Wednesday, January 31

What I've Learned in My First Year of Blogging

Thirteen months. 762 posts. Three teammates.

The World From Our Window's first anniversary has come and gone without much fanfare. Back in mid-December of 2005, I started this blog as a vehicle to release my thoughts (read: 'vent') when I felt the urge.

Add a baker's dozen worth of months and what do you get? You get a much different World From Our Window. Things have definitely evolved (can I say that word without having to duck?) from the earliest days around here, and it's probably about time I shared a bit of what I've learned in the process.

So I invite you to sit back and enjoy a brief journey through my first thirteen months of blogging. I trust some of the lessons I've learned will benefit you--our readers.

Lesson 1: The majority of blog-readers are lurkers. Now, listen ... if you're a lurker, don't turn me off. I'm not saying that lurking is necessarily a bad thing. I am thankful for our lurkers and commenters. But I would encourage our lurkers to leave the bleacher seats and join us on the playing field--even if it's just for an inning or two!

In my first year of blogging I've come to realize that the 80/20 rule is just as applicable to the blog as it is to the church. Twenty percent of our readers contribute eighty percent of the discussion.

Before I move on, I have a message to our lurkers (my own parents and church members fit into this category): come and join us ... it won't hurt, and we promise to play nice!

Lesson 2: The blog builds a unique community. I've become acquainted with many of you through your computer screens. Fifteen years ago, this kind of meta-community would have been impossible. Today it's a reality.

Our own Mathew Sims and I became acquainted through ShaperIron and this blog. We hooked up at April's Together For The Gospel Conference, and Mathew was kind enough to join us (he is still with us, but difficulties with the old/new blogger thing have made it nearly impossible for him to post here).

The blog has also given me a unique opportunity to interact with my own family members. Honestly, my two brothers and I rarely call one another on the phone. And because we are all vocational ministers, visiting each other is extremely difficult (not to mention the distance between us). Oftentimes our only inter-family interaction takes place in this forum ... which often keeps us from saying things we shouldn't! Knowing that others are reading our interaction keeps us from saying things we would later regret, especially since we have a cousin reading regularly (for his protection, I will protect his anonymity).

To all our readers, thanks for joining our community -- it really is a unique opportunity to build and cultivate relationships -- relationships that otherwise may have never been built!

Lesson 3: Consistent blogging is a challenge. Blogging takes time. In fact, blogging can monopolize your time. It can be a detriment to your marriage and family and ministry.

You may have noticed some recent changes in the content of The World From Our Window. You are more than likely aware that I am writing fewer in-depth posts and posting more of what others are writing. Much of what has been posted since the first of January has been informational in nature. Time is the major reason for a shift in our focus here.

Don't misunderstand me, we plan to keep writing--just not as often. Linking to newsworthy stories and happenings (interspersed with a bit of our own commentary) lightens the time load involved in daily blogging. So if you find news and/or commentary that you think would be of benefit to our readership, feel free to email one of us with the information. And in doing so, you will be saving us time and maybe even saving a marriage!!

Thirteen months of blogging has also drained any creative juices I possessed. I enjoy writing, but frankly, I do not have nearly enough knowledge or wisdom to write authoritatively on many, if any subjects. I envy guys like Tim Challies and Phil Johnson, who can wax eloquent at the drop of a hat.

Lesson 4: Controversy brings hits. As was probably too often evident in our first thirteen months, I rarely shy away from controversy. From the Cedarville issue(s) to the GARBC National Conference to holy hip-hop and alcohol consumption, we have joined in our share of controversies.

Here's what I've learned: put any of the following words in a post title, and the crowds will come running--like they do when cop cars come screaming down their quiet street.

Calvinism, Arminianism, Alcohol, Cedarville, Rick Warren, or Mark Driscoll
Posts for the purpose of edification rarely receive the traffic a controversial topic receives. For example, when I post a sermon [i.e., Aging Gracefully: A Psalmists Look at Growing Old(er)], it rarely receives the attention, or elicits the response a post on holy hip-hop garners. I know this is not just a blogging phenomena, it's human nature--we enjoy controversy.

Lesson 5: Watch-blogging can be very detrimental to one's spiritual health. In the early days of The World From Our Window, I spent much time critiquing nearly everything Purpose-Driven. I have come to realize that watch-blogging carries with it an inherent appeal to negative people.

I learned this valuable lesson several months ago while detailing my own experience with Rick Warren and the Purpose-Driven philosophy. As I critiqued that movement, I attracted many discontented Christians who were fed up with the church. That's right, they were fed up with the church ... not their church ... but the church. Many had determined that no church could meet their standards or expectations, and so their only viable option was to leave the institutionalized church altogether.

That's when the proverbial light came on, and I posted THIS. Since then I have determined to critique with caution and care, considering the subliminal message I may be sending, giving ecclesiastical malcontents more reason to leave the church altogether.

Please don't misunderstand me, it is not my desire to soften my stand or to compromise the truth. I continue to be convinced that the Purpose-Driven movement is built upon a faulty premise -- that people are seeking after God. But, too often in critiquing faulty ecclesiastical fads and structures, I have unwittingly contributed to Christians poo-pooing the church altogether. The Lord only knows how I wish I could unsay some of the things I have said, things people have used as ammunition for leaving the church altogether.

So, let me say it one more time: The church of Jesus Christ as an institution is not the problem (Matthew 16:18) ... the way we do church is the problem. Therefore, the answer is not turning our backs upon the institution, the answer is reforming our local churches into Christ-centered, Scripture-driven, disciple-making places of worship.

The God-ordained church isn't the problem, the man-made methods are.

After thirteen months, 762 posts, and three teammates, I have learned these and other valuable, lifelong lessons. Thanks for reading what we write. It is my prayer that you will be edified and God will be glorified.

Still Learning Life's Most Valuable Lessons,

Ken

Tuesday, January 30

Gay-Friendly Authors Populate SBC's LifeWay Site

So I was minding my own business, reading my bloglines, when this article nearly jumped off the page at me:

In 2005 the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution urging churches to be on guard against homosexual influences in public schools. But a conservative Web site says the nation's largest Protestant body might first want to get its own house in order by checking out shelves of the SBC's publisher, LifeWay Christian Resources.


Baptist Press last week bemoaned that Wal-Mart is "still dabbling" in support of "the homosexual agenda," despite warnings of a boycott by religious conservatives. A writer challenged readers to type the word "gay" into the search engine for Wal-Mart's online bookstore, reporting that more than 1,000 titles turn up.


On Friday Paul Proctor at NewsWithViews.com followed two earlier columns warning about Christian book sites that promote authors who are "heretics and false teachers" with a similar challenge.


"[I]f you go to the ChristianResearchService.com website, click on the Master List, scroll down to the section subtitled, 'Homosexual/Lesbian/ Transgendered/Pro-gay,' and enter each of the names listed there into the Southern Baptist Convention's LifeWaystores.com search engine, (select keyword: 'author')," Proctor said, "you will find numerous examples of the double-standard that continues unabated in the online Christian bookstore industry."
Continue reading HERE.

So, big deal ... or much ado about nothing?

You Tube Tuesday: Favorite Super Bowl Commercial

Now that I'm on a roll I thought I would let you watch one of my all-time favorite Super Bowl commercials. This commercial brings together two very relevant topics: Super Bowl and cats. The Super Bowl is relevant because this is the week that many of the women of America get geared up to put up with three hours of football to watch one hour of commercials. The cat theme is relevant due to the previous You Tube post (found below).

