Monthly Archives: August 2011


Governing is Always Difficult

Yesterday I reviewed the documentary film, Client 9. Today I reflect, albeit much more briefly, on the problem of politics and governance in our nation.

220px-CaesarTusculum I recently saw a series of historical films on the Roman Empire. I became interested in Rome as a result of my visit to the city in March of this year. From the rise of Julius Casear (d. March 15, 44 B.C.) until approximately the end of the first century AD Rome experienced the height of its power in the world. After assuming control of government, Julius Caesar began extensive reforms of Roman society and government. He centralized the bureaucracy and was eventually proclaimed "dictator in perpetuity.” This was his undoing and led to his murder within the Roman senate. (Things have improved in modern governments!) The empire, from the time of Caesar, was affluent, culturally alive and expansive. Power and pleasure mixed together in profound ways. There are parallels to our present time but I think most of them are quite ludicrous

By |August 31st, 2011|Categories: Politics|

The "Syllabus and Plan for a Life Long Learning Experience in Missional-Ecumenism

What follows is a “working document.” This means that everything in this new program is still being tweaked, including the reading assignments. This cohort is not designed for pastors, missionaries and teachers alone. In fact, my deepest desire is that the group will be a good combination of all kinds of men and women, married and single, clergy and non-clergy, young and old. The more diversity in the group the better the learning experience will likely be since a major focus is experiencing diversity in unity. Every motivated person who wants to become a better leader in following Christ into missional-ecumenism is welcome to apply by contacting me via this blog or on the ACT 3 site.


images (1) Course Description

The course examines the importance of missional theology and how the prayer of Jesus for the unity of all his followers (John 17:20–23) intentionally and directly impacts the work of effective mission. This will be a nine-month cohort seminar for 15-20 active learners. Each learner will enter

Introducing a Life-long Learning Cohort in Living the Transformative Kingdom Mission of Jesus

For several years, if not for several decades, I have had a growing desire to equip a group of leaders to grasp and put into practice the principles that I teach about the gospel of the kingdom of God, missional-ecumenism and deep spiritual formation.

100_0074 I have been teaching some of this in seminaries and the Wheaton Graduate School for the past five or six years. Since the release of my book, Your Church Is Too Small (March, 2010), I have had a growing sense that these principles can be taught best in cohort groups where people with diverse backgrounds (age, race, gender and denomination) would form a learning group that would spend nine months learning and growing into this vision as a group. Through the group a rich, like-changing, learning experience can take place.

Several months ago I began to understand, with the help of some amazing friends, how to teach this material in the very best way and still expand the number of people I disciple in this

Are Christians Effective in Making New Disciples?

I ponder this question every day: “Are we being effective in making new disciples?” And even more to the point, “Are most churches effective in reaching people with the good news and teaching them how to follow Jesus 24/7 in the real world context of the 21st century?”

Branded In short, the answer is a not-so-surprising no. Put in marketing terms author Tim Sinclair is correct when he says in his new book, Branded: Sharing Jesus with a Consumer Culture (Kregel, 2011), Jesus needs to be “rebranded or remarketed” in our fragmented and diversified culture (29).

There are many new religious options and there are many new ways to embrace and talk about faith. What most Christians are saying is just not working. You don’t need a doctorate in missiology to see that this is true. Sinclair asks what I believe is the $64,000 question: “Hasn’t there been consistency in the number of people who are embracing Christ over the years” (29)? The answer is very clear. Actual research shows

Friday Night Lights

Readers know that I am an amateur film and television critic. I have especially enjoyed some of the better dramatic TV series that have been done since 2005. The British action series MI-5 is one of my favorites. But I was unprepared for how profoundly moved I would be by watching the recently completed series, Friday Night Lights.

I was introduced to Friday Night Lights by my friends Craig and Ann Higgins after I stayed in their home in June. They loved the series and I got a brief glimpse of it with them.

