Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Christmas gems

A few Christmas gems:

Let's hear it for peace on earth and daggy Christmas traditions.

Nice article by Caroline Overington in The Australian. Only its not 'peace on earth', but '...on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased.'

An article by Al Mohler on Oden's transformation from heretic hound to godly theologian...lifting the lid on the modern academy, IMO.

And, in our new building on time. The new bit is on the left. Next project: a non-scrappy auditorium: my wish list: no view of the backs of piano and fake organ: I'd prefer a baby grand was used; much more dignified (and would suit the space), no more prominent and ugly control desk confronting as soon as one enters the auditorium, and no more dull and disheveled front wall, platform and wings. I mean, let's make our space like we're considered, people concerned with the whole of the creation mandate.





Monday, December 5, 2016

Likeness

An observation made last Sunday, interestingly drawing Exodus 20:4 against Genesis 1:26 and seeing how image/likeness is used between them. Perhaps a component of God forbidding images in relation to himself is that humanity bears the image of God; moreover, humanity in loving community. The false idol type image is in opposition to whom humanity is in relation to God and who God is in relation to humanity.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

God's in control

Great sermon this morning ended with a thorough de-bunking of the statement people make when a friend confides a distress...."It's OK; remember, God's in control." As though this would help.

As the minister pointed out, the pastoral effect is parlous: it is a conversation ender, it is discouraging, and in some ways demeaning. As though you're not a good enough Christian.

Now, he agreed that our Father will bring all things to the conclusion he wants, in the new creation. Christ, in his resurrection solved all long run problems. But the fatalism of the statement above has more to do with Islam than Christianity, and betrays a lack of understanding of the Creation Mandate in Genesis 1:26, and fails to deal with Luke 13:4.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Ministry...leadership?

John Adair on Leadership:

"...Leadership is the "raw material": the basic functional response to the three areas of need – the three circles [achieve the task, maintain the team, develop the individual] – in any working group or organisation. But the shape it takes varies according to the field. In the military, for example, the form it assumes is called command; in industry and commerce, it's known as management; and, in the church, it's proper name is ministry."

Not Bosses but Leaders 3ed p. 60

So let's get 'leadership' per se out of the church and restore ministry, noting how we live together in the church supporting each other in our lives of worship.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Worship

Stunning sermon today on worship: and it ain't just singing songs. Mention was made of Romans 12, of course, but most of the work was in Hebrews 8:1-6. Worth pondering: our meeting together is to prepare us for our worship: living Christianly in the world. The meeting itself is to encourage, build up, teach, etc. Our songs are to each other.

It is pagan to think that songs are to God! Much to the surprise of the pagans themselves (as exemplified in Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, for example).

Our manifesto says it all:




Monday, November 21, 2016

No cigar

Why 'no cigar' for the definition of 'post-modernism'?

It starts from the treatment of 'pre-modernism'.

The speaker used a partly apt astronomical analogy to help the audience grasp the spectrum (if there is one) from 'pre-modern' through 'modern' to 'post-modern'

He characterised the pre-modern world as one where the sky was considered to be a dome and the stars holes poked in that dome and letting light in.

I detect here the influence of the tendentious hermeneutic which tells us that Genesis 1 betrays some sort of primitive 'world view' where the sky was conceived as a type of dome. So, we can laugh that aside. It also fails to acknowledge the influence of acceptance of Genesis 1 at face value as one of the driving forces of the formation (and thus, the success) of modern science. Genesis 1 overturns animism, polytheism and the various other 'spookims' that prevented intellectual exploration of the physical world. It also challenges the crippling idealism and essentialism of ancient philosophy. Modernism unfortunately did not dismantle these flaws.

If there is a pre-modern view, then it would be one un-influenced by the biblical teaching of Creation and uncritically melds fantasy supernaturalism, superstition, and hierarchical social structures; based themselves on the aforementioned fantasy supernaturalism and superstition. Nothing to do with a false history of serious astronomy.

This is reminiscent of the Rip Van Winkle fallacy of flat-earth belief whereas it has been known by serious thinkers from ancient times that the earth was probably a globe. Indeed, there are robust allusions to such in the Bible itself. Isaiah has one.

When the analogy got to Modernism it referred to external certainties, which I agree is a major component of modernism; in short, there are objective independent truths that can be discovered, understood and instrumentalised in everyday life.

As it moved to  post-modernism, it returned to shaky ground. The central plank of the post-modernist platform is the absence of a critical basis for distinguishing between positions. Everything from moral epistemology to instructions for using a toaster are (it seems) up to the subject. There is no object worth talking about (except when a post-modernist relies on the certainties of aeronautical engineering for air travel, I suppose), but only 'discourse' to be analysed, typically to demonstrate its failure to meet the standards, ironically, of post-modernism. If it doesn't then, just before the critique collapses in an echo of logical-postivist self-refutation, it is subject to the sneering disdain of post-modernist ontological removal.

However, we were told that the central plank was (confusingly and inaccurately) Stephen Hawking's 'discovery' of the Big Bang. Once again, a theologian signifying (perhaps unwittingly) his commitment to a naturalist world in idealist rejection of the world described in the Bible.

So, plenty to discuss, in our 'guided discussion', but I don't know that such discussion would have been welcomed.

Ironically, the Bible Project video he showed relied on the world described in the Bible, on the implication that there is only one ontologically unified world ('universe'), rather than the split world of 'contemporary discourse/modern science' over here, and (is it pre-modern?) detached biblical spiritual-ethical world over there...confusing us as to which world is really real, and is the one we are in.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

YouTube sermon

For a change I went to the 'youth' service this evening. The speaker didn't call it a sermon, but a guided discussion (shades of Brookfield).

Was good!

He used a video from The Bible Project, also at YouTube. He showed the heaven and earth video in the 'guided discussion'.

Reminded me of a professional seminar I attended recently that used about half a dozen apt YouTube videos in a two hour session: made a great seminar then, and was effective at church as well.

But, discussion? In the typical speaker-audience format doesn't even work that well in professional seminar, so it is unsurprising that it would be just 'guided' and no 'discussion' with a bunch of younger people. I'm also sure he didn't want me to derail his view of the definition of 'post-modernism' as part of discussion. He was close, but no cigar.

Nevertheless, the idea was great: discussion good (back to Brookfield, above).

