Monthly Archives: August 2010

MTD, A Subtle Seduction (fake teen Christians)

This is a response to the CNN article on Teens Becoming Fake Christians, and the multitude of folks who shared the link to such on FB. I looked at a number of comments, and while there was not a ton of angry finger pointing, pretty much the common thread was… its other folks problem. I think the answer is different… kids have been set up to crash and burn, and its everyones problem. Its also everyones problem, as it doesn’t just affect kids, but whole families and congregations.

The difficulty is so many in US society want MTD(moral therapeutic deism) in a huge way and likely they dont even know it. It parallels the sin management approaches of many churches. It doesn’t require thought or a whole lot of action, its denominationally neutral. No sacrifice is needed, nor is their any financial cost. It can easily become a 24/7 deal, unlike just a Sunday morning thing. As its a darkness masquerading as an angel of light, few if any are going to see it as a problem… and by the same token, there likely will be no evil darts thrown towards its practitioners.

So, what is it? Christian Smith and his fellow researchers with the National Study of Youth and Religion describe its attributes as the following.

  1. “A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.”
  2. “God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.”
  3. “The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.”
  4. “God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.”
  5. “Good people go to heaven when they die.”

Dr Al Mohler Jr of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary wrote a good article on it some years back as well. I think its an exceedingly well done piece… and Dr Mohler and I are about as theologically opposed as can be on many issues, but I’m nearly 100% behind him on this one.

Here are some symptons I’ve been able to gather.

Pastors are frustrated, as they have the meat, and the congregation only wants milk, and perhaps milk diluted with a good dose of MTD as well.

Parents are frustrated, when their teen embraces any number of offshoots of MTD. The kids see a direct connection of numerous ABCDEF belief systems with MTD, they dont see a connection between Christ and MTD.

Kids then are frustrated, that parents dont see the disconnect between MTD and what the church teaches… and more so that parents dont see the same direct connection between alternative belief system ABCDEF and MTD.

Young adults are frustrated, as they want to pursue Christ, and yet MTD keeps rearing its ugly head to serve as a distraction.

So, whats the answer? Kid’s and others passion needs to be gently guided, and then the fan flamed… no program, church deal of the month, or hard core parenting can replace passion from the heart. It can start out with small steps too… simply not killing the passion of youth is a good starting point. Discernment as to when MTD shows up and discussions surrounding such is another… and it doesnt take a whole lot to see examples daily. Gently guide the kids, they will uncover more and more, and likely a lot of it is going to be pretty uncomfortable. Simply not killing their passion can go a very long way.

Some selected quotes from the CNN articles make for some good counters to MTD as well.

“If teenagers lack an articulate faith, it may be because the faith we show them is too spineless to merit much in the way of conversation,” wrote Dean, a professor of youth and church culture at Princeton Theological Seminary.

Teens want to be challenged; they want their tough questions taken on, she says.
“We think that they want cake, but they actually want steak and potatoes, and we keep giving them cake,” Corrie says.

“If you don’t say you’re doing it because of your faith, kids are going to say my parents are really nice people,” Dean says. “It doesn’t register that faith is supposed to make you live differently unless parents help their kids connect the dots.”

Proud but not2 Proud… Minnesotans, Sundays Gospel Reading and Genetics

When I was reviewing todays Gospel reading last week. I was going whoa, how does this jibe with Minnesotans who consider it majorly uncool to sit at a place of honor… The whole proud but not too proud thing leans a whole lot more towards the “not too proud” side, and thus said scripture could end up counterproductive fast.

Pastor Steve took this on pretty hard and fast last Wednesday, in that humility can go too far, that gifts can be buried, that a certain boldness for Christ is needed. For sure, there is a lack of humility in regards to jockeying for position and power, even amongst Minnesotan’s, even amongst seminary students jockeying for first calls, and the scripture hits home on such pretty hard. Yet, such could also be used as a way to justify hiding ones lamp, to go behind the scenes when one is needed out front, which would likewise be in error.

This hit home for me, when I started reviewing the ELCA draft statement on genetics. The concept of pride is a big deal on the surface… the whole “man can play God” with these tools things scares many, likely far too many in Christian society. Of course, resignation and running from things is not cool either. Negligence of what God has gifted us and complacency about matters of human and environmental health is also a sin. Case in point, it would be way beyond cruel to withhold morphine from a terminal cancer patient due to anti-drug societal mores, fear of addiction, or fear of what we dont really understand pharmacologically wise. Obviously a balance needs to be maintained between “playing God” and being so humble as to play dead and be totally ineffective.

