Archive - February, 2010

Beers, Booty-Shaking, and Jesus?

This is a guest post by Nicole Unice.

I have a confession to make. I like pop music.

And not just the Miley Cyrus, High School Musical flavor. I like the beat thumping, chorus humming, and—dare I say it—booty-shaking kind. There it is. I am a woman in my early 30s, with three children and a minivan. I run a Christian counseling practice and a women’s ministry. People look to me for soul direction and depth, and in my spare time, I like to dance around and get low, low, low.

The best part? I think that’s OK with Jesus.

My senior pastor plays tennis on a team with my husband’s co-worker. Last week, the team finished a game and had some beers in a cooler. One of them offered my pastor a beer and (gasp!) he took it. Later, the co-worker told my husband that he cringed because his teammate must not have known he was offering a beer to a pastor. The co-worker reported. “Wow, I was surprised he had a beer with us. That’s cool.” (more…)

Finding the Answer v. Being the Answer

This is a guest post by Andy Whisenant.

I love to read. (I guess it helps that I work at a bookstore.) It feeds my addiction.

If you walk into any bookstore and head to the Christian book section, you’ll likely find,

  • A wide assortment of fiction titles (most of which are westerns or ones that take place in a Mennonite community).
  • Several books guaranteeing you that God’s desire for your life is to be rich and happy all the time.
  • A few books from authors that claim that they have unlocked the secret to knowing when the world is going to end.

Another group of books you’ll likely find includes books all about finding God’s will for your life, complete with formulas and fill-in-the-blanks. It’s all tied up really well in a nice package with a cool cover and a catchy title.

Finding the Formula

For a long time, I thought that was how I was going to find out God’s will for my life. (more…)

Jesus is Simple

Jesus is simple.

You must love the Lord your God with all that you have. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is just as important: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.

It’s simple. Love God. Love others. This is what it means to be a Christian. This is how you know you’re “saved” (if there is such a thing).

Don’t complicate the Gospel with your need to be right.

Challenging Tradition May Cost You Your Life

I have nothing against tradition. I’m all for it. It gives us a link to the past. To what worked and has kept working as the years have gone by.

I’m pro-tradition … Except when I’m not.

I’m against tradition when it gets in the way of innovation. When it keeps us from moving forward. When it stops us in our tracks because we’re too fearful to let go of the past and embrace the future.

That’s when traditions become deadly.

Stephen felt the same way. Here was a man who was living a Spirit-filled life and loving it. He followed Jesus. He also challenged the established religious traditions and it made those in power very, very angry.

In Acts, Luke records a scene where Stephen is falsely accused of blasphemy.

We have heard Stephen say that Jesus, this Nazarene, is going to ‘destroy this Place and alter the traditions that Moses handed down to us.’

This, of course, ultimately leads to Stephen’s execution. The religious leaders were petrified of Jesus and his followers. Why? Because they changed things. Jesus challenged institutions and traditions where there was no longer life-giving value. The religious leaders could not imagine a world in which their way, their values, their traditions were no longer upheld.

They didn’t want their institution to change.
They didn’t want their traditions to change.
They didn’t want change, period.
So they killed in order to maintain the status quo.

The same will be true of you, should you choose to challenge. You will be mocked and ignored; ostracized and demonized. We Christians, ironically enough, are usually the ones most tied to our institutions (church buildings) and traditions (“this is how we’ve always done it!”).

Choose to challenge. It’s the only way we move forward, partnering with God’s Spirit. Stay true to the content of the Gospel message, not the form.

What Starbucks Can Teach You About God

I was at Starbucks this morning ordering a new creation. Some friends have been tweeting about a venti toffee-nut Americano and I knew I needed to try it.

I ordered, plunked my dough down and made my way Soup Nazi-style to the end of the line to wait for my drink. The guy behind me ordered a latte and found his way down by me to wait. We were both milling about when I noticed the barista making a drink that looked very different than what I had ordered. It didn’t very much look like a latte either.

The barista was making a very big, very chocolatey, very caffeinated venti mocha. “Maybe she needs an extra boost to get her through the morning,” I thought to myself.

I noticed there was a third guy in line who was eyeing this drink pretty hard. I didn’t hear his order, but you could tell he was wondering if the diabetic-coma-inducing mocha waiting in the on-deck circle was for him.

The anticipation was thick–you could see it in his Coke-bottle-bespecled eyes. “Is it? Could it be? Is that drink ….. for me?” he seemed to be saying.

Then the barista handed the mocha to her co-worker at the cash register, who in turn handed it to the man-in-waiting. His eyes sparkled and his mouth grew into a smile a mile wide. Then he said something that struck me:

“She knew. She knew what I wanted all along!”

Before me.
Before the next guy in line.
The barista saw this man in line and automatically began making his drink because she knew him. She knew what he would order, what he likes, so she took the initiative and made it without him even asking.

The response from the man was more than simple appreciation. This was a person who felt as though someone–even a barista at Starbucks–knew him in some way. It probably changed his whole day.

One simple act.