For those in full-time ministry this commercial has some eery spiritual significance.

You Tube Tuesday: This One's For Cat Lovers

Ken's sorta high-speed is down and so he asked me to fill in for him on You Tube Tuesday. If you love or hate cats I think you will find this amusing. (If you've seen it before, cut me some slack. I'm just a substitute.)

The Faulty Premise of Eldredge's Wild At Heart

Rick Phillips provides some profitable commentary:

A few years ago I became intrigued when I saw John Eldredge's ridiculous statement about men, in the wildly popular Wild at Heart, that unlike Eve, Adam was created outside the Garden and so men are called to life in the wilderness. The one benefit I gained from this classic abuse of the Bible was to reflect on the significance of what Genesis 2 really says about gender and creation. It turns out that Gen. 2:15 not only defines Adam's labor as being in the Garden, but also provides the basic summary of what a man is called to do in this world: "The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it." God created men not to engage in Eldridge's "quest for authentic masculinity," but to fruitful, sacrificial labor. "Work" and "Keep" -- avad and shamar -- define the male role in this life.

Another way to express these two descriptions is man's calling to nurture and protect. These are the two main masculine contributions in this world. The first of these is somewhat counter-cultural today. We don't think of men as nurturers, but biblically, this is a vital masculine role. While I certainly would not want to disparage the importance of motherly nurture, the man is really the primary nurturer. The Hebrew word avad has a broad range of meaning depending on context. In the temple, it was the word to describe the ministry of the priests. In an agricultural context, it refers to cultivation. The latter is the context of Genesis 2. Placed in the Garden, Adam was to make things grow in healthy and beautiful ways.

This, then, is a large part of what makes a real man. A real man nurtures, cultivates, and labors for growth. This is one reason why the father is so important to raising children. Anyone who was raised by the "strong, silent type" can tell you what a void the lack of fatherly nurture left in their heart. Fathers are to get their hands dirty in the soil of their children's lives. A father is to plant, fertilize, water, and harvest the growth of character, godliness, ability, and joy. The same is true with men as husbands. This is why so many of the New Testament's teaching to husbands call for men to pay attention to their wives, to cherish them, to cleanse their wives with the Word and present them in splendor. Men do this at work, too. A man's work is to build -- whether it is buildings, organizations, spirituality, or market shares.
Continue reading HERE.

Reformation 21 Magazine Highlights Charles Spurgeon

Always a blessing to see the Presbyterians throwin' some love at a Baptist. Following is an excerpt from the article, Seeking The Spirit: What Today's Preachers Can Learn From Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

Spurgeon resonated with his generation’s search for renewed power in the pulpit. He recognized the loss of attention and the creative need for re-gaining it.[xv] He certainly agreed with the need for story and decried the “articulate snoring” of decorum-bound preachers whose souls no longer “sweat.”[xvi] But he warned against those “doctors” and “deep thinking” men who put aside the Bible for new schemes of pulpit attaction and power. He lamented preachers who felt they “must link to the preaching of Christ all the aids of music and architecture.”[xvii] Whether we agree with Spurgeon on these points, our central assertion remains. There are things Spurgeon faced that resemble our own times.

According to Spurgeon, however, the primary hope for regaining a relevant and powerful pulpit amid a declining was not found “in the preacher” nor “in the crowd,” nor “in the attention” that preachers “can attract.” The only hope for regaining kindled fire in the pulpit is “in God, and in God alone.”[xviii]

Spurgeon meant this literally. A preacher must become convinced that “It were better to speak six words in the power of the Holy Ghost than to preach seventy years of sermons without the Spirit.”[xix] The absence of this conviction among preachers troubled Spurgeon. He feared that the decline in Christian influence witnessed in his Victorian age was nothing less than “an evident withdrawal of the Holy Ghost,” a grieving of the Spirit in the churches.[xx] If he was right, the greatest need of the hour for preachers and churches was neither to scramble for new methods nor to remain stagnant in age-limited decorum. Rather, each preacher must “come back” to God in Christ, and seek a return of His gracious effusions of power for the generation. Without the Holy Spirit no homiletic method will have what it takes to revive a generation. We stop for a moment and ask ourselves if we really believe this. As a friend of mine once said, facing our current cultural challenges with a sermon feels like taking a toy shovel into a blizzard.

This should be required reading for every Baptyrian preacher! So continue reading HERE.

Thanks to Zack Eswine of Covenant Seminary in St. Louis for the article.

Preaching That Understands Culture

Colin Adams points us to some worthwhile thoughts from D. A. Carson on understanding culture:

1. Most preachers ought to devote more time to reading, to reading widely. It is never right to skimp in Bible study, theology, church history, or excellent biography; but in addition, we must read books and journals and news magazines that help us understand our own age and culture.

Without here taking time to provide my own list, perhaps I may mention several principles that govern my own reading (outside of Scripture, commentaries, theology etc).

First, I try to read material from competing perspectives. I may subscribe for two or three years to the left-of-centre New York Review of Books and Sojourners, and then cancel the subscriptions and subscribe for a while to right-of-centre Chronicles.

Secondly, certain authors I regularly skim: Os Guinness, George Marsden, Thomas Sowell, James Davidson Hunter, Paul Berger, and others - not because I agree with all they say, but because they are trying to understand the culture.

Thirdly, ocassionally I read ‘blockbuster’ books, simply because so many people are reading them that I think I must find out what is shaping the minds of many fellow citizens.

Fourthly, ocassionally I devote a block of time - six months, say, or a year - to try to get inside some new movement. For instance, I devoted a considerable block to reading the primary authors in the various schools of deconstruction.

Fifthly, I have sometimes subscribed for a period of time to a first-class literary journal such as Granta. Sixthly, I ocassionally subscribe to reports from reputable pollsters, to discover drifts and trends in the nations - Gallup, Yankelovich, and others.

Not everyone reads at the same rate; not everyone’s ministry requires the same extent of reading. Some manage far more than I. At no time should such reading ever squeeze out the primary importance of understanding the word of God. But selective rapid reading of many sources can help preachers better understand the world in which they serve.

2. Discussion with friends and colleagues with similar interests isa great help. This may be formal, for instance an agreed eveningonce a month to discuss book X or film Y in the light of Christian commitments; it may be informal, depending, of course, on the structures and friendships of one’s life. No-one understands everything; thoughtful, widely read and devout friends are to be cherished and nourished.

3. Nowadays there are some good tapes. I sometimes drive substantial distances, but never without tapes. The Mars Hill Tapes offer good value for money. In addition, many ministries today are recorded, and preachers do well to listen to other preachers who are particularly gifted in the handling of the Word and in applying it to life.

4. It is essential to talk with non-Christians, whether one on one, in small groups, or in large crowds. There is no more important avenue towards understanding our world.

The above exerpt is from the book “When God’s Voice is Heard.”

Colin also kindly reminds us that John Stott believed preachers should 'study for sermons with a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other.' Doing so won't make the Bible relevant, doing so will keep your sermons from becoming irrelevant.

And we all know there was, once upon a time not so long ago, a preacher who mastered this concept. His name? We know him as The Prince of Preachers. His friends called him Charles.

Thanks, Colin, for the timely reminder!

