties the whole malady to the failure of Christians to teach and obey the authority of the Word of God.  If a person is faithful to study and submit to that, he will be led to the mode of meeting and discipleship God intends, strongly equipped for the Christian call to evangelize our world. 

Already Gone

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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