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Category Archives: Issues and Theology

5 Must-Read Statements on the Church

Given my recent sermon, “Connecting Together,” on what it means to be the church, I wanted to share again some thoughts from one of my favorite thinkers on the church, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. His book Life Together is, in my opinion, the best book written on the nature of true community in the church. Here are 5 must-read statements on  the Church from Bonhoeffer:

  • “Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves. By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world.” [26-27]
  • “Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.” [27]
  • “Thus the very hour of disillusionment with my brother becomes incomparably salutary, because it so thoroughly teaches me that neither of us can live by our own words and deeds, but only by that one Word and Deed which really binds us together – the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ.” [28]
  • “If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is not great experience, not discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.” [29]
  • “A pastor should not complain about his congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not to God. A congregation has not been entrusted to him in order that he should become its accuser before God and men….Let him pray God for an understanding of his own failure and his particular sin, and pray that he may not wrong his brethren. Let him, in consciousness of his own guilt, make intercession for his brethren.” [29-30]

[These quotations are taken from John W. Doberstein's classic translation of Life Together. A more recent translation with thorough annotations and a helpful introduction is found in Volume 5 of Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works.]

 

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Lausanne Young Leaders Consultation

This week, I am participating in a gathering of young leaders in North America hosted by the Lausanne movement. The goal is to bring young leaders together to discuss, pray through, and apply the Cape Town Commitment within the North American context.

From the website:

Lausanne is a global Movement that mobilizes evangelical leaders to collaborate for world evangelization. It grew out of the 1974 International Congress on World Evangelization convened in Lausanne, Switzerland by Rev. Billy Graham and Bishop Jack Dain. The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization (October 2010) in Cape Town, South Africa, brought together 4000 Christian leaders, representing 198 countries. The resulting Cape Town Commitment serves as the blueprint for the Movement’s activities.

Dividing by different topics, we are working in more specific groups as follows:
– Business as Mission/Workplace Ministry
– Developing Christ Centered Leaders
– Discipleship
– Unreached People Groups
– Ministry to the Marginalized and Poor
– Focusing on Cities
– Theological Education
– Truth in Arts and Media
– Unity in the Church
– Evangelism to Muslim People

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2012 in Discipleship, Issues and Theology

 

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Fred Luter and the Multiethnic Church in America

This past week, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), a denomination which has its roots in slave-era disputes in the United States, elected Fred Luter as its first African American president. Luter was elected to the post of Vice President last year, and about ten years before that was the first African American to preach to the SBC’s general assembly.

While Luter’s presidency is about much more than ethnicity and race, it is still a milestone for the largest Protestant denominations in the United States. Most people generally accept as true the statement that Sunday morning is the most segregated time in our nation.

What do you think about this move by the SBC?

How is the church in America doing at reflecting the multiethnic realities of our country?

You can read more about Luter’s affirmation as SBC president at the SBC web-site here, Christianity Today’s web-site here or CNN’s web-site here.

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2012 in Issues and Theology

 

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The Real Good News

“To recover the old, authentic, biblical gospel, and to bring our preaching and practice back into line with it, is perhaps our most pressing present need.” J. I. Packer wrote these words in his 1958 introductory essay for a reprint of John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. While Packer went a pertinent direction for that period of time, his statement is no less applicable to us today.

In fact, we find the same concern Packer raises in 1958 coming to the fore of the Apostle Paul’s thoughts in his first century letter to the Galatians:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all. (Galatians 1:6-7a)

That ‘old, authentic, biblical gospel’, Paul says, is something you have set aside for a new gospel that is … well, to be honest, not even a gospel at all. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2011 in Books and Quotations, Issues and Theology

 

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Intimate Love and the Song of Songs

Whether using provocative sexuality to advertise products or acclaiming sex as the pinnacle of human experience, there is no doubt that our culture is sexually charged. Unfortunately, Christians often react to this aspect of culture in two less than helpful ways. The first is to lambast the glorification of sexuality as evil, at times avoiding healthy conversation about sexuality entirely. The second tendency is to ‘Christianize’ the sexual emphasis in our culture. Thus, some churches have developed a “40 days of sex” focus without giving careful thought to the implications for our views of human person-hood.

Sexuality is one aspect of our essential ‘good’-ness as created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-31). Sexuality is not a result of the Fall into sin. At the same time, like any other aspect of our humanity, our sexuality is often bent by sin and brokenness. Although originally ‘good’, our sexuality needs redemption.

This is where the beautiful poetry of Solomon’s Song of Songs speaks so powerfully. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2011 in Issues and Theology

 

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Imagination and Temptation

During this past year, I read through Alan Jacobs‘ book Original Sin: A Cultural History. Jacobs was a professor of mine at Wheaton College and is an astute cultural commentator and author.

In the midst of Jacobs’ comparison of the original innocence of Adam and Eve with our own original sinfulness, he makes an interesting point about the importance of imagination. Drawing on Milton’s Paradise Lost and C. S. Lewis’ Perelandra, Jacobs points out that Adam and Eve could not even conceive of disobedience to God on their own. They were too pure in their minds to conceive of disobedience. The tempter had to cast into their imaginations a picture
Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Something Old, Something New

I love to read.

That’s one of the main reasons that when my family wants to give me a gift, they immediately think of giving me books or money to buy books. Some of you have been in my office and are thinking: ‘you have too many books already!’

Regardless of the truth of that, I still love reading books, books, and more books.

Many times, my mind is captured by what’s new or fresh on the shelf. I love to read over the most recent offerings of contemporary authors like Tim Keller, Donald Miller or Andy Crouch. These, and others like them, speak the language of our day. They help me to grapple with the issues in our current milieu and engage with others in our current time. Many times, they challenge me to think freshly.

But I have also found the importance of reading authors outside of our current time period. This helps me to combat the contemporary fascination with what is new. Just as we always long for the newest gadget, we also tend to seek after the newest idea. Too often, we naively think that the new idea is better than the old idea.

C. S. Lewis once wrote:

It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.

So, based on that advice, I’ve been adding some old, dusty books to my reading list. Some of the authors’ names sound funny. I’m finding their ideas and way of speaking both harder to engage, more challenging to my worldview, and still very refreshing.

Not long ago, I was reading an anonymous letter from a 1st century disciple of Jesus to someone named Diognetus. The richness of thought that I found within these few pages overwhelmed me. (You can access this in the writings of the early church fathers found online at www.ccel.org/fathers2).

I thought to myself: ‘why have I never looked into these sorts of writings before?’ The answer is found in my contemporary snobbery. If the new is better, then the old is often viewed as unimportant. If the new is to be held up as ultimately worthy, then the old may be discarded as unworthy.

So, I ask all of us this question: are we snobs of the contemporary, or are we letting the voices of the past speak depth into our lives?

 

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