Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Blue Parakeet

For those with a bit more time to spare Tom Schreiner has reviewed a book by fellow theologian Scott McKnight - The Blue Parakeet.

In the five posts Schreiner outlines and critiques McKnights (widely used) approach to how the Bible should be applied today. See HERE

Blog: The Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood

Friday, July 24, 2009

Leadership - Corinthian or Christian?

Been reading through Don Carson's book 'The Cross and Christian Ministry - Leadership Lessons in 1 Corinthians' (Baker, 2003). Below is a summary of my notes on Ch.4 'The Cross and Christian Leadership'.

Why does being a ‘leader’ appeal to us?
- being the best
- being successful
- being well-known
- being respected
- being important

The Corinthians misunderstood the true nature of Christian Leadership
- they created a Celebrity Culture (1 Cor 1:12; 2:4)
- they were obsessed with power & glamour (1 Cor 1:26ff; 4:8)
- they were preoccupied with superficial spirituality (1 Cor 14)
- they were easily seduced by performance & oratory (2 Cor 10:10; 11:6).

In 1 Cor 4 – Paul needs to remind them what true Christian Leadership is….
V1 Christian Leaders are people
- who are ‘servants of Christ’
- and ‘entrusted with the secret things of God’

That is, they are people under authority and their privilege is to make known the Gospel.

- things that are true of all Christians but are especially to be modelled and understood by church leaders.
- so Christian leadership is not about being in some elite category but exemplifying what should be true of all Christians

Key characteristic of Christian Leadership – is being a keeper of the Gospel
- making it known & living it out.
- everything else is ultimately secondary: e.g. management, strategy, planning skills

Those who have been given a Trust must prove faithful (v2-4)
- Christian Leaders primary responsibility is towards God
- Paul is not interested in the opinion of human courts: only God’s verdict matters

Even our feelings – need to take second place in Leadership (v3)
- important: big temptation to use Leadership to get personal satisfication / reward
- Christian Leadership must always be about serving God and others.

- the Corinthians were proud, self satisfied and triumphalist (v8)

In contrast – Paul sees his leadership (apostleship) as one of humility (v9)
- those at the back of the prisoners parade – destined for the arena (v9)
- people whose calling is hunger, thirst, rags, brutal treatment, hard work… (v11)

Christian Leadership follows in the footsteps of Jesus
- Suffering, cross bearing, death to self-interest.
- Leaders are those called to suffer the most.

The extent to which we find this alien to our thoughts of leadership is the extent to which we are more Corinthian than Christian in our thinking.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Evangelicals & Secularists United

Great piece by Rod Liddle (yes, the very same scourge of evangelicals) on just how hair-tearingly pointless 'Thought for the Day' is - one thing that evangelicals and secularists can finally agree on:

My thought for the day: God has left the BBC building.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

In the beginning...

As the world remembers those quaint old days when people went to the Moon (and weren't even able to twitter about it!) - here is a clip from a BBC documentary describing the first orbit of the moon by Apollo 8 on Christmas eve 1968 (NB that was 8 months before the first landing for non space-nerds).

It brings home the vastness of creation and God's greatness in a way that can't fail to send a shiver down the spine...

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Hope for 'Ordinary Joes'

An article by Sally Morgenthaler in Christianity Today entitled
'Does Ministry Fuel Addictive Behavior?', includes the following observation to encourage the ordinary footsoldiers of full-time ministry...

Researchers at TheAmericanChuch.org studied attendance trends in 120,000 congregations between 1990 and 2000. Half were mainline, half evangelical. They found that the fastest growing churches were those with attendance between 1,000 and 2,000 (a 13.2 percent growth rate in 10 years.) In other words, American churchgoers were voting with their feet, and increasing numbers voted for big. The congregations that declined the most were those with between 50 and 300 attendees.

If that's true, that's not so good news for the small to medium-sized church. And it can be absolutely devastating to the pastors who lead them.
For over two decades, the entrepreneurial, multi-programmed church has been altering what people expect out of a church. The music they hear when they settle into their auditorium seats must compete with what's on their iPod. High-end visual technology during the worship service is, for many attendees, a given. In short, churchgoers expect a Sunday morning worship service to match their aesthetic experiences in the broader culture.

It doesn't stop at worship. It extends to the quality of childcare, children's and teen's programs, and adult education. The consumer-driven, felt needs-based ministry has redefined what church is and does. The concept of the church leader has also changed.

Entrepreneurial church wisdom is that pastors must be visionaries, risk-takers, and innovators, as well as spiritual guides. They are expected to be top-of-the-heap speakers as well, their stage skills honed to the highest cultural standards.

Realistically, very few pastors are cut out for this kind of leadership.
The average pastor may be at his best as teacher, coach, or theological guide. He might shine as a catalyst: a convener of collaborative vision and process; a facilitator of deep community. If he tends toward the empathetic and intuitive, he may excel as a nurturer, counselor, wound-dresser, or heart-holder.
But he is not megachurch material.

Still, he makes the trek each year to the mecca-church of his choice. He takes copious notes in workshops, hoping to find the secret passage to "church success." He leaves these multi-million-dollar facilities with eyes big as saucers, telling himself that he, too, if he tries hard enough, can take his church of 90 or 200 and make it a 2,000-attendee destination point.

And what if he doesn't have the assertive, sole-visionary style? He'll learn it. He'll even fake it. He'll become someone else, invalidate and dismiss his own gifts, his own unique, God-given leadership style and strengths and passions, all in order to emulate the large church pastor he's admired from afar.

The profound irony is that, in the past decade, the wider culture has been steadily moving away from its love affair with power and authoritarian leadership personas. The toppling of Dan Rather by a rag-tag group of bloggers was not an anomaly. In the same spirit of organizational deconstruction, corporate America is accelerating its shift out of 1980s, hierarchical systems toward collaborative, webbed approaches to decision-making.

As the trend toward flattened hierarchies escalates, pastors who now consider themselves misfits in the world of entrepreneurial ministry may be dumping the very skills and personality bents most needed in the new landscape of engagement and empowerment...

...Instead of pushing back on leadership stereotypes that have long deserved questioning; instead of focusing on their strengths and becoming who God crafted them to be, they cave in.

Friday, July 03, 2009

A Hill Worth Fighting On?

Kevin DeYoung's excellent BLOG considers the question of Gender Roles in Ministry - e.g. if we can be relatively relaxed in our conservative evangelical churches about different views on prophecy, baptism, spiritual gifts etc, then why not women's ordination?

Is it a case of double standards or is there something about that 'hill' that makes it particularly worth fighting on?

For some pros & cons see HERE (Why do the New Calvanists insist on Complementarianism?)