I’ll be blogging more on the genetics statement as I plow through it. A 60+ page document is not something one understands in a first pass.. but I though it was cool how todays Gospel played right into the genetics discussion. It will be interesting!

Glenn Beck Rocks sort of…

Glenn Beck is holding some interesting events this weekend, with Friday crossing more into the faith domain than Saturday, but no doubt his faith will permeate both events, as it also does in his radio show. One can learn a great deal about how to approach evangelism by observing him, and for that he does rock, and in a huge way too. If only orthodox Christians could do the same, ie let their faith show through their daily walk and get others on the bandwagon as well.

Granted, theologically he is in error, even when it comes to a lot of faith focused things he brings up on his show, he is in error… but error or not, he is able to get a lot of people to believe his message. Even more so, he gets people to spread that message, and then even more astounding, he gets folks to volunteer to help out with getting the message out there. Whats perhaps the most incredible, is he gets *orthodox Christians to jump right in and pretty much serve as behind the scenes Mormom missionaries too. While I disagree with Glen pretty much across the board, I have much admiration for what he has been able to accomplish within the domain of evangelism.

The sad part is of course that he is in serious error… and perhaps the saddest part is all of the innocent orthodox Christian bystanders who go right along with the flow and thus cause said errors to propagate, so say nothing of reducing the faith density within their congregations and potentially causing younger ones to stumbles. In a lot of ways, it seems the gift of discernment is no where to be found when it comes to the pew.

Brannon Howse has some thoughts on such…

Many American Christians will allow their commitment to reclaiming the country, reclaiming Congress, lowering taxes, and defeating the progressives trump their commitment to the Biblical mandate declared in 2 Corinthians 6 as well as the mandate of 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 which commands Christians to expose every high and lofty thing lifted up against the principles of the Lord.

American Christians should not and cannot rate our success on whether or not we return our country and culture to its Christian roots. Our success or failure must be based on whether or not we have been faithful servants of the one and only true God and have earnestly contended for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).

I remember one fellow a ways back stating that Glenn Beck needs to be upfront when he is promoting Mormon doctrine as contrasted with his politics and entertainment… and its like whoa, are you kidding me? Apart from whether such would even be possible, it would be like asking an orthodox Christian to selectively turn off their witness, to say nothing of infringing on their first amendment rights.

Whats needed is personal responsibility, for folks to get back to the Bibles, to be like the Berean dudes, to get gung ho on the local church. Spiritual food is not found on talk radio, but it is found in church, it is found in scripture. Whats needed is real Biblical literacy, all the way from scripture, to the head, and to the heart, and from that comes discernment… and discernment impacts not only how best to filter talk radio, but has untold benefits throughout nearly all aspects of life.

* Note the use of the small o… orthodox Christianity by my definition, would include all those who ascribe to the Apostles creed and the trinity as best demonstrated in the Nicene Creed. Thus Catholics, mainline protestants, other protestants, most non-denominational folks etc.

Too many pastors?

Egads, I know tons of pastors without churches… and sadly, in the future, it seems even more are likely to find themselves in that position. I also know there are kazillions of unmet needs, and where it might be good to have 2,3, or even 5 pastors, there is only one, and far too many end up bivocational not by choice. I read last month that the Cathedrals in Norway are open 24 hours on Fridays, as they feel there are so many folks seeking and needs are going unmet. There is just no way that Matthew 9:35-38 has been repealed, much less fulfilled.

35Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

So… whats the deal, why are there so many pastors without churches? Ultimately, it comes down to money! Everyone and his brother has to scarf some or a lot, whether it be $200K charges for seminary, or $40K/year for the whippiest audio visual sermon tool ever, or fifty kazillion for the latest and greatest worship building, or parishioners holding back an average of 98% for themselves.

Today is a far cry from when Dr Jame’s Glasse of Lancaster Seminary ~40 years ago, suggested that 10 families could support 1 pastor at an equal standard of living of their own, such that over 80% of that pastors time could be devoted to extended ministries outside their church. Its a far cry from ~100+ years ago, where the local churches saw the need, and banded together to build and run schools, hospitals, universities, and seminaries, such that even the poor could have access. If anything, today its like 100 families are barely supporting a pastor, and thats after they’ve turned their hospitals and schools into profit centers, and or sold them in order to keep their doors open.

