Sunday, September 23, 2007

Just As I Am (all 6 verses)

Personally, I’m not satisfied with the traditional invitation song. I think that there are better ways to give people a chance to respond to a message.

But I’d like to hear your thoughts. Here’s a couple of questions: Do you think that the traditional “come down front” invitation song is the best way to let people respond to a sermon? If not, do you have any suggestions as to what might be better?

Monday, September 17, 2007

We interrupt this regularly scheduled blog to bring you this special announcement…

I haven’t been mixing in my ministry stuff on this blog, but I decided to make an exception. We just revamped our website, and I wanted to invite you to take a look. Take a moment to listen to a video or two and read some of the stuff there. Then let me know what you think.

Of course, I’d appreciate it if you’d pass the site address on to others. Thanks!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Swimming in other waters

I started my last post with a saying that I’ve found useful: “The fish doesn’t know that he’s wet.” It captures the idea that we are surrounded by a culture, and because it surrounds us, it’s hard for us to be aware of its effects. In that last post, I raised the question of how the church can objectively deal with questions about the Christian and the military while living in a militarized society.

Let me offer a short role playing exercise to aid in the process. Admittedly, I’m going to choose rather extreme examples; I think we need to look at contexts that are very different from our own.

So, here goes. Imagine that you’re a parent. Your 18-year-old son comes to you and tells you that he wants to join the military. How do you think you would react if…

  1. You live in the second century. You’ve seen the Roman military used to round up Christians in times of persecution. The current emperor tolerates Christianity, so there is no persecution at present. Now your son wants to join the military.

  2. You live in Germany. Your grandfather fought for the Kaiser, your father for Hitler. You were forced to serve in the military under the Communists in East Germany, guarding the Berlin Wall to make sure that no one escaped. Now your son wants to join the military.

  3. You live in Latin America. You lived through the time of the “dirty war,” when thousands who opposed the government disappeared at the hands of the secret police and the military. Now your son wants to join the military.

  4. You live in Nigeria, one of thousands of Christians in that African nation. The U.S. has declared that Nigeria is aiding terrorists and is planning to intervene. Your son wants to join the military to defend his country.

  5. You live in Kentucky in 1861. The men from your congregation have divided, some joining the Union, some joining the Confederacy. Now your son wants to join the military, taking up arms against people he grew up going to church with.

Maybe five fish bowls will be enough to start with. Swim in those waters a bit before wrestling anew with the question of Christians and the military.

Monday, September 03, 2007

The church in a militarized society

The fish doesn’t know that he’s wet.

“Can a man who served in a war be considered for elder since he might have killed?” Question asked in Piedras Negras, Mexico, during a training session on elders

“Can a Christian be a policeman?” Question asked in C√≥rdoba, Argentina

This post isn’t about the answer to those questions. (Patrick Mead { } has been doing an interesting study on the question of whether or not a Christian may kill.) This post is about whether or not we ask these kinds of questions. Does living in a militarized society shape our views of Christian life? The obvious, easy answer is yes, but I’m not into obvious, easy answers.

Most countries have some sort of military. In many countries, military service is obligatory. Most who serve in the armed forces around the world will never be involved in combat activities; their military will never be used to fight. That’s not true in this country. For decades, our military has been almost constantly in action, so much so that we take it for granted. The use of force to accomplish goals is a given.

Rather than snap decisions about being pacifists or being pro-military, we need to learn to try and step out of our culture, step out of our current situation, step out of the emotionalism, and look hard at what Scripture has to say. It’s not easy. But it’s necessary. On every issue.

So to start with, give me suggestions on how we, the fish, take a look at things from a non-fish point of view. How do we step out of the water to look at the world around us? Don’t give me the answers yet to war, pacifism, self-protection, etc. Tell me about the process. How do we escape the cage of culture?

I’m going to be traveling a lot in the next few weeks, but I’ll try and stay with this study, stay with this discussion.