Friday, February 26, 2010

The Good of the Bad and the Ugly

2009 was a great year for film, and in particular what some would deem “bad” movies—not poorly made, un-artistic movies—ones to which you can’t take you kids. (Or grandparents!) Some of them even had a lot of good things to say. Three of the ones that were notable but didn’t quite fall into the “great” category or top ten movies of the year are:

District 9:
Here is a great example of what Sci-fi is capable of: offer up an intelligent examination of issues in a way that causes people to see the problems to which they normally turn a blind eye. Amazingly, the whole thing was produced for a mere 30 million dollars. This is the direction more “Hollywood” movies need to take. There are problems, however. How does a film where all the dialogue was improvised get nominated for Best Screenplay? (The same could be asked of The Hurt Locker.) Especially when that improvisation leads to 95 uses of the same adjective/ verb/ exclamation. Of course, Good Will Hunting won doing the same thing. Also, this movie tries to do the Mockumentary approach but has to break away frequently jarring the viewer out of the mood every time it does.

Zombieland:
In similar fashion to District 9, here horror causes us to examine humanity from a fresh perspective. Well, only as fresh as any Zombie movie can be these days. Others have done a much better job with message (Shawn of the Dead and Romero spring to mind) and, to be fair, this movie is not particularly a message movie. Still, it effectively warns against the isolation and paranoia that are on the rise these days. And, it shows that a healthy fear of clowns is a good thing!

Drag Me To Hell:
Sam Raimi presents a textbook example of how to make a scary, gross horror movie in PG13 territory. It is incredible, actually. It is the story of a girl who wants to get ahead in life and decides to set on some people along the way. As if that is what responsibility and adulthood are all about. Moral of the story? Being kind and considerate of others may not advance your career, but it is a lot better than being cursed to hell! There could have been a better truth here, but this movie is more comedy than serious warning.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Weirded Out by Worship

Ever hear this praise song?

I'm gonna run to you
I'm gonna come to you
I wanna find you
In everything that I do
I'm gonna run to you
I'm gonna count on you
I'm gonna follow
What else can I do?

How about this one?

Listen to your heart
when he's calling for you.
Listen to your heart
there's nothing else you can do.
I don't know where you're going
and I don't know why,
but listen to your heart
before you tell him goodbye.

OK. Just kidding. Some of you probably know that these are both Roxette songs. A great act and a guilty pleasure, but no… this is not a post arguing for more eighties euro-pop in worship services. Quite the contrary.

The very fact that songs like this could be mistaken for praise and worship songs demonstrates a troubling trend the past few years in praise music. When did “God is love” become “God is my lover?”

Try this one on for size:

I feel I'm moving to the rhythm of Your grace
Your fragrance is intoxicating in the secret place

This time it is a portion from a chorus by Darrel Evans and rerecorded by Casting Crowns. Uncomfortable, isn’t it? It says a lot that this song has caught on at several Christian weddings. As uncomfortable as it is to hear that song in corporate worship, try hearing it at someone’s nuptials. iiigggggghh.

God is a God of love. He IS love. However, true love is not only or even best encompassed in Eros. God’s love is seen in sacrifice. His love is also incomplete without taking His holiness, wrath, and justice into account.

We might could use more balance in our musical praise.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Life on Mars Series One

British Television has a lot of advantages going its way. They have a system set up with expectations that favor storytellers. Instead of proposing an idea that, when picked up, has to be expanded into a 22 episode season and possibly into multiple seasons if successful, they have small, manageable series of 8 to 13 episodes. They tell a cohesive story and get out. If there is success and another story to be told, they might make another series or two (seasons for Americans) but they tend to not have to pad. It rewards originality and creativity in television. Perhaps that is why so many American series are simply retellings of British shows.

Unfortunately, this can ruin some great stories for American audiences. Life on Mars is just one example of this. The American version (apparently) stunk it up. The British version on the other hand may be one of the best bits of television in the 2000s. The first series sees Detective Sam Tyler hit by a car. When he wakes up, he has traveled from 2006 into 1973. Presumably, he might be in a coma and dreaming everything. That is just one of the many interesting issues the show raises.

