The Warden And The Wolf King – CSFF Tour, Day 2


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The Warden And The Wolf King by Andrew Peterson is an ambitious young adult fantasy, the conclusion to a wonderful four-book series called The Wingfeather Saga. Several participants in the CSFF Blog Tour, which is featuring this book that officially releases today, have given a summary of the first three books. I think that’s extremely helpful, and I encourage those interested in the series to check out posts by Jason Joyner and Meagan @ Blooming Books for starters.

Part of why I like the Wingfeather Saga so much is because Andrew Peterson does so much with his story. He’s painted a fantasy world with some depth; created characters that are interesting, even endearing; infused his story with humor and poetry and song; given us action and adventure. Above all, he’s given us something to think about.

I want to expand on one of those “somethings.” When I read book three of the Saga, The Monster In The Hollows,” I noted in my Day 1 CSFF Tour post that I saw parallels with the Green Hollows and the Church. I’ll reiterate here, Andrew Peterson is not writing allegory. However, there are similarities between his fantasy world and the real world.

One of those is the existence of a community defending against despoiling evil. However, without their king, they were merely hunkering behind what they believed to be an impenetrable barrier and living life without seeming regard for the rest of the world that struggled against slavery and kidnappings and transformations into evil creatures. They were content with their own safety.

Until, of course, the Igbys arrived and evil came after them. Remarkably, the Churc, I mean, the Green Hollows, came to their defense and fought to the point of sacrifice. In other words, when evil pushed in on them, they pushed back.

But they liked their evil clearly defined. Hence, the King of Anniera who looked like a Grey Fang was someone they didn’t fully trust—until he saved them. And when he decided to leave, there was a pretty clear indication that the Hollow folk were glad to see him go.

Of course, their feelings for Clovenfast, the neighboring community which they never realized existed, and for the clovens who inhabited it, were equally distrustful. After all, these were half changed citizens, trapped between the transformation from human to fang. What were they? Enemy? Monster? Friend? How much easier to pretend they did not exist, to drive any who wondered into the Hollows back into the dark forest.

I’ll admit, the section of The Warden And The Wolf King about the clovens had me both excited and uncomfortable. Excited because I had an inkling of what might take place (I was only partly right), and uncomfortable as the story unfolded because I saw the Church too clearly in the Hollish folk.

The fact is, evil wounds more often than it kills.

In the Wingfeather Saga, some people were transformed into Fangs, making them as good as dead to the life they’d known as humans. Now they lived to server Gnag the Nameless and to do damage to everyone else in the process.

But then there were the cloven, those injured in the transformation. They were broken Fangs, no longer human and no good as servants of Gnag.

In real life there are those who love the King of Kings and follow Him, and there are those who purposefully battle against Him, choosing instead to serve the Enemy of their souls. A great host in between make no choice, not realizing that standing still means they are not following. Hence, their not choosing is a choice.

They are the ones often damaged. They aren’t surrounded by the protective community of the Hollow, uh, of the Church. They live in the in-between, not wielding evil to get what they want, but not protected from those who plot against them.

They live in forgetfulness—an unconscious choosing of ignorance rather than the painful remembrance of what could have been, what they have lost and what they have no hope to recover.

But why don’t they have hope? What if the Green Hollows took them in? What if the Church welcomed the afflicted and needy? What if the Church put an arm around the homeless lady or the ex-con or the foster kids or those with disabilities and brought them inside? What if the Green Hollows was the place of comfort and a place to point them to the life-giving water that would make them whole?

Seeing the Green Hollows and their fight against evil, their reaction to the clovens, before and after the battle, I am challenged. I want to spread the word that the Church can be different—braver in the face of evil, kinder too, less focused on ourselves and more giving. More like Christ.

These thoughts about the Church are only some of the Big Things The Warden And The Wolf King brought to the forefront. I’m of the opinion that any book which challenges me in my real life, in my spiritual life, is a true winner.

I’ll get into a proper review tomorrow (or not), but I don’t want to hold off on my recommendation. This book—actually this series, because The Warden And The Wolf King really can’t be read in isolation—is a must read. No limits—a must read. This story is the next thing to Narnia. It’s one you won’t want to miss.

