Do Not Say: Or, The churchs excuses for neglecting the heathen: with a statement and an appeal . . .

This pamphlet is the reason James Fraser went in to missions. And therefore it is the reason the Lisu people are in a large part Christian to this day.Fascinating.

I've been looking for it for years, but I finally found it here. PDF, Kindle, etc...

Beauty.Amazing to think the effect a small little pamphlet can have on so many lives.

Why We Need More 'Chaplains' and Fewer Leaders ➙

I've been a parishioner in many churches over many years. In each church, the pastor has been tempted, as I was, to become the great leader, to shape himself in our culture's image of success. To be sure, the modern pastor does have to "run a church"; he or she is, in fact, the head of an institution that has prosaic institutional needs. I've been thankful when my pastor carries out these institutional responsibilities with efficiency and joy.

Things I Believed Before Getting my Seminary Degree

In 2007 I wrote, things I believe before getting a degree and I've always had the intention of returning to it and responding after finishing the program. I wrote it about a year in to the process, but I think I had only taken one class at that point. Granted in January I changed from an MDiv to an MA, but I'm done. While a lot of this is unrelated to theological things, they were all ideas I wondered about being changed in the process of seminary. And here are my thoughts:

1. Uneducated people should be allowed to teach. Not everyone, but some people.
  I believe this more now than I did then. Seminary does not a gifted teacher make.

2. God seems to bless even the very unhealthy (theologically or practically).
  I believe this more now as well, but more from experience in ministry than anything I learned in seminary. Shocking how unhealthy we are really.

3. God seems to bless me, which isn't a sign that I'm doing anything right.
  Keeps blessing my socks off. Not sure why.

4. Conservative is probably a better leaning than Liberal

5. I have to be open to liberal ideas (definitely not all), and definitely new things in the christian world. Not closed off to music, etc. 
   Hmm.... not sure what I think now. I lean awkwardly conservative these days.

6. Raising kids is not about how well you do it, or lead, or how good of a person you are. It seems to be 100% based on the Lord's grace that they will turn out well or not.  We can help, but they can still turn out funny. 
   Still early in child-rearing to know.

7. Writing a book is one of the best ways to make a lasting impression.
   The influence of books is laughably larger in my life than sermons.

8. Books can help you to fall more in love with the Lord.
   See above. But I think more than books, people.

9. Just because some publishing company printed it, doesn't mean its true, or even worth reading. 
   Wow. Shockingly true.

10. People all turn out weird. Its okay to become weird in your old age.
   Look forward to it.

11. Money will wont make you happy.
   How much are we talking about? Okay... still agree.

12. Loving my wife is more important that my studies.
   I think I was good at living this until the last three months or so, there was definitely tension.

13. I want my ministry to be first place before my studies.
   I lived this, but it was hard. Keeping school in a place where it can never take precedence over my work (ministry), that was hard, but I'm glad I did it.

14. Taking forever to get a degree is probably a reality.
   Whew. Six years.

15. Having a PhD by 35 is still pretty impressive.
   Still possible, not sure if I'll pull it off or not, or even if I want to anymore.

16. I shouldn't be concerned with how impressive it is if I ever get a PhD.
   True, but feeling like I'm probably supposed to, makes it difficult to be unconcerned with.

17. People with PhD's can be losers just because they have one. Dont be a loser. 
   Holy snap. There are a boatload of Dr. Losers.

18. Discipline sucks when you're developing it, but I seem to like life better when I am disciplined.
   True, and true. I would now add that discipline is infinitely harder when you have children. Your time is not your own to arrange appropriately. Even in the morning.

19. Children are a HUGE blessing no matter how much work they are.
   Ha. While in general I definitely believe this, I don't always believe it in the moment when my 2 year old is screaming and my three year old is vomiting in the car. Did I mention I'm just a few months away from adopting two more. Ha!

20. Children are your most important disciples. 
   I hope I manage to never forget this. They are also right there along with our wives as catalysts for sanctification.

21. God's creation is fascinating, beautiful, and should be pointed out just short of the point of annoyance.

22. God has blessed me, but that doesn't mean I'm doing anything well.
   Funny I mentioned this twice (see #3). The Lord really has blessed the poo out of me. It's ridiculous. Why does he keep doing that?

23. Money still wont make me happy. 
   But beer might. At least temporarily.

How Can You Be So Dumb?

When George Bush won the Presidential election for the second time in 2004 there were variations of a headline all over the web which said, "How can 59,054,087 people be so dumb?"