Another great website he mentioned was TopVerse website. My favourite translation not there, but good site nevertheless.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Now, let's talk "worldviews"

I, and probably you too, have heard of 'Christian world view'. Sometimes in the plural.

It sounds as though there is a worldviews supermarket somewhere, and one can take the one one likes; or even mix and match the more congenial bits from a number of these offerings.

Not so, methinks.

There is no 'Christian world view'. But there is the world as created, in all its physical, metaphysical and spiritual dimensions. Either we live in that world, or we don't. Of course, there are various responses to the world that is (and the God who is, and who is personal), with varying degrees of congruence with the world that is, and none of our responses are completely congruent with the one world that is (as Hilary Putnam might say, but for different reasons to me). Maybe it is these that are 'worldviews'. But this means, that with varying degrees of congruence with the one world that is, some worldviews are 'righter' than others.

We must always seek to test our concept of the world with the Word of God, or we are only testing it with our own bellies.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Accountability: another shot

At the home group, prior to which my previous 'accountability' blog was posted, I put my case.
 Pretty much in terms of that post.

I was told, with resignation on their part, that 'it was just semantics'. The retreat of the unhappy vanquished! But, let's not forget, words have meanings, meanings produce thoughts, and thoughts lead to behaviour. The point is meaning-thought-behaviour. And with 'accountability', it is unscriptural.

I was told of a church where there were voluntary 'accountability' groups to support each other. Oh...you mean encourage? I pointed out that we could not 'contract in' to a practice that was basically unbiblical.

Later, as we were talking about Mark's gospel, I flicked through it for a passage to read, and came across Mark 7:9. That was enough.

Now, let's all use mindfulness

Mindfulness is the phrase of the moment. Even in some Christian circles. Even, I might add in my Baptist church (the church I'm part of at the moment, I should clarify). The teacher the week before last extolled 'mindfulness' as a practice for Christians.

Mindfulness is Buddhism cleaned up for we Westerners.

But Christians have their own tradition of stillness, contemplation and quiet. It stems from the Psalms where David was consciously in the presence of God, preoccupied with the word of God, not how relaxed his toes were.

I would expect Christians to be engaged people and aware of who is around them, and the emotional climate they are in...of course we can't do this all the time. But I would also expect that Christians take time to be quietly alone with our heavenly Father in prayer and meditation on his word. This is enjoined by the Scriptures.

Similar is encouraged in an article in the Melbourne Anglican.

A Christian New Age info site has more detail.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Friday, October 28, 2016

Lewis hits the big time

Great example of quietly maintaining a Christian voice, in a university alumni magazine.




Sunday, October 23, 2016

"Worship"

I know that following popular US churchianity, we like to call our singing in church congregations "worship", despite Romans 12:1, but here's a thought, from Robert Heinlein's book Stranger in a Strange Land:

Of course, he omits the Scriptures on our connection with God as a familial one, but then, few Christians bother to proclaim this as the core of the gospel: created in love, fallen, redeemed...for? Eternal joy in fellowship with our Creator; and so the circle closes neatly.

Accountability

I've only called this post 'accountability' because it might be a word searched for, and, who knows, this post might turn up.

We are into the final chapter of Frosts book on the magic 5, and the topic of 'accountabilty' is taken out for a run in this chapter.

My hope is that it runs away.

'Accountability' is an idea that belongs in business and formal organisation structures. Not in the church (aside from formal roles where one having taken a role is accountable to the church as a whole or the nominating committee on the basis of what one has promised to do, but that's another matter).

It is also an idea that finds a home in legalism and flourishes in cults.

But how do Christians relate to each other?


I don't get a flavour of 'accountable' anywhere here!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Christian Education

I am rather excited by the prospect of  a meeting next week of our church to discuss the curriculum for children and young people's Christian education.

The convenor of this ministry wants to ensure that parents are involved in the design of the curriculum.

Wonderful.

I'll be there promoting my thoughts.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Religion? Optional?

I saw a sign at my local shopping centre about our recent census debacle (brought to you by debacle central - the Australian Public Service - with assistance from IBM.

The census invited us to tell which of about a dozen 'religions' we adhered to. It was optional to answer.

The sign urged those with no express religious affiliation to mark 'no religion', rather than repeat a remembered family or parental affiliation.

Fair enough.

Then I reflected on my own answer on the by then operative website. First I marked an affiliation. Then pondered. Heck, I don't want the government knowing something so personal and so irrelevant to government about  me. I want to un click the box I'd clicked. No could do. I had to now click something else. So I did 'other' and described my 'other' as 'optional'.

Worked for me, and none of their business.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Prayer points

One of the odd parts of any evangelical home group is the gathering (sharing?) of 'prayer points' prior to praying about (some...most) of them. It has liturgical dimensions; but its the pop-liturgy of the business meeting. There, instead of 'prayer points' we have 'action items'. The latter has been much lampooned. Oh that the former were as well.

My recent experience of this pop-liturgy is scary, and I've felt judged, criticised, embarrassed and discouraged. Hardly any of the outcomes  Paul would have thought could come from praying together in love, support and encouragement.

I divulged some matters that were pressing on may family and I: one pray-er thought that our Father in heaven should help us to 'repent'. Thanks Francine: so you know our internal state, our circumstances and history? At this point I wished I was given to profanity.

More recently, on Frost's enjoining us to eat with others thrice a week, and I protested that I could barely do thrice a year, one of the group members decided it was her turn to cross examine me, my family and suggest 'solutions' to what she saw as the problem.

Neither of these women seemed to think that they should believe and trust my requests or statements, but dive in and undo them according to their shallow, prejudiced and misjudged insight.

This is not what group pray should be: people talk about what they want prayed and expect to be given the benefit of the doubt, not a detailed haughty inquisition pre-pray or in-prayer. Rubbish. Why would I join a home group if this is the treatment?

The first rule of Christian interaction: be kind.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Aliens

Looking over a nephew's school poem: all about aliens and the sun burning out, I wondered at the Christian teaching the paid Christian at school was giving...and even wondered at same at his youth group: the poem was gravid with philosophical materialism.

How would he align this with the philsophical personalism of the Bible? Would he be equipped to deal with it through any Christian education he received, or would this merely take the tenor of our times as a given and completely fail to equip him to critically overturn it on understanding that comes from the word of God?

Knowing how most churches work: at the trival level of Bible stories, and if not, then philosophically disconnected from the ideas of the world, allowing its 'world view' to swallow thus subsume the truth of the Bible.