Despising Youth


McCainFatherandGrandfatherWhen I was young, I loved Paul’s counsel to Timothy not to let anyone look down on him because of his youth. Now that I’m likely in Paul’s generation at the time of his writing that letter, I’m less certain it’s such a good idea for young pastors to lead the elders.

Of course it was a great idea in Timothy’s case. Paul described him like this to the Philippians:

But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition. For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. But you know of his proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father. (Phil. 2:19-22)

Timothy was Paul’s kindred spirit. He was genuinely concerned for the welfare of the church in Philippi. He didn’t seek after his own interests, but those of Christ Jesus. He’d proven his worth in the past, publicly. He’d served with Paul to advance the gospel. He’d worked for Paul the way a child would for his father.

Those are a lot of pluses, but there’s more. In Paul’s first letter to Timothy he tells him to

remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith. (1:3-4)

Young though he was, Timothy could discern between strange doctrine, myths, endless genealogies, speculation and the truth about God. He wasn’t fooled, though apparently men his senior had fallen into such error—people Paul had “handed over to Satan.”

In fact, Paul told Timothy to be an example to others by his speech, conduct, and quality of godly living.

Is it so hard to imagine that young people today might not have the same qualities Timothy had?

I don’t think Timothy was one of a kind, but at the same time, I don’t think his validation in Scripture is cause for the church to rubber stamp someone because he is young.

In other words, in the same way Timothy’s youthfulness was not to be a reason for people in the church to discount what he said, his youthfulness was not the reason they were to pay attention to him, either. Rather, Paul was saying Timothy had a spiritual gift and had served with him and had the ability to discern error. Because of his godliness and service and work for the gospel, his youthfulness wasn’t to prevent him from ministry.

In Colossians Paul said that in the family of God there is neither Jew nor Greek, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Sythian, slave, or freeman, but Christ is all and in all. In Ephesians, he added male and female. In many ways, though he didn’t list it, he was making a case in 1 Timothy for old and young being included with the others.

Today I see a sad turn of events in the church—division based on age. Maybe I spent too many years teaching junior and senior high schoolers, but I happen to enjoy the Timothys of the church. As I’ve heard from several sources lately, they aren’t the future of the church; they are it’s present, just as much as I am.

Age divisions aren’t new. I experienced the “generation gap” when I was growing up. It’s simply ridiculous, as if youths have nothing to contribute because they haven’t lived long enough and older folk have nothing to contribute because they’ve lived so long.

Isaiah says that “vigorous young men” can stumble badly and that those who are weary and tired can gain new strength by waiting on the Lord.

In other words, old age is not an excuse to retire from Christian service, and youth is not an excuse to avoid it. Older saints serve an important role in the church—they are “like fathers” and “like mothers” to younger members. But youths play an important role too, some, in fact, as significant as Timothy.

More important than the believer’s age is their heart-attitude. Timothy was Paul’s kindred spirit. Any young person who thinks like Paul and cares like Paul and serves like Paul should most definitely not be despised because of his youth.

Published in: on July 14, 2014 at 5:53 pm  Comments (1)  
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Hymns


Rose-on-hymnal-on-pianoI suspect fewer and fewer churches sing hymns any more. My church did away with hymnals when we remodeled the sanctuary last year. We now have one service with “classic worship,” but the music of late seems to be one hymn to every three contemporary praise songs.

What stands out to me when the songs are put side by side is the quality of the hymns and, well, the weaker craftsmanship of the contemporary songs. Often times the latter doesn’t have a very complex vocal arrangement. I’m not a musician, but I don’t think you have to be one to hear the difference when they’re played one after the other.

But of late, it’s the lyrics I’ve been noticing. The last two Sundays I’ve been thinking, I grew up singing the kinds of hymns like “To God Be The Glory,” and it’s no wonder I have a strong sense of who God is and what He’s done.

At least for me, music gets inside me and makes the lyrics live. If contemporary music focuses more on the worshiper (“I give You my heart/I give You my soul/Lord, have Your way with me”) rather than on the object of our worship (“To God be the glory, great things He has done”), then it seems we’ll have fewer and fewer doctrines of the faith reinforced through our music.

I understand hymns are hard. There are too many thee‘s and thou‘s and hath‘s and would’st. But it dawned on me a number of weeks ago, those hymns were hard for me when I was growing up, too. I didn’t understand phrases like “schisms rent asunder” or “Mid toil and tribulation, / and tumult of her war, / she waits the consummation / of peace forevermore,” at least not in those early years when I first sang those lines.