HT: Justin Taylor

Monday, January 29

Shall We Dance? 'Taking the Sin out of Swing'

The following New York Times story references the evangelical subculture's shifting opinion regarding dancing. The article traces rule changes at evangelical schools like John Brown University, Baylor University, Wheaton College, and Cornerstone University.

It seems fewer evangelical schools (and churches?) are relegating all dance to the inherently sinful category.

The following is excerpted from a New York Times article:

The school’s “community covenant” had prohibited, in addition to smoking, sex outside of marriage, drinking and gambling, all on-campus dancing except “folk or square dancing and choreography as part of a dramatic production.” Distinctions were not made — the Viennese waltz was as forbidden as the electric slide, the achy-breaky as taboo as the lambada. The week before J.B.U.’s first dance, Tracie Faust, a senior, told me about one night her sophomore year when a popular song came on the radio. “And before you knew it,” she said, “there were 10 of us dancing, and the R.A. came out of her room and told us to stop.” The offending song? “Breakaway,” by the adult-lite American Idol Kelly Clarkson.

J.B.U.’s about-face, while abrupt, was not totally unexpected. In the past 10 years, several of America’s most established evangelical schools, including Baylor University in Texas, Wheaton College in Illinois and Cornerstone University in Michigan, have lifted restrictions on dancing, even as they have kept various rules against activities like drinking, gambling, smoking and, of course, premarital sex. They are opting to allow formal dances, like swing or ballroom. Of course, it’s unlikely there will be hip-hop or bump-and-grind at J.B.U. They will not be krumping. But for millions of evangelical Protestants, dancing has become increasingly acceptable. There are still conservative Christians, particularly in Baptist, Pentecostal and independent Bible-church traditions, who don’t dance, but they are growing scarce. The old joke about why Baptists won’t have sex standing up — because people might think they’re dancing — has become antiquated.

Continue reading HERE.

Here's a question I've always wanted to ask: If dancing with my wife is okay, then how can all dancing be inherently sinful?

Maybe dancing itself isn't the problem ... maybe the atmosphere has something to do with it, and the physical (and oftentimes erotic) touching between unmarried dance partners.

So ... maybe the heart is the problem, and not the feet.

As a father and a pastor, I must admit that it's much easier to deal with the feet than the heart--just ask Michal (King David's wife ... 2 Samuel 6).

Bono Lyrics Replace Hymns at Church

When it comes to congregational singing, should we sing the deep theology of Isaac Watts or shallow, meaningless pop of Bono? One church has chosen to lift their voices in U2's universalistic harmony:

John Lennon once enraged Christians by claiming that the Beatles were bigger than Jesus. The Church of England is now recognising the pulling power of rock stars by recruiting Bono, the singer and lyricist of U2, in its bid to boost congregations.

A Church of England bishop is to preside at this country's first "U2-charist", an adapted Holy Communion service that uses the Irish supergroup's best-selling songs in place of hymns.

In what is more rock concert than Book of Common Prayer, a live band will belt out U2 classics such as Mysterious Ways and Beautiful Day as worshippers sing along with the lyrics, which will appear on screens. The atmosphere will be further enhanced by a sophisticated lighting system that will pulse with the beat, and striking visual images of poverty and drought.

Despite his rock star antics, including swearing on live television, Bono is regarded as a Christian icon by many who point to the spiritual content of his music.

His high-profile anti-poverty campaigns with fellow Irish musician Bob Geldof have elevated him to saintly status in some circles.

But while Bono is open about his Christian influences, he has also clashed with Church leaders over issues such as Aids.

Traditionalists who fear the Church is diluting its message to attract the young will be dismayed at its willingness to embrace Bono.

Such doubts are not shared by the Bishop of Grantham, the Rt Rev Timothy Ellis, who is organising the U2-charist in St. Swithin's church in Lincoln in May.

"Bono and Bob Geldof are very human, but they have demonstrated that they believe there is sanctity to life that has to be protected," he said. "If that makes them saints, then I would go along with that."

Get the rest of the story HERE.

Now for a taste of Bono's theology, here is the lyrical content of his song, Grace:

Grace, she takes the blame
she covers the shame
Removes the stain
It could be her name

Grace, is the name for a girl
It´s also the thought that changed the world
And when she walks on the street , you can hear her strings
Grace finds goodness in everything

Grace, she´s got the walk
Not on a ramp or on chalk
She´s got the time to talk
She travels outside the karma karma
She travels outside the karma
When she goes to work, you can hear her strings
Grace finds beauty in everything

Grace, she carries a world on her hips
No champagne flute for her lips
No twirls or skips between her fingertips
She carries a pearl in perfect condition

What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark, no longer stings
Because Grace makes beauty out of ugly things

Grace finds beauty in everything
Grace finds goodness in everything

Are Calvinists Coaching This Year's Super Bowl Teams?

Seems it may be true:

The Chicago Bears and the Indianapolis Colts are headed to Super Bowl XLI and so are the first black head coaches ever to make it all the way to NFL's marquee game.

Lovie Smith of the Bears was followed by Colts' head coach Tony Dungy in a matter of four hours to become the first African American coaches in the big game's 41-year history.

"It means a lot," said Dungy, according to the Associated Press. "I'm very proud to represent African-American coaches."

Not only are they making history representing African-American coaches, but both coaches are also representing Christ.

"The Lord set this up in a way that no one would believe it," said Dungy, according to the Baptist Press. "The Lord tested us a lot this year, but He set this up to get all the glory." (emphasis added)
Continue reading HERE.

Definitely seems to have a Calvinistic ring to it ... all that Lord setting this up to get all the glory talk. Of course neither coach mentions anything about God, in His sovereign grace, electing us to salvation in eternity past. Yet if God set up (read: orchestrated) a Super Bowl game to get all the glory, He surely set up the redemption of His elect in order to get all the glory!

Of course non-Calvinists would readily disagree with the previous assumptions. They would be quick to point out that the Bears and Colts will play in Miami because of their willingness to believe, and their meritorious, free will effort. They would be quick to point out that no Super Bowl team would be dragged to Miami kicking and screaming that they didn't want to go!

Sunday, January 28

'In God We Trust' Obscured on New U. S. Dollar Coins

OneNewsNow.com reports:

The new American dollar coins due out next month will have a bit of an edge to them -- for that's where some important info will be displayed.

A new series of U.S. dollar coins coming out in February will bear the images of deceased U.S. presidents, as well as the national motto, "In God We Trust." However, one very important design difference is that the motto will not appear on each coin's flat surface as always before, but on its thin edge (that is, along the side of the coin).

Also relegated to the edge of the coin will be the year it was minted and the previous national motto, "E Pluribus Unum."

Continue reading HERE.

My question: Is this a big deal, or is it 'much ado about nothing?'

And You Think You've Had a Bad Day?

I received this one via email. The next time you are tempted to complain about your day, remember this. As they say, it's all relative!

(Click on the picture for a larger, more readable image.)

Saturday, January 27

Is Praying for Sports Okay? My Story

Being a PK (preacher's kid) and an athlete in a public school, I was our team's "designated pray-er."

Prior to each football and basketball game, our team would bow for prayer before leaving the locker room for the field or court. We also paused for a team prayer in the locker room following each game--regardless of the outcome. I considered leading my team in prayer a unique privilege.

So what did I pray for? What kind of prayer did I pray?