When one considers, that 1 person may do the job of what 20 people used to do and is paid more, albeit not 20x more, and that many, but not all goods are a tiny fraction of what they cost both 45 and 100 years ago based upon CPI… the churches lack of funding makes even less sense. Of course, when one digs into things, its not really money, as much as it is priorities… Wants have been turned into needs, and such combined with easy credit has made a fortune for others, but also shifts the average Joe into a mode of scarcity, rather than prosperity. Wants have been turned into needs schedule wise such that the last 3 congregations I was at over the last 20 years are experiencing across the board nearly 50% less weekly attendance, but the same or greater number of members.

So… how to dig out of this… long term wise, it will require a reprioritization on the part of all parties, and thats not going to be pleasant, nor of a short time duration, but is inevitable for a number of reasons. I think the church will come out much stronger, but likely I will kick the bucket before such occurs.

Digging out of this short term wise will take a lot of pastoring… not just sermons on Sunday, baptisms, hospital visitations, marriages, and funerals. Their absolutely will be no lack of meaningful work for the pastorate, the issue really is how to fund them, and thats going to be hard. If an expense doesn’t further the Gospel, its gotta go on the side of the church… and likewise the congregational members also need to start thinking that way as well when it comes to their priorities. It is going to require a lot of creativity* and sacrifice on the part of all parties, and that wont be painless either, as a lot of status quo traditions created in the last 50-100 years, are either going to change, or get wiped out entirely.

In a lot of ways, the seemingly surplus of pastors is similar to the recession’s impact on the Christian music business which I blogged about last year. There are a kazillion of Christian musicians out there… many of whom are absolutely clueless on the business side of things, and cash runs away from them like no tomorrow. Yet, for those who see unmet needs, and can work towards filling them with creativity and careful stewardship of the few remaining resources, this could be a time of wondrous growth. The same I believe applies to a vast number of ministries and the massive real need for pastors. Matthew was correct, the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.

*Creativity is not just a word to say there are no answers… but that said answers are not readily apparent. Case in point, in some areas of the country, not all that long ago, pastors would not have any vehicle expenses beyond gasoline, being car dealers included their pastor in their rotation of demonstrator vehicles. (much to the chagrin of the dealers insurance companies).

Eisegesis to Go, Idol Tipping

Some months ago*, nearly everywhere I turned ideology triumphed scripture, its insanity^6. Interesting issues were marriage, a kingdom of God excluding the earth, capitalism, and unicorns.

As far as what Paul wrote in 1 Cor 7 on marriage, a fellow decided to look at his admonishment to be single if possible… Well marriage is huge massive idol for a ton of folks, and I was thinking, we’re going to have another one of these “I love Church, Jesus, not so much” moments, except in this case Paul.

Sure enough, nearly as if one turned on a switch, the responses were… well Paul didnt really mean that, or Paul wanted folks to marry as teens so as to avoid temptation, or any number of pretty strange and unusual attempts to not take to heart what Paul said. The problem is… if folks take such esiegesis to heart, well no wonder divorce rates amongst Christians are equal to, or even higher than non Christians in some areas.

Pastor Justo happened to set off the creation museum guy… but something cool did pop up. I’m no creationist by any means, but the museum guy did bring up one cool point as concerns folks leaving the church.

….what they meant by “hypocrisy,” and found that it was basically because they were told by the church that they believe the Bible, when in reality the people didn’t believe it as written—this was seen as hypocrisy.

As much as I’m opposed to the Creation museum stuff, the creation guy made a good point. That being said, just as I wrote before, we all pick and choose… but where I think the hyporacy issue lies, is preaching one thing, and then acting completely counter to it. Its not creation/evolution literal/metaphor stuff thats the issue… Its things like denying healthcare for undocumented immigrant, all the while reading the parable of the good Samaritan. Its telling the poor they will be prayed for, all the while ignoring their need for food and shelter. Its using Paul’s writings in 1 Cor 7 on marriage to somehow justify questionable marriage practices, and many other related issues. I wrote on other inconsistancies/hypocracies like this a ways back

Another screwball deal is splitting the kingdom of God in two, and then ignoring one half. In other words, viewing at the kingdom of God as only concerned with eternal matters. I sort of like how @edstetzer explained things, that dispensationalism’s exclusionary emphasis on eternity was a response to the social Gospel’s near exclusionary emphasis on temporal issues… it likely made sense 100 years ago. Now, its like some believers dont even believe that the Kingdom of God exist’s on earth, right here, right now, despite Jesus clear words to the contrary.

