Dan's Blog

A discussion of Christian issues, Christian blogs, and just about anything else I can think of.

McDonaldization of church and the SBC?

Douglas Baker of the Baptist Messenger posted an article today about the “McDonaldization” of church in general and the Southern Baptist Convention in particular.  You can read the entire article here.

First, this is pretty similar to what was discussed by John Mark Yeats and Tomas White in their book, Franchising McChurch that we have mentioned here before.  Is the church more worried about be effecient than effective?  Have replaced biblical community with slick programs, quick services, cool music, and the cult of personality?

Baker presents some sad information in his article.  First, he comments about the relative biblical illiteracy of americans in quoting some stats from Gallup:

One Gallup survey discovered that less than half of Americans could name the first book of the Bible, only a third know who actually preached the Sermon on the Mount (Billy Graham is one of the most popular answers), and only a quarter of the entire population know that the Christian church actually celebrates the resurrection of Jesus from the dead at Easter. Sixty percent cannot name half of the Ten Commandments

Baker goes on to say:

Pastoral ministry, therefore, has easily become in many congregations more the management of a religious franchise rather than personal ministry to people the Bible calls the bride of Jesus Christ.

Baker references the upcomming SBC Convention in Orlando and the reception of the Great Commission Resurgence report and the impact on the SBC.

Can we turn church into more than just a collection of programs.  Can we measure success in a way that is more biblical than counting numbers?  How does Christ define success?  I believe He defines success as faithfullness, not results.  Remember the parable of the talents?  The two who were good stewards received the same reward even though one produced more results.  Christ measured success by faithfullness.  How do you define success in your church and your ministry?

Public Passion VS Private Devotion

I read an article by Francis Chan concerning the sometimes disconnect between our public passion and private devotion.  You can read the article here: http://www.catalystspace.com/content/read/public_passion_vs_private_devotion/.

This is a hard topic for me.   How easy is it to “fake” it on Sunday morning?  When I get up to lead God’s people in worship, there can be an element of performance that kicks in.  How do I know whether that “performance” is legitimate, devotion-fed passion, or just a performance.  Hard question, particularly if my private devotion time was lacking that week.

It is easy to get in front of the church and sing, or teach.  I know what the words say.  I know the language.  Can I fake it?  Sure.  That is the issue. I can remind my musicians of the necessary for regular, private worship/devotion time.  I know why that is important.  But do I show that same importance in my life?  I hope so!  Some weeks… yes… other weeks… not so much.  One of my professors says that “it is easier to preach something than to live it” and this certainly applies.

Chan reminds us of the church of Sardis in Revelation:

I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.” (Rev. 3:1 NIV) Others believed the façade, but Jesus knew the truth. He reminded them that He knew of their spiritual deadness.

So… first, I say “thanks” to Chan for the reminder.  Secondly, I challenge myself to keep the importance of my private devotion and not settle for being able to fake it.  Thirdly, do you fake it?

Acts 7

Stephen’s Sermon:

In the prior chapter, Stephen was accused of blasphemy:

For we heard him say that Jesus, this Nazarene, will destroy this place and change the customs that Moses handed down to us. (Acts 6:14, HCSB)

In response, he gives a quick overview of the history of the Hebrew people, starting with Abraham, moving through Issac, Jacob, and the patriarchs (Jacob’s children), the Exodus, Moses, to David.

You can read this for yourself, but a couple of things crossed my mind as I was reading:

  1. Stephen reminded them (and us) that “God does not dwell in sanctuaries made with hands” (vs. 48). 
    How much time, effort, and resources do we spend as a church on our buildings?  A church in my local area has announced that it will spend $130 million to build new/updated buildings for their campus.  I am the first to say that I know nothing about this church’s circumstances and I am not really able to judge this expense.  But the first thing that crossed my mind was this “is that the best way to spend $130 millions of God’s money?” 