First (and perhaps most importantly), I did not pray that we would win the game. Why? Because it was just that--a game. I don't believe the Lord is at all concerned with the outcome of a mere game; but I do believe God is concerned with how we play the game.

Therefore, in the pre-game prayer, I made three primary requests of the Lord:

1) I asked the Lord for protection for all who took the field or court ... even our opponents. I believe the Lord wants us to pray for safety, regardless of an individual's spiritual condition. Since the Lord takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11), I am convinced He likewise takes no pleasure in an athlete's injury, regardless of whether or not the athlete is a believer. Jesus Himself made a similar request of His Father in Matthew 6:13, "...Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."

2) I asked the Lord to help us play to the best of our God-given ability. I believe God is glorified through the accomplishments of athletes just as He is through the work of an artist or musician. Some may balk at the previous statement due to many athletes' tendency to take the glory for their own accomplishments. Yet Scripture is clear, God will receive the glory: Isaiah 42:8, "I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images."

3) I asked the Lord to help us represent Adrian High School and our community well. In other words, I was praying that God would be pleased to restrain our tempers, and protect us from bringing disrepute upon our team and community. Although there were times we (and I) displayed poor sportsmanship, I am convinced the Lord chose to restrain much disrespectful activity.

NOTE: I did not pray for the officials to have a good game! I find such prayers disingenuous ... or assuming at best. Having officiated high school and college basketball for nearly fifteen years, I've heard this request many times. Just pray for the officials' safety (especially those in their 30's) and leave it at that.

The post game prayer was normally short and sweet, thanking the Lord for enabling us to play hard and for protecting the participants from injury. If any injuries were sustained during the contest, I prayed for a quick recovery. I also thanked the Lord for giving us the opportunity to represent our school and community through athletics, and for the privilege of wearing the BLACK and GOLD.

I also prayed throughout the game, asking the Lord to strengthen me and bless my efforts. I often prayed before attempting free throws, or before crouching over the football to attempt a long snap (for those of you who aren't up on football terminology, the long snapper is the guy who hikes the ball to the punter or holder on a field goal attempt).

Sports prayers aren't magical or mystical by any means. Although we won our share of games, going further in the state basketball tournament than any other Adrian High team in history (finishing seventh in the state), we also lost our share. I missed my share of free throws, and sent two long snaps sailing over our punter's head. But in the very least, we acknowledged the superintendence of the Creator God over our athletic contests. And for some of my teammates, these prayers may have been the only time they ever bowed to make such an acknowledgment.

Did these prayers have any eternal impact? I don't know ... I'm not there yet.

Friday, January 26

Is Praying for Sports Okay?

The 'religious experts' say so ...

Yes, Peyton Manning, it's OK to pray for help on the playing field.

The Indianapolis Colts quarterback said he sought some divine intervention before the New England Patriots' final drive in Sunday's AFC Championship game, which ended with an interception thrown by New England quarterback Tom Brady.

"I said a little prayer on that last drive," Manning said after the Colts' 38-34 victory earned them a trip to the Super Bowl in Miami. "I don't know if you're supposed to pray for stuff like that, but I said a little prayer."

Religious experts said Manning's prayer was appropriate as a gesture of faith, but they don't agree on whether the Colts' victory was the answer to his request.

The Rev. Edward Wheeler, president of Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, had been ordained as a Baptist minister by the time he became a walk-on starting defensive back at Morehouse College in Atlanta. His teammates sometimes asked him to pray for victory, but Wheeler instead would pray that the team play to its fullest potential and avoid injury.

"I don't think Peyton's prayer was answered with a Colts victory, but the Colts worked so hard and they played together as a team that that allowed them to bring reality to their deepest wants," Wheeler said.

Cloistered nuns at the Carmel of the Resurrection Monastery in Indianapolis offer tips on spiritual guidance each day to tens of thousands of people a day through their Web site, www.praythenews.com. The biggest sports fan among the group, Sister Terese Boersig, said praying on the sidelines was "absolutely" within bounds.
Continue reading HERE.

So are 'sports prayers' okay? Feel free to discuss it in the meta.

Meanwhile, it may do us well to remember that two Confederate Generals were known to pray before stepping onto a battlefield. Robert E. Lee and 'Stonewall' Jackson often repeated Jesus' prayer in the Garden: "Father, Thy will be done."

And I believe God answered their prayers.

Rick Warren's Name Removed From Obama Website

The following story appears at CNSNews.com:

An unofficial website encouraging Sen. Barack Obama to run for president on Friday removed a prominent California pastor from its unapproved list of celebrity "endorsements" of the Illinois Democrat.

As Cybercast News Service previously reported, the website DraftObama.org on Thursday unveiled a list of 17 celebrities who "work hard for a better America and have made statements in support of Senator Obama."

The list compiled the public statements of 17 celebrities expressing admiration for Obama, a first-term senator who is considering a bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008. The list originally included Rick Warren, pastor of the 20,000-member Saddleback Valley Community Church.

The site included excerpts from an interview Warren gave to CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer, in which the bestselling author called Obama "an amazing man" and said he has the potential to be president because "he has good character."
Continue reading HERE.

When Wendy Speaks, Everybody Listens

Adrian Warnock has recently completed an interview with Wendy Alsup of Mars Hill Church (pastored by Mark Driscoll) in Seattle, Washington. If you've ever wanted to know what Mars Hill is really like, and whether the many urban legends are true, take a peek for yourself:


If you need a bit more motivation to read this series, here you go: WE KNOW WENDY! Wendy is a frequent commenter here at The World From Our Window, especially when we address anything Mars Hill (or Mark Driscoll)!

Thanks, Wendy, for reading what we write, and for your willingness to correct our misunderstandings and misconceptions regarding Mars Hill Church. May the Lord bless your family, your ministry, and your church!

P. S. -- Because of Wendy's involvement here, I have subscribed to Driscoll's sermon podcast, which I listen to on my month-old mp3 player--the 30 GB Creative Zen Vision. My review and of the Zen (and JVC's inner ear headphones) will be forthcoming. Stay tuned!

When People Are Big and God Is Small: My Story

I am reading a new book. Well, the book isn’t all that new, I purchased it nearly a year ago, and I’m finally getting around to reading it. The title of the book is When People are Big and God is Small, by Edward T. Welch. The title itself is intriguing, but it’s the subject matter that captivated me. The book’s subtitle tells its story: Overcoming peer pressure, codependency, and the fear of man.

Frankly, I need to read this book. Too often I find myself overly concerned with, and even controlled by what others think. But this is no new problem for me; I’ve wrestled with it since I was a child.

I remember one poignant example of my infatuation with others’ opinion of me. It was a warm spring day during my Junior High years in west central Missouri, and all of my “in” clothes were either in the wash or piled up in the back corner of my closet. As I rummaged through my sparse wardrobe, I realized my options were limited. Very limited. I had one clean shirt available, a polo shirt that seemed to scream, “Nerd alert!”

I had three choices: One, I could stay home from school. Two, I could go to school shirtless. Or three, I could wear that horrid shirt, but keep it covered with my ‘stylin’ light jacket. Because I knew Mom and Dad would never let me get away with the first or second options, I chose the ‘stylin’ jacket option. Although I was wearing the nerdy polo, it would go unnoticed if I kept my jacket on and zipped up to the neckline. I could wear the shirt and keep my dignity—or so I thought!