*Yep, this is an old post… found in my queue after bringing an old laptop drive back alive.

On the Mosque Deal

Wow, talk about diversity of opinions within Christian society as concerns whether the Mosque should be built in proximity to the WTC site. It is a good thing that most Christian’s on both sides of the debate agree that constitutionally its ok for it to be built there. Its also a very good thing that much of Christian society wants to show mercy and compassion to the victims of 911, of all faiths. The disconnect exists as to how best to go about doing so, ie is advocating building a Mosque at that location or not building one there the most appropriate and compassionate response . At least, thats what I’ve been able to sort through as really the bottom line as concerns Christian society.

Had it been about the constitutionality of building it or not… yes, then I would be up in arms and making a fuss. Absolutely they do have a constitutional right to build it there… subject to appropriate zoning codes etc.

Had it been about vengeance, ie, by prohibiting it from being built, Christian society would be exacting revenge against Muslims as a whole, I again would have been up in arms. Vengeance advocated by Christians is clearly in error, even more so, when its done against an entire faith based upon the actions of a few extremists who hijacked the faith label. Even an eye for an eye justice system is better than justice against an entire group based upon the actions of a few. The hard words of Christ dispensing with eye for an eye most assuredly would come down hard against such a course of action taken against an entire group, even if said group were in opposition to Him.

Some in secular society have suggested building it may be an assault on our patriotism, we may be laughed at for being weak, for loosing our status, for “having our noses” rubbed in Islam’s growing influence. Of course, if that is the case… aren’t we pretty weak in ourselves for deriving such a meaning? Have we, as US citizens become so lame, we dont set the tone ourselves, and rather let others do it for us? For Christians, isn’t our power based upon Christ, rather than the principalities and powers of this world?

Thus, ultimately, advocating to build it, or not build it does come down to Christian compassion and mercy… and such often become a tricky deal, when multiple groups are involved. Ie when one exercises compassion towards one group, it can offend, or at a minimum be counterproductive towards another group. @hikerrev looks to Jesus and his relationship with the Samaritans as a model in which we set aside our power and influence, and I think he is right…

I’m 1 degree of separation from folks who died on 911, I know Muslim’s who have suffered much discrimination and harassment post 911. I hear differing opinions on both sides as to how things should progress. Some see the construction as a way to help healing, and others not so much, a few vehemently so.

The end result, its a no win deal either way if one looks at this at an individual level. Otoh Jesus short of railing on the Pharisee’s didnt approach his ministry so much as to groups, but more so as to individuals. Perhaps this is where compassion and mercy really need to be focused, the individual, and thats hard, really hard, as it means letting our guard down, getting our own hands dirty, and admitting there is a whole lot more grey than we really thought there was.

Going individual likely means greater effectiveness too. While no doubt, group awareness through the net and other media is a huge positive, and it can and does direct change… when it comes to compassion and mercy, the affect of a 1:1 contact on anothers heart is magnitudes greater than any legislative or judicial change.

Vengeance is mine says the Lord… but we dont want to give it up

Cardinal Keith O’Brien stated “”there still exists in very many parts of the USA, if not nationally, an attitude towards the concept of justice, which can only be described as a ‘culture of vengeance’.” I think he is right on the mark, not just within the justice system, but within much of US Christian society as well. For some reason, we seem to have a real problem giving such over to God.

He further goes on to state:

“The desire for justice and even vengeance after such an “unbelievable horror and gratuitous barbarity,” is “completely natural” for those most directly affected….

“It is in the midst of such inhuman barbarism, however, that we must act to affirm our own humanity, it is in these moments of grief and despair that we must show the world that the standards of the murderer and his disdain for human life are not our standards,” he said.

“They may plunge to the depths of human conduct but we will not follow them.”

His statements very much parallel Romans 12:19

19Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d]says the Lord. 20On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[e] 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Its interesting to note a recurrent theme throughout scripture is compassion and mercy for ones enemy, for the perpetrator, for the one who sinned. On the other hand, it is also a very common theme to have mercy on those injured, on those who are victims; the hard words from scripture presented in the above verse from Romans pretty much means, do not connect mercy and compassion for the victims in anyway with vengeance.