But like learning another language or learning to read poetry, the meaning of those hymns became clear one by one. When I was younger I loved “Trust and Obey.” Now I’m pretty sure I thought of that song as my favorite, not because I was so trusting or obedient or even because I valued those qualities greatly, but because I understood what the words were saying. “Trust and obey for there’s no other way / to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

I’m tempted to say “Trust and Obey” has a lot in common with contemporary music because it does seem to put the focus on the worshiper, but there’s still doctrine woven into the fabric of each line. The point here is, “Trust and Obey” is an example of my “entry” hymns. I understood it and came to love it and that led me to other hymns I understood and loved.

Ultimately, singing hymns was no longer a chore but a rich pleasure. I miss four part harmony, I miss the great truths of the faith put to music. And I’m concerned for the next generation, growing up with parents who have been raised without hymns and with a postmodern outlook on life which has given them a relativistic perspective and a lack of an authoritative anchor.

Of course there are a handful of musicians who saw this situation before I did and who are doing something about it. They’re writing modern hymns. The ones I know are Keith and Kristyn Getty who have written songs like “All Around The World”:

All around the world the Kingdom cry resounds
From mountain town to desert plain,
From city to the shore.
Truth will not be bound by walls upon the earth.
From every nation, tribe and tongue
God calls His people forth

Now if we could just sing those hymns more often.

Published in: on May 26, 2014 at 6:48 pm  Comments (14)  
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Christians And Unity


Crowds_in_the_Big_TentOne thing evangelical Christians in particular get dinged about, especially by atheists and liberal or progressive “Christians”–Big Tent advocates–is our lack of unity. If your god was real, the implication seems to be, you’d all be one big happy family, not a bunch of squabbling, self-interested nay-sayers.

There’s some truth in this accusation. Jesus told His followers that their love for one another would be the thing that would draw others to them. And still, the early church was fraught with division.

Some problems were personal. Take, for example, Paul’s rift with Barnabas. We know Paul didn’t want to take John Mark along on what would have been their second missionary journey after he deserted them during the first one. Barnabas insisted. And Paul refused, so they parted ways.

Or what about the two women in Philippi–fellow workers with Paul–who had some disagreement with each other that required the apostle to tell them to knock it off.

James wrote to all the Jewish Christians scattered beyond the borders of Judea, and he addressed the problem of “fights and quarrels among you.”

Besides personal discord, the Church also faced disunity because of personal sin. Corinth is the most obvious example. That body of believers was tolerating a man who paraded his incestuous relationships in the church. A faction apparently was patting their backs for their tolerant attitude toward him, thinking their acceptance was a demonstration of grace.

On top of this kind of personal sin, there was also false teaching. Peter said there would be false teachers who would introduce “destructive heresies” (2 Peter 2:1).

Jude referred to people who

are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever. (1:12-13)

Later he said they are ones “who cause divisions,” are “worldly minded,” and “devoid of the Spirit” (v. 19).

I think it’s significant that in the first two instances, personal squabbles and personal sin, the Church was instructed to take steps to correct the situation. The fighting fellow workers were to stop, those lacking unity were admonished to be of the same mind, to look out for the interests of others, to bear with one another, forgive each other. Brethren were instructed not to judge each other or complain against one another.

At the same time, the Church received instruction not to tolerate sin. The brother living like a non-Christian was not to enjoy the fellowship of the Church, but the purpose was to draw him into repentance and restoration. The “disunity” then, was purposefully and temporary.

The situation with false teachers was different. Jesus Himself warned of “false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matt. 7:15). Paul went so far as to say those who were “rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers,” needed to be silenced because they were “teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain” (Titus 1:11b).

In other words, there is no plea for unity with these divisive false teachers. They, in fact, were the cause of disunity, disrupting and scattering and devouring the sheep, as wolves are wont to do.

The mistake, I believe, evangelicals have made is trying for a false peace. We are in danger of becoming like those Jeremiah spoke of:

They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially,
Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’
But there is no peace.