It hit me as I was watching this unfold that this is what life with God is like. We sit in line, waiting to get to the front so we can make our demands known. We impatiently wait on the line to shorten so we can say what we need to say, get what we need to get.

Once we get to the front of the line, before we can even finish our order, we see that what we were going to order is already made for us. Lots of times, what we get is way better than what we were going to order. God knew what we liked and already had it ready for us. He thought ahead and acted intentionally.

Piping hot. Fresh. Sweet. Made specifically for us. This is the goodness of God.

Kind David said, “I will see the goodness of Yahweh in the land of the living.” I can officially say to you that I saw the goodness of God today. All while waiting in line at Starbucks.

What about you?

The Mark of a Deviant

From “The Incarnation of Thomas Merton” by Charles E. Kinzie:

Perhaps the peculiar mark of the modern saint is that he or she faces the crisis [the crisis that forms our existence] in his or her own life, and is therefore driven at least by the desire to experience Christianity in a pristine form beyond the decaying cultural forms that no longer serve to bring us to conversation. There is about such a life a minimum of self-betrayal.

I was fortunate to come across this passage today. I had to read it multiple times before the, “wow!” kicked in. It describes, in two sentences, the mark of a deviant.

A deviant knows that there is cultural baggage that needs to be shed in order to experience the fullness of God in the person of Christ

A deviant is always looking to rid herself of those beliefs which no longer bring her closer to Christ, but limit her ability to see him.

A deviant knows that what meets the eye isn’t the last step in reality.

A deviant is looking to live according to Spirit-led promptings, not rule-bound religion.

A deviant is so undeniably firm in their “non-negotiables” that he is willing and able to enter into discussion with those who don’t believe the same way he does.

A deviant knows what they believe–but more importantly why and how they came to believe it.

This is the life of a deviant. Is that you?

Discuss.

Do You Know Your “Non-Negotiables”?

Do you know what your theological non-negotiables are? What you will not budge on, no matter what?

If not, you need to. If you don’t define them prayerfully and discerningly, someone else will do it for you. And if you ask any freshman in college who has had her faith rocked by an atheist humanities professor, letting someone else define your faith is a bad thing.

Here’s a simple way to determine what a “non-negotiable” is for you: Ask the question, “Will my faith crumble if this is proven to be false?” If so, you need to know why. If not, you need to be okay if that cherished belief goes away.

Here’s what my partial list looks like:

Negotiables

  1. Evolution. My faith has grown to accommodate the reality that evolution of certain species can be, and is, possible. The end, of it.
  2. Jesus as Anglo-American. The reality is that Jesus looked a lot more like Osama bin Laden than he does a white man with long hair, wearing a bathrobe and clutching a lamb. I had previously held this as a non-negotiable unintentionally. When I ask, “What does Jesus look like?” and you think of a white man, it’s an unintentional non-negotiable for you too!
  3. Inerrancy of Scripture. The modern notion of inerrancy is poisonous. There, I said it. To suggest that we (English speakers) have somehow “nailed” the intricacies of both the Greek and Hebrew language is dangerous. As any bi-lingual person knows, when you translate between two languages, something gets “lost in translation.” I believe that God accurately conveyed the meaning that he intended to in the pages of Scripture. To suggest that somehow there are no flaws in our translations is false. (Why do you think the New Living Translation has a ‘second edition’?) Unless you can read Greek and Hebrew (and even those translations are built on the efforts of human beings), you are missing something in translation. Simply put, the Bible did not drop out of heaven with a leather-bound spine and footnotes.

Non-Negotiables

  1. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. As far as I can tell from the entirety of Scripture, this is one of the only non-negotiables the writers of Scripture put forth. As St. Paul put it, “if we have hope in Christ only for this life, we are the most miserable people in the world.” Paul is “all-in” regarding Jesus’ death and resurrection. So am I. And that’s about it.

What about you? Do you have anything to add to the list? Subtract? Have you had an experience where a nonnegotiable turned into a negotiable? What was that like?

Holler.

Four Reasons Seminaries Get a Bad Rap

If you’re in seminary, have ever considered seminary or are nursing a grudge against seminary, no doubt you’ve heard the following:

“Seminary? More like ‘cemetery’!” (Insert Beavis and Butthead chortle here).

Why is this? It seems as though the collective consciousness of North American Christianity dislikes the concept of seminary. Most mainline denominations require it of their leaders, so why does seminary get such a bad rap?

I’m going to be graduating from Bethel Seminary in May. I’m a fan. A huge fan. As such, I’ve become a seminary apologist of sorts. From where I sit, here are a few reasons why seminary gets a (mostly) undeserved reputation:

4. Cost.

As with any sort of master’s degree, seminary usually costs a healthy chunk of change. Sometimes, people who want to go to seminary simply can’t afford it. It’s easier to deal with the death of a dream if the dream becomes unappealing. Hence, the vilification of seminary. I wish that everyone who wanted to attend seminary had the means to do so. (As a matter of fact, we have some ideas on the back burner that will help facilitate this for some of you!)