Differences between 70’s and 00’s mentality are also explored. Perhaps most compelling is the way Sam has to try to change the views of the people around him. In a purely secular view, the understanding and methods of 2006 are better than those of 1973. Society has advanced. Sam has seen a better world than the one he is trapped in and has to try to help others see the world through his eyes.

Of course, the other difference between British and American television can cause other problems for viewers. In Britain, when they say a show is for adults—they mean it. Viewers beware. There is coarse language, bloody violence and one instance of brief nudity.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Strategic Missional Principles: Relational

There is a pretty neat video floating out there on the internet. (Thanks to Grady over at Missional Space for posting it.) It is a well explained “first step” in the thought process that some traditional churches are taking into the Missional mindset. It argues pretty well the non-programmatic principle argued for here. It also begins to show the second Missional principle that replaces programs: relationships.

That being said, it is just a first step. After all, it is a simplified version of Missional. Check it out, and then read on:




What is missing here is relational starting point. Missional begins and ends with relationships. The video above begins with a building, but that is just one option (and maybe not the best one!) Instead, we should begin with the relationships that form the church, not the mortar.

Everything in the Missional strategy is built on relationships. W. Oscar Thompson expressed the kernel of this idea so well all those years ago in his must read: Concentric Circles of Concern. Everything in life is about relationships. That is the way God made us. It is really all about who and not what you know. Why should the Kingdom of God be any different?

The relationship between God and His church. The relationships between the members of the body He puts together to expand His church. The relationships between the believers and unbelievers in a community. The relational networks connecting every single person in a city to everyone else. These are the highways upon which Missional living and Missional strategy operate.

So, if that is the case: How do we discover and develop the right relationships for a movement to develop and blossom? That is the third principle…

Monday, February 22, 2010

2 Corinthians 1:1-11 (Comfort and Contentment)

The teaching here at the beginning of this epistle is something that needs to be taught more in the church today. God is the God of comfort. It is the comfort we receive from Him in hard times that we can use to help others. Instead we seem to be a people who are always on the lookout for comfort from other sources. We look to other people, to material things, to escapist entertainment… everywhere other than simply relying on God.

Where does happiness and contentment come from? If you look at a westerner, they usually behave in a way that would show you that they think happiness come from stuff. (They would probably not tell you that, but that is what they believe.) Someone from an eastern culture would say that happiness comes from within, but that is not very satisfying either.

In both cases, happiness or contentment is not found in a problem free life. Just look at the richest westerner, or the most meditative easterner. Here we see that, even those who know God and receive their comfort from Him have moments in life when they need that comfort. It could be argued that it is the hard times in life, and the closeness to God we experience then, that bring true contentment.

Best of all, the experiences we have with God in the hard times of life are the ones we can use to help others. We pass the comfort we receive from God on and enrich other people’s lives as well. We can be used by the God of comfort to comfort those around us.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Heads Up To a Change

Some slight changes are going into affect here at the NonModern Blog. Just little things to spruce up the ease of use and content. One major thing that is changing over the next few days is the address. From here on out you can find us at:

www.nonmodernblog.com

The old address should continue to work, so you should not have to change any bookmarks or subscriptions. Just in case, though... if you have not taken advantage of the follower feature here you might try it out in the sidebar. Become a proud part of the Non-herd. Be a thinker not a mindless follower!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Inglorious... Yeah, That One

There seems to be an unwritten rule in film criticism that requires one to mention Quentin Tarantino’s genius when reviewing his films. The problem is at least two of his seven films thus far are less than the products of genius. In fact, they are not particularly good. Is this film his masterpiece, as he declares at the end of his screenplay? That is open to debate, but it is certainly a great film.

Tarantino has a reputation for extreme violence, great dialogue and lots of cinematic references. Perhaps less recognized is his propensity to make the viewer think. Here we have extreme violence, but if you blink (in all the right places) you can miss the worst of it. The surprising thing is that there is so little blood onscreen. The blood that is there, however, is hard to watch. (So blink!)

