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Darren Rowse, the Problogger, has written an interesting post about how to keep blogging when it feels like nobody is reading your blog. Darren speaks of his time as a pastor learning to preach by speaking to a room full of empty pews.
As a fellow pastor I know that feeling well, and as an aspiring problogger I’m feeling it even more often. However, for me the eye openner came when I started to read the comments to Daren’s post. There just seemed to be so many pastors and other church leaders there.
Of course, I know a lot of pastors are now using a blog as part of their ministry, as I do. They post sermons and church news for the benefit of their congregation and others. However, these were not just pastors posting on church themes. No, these were pastors and ex-pastors who now post for many other reasons.
I often attend the ordination services for new pastors in my denomination, and am always interested to discover just how many become pastors out of a professional science background, as I did. Well, here’s another interesting question – how many professional bloggers enter the “profession” after a career as a minister or pastor?
Any more want to come out of the closet (or is it vestry)?
Sad as it may seem, I believe that most Christians are told by their leaders which part of the theological spectrum they are part of, and generally they don’t understand what it means, nor do they often care very much. Theology has been made to appear to them like an obscure, esoteric branch of philosophy that is beyond their reach and not very relevant to their lives anyway. As long as they dutifully subscribe to the party line then all will be well with their world. If they should question it too persistently then the accusations of backsliding will flow quickly and frighten them back into the loyal fold.
This is not unlike voting for a particular political party for the important reasons that your parents always did so, or ‘everyone’ in your town does, or your favourite TV commentator’s disparaging comments about the other parties are the funniest or wittiest.
It also reminds me of the Middle Ages when, as long as the priest said the magic words of the Mass at one end of the parish church, the whole town could, at the same time, engage in the village market at the other end, and all was well, and God’s wrath was appeased for another day. No-one actually had to take part in the rituals.
The sadnesses in this scenario are immediately obvious to me:
Why is it that when the most important thing in all of our lives is the development of intimacy with Jesus, do we think it is OK to delegate this to someone else? And whose kingdom are we leaders really building? Are we for Paul, or Apollos, or Calvin, or Arminius, or Luther, or …, or are we for Jesus?
Yes, theological movements do spring up for often good reasons. However, why are we generally so black and white about them? And why, once born, are such movements so hard to kill again? Was Jesus a Calvinist? Was he a dispensationalist? Was he Reformed? Charismatic? Was he even a Christian? (Now there’s an oxymoron for you!)
As a Baptist pastor I am almost expected to be of a Reformed doctrinal persuasion. However, the more I learn about what it means to be an intimate follower of Jesus, and one of those favoutites that I’m told my Father God doesn’t have, the more some of the tenets of Calvinism make me extremely uneasy. In particular, their implications for the nature and character of God make me shudder. No, I’m afraid that much I once might have admired about Calvin is long gone the way of many other long cherished doctrines and heroes – into the heresy bucket. If someone said about me some of the things some sincere and well-meaning Reformed theologians say about the nature of their God, I would be very upset – and rightly so!
Of course, bucking the status quo is not without cost. For example, I had been considering becoming an editor for Theopedia. However, when I read the statement of faith I would be expected to sign I could not in all conscience do so. Most of it is fine, but not all. This is rather disappointing, because it is a great project, but I guess I’ll live. At least I won’t be burnt at the stake or put down a hole and pelted with stones!
Lest you also think I am anti-intellectual, or anti-theology, nothing could be more untrue. I love learning, and have invested a large part of myself into theology. I love to teach, and have engaged fully in a career as an academic and researcher, but I am constained at all times to make sure I am teaching life, not death. There are many things in all of the ‘isms’ and ‘ologies’ that cause me disquiet, and even horror at times, so much so that I would rather be known as a follower of Jesus than be mis-recognised as one of what has become known today by the title of ‘Christian’.
I’m sure I will write more about this, here and elsewhere.
The Hearing God’s Voice seminar we ran last weekend at Warrnambool was a great time. About 40 turned up for the Friday Night and all day Saturday sessions, where we taught about what it means to hear God’s voice, some of the obstacles to hearing and how to overcome them, ways to begin to hear God, dreams and visions, creative imagination, and the nature of prophecy and prophets.
Everyone engaged in the practical exercises, which for some were their first experience at actually recognising that God does speak to them. For others it was reinforcement and the discovery of further ways to hear, and what to do with it when we do.