For some reason, we have no desire to pretend unity with a hateful group like the Westboro Baptist cult, but we turn around and gloss over the blatant misuse of Scripture from any number of others. Who are we to judge? we say.

But the fact is, universalists like Paul Young (The Shack) or Rob Bell (Love Wins) can’t be right if Jesus said the things the New Testament recorded about separating sheep from goats and sending wicked slaves into outer darkness.

I don’t think we need to be unkind or snarky or offensive. I mean, the point of silencing false teachers in the church is not to come out looking superior or more knowledgeable or highly spiritual. It’s to keep their teaching from gaining traction and spreading. We’re not standing in God’s place to judge them. At best we can pray, “The Lord rebuke you.”

Nevertheless, we ought not seek unity with those who say they are Christians, but who do not believe what the Bible teaches about God, His Son Jesus, and what He did at the cross in order to make a way for humankind to be reconciled with the Father.

So why is there disunity among evangelicals? First because we are sinners–saved by grace, yes, but prone to wander, and in our wandering we do disruptive things that require discipline and forgiveness and restoration.

Second, there’s disunity because people who aren’t believers say they are. They believe something, surely, but it is a different gospel, a result of “taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind” (Col. 2:18b).

rose-1441525-mAre we to pursue unity with these wolves in sheep’s clothing? Not while they are trafficking in heresy. But that judging question comes up again. Who are we to judge?

We aren’t judging when we call a spade, a spade or a rose, a rose or false teaching, false.

Discernment and judging are two different things.

On Being Silenced


Speak no evil monkeyThere’s apparently a brouhaha among certain elements of those professing Christianity that started on Twitter as a result of a conference with an overwhelming number of male speakers. One person evidently pointed this out, and an exchange of Tweets ensued. Next came blog posts.

I’m uninformed about the particulars. However, a familiar claim jumped out at me–one that surfaced in the discussion I found myself in a month or so ago. The common thread is that people who take a different approach, who counsel unity, who disagree are trying to silence criticism.

Here are the lines that jumped out at me:

I don’t like being divisive. Believe me.

But I don’t like being silenced either. (Emphasis in the original)

So “don’t try to silence me” appears to be the current trump card in disagreements. The troubling thing to me is that those calling for unity are being lumped in with those “trying to silence people.”

The implication is that a call for unity requires the person raising a criticism to back down, and therefore to be quiet.

There is the possibility that this is precisely what the critics need to do. I’m astounded when I read about organizational infighting as if it is a power struggle. Here’s an example:

The reality is, some folks benefit from the status quo, and it is in their best interest to characterize every challenge to the status quo as wholly negative and a threat to Christian unity. This makes it difficult for those who perceive inequity within the status quo to challenge it without being labeled as troublemakers out to make Jesus look bad.

In other words, the advantage goes to the powerful because things rarely change without friction. (Excerpt from “On being ‘divisive’. . .”)

Status quo. Challenge. Threat. Inequity. Powerful. Are we talking about a government, a business? Since when is the Church all about getting into have and have-not camps? Since when are we looking at the Body of Christ as specialty groups, one in a “position of privilege” and another “speaking from the margins”?

Let’s say for the sake of argument that these groups exist. What does God’s Word say about quarrels and conflicts that might arise? James takes the hardest line:

What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. (4:1-2)

There are all kinds of other passages in the New Testament that address the issue of Christians and how we are to treat one another (with love), how we are to view one another (as one body–not as Jews versus Greeks, circumcised versus uncircumcised, male versus female, rich versus poor), and what it takes to accomplish this goal (the humility of Christ).

I want to stress what James said, though: You do not have because you do not ask.

Would our good God not care about inequity within the body of believers? We know He does because Acts records an inequity in the church with certain widows (the most marginalized members of that society) being forgotten. The Church leadership dealt with the problem, so we know this was not an insignificant matter. God cared for those widows and He cared for us in the 21st century to have the example of how the 1st century church handled the situation.

So why, I wonder, are those who are concerned about the number of women speakers at a host of Christian conferences not content to ask? Primarily I believe we should be asking God to change any problems in the Church. He cares for His temple of living stones being built up, founded on the choice and precious cornerstone of His Son.

Will God ignore us if we ask?