The dialogue is indeed incredible. Considering that the whole two and a half hour film is basically just five scenes—all of which are dialogue heavy—and that the movie is tense and suspenseful just the same, we are witnessing a very skilled scribe. Add to that the fact that this dialogue is presented in English, French, German and a touch of Italian, so most audiences are seeing this film in subtitles, and you have a rare success of a film.

So what is there to think about in this ultimately simple revenge story? That is where things get more problematic. Just what are we supposed to make of a story that vicariously allows us to change history? What does it say about our humanity that audiences take pleasure in seeing Jews behave inhumanely toward Nazis? Sure, they were evil but was the only way to overcome them to become monsters? What is the distinction between fighting evil and being evil?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Christianity vs. What Jesus Started

There is a scene somewhere in the middle of “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnasus” (a typically crazy but interesting film from Terry Gilliam, by the way) where the titular character describes a contest he had with the devil. The idea was that the winner would be the first one of them to obtain 12 disciples. The devil’s efforts are portrayed in a picture depicting what is very obviously the Catholic Church. The typical Christian’s reaction at this point is anger or at least annoyance. Why do Christians have to be portrayed in this way?

At second thought, the problem lies not always in how “Christianity” is portrayed in popular culture, but in how broad that term is. It is no wonder that so many people who believe in and follow the teachings of Jesus avoid the term Christian. Think of just some of the terrible things that have been done in the name of Christianity:

Multiple military campaigns were conducted against the Muslim world lasting hundreds of years and causing the death of over a million people.

Hundreds of thousands of people were tortured and even killed for suspicion of witchcraft or false teachings.

Native American populations were tortured, killed, or forced to convert at gunpoint by “Christian” European invaders.

Hitler at times used scripture and his “Christian” beliefs to justify the extermination of Jews and others, as other “Christians” had done before him.

As a religion, Christianity is not much different from other man-made religions. It competes, at times violently, for supremacy. However, close examination reveals that often what people see as “Christian” has little or nothing to do with what Jesus started. Many of his followers throughout history have criticized “Christianity” or the institutional church as being the exact opposite of what Jesus began in His ministry here on Earth.

So if you are a follower of Jesus, you should probably take no offense when institutional religion gets a bad rap in popular culture… unless you are the institutionally religious type. In that case, you might want to look into finding Jesus.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Strategic Missional Principles: Non-programmatic

As a Missional strategist, or a church movement facilitator, or whatever you want to call someone tasked with seeing churches spring up in a given region, you often have to ask yourself: “What are we doing that is working?” or “What are we doing that is not helping at all?” Basically, the same questions anyone in a strategic role asks themselves to evaluate the plans and activities they are coordinating. However, one thing quickly becomes apparent in the unique realm of Missional strategy.

It is not about programs.

Church planters (and churches for that matter) have been falling into this trap for a few generations now. Somewhere along the way, church ceased to be about people and became all about programs. The relationships that the church is built upon were taken for granted, and leadership became totally consumed with the programs supposedly designed to facilitate those relationships.

When someone enters an area where churches need to be planted and raised, they usually begin with a list of ideas and programs that have succeeded elsewhere. The thought is, at least in the American pragmatic way of thinking, that the activity itself created the success. If we simply duplicate what THEY did and work hard at it, it will of course work here.

The problem is that we have become methods focused and not means focused. Jesus set up the advancement of God’s Kingdom as simply God’s message advancing through people by the power of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps we ought to shift our focus away from programs and into qualities.

So, the first quality of Missional strategy is that it should be non-programmatic. Programs by design are Attractional, which is the exact opposite of Missional—qualitatively speaking. Do not build your strategy around activities or events, programs or high concept events. Focus completely on the people, the relationships and networks connecting the people all around you.

And that leads us to the second Missional quality…

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Voice New Testament



The Voice New Testament is a new “translation” of the New Testament that has been done by Ecclesia Bible Society. It would probably be best called a devotional Bible as opposed to a study Bible. It has notes and clarifications throughout, but all the notes serve to clarify the main thrust of the New Testament according to the authors—that being the idea of “The Liberating King and His Church.”