Witless, we perish.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Eat Frost

We've now done Frost's chapter on Eat. The deal is to eat with others three times a week; I can fudge this by having morning tea with someone at work, but its a fudge; we talk about work.

Moreover, the three times has to be with a combination of church and non-church people.

Fine in principal, but now we've got a number, its fixed: not even couched as a touchpoint: some can do more, others less.

But I hate it: a rule stuck onto the church, once more. I thought that we were done with rules; Paul tells us we are done with rules, but here we have a theologian laying them down. And I see it happening. My home group is now talking about 'eat three times a week'. Its now a goal, an objective, but its just a made up by Frost. Junk it fast.


Big universe

One of my nephews sagely advised me "When you have worries, just think of how big the universe is and how small we are and your worries will go away."

I later told him that I prefered to think how wonderfully powerful and loving God is that he made all that we see and know, and that makes my worries go away.

This is not just a cute bit of theologising, but betrays an unarticulated and probably unconsciously absorbed materialism in the first statement; the second deals with it, but I'm concerned that we've so disconnected God and creation (now its God and 'the universe') that he drifts out of our framing of our experience; thus the importance of allowing the words of Genesis 1, etc. to confront us, discomforting our incipient materialism.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Christian intellectuals

Mohler has an essay on this topic.

One reason that Christian intellectuals are fading out is that in an avowedly 'secular' world, and largely post-marxist academy (or its fellow travellers), Christian discourse is ruled out of court.

But it goes further; we fail to pin the non-Christian world on the horns of its own dilemma that comes from world views that fail to make sense of the worlds as we really live in it: materialism...romanticism (I mean things like nature worship)...panentheism (even if vaguely held). Much Christian discourse seeks to appease rather than challenge.

A great example of this poor practice is a Q&A (ABC TV leftist political platform) exchange between John Dickson, a Sydney Anglican minister, and presumably evangelical, and a humanist/materialist, where John agreed with the other's cosmogony, unwittingly making God something within the universe, and dependent; instead of challenging him on the epistemological thin ice he could not avoid being on, as a materialist.

There's also this essay.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Marriage equality

Marriage equality? There is no such thing, simply because it is rooted in the reduction of marriage to a sexual-romantic domestic relationship. It omits the cause of marriage being preeminently procreation, or equally about procreation. Remove that and the responsibility for raising and providing for children, and you remove the rationale for marriage.  A socially inert relationship (that is no offspring to look after) should be of no interest to the state.

Therefore I do not believe in marriage equality as is currently urged, because there is no functional relational equality between a man-woman set and any other set that would promote the rights, care of and responsibility for children.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Bless

This evening my home group considered the chapter of Frost's book on mission on 'blessing'; blessing others.

I was surprised that the chapter wasn't founded in Scripture, of which there's plenty: Galatians 5:22, or Ephesians 4:32. Both speak of kindness. Galatians 6:10 is also worth a look.

I was also surprised that Frost cast aspersions on missions and coupled them with colonialism: I suppose I must do more reading here, but my reading so far is that the two were separate; missions used 'colonialism' as a channel to reach into other places, other peoples. The fact that governments and firms colonised for gain is a completely other matter. It is a mistake, and perhaps an anachronistic one, to allege that missionaries had gain in mind.

What they did do was bring the gospel of hope, removed the burden of spiritism and superstition, brought health and education, and rendered local languages in text. Was this bad?

They also brought civilisation, to some extent. Was that bad? I know in these days of cultural relativism (actually, its cultural agnosticism) it is bad to think that some cultures are better than others; but the though derives from Scripture, I suggest: a culture that brings Christian freedoms, equality and understanding of created reality IS better than one that thrives on subjugation, poverty and deprivation.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Moore

I was asked to participate in a Survey Monkey survey conducted on behalf of Moore Theological College today. Oh joy.

In retrospect I should have taken screen shots of my response and posted them...

A couple of my responses: did I think that Moore was true to scripture? No; I regard it as increasingly heterodox and closed to debate, particularly on the question of origins and related ontological questions. And on the question of 'leadership'.

I was asked to comment on Moore's role in preparing all sorts of 'leaders'. I responded that we don't have 'leaders' in the Christian church, but ministers: that's the biblical concept; and ministers serve the church, they do not 'lead' it. That is the work of the Holy Spirit.


Saturday, August 6, 2016

What do Christians do? What do they think?

In a recent discussion of Frost's book at home group we were prompted to think about how being Christian led to certain demonstrative actions.

I added that it is not only acting Christianly, but thinking Christianly that is at issue, recalling Romans 12:2 and Colossians 2:8.

The spring point for this comment was a review of Gombis' book on Ephesians by Bob on Books where we are told:
First, the book doesn’t merely situate the letter within a first century cultural context, examining its meaning within that setting.
Situate. I don't know if this is a conscious use of the word in its post-modern meaning, but if so, it is dislocating a central concept of the world as set out in the Bible: a world set in concrete meaningful actions (this central concept is easily dislodge with most Christians having an anaemic theology of creation that lets materialism and its discontents slide in).

To quote from the Internet Encyclopaedia of Personal Construct Psychology:

Fragmentariness refers to the postmodern emphasis on the local and situated, instead of the general and totalizing. According to Polkinghorne (1992, p. 149), "knowledge should be concerned with these local and specific occurrences, not with the search for context-free general laws". This point is also visible in PCP’s interest in personal meanings instead of general and disembodied notions.
Yet, Ephesians is about themes that apply to all people at all times: 'totalizing' as the PM-ers like to disparage, to further their ideology, of course.

A commentary, or expository essay on a biblical book does not 'situate' the book within a particular time. It studies the influence of the circumstances of writing to be able to understand the context of the writer and his readers to be able to identify what it teaches for all of us.

If we allow the highly politicised marxist fantasies of post modernism and the Frankfurt school to steer our thinking as Christians, we have submerged the gospel beneath its futile constructs.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Discipleship

Our church has discipleship groups. Some churches have discipleship 'classes' (good notes at that link, but rather too Calvinist for me). I don't think its a class thing. Sure there is material to know, but more, there is a life to be lived.

How to pray

I prayed for our church the other night at home group; this is how it went:

  • guidance and wisdom for those who minister;
  • peace and thoughtfulness for those who serve in committees.