Everything went well until the schoolroom grew progressively warmer during the afternoon. While sitting in History class, my teacher must have noticed the beads of sweat beginning to appear on my face, and as Mr. Hall called my name, I knew what was coming. “Kenny (that’s what Mr. Hall called me), feel free to take off your jacket.”

Intent on saving my dignity, I muttered, “I’m okay, Mr. Hall. I’m really not warm at all.”

He knew I was lying, and so he asked me what I was hiding. If I had ever wanted to ‘get away’ like the Southwest Airlines commercial suggests, this was the time. But there was no escaping the penetrating stares of the entire classroom as I slowly unzipped my jacket to reveal that horrid polo.

The next few minutes are fuzzy in my memory. I’m sure my image took a hit that day in History class, but I honestly don’t remember the class reaction. I just remember the extreme feeling of shame, humiliation, and embarrassment caused by what I considered to be an out-of-style polo shirt.

Twenty-one years have passed since that warm day in History class, and nobody else remembers the polo shirt incident. I no longer dress to impress, but I find myself still longing for others’ affirmation … a desire that many times displaces my longing for God’s approval. In other words, I am too often guilty of fearing people rather than God.

Since this is not a new problem (Abraham and David struggled with it) or an uncommon struggle (more than likely, you can identify with my polo shirt story), pray along with me that God will transform our fear of man into a fear of Him. May we learn the truth behind David’s own words in Psalm 27:1-4 (ESV):

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The
Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?

When evildoers assail me
to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
it is they who stumble and fall.


Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet
I will be confident.

One thing have I asked of the
Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the
Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the
Lord
and to inquire
in his temple.

It is my hope and prayer that my life and ministry will echo David's words, and that I will fight to fear God rather than men.

Thursday, January 25

Now That I Have Your Attention...How Far Is Too Far?

This is the advertisement: (This picture on a billboard with a ".com" at the end)



This is the response:

Of the 270 readers of the World From Our Window in the last 24 hours, only 7 were curious/brave enough to check out mycrappysexlife.com.

This is the advertiser:

Next Level Church

I really should give up on taking unofficial polls on a blog, but I just can't stop myself. I know of at least one person (my own father) who was curious enough to check out mycrappysexlife.com and didn't comment in the comment section. How many other disobedient/lazy/apathetic readers were there? I will never know. If you were one, confession is good for the soul. So the results are probably skewed, but to the best of my knowledge only 2.5% of our readers actually checked out the site.

My reason for not giving more information concerning this website was to poll the effectiveness of the advertisement. Next Level Church is using this billboard (there is only one as far as I know) and the corresponding website as a hook to lead you to this website advertising their church. They are beginning a sermon series on relationships and you can read the sermon topics for yourself.

This advertisement begs the question, how far is too far in advertising for your church?

When I found out that a church was behind this advertisement I was shocked! I don't recall ever hearing of a church going to this extreme in their advertisement. Then I went from shock to contemplation. "I wonder if this will work. How many hits will they get on their web site? How many visitors will this generate?" Then I moved from contemplation to considering imitation. "Is this a good idea? Should our church imitate this in some way?" Then I moved from imitation to condemnation. "This is an outrage! This is ungodly! How can they sink to such methods?"

BUT let's be honest. Almost every church I know does some kind of advertising -- church sign, phone book, web site, radio announcements, flyers, mailings, doorhangers, etc. The whole point of advertising is to call attention and draw interest. Anytime a church uses advertising it is hoping that the advertisement will be used of God to bring people to the church. And in this culture it takes something very special to catch attention and draw interest - especially of the unsaved. The "usual" methods don't seem to be working very well. An advertisement with your church name and upcoming sermon series isn't going to draw much interest unless it has something special. And in today's society "sex sells." This titillating ("to excite another pleasurably, superficially or erotically") advertisement does catch attention and if the percentages hold true there will be at least 2,500 people in Fort Myers who will check out the web site.

Can't you just imagine the discussion in the elder/deacon meeting at Next Level Church?

Elder #1: "Our attendance has been down a little lately. We really haven't seen too many new visitors."
Deacon #1: "Yeah. Our salvations and baptisms are down over the last six months. Compared to last year's numbers we are in a decline."
Elder #2: "Well, what do you think we should do?"
Deacon #2: "We need something new, something catchy, something unique."
Elder #1: "How about hosting a Christian concert? That packs them in at _______ church."
Deacon #1: "Overdone."
Deacon #3: "How about hosting the new Maximum Impact Leadership Simulcast? They've had great turnouts at ________ church."
Deacon #4: "Too much work."
Deacon #5: "How about we do a 40 Days of Evangelism Campaign? We hit the streets for 40 days going door-to-door and sharing Christ."
Elder #2: "Too yesterday. Too in your face. And definitely too much work!"
Elder #3: "I've got it. We rent a billboard. Those 'God' billboards really seemed to spark conversation a couple of years ago."
Deacon #2: "But what would we put on it? Remember, it's got to be unique."
Elder #1: "Well, we do have that series on relationships starting in February..."
Deacon #1: "How about we advertise - "What God says about sex'?"
Deacon #5: "Boring."
Deacon #2: "Sex isn't boring! Sex is great! God wants us to have great sex!"
Elder #3: "That's it! We catch their attention with something about how sex is boring..."

And the rest is history.

Have you ever been a part of this type of meeting? Have you ever been tempted to use questionable methods to reach people for Christ? Should we use "any means necessary" to get people to church giving us an opportunity to preach the gospel and giving them an opportunity to be saved? I will give Next Level Church the benefit of the doubt and trust that their motivation is the glory of God in the salvation of the lost. But what does this type of advertisement say about our view of God, salvation, and evangelism?

When you go the web site you will find this:

We're not afraid to talk about it.

Sex wasn't invented in a dark alley behind a porn shop. We believe that it's part of God's design. In fact, this may shock you but...God wants you to have GREAT SEX.

I don't believe it is wrong for a church to preach about God's view of sex. In fact, I think it is absolutely necessary for us to speak to these very issues from a biblical worldview. But how do we talk about it and why do we talk about it? If every sermon and sermon series are just a means by which to attract a crowd haven't we missed the point? Are we talking about sex because it attracts a crowd or are we talking about sex because it is crucial that we understand what God's Word says on this issue?

The question of advertisement is one that every church must face. What we say, how we say it and why we say it say a lot about our view of God and and His power to save.

[For great articles on sexuality from a biblical worldview check out the following:

Ken Fields on homosexuality: Part #1; Part #2 & Part #3
Ken Fields on abortion:
Part #1; Part #2 & Part #3
Tim Challies on masturbation: Part #1 & Part #2

For great sermons on sexuality from a biblical worldview check out the
2004 Desiring God National Conference.

For great books on sexuality check out the following:

Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God
Sex and the Supremacy of Christ]

P31 Dolls: 'American Girl' Gets a Proverbs 31 Makeover

The following news should thrill every Christian daddy's heart. No more of Barbie's unhealthy image and incessant infatuation with Ken (I can understand why she would be infatuated with Ken, but that's another story ;-). No more American Girl disappointment over the parent company's apparent feminist (and humanist) agenda.

From the looks of things, what we have here is a wholesome Proverbs 31 girl. She isn't chasing Ken, and she comes with no veiled feminist agenda. Here's the scoop:

"Compassionate, charitable, tastefully dressed, physically fit, and caring are traits we all want our children to grow up possessing. However with all the negative images and damaging messages our society bombards our children with, you may be wondering how it can be done?