    In a smaller example, in another church, one of the members decided that the carpet in the fellowship hall needed to be replaced.  There was nothing overly wrong with the existing carpet.  It was not thead-bare, it was not dirty.  It was not stylish, but it was not ugly, it was a basic commercial grade carpet in a room with much traffic and the possibility for messes (i.e. kid’s spilling food, juice, etc.).  She decided that, however, it was not pretty enough so she donated thousands of dollars to replace the carpet (and, of course, with the new carpet came a new paint job).  Again, there is nothing inherently wrong with new carpet and certainly we should strive to keep the facilities we have in good condition.  I was concerned, however, when I heard some discussion about whether we should let the children do something in that space because “we don’t want to mess up the new carpet.”  Did the building become more important than the ministry?

  2. Stephen’s last words asked that the Lord “not charge them with this sin” (vs. 60)
    As he was being stoned to death, he asked the Lord to not count this sin!  Could you pray that?  Could I pray that?  Here, again, we see an example of the early church where boldness and truth was more important than physical safety.  Let me repeat …  HE WAS BEING STONED TO DEATH AND WAS MORE CONCERNED ABOUT HIS ATTACKERS THEN HIMSELF!  I would like to think I would have the same reaction, but I am ashamed to admit that I am afraid that I would be thinking about myself (or perhaps my family) in those last moments.

    Lord, help me have the boldness to proclaim you, no matter the cost.  Let Stephen and the other early Christians be an example to me of reliance on you!

Acts 6

There are two major topics in this chapter..  the first “deacons” and the accusation of Stephen.

There was a complaint in the early church that some of the widows were being overlooked in the daily food distribution.  The apostles recognized that they needed to focus on the most important aspects of their ministry, specifically preaching and prayer.  So the proposed that the group select seven men to give the duty of the food distribution which is described as waiting tables.

First – the apostles came up with a proposed solution and presented it to the body.  Does this differ from how our churches today operate?  Did the early church form a committee to look into the issue?  Did they present multiple options during a business meeting and have the church argue the relative merits then, based on a popularity contest select the desired path?  No.  The leaders determined what they believed to be the best course of action, then presented to the body for ratification.  How much easier would church life be today if we let the leaders (pastors) lead?

Second – we see here the importance of the leaders delegating responsibility for things to others.  If the first point is to let the leaders lead, the second point is for the leaders to let the members serve.  The pastors do not need to do everything and should look for ways to involve the congregation in service.  This not only provides an outlet for the members to serve and/or develop their spiritual gifts, but it allows the pastors to focus on the main things and not be spread too thin.  Pastors: let your people serve… People: serve!

More about Stephen in the next chapter :)

Tithing?

I read a post titled:

“Is it robbing God, or just falling on hard times?” on a blog (http://hiscrivener.wordpress.com/2010/01/18/is-it-robbing-god-or-just-falling-on-hard-times/).  I was wondering what you might be thinking along these lines.

What is a Christian’s responsibility to give to the church?  How does the OT concept of tithing apply today?

I have always believed that when we give (tithe, offering, etc.) we are making an outward statement of a few things:  (1) We recognize that God is in control of our life (2) everything we have is already God’s (3) we submit to the Lordship of God by acknowledging that through our giving.

Is tithing an obligation?  I don’t believe it is an obligation, but that rather it is a response to what God has done, who He is, and what He is going to do. 

What about the Old Testament?  If we look at the OT law, we see that generally the law is a sort of down payment for what Christ will ultimately do on the cross.  Hebrews 9 sheds some light here.  Heb 9 talks about regulations from the first covenant (described in the Old Testament).  It mentions the tabernacle, the lamp stand, table, etc.

This is a symbol for the present time, during which gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the worshiper’s conscience.  They are physical regulations and only deal with food, drink, and various washings imposed until the time of restoration. (Heb 9:9-10, HCSB)

The first covenant regulations were symbols for what would come in the future.  The writer of Hebrews continues to tell us that with the coming of the Messiah, the regulations from the old covenant are perfected.  The offering of a sacrifice in the OT did not actually wash away sin, and had to be repeated regularly.  The new offering of Christ is perfect, providing the perfect reality to replace the imperfect model provided by the OT.

