Article: “Beyond Church Growth: Kingdom Expansion”

Below is a link to an article written in 2006 by Ken Hemphill. It discusses the positive and negative aspects of the Church Growth Movement. I find the list quite accurate and seems to be as relevant today as it was when it was written. The Church Growth Movement started as a Missiological activity by Missiologist Donald MacGavran. As such, much of the problems with the movement as it exists today (such as focus on style over substance, and methods that promote transfer growth over evangelism or ‘kingdom growth’) are quite alien to the original idea. However, some of the problems were there from the start, with the seeds of pragmatism and (perhaps) overreliance on statistics being among them. From my perspective, perhaps its biggest problem— and this cannot be blamed on MacGavran— is the impression often promoted that church growth is about knowing little tricks for formats that if they work in one place, must work in other places.

Anyway, feel free to read the article below:

http://www.sbclife.net/article/1336/beyond-church-growth-kingdom-expansion

Advertisements

9 Spiritual Temperaments and Quiet Time Quandary (Pt 2)

It is hard to identify worship. JesusRelated image criticized the empty, self-aggrandizing activities of some of the professionally religious of His day, stating that these were clearly not worship. Yet that certainty was certainly not shared by the people. They would most likely have been quite impressed by how worshipful these clergy were. Perhaps these religious folk saw their activities as worshipful as well. (Cain may well have seen his sacrifice as a pure act of worship.) King David, dancing through the streets of Jerusalem, most likely saw his activity as worshipful. His wife saw him as acting as a clown. Only God really knows what is worship. (David’s wife was punished by God for despising him in her heart— despising a person certainly being sinful— and perhaps for judging what we are not cmpetent to judge. It seems doubtful that she was punished for inaccuracy. Again, only God knows.)

There are two struggles that we must address:

  • When is are actions, words, and thoughts worshipful and when is it simply satisfying some lesser need or desire?
  • If we find it so difficult to evaluate our own hearts in terms of worship, is it ever possible to evaluate others?

As an act of self-evaluation, I want ot look at myself from the perspective of the 9 spiritual temperaments. I will tentatively go from those temperaments that I feel are more part of myself to the ones that I see to be less part of me, to least.

TOP TIER

Intellectualist. The Intellectualist Temperament is not “worship for smart people.” It is about loving God with the mind. It is about loving God by seeking to understand God. This may seem to be hubris, but it is such only if one thinks one arrives. It is the journey that count– a journey that never comes to an end in this world.

This one hits closest to home for me. I did not care for devotional books because they were often done to help the reader “know God” or “feel God’s presence.” But there was little in them to help one to understand God. This may seem subtle but it is significant. With the devotional, one may have a happy “Our Daily Bread”-type story, with a verse for thought such as  For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11). It is certainly uplifting. But from the intellectualist perspective it is a source of controversial meditation. That is because the broader passage is about Jeremiah informing the exiles that God will be waiting 70 years to bring them home. Therefore, the message of hope is only really relevant to the hearers in the sense that it gives hope that a future generation will be blessed. The message of hope is actually mixed with a form of hopelessness. For the message from God to be identified as hopeful, one has to reject one’s own personal ambitions, and rest in the knowledge that one’s children or children’s children will experience the Lord’s favor. This sort of “hopeful hopelessness” is difficult for many Christians to appreciate, and it is exactly this sort of thing that spoils a short devotional thought of an FB ‘happy quote.’ But it is in this place of cognitive tention where the intellectualist worshiper thrives.

SECOND TIER

Naturalist. I do love to find God in nature— His Creation. I was raised in the country where I could see no neighbors from my house. The only building I could see outside of our homestead was a radio tower on Oak HIll, a couple of miles away “as the crow flies.” I like to get away from people sometimes (not easy here in the Philippines). When I am alone in the natural world, I tend to feel closer to God. In the Navy I was, in retrospect, so blessed that I was moved from the submarine fleet to the surface fleet. In the middle of the ocean, I would go up on top of the superstructure, lay down and look up at the stars undimmed by light polution. I would feel the undulation of the ocean pushing our frigate this way and that. Sometimes I would go out to the fantail and see the trail of bioluminescence brought by billions of microscopic organisms disturbed by the churning of our propellor.

