Saturday, April 12, 2008

Spiritual Vertigo

A former pastor of mine used to speak a lot about balance. "What's so often lacking in the local church", he often said, "is balance." I have to agree. You and I both could list countless examples of how this is true, but today I want to talk about one particular example that I'm personally familiar with ... but it's a positive example!

As most of you know, I'm increasingly convinced that my home church is a very special place. Some of the usual hang-ups that often infect local churches have been effectively warded off (to date!). One in particular is the oft-noticed "worship wars" of other families.

Our worship pastor is that rare combination of a stellar musician and a humble servant leader. He makes a conscious effort to find a balance between what the more Modern section of our demographic might prefer (more polish; less improv) and what the more Postmodern section prefers (less polish; more improv). [Note: as usual, I'm referring to cultural Postmodernity in this context.]

As with any balancing act, he sometimes errs too far one way or the other. But there seems to be an abundance of grace given, knowing that this is how balancing usually works.

If it's true (and I believe it is) that Modern/Postmodern is the biggest cultural rift in America since ... ever, then this will be the most difficult period in our history to strike the right balance. We've always had issues of musical preference, but I would contend that they've never been couched in such significant cultural differences. In other words, those of us that would have local churches with both Modern and Postmodern family members will have to strive even harder to keep a sound and healthy balance.

The funny thing is that very few of us in this local body would ever talk about this issue in terms of Modern/Postmodern understandings and sensitivities. But that doesn't change the fact that grace is given and balance sought.

To God be the glory, in all aspects of our corporate worship.


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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Seven babies; seven chakras

I had an unusual experience the other day, and upon further review I think I could've handled it one of two ways. I offer here the situation and the two possible reactions; you tell me what you might've done...

My wife and I were touring a new birthing center in the area (in anticipation of our soon-to-be-born seventh child). The facilities were beautiful and well conceived (pun intended!). Our guide was giving us a personal tour - just she and us.

We passed into yet another wing of this place and noticed a lady painting a beautiful canvas. In the background were the colours of the rainbow; in the foreground were cute little children. As we admired her 2/3 finished work, she began telling us about it.

"The colours of the rainbow actually correspond to the seven chakras. The reason I'm here today is to help you use this information as you raise your children. For example, if your newborn is fussy you can hold them to your chest - the seat of the purple chakra - and actually transfer that calm energy into your baby. This system of belief is ancient spirituality - it predates Christ."

I am, of course, quoting her from the best of my memory. But this is the gist of what she said. As she's talking, she's shoving a flyer into my wife's hands detailing all that she's explaining. My wife clearly had no idea how to respond to this situation.

So ... I see at least two ways I could've handled the situation:

Option 1: I could've engaged this woman in conversation. I could've asked her if she realized what she was talking about is nothing more than standard-issue Hindu teaching. I could've asked her how the cherubim in her painting could co-exist with this Hindu teaching. I could've told her how I put my faith in the calming power of the Holy Spirit, not a purple chakra. I could've met this woman where she was and tried to help.

Option 2: I could've become visibly upset. I could've thanked the woman for the lesson in Hindu teaching, but kindly moved on. I could've later informed the tour guide of the inappropriateness of this woman's actions. I could've become righteously indignant.

I chose option 2 at that moment. I'm not sure that I would if I had it to do over. At the time, I felt sucker-punched. Here I was, basking in my thoughts of beautiful babies. My mind had wondered to our upcoming birth ... I had nothing but pleasant thoughts about the blessings of my LORD on my mind. Then ...

WHAM!! I was hit with this spiritual assault.

At least that's how I felt in the moment.

Looking back, I'm not so sure. But hindsight is always 20/20, so they say.

What say you?


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Sunday, April 6, 2008

A picture's worth a thousand words

This is a picture I took myself - I can verify it's veracity. Yes, it's actually a Christmas tree shoved into a porta-jon! Fear not, it was removed shortly after I took this picture. And no - I didn't put it there!

What I need is either a story behind how on earth it might have come to be here, or a witty caption.

I know many of you a very creative people - have at it!


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Friday, April 4, 2008

Charting the change

One of the very first books I ever read that could be said to be in the "emerging church" crowd was Robert Webber's The Younger Evangelicals. At the time I read it, I didn't really realize that this work would turn out to be on of the cornerstones in missional (and, for many, emerging) thought.