James again:

You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. (4:3)

So yes, it’s possible prayer for women to be put in higher profile positions within the Church might not be answered. I have no way of knowing what motive women have who think it is better to hear a woman speaker than it is to hear a man. I have no way of knowing if they have brought their concerns before God in prayer.

I do know that we are to speak the truth in love, not in snarky tweets. And it is the way we speak to each other, not our agreement on every point, that is to set us apart from the rest of the world.

Published in: on November 14, 2013 at 6:56 pm  Comments Off  
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Whose Job Is It Now?


DentistryTwo or three years ago I learned about an inner city ministry called World Impact. I was impressed with the well-rounded approach the organization is taking to reach the unchurched poor living in the cities of America.

Besides church planting, evangelism, and Bible studies, they develop leaders from their converts and train them to shepherd others in their community. They also have schools, sports teams, emergency food and shelter, camps and conferences, job training, and dental and medical care.

At least they used to.

Hold that thought.

A week ago I stumbled upon a PBS program called The Paradise. After two weeks I’m ready to say this is the next best thing to Downton Abbey (season four begins Jan. 5, by the way ;-) ). A particular exchange caught my attention in the second episode.

First, The Paradise is the name of a store. I missed the very beginning, but it appears to be a clothing store attempting to cater to the wealthier citizens in England during the 1800s. The owner has faced some opposition to the idea of “ready made” clothes which are considered inferior products.

But for the sake of this post here’s the pertinent event in the story. Someone abandoned a newborn baby boy–a foundling–at the doorstep of the store. The owner is discussing with one of his workers what to do with the infant, and she remarks that people used to leave foundlings at the doorstep of the church. The owner pauses, then says, The Paradise has become the new church.

Sadly, too true, I thought. A commercial venture, a corporation, doing what churches once did.

But as I think about “what churches do,” a couple thoughts run through my mind. For far too long it seems to me churches have let others care for the foundlings and the poor.

There are any number of reasons for this, but at least here in Southern California, there has been an awakening–a realization that “the mission field” with its ripe harvest is downtown as well as across the border or on the other side of an ocean.

World Impact is one parachurch organization that is seizing the opportunity to do in the inner city what missionaries do overseas: provide for the physical and spiritual needs of the people.

But now I wonder. Will World Impact continue to provide dental and medical service for the poor? Will doctors and dental technicians and nurses and dentists still give of their time and ability to help the needy? Or has the government taken over that job?

Clearly, there’s still much Christians can do to help the inner city poor besides dental and medical care, but I can’t help wondering if churches won’t be more and more marginalized as government grows. But maybe if we had paid attention to our inner cities sooner, government wouldn’t have taken health care over.

I suppose the real question is, what else should we be doing to help the people our society is trampling?

Who are those people? I think most of us would say abuse victims or the disabled. Some would add women who are single and have decided against abortion. Still others would include prisoners and their families.

Yes, yes, and yes.

But who is falling through the cracks? Someone with vision needs to look at what the church is doing to reach gangs and the porn addicted and college fraternities and any number of others. Because if we don’t reach them, The Paradise or the government will come along and offer to be the new church.

Published in: on October 17, 2013 at 6:59 pm  Comments Off  
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Going Along To Get Along


bird ruffling feathersDon’t make waves. Don’t ruffle anyone’s feathers. Don’t rock the boat. Those were phrases I grew up hearing that basically said, don’t say what you want to say because you’ll upset someone.

Underneath the admonition is the kind intention to spare someone’s feelings. You don’t want someone to get upset or feel uncomfortable or confused or irate or off kilter. You want to keep people happy.

Sure, it’s a good sentiment if it isn’t taken too far. But the problem is, our western culture is, in fact, taking the concept too far. The result is, we no longer speak the truth.

Christians have fallen into this same pit. We sometimes don’t speak the truth because we don’t want to make others uncomfortable, and sometimes we hold our tongues because we don’t want to suffer the outrage from others if we say what we believe.

I understand this latter position. I had an encounter last week on another blog that put me under verbal attack. I was accused of being of questionable intelligence, falsely pious, cruel, dishonest, abusive, creating intentional harm, being snide, having an attitude that was “as Christ-like as a festering pile of donkey scat,” and more. Above all, some said people like me were the reason they didn’t want to be known as Christians.

So do I relish tangling with people who I know might well unleash such a diatribe again? Not so much. It’s easier to keep quiet, to say, I’ve been in the verbal battles in the past and I don’t need more.