Most often, whether back home or on the ocean, I would like to stare into space. I would imagine that I was part of space, with just a thin film of air protecting me from nearly complete vaccuum. This wasn’t hard to imagine, because that is reality. I would look at the stars and try to imagine them as they  are… not bright spots on a canvas, but a three-dimensional panarama going off in all directions for (approximating) eternity. This was harder to imagine… the mind buckles under the scale of the cosmos. It occurs to me that the Naturalist and the Intellectual can be quite compatible. People like Kepler and Newton saw themselves in their appreciation of God’s handiwork on a quest to understand the very mind of God. Who is to say that Newton’s second law of motion is not a statement (ode) of deep reverential awe to the Creator?

Ascetic.  This one I feel a connection to, but I also find myself pushing away from it. On one side, I appreciate the idea of living a life of quiet simplicity. Perhaps this jives quite well with the intellectualist and naturalist, who often find themselves closer to God when they are less entangled with people and people’s stuff. The solitary and simple, may appeal to me and I do feel closer to God removing myself from the frenetic world around. But perhaps my temperament comes closer to that of the writer of Ecclesiastes, whose perspective seems a bit more Epicurean than Ascetic— Fear the Lord, and enjoy the simple little joys you find in this otherwise rather meaningless existence. I have never fasted in my life and considering how ambivalent the Bible is on fasting, I have to be a bit skeptical of those who push it as a Christian must-do. Additionally, the ascetic lives a life of order and structure (according to the book). I have no order to my daily life at all. I generally sleep more often when it is dark than when it is light. I usually eat close to mid-day. Beyond these two points of reference, there is little consistent in my daily routine. I am not sure that I have a daily routine. So perhaps the ascetic does not really describe where I am…. but it someways, almost.

Traditionalist. I come from an Open-worship denomination. As such, we don’t have as much in terms of formal traditions. We may have quite a bit in informal traditions… but these do drift some over time. Still, the more I go to churches that embrace the musical “flavor of the hour,” the more I like to hear and participate in the great hymns of the faith, and sometimes even the ancient music traditions of the church. The more I go to churches that do the “Ummm… let’s see what’s next on the agenda” in worship service, the more I like a bit of reliable structure. The more I go to churches where members stand and sit, but do little more to participate in the corporate worship (maybe some clapping or waving hands around as well), the more I wonder if a bit of liturgical dialogue between clergy and laity is not such a bad thing.

I like to remember that the church exists in four dimension, not just three. It exists in three-space, but it also exists in time. We are part of a 2000 year old tradition, and there is something wonderful in sharing in the same words and actions as they… at least sometimes. Maybe for me I want a “rebellious traditionalism.” We rebel against falling into a spiritless traditionalism by appreciating eclectically the various traditions that our four-dimensional church has to offer.

Caregiver. I struggle with this one. I do like to serve in ministry. I like to teach, I like to help ministers become empowered to be more effective. I like to “fix problems.” I suppose that would make me a caregiver. On the other hand, there are some ways that I really am not. Does this mean that I am not a caegiver in terms of spiritual temperament, or does it mean that I am one, but the side of me that is a SELFISH JERK wars with that other side of me. Definitely an area for contemplation.

BOTTOM TIER

The other four temperaments are really not me at all. The tricky one of those is the Contemplative. I teach in an Evangelical seminary, and I give out spiritual temperaments test to a lot os students. Usually, Contemplative is one of the top two. I wonder about that. However, in the Evangelical worldview, adoration of God is taken quite strongly. So maybe this is a big thing for many of our students. On the other hand, there is also a lot of religious peer pressure in this area that may distort the results. Evangelical youth are really expected to groove to the worship songs no matter how poor the theology or sickly syrupy the words. On the other hand, maybe the questions are poorly worded. Thomas did admit that he struggled in separating the Contemplative type from some overlapping types like Ascetic and Naturalist (who are very much contemplative in their worship).

I am not not an Activist. I am not confrontational. I often respect (some) activists, but as Thomas noted, we tend to prefer dead prophets over living ones. We need them, but we often don’t want them as neighbors.

The Sensate and the Enthusiast do nothing for me. I have friends that fit into one of these… especially the Enthusiast. They don’t appear to be able to fathom any other type of worship. But then, most of us struggle with recognizing worship that is outside of our own area of comfortable connection with God. I am the type of person who, as a High Schooler, would bring a book with me to a party, so I would have something to read when I get bored.