It's interesting because it represents something I hear from the far left quite frequently, "how can people really think this?" If anyone really thought about it, they would have voted for Al Gore. Or another example is gay marriage. How can anyone possibly think it's wrong? You would have to be an idiot, they think, to come to any conclusion other than that gay marriage is no different than straight marriage.

Or in the pro-life discussion. Only a fool would come to the conclusion that abortion is wrong. If someone really thought about it, there is only one conclusion that can be reached, abortion is the prerogative of the pregnant woman.

Actually, it doesn't matter if it is the far left or the far right in politics, or extremes in any debate, the discussion is the same, "How can you be so dumb?" What about in religion? People who are atheists strongly believe that if everyone had all the facts they would arrive at the same conclusion. There is no God.

There is this deep-rooted belief, and it is expressed regularly online (as well as other places), that a well educated person can only arrive at certain conclusions. If we all had the same logical process this would be true. And for the most part, our logic probably is very similar. But the reason this doesn't happen is our premises are different.

If we accept the Bible as the standard, rather than human reason, we arrive at the conclusion that life (even in the womb) is valuable. If we accept human reason as the standard, rather than the Bible, we arrive at the conclusion that life (even if only in the womb) is not yet life. Because really, what does life matter at all? Without God, it doesn't. Period.

All of this is important to our understanding of, and patience with non-Christians. I get so frustrated with people who think I'm stupid because of my conclusions. But the Bible tells us the truth is foolishness to those who don't believe (1 Corinthians 1:18). If our premise is truth, to them it is foolishness. What can we do?

We can tell them about the Love of Jesus. We can have patience when they think us foolish. And we can pray our lips dry that the Lord would help them to see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed” (Isaiah 6:10).

Done baby.

In other news, I graduated from seminary on Wednesday. It doesn't feel like an accomplishment so much as a relief. Still, I'm stoked.

Dining with the Devil by Os Guinness

This is easily in the top three book I've read this year. The premise of the book is that the megachurch movement has blindly embraced modernism for its methodology and as a justification for its existence.

First he makes the point I did in my most recent post with this:
"On the one hand, does the term church refer to 'the people of God,' including all the people in a local area, or to a particular local church and its facility and programs? The two are not necessarily the same."
"On the other hand, is the term growth to be understood quantitively, in terms of size and numbers, or qualitatively, in terms of depth, character, and spirit?"
Or better:
"In the case of the church-growth movement, this idolizing trend can develop in one of two ways: either the insights and tools of modernity are themselves relied upon idolatrously, or the churches themselves becomes idolatrous because their very success as institutions makes them into an end in themselves."
Then he quotes Philip Rieff saying:
"What characterizes modernity, I think, is just this idea that men need not submit to any power—higher or lower—other than their own."
And what characterizes the church growth movement is the belief that we can figure out through methodology how to grow a church—void of the Holy Spirit. Of course they wouldn't say the point is to grow the church void of the Holy Spirit, but in practice that is what the emphasis on analysis and methodology are doing. Not all megachurches are this way, but the movement as a whole trends this way.

He then mentions this ridiculously convicting line about a Japanese businessman who says to a visiting Austrailian:
"Whenever I meet a buddhist leader, I meet a holy man. Whenever I meet a Christian leader, I meet a manager. . . . The two most easily recognizable hallmarks of secularization in America are the exaltation of numbers and technique."
I don't know about you, but as a Christian leader I have far too often fancied myself a good manager rather than a holy man. When you step down in leadership what do people say about you? You managed meetings well? You dressed respectably? Or you had a profound and contagious relationship  with your savior?

When methodology is the focus then statistics about people coming in the door are the measure of how well the methodology is working.
"One obvious problem with this mentality is that quantity does not measure quality. Numbers—or what the Southern Baptists call 'nickels and noses'—have little to do with truth, excellence, or character."
Not all of this book is negative. While it is primarily a critique, Guinness is really arguing that there are some wonderful things about modernity. Modernity has some things which certainly can be used by the Body of Christ, but we need to be careful about the way we include them. Otherwise we chance becoming dependent on numbers and results instead of, you know, God.

In response to this book, while I agree and think the megachurch movement is a result of a blind embrace of modernity (as Guinness argues), I would posit that the house-church movement is a blind embrace of post-modernity. Both are not inherently bad, but both can be foolish when blindly embraced.

The concluding sentence in my opinion is just as useful when considering post-modernity as it is when considering modernity:
"By all means dine freely at the table of [post-]modernity, but in God's name keep your spoons long."
Brilliant. Guinness' book can be had on Amazon for about $13 new, $0.45 used, and $10 on kindle. I cannot suggest it enough. Dining With the Devil: The Megachurch Movement Flirts With Modernity.