The Weekend Wanderer: 3 August 2019

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

Last week I was on vacation with my family, so I took a break from pulling together the weekend wanderer. We enjoyed a circle tour around Lake Superior, starting with the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, then into Ontario in Canada, and concluding with a stops in Minnesota and northern Wisconsin. It was a beautiful journey in God’s creation with those I love the most. Here are a few photos, although I could share even more.

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Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan.
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Upper Falls on the Pigeon River at the border of Ontario and Minnesota.
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Mist over Lake Superior at Grand Portage, MN.

Okay, back to this weekend’s collection for “The Weekend Wanderer.”

Joshua Harris“Questioning Faith After Purity Culture: In Conversation with Joshua Harris” – For those who grew up in evangelicalism, particularly conservative evangelicalism, Joshua Harris was a household name. This was largely due to the popularity of his book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, which advocated courtship and became a big hit in the purity movement. For those on the outside, like me, much of Harris’ material seemed laughable and worth ignoring. Others, who grew up within the purity movement, have found some aspects of it painful and confusing.  So it was rather big news recently when Harris, who had already stepped away from pastoral ministry and distanced himself from his previous work, announced not only that he was separating from his wife but that he had also left the faith. That is, he was no longer a Christian, or was, at least, going through a deconstruction of faith that would, according to him, hardly be characterized as Christianity. Two very different reads on this come from Katelyn Beaty at Religion News Service (“Joshua Harris and the sexual prosperity gospel”) and Al Mohler in The Briefing (“The Tragedy of Joshua Harris: Sobering Thoughts for Evangelicals”).

 

kissing christianity goodbye“Kissing Christianity Goodbye” – While this article by Carl Trueman jumps off from the previous news about Joshua Harris, it is really something broader than that. Noticing the tendencies within the group known (or formerly known) as “the Young, Restless and Reformed,” Trueman critiques modern evangelicalism, calling everyone to account for what is happening. If you’re not familiar with “the Young, Restless, and Reformed” group, it’s not a daytime soap opera, but a movement toward a somewhat simplistic Reformed theology within evangelicalism in the early 2000s and sometimes called “the New Calvinists.” Collin Hansen’s 2006 article at Christianity Today provides a good summary, and was eventually turned into a full-length book. Trueman’s article at First Things deserves a read or two.

 

Screen Shot 2019-08-01 at 3.03.39 PM“The Village Church sued for more than $1 million over alleged abuse at church camp” – I was so saddened to hear of this terrible situation at The Village Church, where Matt Chandler serves as Lead Pastor. “A young woman who was allegedly sexually assaulted by a youth minister at a church camp is suing the Village Church for more than $1 million for gross negligence and the emotional distress the alleged abuse has caused her.”

 

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“Learning from a Legend: 2 life lessons we can learn from Gardner C. Taylor” – In an inspiring article drawn from his book on Gardner C. TaylorJared Alcántara highlights two traits of this outstanding preacher that today’s preachers would do well to emulate: caring more about faithfulness than success and emphasizing the greatness of the Gospel more than the greatness of the preacher. As quickly as that and I’ve added Alcántara’s book to my reading list.

 

Rob Moll

“Remembering Rob Moll” – Those familiar with Christian journalism and writing may know the name Rob Moll from his books, articles, or presence for several years at Christianity Today. It was terrible to hear of his untimely death while hiking at Mount Rainier. Here is Ted Olsen, a longtime colleague and friend, writing about Moll: “For years, Rob thought a lot about death. He volunteered as a hospice chaplain and took a part-time job at a funeral home even before he decided to write his first book, The Art of Dying. Why, I wondered, was such a young guy so interested in learning how to die well? Isn’t that something to think about after midlife? Few healthy and athletic 41-year-olds are as prepared for their death as Rob was.” You can read a selection of his articles after Olsen’s remembrance, including his poignant reflection on the writing of Albert Camus, “Saved by an Atheist.”

 

Music: Harrod and Funck, “Walk into the Wild” from the self-titled album.

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 15 June 2019

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

nyt - sbc annual convention“Southern Baptist Convention Vows to Address Sex Abuse in Its Churches” – A lot of attention has been given this past week to the Southern Baptist Church, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, as they grapple at their annual convention with the appropriate response to the sex abuse scandal within some churches. The New York Times: “Thousands of pastors voted late Tuesday afternoon to address the problem in a concerted way for the first time, enacting two new measures they say are a first step to reform. Outside the arena where they were gathered, victims and their families protested what they considered an inadequate response.” You can read more at Christianity Today with Kate Shellnutt’s “Southern Baptists Vote to Name Abuse as Grounds for Expelling Churches” or at The Atlantic with Jonathan Merrit’s “Southern Baptists’ Midlife Crisis.” It is also worth taking a look at the recent attention in The New York Times given to negligence in dealing with sexual abuse claims at The Village Church, a multisite Southern Baptist megachurch in Dallas, where Matt Chandler serves as pastor.

