It is not enough that the church should counter the values of the dominant culture. We must be a counter–culture for the common good. We want to be radically distinct from the culture around us and yet, out of that distinct identity, we should sacrificially serve neighbors and even enemies, working for the flourishing of people, both here and now, and in eternity. We therefore do not see our corporate worship services as the primary connecting point with those outside. Rather, we expect to meet our neighbors as we work for their peace, security, and well–being, loving them in word and deed. If we do this we will be “salt” and “light” in the world (sustaining and improving living conditions, showing the world the glory of God by our patterns of living; Matt 5:13–16). As the Jewish exiles were called to love and work for the shalom of Babylon (Jer 29:7), Christians too are God’s people “in exile” (1 Peter 1:1; James 1:1). The citizens of God’s city should be the best possible citizens of their earthly city (Jer 29:4–7). We are neither overly optimistic nor pessimistic about our cultural influence, for we know that, as we walk in the steps of the One who laid down his life for his opponents, we will receive persecution even while having social impact (1 Peter 2:12).
Saturday, November 28, 2009
From the Gospel Coalition's "Theological Vision for Ministry" on how we should relate to the culture around us:
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Dustin Shramek, in his chapter "Waiting for the Morning during the Long Night of Weeping," describes what he and his wife experienced after their son died, and how others' responses revealed a lack of understanding of the depth of their pain:
We struggled with anger toward God, wondering why he didn't comfort us. We had prayed; indeed, people literally all over the world had prayed for the life of our son, but God chose a different path for us. So why wouldn't he comfort us on this path?
Many people said things to us like, "Look to Jesus! Trust in his promises. He does care for you. You need to get in the Word and pray and fight for your joy. You need to talk with others about this and have them pray for you." We knew that this is true and right; yet, when we were overwhelmed with grief, it felt hollow and unhelpful. We needed to know that they too had been changed by our pain; that, in some sense, it was also their pain.
We don't love others in the midst of this kind of pain by pretending that it isn't all that bad or by trying to quickly fix it with some pat theological answers. We love them by first weeping with them. It is when we enter into their pain and are ourselves changed by it that we can speak the truth in love. When their pain becomes our pain ... we are able to give the encouragement of the Scriptures (John Piper and Justin Taylor, eds., Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, p. 177).
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Our family is headed out of town this Sunday. I did a web search of some of the churches in the area where we're headed. One of them had a video promoting the church. It begins with a few screens declaring what the church is not and what it is. It quotes 1 Corinthians 12:27 about the church as a body. But as I watched the video, I came away with the idea that church is primarily about getting together with others in a variety of leisure settings. It may not be the message that the church intended, but sadly I think it is reflective of the philosophy that many churches have. Even though we declare that the church is not a social club, the fact is that's what we often promote and program.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Another Jim Peterson quote:
Among the most basic truths concerning the Church is the fact that it is a Body, an organism. This means God never intended for individual members to function in isolation from one another. True, we are individually accountable to God, but the Christian life and ministry is not to be individualistic. We can’t do it by ourselves.
I find it interesting that God has refrained from giving all His gifts to a single individual. Of course He could have done so. At first glance, it might appear that He would get a lot more work done today if He would simply give each individual all he needs to carry on a ministry by himself. But instead God has made us all specialists. He has given us gifts in some areas and withheld them in others. We need our limitations as much as we need our strengths. Without our limitations, we could go it alone. With them, we become interdependent (Living Proof, p. 140).
Monday, November 09, 2009
This is the way that many of us approach life: We have to have it all together, we can’t show any weakness, we have to be good at everything we do. And that mentality filters into the church and how we do ministry. But as Jim Peterson notes:
No one is good at everything, and we shouldn’t try to be. What God wants is for us to be good at what we’re good at, and let others in His body do the rest. We all have natural abilities, and all of us have been given spiritual gifts. Both of these are from God and we need to be good stewards of them.... When we see ourselves as a body, working in community with one another, we will find that what one person lacks, another person compensates for with his strengths (Lifestyle Discipleship, pp. 164-165).
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Winston Smith warns about offering hope that does more harm than good:
Proverbs 25:20 warns potential hope-givers, “Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on soda, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.” Imagine you’ve been listening to a couple share their story of heartbreak and desperation for nearly an hour and suddenly, realizing that you’ve got to wrap up your time with them in five minutes, you shift gears - time to give them some hope. You share a verse and a few words of assurance about God’s love and care for them. You can see that your efforts fall flat. In fact, they seem a little irritated. The comfort that they received through the entire session from just being heard, from knowing that you understand, from hearing your compassion and concern has been snatched away like a garment removed on a cold day. Suddenly they don’t feel very understood at all. In fact, it seems like you’re not taking their problems seriously. It’s not that they don’t believe God loves them, but it just came across as a pat answer, tagged onto the end of the session – and it was. You made it sound too simple. It felt like they just shared how their lives are falling apart and your response was to hum a few bars of The sun will come out tomorrow.