We Have No Idea

Let's think about this the next time we are tempted to complain about the style of music, color of the carpet, how we dress in church or particularly close to Southern Baptist life right now, as we argue about whether or not we should work toward a Great Commission Resurgence regardless of what that might mean to our political, bureaucratic, or financial kingdoms.


"This Is Not How It Should Be..."

Steven Curtis Chapman's latest CD is entitled Beauty Will Rise. The list of songs on the CD are somewhat of a journal put to music in the wake of the Chapman's tragic loss of their daughter, Maria.

Track 7 is entitled Our God Is In Control:

This is not how it should be
This is not how it could be
But this is how it is
And our God is in control

This is not how it will be
When we finally will SEE
We'll SEE with our own eyes
He was always in control

And we'll sing Holy, Holy, Holy is our God
And we will finally, really understand what it means
So we'll sing Holy, Holy, Holy is our God

While we're waiting for that day
This is not where we planned to be
When we started this journey
But this is where we are
And our God is in control

Though this first taste is bitter
There will be sweetness forever
When we finally taste and SEE
That our God is in control

And we'll sing Holy, Holy, Holy is our God
And we will finally, really understand what it means
So we'll sing Holy, Holy, Holy is our God

While we're waiting for that day
We're waiting for that day
We'll keep on waiting for that day
And we will know our God is in control
(Holy, Holy, Holy, Holy, Holy)
Our God is in control
(Holy, Holy, Holy)
Our God is in control
(Holy, Holy, Holy)

Much agreed and much needed.


Are We More Like the Catholic Church Than We'd Like to Admit?

David F. Wells makes a great comparison in The Courage To Be Protestant between the western evangelical church today and the Catholic Church. Wells makes the point that the Catholic Church has historically seen two streams of revelation by which the church is guided: Scripture and Tradition. The teaching authority, the Magisterium, then resolved issues to make these two streams of revelation agree.

As Luther pointed out, the problem with this is that it essentially placed a "gag" over the Word of God. Wells elaborates,

What he meant was that Scripture was free to deliver its truth only to the extent to which the church's teaching authority was in agreement with it. Where it was not, Scripture had to remain silent.

Now the comparison between the Catholic Church and today's western evangelical church in all her many stripes:

Many today marvel at this attempt by the Catholic Church to mute the full authority of God's Word by its own authority, but they then fail to see that something rather similar is happening in the Western evangelical church. It is not that evangelicals today, or Catholics then, actively oppose the authority of Scripture. Catholics did not oppose biblical inspiration, nor to evangelicals today. Rather, then as now, the church's practice belies its profession of belief in the Bible's authority.

Scripture cannot function authoritatively if the church is not willing to put itself under its authority and learn from it as God's sole, authoritative guide for its belief and practice. The Catholic Church could not claim that it believed in Scripture's authority while it was also negating that authority by its own teaching. And we today cannot claim we believe in the Bible's authority if we set it aside to build the church in our own way.

You may object and say, "Well, that is an exaggerated assessment!" or "That really doesn't happen today in our churches." But ask yourself this question, "How many times have you heard this statement or some semblance of it in your local church, 'Well, we know the Bible says such and such, but we believe/but this is what works best for us/but this is what is producing results...' "

Wells again,

Unless evangelicals recover their confidence in the sufficiency of Scripture, their claim that Scripture alone is authoritative will remain empty. It will remain a charade.

Rethinking the Church or Rethinking Our Thoughts About the Church?

In David F. Wells' The Courage To Be Protestant, the point is made that it is not so much that we need to rethink the church and how we do church that will address the problems in the church today, but rather rethinking our thoughts about the church.

Today, prodigious amounts of energy are being poured into this effort (rethinking the church). Everything about the church must be rethought! We must rethink how it becomes successful! We must rethink it all because this is what businesses do! Their products are all the time dying as new niches and needs arise. So it is in the church! Rethink or die!

