Back during my seminary days one class raised considerable attention and controversy. John Wimber and Peter Wagner offered a class that suggested ways...moreBack during my seminary days one class raised considerable attention and controversy. John Wimber and Peter Wagner offered a class that suggested ways in which the miraculous could aid church growth. But because it ended up being a circus at times -- with many attending classes who were not enrolled, the faculty had to make some decisions. Lew Smedes led the conversation and these are the reports from that conversation. In the end attendance was limited to students only. (less)
Lew Smedes was one of my professors in seminary. So I read this with great interest and wonder. It is a wonderful book that shares how one understands...moreLew Smedes was one of my professors in seminary. So I read this with great interest and wonder. It is a wonderful book that shares how one understands and lives faith.(less)
ames Thompson's Pastoral Ministry according to Paul is full of insight on the contemporary practice of ministry. He defines pastoral ministry in terms...moreames Thompson's Pastoral Ministry according to Paul is full of insight on the contemporary practice of ministry. He defines pastoral ministry in terms of community formation, with a goal of the presentation before God at the end of days of a blameless church. It is a vision of Paul's theology that moves beyond justification to transformation.
For we who are pastors, Paul offers an alternative vision:
Paul's clear articulation of his pastoral ambition provides focus to the contemporary minister who struggles with a variety of expectations. His focus on community transformation is a welcome alternative to our own focus on meeting the individual needs of members of the congregation. Moreover, his call for a communal and countercultural ethic provides a missing dimension in the contemporary understanding of ministry. For Paul, all of the functions and skills of the minister fit within a pastoral theology of transformation. (p. 29).
Such a vision of ministry isn't geared to making things easier, but it gives clearer focus. We who have served congregations know the difficulty of trying to keep up with the fleeting desires of congregants, desires that pull us too and fro. When we "don't measure up" it's time to go. Thompson's Pauline vision puts the focus on calling the community forward so it becomes more Christlike.
As I read Thompson in light of the critiques of Christianity given by Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and others, I thought I found within its pages an answer to the ethical challenges to the Christian message. Christianity hasn't been found wanting because it was tried and failed, but because it has never been tried.(less)
We live and work and have our being in a very different world than that of our parents or grand parents. You can make that claim whether you are 18, 3...moreWe live and work and have our being in a very different world than that of our parents or grand parents. You can make that claim whether you are 18, 35, 50, or maybe even 60. The fact is that the world has changed and the place of Christianity and the church has diminished. We hear a lot about theocratic pretensions, but by and large those voices, while loud, are rather small in number. Gary Nelson writes from a Canadian context, where secularization is much further along than in the United States. There, more than here, religion is private. The number of those claiming no religion, while growing in the US, hasn’t reached a national number of 16% as in Canada. But what is happening there is quickly moving south. With this growing marginalization of the church, old paradigms of church life and church growth must change.
The title of the book is key. It is about missional living, about the church engaging the culture that surrounds it. The image of the borderland helps give life to this new understanding of church. Borderlands tend to be wild and untamed. Borderland areas are often inconvenient and uncomfortable. For the church to live out its mission in the borderlands, and that is where most of our churches now sit, we will have to understand that the mission field isn’t over there, it’s in our back yard. Borderland ministries, to be successful, must move from a “come to” understanding, that is, a “build it and they’ll come,” to a “go to” one. The challenge is that while missionary work my sound romantic, for us to engage in it requires a great deal of willingness to embrace radical change.
“Missionary life is full of inconvenience and discomfort. It will require that we work outside ourselves. It will require that we substitute ‘that which is comfortable to us’ for ‘that which will be comfortable for you’” (p. 5).
If we are to become a missional church, which many churches are talking about, we must risk ourselves in embracing the community around us. We must engage it and impact it. And the leaders of such churches must thrive in borderland situations. That is, they must be willing to go out where the people are present, rather than stay inside the safety of the faith community.
Church of England based cartoons about church life. Comprising a collection of black and white line drawings, this little book helps us laugh a little...moreChurch of England based cartoons about church life. Comprising a collection of black and white line drawings, this little book helps us laugh a little about what goes on in the church -- from Sunday School to worship services. It's a reminder that we can't take everything too seriously. If you're not British and not Anglican, you might have to stop and think about some of the pieces.
So, if you're an American, just remember that a biscuit is a cookie!
Unfortunately, it's difficult to describe a cartoon, so just take my word for it, you likely will enjoy this little repast -- especially if you're clergy!
David Lose offers in brief compass a wonderfully illuminating look at preaching in the modern context. As a preacher I know that my sermons reach some...moreDavid Lose offers in brief compass a wonderfully illuminating look at preaching in the modern context. As a preacher I know that my sermons reach some, but are they addressing the real questions of the day? Is what we've been trained to do up to the demands of this era? We know that many are slipping away from the churches, in large part due to the wide variety of meaning making options -- the question is -- does the message we share help with meaning making?
Lose addresses the issue of preaching in relationship to postmodernism, secularism, and pluralism (in the last section he is focused on digital pluralism not religious pluralism). In the end, the question is how does preaching help form a Christian identity?
