Archive for May, 2005

Slaves to Culture

This week, I’m participating in the Summer Seminar for Missions. The guest speaker is Dr. Sherwood Lingenfelter, provost and senior vice president of the Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. I’d like to share a few thoughts from yesterday’s lecture (I missed today’s because I have been sick). The title of his first message was “Is Culture Positive, Negative, or Neutral to the Gospel?” His major thrust was that everyone is a slave to his or her culture. Individuals, corporations, and especially churches and missionaries are slaves to their culture. For instance, many missionaries to Indonesia simply package the view of church they’ve always had and simply transplant it into their new culture. (Remember seeing pictures of African Christians standing to sing in churches, lined up in rows and on pews, wearing European clothing and headwear?)

If this is true on the foreign mission field, then isn’t it true on the domestic mission field? When was the last time you heard of a group of church planters moving into an un-reached area of the U.S., and instead of reproducing all their pre-conceived notions of what church looks, feels, sounds, and smells like, began by developing relationships in the area? I can tell you that this isn’t the trend in North America. In North America, “church planting” means creating a satellite version of the mother church somewhere else, maybe wrapped in a thin layer of indigenous culture, but mostly resembling the culture of the church planters.

This is happening here in Abilene. A large, upper-middle-class white church in town is planting a church in a predominately Hispanic part of town. The church is making minimal efforts to meet the neighbors in the barrio, but only after creating a list of ministries and programs it is sure will be a “hit” in the neighborhood. My fear is that this new “church plant” will simply be “Big Church #2”, resembling the likes and dislikes of the upper-middle-class white people that began going to church there. I would like to see a few families from the large church develop leaders of some “people of peace” in the neighborhood, then let those people reach their friends and family. No amount of effort on the part of the upper-middle-class white people from Big Church #1 will be able to truly reach the people of the Hispanic neighborhood in an organic, indigenous way.

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New Teammate


IMG_1458
Originally uploaded by smh00a.

Well, we have a new teammate in the ministry. Damon Holt’s primary “target population” will be furry and have fleas, and we are really hopeful that he will catch the vision for starting some “kennel churches” all over Abilene and then Boston.

Naw, but seriously…

Damon is an 8-week-old miniature apricot poodle. He is about 6 lbs right now, but will grow to around 11 pounds. We wish he could stay the size he is, though. He is adorable. He has imaginary fights with his kibbles, does front flips over bricks in our yard, and can’t get up onto our deck (browse our pictures to see it — it’s really hilarious). And the best news: after just three days in our care, he is already doing his “dooty” on our pee-pee mat, and not the floor. Fast learner!

We are super excited about our new little family member. Thanks to Terry and Laura Browder (Chrissy’s bosses), who bought us Damon for Chrissy’s birthday.

He’s so doggone cute!

Wal-Mart Books

Chrissy forgot her bathing suit in Abilene, so we had to visit a Round Rock Wal-Mart to purchase one worthy of one good hot tub wearing. I got to looking at the Christian book shelf (in Wal-Mart’s un-matched literature section…), because I’m a Christian that reads books. Simple enough, I guess. It didn’t take me long to realize that Wal-Mart has not one book (aside from the Bible) that I would purchase to read myself or give to someone else.

Here’s why: So many of the “pop-Christian” books out today are really self-help books in disguise. Joel Osteen (author of NY Times Bestseller Your Best Life Now) is Tony Robbins with a clerical collar (I know, I know…he doesn’t wear a clerical collar — no analogy is perfect!). Christian book titles that have “10 Steps to…” or “How to have…” often give away the contents as more Zig Ziglar than Don Miller. Is this the best we have out there? Self-help books with “God” and “Jesus” sprinkled strategically throughout? Authors luring people to Christ with the promise of an abundant, rich life (and a bank account to match)? Why aren’t books like Blue Like Jazz or Jesus With Dirty Feet being sold at Wal-Mart? Why don’t more Christian authors write down-to-earth books about Christian spirituality that cause skeptics and seekers to think and convict believers? Ironically, the only book I remotely liked on the shelf was by Max Lucado, who has done a remarkably good job at writing non-cheesy books about Christian spirituality that hit a wide spectrum of people. But he’s about it.

Which Christian authors/books would you like to see at Wal-Mart? Why?

Unchurched People

Read this and post a comment on how it strikes you. I’m curious.

Blessings, friends.

P.S., go here to see the Holts’ new deck. It’s exciting. Thanks, Mark!

“But IIIII Love Technology…”

I’m blogging this from the desktop of the newest Mac operating system, Tiger, using the DashBlog widget! (I can’t explain everything about it, just know it is the epitome of convenience and pampering. God forbid I should have to open up my Internet browser!) Isn’t technology wonderful?

Now I’m going to look up a verse on my handy BibleLookup widget:
“He is the one who gave these gifts to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ, until we come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature and full grown in the Lord, measuring up to the full stature of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-13, NLT).

We often don’t consider the “apostle” and “prophet” to be valid gifts anymore, do we? According to this verse, however, those gifts will be active in the church “until we come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature and full grown in the Lord, measuring up to the full stature of Christ.” Think that’s gonna happen anytime soon?

Let’s not be so quick to discount the role of prophets and apostles in our midst. Instead, let’s allow “each part to do its own special work…so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (4:16b).

Blessings today, friends.

Intimacy

Tonight at church, while some of the men were in the kitchen getting coffee and brownies a la mode for the women (and me), a guy who has only come twice asked the host for prayers for deliverance from an immoral physical relationship with the girl he is dating (and brought to church tonight, by the way). The relative newcomer petitioned the host to, after he and his love interest had left for the evening, pray with the rest of the community for their relationship to become pure.

So we did. When the couple left the host family’s apartment, we prayed for God to deliver them from the situation the guy, at least, knew was wrong.

I’m not sure why this whole turn of events surprised and impacted me so much. Well, yes I do. It’s because tonight’s events were how I have imagined “church” being all my life, but haven’t found anywhere until now. What I imagined was a place where everyone, regardless of who they are or what they’ve done, could come and unload their burdens at the feet of Christ and their community. I imagined a place where second-time visitors felt so at-home that they could start referring to the community as “our church” on their second visit and would be OK with subjecting private sin to corporate prayer. I imagined a group of believers that would spend time discussing accountability options for the struggling brother until well after “church” was supposed to have ended. Tonight was the first time I’d experience any of this inside a community of faith in my 22 short years.

As the host’s wife said so artfully tonight, it’s all about the people. She and her husband had left two churches — both with stellar worship, numerous and diverse ministries, and gobs of people — because they didn’t feel wanted. It was that simple. I never again want to be a part of a church that has the best singles ministry or preacher in town, but couldn’t drop everyone’s plans to pray for the secret sin of a brother and sister in need.

Too long, I know

I promise I’ll have a new post up in the next few days. We’ve been building a deck the last two weekends! I’m pooped…