Feb 282005

I saw this post at It Takes A Church… and it struck me how much I appreciated my first pastor. He spent 40 years in the church, from it’s very beginning to his end.

It was cold morning in Pasadena but an unusually high number of sleepy seminarians dragged themselves into a classroom for a muffin and weak coffee (this was before “The Starbucks Revolution”). The reason: Eugene Peterson, respected author and “pastor to pastors” was going to speak at the Spiritual Formation breakfast (which, as I have already noted, wasn’t much of a breakfast).

To be blunt, Peterson wasn’t great that morning. Maybe he needed better coffee to get going, too. The hour seemed to drag on and I remember being disappointed. I had come to hear this man whose books had so inspired and shaped my sense of pastoral calling and now I was leaving with a growling stomach and not much food for thought.

And then, the moderator threw out one last question. I think it was meant to be a simple little wrap up question, to inspire a nice feel-good moment of spiritual encouragement: “Eugene, what one bit of advice would you give to our seminarians today as the make plans to start their calling as pastors?”

His response was utterly unexpected. Peterson: “My advice to you is to spend your ministry in one church. Spend your life ministering to the same congregation. You see, pastors of past generations used to think of a call to a ministry las being ike a marriage. They felt betrothed to their congregations. Seek your calling and spend your life there.”

At that moment, the room just went silent. The effect was devastating. Here was a group of maybe 100 pastors-in-training, most of whom had drunk the kool-aid of climbing the corporate ladder. It was the hey-day of the Church Growth Movement. We all wanted to be pastors of big churches and the best way to do that was to keep moving on and moving up every couple of years. But we all really respected Eugene Peterson and he was telling us to abandon that track all together. I found out later that this was a deep conviction of Peterson’s. When one of my friends who knows him personally phoned to tell him that he had been called to a little town in Northern California, Peterson told him, “Congratulations, now go buy your burial plot.”

Peterson’s advice that morning shaped me more than almost anything that I learned in seminary. It slapped to consciousness the ambitions that I had been denying. It made me realize that I was afraid of knowing people too well and what that would demand of me as a pastor. But it also opened my heart to a different kind of ministry, something I really was longing for, something of the past that offered a genuine hope for the church today. The pastor as a genuine community-builder who is deeply bonded to, betrothed to, belonging to a people.


Feb 262005

Challies.com has a very good ‘outing’ of Joel Osteen, Minister Extrordinair – with some very interesting comments by others – one of the comments that I thought hit close to home is the following:

What prompted the rise of Osteen like churches? The hard edged swing of the fundamentalism of the 1990s. That statement won’t be popular here but we have only ourselves to blame. We became so hard edged and mean in the process we took the grace out of Jesus and made him unlovable to the world. No, we weren’t to commend the sin of humanity but we missed the opportunity to share cups of water with sinners vereses marching in abortion clinic lines and throwing stones to stone essentially flaweed people. We got it wrong too, we thought if we just changed people’s habits we’d create a Godly country. But what we missed is what the Word of Faith believers took advantage with in their extreme philosophy (disguised as theology).
Feb 252005
When a young man and a young woman give in to Satan, when they strip down like animals in the wild and prepare themselves for a lusty round of heavy petting and full-blown sex, what better reminder for them to buck up than a WWJD condom with the image of our Lord and Savior right there on the package, and then, as a fail safe measure, also on the prophylactic itself?

Naysayers aside, Morehead has arranged for a manufacturer to produce 100,000 of the WWJD prophylactics that he plans to sell for $5 a pop over the Internet and through Christian bookstores nationwide.

“All the profits will go to a home I’m building for unwed mothers,” says the preacher. “A home that wouldn’t be needed if those girls had been carrying a WWJD condom.”

What can I say except that it was too good to be true.

Originally spotted at the revealer

Feb 232005

Christianity is not about converting people Once again I quote Michael Spencer from his The Internet Monk blog. Pretty good fuel for the fire – Again my formative Pentecostal years seem to mirror his Baptist background.

“Imagine a fellow starts a breakfast meeting with a few Christian friends. They drink coffee, joke and enjoy doing little or nothing. One thing is for certain. At some point, someone is going to say that the group is wasting their time. Right? Why aren’t they praying? Why aren’t they witnessing? Why aren’t they motivating themselves for evangelism or missions? All this talking and joking and discussing issues is just a waste of time. Christian are here to make a difference, and this group isn’t solving any problems or making a difference at all.”

So is it acceptable for a bunch of guys to get together on a Friday night for a little friendly poker without feeling guilty that we are not out at the mall ‘witnessing’? Well, iMonk thinks that the focus on ‘witnessing’ is unbiblical.

“Here. Quote me. There is no urgent concern for converting people in the New Testament. Did you get that down? There is also no urgent concern for the numerical growth of churches by the efforts of members to convert others. There are no burgeoning church programs. There are no plans to train everyone to door knock and sell Jesus. There is an urgent concern for doctrinal and personal Christ-likeness. There is a concern for leadership, integrity, honesty and obedience to Christ in our personal lives. The idea that we are here to “win souls” and not to know and show God is bogus.”

There is a ‘Multievel Marketting’ mentality in much of Evangelicalism. Recruit your downline. The product does not matter – just recruit more people to the organization. How many times have I been invited ‘out’ only to find out they were not interested in me – they were just trying to recruit me into the organization.

“What I will say is this: The “wretched urgency” that pervades much of evangelical Christianity isn’t Biblical. It’s a hoax, and a sick one. In fact, I will go so far as to say it is an outright distortion and perverting of the New Testament into saying something it never says, and ignoring plain truths it lays out for anyone to see.”

“In the meantime, I will be accused of being a Calvinist, and that is fine, because only a vision of God saves any of us from despair. I will be accused of being anti-missions and anti-evangelism, but my life and priorities should refute that. What I want to be accused of is being a person without wretched, driving, guilt-producing urgency. I want all my urgency to be born of grace and mercy, and lived out in everything I do before the eyes of the Lord. Jesus should make me better than I am, and for that, I am urgent. I close with a passage that puts it perfectly:”
1 Corinthians 15:10-11 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

So we can rest in Christ. This does not mean we are not to witness – anymore than our salvation means we are not to live holy lives – what it does it force me to face the fact that I will save no one – that is God’s job. My job is to live a life pleasing to him and obediently share the Gospel when God gives me opportunity.