Just note: I didn't need to use the worldly word 'leader' once.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Holy Spirit

At our church planning conference, the devotion was on Ephesians 5:18-21.

The speaker touched on Graham Cole (whom I was privileged to hear speak at St Swithun's many years ago), amongst others, so I decided to advance my reading in this area.

Ages ago I read Kuyper and Bruner on this, and used them in a talk I gave for an Alpha group, substituting for the somewhat heterodox view of Nicky Gumbel, but time to update.

Here's my list:

Church planning

Today we had a conference to discuss planning for our church's future.

All up,  a few lessons:
  • the agenda was too long: we had half a day for a two day agenda.
  • we started with a devotion, prayer and song; good, but time consuming
  • the lead 'input' person, the administering minister (I eschew the word 'lead') was also the facilitator: doesn't work
On the good side; was great to be talking about such things. The meeting was far more engaging than our typical 'service' Now that's the format we should use! A bit of up-front talking, but sitting in loose circles of 5-8, and being able to move around part way through. Excellent.

Doing workshops: they are a delicate thing. They need expert facilitation, preferably using an adaptation of Checkland's Soft Systems Methodolgy. Here's a summary.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The lastable church

Thom Rainer sets out a list that he thinks will see a church into the future.

I added this comment:

Reads like a recipe for a sales firm or a local club!

I'd start with: most members practicing bible reading, prayerful devotion and a giving life; then

2 the bible, church history, christian theology and 'world awareness' (that is world view understanding and critique) are taught: systematically for young christians, with a clear statement of  biblical knowledge growth at age of high school entry and university/workforce entry;

3 a consistent embedded practice of prayer in all church services, meetings and small groups.

Nothing else matters.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

5 habits 2

Now that we're past the rule-bound structure of the 5 habits, let's think: how could it work.

What counts is (a) relationships, and (b) content. I would think that most Christians ('think' based on listening to them talk) would be unable to really explain Christian faith to another either theologically or in terms that make sense it today's language, today's thought forms and the other's life-world. Nor would they be able to defend it in the face of the ever present mish mash of philosophical materialism (which half the church supports anyway), new-age panentheism, and solipsistic consumerism.

But here's an approach that thinks through some of those things.

Its an article by Rich Robinson What can we learn from atheist Christopher Hitchens, published in the Jews for Jesus Australasian Newsletter July 2016.


Saturday, July 23, 2016

5 Habits

Our small groups are using Michael Frost's book Surprise the World.

It's about the 'five habits of highly missional people'; an obvious knock off epigram of Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Successful People.

The 5  habits are represented by the acronym BELLS: bless, eat, listen, learn, sent.

I thought this was generally pretty good. But I got hung up on two things (aside from the rather too cool neologism 'missional').

In true Baptist fashion, its been codified and made into a rule that one is 'accountable' for (another Baptist boogy word).

Indeed, there's a table of objectives (or maybe its examples, or encouragements, but...)

Rules?
I will 'bless' three people....I will eat with three people...
And so on.

This is as much a turn off as the old fashioned button hole your friends and ask them to repent, tell them the four spiritual laws, the two ways to live....the you're not a real person to me (because we don't start with what love is in relationships). It misses out on one critical thing: as a rector of an Anglican church I used to attend said: one has to earn the right to communicate the gospel to another: be trusted be conversing on a two-way street be a real person.

Of course, there are some good ideas in this list, but it has reduced them to a mechanism which is completely unachievable for many people: eat with three people (not family) a week. Man, I couldn't do that in a year! Get real.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Benediction: how not to.

Our  benediction at church this morning:

"Please stay for a cup of tea or coffee and a chat. Nice to see you."

I much prefer somthing like:

"Go in peace to love and serve the Lord."

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Hawking

The woman who runs our church's Alpha experience spoke of her current course in progress. She mentioned the discussions recurrently referring to Hawking, at the prompting of one of his fans who is attending.

I don't know if the discussions unpick the philosphical materialism of Hawkings position, or its sub-premise structured on an Idealist theology, but a search revealed a useful web page on Hawking. There are plenty of links at the bottom of the page.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Just kids?

In some church services there's an uncanny habit of the service conductor (that is, the one conducting the service: I do like the Presbyterian term 'moderator' for this role) to speak as though we the congregation, are junior Christians, as distinct from the 'senior Christian' rank of the conductor.

That is, we are talked down to, and not as equals striving in the life of faith.

It occured on Sunday, and I'm sure it was inadvertent, and maybe it was my own mood that misread the words, but the conductor spoke as though we were all new to the vicisitudes of an adult Christian life.

That's Baptists for you...the front person often arrogates to themselves a depth of experience that they deny others. This is particularly true if the person is young (under 30) and a musician.

At heart I must be an Anglican, because I find none of this in the Anglican Prayer Book: BCP or AAPB; not sure about the most recent one, as AAPB is my preference.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Must and dust

A letter in The Australian today:

Our cosmic instant
Three cheers for Andrew Smith (Letters, 29/6) for reminding us that in the vastness of space and the immensity of time, it is our privilege to share our instant together. On our flag we have the magnificent Southern Cross constellation, to remind us that we can adapt to a future we cannot know, while concentrating on our brief and only opportunity to get along with one another during a cosmic instant in which the stars shine. We all possess between our ears a sample of the most complex known matter in the universe, a product of 13.8 billion years of evolution. We must learn to make better use of it.
John O’Connor, Cottles Bridge, Vic


My comment, in the on-line comments place:

I'm entertained by John O'Connor's waxing lyrical about the universe, then, without any logic, introducing "must". All I can say is 'must we'? Why? There is no imperative in dust.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Music

As I was listening to ABC Classic's 'countdown' of the 100 most favoured vocal works, it came to no. 5: Gregorio Allegri's Miserere: wonderful work, and I mused about the differing musical traditions in Roman and Anglican churches compared to 'non-conformist' and reformed churches: the latter dull, the former exaulted.

I would that there was a tradition of musical excellence in performance and composition in such churches, but not so.

As it is, I content myself with recordings and the occasional visits to my old parish of St James, Sydney and Christ Church St Lawrence.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Let's help everyone

Another event at church today: our 'May appeal' was for $ for an opthamological effort in Bangladesh.

I wonder about it...what I wonder is, why?

Really: is this our mission, or is our mission the proclamation of the gospel? Its a genuine question. Do we dribble our tiny amounts of money to such things, or do we dribble them instead to real Christian mission?