About half have already indicated their interest in having us return to Warrnambool to do our Intimacy with God seminar later in the year, and we will also repeat Hearing God’s Voice for them before their next Restoration course begins in 2008. The material is available online at listening2god.com for anyone to use.
The weekend before this we ran the first Intimacy with God course in Williamstown for about 25 participants, and this was well received. God has been speaking to many across the world about this. It is not new, but seems to have been neglected in our instant, results oriented, modern society. More recent generations of Christians, apart from rejecting that approach to life, are also seeking a more authentic, less control and ‘success’ dominated way to live as followers of Jesus. They are finding it in some of the older spiritual forms as well as in the fresh revelations that God is giving to his people as time grows short.
The Intimacy with God material will also be put online at intimacywithgod.net when time permits. Watch for it.
Our next seminar at Williamstown will be on the 8th of September and looks at Generational Healing.
Perhaps Richard Dawkins is at least a level five atheist (see previous post – Level Five Agnostic). This quote from a Fr Frank Brenan SJ’s book review of Richard Dawkin’s The God Delusion would seem to indicate this:
Dawkins claims that moderation in faith fosters fanaticism: “even mild and
moderate religion helps to provide the climate of faith in which extremism
naturally flourishes”. Dawkins’ “take home message is that we should blame
religion itself, not religious extremism – as though that were some kind of
perversion of real, decent religion”. The same argument would not be put for
scientific inquiry. Imagine a call to ban all scientific inquiry because those
who engage in responsible scientific inquiry may be providing the opportunity
for fanatics to harness science for their own purposes. Dawkins and his ilk
think religious belief of any kind is meaningless, infantile and demeaning, so
nothing is lost by agitating in the most illiberal way for the suppression
of all religion and not just religious extremism which causes harm to others.
Makes sense to me. What do you think? Comments please.
How many times have you heard a mobile phone ring during a church meeting and wished that people would show a bit more courtesy about turning them off? Well, all of that is about to change.
No, not because someone has invented an effective phone blocker, or that everyone in church has been struck by an attack of consideration for others. No! Now we’ll be asked to keep our phones on, because we need them to participate in the service!
I was alerted to this revelation (or is that ‘revelution’?) by a post on Dean Peters’ Heal Your Church Web Site – Pastors preach: turn on & tune in … to your Blackberry. Apparently a pastor informed his congregation:
‘“Please bring your cell phone with you to the service this Sunday. Yes, you
read that right. I, the President of the ‘I hate cell phones going off in church
club,’ am inviting you to bring that blasted thing to church this
Sunday. At the end of the teaching on prayer this weekend I am going to
devote about 7 minutes to answering questions on the topic and the way you will
pass on your questions is by texting them to a number you will receive during
the service. We will of course all have our phones on SILENT won’t we!”’
So now, instead of counting the number of colours in the stained glass windows during a boring sermon, you’ll be able to surf the web on your phone, or even play solitaire, and everyone will think you are tuned in to what is going on.
Really though, some are finding it’s easier to surf to a Bible gateway than to carry a heavy book around anyway.
Congratulation to young Australian Casey Stoner for his first pole position in the MotoGP Motorcycle World Championship. Casey has qualified first ahead of fellow Aussie Chris Vermeulen and Casey’s main rival, the Yamaha rider with the home track advantage, Italian Valentino Rossi.
While the fact that Casey’s 800cc Ducati Desmosedici is by far the fastest bike on the track, what is really impressive about his performance, which has him leading the World Championship by a healthy margin, is that Casey does so well in heavy rain against much older and more experienced riders. The calmness, coolness and maturity displayed by this young Christian man does all of us, but especially his family and new wife Adriana, proud.
We’ll be watching the race with fascination tonight Casey. Well done!
I’ve been wanting to buy emerging church author Brian McLaren’s classic trilogy A New Kind of Christian: A Tale of Two Friends on a Spiritual Journey, The Story We Find Ourselves In: Further Adventures of a New Kind of Christian, and The Last Word and the Word after That: A Tale of Faith, Doubt, and a New Kind of Christianity, for some time. Apart from it being difficult to get them all in Australia, they are expensive at $32.95 each from Koorong.
Amazon.com have all three books in a boxed set for US$19.75. Check it out here: McLaren Boxed Set (A New Kind of Christian; The Story We Find Ourselves In; The Last Word and the Word After That).
The great thing about this, apart from the US$46.09 saving, is that it ships as one item instead of three, so you save another US$9.98 on postage. With the Aussie dollar over US$0.83 at present this works out pretty reasonable.