Monday, June 13, 2022

Peter Kreeft

In a commencement address he gave very recently, Peter Kreeft ended with this:

"God did not put you in this world to be successful he put you in this world to be faithful."

Perhaps one of the most encouraging words I've heard in a long time.

Friday, May 27, 2022

On the days of Genesis 1

Much is said about the days of Genesis 1; much of this muchness is about explaining that they aren't days as we know them. But this presents massive theological problems, which seem to be put to one side.

If you make the days figurative you dehistoricize the creation, removing it from our flow of time, and you depersonalize it, removing God from our world.  
In denying the creation account really happened, you mean that something else happened, and it is this something else that defines and expresses what is truly real and denominates every aspect of our being and nature. Whence the information about this 'something else'?

The days connect God to us: they show the tempo of creation is the same as our life tempo...the first move of fellowship between creator and creature. God thus shows himself present and active in the same world and by using the same basic denomination of existence that we are in. The world created as the setting for that fellowship.

The days ground our relationship with God, our understanding of ourselves and the point of salvation in Christ.

The days are there for a reason!

Because the days historicise time: give it tempo and dimension, they show the dynamic conjunction of God's domain and our domain. That God, the one who is love, not only 'is' but is here with us. Genesis 3:8 exemplifies. The God who is near, not far of, and with connection defined in terms of the shared tempo of passing time.

The days thus show 'heaven and earth, creator and creature, come together' in the same flow of time and material realm that circumscribes our living. Yet at the same time they show that God creator is distinct from, prior to and sovereign over the creation he has authored.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Thinking about planning

I don't know how many churches have a well thought out strategy for their work.

No, I don't mean the trivialities of a sweated over 'vision' statement, mission statement, etc. We already have those in the New Testament. Paul is quite clear on this.

Strategy is a 'how to do it' game that takes into account the people, the place, the challenges, over the medium to long term (you could also use the 5 Ps of church planning: People, Place, Performance, Proclamation, Pastoring).

More structure is needed.

An approach I've used in preparing a church strategy used a framework of three elements. Now, to be clear, this is the church as a corporate entity, the strategy operates at various levels that rely on individual Christians proclaiming their faith in the ways that come to hand and according to their gifts.

1. Contact: acquaint and gain mind-share, recognition, low spiritual intensity, may raise idea of Bible reading if and as appropriate.

2. Engage: introductory spiritual activities and events; set the course to moderate spiritual intensity, not seeking 'closure' on person's response; rarely would involve attendance at a church gathering but may include Easter, Christmas attendance, may involve small group/SIG (special interest group) attendance, general community/cultural courses or functions. Personal bible reading encouraged with brief guides available, perhaps for some, start indicating the discipleship path if they have expressed Christian interest; or offer a 'course' of say 10 weeks on Christian faith and growth. This might be modelled on the Didache or Augustine's Enchiridion (but without the parlous elements of his theology, of course)

3. Integrate: moderate to high spiritual intensity, regular attendance at gatherings, on the discipleship path: small group, training course attendance, serving (in some way),  personal bible reading and study expected. Avenues opened for formal Bible/theological and specific serving skill training (e.g. for youth, elder, work, adult education, facilitation, Koukl's 'Tactics', etc.).

This is just the framework. Your strategy would hang activities off these that form an connected set of movements of people from 1 to 3 that are right for your church and its setting.

Here's an example of one line of a church strategy.

This church was in a location with significant numbers of recent Chinese immigrants.

It started 'contact' events in Mandarin for them on English and Australian Culture

The next step was Mandarin-English Bible classes and finally a Mandarin speaking Congregation, with English gradually enlarged, without overtaking in the short to medium term.

Alongside this the congregation was encouraged to a series of social events on Chinese culture and history. These were public.

They included people from the Mandarin group contributing their 'story' from home, introduction to Chinese crafts and food and stories about cultural celebrations.

We also did intro to Mandarin. People could then write and speak simple polite words and phrases: thank you, hello, please, how are you?

Monday, April 18, 2022

Now for a game of 'let's be pagans'.