A great way is to provide toys, which through play, teach young children these desired character traits. Toys like these which were once hard to find, are now available from one2believe, a company devoted to the Biblical education of children. The company which introduced its Messengers of Faith line of talking Bible character dolls more than a year ago now introduces P31. P31 dolls have similar features to the popular American Girl dolls but with a more pronounced Biblical message."
Continue reading HERE.

Three dolls are currently available: Leah, Elisabeth, and Abigail. They retail for $39.99 and are available for purchase HERE. Each doll is accompanied by a message card encouraging Christ-like characteristics and actions. Following is a sample:
"She extends her hand to the poor, Yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy." (Proverbs 31:20)

This verse says it all! A P31 girl gives to the poor and provides for the needy. Instead of keeping things for herself, she works with her hands to provide for those who can't afford things for themselves. She also helps meet the needs of people who might be missing something in their lives (i.e., friendship, love, understanding, compassion, etc.). She is nice and always looking for good deeds that she can do to help everyone around her.
More important than what she does, this verse tells us about the amazing heart of a P31 girl. She cares for others and just like our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, a P31 girl is concerned about others. In other words, she lives out the second greatest commandment, to "love your neighbor as yourself" and she glorifies the Lord in her relationships with others (Matthew 22:39).

The awesome actions and pure heart of a P31 girl does not only apply to her neighbor, but to her family as well (Proverbs 31:15, 21). She works to make sure that everyone around her has all they need ... yes, even her brothers and sisters!


How about you? Are you a P31 girl?
View this and other message cards HERE.

Guest Blogger--Will Hatfield--Evangelism & Changing Culture: Part #3

Guest Blogger--Will Hatfield--Evangelism & Changing Culture: Part #1
Guest Blogger--Will Hatfield--Evangelism & Changing Culture: Part #2

How is this done?

Personally, I think we need to go from a church-maintenance mindset (how can we get more people like us?) to a church-planting mindset (how can I show people they need this?). Tim Keller, after almost bashing canned presentations, says we need to come up with a new presentation - one with process. He likes what the Alpha program has for process if not doctrine. To me this is an interesting challenge - come up with a presentation of the gospel that can attractively grab people's attention and show the worth of the Gospel. Frankly, there are a lot of good presentations out there. But I think they assume one thing too often - that people have a fairly positive view of Christianity and its implications. A secondary thing might be that people aren’t asking, "how can I be saved?" As much as "how can I trust this?"

Tim Keller refers to "defeaters" at this point - those common beliefs present in the culture which automatically make the Gospel not make sense. Evolution is a one of these. I think some greater defeaters though involve how people think about religion - is it a way for everybody to just all get along? We need common sense (story-telling?) ways of showing that these "defeaters" don't work or don't match truth. One of the important ways of thinking about this is found in presuppositional apologetics of which Francis Schaeffer was very adept - forcing people to look at the logic of their position. For instance, only the Gospel has all the keys to help people get along even in conflict. But can you illustrate that in a clear way as compared to say Hinduism or Islam? We need to do some hard work at revitalizing our illustrations to work past people's assumptions - much like Leslie Newbiggin's illustration of the blind men with the elephant. This is one area I intend to do some work on over the next year.

This goes to the second part of how to get this done. We will never know what to illustrate and how effective those illustrations might be if we do not spend time with unbelieving people. Jim Peterson lays out a good strategy for getting to know people, inviting them into a Bible study (although you may not call it that), and how to use the Bible as its own authority. He even gives you a bible study of the book of John to use. Most often Jim believes it will be important to hold these outside of a "church" setting. That is in the home or work environment.

He also shows that we need to build bridges to get the Gospel across. The interesting difference is that we should be building bridges for the Gospel not just to make us look like "nice people." Too often I think that's the bridge we build rather than one to Christ. Talking about the goals people have and the difficulties attending those goals will often bring up opportunities to show the beauty of the Gospel. Jim talks about the mini-decisions unbelievers need to make in order to accept the Gospel - in other words the process they go through, especially when not operating under any authority but themselves. Another book which is helpful here is The Church Unleashed by Frank Tillapaugh.

The hardest part in my opinion looking at my current context is getting people to realize the necessity of "breathing" the Gospel and slow down long enough on the out-of-control freight train of their own agenda to notice and talk to people. This can only be effectively dealt with as we as pastors challenge people to see beyond their current lives and see the joy of serving and loving the unlovely. They will only see this as we model it and as we give ourselves to prayer that they might see it. Until we do that, we will not be as effective as we can be with this generation.

Wednesday, January 24

Christian Teens Challenge You Tube Blasphemy

Jason Janz, of SharperIron fame, drew our attention to THIS last week -- a challenge to blaspheme the Holy Spirit via video, and to post the video blasphemy on You Tube. Challenge participants were promised a complimentary copy of the DVD commentary, The God Who Wasn't There.

According to Christian Post reporter Lillian Kwon, a new challenge has recently been issued:

More than a month ago, atheists began to blaspheme the existence of God on the popular YouTube network. Today, Christians are turning the tables and taking up the challenge to stand up to their faith in Jesus Christ publicly.

"I'd like to personally praise the Lord for all He does for me," said one young participant in the newly launched "Praise the Lord Challenge" on YouTube. "He's done so much for me and I've only known him a few years."

The Praise the Lord Challenge counters a $25,000 campaign launched before Christmas where atheists, many of whom are young students, videotape their blasphemy, denying the existence of the trinity. "The Blasphemy Challenge" is giving away 1,001 DVDs of the documentary "The God Who Wasn't There" to participants. The only price, the campaign states, is "your soul."

One respondent departed from religion six years ago, he said in his YouTube taping. His grandfather is a preacher and everyone he is related to is "very Christian." Yet ever since his "freedom from religion," he has not looked back, he said as he renounced his belief in God.

With YouTube drawing millions of teens and young adults, the Blasphemy Challenge – launched initially as part of the Rational Response Squad’s war on Christmas - is aimed at young people. The main target audience is the same for the campaign’s opposing side.

Mid-January, Michael Mickey launched his own war against the blasphemy challenge on YouTube. Mickey's campaign is appropriately called "The Challenge Blasphemy Project" and under it, the "Praise the Lord Challenge."

"What happens when we take a stand for the Lord?" Mickey said on YouTube, encouraging believers to videotape their love for Christ. "The word of God will bring people to faith in Jesus Christ."
Continue reading HERE.

Are Computers Harming Marriages and Families?

According to a recent study and related story, it seems to be true:

Computers are becoming increasingly pervasive in the lives of Americans almost to the point where one spends more time with a computer than their significant other.

A recent study found that eight in 10 Americans are more dependent on their computer than three years ago. Moreover, 65 percent of consumers are spending more time with a computer than with their significant other, according to a study by independent research firm Kelton Research.

"As computers become increasingly pervasive in our lives, our relationships with them can begin to seem almost as important as a relationship with a significant other," said Dr. Robi Ludwig, renowned psychotherapist, in the report.

Computers, like many other mediums such as television and entertainment, can be very addictive and "very dangerous to family life," Janice Crouse, senior fellow at the Beverly LaHaye Institute, the think tank for Concerned Women for America, told The Christian Post.

Assuming the statistics of the study are true, Crouse said, "It's a very common problem and a great temptation. And children suffer; spouses suffer."
Continue reading HERE.