This translation is very well done and easy to read. It has attempted to retain the fact that the Bible was written by multiple authors with differing styles. Whereas most translations come across as uniform and academic in their attempt to stay faithful to the original text, this “retelling” uses writers, artists, and musicians in addition to scholars. The introductions to each book are very well written, concise, and clarify the background details that help the reader better understand what they are about to read.

On a more cautious note, the writers have taken a pretty big liberty with certain parts of the text. Most versions of the Bible either translate word for word form the original texts, or else attempt a more “idea for idea” approach. Almost all of them will indicate additional words that were not in the original with italics. The Voice makes use of italics to let the reader know when they have added words or sentences that don’t even apply to a loose translation. That’s right—they have added commentary right into the text. This could be a huge problem for those who do not read the introduction—about 99% of people.

Maybe it would be good to refer to this book as a straight devotional, or even a “sermonization” of the Bible and not a translation.

-- -- -- -- --
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Book Review Blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, February 15, 2010

2 Corinthians (Introduction)

Not everything Paul did was vital to the future of the church in history. As influential as he and his teaching are, there is plenty that we do not know about him and things that he did. We are often tempted to find out everything we can about him and the things he did in an effort to replicate his methods and practices. That would be a pretty big mistake.

In the same way that it is rather silly for people to buy every book and go to every seminar of the latest, greatest success in mega-church America in the hopes of reproducing that success everywhere—it would be silly to do that with Paul. What we have in the New Testament are small bits and pieces of Paul’s teaching and story that the Holy Spirit uses to the Church’s benefit today. 2 Corinthians is a perfect example.

We call this epistle “Second” Corinthians because it is the second letter we have from Paul to them, but it is not really the “second” letter. There could be any number of letters between Paul and Corinth. We know of at least one that was written between the first letter and this one. What was it about? What did Paul say to them? In fact, there was also a visit lodged in there too. From all we can gather, it was not a good visit, nor was the lost letter a letter Paul was proud of. Paul had problems in his ministry. His leadership was often challenged and questioned. In that sense, the church has not changed much.

The point is, we can speculate all we want on what Paul did and thought, but ultimately we have what we have and need to let the Holy Spirit use that to help us do what He wants us to in our own context and ministry today. So what does 2 Corinthians have for us now…

Saturday, February 13, 2010

1984 in Film

(Updated 8/16/16)

1984 was the year I left the United States. We spent that first year in Costa Rica learning a new language so we didn’t see too much in the theater. Of course, at 11 years old I had not seen a lot of stuff in the theater anyway. However, this was the year that I had my very first experience of going to the movies without my parents. It was a big moment. I was especially proud of myself, that I made it through that first movie—a horror movie—without freaking out. As time went by, I learned that Ghostbusters is not exactly the horror movie I had thought it was.

Top 10 Personal Movies of 1984
1. Amadeus
2. A Christmas Carol (TV)
3. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
4. Die Unendliche Geschichte (The Never Ending Story)
5. Karate Kid
6. Ghostbusters
7. The Muppets Take Manhattan
8. Terminator
9. Cloak and Dagger
10. Blood Simple.
11. Frankenweenie

Bottom Personal Movie of 1984
1. Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure

Top Movies I still Want to See
1. Blood Simple (seen 2015)
2. Once Upon a Time in America (It was on the TV in the room when my wife was in labor with our third child, so that doesn't count, right?)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Top Films: The Butterfly Circus

This is the film that Christians aspiring to be filmmakers should check out. That is not to imply that this is a “Christian” film, but it is a good model nonetheless. It does not preach; it tells a story. Sure it conveys a message. It communicates something that is completely in keeping with the message of the Bible. But it is like an enticing appetizer of an idea. People could see this film and be open to hear more about what the film has to say. That is where most “Christian” efforts fall short.

You may think it is the lousy acting that most “Christian” films have. Maybe it is a financial factor that keeps most “Christian” films from having good performers, but it may also have to do with some misguided idea that all actors in “Christian” movies have to be believers. Low production value also hinders “Christian” and other independent efforts. Music is usually a dead giveaway.

Here the acting is good and the music is great. However, the thing that makes this movie great is its story. A lot of Christian audiences will be disappointed that it doesn’t go far enough. It is not explicit in its message. But this movie is not made for Christians, and that is where it succeeds where other efforts have failed.