I probably will never be able to appreciate the full range of worshipful expression directed to our God— and I doubt these 9 temperaments express the entire range. They at least give me something to think about as I stand awkwardly during a worship service while others sing enthusiastically and joyfully songs that are happy and musically contemporary, but with little else to commend them. They may help me to appreciate someone using an icon for reverential contemplation on the mystery of God without me automatically jumping to the conclusion that they are idolizing a “graven image.”

Maybe as I go through life I will rediscover Quiet Time and find that I gave it up too quickly and by combining it with a flexible routine, and my practice of contemplative journaling, it will have a vibrant place in my spiritual pilgrimmage. Maybe my practice of journaling and studying and reading really is my Quiet Time… just a slightly different Quiet Time. Anyway, it is something to think about.

 

9 Spiritual Temperaments and Quiet Time Quandary (Pt 1)

I have been enjoying reading “Sacred

Image result for sacred pathways

Pathways” by Gary Thomas. In some ways, it has a feel like “A Generous Orthodoxy” by Brian McLaren (although less controversial in its style, and perhaps its intent) in that both seek to broaden the perspective of Christians in what may be acceptable and pleasing to God and/or valuable to us.

Quoting from Gary Thomas, 

Sometime in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the ‘quiet time’ became a staple of most discipleship and church training programs. Usually consisting of thirty to sixty minutes, the quiet time was most commonly composed of a short period of personal worship, followed by some intercessory prayer (using a prayer notebook or intercessory prayer list), Bible study (according to a set method) and then a concluding prayer, followed by a commitment to share what we learned with at least one other person that day. This is something that’s easily taught and, for some circles, easy to hold people accountable to: ‘How many times this past week have you had your quiet time?’ Anything less than seven was a wrong answer.   -Sacred Pathways, Zondervan 2010 edition, p. 14.

The section continues:

With perhaps good intentions (who would oppose regular personal worship, prayer, and Bible study?), we reduced the devotional life to rote exercise. A. W. Tozer warned us about this: ‘The whole transaction of religious conversion has been made mechanical and spiritless. We have almost forgotten that God is a person and, as such, can be cultivated as any person can.’  -Sacred Pathways, p. 14-15.  

I have always struggled with Quiet Time. It seemed often like drudgery. I always wondered why a relationship with God should seem like drudgery. Is it supposed to? But then, being a “disciple” presumably involves “discipline,” and discipline certainly does not sound like it should be easy or fun. 

Some would add more things to make Quiet Time more palatable or, perhaps, more difficult. Some recommended using different types of devotional works. One popular one then was “My Utmost for His Highest,” by Oswald Chambers. I had a copy, but I found it almost unreadable. That I must admit may not be to my credit. Chambers appeared to be a man of great faith and faithfulness to God. Others said that one should start the day with Quiet Time. The idea seemed to be that this is the best way to start the day. Of course, if it is the best way to start the day, perhaps it would also be the best way to end the day, or to spend the height of the day. (Gary Thomas mentions a humorous story of a disagreement he had with his wife, back when they were still dating, and she showed him that having Quiet Time during the lunch hour was Biblical, by quoting Acts 10:9– ‘About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray.’)

But there was a strange twist. I would really enjoy learning about God, studying the Bible to learn more about God. I especially found this fulfilling in the context of preparing lessons for Sunday School, Group Bible Studies, or in preaching sermons. But then I heard from several sources that this does not count. Why? It seemed as if there is the presumption that work and worship don’t go together.

But maybe work and worship DO go together. It got me thinking that maybe what I find worship is different from what some other find worshipful. I guess that is why I like Gary Thomas’ book, because it doesn’t judge. One can worship God in different ways— one size does not fit all.

Thomas lists 9 different “spiritual temperaments” from different denominations in the present and in church history. The temperaments he listed are:

  • Naturalists
  • Sensates
  • Traditionalists
  • Ascetics
  • Activists
  • Caregivers
  • Enthusiasts
  • Contemplatives
  • Intellectuals

So I need to continue the journey as I look through these nine temperaments.

Losing Faith

A nice article below on addressing those whoImage result for rejecting god have “lost their faith.” Although speaking of a number of different religions, and a number of different Christian traditions, it primarily focuses on Evangelical Christians who have ultimately come to the conclusion that Christianity is false (along with other religions), and there is no God.