What does this have to do with giving?  I believe that the OT regulations regarding tithing (and other offerings) were intended to illustrate the dependence of the ancients on God.  Christ came to be the culmination of the law.  We move from an imperfect system of required giving to a system where we recognize that everything we have is His, we owe everything we have to His grace, and we give back to him a portion of what is already His.  God deserves not 10% of our income, but He deserves ALL of it.  He entrusts it to us and allows us to live on it, but it is all His already.

So, what about the blog author’s question about giving when you don’t have enough to pay the rent, or the heat, or food?  It seems to me to be a distorted picture to only give when things are going well.  What external image are we portraying?  Are we saying that we do not believe that God is powerful enough to provide for our needs, so we are going to hoard what little we have since we need to provide what God cannot.  What a blasphemous statement!  I pray that I can trust God even in times of little.  It doesn’t take faith to give when you have plenty and you just “tip” God.  It takes faith to give when you are not sure where the money is going to come from.

Ok.. that is long enough… what do you think?

Acts 5

In this chapter, we yet again see the boldness of Peter and the apostles.  Remember, they previously had be threatened and told to stop speaking about Jesus.  In this chapter, they are yet again out there speaking about Jesus out in public. 

They are arrested and put in jail, then the Lord let them out.  They got arrested, got miraculously released, and then immediately proceeded to speak in public about Jesus again.  So, once the authorities found out they were out, then arrested them again (I wonder if the authorities were thinking “didn’t we just do this”).

>But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than men.  The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had murdered by hanging Him on a tree.  God exalted this man to His right hand as ruler and Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.  We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.” (Acts 5:29-32, HCSB)

I still am amazed by their boldness in the face of this adversity.  I have never faced anything like that, but that sense of boldness seems outside of anything I could express.

My pastor has challenged our church to share the gospel with 400 people this year.  As a staff, we have committed to sharing with 100 people (the three of us to total 100, the rest of the church total 300, gives 400 total).  This is certainly outside of my comfort zone, and I think about the boldness of the apostles in these chapters of Acts and remain amazed.  I am praying for the opportunities and the boldness to take the opportunities when they arise.

Acts 4

Peter and John get arrested for speaking and teaching about Jesus and then tell the religious rulers that:

But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it’s right in the sight of God [for us] to listen to you rather than to God, you decide; for we are unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20 HCSB)

I always wonder if I could be that bold in the face of the leaders/government giving an outright prohibiti0n on speaking about Jesus.  Our society is changing, but we still don’t typically face out-and-out persecution because of speaking in the name of Jesus.  I may get laughed at or ignored, but I probably won’t get threatened with prison.

It gets even more intense however, after being released, they returned to the group of believers and part of their prayer was:

And now, Lord, consider their threats, and grant that Your slaves may speak Your message with complete boldness, (vs. 29)

Again, I wonder if I could pray the same thing in the face of real threats.  What a witness they give, however, regardless of the threats in place, they prayed for boldness.  They didn’t pray for safety, they didn’t pray that God would protect them, they didn’t pray that God would remove the threat, they prayed that they would boldly speak God’s message.  Would I pray the same?  Could I?

On a different note, at the end of this chapter, we see for a second time that the believers treated all their possessions in common, taking care of the needy among them because they sold possessions and gave to those in need.  This is the second time we have seen this so far in the book of Acts.  In Chapter 2 we saw a similar description.

What does this mean for us today?  Is this something that just applied to the church in Acts?  Does this apply to us?  If this does apply to us, how should we handle this?  Are we as generous as we should be or as we could be?  Do we have people in our churches who are wealthy and then people that barely scrape by?  Is this what Acts is teaching about?  Personally, have I been more concerned with having a cool TV, or a nice car, or other things when perhaps I should be more concerned with my brothers and sisters in the church?

Does our materialistic society influence our generosity?