If you want to share a story with the world, tell a story. If the story is good, its message will be apparent. Unfortunately, most efforts thus far in “Christian” movie making have forgotten that movies are a story-telling medium. They are more concerned with preaching than communicating.

Check it out. You can see it online for free at www.thedoorpost.com. It is not perfect, but it is a much better effort than a lot of what has been put out there in the past few years. It is about 20 minutes long.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Firemen and Super Heroes

Sometimes ministry gets in the way of serving God. We can become so busy working diligently for God that we fail to here what He is asking us to do. It could be thought of as something like the local Fire Department of a small village. The firemen would all be volunteers. They get together regularly to train. They may occasionally have meetings and training events that they go to in neighboring towns. What good would it do the village to have such a department that diligently filled up their calendar with so many events that they were always away or busy when an actual fire broke out?

It is fine to plan and strategize in ministry, as long as we are aware that ultimately we are not the planners. Our ideas and calendars are always tentative. Flexibility in planning is the key to doing God’s bidding. We need to be available for when we come across something divinely scheduled.

Then there are those people who need to feel like they are doing something crucial for the Kingdom. Every deed in God’s plan is a piece of the puzzle, but some need to feel the hero. Not every fire we see around us needs extinguishing. Are we content to be Clark Kent most of the time, or do we need to create crises around us all the time so that we have something worthwhile to do?

The balance is found in being ever “crisis ready” but not having a case of “crisis addiction.”

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

House MD. Seasons 1-3

It was such an obvious choice, one wonders why it had not been done before. Take the classic detective story—Sherlock Holmes—and combine it with one of the most popular TV genres—the medical drama. House MD. made it very clear that they were translating the great detective into the hospital environment. They had all the elements: Mysteries? Check. Eccentric genius? Check. Slightly clueless best friend side kick? Check. Addiction? Check.

The early episodes of this series made a strong effort to re-imagine Sherlock Holmes, and at the same time showed how much the work of a doctor is like the work of a detective. It was a natural way to approach both genres and breathe new life into them. Towards the end of the first season they even produced TV brilliance in the episode “Three Stories.” It played with the story-telling and produced something even closer to the Doyle stories by adding the narrated quality—while at the same time taking a postmodern approach like something off The X Files or Millennium in the mid-nineties.

Unfortunately, as with most television today, the network stepped in and ruined things. They nearly did so in the first season when they tried to introduce a “villain” to the story. They had failed to see the uniquely creative concept they had on their hands and tried to make it like every other drama onscreen. While that attempt failed, they persisted and prevailed later on in turning the show into another prime-time soap about a cast of characters either fighting or sleeping with each other. At the end of the third season the original concept had gotten so lost, and things had gotten so convoluted, they blew the whole thing up in an effort to start things over...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Performance Worship

There seems to be a new trend developing in “Praise and Worship” the past several years, and it is arguably not a good one. For the past three decades the “Worship Wars” have grown and developed, and one of the arguments that the more contemporary fans had on their side versus the hymn purists was approachability. Hymns were older and reflected at the very least a different musical taste and at times a complexity that made it hard for the average congregation to participate. The newer songs were written with normal people in mind. Everyone could participate and engage in worship.

Could.

The trend today has changed things. As Contemporary Christian artists began to notice worship’s popularity, the past decade has seen a huge increase in everyone releasing CDs of worship music. We have an overabundance of performance worship, and it has become hugely popular. Many people listen exclusively to this type of music. That in and of itself is not all bad, but the worship music has changed as a result. No longer are new praise songs sing-able by most people. In fact, some of the most popular songs today are not congregational songs at all. And with so many people passively worshiping with their iPods all the time—not to mention the increasing use of “seeker” services employing nearly professional level artists on stage—is it any wonder that fewer and fewer people are actively worshiping anymore?

It is hardly surprising that people are unable to imagine the simple house church practices of the early church anymore. How did they ever fit an entire worship ensemble with all those instruments in the living room anyway?