I post this for informational purposes only. I don't expect any personal confessions ... or testimonies (especially from my wife)!!

Cruise Being Hailed 'The Christ of Scientology'

Simply unbelievable.

TOM Cruise is the new “Christ” of Scientology, according to leaders of the cult-like religion.

The Mission: Impossible star has been told he has been “chosen” to spread the word of his faith throughout the world.

And leader David Miscavige believes that in future, Cruise, 44, will be worshipped like Jesus for his work to raise awareness of the religion.

A source close to the actor, who has risen to one of the church’s top levels, said: “Tom has been told he is Scientology’s Christ-like figure.

“Like Christ, he’s been criticised for his views. But future generations will realise he was right.”

Cruise joined the Church of Scientology in the ’80s. Leader L Ron Hubbard claimed humans bear traces of an ancient alien civilisation.

This story is available at The Sun [CLICK HERE].

And You Thought Real Estate Was Expensive in Your Neck of the Woods?

Take a look at this from FOX News:

Location, location, location. Almost anywhere else, the tiny dilapidated studio wouldn't attract much more than mice. But this is London and the 77-square-foot former storage room -- slightly bigger than a prison cell and without electricity -- is going for $335,000.

The closet-sized space in the exclusive Knightsbridge neighborhood may be only "about the size of a ship's galley, said real estate agent Andrew Scott, who's handling the sale. "But it's permanently anchored to one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the world."

At more than $4,340 a square foot, the mortgage buys a spot within walking distance of tony stores like Harrods and London's iconic Hyde Park. Originally conceived as a maid's room, the apartment at 18 Cadogan Place hasn't been used for years and is littered with trash bags and crumbling paint.

A coffin-sized shower is en suite, and storage is provided by a shallow closet and 10-inch-deep shelves cut into the wall. Two hot plates and a small sink make up the kitchen. Two dirty windows allow light to filter into the basement room, and the fire escape could conceivably double as a shared patio.

With no electricity or heating, Scott said it would cost an additional $59,000 to make the room habitable ...

Continue reading HERE.

The next time you're tempted to complain about the price of real estate, just remember this!

Maybe living in the boonies isn't so bad after all!

Some Super Bowl Nostalgia

Warning! You must be at least 30 years of age to have any chance of remembering this video. If you remember this video I can guarantee you that the rhythm and words are permanently etched in your mind as da 85 Bears romped their way to the NFL’s highest prize. As you can probably tell, I am extremely pumped up about Feb. 4th. I see many parallels between these two teams (the 06 and 85 Bear teams) and I look for us to bringing the Lombardi Trophy back home to Chicago on Super Bowl Sunday.

So enjoy and relive the memories of one of the funniest and coolest videos that I have ever seen. Hopefully, we will be shuffling again come Feb. 4th.

Go Bears!!!

Guest Blogger--Will Hatfield--Evangelism & Changing Culture: Part #2

Guest Blogger--Will Hatfield--Evangelism & Changing Culture: Part #1

What's the answer? Well, Tim Keller and Jim Peterson both present fascinating glimpses into two different ways of arriving at the same thing. Jim Peterson talks about affirmation attending our proclamation. Affirmation is the lifestyle that accompanies the gospel. He makes an interesting point by asking one to look through the New Testament epistles for commands to witness. (There aren't any.) He then takes this negative to point to the fact that Paul especially is thinking that more planting and cultivating must take place before another harvest (after the first he had already made) could be reaped. He then argues for this based on side arguments Paul makes. For instance, Titus 2:3-5: in the exhortation to older women the reason given is that so no one will malign the word of God. Young men are exhorted to behave so that those maligning the gospel will be ashamed that they have nothing bad to say against them. Jim is saying that unless we model what the Gospel produces the watching world will reject our repeated attempts to proclaim its truth.

Tim Keller talks about gospel actualization. He says we need to let the gospel become the driving force behind what we believe and the way we live. By doing this we will present a more powerful reality to what we are saying. In some ways this is a fancy way of saying, "your walk talks and your talk talks, but your walk talks louder than your talk talks."

One might say, "Well, this is nothing new." And in a way it isn't. But it is maybe in the direction it's being applied. Tim Keller is suggesting that until we eat, live and breathe the Gospel it won't pour out of us properly. Not that we can't have our views on eschatology or sublapsarianism but that until we show how they adorn the Gospel it's not helping us in our presentation of the gospel. He is suggesting in a way that the Gospel be the center of our theology.

While I differ a little here with what he seems to be saying, I agree that we need to do a better job thinking through how the gospel applies to our behavior and especially our everyday conversation. How many of us take seriously the command in James to always add "Lord willing" to our plans for the day? Is the Gospel just a few summary belief statements or is it truly a way to live? If it is a way to live, should we not be demonstrating that way? One could argue at this point saying, " already seek to 'walk worthy' of the Gospel?" Great! But have you really considered what you are communicating to those outside the faith watching you to see what it's really about?

I'm afraid too often we communicate that the Gospel is about being busy and acting superior. The trouble is people so easily define what we're doing in terms they understand - unless they can't understand it. And every generation to an extent must come up with fresh ways to communicate old truths because the last generation has already substituted the answer behind the behavior as something other than Christ. For instance, not smoking could be done because one loves Christ and honors His temple or it could simply be because we don't want to get lung cancer. Which way will the outside world take it without explanation?

And here’s where it gets tricky. How do you slow down long enough and get them to slow down long enough to truly communicate the Gospel? Tim Keller at this point thinks we need a process and Jim Peterson actually lays one out. The key at this point, I think, is to realize that the "process" takes time, an investment of time, effort and thought on our part to really communicate the gospel and its life to others - a stepping outside of our comfort zone of busyness to actually connect with others in meaningful ways.

My former pastor laid out a plan of random acts of kindness, invitation to events at church, and home bible studies as a three tiered approach to a process. This is good, but it takes people being very intentional to do this. And I think that starts primarily as people are gripped by the wonder of the Gospel and how it impacts all of life. Tim Keller uses a fascinating Bible picture to illustrate modern day evangelism - the story of Jonah. Have we been too like Jonah - communicating that everyone's headed to destruction and not really caring enough for people to stop and communicate the wonder of God's mercy and grace? Or have we been the earlier Jonah - not really caring that the world is headed to destruction and wishing it would happen already, never letting that message get out nor letting it impact our urgency?

We must realize that evangelism in modern day America takes effort - more effort than we typically give it because there are more barriers to overcome. I know that some have advocated "friendship evangelism" where one becomes friends before sharing the Gospel. I think Jim Peterson is advocating more a lifestyle evangelism - where the Gospel shows up in every decision and therefore we're making reference to it all the time. So we must consider how the Gospel is impacting our lives and communicate that in word and deed. In our town I think that means not appearing too busy for people, having a concern for social justice issues, providing hope to destroyed lives through biblical counseling, constantly showing a love for the body of Christ (not backbiting), and especially always explaining our actions by pointing back to our reason for existence - Christ.

How?

Coming tomorrow - Evangelism & Changing Culture: Part #3

Tuesday, January 23

Should Christianity Be 'Cool?'

Over at Doxoblogy, D. J. Cimino says "NO," and says so rather emphatically!

So, should Christianity be "cool"? The answer in a nutshell? NO! But unfortunately that is mostly what the evangelical church has devolved into, a weak church that is drunk on the liquor of success. To them, in order to have success you have to be, well, you guessed it – “COOL”!

