Archive for April, 2009

I’m not a Chicken Little type when it comes to the changing demographics of the world and the current state of the Christian church. I believe Jesus when he tells Peter that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church. If they do, then Jesus was wrong and we should all go about doing something else anyway. But as my latent concern for evangelism grows and my heart becomes more missional (not to grow larger churches, but so that people will come to know Jesus), videos like the one below concern me.

While I may not vocalize my concern as demonstrably as the narrator does, the facts are the facts and they are indicative of the churches increasing malaise when it comes to boldly proclaiming our confession that Jesus is Lord. While more and more Christians are rightly becoming more focused on justice issues around the world (I’ll be teaching a class on it next week at Pepperdine University), we cannot lose sight of Jesus’ warning to be less concerned with what can destroy the body in relation to what can destroy the soul.

So here are our options as Christians: 1. Have more kids or 2. Get busy being the church in the world. I’m a both/and kinda guy.

P.S.

I need to mention that one of my church members sent me this video. He said he didn’t know if the stats/facts are/were true and neither do I. At any rate, except for the Southern Hemisphere, the Christian church ain’t doing that great. That’s my point! Not to scare folks — which might be the intent of the film makers.

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Gone Live

Posted: April 27, 2009 in change, church

Not that it’s the most important thing in the world, but the new Redwood Church site is now live. See it here

After you do, shoot me an e-mail (which you can do on the site) giving me your feedback. And I mean that. Most folks looking for a church find it through the web in these days, so we want the site to be interactive and informative. If you see something that needs to be fixed or added, let me know. 

Thank you in advance for your partnership in the gospel

As the Senior Minister for a church, you might find it odd for me to say this: There are times when I HATE preaching. I don’t mean the craft or the art, but rather having to say anything at all.

What I mean is this: There are times when the words of scripture are so powerful and beautiful that saying ANYTHING after you read them only diminishes them.

That’s the case this week.

We’re in the middle of a series about doubt. And we land Sunday on Acts 17 and Paul’s visit to and speech in Athens and the Aereopagus. Beginning is verse 24 Paul lays out one of his most beautiful speeches. Just read it.

Slowly.

And then read it again. I can’t look at it and not be taken with the hope and majesty of it.

“…he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.”

“God did this so that we would seek him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being.”

Just tell me that there is a better life available than that! Could there possible be anything left for me to say?

I just don’t think so.

Much has already been written (blogged) about the Emergent church smackdown with Tony Jones, Scot McKnight. Kevin DeYoung and Alex and Bret Harris (whom I had never heard of before seeing this) at the Christian Book Expo.

You can see the video here. After you’ve watched the video, come back here.

Here are my reflections.

1. McKnight and Jones are obviously tired of being caricatured, especially by those who caricature them — and their friends — in hopes of selling books. I really, really like Scot McKnight and think he offers one of the more hopeful voices moving forward. When folks like DeYoung write polemics to the point that it upset McKnight, the church suffers from the lack of hearing McKnight in venues like these speak about more substantive matters.

2. The Harris brothers didn’t really know or add much. But what did you expect given their age and lack of exposure to things emergent? Being on the panel, in some ways, was unfair to them. However, they could have saved some of the “holier-than-thou” sentiment that I picked up.

3. Kevin DeYoung, obviously under the gun throughout the panel, is (at least from what I’ve seen) like many of the “young, restless, reformed” crew: Mean! When you are right about everything — and I mean everything!!! — you can be as mean-spirited and ungracious as you want because, hey, everyone else’s wrongness is more important to correct than your meanness. Trust me, I know. I grew up in a ecclesiological tradition that placed so much importance on “orthodoxy” — which is always self defined, though DeYoung wouldn’t accept that premise — that you can simply be mean as a snake. You can get a feel for DeYoung here. (Granted, they are Jones’ impressions, but DeYoung has not contradicted the facts as of yet — as far as I know.) I think at all times, even when writing, all Christians must remember that scripture calls us to speak words of grace. That doesn’t mean to never teach or rebuke, but it does mean that we do it fairly, generously, and charitably.

I ended the sermon this past Sunday speaking authoritatively about the Jesus being “Outside the Tomb.” It was what Fred Craddock would describe as a “sermon of orientation.” It was firm in conviction, unambiguous, and strongly worded: “The tomb is empty!” Just what we need on Easter morning.

I said all these things knowing that this upcoming Sunday I would begin a new teaching series called, “Doubt.” The new series will be disorienting, bringing comfort for those who ask questions and a level of affliction to those who dislike grayness and ambiguity. The screech and grinding of gears from Easter to Doubt is not lost on me. But it is real life.

