Agenda-less fellowship. It’s a phrase that’s been stuck in my head recently. I’m not sure whether it’s from God or not. But I’m feeling a sense that I’m supposed to stand up for it. I’ve read a lot of books about church health which say that the way to be successful as a church is to develop a clear sense of purpose and cut every program from your church that doesn’t support that purpose. But I’m not sure that squares with the way that we see Jesus interacting with people. Continue reading
I often clash with the gatekeepers of Christian orthodoxy. I’m sure that I get under their skin too. To me, they look like the Pharisees Jesus talks about in Matthew 23:13: “Woe to you [who]… shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying.” I wonder what Bible verse they would apply to the caricature of me that they see on their laptop screen. In any case, I thought I would try to express where I’m coming from, to the degree that I’m coming from somewhere and not just being a sinfully impulsive loose cannon. Everything that I’m trying to do (as opposed to the things I do impulsively) is shaped by my understanding of Christian evangelism as Paul lays it out in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. Continue reading
In the wake of the amazing Missio Alliance conference, I wanted to continue to wrestle with the question of how we talk to strangers about Jesus on airplanes and other places. This reflection was started by Rachel Held Evans’ post on the topic a few days ago to which I responded with a comparison of Rachel’s reflections with street evangelist guru Ray Comfort of Way of the Master. A reader cried foul because it seemed like I was making a mischievous, unstated argument that was “set up,” which was a fair critique since I didn’t share my own commentary. This morning during church, I asked God how should we talk to strangers about Jesus. And the answer that came into my brain was this: assume that they’re angels and breathe the kingdom with them. Continue reading
I have gone on several short-term mission trips. I love going and think they’re awesome, but not because I think that I can “save” anybody in a week. Actually the reason I go is to be further converted to Christianity by serving people who seem to have a deeper, richer relationship with God than I do. In Methodism, missions is mostly about service and awakening to the realities of global injustice for the person going on the trip. In the evangelical world where I grew up, missions was primarily about saving souls; if you gave people a “cup of cold water,” it was so that you could talk to them about Jesus. But as missionary Laura Parker shares in a recent post, when you use a bait and switch missions approach, what you end up with are “rice Christians.” Continue reading
August and September were busy months for my blog. There was the Chik-Fil-A drama and other culture war nonsense. Both political parties held their conventions. Then the Benghazi attack happened. In September, our church did a sermon series called “Jesus is My Candidate” that I tried and spectacularly failed to turn into some kind of bigger “movement.” The idea was to transcend partisanship and avoid saying and doing things that would dishonor Jesus’ name. So here are 10 posts on culture wars, morality, marriage, American Pelagianism, holy war, the fear of God, and other matters. Continue reading
“This seems like a great place to meditate,” he said. I usually don’t talk to people in the sauna other than God. It’s too hot to carry on much of a conversation. So I said back to the guy, “Yeah, I really like to pray when I’m in here,” which at least partly meant, “I’m praying; leave me alone.” But then he said back to me, “I don’t know how to pray,” and I was like, okay, God, make it a little more obvious that you’re testing me. So I said, “In my faith tradition, I have learned to say what we call the Jesus prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. I say it over and over again to focus on God and let go of the things that are holding me back from connecting with Him.” And so it began.
I get that we live in a morally complex world, but I want us to do better. The Chick-Fil-A drama has been a series of disappointments for me on all sides. I’m disappointed at progressives for uncritically circulating misinformation about what Chick-Fil-A’s Don and Dan Cathy actually said and who their foundation actually supports (only several thousand of the alleged $3 million in donations can truly be said to go to “anti-gay” activist groups). I’m disappointed at the mayors of Boston and Chicago for inappropriately responding to something that shouldn’t have merited their attention in a clumsy gesture to a segment of their donor base that turned this into a “free speech” issue for culture warriors to rally around. I’m disappointed at my fellow evangelical Christians for letting themselves get baited into reinforcing the stereotype that all Christians care about is policing the sexuality of other people. I’ve already spoken to several other aspects of this issue. Here’s the question I want to ask my fellow Christians: are we an interest group or a kingdom of disciples and evangelists? Continue reading
I wonder how many Biblical literalists take John 6:53 literally. In it, Jesus says, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” Jesus isn’t being “metaphorical” or “mystical.” He clarifies any confusion as to what He means by His flesh and blood in Luke 22:19-20 when He breaks the bread and passes the cup. For the first 1700 years of Christianity, communion was the centerpiece of our weekly worship (even for most of the Protestants who broke off in the 1500′s). The revival movements of the 1700′s and 1800′s effectively replaced the communion table with the altar call as the climax of worship in evangelical Protestantism at least (yes, that is an oversimplification). What I don’t understand is why communion and the altar call can’t be the same thing.
I remember when I was little, I would sometimes wake up late at night and notice a light in the study downstairs at my house. My dad would be in there typing on our old Apple 2 computer. I asked my mom about it, and she told me it was “grant time.” Every year, in the final week before my dad had a grant application deadline, he would put in a full night of writing after a full day of work. My memory of “grant time” was probably the main reason I didn’t pursue medicine like my dad and all his nine brothers and sisters. The irony today is that many nights I find myself staying up late typing on my computer just like my dad did. And it’s because of a burden I have inherited from him. Not only is my dad a dedicated and accomplished medical researcher, but he has also taught Sunday school for over thirty years, and he has several unpublished manuscripts for philosophy books that he has poured himself into. My father’s burden is that he wants God to make sense to people; this legacy has shaped much of who I am today. Continue reading
There’s a song stuck in my head from our mission trip: “Is what I’m doing or thinking or saying building trust or undermining trust?” I learned it from a woman named Katie who has one of the most gentle, Christ-like spirits of anyone I’ve met in a long time. I think if God wanted to teach the world something, he would get the best results using someone like Katie whose demeanor builds trust. Being an impulsive, opinionated firebrand, I am convicted by those who actually embody the gospel that I love so much in theory. Continue reading