 

84323“Questions Skeptics Pose” – Here is Ravi Zacharias outlining and responding to what he says are the nine toughest asked by nonbelievers. “What questions are they asking? Here are the ones I have been asked most often. By developing a clear response to each, we can increase our ability to talk with those who are not Christians. It is important to note that while these are the attacking questions, as the conversation goes on, the questions become kinder and more personal, till one can focus on the Cross and present the gospel in its simplicity and beauty. This has happened in every venue in which I have spoken.”

 

130912030048-02-birmingham-church-bombing-horizontal-large-gallery“To Shape A New World: William Seymour and Black Faith in the Drama of Civil Rights” – Over at The Witness, Dante Stewart offers this helpful two-part historical look at how the Azusa Street revival and William Seymour relates to the civil rights movement and the shaping of of black theology. “Seymour’s impact cannot be understated. Fueled by this Resurrection Power, he indeed embodied what would be Black engagement during Civil Rights: participating with the Spirit in shaping a new world by challenging racist attitudes and social structures, spiritual renewal as foundational to social change, and participating in the Spirit’s work in the creation of the Beloved Community.”

 

20190610T1011-27353-CNS-SYRIAC-SEMAAN-THRIVE_800-675x450“New Syriac Catholic bishop hopes Christianity will thrive again in Iraq” – This news from Iraq, which has been the source of much reporting as an example of the decline of Christianity due to religious violence. “Syriac Catholic Auxiliary Bishop Nizar Semaan begins his new mission in Iraq with hope ‘that Christianity will flourish again’ in his homeland. Semaan chose the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Qaraqosh, Iraq, his birthplace, as the site of his episcopal ordination June 7. Still scarred from the Islamic State group and not yet fully restored, the church, Semaan said, is ‘a symbol of what happened to our cities and villages in 2014 until the liberation (in 2017) from ISIS.'”

 

US-REALESTATE-CONSTRUCTION“Are McMansions Making People Any Happier?” – Not necessarily a surprise, since we know that the human heart struggles with contentment, but still worth reading in The Atlantic: “American homes are a lot bigger than they used to be. In 1973, when the Census Bureau started tracking home sizes, the median size of a newly built house was just over 1,500 square feet; that figure reached nearly 2,500 square feet in 2015. This rise, combined with a drop in the average number of people per household, has translated to a whole lot more room for homeowners and their families: By one estimate, each newly built house had an average of 507 square feet per resident in 1973, and nearly twice that—971 square feet—four decades later. But according to a recent paper, Americans aren’t getting any happier with their ever bigger homes.”

 

060519jenkinsbrompton“Decline and revival in the Church of England”Philip Jenkins here in The Christian Century on the Church of England, with mention of Holy Trinity Brompton, where I worshipped last summer for a couple of weekends. Jenkins’ reflections offer some interesting thoughts on how this secular age impacts the church and what it might mean for the rise of religious nones, even in the US. “British media regularly re­port the latest surveys of religious faith and activity in that country, and rare is the news that is not deeply depressing. So rapid has been the process of secularization that it hardly seems far-fetched to imagine a near future in which Christian faith in the country would be confined to recent immigrants….The Church of England has long been divided between high and low church factions, between Anglo-Catholic ritualists and evangelicals. During the 1960s, a new force appeared on the scene in the form of a charismatic revival. Over the following decades, that charismatic impulse rose and fell in influence, but it received new infusions of support from the global church repeatedly. At different times, those overseas influences derived from transatlantic revivals, both in the US and in Latin America, but also from new immigrant populations from Africa and the Caribbean. These new influences reshaped many urban parishes, some of which became what an American would easily recognize as evangelical-charismatic megachurches.”

 

Artisanal internet“The Soothing Promise of Our Own Artisanal Internet” – Nitasha Tiku at Wired: “To put our toxic relationship with Big Tech into perspective, critics have compared social media to a lot of bad things. TobaccoCrystal methPollutionCars before seat beltsChemicals before Superfund sites. But the most enduring metaphor is junk food: convenient but empty; engineered to be addictive; makes humans unhealthy and corporations rich. At first, consumers were told to change their diet and #DeleteFacebook to avoid the side effects. But now, two years into the tech backlash, we know that cutting the tech giants out of our lives is impossible. So among some early adopters, the posture is shifting from revolt to retreat.”