I used to think such rancorous exchanges could be avoided by treating others with respect. Except, some people think you don’t respect them unless you agree with them. Some people read evil intent behind every word.

At other times I’ve had people assume they know my position on a matter simply because I’ve stated a view that’s similar to someone else on their blacklist. In this last foray, I was accused regarding my opening comment of trying to prevent others from speaking.

I did say there are voices intent to drown out the message of God’s hope and help with accusations against the true Church. This statement, I was told, constituted me telling those against abuse within the church to stop talking.

What we never got to was this: the true Church doesn’t condone abuse. Does abuse exist within the ranks of those involved in Bible-believing churches? Sadly, I’m certain it does. However, writing off all evangelical churches and all evangelicals as refusing to ask questions, to look at the truth, and to accept those who are digging behind the scenes is . . . myopic. Or filled with hubris.

How can someone extrapolate from their own experience and draw conclusions about all other evangelicals and evangelical churches of whatever denomination? As I see it, someone who reaches such a conclusion might have an unhealthy idea about himself.

So ought Christians to stand by and let people slandering the true Church and maligning God’s name do so in order to avoid confrontation?

I don’t think so.

I know people have said–I think quoting C. S. Lewis–you don’t have to defend the Bible. That’s like defending a caged lion. In reality, all you have to do is let him out and he’ll defend himself.

But when it comes to the Church–well, believers are the Church, so it seems we ought to defend Christ’s bride.

In the end, the best defense is a good offense (not a quote from Scripture, but I’m sure the principle is in there somewhere ;-) ). Peter says it’s our good deeds that will win over unbelievers, though some will only get it “in the day of visitation,” which I think means Christ’s return, or the day of judgment–in other words, not necessarily in the immediate future.

I have no doubt that good deeds speak volumes. I also know Paul said we are to speak the truth in love. It’s not loving to let someone live believing a lie. It’s also not loving to call people vile names.

So Christians, I believe, need to have a determination to speak the truth and not go along to get along, and yet to do so in a way that is different from the way non-believers engage those with whom they disagree.

Speaking the truth articulately without name calling, insinuations, snark, dismissive or condescending comments ought to mark Christians. And in the internet age, speaking clearly without rancor might be the greatest witness we can offer.

Leaving Church Is Not OK


short term mission groupThere’s been some buzz on the Internet this past week because of an article at CNN Belief Blog entitled “Why millennials are leaving the church.”

The idea is, church is this way and it really should be that way, but pastors aren’t getting it, so millennials are leaving. There have been articles rebuffing the conclusions, notable from
Trevin Wax
via the Gospel Coalition and posted at ChurchLeaders and Brett McCracken at the Washington Post.

Last I checked Scripture, though, severing an arm from the body would only make things worse, not better. So why are millennials leaving the body to which they belong? Are they so selfish that they have no interest in fitting their gifts into the whole or have they been so poorly taught that they don’t realize their withdrawal is harmful to others and to the whole? Or are they not actually part of the body to begin with?

I suspect it has more to do with teaching than anything else. I suspect there’s a certain portion of the millennial exodus that is nothing more than fad chasing. At one point the author of the original article said “church-as-performance is just one more thing driving us away from the church, and evangelicalism in particular,” then she explained that liturgical services are more authentic.

Excuse me? How does that make sense? What is more performance oriented than a scripted service with everyone playing his part? But if the conclusion is true–millennials are choosing liturgical worship over evangelicalism and calling it more authentic–then I suspect it is little more than following a fad.

According to the author, millennials want an end to culture wars, but she also says they feel their church makes them choose between compassion and holiness and that church should be a place where their gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender friends feel welcome. In other words, millennials don’t mind choosing between compassion and holiness if they get to choose their version of compassion.

What millennials need to hear is that it is not compassionate to allow people to live according to the dictates of their own heart rather than according to the standards of our sovereign God. What millennials need to hear is that God has answers to their questions and that they need to search the Scriptures to see what things are true. What millennials need to hear is that believers form a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession so that we may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.

The Church is not a club you can quit. It’s a family, a body, a temple, a bride. We have a head and we have a a role we are to fulfill. We have gifts we’re to use as good stewards to build each other up.