Monday, February 8, 2010

1 Corinthians 16 (Odds & Ends)

Paul ends this first letter to the Corinthian church with a bunch of little items that must have come to mind as he was signing off. They seem to all be issues that are either secondary or so obvious as to just merit a reminder.

Money: Paul instructs the church to collect regularly so that there will be a pool of money ready when he comes. This is not giving being taught as a discipline for the sake of discipline, at least not here. It is giving for a specific need. If there were regular monetary needs that the church had, we do not see them here. This was a gift for the suffering church in Jerusalem. It is interesting that it is the newer, “offspring” church giving to the parent, and not the reverse. That is not a principle, but rather the way the need lay at the time.

Leadership: Paul tells the church to subject itself to its Godly leaders. That could open a whole can of worms in today’s church. We value our little meetings and voice too much these days. So many people are involved in church as it is the only place where they feel like they have power in their lives. Their boss tells them what to do, their spouse tells them what to do, the government tells them what to do, but at church they can wield power, make decisions, and throw up blockades all they want. That is not what Paul had in mind in all his teaching in this letter.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Sherlock Holmes (2009)

The people who think that Sherlock Holmes didn’t stick to the literary source well enough have probably never read the books. Either that or they lack the ability to not color their experience with the cinematic interpretations of Holmes. Thus far, all of these interpretations have failed to break free from the basic tropes that have replaced the literary Holmes. That is until now.

As for the people who complain that the mystery and the plot are not worthy of the source material, they are right. But, come on! Sometimes you are in the mood for an entertaining yarn with adventure and laughs and couldn’t be bothered with solving a mystery. Maybe the fact that adventures with a Victorian supernatural bent are a guilty pleasure of mine makes me dismiss the fact that there was no real mystery here.

At its core, everything Ritchie and company have done is simply to re-imagine Homes beginning with the stories and not the films. Just about every aspect of the characters and situations we see here have their origin in Doyle. Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law make an excellent Holmes and Watson for today. Here is one reviewer that hopes we get more of this franchise.

The one caveat is the story, though. The old story where magic is explained away by the clever use of logic is one thing. To simply replace Victorian superstition and magic with equally ignorant modern day “science” and “chemistry” is downright lazy. How hard is it to have Holmes say, “All of the apparent supernatural activity was really all natural-science-activity.” In the end a made-up chemical reaction is not any better than a magic potion, is it?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Who You Gonna Call?

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has had some interesting discoveries lately. It seems that the American public is ever more open to a supernatural side to life. In fact, the numbers of people who think they have personally had a religious or mystical experience have doubled over the past few decades. Admittedly, the sorts of beliefs that the survey are measuring are not Christian or remotely Biblical, but when you think of C.S. Lewis’ ideas on paganism, maybe any openness to a supernatural reality is a step in the right direction.

Perhaps the more interesting (or disturbing) fact of this study is the comparison that is made between self-proclaimed Christians and non-believers. Turns out, the same amount of American “Christians” believe in psychics, ghosts, and Eastern Religious elements as non-Christians. What are churches teaching these days? In fairness it is obviously not the Church’s fault. The study shows that the more a person attends Church the better their understanding of Biblical Worldview is. The problem in America is the buffet aspect spirituality has acquired.

The issue of ghosts is particularly interesting. This is an area where very few Christians land on Biblical footing. Ask an average Christian what they believe ghosts and a surprising amount will say either that they do believe in the existence of the spirits of dead people continuing to manifest themselves (the traditional idea of ghosts); or that they do not believe in any form of ghost or spirit at all. It is surprising how many materialistic “Christians” you meet.

A more Biblical understanding of the issue would be to say that there are indeed spiritual beings on earth that manifest themselves to people in a variety of ways. These spirits are not, however, the spirits of dead people.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Get Some Nuts!

Apparently there is something called a “Dunbar Principle” that says that one person can only hope to sustain a total of 150 real relationships. Of course, anyone who has been a part of a church knows that. Churches with more than 100 members tend to actually function more like two or more churches that meet together, so a church of 300 for example is really 3 or more circles of relationships all occurring in the same facility. One way of thinking about it would be to remember that a church can only be as large a group as can all meet together for a party or fellowship. Fellowship, not worship, is where real “Church” occurs.