This is where the rubber hits the road so to speak, and where things often crash and burn. First, they crash and burn, as our sin nature is to blow off Roman’s 12:19 as unobtainium. Secondly, they crash and burn, in that when we try to take on the unobtainium in Romans 12:19, far too often, the victim ends up ignored along side the road waiting for some Samaritan to pass by.

What can make things even trickier, is how best to approach such in secular society especially within the wheels of the legislative and judicial process. Just the mere mention of such will result in howls of outrage over following scripture … this is whacked view of mercy and justice… its absolute foolishness… revenge is justifiable, what about the victims, they deserve to see the perpetrators suffer… we are not a Christian nation, such foolishness described in an ancient book has no place in politics… victims need compassion, the best way is to fry the perpetrators. On the other hand, Jesus didnt say if we love him to blow off his words as society thinks them foolish either.

I sort of like how St Augustine presented this issue with secular society in his Just War doctrine:

“When these things are read in their own authors, they are received with loud applause; they are regarded as the record and recommendation of virtues in the practice of which the Republic deserved to hold sway over so many nations, because its citizens preferred to pardon rather than punish those who wronged them. But when the precept, “Render to no man evil for evil,” is read as given by divine authority, and when, from the pulpits in our churches, this wholesome counsel is published in the midst of our congregations, or, as we might say, in places of instruction open to all, of both sexes and of all ages and ranks, our religion is accused as an enemy to the Republic!

Apart from justice system, often the victims can be oneself, or ones relative… and no such justice is even possible. The Washington Post had an interesting article after the death of Ken Lay back in 2006 entitled Ken Lay’s Last Evasion To Some, CEO Is Cheating Them One More Time

….people may well have responded to the news of Lay’s untimely death by feeling cheated, by saying that death wasn’t good enough for him, by sensing a frustrated craving for revenge burning in their backbrains like a fire in a tire dump.

Is it possible that a micron below the surface of our liberal and enlightened beliefs lurks savagery? Was the French Enlightenment wrong about our essential goodness, and were the medieval churchmen right about our innate depravity?

We should consider these things in days to come, so that Ken Lay may not have died in vain.

The thing is… Ken Lay didnt kill anyone, it was just money… perhaps a lot of money for some people, but then isnt all money God’s to start with and to end with, and we just use it for a time? Of course, such is easy in abstraction, but far from easy when its ones entire life savings and one is on a fixed income, and staring down near poverty until death. Vengeance in the above situation is not going to bring any increase in good men… in a lot of ways, it goes back to St Augustine’s writings where we need to be careful not to add ourselves to the number of wicked men.

Wherefore a righteous and pious man ought to be prepared to endure with patience injury from those whom he desires to make good, so that the number of good men may be increased, instead of himself being added, by retaliation of injury, to the number of wicked men.

Our need for vengeance needs to go to the dung hill… we need to exercise compassion and mercy, for both the perpetrator, AND the victim, but must be very careful to totally keep vengeance off the table.

Does the ELCA believe in Universalism?

Is the ELCA universalists [sic]? was a question I was asked on twitter last weekend. And the answer I tweeted back was “no, but its fairly easy to misinterpret our theology in such a fashion, Braaten explains it well here

In hindsight, not knowing the fellow asking the question, sending him to a book by a high powered theologian such as Dr Braaten may or may not have been the right way to answer such a question. Most certainly, while doing so was expeditious and correct, it was not by any means stepping up to the plate personally. As a result, here would have been a more appropriate answer, albeit being its far too long to fit within 140 characters…

The answer is no, we are not universalists. However, in the eyes of many US evangelicals, we might appear to be. The reason is that many US evangelicals hold to a model of the destiny of the unevangelized called exclusivism or restrictivism. It is the narrowest model, and pretty goes much narrower than just “No one comes to the Father but through me“. It holds to the belief that only those who actively respond in faith to the explicit preaching of the Gospel are saved…. but in practice, few actually hold to such a hard core restrictivism, especially when it concerns children or the unborn. A couple common workarounds are the age of accountability, and/or a re-definition of original sin in other than a view of total depravity from conception… such that children and or the unborn are saved, even if they have never heard the Gospel explicitly preached. Ultimately, it would be correct to say that the ELCA does not ascribe to restrictivism.