Quitting? Do Marines quit because they don’t like military food? Or the Sargent in command over them? Or the soldier lining up next to them? Or the early hours they must keep?

Millennials are not children. They can decide, just like any generation, whether or not they will take up their cross and follow Jesus. If they don’t see other people in their local church following Jesus, perhaps they can be the trail blazers. But leave the Church?

That’s simply a way of saying God has messed up. His plan to put together a people to represent Him on earth isn’t a good one, and we are going to go it alone instead.

Does Church have to follow a certain Western model? Of course not. The Church existed in the East before it existed in the West. And it exists in the Far East today where there is no freedom to worship as we can in the West. What does the Church look like there? Not much like gatherings of believers in the US, I’ll bet.

Is one right and the other wrong? Not at all. Church really is about substance, not style. That’s something the author of the article got right. The substance, however, includes Christ living a sinless life, leaving us an example to follow in His steps. So the Church is tasked to be both compassionate and holy. It’s not an either/or proposition because Jesus wasn’t compassionate and not holy. His example was both/and.

In the end, millennials need to be told the truth. If they have been rescued from the dominion of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of God’s dear Son, if they believe with their heart and confess with their mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord, that He died once for all, the just for the unjust, that God raised Him from the dead, and as a result that Jesus nailed their certificate of debt to the cross, then they are living stones being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices, well-pleasing to God through Jesus Christ.

In other words, they’re in.

If people are leaving, they need to be evangelized, not accommodated.

Published in: on August 5, 2013 at 7:06 pm  Comments (16)  
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The Tragedy Of Trayvon Martin And George Zimmerman


May_Day_Immigration_March_LA68There are so many things wrong with the scenario that led to demonstrators in the streets yesterday. First I find it sad that a neighborhood could be targeted for break-ins and petty theft–repeatedly–without some kind of intervention by law enforcement. (In little over a year, police were called over 400 times; there were dozens of attempted break-ins, eight burglaries, nine thefts, and a shooting).

I also find it unsurprising that in a state that has a stand-your-ground law like Florida’s, there was a tragic shooting. Yes, tragic. No matter who thinks which party or what government agency or media handling or lawyer errors were at fault, the fact is that a seventeen-year-old young man died. That’s the worst part of all these events.

Yet I’m also disturbed by the way the media tried and convicted George Zimmerman before he’d been arrested–before anyone knew that his head had been bloodied; in other words, before all the facts came out. People had already taken sides, drawn their lines in the sand, and had made this a case of race.

That’s another thing that is sad about the events surrounding Trayvon’s death–race has once again been trumpeted as an endemic disease in America. This, after we elected an African-American, twice, to the office of President. Fact: not every confrontation between people of different races has something to do with race.

Add to all the sad events, the fact that most people apparently don’t understand how the legal system works in the US–that it has less to do with uncovering truth than it does with winning by playing according to a specified set of rules.

Another sad part of this saga is that people disregarded Trayvon’s parents’ wishes in the name of defending Trayvon. They ignored President Obama, too. But in the end, a number of them seized the opportunity to get their faces on TV and to have a good time parading in front of the media. I can’t help wondering how many demonstrators would have showed up if the cameras hadn’t been rolling. Be that as it may, the actions of a part of the demonstrators was nothing short of self-serving and criminal.

Yet a media person who had just reported about a group of people wandering onto a California freeway and stopping traffic, had the gall to say that the demonstration was law abiding. Behind her were approximately fifty to a hundred people walking down the middle of a downtown street.

This is how our media sees law abiding.

The media also reported “dozens of cities” where people were demonstrating, and “all across the country” people were protesting. Interestingly, the “dozens” was changed in the next news hour to “half a dozen,” with no admission of the incorrect number reported earlier.

In all, I never saw on the news shots, a group larger than a hundred to two hundred in any one place. I also never heard of a place where demonstrations were being held other than New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and … I’m leaving one out, I’m sure.

Somehow small groups can capture the attention of the media, which then blows up the event out of proportion by interviewing person after person who is part of the demonstration. Who was interviewing the people that thought George Zimmerman got a fair trial, that he had acted in self defense? Who was rallying Hispanic-Americans to defend the rights of one of their minority? Who was crying “racism” on his behalf?