 

false-memory“Speak, Memory” – “Julia Shaw’s book The Memory Illusion is a breakthrough in the jurisprudence of memory: the main question posed is not whether our memory is wrong on any given occasion but how wrong. It is thus essential reading for police, lawyers, judges, juries, insurance assessors, journalists … and anyone else who wants to understand why everybody else in the family “remembers” details of your family’s past differently from you. Her book discloses what modern brain science shows about how human memory functions, and where and how it is fallible. The title chosen for the German-language translation of her book—The Treacherous Memory—perhaps sums it all up best.”

Music: Buena Vista Social Club, “La Engañadora,” from Buena Vista Social Club at Carnegie Hall (Live).

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

Summary of #Exponential 2010 Notes

This is a summary page through which you can access all of my note-posts on Exponential 2010. This was an outstanding conference for me, and that’s coming from someone who is not a big conference guy.

Matt Chandler, “Transformation of a Leader” (#Exponential 2010)

Matt Chandler serves as Lead Pastor of The Village Church in Highland Village, TX. Matt is an outstanding communicator of God’s word with a strong call toward church planting. On Thanksgiving, Matt suffered a seizure and was found to have a tumor in his brain. You can follow Matt’s progress at http://fm.thevillagechurch.net/blog/pastors/, and read an Associate Press article about Matt here.

Here are some notes from Matt’s session aimed at the topic “Transformation of a Leader.”

“You cannot expect your people to be what you are not.”

We need to be careful as leaders because we deal with cosmic things, salvation things, everyday … and it can become routine. You replace your relationship with God with working for Him. Working for Jesus replaces knowing Him and walking with Him. As soon as that happens, things are going to become stale.

2 Corinthians 3:18

We are transformed by ‘beholding Christ’

How do we ‘behold Christ’?

  1. Constantly have to preach the gospel to yourself. – constantly reminding ourselves of this; it’s not only when we are at our worst that we need God, but at all times (‘your righteousness is like a filthy rag’)
    1. Romans 1:14 – “I am eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome”
    2. 1 Corinthians 15:1-6 – past, present, and future constantly in need of the gospel
    3. Galatians 1:6 – “I am astonished that you … are turning to a different gospel”
    4. Ephesians 2:1-10

Jesus’ call to communion remembrance is remembrance of Jesus

  1. Understanding that our faith is multi-generational; that God is working a bigger plan for the world
    1. Exodus 19 – at Mt. Sinai, God’s call that Israel is a priest to all the world
    2. Genesis 12 – Abraham’s call that all nations would be blessed by you
    3. 1 Kings 8 – the temple was given that “all the people of the earth might know Your name”
    4. John 10:15-16 – “I have other sheep who are not of this fold…”
    5. Matthew 28:18-20 – “go and tell all nations” → so…they go hide in an upper room
    6. Acts 2 – message to many nations present on Pentecost; work of the Holy Spirit → still predominantly Jews
    7. Acts 10 & 11 – vision in prayer to Cornelius and roof-top vision to Peter → Acts 15: the church debates whether or not God can do that…but God already did it
    8. 42 AD: Mark goes to Egypt
    9. 52 AD: Thomas to India
    10. 174: 1st Christians in Austria
    11. 252: 1st Christians in rural Italy
    12. 350: 53% Roman Empire were professing Christ as Lord; before Constantine was emperor → could have been a political move
    13. 432: Patrick heads to Ireland to preach gospel
    14. 596: Gregory the Great sends Augustine to England for missionary
    15. 635: 1st Christian missionaries in China
    16. 900: missionaries to Norway
    17. 1200: Bible available in 22 languages
    18. 1554: 1500 converts to Christiainity in what is now Thailand
    19. 1743: David Brainerd to North American Indians

God is at work and has been doing something for a lot longer than us. The Gospel was going out people getting saved long before Luther or Calvin.

If you take a step back, you should be amazed that you have been invited into this, that you have the opportunity to be a part of this, and that you have the responsibility to hand it off to who follows next.

We need to rest in the fact that God is at work.

“The church doesn’t need to be saved. It needs faithful men and women who will preach the gospel out of a pure heart.”

[This is part of a series of note-posts from the Exponential 2010 conference.]

Morality or Spiritual Transformation?

Here is an excerpt from a message by Matt Chandler in which he addresses why people become “de-churched” – walk away from God and the church. He looks at an approach to Christianity where we focus on doing good or moral things, what Chandler calls “moralistic deism.”

The problem is that when bad things happen, we feel that God owes us something. The problem with this is that God doesn’t owe us anything, and good people in the Bible deal with suffering all of the time.

These words are particularly poignant when you know that Chandler himself has been fighting cancer over the past couple years.

For those of us in ministry, the challenge is how do we introduce people to a relationship with God that leads toward true transformation, not just calling people to moral lives. There must be a greater aim.