On redemptive suffering, #abuse, and #privilege

I just looked over an essay by Katie Mulligan that deals with the topic of redemptive suffering in the context of Tony Jones’ controversy/dialogue with feminists. Redemptive suffering is a very abused concept in Christian history. Many women in abusive marriages have been told to stay put and “bear their crosses” because their suffering somehow honors God. Enabling an abuser is not redemptive suffering; it’s allowing a lie to be treated as the truth. But Mulligan points out a different way that people in a position of privilege can allow for healing and redemption through a different kind of suffering in conversation with those who have been wounded. Continue reading

752 and the messianic longing of Scandal

scandal-123Since my wife is addicted to Scandal, I watched it with her last night while I was reading the last few chapters of my friend Jonathan Martin’s newly released book Prototype, in which he argues that Jesus is the prototype of authentic humanity. The juxtaposition of Jonathan’s beautiful words on the page and the profound human brokenness on the screen was overwhelming. Throughout the Scandal episode, a character named Huck who has been severely traumatized by incredible wickedness is in a trance uttering the number 752 over and over again. Wrapped up in the mystery of that number is the basic pathos of the human condition that I believe the Christian gospel addresses, especially in the way that my brother Jonathan presents it in his book. Continue reading

Vulnerability vs. decorum in public writing

This is kind of an open question to my readers. I got called out a little bit for yesterday’s rant about Christian celebrity in which I laid out pretty volcanically my own struggles with narcissism and probably didn’t differentiate enough between my own baggage and whatever Jon Acuff is or isn’t teaching people. One of the things that caught my eye and troubled me was a comment that I was undermining my credibility as a teacher. So I wanted to pose the question to you since I really believe that God tells me what I need to hear through your feedback. Should I write with less vulnerability and more decorum or does the rawness speak to you in a way that’s edifying? Continue reading

Is Mark Driscoll closer to John Wesley than we are?

The latest blogosphere controversy involving Mark Driscoll concerns the church discipline practices at his church Mars Hill. Matthew Paul Turner shared on his blog this week the story of a young man named “Andrew” who confessed to a sexual impropriety and was asked to sign a discipline contract as part of his penance. When Andrew refused to sign the contract and opted to leave the church instead, his sin was disclosed on an intra-church website with the instructions that Mars Hill members were not to associate with him. The situations sounds pretty blatantly abusive. I haven’t had a whole lot of exposure to churches who do this sort of thing. My United Methodist Church (generally) has the opposite problem of Mark Driscoll’s church; we offer our people absolution of sin without confession or accountability, which is theologically grounded in the doctrine of prevenient grace, but our lack of any concept of church discipline denies our people one of the sweetest gifts that Jesus’ sacrifice has to offer: integrity. Continue reading

Vulnerability and leadership

Any of you who have read my blog before know that I place a lot of value in vulnerability. I believe that the basic need we have as human beings is to be part of a community where we can be vulnerable. Because we engage in sinful behaviors we are ashamed of, we turn into defensive, self-justifying people who cannot experience the intimacy we were created for. Christ’s vulnerability on the cross makes it possible for us to be vulnerable with each other and God as part of His body. This is the core of my Christian faith. But I’ve lately been confronted by the question of whether vulnerability is a good quality for me to have as a pastor. Continue reading

Becoming the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:17-21)

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. [2 Corinthians 5:17-21] Continue reading

The church of outrage vs. the church of vulnerability

In the buildup to the first US invasion of Iraq, there was a haunting video that got circulated around of Saddam Hussein standing in a room of people who were giving him a standing ovation while, one by one, he selected certain individuals to be taken out and executed. I’ve often wondered what it would be like to clap for a dictator in those circumstances. Certainly many of the people in the room were clapping in order to appease Saddam’s wrath and convince him that they deserved to stay alive. But I imagine there were some who really did worship the absolute power that Saddam’s wrath represented. There’s an awesomeness to that kind of power that’s intoxicating as long as you’re standing on the trigger side and not the barrel side. Continue reading

Why Nouwen is Better than Chocolate, Part 3

The third book I read in my Nouwen binge was Creative Ministry. It reimagines 5 of the different roles that Nouwen sees Christian ministers having: teaching, preaching, visitation, activism, and celebration. Of course to Nouwen, all Christians ARE ministers, ordained pastors are simply an intensified version of minister. So here are some quotes with commentary as with the other two books. Continue reading

Why Nouwen is Better than Chocolate, Part 2

The second Henri Nouwen book I read this week was called Lifesigns which is kind of a cool coincidence since the contemporary worship service I lead is called Lifesign. Nouwen wrote this book in response to something said to him by Jean Vanier, the founder of the L’Arche network of communities for mentally challenged people. Vanier said that each person regardless of his/her level of cognitive or social development, ought to be able to experience intimacy, fecundity (fruitfulness), and ecstasy (joyfulness). Another way of saying this might be that every human being can come to know that God knows us, values us, and delights in us. As before, rather than summarizing the text, I wanted to share some of Nouwen’s gems that I found and comment briefly on each of them. Continue reading

Why Nouwen is Better than a Bowl of Chocolate Ice Cream, Part 1

I shared that I’ve been on a Henri Nouwen binge at my wife’s cousin’s ranch just east of Austin, Texas. It feels as overwhelmingly delightful as devouring a bowl of chocolate ice cream. So I wanted to share a few tastes with you. Last night I read a very short beautiful book of Nouwen’s called In the Name of Jesus. It’s his reflections on Christian leadership framed by the three temptations Jesus faced to turn stones into bread (relevance), to win acclaim by throwing himself from the temple (popularity), & to have dominion over all the nations of the Earth (power). Continue reading