Joe Jones is a retired Disciples of Christ theologian. He is some what unique in that he has had an affinity for Karl Barth (an affinity I share as a...moreJoe Jones is a retired Disciples of Christ theologian. He is some what unique in that he has had an affinity for Karl Barth (an affinity I share as a Disciples pastor/theologian) and for John Howard Yoder. His theological work is rooted in Wittgenstein's concern for words/grammar, and he is troubled by the lack of theological sophistication among many in the church -- especially the clergy of his own denomination.
In this book, we find a collection of essays, blog posts, and sermons. Most have been written since the publication of an earlier collection was published in 2005 (On Being the Church of Jesus Christ in Tumultuous Times). The book is divided into four parts. Part one focuses on theological matters -- "Ecumenical Theologizing with Ecclesial Friends." I personally found this section to be the most provocative -- as he takes on the questions of what it means to live out a "radical orthodoxy." He talks about theological method, spiritual formation, salvation, discipleship, and the eucharist.
In part two, writing from a Yoder-influenced perspective, he tackles matters of politics from the perspective of a Gospel of hope. Yes, his politics is liberal, but his roots are in the gospel -- for the question is whether we are American first or Christian first.
In Part Three, he takes up a number of conversations -- beginning with the story of his life growing up in Oklahoma and on to his decision to pursue theology rather than law -- being the son of a respected judge. He takes us to Yale Divinity School and introduces us to H. Richard Niebuhr.
Finally, in Part four, we have before us a number of sermons preached for various occasions from his daughter's ordination to the funeral of a friend. In each of these pieces we are drawn into the biblical story and the need to draw close to the God witnessed to by this story.
What comes through these various pieces is that Jones is committed to the church and to the one who calls the church into existence. We hear a clarion call to consider the importance of the Trinity to the life of this church -- a call that is not always well received in a church that is doggedly non-creedal (at least of the traditional kind).
Being that this is a collection of various kinds of written materials, different pieces will speak differently to a person, but as with the Pauline epistles, these are occasional pieces that give witness to the gospel for our day. (less)
From the author of What's the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian? this book offers a word to those who are spiritual but not religious, alon...moreFrom the author of What's the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian? this book offers a word to those who are spiritual but not religious, along with those already in church wondering how they can speak to a generation that seems disaffected from the church.
Thielen is a United Methodist pastor whose formative years were spent among the Southern Baptists. He left the SBC because he found it too rigid theologically and socially. As with his earlier book, he offers what I would call a moderate Mainline Protestant presentation. Filled with stories, some of which some of us have heard before, the book is divided into three parts. The first five chapters form Part 1: The Answer to Bad Religion. In this section Thielen addresses expressions of bad religon, including self-righteousness, chronic negativity, arrogance and intolerance, partisan politics and nationalism, and nominal commitment. On the latter he decries the tendency to put things like ski trips and youth sports above church.
The second part of the book is composed of two chapters -- in which he suggests that the answer to the above isn't "no religion." In other words -- John Lennon might have gotten it wrong. Abolishing religion isn't helpful or necessary.
Finally, in the longest section of the book, comprising ten chapters, he lays out what good religion looks like. Among the characteristics are prioritization of love, engagement in service, open mindedness, practicing forgiveness and gratitude, and more.
The target audience is the general reader. Among the resources listed in the appendix is a leaders guide for a six week series. Having led a series with the earlier book, this would seem to be a good use for the book. It might raise some interesting questions and open some hearts and minds to the questions on the hearts of many.
I don't think it will convince too many folks who have written off the church, but it might open up conversation with some who are at least open to finding in the church a spiritual home. (less)
Typically, today, when the media goes looking for religious commentators they tend to bring on the likes of a Joel Osteen, a Rick Warren, or an Al Moh...moreTypically, today, when the media goes looking for religious commentators they tend to bring on the likes of a Joel Osteen, a Rick Warren, or an Al Mohler. There was a time, however, when theological giants played a significant role in public life. Among the giants at the mid-point of the twentieth century were two brothers, whose influence continues to be felt to this day. Would that there were theologians of the public stature of Reinhold and H. Richard Niebuhr today! We’re fortunate, however, that the voices of the two Niebuhr Brothers continue to make themselves heard today – and not just because of the use of the Serenity Prayer by Twelve Step Programs.
The many books that the two brothers wrote, along with numerous interpretive works, allow us to delve into their thoughts on matters theological, religious, cultural and societal. As we engage their work we’re reminded that the Christian faith has a public voice that can and should contribute to the common good.
Among these interpretive works that help us engage with the thought of the Niebuhr Brothers is the recently published contribution to Westminster John Knox’s Armchair Theologians series. These books are designed to introduce important theologians and their ideas to the general public. The books are designed to be introductory, but they are written by first class theologians. In the case of the Niebuhr Brothers, our companion is Scott R. Paeth, associate professor of religious studies at Chicago’s DePaul University. And as with the other contributions to this series, the book includes the wonderfully illuminating illustrations of Ron Hill. These illustrations are not a diversion; they offer visual insights that stimulate the conversation.