I'd much prefer our few dollars go to a fund to support ministry in a church that cannot self-sustain at the moment (rural or urban/suburban), or build an endowment fund for ministry training...or something like that.

If we need to help people with vision problems, lobby the government to use its overseas aid for such things, or found a public charity for it, but don't use these to crowd out gifts for mission.

I look at my work, which involved giving public money to NGO service organisations.

I was at a breakfast for my soccer club a few years ago and when my work came up, the organiser (the breakfast was a business fund raiser) drew me aside to say that they could help my work...I wondered how. Over the past few years I have administered the disbursement of billions of dollars. Get that? BILLIONS, and this guy wanted to flick a few thousand my way. No point.

Similarly with sight in Bangladesh: let's motivate the Australian aid program in this direction, not the scraps of money we can raise to use for mission!

Bad relationship

It was announced at church this morning that one of our pastors had peremptorily left...due to...it appears a suspicion of involvement in an adulterous relationship outside our church.

The trouble was, sufficient information was provided to the congregation to destroy the pastor's reputation and future opportunities for employment in a church organisation.

It was more like a public stoning than a judgement free, merciful action to help the person recover their dignity and address any behaviour that they needed to address.

Far better to say that the pastor left for personal reasons. No detail, no explanation, no fuel for reputational fire.

I was under-impressed.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Moral revolutionaries

Al Mohler writes in a recent article: that the 'moral revolutionaries' have 'won', and they demand absolute surrender.

Of course! The 'moral revolutionaries' are not revolutionaries, but represent a reversion to pre-Christian practices. The recent decades in the USA (Mohler's home) have been marked by the fruits of previous generations of evangelisitic work, producing a culture that is marked to some extent by the fruit of the spirit; but also tainted, as all cultures must be, by the mark of the devil.

Sans continued evangelistic effort and moral reflection (the fruits of the Spirit), the second order results of Christian influence will naturally wane, and do so quickly. This should be no surprise.

What will also happen is those doctrines of government, public order and social behaviour that have been influcence by Christianity will also wane.

I see that the actual tolerance, libery, and presumption of innocence that Christian cultures have produced in the (Anglo) West over centuries will transform into an amoral tyranny more characteristic of Ancient Rome than anything we know today.
Beware.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

NRSV

I'm reading through the Psalms in the NRSV at the moment. Unhappy. The word that other versions translate 'blessed' is translated 'happy'. Happy?!

Happy is, the train was on time, the ice-cream is good, my haircut looks good. Happy is nothing like or to do with 'blessed': the favour of God.

Ye gods!

While I don't like the AV, it is unsurpassed for grandure of language. The NRSV reverses out of this at a rate of knots.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Evil

At the recent houseparty ('camp' in Baptist argot) that one of my children enjoyed, I was pleased that the topic of theodicy was touched upon.

That is, how can there be evil when God is good: is he not powerful enough to overcome it, or is he not good?

Leaving aside the moral epistemological question of God not being good (then how is good defined: the 'earthworm' rule: it feels good to me?), the summary sheet used a couple of approaches, boiling down to the 'it'll be better later' view twinned with the so-called 'free will' defence.

Elements of both are true, but I think that the whole question is mis-founded. We usually allow ourselves to be trapped into using categories that come from elsewhere that de-personalise the question and envisage a philosphical god, not the real God.

In the Bible, from Genesis 2 on, its an entirely personal question; and the person in question is, of course 'God'. The personal aspect is that 'evil' or 'good' in themselves do not exist; rather, they are the result of relational congress: either the relationship is conditioned by love (of God primarily: God being love, but in all relationships), or it is not. If it is not, it is unaligned with the life of God, if it is, it is.

What we call 'evil' arises from rejection of God's fellowship (and it is not an 'absence' of something, as Augustine held, or a 'thing' as others have insisted, in idealist fashion); and has from day 6 (or soon after). The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is like a wedding ring: if you don't want to be with me, toss the ring; I'm not imposing on you; thus, if you don't want to continue in relationship with me (God), then eat of the tree: this is a free relationship of persons (but differs from the absolutist 'free will' defence in that it is not primarily about will in a universe of choice, but a decision in a known context between known people), and in that respect, of equals. 'Knowing' evil is, for Adam and Eve, participating in it; knowing it existentially. That's what they chose; they chose to participate in 'not-related-to-God, or 'evil' in rejecting God from their locus of conscious interest, and because of its creation-wide consequences there is no going back, until the new creation; and it is that which is required to undo the universal effects of the breach between creature and creator chosen not as general 'free will' but by an act of rejection of relationship.

We all suffer because we are unavoidably in a world alienated from God: we cannot escape (but through Christ). Those who question God as being the author of this state of affairs are typically those who would reject him; and so are hypocritical in their complaint.

The rest of the answer is in the Bible...the arc of salvation from fall to resurrection.

Friday, April 29, 2016

3 bad words

There's something peculiar about language used in my experience of Baptist churches, including the one I am a part of.

I'm used to being offended by the un-Christian ideas of 'accountability' and 'challenge' (except where warranted, such as a worker is accountable to the board of the congregation). The create an irksome mis-image of Christian faith.

Today, another. Our bright young speaker in his sermon, mentioning Wimber of Vineyard fame, saying that faith was spelt R...I...S...K. This is close to the habit of The Rant, and borders on being legalistic. In the Bible, faith is spelt: Love, Peace, Joy.

Steve, the speaker, also reminded us of the Asuza Street 'revivial' leading to a 600m strong Pentacostal expansion over the past 100 years of so. I just wonder how many of that number is growth by transfer from non-Pentacostal churches; such was the predominant trend in Pentacostal circles that touched me in decades past. I also wonder about the 'revival' itself, having observed the Rodney Howard Browne debacle of the early 90s.

BTW, an interesting blog on Azusa Street.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

39 steps

One of my children was at his first youth group house party recently. Wife and I discussed a concern that he is given sufficent intellectual bones for his faith to grow.

The point of concern emerged between us: I had a non-conformist Christian heritage, my wife and Anglican one. My wife extolled the 'intellectual bones' of an Anglican upbringing in the structured thought life that comes from the prayer book, the creeds and the 39 Articles, mediated by the confirmation process: a short period of active and focussed education for young teenagers.

I spent last evening perusing the 39 Articles in the Book of Common Prayer and the Australian Anglican Prayer Book, both of which are very familiar to our family. I plan to use AAPB in my children's education in the faith.