In my view, so much of this rethinking confuses rethinking the nature of the church with rethinking its performance. For the multitude of pragmatists who are leading churches in America today, these are one and the same thing. The church is nothing but its performance. There is nothing to be said about the church that cannot be reduced to how it is doing, and that is a matter for constant inventories, poll taking, daily calculations, and strategizing.

I beg to differ. These are two entirely different matters. We intrude into what is not our business when, in our earnest pursuit of success in the church, which we think we can manufacture , we confuse its performance with its nature.

The church is not our creation. It is not our business. We are not called upon to manage it. It is not there for us to advance our careers in it. It is not there for our own success. It is not a business. The church, in fact, was never our idea in the first place. No, it is not the church we need to rethink.

Rather, it is our thoughts about the church that need to be rethought. It is the church's faithfulness that needs to be reexamined. It is its faithfulness to who it is in Christ, its faithfulness in living out its life in the world, that should be occupying us. The church, after all, is not under our management but under God's sovereign care, and what he sees as health is very often rather different from what we imagine its health to be.

...Christ not only constitutes the church (Matt. 16:18), but God has given us the blueprint for its life in Scripture. What we need to do, then, first and foremost, is to think God's thoughts after him, think about the church in a way that replicates his thoughts about it. We need to ask ourselves how well, or how badly, we are realizing our life in Christ in the church, how far and how well churches stand as outposts of the kingdom of God in our particular culture.


Good Question

Jed Coppenger posted a great article over at B21 concerning the great need to prioritize our monies/giving as Southern Baptist to reach the urban areas of our nation.

Here's an excerpt with a great question:

Listen folks, we’ve got the money. Just look at the budgets of our state conventions and agencies. The question is can Southern Baptists prioritize their monies so that they are more focused on church planting and less on good, but secondary concerns? Is it possible that Southern Baptists might be able to grade their monies, pouring more money into urban church planting in cities outside of the south? Would it be possible to take the millions and millions of dollars that we are spending on things in the south and redirect those monies towards church planters who are ready to leave momma so that pagans will praise Christ?

Very good question. Hopefully, as Southern Baptists and more importantly as followers of Christ, we can provide the right and needed answer to that question in Orlando in June. Time will tell.

Our Gospel or The Gospel

IMonk has a great post arguing that the problem in the church today is not so much that we do not understand the Gospel, but rather we are cowards when it comes to living out what we fully understand.

Here's a portion:

Our Gospel is safe. The Gospel isn’t safe.

Our Gospel is predictable and familiar. The Gospel is flying in a new direction.

Our Gospel is familiar and affirming. The Gospel overturns the status quo and shakes us up/down.

Our Gospel is the scenery for our little play. The Gospel runs us all out of the theater because the world is on fire…or could be.

Do we need to know more? Or do we need the courage to stop taming and neutering the announcement that turns the world upside down?

While we’re still tying the Gospel down with the Lilliputian legalisms of culture and religion, the Gospel doesn’t need our entourage around. We need to stand back and let the Gospel go places, do things and set precedents that testify to a whole new Creation brought about by a death-defeating resurrection.

We need to repent of being cowards with the Gospel.

T4G 10

We probably won't make it to Louisville for T4G 10. That pains me to type because 08 was such a wonderful experience. But, considering our finances, the fact that we have no idea where we will be come April, and the little fact of Asher's arrival a few weeks earlier, it is definitely not likely we will go.

Here is a great clip from John Piper's message from T4G 08. I loved this line. It has a lot of meaning right now:

"The sweetest fellowship you can have with your Savior is in the fellowship of His suffering."

John Piper - Recap from T4G 2008 from Together for the Gospel (T4G) on Vimeo.


A Church's Misplaced Confidence

From Francis Chan's latest book, The Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit :

"But instead of living this way, we've created a whole brand of churches that do not depend on the Spirit, a whole culture of Christians who are not disciples, a new group of "followers" who do not follow. If all God asked for were faceless numbers to fill the churches, then we would be doing alright. Most of us would feel pretty confident. But simply having a good speaker, a service that is short and engaging, a good venue, and whatever else we add to the mix does not make for a "good" or "successful" church. God intended for His bride, those who claim His name, to be much more than this."