The folks over at Resonate have taken the time to publish one of Webber's comparison charts from the book. I found it fascinating when I first read it, and even more so now. I discuss it here in the hopes that it might prove useful to you...

Here's the link to the chart. Spend a little time reading over it and let me know what you think.

One of the more interesting features of the chart to me: the final column (Younger Evangelicals) is what most mirrors emerging and/or missional folk today, and I find that much of that thinking is a reaction more to the middle column than the first. Certainly no one in either the missional or the emerging church movement would advocate much of the first column! But at least to me it seems the primary reaction is to the middle... What do you think?

Incidentally, as you might expect, I find myself much more in agreement with the last column than any other. I have some agreement with column number one here or there, but I can't really see anything in the middle column I find appealing... How about you?


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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Children and Baptism

Wow! If you decide you want to elicit some strong emotions from parents of young children, just bring up the topic of when/if children should be baptized!

I find myself in the position of having to wrestle with this issue right now, so I thought I'd share some thoughts and then (as usual) ask for feedback...

First, let me note (briefly) why I don't practice or approve of infant baptism. I understand that there are plenty of folk that do; I just have to agree to disagree. In a nutshell, those that baptize babies believe that the ancient rite of circumcision was a sign of membership into the community of faith (a point I agree with) and that modern day infant baptism is the replacement for that rite, now that we're in the church age. These folk believe that the Church has replaced Israel.

I don't take that position. I advocate what's commonly called "believer's baptism"; that is, I believe only those who've personally chosen to follow Christ should be baptized.

Hence, the "at what age" questions begin...

For my part, I believe that it's in the best interest of local churches to make a legitimate effort not to baptize those that really don't understand the Gospel. It's ultimately unfair and unhealthy to baptize a hypothetical seven year old kid that says she loves Jesus but otherwise doesn't really understand what she's saying.

Therefore, local churches have a responsibility to implement wisdom in making this decision. For me, I'm increasingly coming to the conviction that wisdom on this question involves asking the prospective baptismal candidate the right questions; questions that are neither tricky nor leading. We can't, for example, simply ask a child "Do you love Jesus?" and expect that their answer reflects actual understanding!

But neither can we expect children (or adults, for that matter) to have a developed theology before we baptize them. The New Testament pattern typically reflects baptism very soon after the decision to follow Christ. But with children, the question centers around when they are actually mature enough to really make that decision.

Believing as I do that young children best grasp narrative, I'm thinking that posing hypothetical situations is a much better way to get the kind of honest, heart-felt answers we should be looking for. Asking a child a "fill in the blank" kind of question will get us only so far. But asking a child to tell a story in response to a story we tell them? Much better.

The question now becomes harder - the details. That's where I'm wrestling right now. I'm trying to think of reasonable, hypothetical situations I could mentally put children into - narratives that will set the stage for their continuation of the story. I'm optimistic that(if done the right way) this will get us closer to a child's true understanding of what it means to follow Jesus.

Your thoughts? Anybody with personal experience on this issue? I'd love to hear from you ...


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Family Sunday update

As I mentioned in this post, our church held its very first "Family Sunday" this week. For a first run, things went really well...

We started the service very casually - our worship team meandered their way up to the stage (now covered in couches and chairs) and began playing as they got there. We had a short time of corporate worship before moving to the ever-popular announcements!

I had three of our older kids do the announcements - each is in the 4th or 5th grade, and they did great! After that, I invited all the kids that would to come up on the stage with me. We had a packed stage - I'm not even sure how many kids it was, but it was most of them! I shared with them and the adults from Daniel chapter 1.

We always invite a different person each week to lead corporate prayer, but this week it was an entire family. It was wonderful to hear husband, wife and their two young girls pray over us.

From there, we moved to some more corporate worship that was kid-friendly - songs they'd been used to singing in their own KIDS church services. After that, our youth pastor spoke to the whole assembly about "springing forward" into new levels of service. Since we're all a family, each of us has to do her or his "chores", as it were.

I look forward to many more Family Sundays down the road, building and improving as we go. For those of you who've been considering something like this in your own assembly, I whole-heartedly recommend you give it a try!


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