In modern thinking, successful churches are measured by how many members they have—the more members, the better the church. In reality that is a poor way to appraise a church body. As has already been said on this blog, such churches—if seen in the light of 1 Corinthians 12 would be described as obese. They have a lot of body parts that have never done anything functional. They simply sit.

A better model of church success would be to measure not how big the church is, but how fertile. At the risk of offending some for the sake of a metaphor, the church needs to get busy. If truly functional churches are limited by how many relationships people can sustain, but God wants the Church to grow, then churches need to make some baby churches. Where are the reproductive organs of the church? They are the church planters. If God’s design is for His Kingdom to grow, then His body will have members that are called to do this ministry. They are out there, they just need to be empowered and supported to do what God is calling them to do.

As Mr. T has said: “Get some nuts!”

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Lost Season 5

Lost season five is similar to season 4 in some ways. Much like how season 4 showed the audience the events leading up to—and the consequences of—a single moment where 6 survivors manage to leave the island. This season pivots on their decision to return. However, unlike season 4, here we experience a lot more than that. In spite of the playful way in which it was presented, season 4 was a simple story. Here deep, deep issues are explored. In Christian terms, we are asked to consider the paradox of God’s sovereignty and man’s free will.

Any story involving time travel has to address the issue of the paradoxes it creates. J.J. Abrams took the (by today’s standards) normal route of quantum mechanics and alternate universes with his latest take on Star Trek. Here, the creators of the show have a somewhat unique take on things.

It is not as simple as the story-telling process that Lost’s writers seem to have used for the show. Have a plan and adapt things as they go along. This is also not the way God’s sovereignty works. He is not a God who adapts His plan to accommodate man’s choices. And yet, free will is a reality at the same time. How does that work?

Here in the lost universe, we have several characters that have been sent back into the past. They are told that “whatever happened, happened,” that they can’t change history. Still, they have the ability to choose how they will live. Confronted with this knowledge, some of them take the “Hyper-Calvinistic” approach to life and don’t act. They figure they can’t change anything, so why do anything. Others, however, embrace the fact that while they cannot change the past, the still have a role to play in it and choose to do what they see as right.

Of course, as things proceed to the climax, events occur and plans are proposed that leave us all with many questions leading into season 6…

This is an exciting concept to think about. In many ways, Christianity teaches this very idea. God is in complete control of time. We cannot change the way things will play out. However, we have a responsibility and a freedom to choose what we will do with our lives. We are still active participants in God’s plan.

Monday, February 1, 2010

1 Corinthians 15 (More To Come)

In the late Eighties, when U2 released The Joshua Tree Album, many Christians scratched their heads. Weren’t these guys supposed to be Christians? Obviously not, right? As anyone who listened to “Christian Music” in the eighties knew, Christians were perfectly happy people who never had any problems and knew the answer to everything. U2 could not possibly believe in Jesus Christ, because they had not yet found “the answer.”

Of course that is all nonsense. Plenty of Christians, even all the way back as far as Paul, knew that life here would never approximate Heaven on Earth. There is suffering and death. People who are followers of Christ, in fact, face hardship and persecution because of their faith. This world is not our home. Christ never promised health and wealth to be our fortune.

In the resurrection, however, we will see a world as God intends it to be, with no suffering or death. The enemy will be defeated, and sin will reign no more! That is what Bono refers to when he sings this gospel song. He is looking forward to a time when the glory of his hope will be fulfilled.

Once we get there, by the way, a lot of Christians will probably be confused. They have gotten the idea somewhere that Heaven will be some spiritual realm of eternal worship—i.e. church. This is a misconception. In fact, a lot of Christians will probably breathe a sigh of relief to hear that. Nothing could be more tedious than an eternal worship service, no matter how wonderful it was. True worship involves all aspects of life, and the resurrection will be a corporal existence in the new heaven AND the new earth. It is not clear exactly what that will involve, but it will certainly be more dynamic than any worship service has managed to achieve in this existence!

Here’s to eventually discovering the fulfillment to what we all have been looking for.
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