This in an interesting thing for me to think about.  What do you think?

Acts 3

In this passage, Peter and John heal a man at the temple gate.  The people were amazed at what had happened.

Part of Peter’s respose is:

By faith in His name, His name has made this man strong, whom you see and know. So the faith that comes through Him has given him this perfect health in front of all of you. (Acts 3:16, HCSB)

This is key to me and important for me to remember.  The same name that healed the man is the name that restores the relationship between God and Man.  His name (Jesus) makes us strong.  We have faith in Him and that results in restoration.

Pretty cool……..

Acts 2

I couldn’t decide what to post on for this chapter.  I could have tried to look at the speaking of tongues, but that seems like a topic for a book not a blog post.  Instead, I will write about two things:  Peter’s speach of the gospel and a bit about the church presented at the end of the chapter.

First, Peter’s speach.  This speach gives the bascis of the faith.  Peter includes Christ’s being “delivered up” to be crucified (vs. 22-24) and then he was resurrected (vs. 29-34) then the way to salvation (vs. 38-40).

I really like how Peter discussed the resurrected Christ, pointing out the fact that David is still in his grave, but the tomb of Jesus was empty.  Then he makes the connection to salvation through Christ.

What about the church?  In the last part of the chapter, we see that the church was going about their normal routine – meeting in the temple, praising God, seeing to the needs of each other, eating (they must have been Baptist :) ).  And through this,  “the Lord added to them those were being saved” (vs. 47 HCSB). 

This is interesting to me looking at the church today.  We try to everything we can to grow a church.  We talk about being relevant, we talk about addressing felt needs of those around us, we talk about how music engages the culture.  All these things we talk about in regards to growing a church.  However, this passage tells us that it is the Lord who adds to the church, not us.  In this passage, the church was busy being the church.. and the Lord added to their numbers.  Perhaps we should focus more on being the church (what does that mean?  Sounds like a topic for thought) and let the Lord add those whom are being saved.

Thoughts?

Acts 1 – Chapter-A-Day

I decided we would start with the book of Acts for the inaugural Chapter-A-Day chapter.  I hope to learn a little about the Apostolic church and think of how that applies to the church today.  Of course, who knows what else the Spirit will show us through this journey.  Here we go!

We start Acts with the promise of the Holy Spirit.  Christ’s followers were now getting ready to start the Church and asked Christ if He was now going to restore the kingdom to Israel.  I can almost imagine the frustration in Christ as if His disciples did not listen to anything the entire time He was there.  But Christ patiently tells them that the timing was not theirs to consider, but God would send the Holy Spirit who’s power would allow the disciples to witnesses for Christ.

Acts 1:8 is probably my favorite verse in all of scripture (of probably a hundred favorites).  We are to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and all the world.  I have always heard this described as concentric circles of influence.  For me this might be Fort Worth, then Texas, then the US, then the world. 

But I have a slightly different take.  The way I understand it, the Judea and Samaria are not concentric, but rather different.  I think that the different layers include your immediate surroundings (Jerusalem) that includes not just geography but those around you.  Then the general area (Judea) that might include a larger geographic area but also a larger circle of relationships, etc.  The catch comes when we talk about Samaria.  Jesus was talking to Jews who would do just about anything to avoid Samaria.  Jesus then told them to be witnesses in Samaria as well.  He told them to go to those who they disliked, who were different.  For us, I think this means we should not just be limited in our witness to those who are just like us.  Either socio-economic differences, racial differences, nationality differences.  It is our responsibility to take the Gospel to everyone, even those from Samaria.  The ends of the earth certainly includes everyone and is not just limited to our local neighborhoods, city, states, etc.  but includes the entire world.

My question… what am I doing— what are you doing — to be a witness to each of these areas?  What is your Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria?  Are you being a witness to the entire world?

As a Southern Baptist, I support the International Mission Board through my local church including our regular giving and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.  You can donate to the IMB as well at http://imbresources.org/index.cfm/fa/store.prod/ProdID/256.cfm