During my prowl of websites, I came to one on the Articles, one on the Homilies, and a wonderful sermon from a church in Texas.

Survey

A copy of our church planning survey for your delectation.








Sunday, April 24, 2016

Bullets

Our benediction this morning was based on, I think it was Psalm 21; could be wrong.

It reminded me of Lincoln's Gettysburg address in modern form.

Why?

Because the benediction, for us all to say, a 'good thing,' was IN BULLET POINTS!

Next it will be the Apostle's creed in bullet points.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Queen

In Charles Moore's column in The Spectator for 2 April 2016 he mentioned that the longest-serving broadcaster in history is....The Queen!

Her first broadcast was on Children's Hour, 13 October 1940. She said:

'God will care for us, and give us victory and peace'

Beautiful words from a, then, young woman.

Now I'm not particularly 'into' Queens, but on the other hand I'm worried by any republic that is not as understated as the Swiss system. One commentator mentioned that in republics the wealthy rise to the top: we thus head for tyrrany by a more modern route.

Along the lines of Mitchum's Poland, the idea of a non-resident monarch is great: they are easier to dislodge should they cease to perform as required.

And thus, I think, the jingoistic misunderstanding of what a constitutional monarch is; particularly ours, whose power and role have been circumscribed by long struggles in England for religious freedom and political balance.  This we now have...briefly (an historical rarity, I might add).

Monday, April 18, 2016

Freedom?

A wonderful quote from Siedentop's Inventing the Individual, The Origins of Western Liberalism:
What is the crux of secularism? It is that belief in an underlying or moral equality of humans implies that there is a sphere in which each should be free to make his or her own decisions, a sphere of conscience and free action. that belief is summarised in the central value of classical liberalism: the commitment to ‘equal liberty’. Is this indifference or non-belief? Not at all. It rests on the firm belief that to be human means being a rational and moral agent, a free chooser with responsibility for one’s actions. It puts a premium on conscience rather than the ‘blind’ following of rules. It joins rights with duties to others.

This is also the central egalitarian moral insight of Christianity.
 The great socio-political gift of Christianity to the world.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

the trouble with discipleship

At our church we have 'discipleship' groups...that's like a married couple meeting every week for 'marriage time'. What I mean is everything in church life is inevitably about discipleship; the variable is that it could be good, bad, or in the middle.

I ran into Frank Viola's book on discipleship: Discipleship in crisis -- 9 reasons why discipleship is not working. (I love the way we must have explanatory sub-titles these days; I could imagine Plato releasing The Republic: how philosphers should rule the world).

I sent the book to a friend at church and read it myself. I should have read first, then sent nowhere. Viola is heavily culture bound: bound by a culture in a part of the US I hope that I never visit! The book poses questions that are answered in linked MP3 files, talks Viola has given.

After a few minutes into the first talk I had to abandon it; I was getting the rant! I expected a well structured, logical and finely argued disquisition, but instead I got the rant. The Rant is something that cult leaders do because they have no logic. It is closely related to the Finney harrange, that was de rigueur in the 1960s and 70s in Australia...probably in the US too, given its Finney herritage. The basic tactic was to harrangue people into the Kingdom. It basically (a) didn't work and (b) repelled people. Many of my fellow harrangued from my youth have eschewed faith communities in their adulthood.

The Rant is similar to The  Harrange in its emotiveness, legalism (laying 'shoulds' on the audience), and affective manipulation. In fact, the latter is the essence of The Rant. Avoid it.

Compare The Rant to this talk by Boring (an unfortunate name for a Christian teacher). His style treats his hearers like adult fellow Christians and presumes spirituality.

As I've posted before, last years Revive conference was destroyed for me by The Harrangue. Viola's work has been destroyed by The Rant.

While I'm on Revive, at Revive 16, The Rant is on the cards with a famous Baptist Social Christian being on the platform.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Marriage without...

I'm loathe to raise an issue of fervid preoccupation of some, but I saw a pair of letters in a recent Weekend Australian that dealt with the issue nicely.


















The first letter aligns with my view: without trying to be crude; marriage is about sex; sex, at least in princple, leads to procreation. If procreation is not possible, then it is not 'sex' but something else. 'Para-sex', maybe. But, with Long's letter, cut off from procreation, from bringing new life, we merely have a centripetal spiral of self indulgence: a narcisistic implosion: it is not about 'love' as concieved by the author of love, but about self, because it cannot produce life.

The second author, Burdon, misses the point entirely and has reduced 'love' to its hijacking by Hollywood fluff. We get nowhere, and certainly cannot 'hijack' God's revelation to bolster the implosive selfishness.

Ladd

One of the rare perfect holiday mornings: sitting on the deck with my son; he reading Lewis' Surprised by Joy, me reading Ladd's NT Theology. Can't get better.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Connections

In a recent e-mail from Frank Viola, part of his 'unfiltered' series, he talked about Christians and making connections. He made the point that Christians, unlike people 'in the world' seem to avoid making connections with relevant other Christians; for example, do Christian particle physicists meet to discuss their field as being Christians, and refine each other's thinking and practice? Frank's point is that they typically don't.

On the plus side, I was once in a group of Christians where we all had the same profession; we met, discussed, helped the junior members with their professional exams, and swapped professional practice ideas; was good.

Frank talks about setting such confrere groups, he calls them 'mastermind' groups; I'll think about same in my own field and place...could be good.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Super v Bat

The film 'Superman v Batman' has just started screening, and a wonderful extravaganza of the stunt man's art it is; but it is also a wonderful extravaganza for the uncooked philosopher of religion. Lex Lothar spouts the line: "if God is good he cannot be all-powerful, and if he is all-powerful, he cannot be good". The sub-theme of the film is 'good' in a non-theistic world; the treatment is incoherently centripetal, of course.

Leaving aside the moral epistemological connundrum that this claim entails, and also the begging of the question that we are dealing with Plato's 'god' and not the Creator-God of the Bible (who besides gets quite a lot of air time in the film), it gives to the half-smart village intellectual ammuntion for water cooler conversations that would side-line most Christians.

Could any member of your church/youth group/Bible study deal with the question? Has anyone even heard of John Hick (not that he has the last word on the matter), or Augustine's theodicy, or more modern renditions? Of course not.

So, what do you teach people at your church?