Going to the other extreme is a view held by some unitarian universalists, which states that all are saved, and that Christ has nothing to do with such. As a result, it would be correct to say that the ELCA does not ascribe to the views of the above unitarian universalists either.

Rather, my view, which is close to the ELCA’s, is that its in God’s hands, and His grace is huge, we know He desires that all be saved. Scripture leans towards universalism, that God’s work in Christ was done for all, yet we must also be aware of God’s judgment. We hold to a universal hope that all will be saved through the grace and love of Christ… but ultimately, we do not know. We do not put absolutes around God and put Him in a box to our liking, whether it be restrictivism on the one hand, or universal salvation for all apart from Christ on the other.

For further reference:

Principles of Lutheran theology Carl Braaten

What we believe from the ELCA website

******** added at 12:05PM CDT 19 August 2010 ********

One thing I forgot to add last night was a reference to the first edition of the ELCA’s Lutheran Study Bible. There was a lot of fuss over Dr Priebe’s commentary on the great commission being it came across as a type of universalism. Its well worth reading the background on the commentary from Dr Priebe It makes a whole lot of sense, and no it is not universalism.

Men’s Ministry Sucks and the Gender Ratio, An Idea

The concept, rethinking the believe, behave, belong model.

First of all, lets take a look at Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. I’m doing this, not to examine gender, but more so how they acted, and some underlying traits.

Luke 10:38-42

38Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. 39She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. 40But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” 41But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; 42 but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

John 11: 17-27

17On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18Bethany was less than two miles[a] from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?””Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”

John 12:1-3

1Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3Then Mary took about a pint[a] of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

One of the things thats interesting about Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, is their basic approach to life.

Martha is an active fixer, if there is task at hand, she jumps in and gets in done, she is not one to mess around. She may miss the forest for the trees a bit initially, but she will come around once she hears the word of Christ.

Mary is a contemplator, she listens, she takes it all in, she is not afraid to respond with emotion or take action, but listening is a major gift which she has been granted.

We dont know a whole lot about Lazarus, he appears pretty passive, albeit his getting sick, dieing, and then coming back to life no doubt gave him a much different approach to life than most. Yet, he too was reclining at the table with Jesus.

In todays society, a lot of folks are fixers, including ministry staff. Ie, need help with something, fixers will jump in, it could be physical, ie helping someone move, fixing a car, putting a new roof on the church, or it may be spiritual, or it may even be artistic. If something needs to be fixed, or worked on, you can be sure a fixer will volunteer, just as Mary did throughout scripture. She was always serving, even if to a fault as when Jesus initially called her out. Its interesting to note, when it comes to a church work project, guys will come out of the woodwork, but not so much when it comes to small groups men’s ministry.

By the same token, many are contemplators. Some can run circles around fixers when it comes to listening, and making sure the proper order of things is maintained. Ie when to sit quietly and listen, when to take action. Its interesting to note how active and how pervasive women’s small groups can be whether it be for Bible study or for prayer are in contrast with mens.

A lot of folks of both genders are pretty passive like Lazarus was as well. They come to Christ not so much by actively getting involved either by fixing, or contemplation, but more so I think the still small voice of the Holy Spirit. They dont need a task, they dont need contemplation and listening, they dont even need fancy programs. God calls them, and things happen.

So here is the deal… in todays soceity, the church for the most part is set up for folks to believe, behave, and then finally belong/participate. If one is a contemplator or passively interested, this works out pretty well, each step is a logical progression, and there really isnt much of a discontinuity between steps. For example, @mikifili asked if folks were interested in small groups. If one is a contemplator or passively interested type, there is a medium to high probability of interest. He had 88 out of 122 women express interest in his groups.

If one is a fixer… my guess is the thinking is along the line of “well, where is my time best spent, hmmm, probably not in a small group, they are lame. Much more can be accomplished by being out in the world, and by individual prayer, devotion, and study. Besides, that, we have Sunday for common worship.” The belong/participate functionality beyond Sunday AM has a pretty low priority. In many ways, it parallels the “I love Jesus, but not the church” thing and is the counter to “I love the church, but not Jesus” thing, which sadly has invaded many churches.

