The adventuresome life of Buddy

It was almost two years ago to the week that we adopted a rescue dog from the local animal shelter. We named him Buddy, and life has never been the same.

Buddy should have been a cat because I'm sure he's had the proverbial nine lives. Soon after getting him he trashed our basement. We soon moved on to other containment measures but he seemed to get out of them as well. His first Christmas with us we came home from church, and he had trashed part of our living room to show us he wasn't happy being left alone. This was on vet prescribed Valium as well. Hate to see him if he became really excited.

I count at least 4 or 5 times that we really considered getting rid of him. At the beginning Charlene kept Buddy in the game. Lately it was me. He was getting a lot better and we were finally beginning to reap the benefits of sticking it out. I joked with Charlene that I wanted to keep him a good long time so that we could amortize all that we've invested in him over a longer period.

But this Tuesday we were on vacation in Ithica, New York, and Buddy was stolen. I wish I could say that I'm feeling magnanimous for the new owners, but I'm not there yet.

I haven't given up hope completely yet, but at least for now, it's the end of Buddy's adventuresome life with us. Knowing him it will continue, except with someone else. I wish them the best of luck. They'll need it.

The tragedy of leadership as self-performance

A package from Intervarsity UK just arrived in the mail with three books, including the hard-to-get Total Church. Looking forward to reading this one.

Flipping through it, I found this quote that touches on our models of leadership within the church that are performance based:

The real tragedy of leadership-as-performance is that it devalues the work of Christ. Our identity is not rooted in grace, but in the success of our ministry. And so we feel good when we have performed well and we feel down when things are not going well. We become enslaved to other people's approval. We are concerned to prove ourselves and that is just another way of talking about self-justification. We preach justification by faith on the day of judgment, but do not practice justification by faith in the daily routine of our lives. Our practical theology has become disconnected from our confessional theology. Our song becomes:

My hope is built on something less
than Jesus' blood and righteousness;
I trust my skills, I trust my fame,
and maybe sometimes Jesus' name.

But we cannot keep it up. Self-justification is always beyond us. The chorus of Edward Mote's hymn which I have taken the liberty of inverting actually goes: 'On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.' Leadership-as-performance is sinking sand.

This book looks really good. Looking forward to getting into it.

Contra pragmatism

This post is from the defunct blog "Dying Church"

From The Gospel Driven Church:

The greatest threat to the gospel specific to today is the indirect challenge of pragmatism among evangelicals. --Mark Dever

Some random personal opinions (of mine) related to this issue of pragmatism in the Church...

2) ...somewhat ironically, the current equivalent of the 80's-90's seeker churches are not really bringing the lost into the life of discipleship so much as they are attracting Christians who have become bored with their previous church.

4) Worship time has become more entertainment driven not as a means to attract the lost but to ensure that a church's "show" is better than all the other churches' shows.

5) The embrace of pragmatism affects nearly all of a church's aims, so that even the largest churches with the most resources do not actually plant new churches so much as they are franchising themselves. We see this currently with the satellite church movement, in which large churches with popular teachers do not raise up pastors to plant missional churches elsewhere but set up "spin-offs" where the main church teacher is shown on video screen.

This means that either a) really big churches with lots of money and personnel are somehow unable to raise up and train quality teacher-pastors, or b) they are able to do so but prefer the attraction of the celebrity quotient of their pastor. Either of those options does not bode well for the state of the missional church.


Why revitalization is not the answer

This post is from the defunct blog "Dying Church"

In his new book A Second Resurrection, author and consultant Bill Easum says we may need to rethink our attempts to revitalize churches, because revitalization isn't enough:

Is it possible we have underestimated the seriousness of Western Protestantism's situation? What if the metaphors of reformation, renewal, and revitalization don't get to the heart of the problem? What if the situation is much worse than those words describe? What if the vast majority of congregations in the West are spiritually dead and God no longer considers them churches? What if God has one foot out the door of most of Western Protestantism? What if the vast majority of churches are like the church of Laodicea in the Book of Revelation? What if God is about to spit us out of his mouth?

Reformation, renewal, and revitalization assume some pre-existing foundation of faith from which to raise up a new church. But what if that assumption isn't correct? What if that assumption is part of the problem?...

Easum concludes that most institutions have "ceased being the church," and that except for a remnant, the people who make up the institution are spiritually dead.

Is Easum being too harsh, or is he right?

What You Can Learn from Calvin and Hobbes about the Message and the Medium

This post is from the defunct blog "Dying Church"

Some things can't be reduced to bumper stickers and slogans:

If the subtle message of Calvin and Hobbes doesn't fit on t-shirts, bumper stickers, and bedsheets, then it seems unlikely that the message of Christ does. That the almighty and entirely holy God would undertake the costly work of reconciling sinners to himself - that one of the Trinity died on the cross for us and our salvation - that the Spirit would be poured out and dwell in a created temple without consuming it - who is sufficient for these things? If we can easily rule out some media as being inadequate for containing this message, is it possible to identify any medium that could be adequate?

Keith Green concluded his rant with, "I think the world is completely sick to its stomach with our sayings and 'witnessing tools.' It's time for us to be expressing the truth with our lives, and then the whole truth of God with our lips!"