DVD Friday Night Lights was adapted from a book and film of the same name. The five-year old series detailed events surrounding a high school football team based in fictional Dillon, Texas, with particular focus given to team coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) and his family. The show uses this small-town backdrop to address many issues facing contemporary Middle America, including school funding, racism, teen sex, religion (all varieties of Christianity are portrayed and quite well

By |August 27th, 2011|Categories: Film, Television|

What I’m Still Learning About Facebook, Twitter and the Social Media

Facebook Like so many of you I’ve had an on-again/off-again relationship with Facebook and Twitter. I have used them both, with some degree of enjoyment and encouragement. I particularly enjoy reading subjects that interest me when I have time to wait in an airport or store line. Having an iPhone I read tweets and find it passes time. I also post to these media in similar contexts. But so far I’ve discovered that these social networking tools are good for three specific things:

1. Reuniting with family and old friends and staying in better touch with friends near and far in terms of current information.

2. Making and growing contacts with people who are interested in me and what I write and teach as a Christian. With four decades of life experience in ministry and a ton of interaction with interesting people and ideas I have something to share and these tools foster that experience.

3. Wasting excessive amounts of time reading and responding to comments and posts that

By |August 26th, 2011|Categories: Social Networking|

America the Beautiful or The Star Spangled Banner?

A friend just sent me a link to this story on the web from The Sporting News. (Be sure to read the many comments that follow or you will not understand my reason for posting this story.) The question of what the school plays before a sports event is one of simple choice to my mind. And a pacifist school should be expected to “feel” exactly the way Goshen College does on this issue. But read the replies to this story. Pretty sad stuff. The name calling and harsh rhetorical response is common to our time. Moderation in defense of faith is seen as compromise and hating America. And please do not tell me that many Christians would not respond precisely as these angry people do to this story. The one thing such Americans despise of a pacifist.

This kind of response to pacifism is not new. During World War II pacifists were hated and treated as lovers of Hitler and Nazism. They were a scourge and an offense to God and country. The “religion of the state” has always hated Christian pacifism. The facts of

Creation, Science and the Human Genome

Creation-Of-Adam Recent polls by Gallup and the Pew Research Center find that four out of 10 Americans believe that the creation accounts in Genesis 1-3 are to be read quite literally. In fact, it is safe to say that a literal reading of the opening chapters of Genesis is a central tenet for most conservative Christianity. This was the case in my experience but no one in my background taught me what St. Augustine said about reading such texts about creation or how theories of literature actually work in terms of certain kinds of texts and how we should read them. I thus went through several phases in my journey through the minefield of questions that touch on origins and the biblical narrative.

More recently a growing number of conservative both biblical and scientific scholars are saying publicly that they can no longer believe the Genesis account, at least not literally. When asked how likely it is that we all descended from Adam and Eve, Dennis Venema, a biologist

By |August 24th, 2011|Categories: Biblical Theology, Science|

Senator Mark Hatfield: RIP

The death of former Senator Mark Hatfield of Oregon, on August 7, reminded me of just how influential this incredibly thoughtful and seriously devout man was for my journey of faith. While I never shared every view that Hatfield held on every issue I always paid careful attention to his arguments and respected him for his courage. He was a man of principle, something that there is too little of in our time. He feared no one and consistently spoke truth to power no matter what it cost him.

mark_hatfield_2 Hatfield served thirty years in the U.S. Senate and two terms as governor of Oregon. Sarah Pulliam Bailey, writing for Christianity Today, said of Hatfield:

For nearly four decades, [he was] perhaps American evangelicals' most prominent and admired politician . . . a man associated with liberal politics, one of the country's leading voices against the Vietnam War and military spending, and a critic of the nascent religious right.

Hatfield stood out at a time when the nation, after World

By |August 23rd, 2011|Categories: Personal, Politics|

How Rapture Fever Harms the Church

I grew up on the idea that Christ’s coming again at the end of this age was in two parts. First, he came to take the church away (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Second, he came seven years later, after The Great Tribulation, to judge and condemn those who were unbelievers. Any who had believed during The Great Tribulation period were also rescued in this second, Second Coming.

Rapture Until I was 20 years old I believed this so ardently that it deeply impacted how I lived. It also impacted many of those around me. I led a gospel team in college and several members of my team dropped out of college because they really believed that Christ was coming very soon to “rapture” the church. (The term rapture comes from a translation of the word in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 where Paul says those who remain will be “caught up” to meet Christ in the air!) I can still remember hearing the famous Hal Lindsey speak on the


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