If we rethink the framing, why not put out a survey asking for help to put on a new roof on a Bible camp’s chapel, or serving in any number of other ways. Fixers are drawn to solve problems, despite a disdain for church outside a specific window. It can be an incredible draw. I look at myself… ask me to a dominionist, semi-pelagian, or non trin Bible study, and the answer will likely be no, or maybe a one shot deal for curiousities sake. Ask me to physicially help out a dominionist, semi-pelagian, or non trin church with a service project, and by all means I’d jump in. In many ways, this approach to fixers in the church membership, is similar to the inversion of the believe, behave, belong/participate model for those outside the church… but just as the inversion model is difficult to implement to reach those outside, its also a lot harder to implement for those inside.

Its very easy to do service, without edification, relationship building, or growth of those serving… and while the outcome is a good thing, ie new roofs, hungry fed, the poor served, far too much ends up left on the table. The key with the fold over or inversion model, is to use service as an entry point, not an end in and of itself.

If approached with a goal/game plan beyond direct service to others, such can be a pretty powerful tool whether used for outreach, or for building up ones own internal groups. The key I think is putting a plan in place to foster, but not force the issue. Ie forcing things through is likely to become counter productive pretty fast.

No doubt there are a multitude of ways to approach men’s ministry. Some work within a given construct, some crash and burn. Ultimately, one size does not fit all, and the key I think is to be open to what ones hears within their own group. All I’ve provided here, is a potential launch point to foster greater initial involvement. If one then follows up with some type of canned deal “The Fonz jumping a shark”which is out of sync with the specific mens intrinsic motivators, no matter how many show up on day 1, future attendence is likely to drop like a rock. This is one area where organic growth is absolutely critical.

The concept above was inspired by the writings of @adiaphora, and @feralpastor, but also a response I made over at #luthermergent a ways back. The whole deal had sort of slipped my mind, until I came across a post by @mikefili entitled THE CHURCH’S DEADLY RATIO PART I: THE PROBLEM

Online Sermons Things to Consider

The guys over at oldworship new had a fascinating post on the use of new media in worship, and were asking for feedback as concerns online sermons. As I commented over there, I think they are a great thing, and the common negative response of such leading to decreased participation in worship is really a non-issue. However, there are a few more bits to consider, thus this blog entry.

Most certainly online sermons can foster greater connectivity, especially for those who cannot attend, either due to distance, schedule, or mobility concerns. In addition, the ability to hear a sermon again from a retention standpoint can be a really huge deal. Yet another aspect, is that a sermon can remain online for many years, and it can reach much further than just the original congregation it was preached to on a given Sunday. A great example of this is at Sarah Laughed, where Dylan blogs the entire lectionary… case in point, from back in 2007.

Like many things though, providing online sermons sound great in theory, but in practice one may find the number of readers, listeners, or viewers to be a very small number. In a lot of cases, the numbers are so small, that unless the process to put the sermon online is incredibly painless, such efforts are often very short lived.

Another issue is the ability for hearers to provide feedback. For sure, feedback can provide a lot of value, it can as the newworshipold guys said, allow a far off college student to interact with her home congregation. It can provide for more personalized and directed challenge to specific parishoners. It can also serve as an easy way for parishoners to encourage the preacher.

However, feedback is not without problems… you can run into things which can freak out your congregation. You can run into things where folks have a vastly different worldview. For some examples of such… Brant Hanson, with a post entitled, If Jesus had a Blog provides some excellent examples…. plus take a look at the live comment stream too. On the other hand, through all the messyness, there are some really cool things going on too.

There is also the issue of cost and witness to consider. There are many great free services for text, for audio, and for video… but you give up screen space for advertising which may not always be appropriate. There are premium accounts, where upon you pay for usage and storage space which give you more control, but alas, some of them can get pretty spendy fast.

Lastly is the issue of how comfortable the pastor is, which I touched on briefly at oldworshipnew. Most pastors dont want to become celebrities… but this can happen, if not globally, it can happen regionally. Its the sort of thing which needs to be considered initially, and also periodically along the way. Obviously there is a balance, the more views, the more folks are reached, which is very good… but then the potential for pastor icon status can also be a concern,

Ultimately, I think online sermons are well worthwhile… but it is important to consider the extra workload, how one will handle feedback, cost etc. Its not really the thing to jump into without at least considering some of the potential difficulties, and figuring out a game plan as to how best to deal with them.