It has become fashionable (now, there's a give-away) in some church circles to pay some sort of honour to the Aboriginals who inhabit, or previously inhabited, or were thought to have or claimed to have inhabited parts of Australia.

It's called the 'acknowledgement of country'. It pretends that this is not a recognition of the spiritual binding of people to the land in animist terms. But, even though recently invented, that's what it amounts to.

Then there's 'respects' paid (how?) to elders past present and coming down the line. Ancestor worship is here promulgated.

Contrast this with the scriptures.

Here's how interaction with pagan practice were handled: just think of the Golden Calf, the sons of Korah, the priests of Baal.

Or in the New Testament: the gospel irrespective of persons (Galatians 3:28), not binding the worship of our creator-redeemer to pagans (2 Cor. 6:4), or our call to worship: Romans 12:2.

Imagine if we had a hitherto unknown second epistle of Paul to the church at Ephesus:

'Hi, Paul to the church at Ephesus. But first, let me acknowledge Artemis, the god of this great city, and pay my respects to her priests past, present and emerging. Now, on your being pulled back into your pagan past, like our pals in Corinth. Don't....' 

Wouldn't work, would it?

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

The youth worker job

Our church has advertised for a 'youth worker'. A very difficult role to recruit to these days.

Here's my advert for it.

First, wrong title. Youth worker/pastor! Who wants that?

Wanted: Youth Ministry Supervisor.

There; a proper job with a great title. Because that's what's needed to be done. Supervise, develop, create, youth ministry/youth-in-ministry. You are not a youth entertainer; you are a builder of disciples and an organiser of ministry effort.

The pay is pretty bad, I think usually about $50k but with a tax free benefit for religious purposes. So it netts out more like $65k.

Still more. We want staff, we want to encourage them.

We will sponsor you to one overseas conference of relevance every 5 years.

And just to keep the sizzle going

We will sponsor you to one local conference or training short course of relevance every two years.

This would be work time, so you would be paid. We'll pay the conference fee and fund raise for the travel and accommodation. Thus, incentive to perform for your direct and indirect 'customers.

Go to it baby! come Jesus is the only way to God?

I saw a couple of videos on YT dealing with the question; a few with Winfrey.

No one really dealt with the issue in terms of who Christ is: Creator.

So, the direct answer is; of course Jss is the only way, because he is the creator God. A lot can flow from that, of course.

The question comes from a basic monist view: that god is within the cosmos and determined by a prior reality.

Next time I get the question, I'll ask a few probing questions: why is this an issue for you? do you think people can invent their own way into reality? why do you ask, would you prefer another way? because only Jss deals with the problem that we have. It's like fixing a broken arm. reiki, chakra meditation, yoga, applied kinesiology, chiropractic, etc, won't fix it. What will fix it is proper setting of the bone and a cast. Reality is what it is, not what you want it to be...

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Jesus as pet!

Have you detected, as I have, the contemporary trend in evangelical circles to 'de-nature' our Lord. He's now 'Jesus the pal', or 'Jesus the pet'. We are barely aware that he is Prince of Peace, Mighty God, Everlasting Father. The Creator!

One of the deacons at my church prays to him with 'Hey, Jesus', like he's a bell boy!

Now, I wonder if the monism that pulls the great Christ fully into our world in the popular mind is influential here?

This is the same conception of reality that enables the question 'why is Jesus the only way to God?' It's a monist question that places Jesus, indeed the more diffusely conceptualised God of the Bible (never known as Yahweh) within our Cosmos, dependent upon an ontologically prior reality. I blame Plato!

Thus opens a line of probing questioning when someone asks that question: 'why would that be a problem to you?" plot here is to lead the questioner to their monism. My end game is to two points: (1) that Jesus is the creator of all there is, upon whom the entirety of reality depends; and (2) he is the only one who solves the human problem. He is the only one who can make the way for us to return to fellowship with the creator! Indeed; He is the one who demonstrably overcame in his death and resurrection the basic human problem: rejection of and therefore alienation from our creator. There is no other God.