3. Elitism.

This one’s legit. I’ll admit it: I’ve used words in conversation since I’ve been in seminary that I never would have used otherwise. This can be a good thing (broadening vocabulary), but most often it’s a bad thing. Because seminarians spend so much money on their degree (see #4), we feel like we need to get our money’s worth. So we say things like “pre-dispensationalism,” “substitutionary atonement,” and “behoove.” (No joke, a fellow student used the word “behoove” in class and I laughed, out loud, at him. That was unfortunate. He was not a fan after that.) The words aren’t bad, it’s the attitude behind them.

2. The “Jesus” Excuse.

If you’ve spent any time in ministry circles, you’ve heard this at work before. Jesus didn’t go to seminary, so why should I?” Fair enough. But then the “argument” escalates: “The disciples just followed Jesus around for three years and they didn’t need no seminary. Neither do I!” Or, worse yet, someone tells you they went to “seminary in the Spirit.” *shudder*. Most often, people who use this line of logic do so because of the other three reasons listed on this list. Which leads me to the last one. . . .

1. Anti-Intellectualism.

This, by far, is the number one reason seminaries get a bad rap here in the U.S. Our Christian culture smacks of anti-intellectualism–the subtle but lethal belief that engaging God with the mind is somehow unspiritual, or even sinful. There are myriad (seminary word–see #3) reasons why this belief persists (Gnosticism, Hellenistic thought, the Church’s reaction to the Enlightenment, Romanticism, etc.). It boils down to this thought: Flesh (material world) is bad. Spirit (unseen world) is good. The mind gets lumped into the “bad” category and the intellect is looked at as a villain to be eliminated rather than an ally to be utilized in understanding this great God we serve! Dallas Willard says that “Jesus is the most brilliant man who ever lived. He is the smartest person in the history of the human race.” Our charge in Scripture is to love God with all our heart, strength, soul and  … anyone? …. mind!

So there you have it. Some reasons why seminaries can be the neglected step-child of the evangelical world.

To the skeptics out there, I understand your concerns. But listen to this: The very first class I took at seminary, the professor got up in front of the class and said, “I want you to learn this stuff so you can know God better.” Another professor of mine said, “If you can’t connect your theology to your love for God, it’s worthless. Your theology becomes worthless.” Isn’t that something you can get behind?

Question: What have been your experiences with seminary? Either yourself or watching people you know?

Discuss.

Best of the Week, v.8

top_3

Here’s a recap of the top three posts from BeDeviant.com this past week. If you haven’t had a chance to stop by the site, check out these posts and get up-to-date. These got the most traffic on the site, were shared the most, and had the most comments.

  1. Think Before You Paste: Christians, Blogging and Plagiarism – Yes. Awesome. I was hoping this day would come soon! One of our Deviant Network contributors has the top-ranked post this week! Suffice to say, this post hits at the “sin” of copy and paste. If you’re a blogger, this is a must read!
  2. So What’cha Want …. In Church? – The Beastie Boys asked the question, “so what’cha want?” BeDeviant asked the question, “what’cha want …. in church?” The discussion was varied and informative. Weigh-in here!
  3. Blog Sponsor Experiment on BeDeviant – We’re giving away free ad space on BeDeviant in the month of March. Big or small, we’re interested in having you join the experiment! Find out how, here.

So there they are, your top 5 posts of the week! Recap, refresh, re-read, re-tweet!

Bridging the Gap Between the Church and Millennials

Somebody call Will.I.Am. We need to start bridging the gap.

USA Today came out with a shocking-but-not-unexpected article concerning the religious habits of Millennials.

As I said, the results are unsurprising:

  • Young adults today are less church-connected than prior generations were when they were in their 20s.
  • Millennials are just about as spiritual as their parents and grandparents were at those ages.
  • Millennials are significantly more likely than young adults in earlier generations to say they don’t identify with any religious group.

My question isn’t, “Is this true?” (it is), but “What do we do about this?” (Although stubborn, hard-heads in Christendom are no doubt plugging their ears and saying, “LALALALA! If I don’t hear it, it won’t be true!”) Those of us “on the ground” know this to be true. Most people in the know realize there is a significant gap between the Church and Millennials.

Christians have a responsibility to reach out to all people, regardless or race, color, religion …. or age. Millennials, largely, are not connecting with the “product” that we’re pushing out.

I find this problematic.

Also troubling:

Worship attendance is sliding steadily, too: 18% of Millennials say they attend worship nearly every week or more often, vs. 21% of Gen Xers when they were in their 20s and 26% of Boomers at those ages.

At some point, you have to push past the religious language that we like to use to explain this phenomenon away: “The Holy Spirit will draw them back to the Church,” “We just need to pray harder,” “If we keep doing what we do with excellence, we’ll be fine.”

Incorrect.

Millennials have drawn back the covers on the Church and they don’t like what they see. Eesh. At this point, it seems a change–even a drastic change–needs to be made in the North American church’s way of doing ministry.

So instead of dwelling and stewing in this unflattering reality, how do we move forward?

Page 1 of 41234»