Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Evolution of Man

A fierce debate rages in today's America about the origin of life.  It is an incredibly important debate that I don't believe can be won by arguing scientific theories (e.g. Intelligent Design, Darwinian Evolution.)  The primary reason it can't be won on scientific evidence is that people have made their minds up on the topic already and can support their position with science.  What I believe Christians should do is focus on the implications of an origin without God and realize that God is bigger than this debate.

1. Implications of life without God

What is inherently better about "life"?  What incentive do I have to preserve my existence or the existence of those around me?  Why is preserving of a group of molecules that have somehow become self-aware more important than not?  A true atheist has no answer.  Any attempt answer that and you leave the realm of the natural and enter the supernatural.

If we are unable to answer that question, then everything falls apart.  There is no authority; no authority for government, no authority for decency, no authority for morality.  Without God no one could tell me that walking into your house and killing your family is wrong, or that walking into a classroom and shooting 32 people is wrong, or that people starving in Africa is wrong.

If atheists realized what they were saying they'd live differently or stop being atheists.

2. Evolution is not bigger than God

Let us assume scientists were to somehow discover "the missing link" or reproduce the "primordial soup" that resulted life, what then for the believer?  Does God cease to exist?  Is the Creation story now irrelevant and wrong?  The answer, of course, is absolutely not.  Rob Bell in his book "Velvet Elvis" takes this idea and expands it using the virgin birth to do so.  He spends a little more time fleshing out the argument using bricks and trampolines as a metaphor, but I'll leave it at that and perhaps get him some more book sales.  The heart of the matter is that we want to introduce people to God and not to a set of rules and doctrines that one can adhere to without knowing why.

 

As always there is plenty more to be said, but this at least gets some of the ideas out there.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Relationships

At the risk of stating the obvious, God uses relationships to build people. This is clear from Jesus' ministry (time spent w/ his disciples), Acts 2:42-47 (the word "together" is used repeatedly to describe their fellowship), and all of scripture. God didn't need to make it so. How could have made us to be lone rangers, but he didn't. Ecclesiastes 4:12 explains "Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."

I recall Chuck Swindoll sharing a story about a Marine Corps buddy of his who found more sincere relationships in a bar than in the church (http://tatumweb.com/blog/2007/07/22/church-bar/#comment-67001), and frankly I can relate. When I came to faith in college through InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, I belonged to strong fellowship and it made all the difference. In the 12 years since then, the depth of my relationships have been on a steady decline, for a number of reasons (most of which are my fault).

I'm convinced that church structures must foster healthy relationships, between believers, and reaching out to non-believers. These relationships must be God-honoring and real. Why is it so important that church structures support relationships? For some people, relationships come natural - they don't need structure. For others, either relationships do not come natural or they're just choked out by business. We must strive to ensure that nobody "falls through the cracks", neither visitors, nor regular attenders. BTW, I believe that small groups for all are great way to do this.

As Mother Teresa said "The most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved." God forbid people feel the way Rich Mullins did in his song Elijah "There's people been friendly, but they'd never be your friends. Sometimes this has bent me to the ground."

A desire to serve the living God is the reason that I must be a part of a church. But the times that I've experienced sincere love (and there have many) are what makes me want to belong to a church.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Confidence

1 Sam. 10:5 Once these signs are fulfilled, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you.

That verse is taken from 1 Samuel 1o and is spoken by Samuel concerning Saul's anointing.  In that chapter Samuel tells Saul that when he meets up with other prophets, the Holy Spirit will come on him in power and that when that happens he is to "do whatever your hand finds to do."

If each of us as followers of Christ have been granted the Holy Spirit then don't we have the same charge?  Haven't we been given a Spirit, not of timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline?  Isn't faith being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see? 

Do you believe the Holy Spirit is directing you?

From Mike Adams on Townhall - the Audacity of Hope

I think this is the kind of stuff you guys are talking about when "doing church". While we don't know what God would do if we stepped out in faith -- we really aren't that concerned about numbers other than the fact that more folks means being able to do more but read the following:




The Audacity of Hope 127
By Mike S. Adams
Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Just a few years ago, Pastor Jackson got on a plane from Africa to come to the United States of America. He felt led to reach out and form a partnership with a small but growing church in Wilmington, NC. He sold his car in order to purchase the plane ticket. He put his trust completely in the Lord.
When he arrived unannounced at the airport in Baltimore, MD, he called the office of the church asking for someone to come and pick him up. They had to give him the bad news that the Baltimore airport was close to Wilmington, Delaware but not anywhere near Wilmington, North Carolina. But they managed to get him on a bus to North Carolina so they could listen in person to why Pastor Jackson thought he had been led to contact them in the first place.
Not knowing where to put their surprise visitor from Africa, the church staff got him a hotel room. After listening to him address the staff, one of the young pastors named Mark drove him back to Baltimore and put him on a plane back to Africa.
When Mark returned from his seven-hour ride with Pastor Jackson he was convinced that his ministry was one that was worth supporting. The young North Carolina church was struggling financially and trying desperately to save money for its first building. Nonetheless, they were asked to consider giving 10% of their budget to Pastor Jackson’s ministry.
One of the young pastors remarked that it would be insane to give 10% to this man’s ministry at a time when their own church was struggling financially and without a building of its own. Another replied with a pointed question: “Do you think God will punish us for giving too much money to African children?”
The staff prayed as a group. At the end of the prayer and without further discussion they all looked up and said “Let’s do it.”
If you look at a chart of the growth of Port City Community Church in Wilmington, NC, you can see that the biggest jump in attendance followed that leap of faith resulting in giving 10% of the church’s budget to Pastor Jackson. Just eight years after holding its first service, Port City Community Church recently had to turn people away from its doors as it packed over 3700 people into five Sunday services. Plans for a new building have had to be modified to accommodate unexpected growth.
I believe that stories like this show that God has a plan for every person and for every church. And God rewards those who respond boldly and decisively to His plans.
When I mentioned in a recent column that I was signing over 100% of any future royalties from my latest book to Pastor Jackson’s Hope 127 Project I received an unexpected torrent of hate mail. Many of those emails asked how I could possibly donate proceeds to a foreign charity instead of one here in the United States. What I have already said in this column explains the specific calling but it does not address the larger issue of choosing foreign over domestic charity.
Those who are adamantly opposed to giving to foreign charity, especially if they are Christians, need to take some consolation in the fact that atheism is on the decline in the world today. And they can also take some consolation in the fact that Christianity is the world’s fastest growing religion.
But the good news about the Good News is not all coming from the United States of America. In fact, the real reason Christianity is winning is because of what is happening on continents like South America, Asia, and Africa. And that success has led many like me to view foreign Christian charity as a good investment.
I want those who hastily fired those critical emails to consider the location of Jesus’ birth and ministry. Is it a coincidence that God chose a place where Asia, Europe, and Africa intersect? We are all free to believe this to be a coincidence. But Christianity is not for those believing in a random universe.
When we ask ourselves “Where Would Jesus Donate, WWJD?” we should remember that God donated His Son to save an entire world. And the distinction between foreign and domestic charity has long been washed away with the blood of Jesus.
Mike Adams is a criminology professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and author of Feminists Say the Darndest Things: A Politically Incorrect Professor Confronts "Womyn" On Campus.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Role of the Elders

I made a comment in my previous post about about "one guy" doing all the preaching. I wonder why that is the model. In the Scriptures elders/overseers were responsible for the teaching and spiritual oversight.

Have a look at Acts chapter six. There, some of the apostles were being bogged down by distributing food; so much so, that is was interrupting their ability to share the word of God. Seven servants/deacons were selected to take this over, thus freeing up the apostles to spread the word. And spread the word they did, as many came to be followers of the Way. I would suggest that the bulk of the teaching should be coming from all the elders of a body. Elders according to Paul (1 Tim) should be able to teach so the argument that someone isn't gifted in that way shouldn't be an issue since it is a foundational criterion for an elder.

How would that look at our church?

The Sunday Morning Crowd

Let me start by saying that blogging by nature is slightly less formal than full-on essays, so please forgive my lack of a degree in English. Also, I can't say that I've fully thought through everything I say here. Finally and most importantly, my hope is that by getting ideas out there we will collectively come to the right conclusions.

Our comments/discussion has shifted to being primarily about the Sunday Morning Service and it probably deserves it's own post.

I believe the meeting on Sunday mornings in a building with a sermon from one man each week definitely has its place within the church, but I believe it to be only a part, maybe even small part, of what church more generally is and should be doing.

Who is the audience?
What role does it play for the audience?
What role does it play in the church?
What are the goals? (tightly related to the previous two questions)
What elements should there be based on the goals?
How did it come to be what it is? What factors influenced?
What are the good things that do and could come from it?
What are the bad things that do and could come from it?
Why do some churches succeed numerically?
Can a meeting on Sundays accomplish everything a church is to do?

I think these are some good questions to think through because they will both explain why things are the way they are and perhaps the way they should be.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

How would you "do church" if you had a blank slate?

We're not told a lot in the new testament "how" to do church. Sure there are a few things such as the reading of the word; singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs; the Lord's supper; teaching. We also see glimpses of the temple worship and worship around the throne in Revelation so that has to have some bearing on what we do. What about synagogue services since that would have been the model the early church practiced? I'm a firm believer in not doing things because "that's the way we've always done it". Sunday school did not exist 100 yrs ago. Wednesday night or Sunday night services didn't exist either I don't believe -- never have really thought about it or done the research.

We as Elders intend to review the ministries we have and see where they fit into the vision of CBC...Glorifying God....Making Disciples. If they don't fit or arent effective they must be replaced with something that does or is.

Ok - so what would you do if you could design your own church - something folks are doing today. I can't recall the name of the church but they are meeting at Union Station in DC-- google it and check it out...

Saturday, March 15, 2008

My Vision For This Blog

I will try to sum this up and keep it short. Earlier this year I read a book called Kingdom of Couches written by an author that is on staff with Cru. It was a book about having a communal faith and living out your relationship with God in the context of people or a community. Throughout the book the author included excerpts from a blog he had with some of his good friends, some of which were pastors. They would just share things that God was teaching them and present questions as well. More recently I have been listening to a lot of sermons from a lot of different pastors (Mark Driscoll, Francis Chan, Tom Nelson, John Piper, Tim Keller). The sermons have brought up lots of things that I have and would like to continue to discuss.

So with this blog I would love to have some guys like Tim, Chad, Neal, maybe Greg, and some other "more elder" leaders at church be apart of this. With a good number of people involved in this it would keep it fresh and updated and give something to read and think about regularly. It would give us all something to challenge our walks with God by being able to ask questions present ideas or new thoughts from things in our life to things with the church. This might sound like emergent church kind of stuff (which I have been learning about) but its not because we aren't going to be questioning theology. This is also a good way to have a check and balance to things that we listen to online and things that we might be reading.