Now I know that there are many Evangelicals who, as they read this, are already getting ready to jump in on some matter of eternal security, and say that if they lost their faith, then they must never have had faith in the beginning (‘You can’t lose a faith that you never had’). A few might go the other way and suggest that if they really were saved by faith, then this APPARENT lack of faith is just a phase that will eventually work itself out. Some from a  different theological camp (those who reject perseverance of the saints’) would take this situation as support for their beliefs. These are unuseful perspectives.

The situation of religious people losing their religion is a genuine human condition, and trying to tie it into the theology of the ultimate fate of man, while important for theologians, is avoiding addressing the phenomenon honestly. People matter more than theological arguments.

One thing I like about the article is that, although it was written by one who is an apologist (Paul Chamberlain is director of the Institute of Christian Apologetics at Trinity Western University), the recommended method he gives for constructive engagement with those who have lost their faith is NOT to argue with them. He gives several tips.  I will here include #2.

Second, somewhere in our discussion it’s helpful to ask the most basic question of all, namely what exactly were they rejecting when they walked away? Then we must encourage them to share their stories fully while we restrain our natural impulses to interrupt and correct. Spoiler alert – this will not necessarily be easy listening. Their responses may be personal, emotional or intellectual, but there is nothing to be gained by avoiding the issues. Our number one task at this point is to listen.

One reason why we as Christians struggle with people losing their faith is not theological, but personal. We feel that that the person is rejecting us And sometimes we are right. Often, but not always, the person has not so much been turned off to Christ, but have been turned off to Christians or Christianity as it is practiced. (I think pretty much all of us have been turned off to Christianity as it is lived out and practiced by some Christians. Even if we did not reject Christianity as a whole, we all can share this common experience, I believe.) We need to focus on being better followers of Christ than being better Christians, and being a bit less thin-skinned.

Sometimes, they have not been turned off to the Christian faith, but to interpretations of that faith that are taught as if rejecting such interpretations is tantamount to rejecting God.  Taking another excerpt from the article:

Fifth, those who preach to our congregations week by week must consistently draw a distinction between the infallible text from which they preach and their own interpretation of it. Theologian J. I. Packer once told his students that while he believed in an infallible text, he in no way believed in an infallible human interpretation. We need to encourage those who hear our preaching to examine and question our teachings just as the Berean Christians in Acts 17 were commended for doing with the Apostle Paul.

Of course, there are many reasons for losing faith… a number are given in the article based on interviews with those who have gone through this experience.

You can read the entire article at the link below:

Why People Stop Believing:  And what we can do about it

 

Words of Wisdom from Two Edward Everetts

Two quotes. One by Edward Everett Hale, and the other by Edward Everett Horton. Both quotes are, loosely speaking about dealing with limitations.

edward everett

Poem by Edward Everett Hale. 1822 – 1909. Chaplain to US Senate 1903 – 1909.

“I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”

From “Masterpieces of Religious Verse” published by Broadman Press in 1948.

Quote of Edward Everett Horton. 1886 – 1970, Comedic Actor.

“Isn’t it marvellous to have some brains? I’m always so helpless.”

-Horton as Horace Hardwick in “Tophat”, 1935.

 

1000th Blogpost

This is my 1000th post. My first post was written exactly 8 years ago today.  This works out to one markerpost every 2.9 days. Why do that?  Madness? Possibly. But at risk of bing a wee bit schmaltzy— it may be LOVE.

Of course, love is a very sloppy term. Two quotes kind of come together to embrace the idea. One seems to be an anonymous quote:

Quote #1.

“Find three hobbies you love: One to make you money, one to keep you in shape, and one to be creative.”

I have not found one to make money or to keep me in shape… but doing 1000 posts is something I love and  has certainly helped me work on that whole creativity thing.

The theory that anything you do enough of will slowly make you get better at, reminds me of an old Dick Tracy cartoon where there was a bad guy who had pressed his finger against an anvil 1,000,000 times. That act made his finger (or maybe thumb?) a deadly weapon— a skull crusher. I may not be a great thinker or writer, but then I have only done 1,000 posts. By the time I reach one million, I am sure I will be SIMPLY AWESOME. Based on my present production rate, I will achieve that in 7, 992 years. Standby.

Quote #2.

