As I noted in my last post, Christianity took first century Europe, Asia Minor, and Palestine by storm. That is not the way I would describe the impact of Christianity on twenty-first century America. The Christian community has now been around for two thousand years, and its testimony hasn’t always been upright and noble. It has failed to emulate the character of its Lord, and familiarity with the history of the church has bred contempt for its message in many quarters.
The teachings of Jesus are still true and life-transforming, however, even if those who purport to follow Him have not always been faithful and consistent. The message of hope and forgiveness and a new kind of life made possible by the life and death and resurrection of Jesus is still the best news the world could hear, even if the messengers have not always borne it with grace and dignity. And yet the fact remains that, as long as Christians need to relate redemptively to a culture that may be apathetic or even hostile, there will be a need for churches where they can be equipped and encouraged, find healing and strength, share burdens, regain perspective, and renew their hope. Continue reading →
A lot of the rhetoric coming from proponents of church planting these days is ill-conceived and theologically inaccurate. For example, nobody is going to die and go out into a godless eternity just because a new church wasn’t planted in a particular neighborhood. Churches should not be planted out of the fear that, if we don’t raise up an institution of this sort, the work of God will not get done and the plan of God will somehow be thwarted.
Furthermore, it is inaccurate to compare the political, social, and religious culture of twenty-first century America to that of Asia Minor and Europe in the first century. The Roman Empire in the first century was characterized by a hodgepodge of belief systems ranging from mythological polytheism to philosophical agnosticism. While monotheistic Judaism existed, it was not an aggressively evangelistic movement. The number of Jews outside of Palestine was small, relative to the population at large, and the influence of Jewish faith and culture was limited. Continue reading →
On two or three occasions in my life, I’ve had a strong inclination to pursue a particular course of action, but, at the time, I could not honestly say whether I was being led by God or driven by my personal desires and inner impulses. On those occasions, I followed a consistent pattern.
Take a different road.
I told God (in a reverent and respectful way, of course) that I intended to forge ahead with my plans, since I felt so strongly about doing that, and if the course I had chosen was inconsistent with his sovereign plan, he could close the door or block the road. I wasn’t being obstinate or impertinent. I felt the time for movement had come, I was not clear about the will of God in the matter, and if, when it became clear, I needed to change course, I would readily admit my error and make the necessary change. I believe, over the years, God has honored that honest approach to knowing and doing his will. Continue reading →
The subject of this post is a new idea for me. I usually don’t write about something until I have thought about it for much longer than I have thought about this. I mention this in order to say that I reserve the right to retract everything I say here after I have had time to consider it more carefully. In the meantime, I want to test the idea while it is still fresh in my mind.
Even though I don’t attend church services very often these days, I still consider myself a churchman. I recognize the importance of the community of believers for the cultivation and development of faithful Christian discipleship, and I look forward to the day when I will once again be part of a local body of believers, experiencing and benefiting from corporate worship, accountability, and mutual care. (I have written elsewhere about why this is not happening right now, but if you’d like to know more, look me up, buy me a cup of coffee or some other beverage, and I’ll be happy to be more specific in a face-to-face chat.) Continue reading →
A few weeks ago, I used a post which I called “Announcing Next Steps” to let you know of some recent developments regarding the vision for planting a new church near The Ohio State University in Columbus. There is a little more to report on that front, so if you’re interested in that news, keep reading.
First of all, response to that post, and the information it contained, has been unusually encouraging. Granted, much of it has come from readers in other parts of the country (and even other parts of the world) who, for obvious reasons, will not be able to participate in the series of meetings which we are planning for the fall and winter. Still, I am grateful that so many readers made the effort to express their support for the vision which I have been trying to communicate for the past couple of years and which will finally take on physical form in September. Continue reading →
Podcast No. 15 is now available. It is called “A Good Reason To Plant A Church,” and it is around 8 minutes long. To download it as an mp3 file, click here. To listen to the podcast now, click on the button below. This podcast is also archived on the “Podcasts” page of this blog. Thanks for listening.
I am using this post to bring you up to date on where things stand regarding the vision for a new church in or near Columbus, Ohio. When you finish reading, you may conclude that there is still a lot more to this vision that is tentative rather than definite. That’s true. These “next steps” are not yet anchored in concrete. In fact, what I am sharing here is more like the wooden forms into which the concrete has yet to be poured. But it is a start.
By the way, I am pleased to be able to write much of what I report here in the first person plural, as “we” rather than “I,” since I am serving as the voice for at least two other brothers who share this vision with me. This is a small “core” group, I know, but it is three times as large as it was just a few months ago. And one reason for reporting developments this early, where so much remains tentative, is to encourage others to identify with the vision in its formative stage. I want to provide sufficient information to show that the vision is developing in a thoughtful manner, with no desire on anybody’s part to impose a personal agenda on the process. We are, as much as we know how, waiting on God to direct our path every step of the way.
Podcast No. 14 is now available. It is called “Reasons Not To Plant A Church,” and it is around 9.5 minutes long. To download it as an mp3 file, click here. To listen to the podcast now, click on the button below. This podcast is also archived on the “Podcasts” page of this blog. Thanks for listening.
On March 22, I posted the following status update on my Facebook wall:
I have progress to report on the possibility of a new church in W or NW Columbus. You will be able to read it in my blog next week, but it is encouraging. I’ve always said that it might be that God was not saying “No” to that vision, but rather “Not yet.” I still believe that is what He is saying. The vision has not died!
I have begun posting announcements of future commitments as a way of holding myself accountable—lest I rationalize my way out of following through on them—and of forestalling my natural tendency to procrastinate. The problem with this pattern, I am finding, is that I post the announcement in a moment of enthusiasm and jubilant potentiality. Later, when the ardor has cooled and the chill of reality has settled in, it is difficult to recapture that original enthusiasm, or even to recall why I felt so optimistic in the first place.
I feel that way, at least somewhat, with regard to the announcement above. I posted it last Friday afternoon, just hours after a conversation which had left me fairly bursting with excitement. Nearly a week later, that enthusiasm has done daily battle with my innate cynicism, and if I had not made the public commitment, I could easily convince myself that any “progress” on this front is so incremental that to discuss it here, and especially to extrapolate future possibilities from it, would be premature in the extreme.
I’m an introvert. That is not news to anyone who knows me well, but it may surprise many who know me only through my public ministry. As an introvert, I don’t mind spending time alone. Many of those who know me best think that is a good thing. 🙂
Whereas extroverts (also spelled “extraverts”) thrive on social interaction and are energized by being with people, introverts like me find socializing, except with a small number of very close friends, stressful and energy-depleting. And yet it is an absolutely essential element in most public ministry, especially the pastorate.
When I was in seminary, I took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator for the first time. The MBTI is a questionnaire which measures personal preferences in the way individuals perceive the world and make decisions. One component of personality type which the instrument evaluates is the propensity toward introversion or extroversion. When my faculty advisor was reviewing with me the assessment of my responses to the MBTI questions, he looked at the results then at me and said, “Hmmm. An introvert in an extrovert’s job. Are you prepared for that?”