I'd be pretty sure that what you do teach could not take them out of a materialist metaphysic to open the gospel to an unbeliever!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Forgive

A relation of mine has just experienced a horrible episode of family disharmony, and has evil done to both her reputation and good intentions by others who seem to have no idea of what they have done to her; that's my 'looking on the bright side' habit at work. My relation sees on the dark side, understandably.

She had the unfortunate experience of confiding in a couple of people at church who blythly advised that she 'just forget them' and to 'forgive'.

After you've been torn apart emotionally you do not 'just forget'. Your life has changed, and it will never unchange. Entire relationships with all their history are binned!

I wonder why some people feel that they have to give advice? Perhaps they mean well, but with a shallow understanding of circumstances advice is neither warranted nor called for. And its probably not wanted anyway. What is wanted is a sympathetic ear, care and quiet concern that is genuine and heartfelt. Even offering to pray (non-judgementally) is worthwhile.

And, forgive! I think the Bible shows us that foregiveness is contingent on repentance. Sure, we are to love our enemies, but I don't know that that entails forgiving them when they deny a relationship of repent-forgive.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter

The great fashion these days is to wish all and sundry a 'happy Easter'. It's part of the great Australian tradition of converting the special to the banal...happy Anzac day will be next; as incongruous as 'happy good Friday' which I once had inflicted upon me.

Never, never 'happy Easter' me!

I missed Good Friday church, but made it on Sunday.

The service followed the Uniting Church ligurgy, but with a difference: a meandering prayer-cum-sermon (a semon-prayer: they are as tiresome as they sound), and a  meandering communion with the president dressed up as an RC/high Anglican 'priest'.

I liked the stations of the cross around the auditorium: the physicalness of that rite is important, I think. Something that puritans (and therefore modern protestants) miss out on.

We were treated to a choir of Islander women regaling us with a song that (a) had not been rehearsed, and (b) no members appeared to be able to sing. Very sad.

Next time let's have some energy and commitment: a bunch of African Christians would do it: they'd set us on fire and to tears all at once!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Let's go evangelize

One of my children's church youth group held an 'evangelistic' meeting yesterday evening (a Friday evening).

The children were all told "it will be an evangelistic event, so invite your friends".

I used to have the same thing happen at youth group every so often. There was always just a touch of pressure to 'invite' your friends. I never did.

One reason I did not was that while I enjoyed youth group it was because I felt that I fitted in and I liked (some of) the people there; it was different to the rest of my social life, so why would I want that to intrude on a space where I felt relaxed and happy?

Moreover, objectively looking at youth group, a lot of what we did I thought was 'naff'. So was reluctant on that foot as well.

But the start of my reluctance as applying a big word to a kids thing. I barely knew what an 'evangelistic' event was. The only thing that it related to was 'the harangue' where ministers kept claiming that 'the Spirit is moving someone to come down the front and accept Christ.' which of course they never did!

How about just saying, we're having a BBQ next Friday...you can invite your friends if you want...its free. They give the kids certainty that there will be a great program, so they won't be embarrased by what their friends are exposed too.

Language sets the scene, and using big complicated and unusual words does not a happy prospect make.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

How we meet

Our church assembly (I don't so much like the words 'meeting' or 'service') today was wonderful. Here's why:

We prayed for a mission family. We often do this, but today was different.

First a sketch of their work and circumstances, then we were all invited in a 1 minute period of silence to each pray silently for them. The president then did a summary open prayer.

That was good.

The sermon was given by one of our 'at home right now' other missionaries.

She spoke to the temptation passage in Luke's gospel. During this she referred to the OT passages that Yeshua recited to rebut Satan.

She had us all read them together, out loud. The participation was really nice.

For the first time in a long time the assembly felt good, I felt part of a body of the faithful.

Friday, February 19, 2016

How our services run

At the previously mentioned home group meeting, we talked about our service practice; I thought it was too perfunctory, although coming from a 'high' Anglican past, almost anything would be!
Still, our pattern of:
  • "Hi"
  • song
  • announcements
  • children leave
  • offering
  • song
  • prayer
  • Bible reading
  • sermon
  • song
  • benediction
not work for me.
Better:
  1. Call to prayer: Bible verse
  2. Song - contemporary
  3. Opening prayer (brief)
  4. Lord's prayer or Apostles creed, modified to skip 'descended into hell'
  5. Hymn - classic/historic
  6. Psalm, read, possible responsively, during which the offering
  7. Bible reading 1
  8. Pastoral prayer (could be two shorter prayers: one for missions, one local)
  9. Bible reading 2 (or communion)
  10. Sermon
  11. Song or Hymn
  12. Benediction: Bible passage
12 points is good: like the 12 apostles and tribes of Israel.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

What Christians do

Over January our sermon series was on Christian practices; the coverage was:
  • Prayer
  • Giving
  • Simplicity
  • Word
  • Rest
At our home group, the first for the year, we talked about these. I thought that 'rest' was a good one, but didn't quite see the place of 'simplicity'.
I thought we could also add a couple:
  • Gathering, and
  • Singing
Both are taught in the New Testament, but the last one particularly, we hardly ever talk about.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Monkey

Yesterday at church, because we have a large Chinese originated contingent, the guy at the front mentioned that it was the 'year of the monkey'. It must have been true because it was even on the PowerPoint projection!

If this keeps going we'll not use the seasons of the church calendar, but Western astrological houses...maybe he didn't know that animal years are Chinese astrology.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Biblical literacy

Al Mohler's post on this topic is a nice follow-on from my posts on the 6-finger exercise, and my synopsis of biblical knowledge to prepare children for high school.

I'll reflect on my own history of learning the Bible.

It probably wasn't until my later teens that I started coming to grips with the flow of the Biblical narrative (I know that it is not just narrative, but the term will do). This was by sheer dint of perserverance, and thus inefficiently attained on my part. Nowhere: not in Sunday School, youth Bible studies, church sermons, school religions education efforts (both lunch time club meetings and formal lessons) was I formally taught the lay of the land, Bible-wise.

I remember reading Zechariah at about age 14. I couldn't place this strange book; I had no concept of the overall structure of redemptive history and literature. It would have made far more sense if I had known at least that Zechariah was a 'minor' prophet, contemporary of Haggai, wrote about 520 BC and 16 years after the return from Exile (thus, after the events of Ezra-Nehemiah), looking towards the messiah, after Israel's many centuries of waiting. Also it was written long after the Psalms and David's reign, and also (not as) long before the coming of the Messiah.