I think you can define the word cool in many different ways. If anything is relative, coolness is. What is “cool” to me is definitely not cool to most. And what a teenager thinks is cool today is probably not what the 60 year old baby boomer thinks is cool. In short, it’s all relative.

We see the desire to be cool causing division in churches. We can see this in many forms. One example is in the so called worship-wars. The older generation wants the more traditional hymns played in a traditional way (piano/organ/orchestra). The younger generation wants something that is more contemporary (and I personally am not against a contemporary musical style provided that the lyrical content is just as rich and theologically great as the rich hymns of the past). The problem I see with the contemporary style is that the younger generation doesn’t only want to get away from the hymns, or simply have more contemporary music. No, what I personally perceive is that they want something “cool”. I see that as a problem.

Continue reading HERE.

And for the record, I say to D. J., "Right on, Dude!"

BJU Grad Ordained As A Roman Catholic Priest

Blogmate Mathew Sims details this intriguing story at his After Darkness Light blog:

According to the Greenville News, Dwight Longnecker formerly a BJU grad has recently been ordained a priest in the Roman Catholic Church despite having a wife and children. It reports:

"It's a pretty unusual journey," Longenecker acknowledged with a grin during an interview in his office at St. Joseph's Catholic School, where he is the chaplain.

It's a journey, though, that he believes has brought him home at last, one that makes more sense than it might appear on the surface ...

Click HERE to continue reading at Mathew's blog.

Guest Blogger--Will Hatfield--Evangelism & Changing Culture: Part #1

Most of our regular readers will recognize the name, but many of you don't know the man behind the comments. Will Hatfield is Senior Pastor of Campus Baptist Church in Ames, Iowa, and has filled that role since 2005. He is a husband and father of four. I know Will from our days at Faith Baptist Bible College where he stood alone at the top of our graduating class (1996). (I think I graduated somewhere in the top 25%.) Our friendship has been renewed over the past six months thanks to The World From Our Window.

In recent conversation (phone & email) Will and I have been discussing the Desiring God Conference of 2006. [I would encourage all of you to listen to those sermons which are available free online.] One of the most intriguing messages was Tim Keller's sermon entitled The Supremacy of Christ and the Gospel in a Postmodern World. I asked Will if he would give a critique of Keller's thesis. Will has also been reading Jim Peterson's book Living Proof which touches on the same themes and has brought the two together in this review/critique.

Review of Tim Keller's Lecture at the Desiring God Conference 2006 & the book Living Proof by Jim Peterson - Part 1

This Christmas I observed ice fishing for the first time. As soon as you've cut through the ice, the hole you've used fills with water. My brother-in-law asked my youngest brother-in-law to empty out the water so we could get all the ice out of the hole. Needless to say, that would be an impossible task since you'd have to make the lake level drop significantly first! We as God's people are called to make disciples of all nations. Introducing people to Christ and guiding them to trust in Christ are important parts of this mandate. Unfortunately, it seems our desire or our technique in evangelism is not effective and at times seems impossible. We are not planting churches like we used to in the 50's. We're not seeing people get saved as often as we used to. The culture itself has gotten worse and our influence in it for Christ less. Now some may chalk that up to God's sovereignty and an understanding of end times, but at the same time can we not always seek to do an effective work for God? The problem, Tim Keller & Jim Peterson believe, is that our typical methods of evangelism aren't working and that's often because our ways of thinking about evangelism in today's world aren't correct. Are they correct? Is there a problem? I think he is challenging the belief that we just have to do more of what we're already doing to be effective - do it more often, make it more professional, throw more advertising dollars at it.

Tim Keller presents the problem in an allegory using a story from the gospels. He says the demon is too deep. The "demon" is that people are inoculated to Christianity and the culture has "common" beliefs that defeat traditional presentations of the gospel. The old ways of "waking" people up to personalize what they already knew to be true, he says, don't work--including campaigns, door-to-door evangelism especially using canned presentations, and even maybe your typical Easter cantata. There are too many barriers for any easy acceptance of the Gospel. Now some may point here to Romans 1 and ask "doesn't everyone know God exists in reality?" I don't think Tim is challenging that idea as much as challenging that it is more deeply buried than it once was.

Jim Peterson in his book Living Proof has a different approach and a slightly different but related problem. He says the problem is that we don't demonstrate the gospel as much as we "preach" it and therefore we don't really engage people. He uses an illustration from his first time going out as a missionary on a boat to Brazil. He started engaging some of the unbelieving passengers in conversation and realized there was real opportunity with "trapped" passengers on the ship to present the gospel clearly. He approached the other missionaries on the voyage and their solution was to start a chapel service for people to come to where they were then presented the gospel after a "hymn sing". After the first service the unbelievers avoided it. Some may challenge this point and say, "Well, isn't the preaching of the gospel foolishness to unbelievers?" Definitely, but preaching in the New Testament doesn't just mean getting together and listening to the "preacher." It is a proclamation of the gospel in word and deed. Sometimes our preaching, Jim Peterson asserts, gets in the way of our proclamation. Tim Keller identifies the problem as a shift in the belief system of the culture(s) around us. Jim Peterson identifies it somewhat similarly but more as a shift in the communication needs of this generation of people. Both end up amazingly with a very similar solution.

My first question, however is, "is their assessment correct?" Is there a problem with our evangelism technique and belief? To qualify the discussion somewhat, Tim Keller, points out there are pockets remaining of the old cultural beliefs and values where the old techniques still work. But he asserts they are shrinking. Being from Iowa I would think this would be a pocket where the old techniques still work. Is this true? A consideration of our specific context here in Ames is important. We live in a busy, university town where older "small town" values still mix it up with new "culturally elite" values sometimes combining in weird ways. For instance, we have a portion of town where the city is trying to get people to live with porches on the front of their house and where they can walk to any store for things to buy. They're trying to force people to adjust to a "better" way to live. It hasn't gone very well. The question in reality, though, is, "Do people readily accept the underlying truths that make an acceptance of Christ possible?"


In this area, I think we live in a town divided. We have a lot of liberal churches in town that preach a version of Christ. We also have a lot of evangelical churches in town that truly preach Christ. One could then argue that this is still a pocket where the old techniques still work (at least if you accept their premise). But we also I think have an age division between those unbelieving above 40 and those below. Those over 40 still remember the values of Christianity and think about God. Those under 40, even if they technically believe God exists, rarely think about him in any realistic way. Everyone is so busy pursuing their own agenda, no one has time for God whether they have a background on who God is or not. Especially being a university town, even Christians feel pressure to condone evolutionary and feminist thinking. This leads to at least a position that Christianity may have worked at some point but it doesn't fit now.

Anecdotally, our former pastor and staff spent a whole summer in the 90's every week going door-to-door witnessing and inviting people to church. They did not have 1 person get saved or even come to church as a result. Now it would be good to question how they did what they did. But the lack of results itself tells you that some kind of problem exists. I would put it this way: there is a growing portion of the people in our area that don't readily accept basic truths that make trust in Christ possible, where people turn you off when you try to offer salvation from death and hell. If this is true, then our techniques of waiting till they walk in the door of the church, or inviting them to an evangelistic campaign, or some "silver bullet" approach as Tim Keller puts it, will not work in today's cultural milieu.

What's the answer?

Coming tomorrow - Evangelism & Changing Culture: Part #2