Yes, Trayvon’s death was terrible. No one can deny that–even if he turned and attacked George Zimmerman. I can see that happening. In this same troubled neighborhood, why wouldn’t Trayvon think that he was being stalked by someone, perhaps with the intent to rob him? Why wouldn’t he take the initiative to protect himself? In a troubled area, it’s hard to imagine he’d do otherwise.

Is there a solution to this mess?

We need an overhaul of police procedures in high crime areas. We need a criminal justice system that is bent on getting to the truth (so no lingering suspicions and allegations can continue to haunt an innocent man). We need a media that is interested in truth more than in hype or in their own skewed way of looking at the world. We need people who are willing to forgive rather than seek revenge.

In short, we need changes in people’s hearts–from the criminal element that started the snowball rolling, right on down to the demonstrators who, in their efforts to get noticed, jeopardized the safety of countless people. No institutional fix is going to bring about the radical changes that need to take place. PEOPLE need to change, but sociology will tell you the odds are long for that happening.

Ah, but there is good news! There is a God in Heaven who longs to make a difference in people’s lives, who heals the brokenhearted, who sets the captive free, who saves and forgives and restores. Perhaps His Church needs to be about the Father’s business in a more pro-active way.

Where Does Criticism End And Bashing Begin?


569937_hammerinIn Tearing Down The Church: A Tool Of The Devil and “A Tool Of The Devil: Christian Fiction Or Christian Fiction Bashing?” I question the approach of some toward the Church and toward Christian fiction. Could it be that tearing down the Church, that bashing Christian fiction plays into Satan’s hand?

Is that idea the same as saying no one inside or out of the Church should criticize it, that readers ought not critique Christian fiction?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “bash” figuratively to mean “criticize severely.” The question, then, seems to be, what qualifies as “severe”? OED thesaurus gives some great synonym suggestions, but instead of simply listing them, I want to give my thoughts on what qualifies as bashing. Others may have a different take on the term, and that’s fine. For me someone is bashing when the criticism

    * becomes personal (e.g. the author is shallow; the pastor of that church is hateful)
    * generalizes (e.g. Christian fiction is shallow; Christians are hateful)
    * exists for itself, either to make the writer look clever or to curry favor with potential readers. The opposite would be to give constructive evaluation that could help the writer/church or that is intended to warn away potential readers/church-goers from something harmful. (e.g. “Christian fiction is nothing but Amish romance”; Why Men Hate Going to Church or 52 Lies Heard in Church Every Sunday)
    * is based on rumors and not facts (e.g. Christian fiction doesn’t engage the culture; Christians are hypocritical)
    * jumps on bandwagons (e.g. “I don’t read Christian fiction because it’s so poorly written”; “I don’t need to go to church when I can worship God just as well at the beach”)
    * becomes angry or insulting (e.g. nobody in his right mind reads that stuff; nobody in his right mind would go to that church)
    * questions the integrity of others without foundation (e.g. they’re just doing it for the money [applied equally to the writing industry and churches])
    * parrots others (e.g. Christian fiction is preachy; Christians must like fantasy because their bible is full of it)
    * doesn’t let up. OED calls this “railing against” something or “complain or protest strongly and persistently about” something. (e.g. Christian fiction isn’t realistic because it doesn’t allow curse words; Christians are homophobic)

The bottom line is, criticism is not wrong. Constructive criticism can be helpful. Authors join critique groups or employ beta readers on purpose to receive feedback that tells them what’s wrong with their manuscript. Churches have any number of ways of receiving feedback too–all designed to help the group improve and flourish.

I wouldn’t write reviews if I didn’t have the freedom to point out weaknesses or to narrow my recommendation to the group of readers I think would enjoy a book. If I had to lavish praise all the time and make recommendations to everyone, then why bother? Reviews are designed to help, but they often contain criticism.

So criticism isn’t the problem. Criticism is different from severe criticism. And my guess is, most of us know bashing when we hear it or read it, but for some reason, we let it slide, maybe even join in (yep, I hate to admit it, but I’ve been there, done that).

I’ve singled out tearing down the Church and bashing Christian fiction, but I suspect this whole bashing thing might be a problem, containing the seeds of bullying. But perhaps that’s a post for another day.

What are your thoughts on the difference between bashing and criticizing? What did I leave out?

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