But, for much of this period, the Bible was largely a mystery. Not even the Scripture Union notes that I used helped. They were of devotional assistance in the micro-detail, but the overall picture was not well formed.

I think that even a one-lesson Bible overview for later primary school children would be a great thing. It could be done interactively like the 'Walk through the Bible' programs, which takes one day for each testament, so could be quite a fun-filled and interesting approach particularly for younger people.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Being silent?

Al Mohler recently released his book We Cannot be Silent, a discussion of social changes that are inimical to Christian understanding of relationships.

In the article he canvassas a number of factors that have paved the way for the changes we now see: thus, none of them are new, merely a continuation of long tolerated trends.

The 'trend' as also aroused some academic interest, with James Wright asking similar questions in his editorial in Social Science Research (41) 2012.

Factors that come to my mind are: the now 'hyper-individualism' of Western society: unfortunately, a trend started for good by Martin Luther, but now we can all make our own standards. It used to be that society tolerated self-regualation as long as no one else was hurt. This has been washed away in same-sex 'marriage': the long term welfare or rights of children no longer count.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Bible knowledge

As we move into a post-literate world, dominated by the fleeting black-box of ideas that is the trade of electronic connectedness where 'connection' makes the banal ubiquitous, people loose touch with the bones of our culture: its literary traditions.

And so in Christian circles, it would seem, from a survey of biblical literacy reported by Al Mohler.

It is pretty easy to teach the Bible; it requires simply dedication, memorisation, thought and instruction.

It also needs to be promoted by the church, or WE loose touch with our literary (biblical) culture!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Stranger

What do you do when you see a new person at church?

I've experienced the range from being completely ignored, to being courted by far too many people.

Here's best, in my view:

If the person is sitting awaiting the service to start politely excuse yourself, introduce yourself, mention that you've not seen them before, but you hope they find the service to their liking. Then move to your seat.

Do not assume they are a Christian, do not assume that they want a long converstion, do not assume that they want a bosom buddy (unless their demenour suggests otherwise).

After the service briefly greet them again, and again, if it seems appropriate, have a brief conversation: perhaps something like:

"That was a typical serivce here, how did you find it?" Without quizzing them (you know, normal polite conduct on your part).

If they want to chat they may open up the conversation, perhaps give them the opportunity by inviting to get them a cup of tea, etc. Offer to introduce them to others. The conversation may or may not go anywhere.

To remember: do not assume they want a long talk. I remember at a stage in my life I would not want a long conversation at all, just a nod and smile of acknowledgement was enough. Others may be similar. Demeanour will tell all.

The biggest thing however, is to avoid the 'evangelical conversational butt' that is the 'butt in' that evangelicals seem to specialise in. If you do need to talk to the other person (the church regular who's talking to the visitor) excuse yourself and ask if you could speak to them afterwards.

I know this will shock many evangelicals who ride roughshod over normal manners and simply ignore the other person so they can talk to the one they know.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Adventure at Koorong

My adventure at Koorong where I had a 30% off voucher from a post-Christmas purchase: a couple of the books I had wanted were not in stock at that time and to avoid a wasted trip, I rang ahead to check stock today.

After a long recorded message telling me all sorts of uninteresting things a person spoke to me. She assured me that there was one copy of the book I wanted in the store I wanted to visit. I also looked on the web page; agreed. One copy.

I asked if it could be put aside for me...I didn't want to waste that trip! She assured me that she would ring the shop and ask them to do so.

An hour or so later I was in the store. Suspicious of all commercial undertakings, I first went to the shelves; sure enough, the book had not been put aside as I'd been informed would happen. I picked it up and a couple of others of interest. Imagine how cross I would have been if the book, not having been put aside, had been purchased by another.

At the counter I checked if the discount had been applied, and was advised that it only applied to one item. OK, I'll only take book X and gave the others back.

Time for lunch.

I headed to the in-store cafe and ordered my burger with HOT chilli sauce. After a short wait, it arrived, with the wait person telling me that my SWEET chilli sauce had been added. No, I firmly said. I had ordered HOT chilli sauce (I don't even know why sweet chilli sauce had been invented!). So, off she toddled to re-make my burger.

I finished reading the complimentary newspaper. I waited. I finished my cup of water (I don't drink fruit juice, sweet drinks, dairy based drinks, or shop coffee and I didn't want tea). I waited some more. That was handy practice, because I then had to wait some more again.

Burger and requested sauce arrived.

Score:

Keeping promises: NIL
Prompt service: NOT

Overall customer satisfaction: only because goods eventually delivered: 5/10.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Is the church relevant today?

Two inner west Sydney churches have had this theme for recent talks. Ashfield Presbyterian for lunch time talks (attended by about 3 people), Summer Hill Anglican for the sermon on 17 January. There was one stranger at the Summer Hill evening service. For a self-billed 'we'd love to see you' church with 'welcome' on its webpage carousel, the stranger was left strangely alone, as I observed.

When organisations use provocative slogans, the slogan itself usually diagnoses the very problem it announces. Thus, only a church that is struggling with relevance or obsolescence (Summer Hill's word), would even think of those words in a slogan or advertising.


So, then, where is the radical discipleship, the rejection of the world's materialism and its pagan channels (science...post-modernism...hyper-individualism...), the disarming engagement with strangers?

I wonder?

A couple of reasons why the church is irrelevant: it is self obsessed (look at me, look at me), not people obsessed (thus the 'church' organisation over against the 'congregation' of people, to refer to Coverdale's word), it wants to fit in and be liked, it takes up only the challenges that it thinks society expects it to take up, but declines to articulate a critque of society at its sensitive points (I've aluded to them above); in its publications it speaks only to itself (with only one exception that I know of).

In books, articles, on TV (I think of John Dickson on Q&A for instance), it strives to be 'nice'; just like the Saducees did in Jesus day, I expect, but unlike them, never confronting the unspoken materialism of our time.


However, substituting kid's face painting, free ballons and glove puppets for the great existential questions: who am I, why am I here, why do we die, why is there something rather than nothing, does humanity have any dignity...Shaeffer gives the drill...amounts to the church turning its back on its mission; instead of Paul's example we have naive 'corner-store-ism'.

In short, it is doing its best to be irrelevent, obsolete, and no darn good to God or man.