The second quote from end of Buscaglia’s book, “Love,” (Fawcett Publishing, 1972, page 205):

The most human thing we have to do in life is to learn to speak our honest convictions and feelings and live with the consequences. This is the first requirement of love, and it makes us vulnerable to other people who may ridicule us. But our vulnerability is the only thing we can give to other people.    -Father William Du Bay

That is true for blogging as well certainly.

I average about 1000 hits per month. That is not awesome. One of my favorite bloggers gets around 350,000 hits per month (but he does really have great posts). But this is my ministerial and spiritual journey, so anyone who takes the time to take a quick peak at that is welcome. And if you wish to stay a little longer, or even comment, or LIKE (or DISLIKE) feel free to do so.

Thanks for stopping by.

 



			
					

Making Little Ones Stumble

My children went to a Christian school in middle and high school. Overall, it was probably a good experience for them. In their previous school, also a Christian school, they were bullied for being “foreign.” But the school they transferred to was multi-ethnic and multi-national. They fit in quite well.

The school genuinely sought to integrate Christian instruction with more national and international educational objectives. They would have spiritual emphasis week. They would have weekly chapel services and  some Bible training as part of the curriculum.

One year, my wife and I and some friends led Spiritual Emphasis week. We THINK it went well (hard to tell, really). On a few occasions I spoke at their weekly chapel services. Again, they went well enough I suppose. Some friends of mine also spoke there and taught there and did chaplaincy work as well.

But one year that stopped. A nearby church took over the spiritual instruction of the school. The church was one that I was familiar with… one that I guess I would describe as theologically “sketchy.”

As was relayed to me by a few students, the year was strange. Here are a few comments…

  • Dogmatic and ‘Preachy.’ They were quite committed to pushing a very targeted dogma and did not help students explore issues of faith. One incident was rather interesting. They were explaining how all other religions were wrong. When they got to Buddhism, they said it was from the devil because it was all about how to get rich. It is true that some of the versions of Mahayana Buddhism as it is practiced especially in some predominantly Chinese regions does place of lot of focus on good luck and prosperity. However, “orthodox” Buddhism rejects focus on materialism and on desire. It seemed like they were simply taking a caricature of one form of Buddhism and using it as a strawman. (Strangely, I had always thought that the church in question was a “prosperity gospel” church. I hope I am wrong, rather than them being hypocritical). Since more than half of the students came from places with a large Buddhist population, that particular lesson taught the students that the trainers were not reliable.
  • Anger.   Students noted some members getting angry at the students in the spiritual training. I am somewhat sympathetic. It is easy to get frustrated and angry at teenagers. However, apparently the anger stemmed from the students not responding to the worship in a way that they liked. Apparently, the students were supposed to groove to the worship kind of like how people do on worship concert videos.
  • Blame.  Near the end of the year, one of the teachers from that church got angry again at the students and blamed the children for spoiling or destroying THEIR destiny. “Their” in this case meant the trainers. I am hoping the students heard this wrong because it is just to immature for words. Seemingly, they believed they would come in at the begining of the year and train and come out with a school full of students who have been turned onto their beliefs and style. I understandhoping this would happen, but people who pick their own destinies commonly are really picking their own disappointments.
  • Not itching where it scratched. The big issue however, was that the trainers “did not itch where it scratched.” They talked about the things that were really important to the trainers, not what was really important to the students.

Most of the students were nominal Christians or immature Christians. They were raised with a globalistic, pluralistic perspective, and this background left many of them confused about what they believe and how they should live their lives. The students needed help, not just another person with limited perspective preaching at them. The spiritual training actually shifted a lot of students from, loosely speaking, Christian, to Agnostic. some even became interested in other religions. (When annoying people say something is bad, that something becomes more appealing.)

Actually, I don’t really blame the church. I don’t expect a church to be competent to train teenagers who have already become rather disillusioned by religion. But the school should have known better. The leadership of the school had no denominational or theological affiliation with that church. They said YES to the church helping simply because it made their own lives easier, not having to develop a spiritual formation curriculum or a set of trainers themselves.

This story is a caution to me. I have seen many a teacher/trainer who has led people astray. Sometimes it is with bad example, but often it is just by making the Gospel so unappealing, that a different ‘gospel’ looks better… or even no gospel at all.

This story also reminds me of two passages of Scripture, and they serve as a caution to me:

And whoever welcomes a little child like this in My name welcomes Me. But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.  -Matthew 18:5-6

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.  James 3:1