I know from experience. Recent experience. Before Easter was over, Rochelle and I found ourselves rushing our 5-year-old, Malia, to the hospital. The next nine hours treated her (and us) to two ultrasounds, a CT Scan, invasive medications, numerous blood tests, an ambulance ride from one hospital to another and talk of early onset diabetes, appendicitis, and elevated white blood cells counts. Neither Rochelle nor I are physicians or in the medical profession, but we know what raised eyebrows between two doctors and a nurse mean; nothing good. To be fair, we knew Malia’s life was never in danger, at least not immediately, but there were times when the fear of a life-changing prognosis was active in our imaginations.

There we are: The tomb is empty, but life happens in uncertainty and uncertainty means doubt.

But here’s the thing; certainty is not one of the promises of scripture. We cannot and will not be certain of everything God is doing. Even those who quickly jump to the comforting salve of words like, “It’ll all be good in the end,” would agree that conversations regarding who, how and why God will save can swiftly become testy and debatable issues.

Even as Malia lay in her hospital bed, too lethargic and dehydrated to move, I was confident that the tomb was empty, but had no clue as to the outcome of my daughter’s health. I knew what I wanted to happen, but no way to make it happen and no certainty that it would. These are the times when our complete surrendered-ness and dependency to God is tangible.

This is where we live, regardless of all our public posturing about the “will of God.” We cannot have the kind of certainty we would like! What we can have is confidence–confidence that God is good and working for a good that is bigger than our individual particulars. What we seek – and the way “believe” should have been translated more oftentimes in the New Testament, particularly in the Pauline epistles – is trust.

Trust that God is good, trust that we have a future, trust that even through the darkness we experience, the redemption and restoration are far grander than all we might lose or be separated from. Only then, I think, can we say, “Thy will be done.” And only in the committed articulation of “Thy will be done,” can we find joy, purpose and direction between the tomb and the doubt.

A few months ago I sketched out a blog post about the death of blogging. In the post itself (which never met the net), I described how boring blogging had become and how I felt that there wasn’t much being said on most blogs — including this one. I posited that the reaosn for this was that most blogs and bloggers I read were ministers/pastors and or professors which meant, like our preaching itself oftentimes, their writings had to be safe in order not to “offend” anyone. Therefore there was never space for authentic questions and genuine dialogue about the sticky issues of life and faith — fundamentalism, politics, sexuality, race, war, pacifism, and the like. Not only that, but some of my favored bloggers, like Scot McKnight, had gone “corporate” moving their blogs from independent site host like WordPress and began blogging with For-Profit companies like BeliefNet. Something seemed lost. I was done! In the post I intended, in my best Nietzsche-esque voice, to proclaim: “Blogging Is Dead” and announce that I was shutting down my little corner of the web. There would continue to be Palmer, but no more Perspective.

Then two things happened: (1) People started talking to me about my blog and about the things (read: ideas, thoughts, opinions) that they liked and disliked. Since I believe that writing best serves the world as discussion-starter, even the fact that some folks disagreed with me fulfilled the intent of the blog, and (2) Mark Love started blogging. Mark is not only a great speaker/preacher and the best missional mind in my ecclesiological tribe, he is my “pastoral coach,” a name I came up with for lack of anything better. Mark, for me at least, has the freedom to actually say some things, and as you would suspect, says it well. So I decided to file away my eulogy on blogging and committed to posting a blog entry from time to time. 

But now something else has happened that renews my faith in the power and usefulness of blogging. I have been invited into 2 new blogging adventures, and I’m excited about the possibilities for both.

The first is a project shepherded by Dr. Love himself. The object is to discuss missional ecclesiology. When the site goes live you will hear from learned professors, pastors and ministers working in church contexts, spiritual directors, and laity. The group is broad, and I expect will continue to broaden. We are men, women, African-Americans, Caucasians, scholars, young and old, as well as some international voices. But I don’t want to spoil it for you. You’ll get more information as the launch dates approaches.

The second is a partnership with The Ooze called Viral Bloggers. The folks at The Ooze identified some blogs/bloggers they liked and asked us to partner with them in the great American pastime of generating commerce. Every so often, I will review a forthcoming or recently released book aimed at the Christian literary market. I’ll post the review here, and copy/paste the same review over at Viral Bloggers. 

What will this do for you? It will help folks like you — in these economically testy times — identify which books are worth your dollars. At the same time, Viral Bloggers is a great place to find out what others are saying and what is happening in the Christian community (especially those of us with a slightly missional, emergent, social-justice bent). Some of these books will find there way to your bedside table and/or serve as starting points for small groups. 

What will it do for me? Well, none of your business 🙂 No. While you’re saving money by only purchasing the books you’re really interested in, I’ll be…well, none of your business! But there are some perks for me, too.

All this to say that I have entered the world of “Poly-blogging” or “Multi-blogging,” contributing to multiple blogs. Whether poly-blogging is for people who have large blog followings or for folks whose blogs don’t have the muscle to stand alone, I’m not sure. I don’t know how many readers other bloggers have.  All I can say is that I hope this reading (and largely non-commenting) blog community will join in the fun at these two other blog-stops on the road to Christian dialogue and conversation.