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Does What We Sing Matter to the Faith of the Church?

Since the 1970s we have had a raging debate about singing and music in the church. This debate has often come down to “traditional” music, or (old) hymns, versus “modern,” or popular music. The real truth is that the great influence on church music has been a combination of the charismatic influence, much of which is good in directing our hearts to God in personal praise, and the popular songs of television and pop-culture. This “performance” music is not good, at least in my view. Why?

People do not participate in “praying twice” (St. Augustine) as much as they watch and observe and see a professional production of varying quality. On contrast, pietism went right to the heart of people when they sang their faith. What happens if we cease to express our communion in the common faith in deep and thoughtful ways?

Martin Marty on the Roots of Pietism

The famous church historian Martin Marty is part of a new series on pietism. This short clip is well worth watching. Marty “nails it” when it comes to what was lacking in the early Lutheran Reformation and the doctrinal emphasis that followed.

 

Are You Ready to Become an Empowered Missional-Ecumenist?

Since 2013, I have trained almost fifty people in how to become bold risk-takers for unity in Christ’s mission. In addition, I have taught about 10-15 graduate students. The number is not large but the impact can be immense if the Holy Spirit uses this experience to ignite a fire in his people. I am persuaded that great things do not generally come in huge events but in small groups.

I hope many who watch this video will consider becoming such a risk-taker for unity. The need is obvious and the time is now.

A Week of Major Surprises and a Profound Challenge

Last week became the kind of week that we all think about if, sometimes for only a fleeting moment, if we are honest. Yet we all hope that we will never face a big medical challenge. But one way or the other, unless we die a sudden death, we will all face major medical issues that will challenge us to the core of our being. I faced my first such crisis at age six. I spent two weeks away from home at the Vanderbilt University Children’s Hospital. It seems like a blur sixty years later. It was during this time that the presence of God became so real in my life that I shall never forget it after six decades. Now I face a new challenge.

Hospital-Central-DuPage-HospitalThis Thursday, February 11, I will undergo open heart surgery at Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield (IL). (CDH is a Northwestern University Hospital.) This news came as a complete surprise to me last Monday, February 1. Once again I am praying that God meets me in a new and deeply

By |February 8th, 2016|Categories: ACT 3, Personal|

The 110th Birthday of One of the Greatest Christians of the Last Century

bdb188d9-723d-438b-99f1-cc9e9d6f603eToday, February 4, is the 110th birthday of the German pastor, theologian and martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. When I arrived at Wheaton College, as a transfer student in January of 1969, one of the first great joys I experienced was finding the story of Bonhoeffer for the first time. The classic book, The Cost of Discipleship, was my introduction. Later I read his prison papers, a few of his works on ethics and a lot of biography. I did not understand this theology then, and still do not fully understand it now, but I knew greatness and humility when I saw it. Bonhoeffer was truly a great Christian! But here is the point often missed – he was not a “safe” Christian. Anyone who reads him soon realizes that Bonhoeffer was not a typical pastor.

Too few of us have read Bonhoeffer and fewer still have grasped his importance, especially to the modern West. (The popular biography of him a few years ago was helpful in some respects but it also gave some distorted images and caused

National Workshop on Christian Unity

The registration for the National Workshop on Christian Unity is now open. The meeting is in Louisville, April 18-21. I hope many friends will join us for this year’s event. Here is the link to register: National Workshop/Network Registration is now OPEN

Ecumenism and Interfaith Harmony: What’s the Difference?

31WUBwzsmdL._UX250_We have just come out of the January 18-25 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, and are heading into the February 1-7 Interfaith Harmony Week put in the calendar for annual observance in 2010 by the General Assembly of the United Nations. How are the two different?

The question is real in the minds of many. During the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity I led a five-day retreat at the Providence Spirituality Centre in Kingston, Ontario on the theme of “Together in Christ.” Although the primary focus was on the importance of an increasingly more visible unity among us as Christians, given the tensions in the world today between people of different religions, towards the end I devoted a few of our conference sessions to interreligious relations as well.

In doing so, the questions from participants indicated a fogginess concerning the difference between the goals of work for Christian unity and the goals of interreligious dialogue. Some referred to other denominations of Christian faith as “other religions”.

But Lutherans, Presbyterians, Baptists, and Evangelicals are not “other religions.”

“Black Lives Matter” – Michelle Higgins @ Urbana 2015

Many evangelical and conservative Christians, especially older white Christians of conservative persuasion, are weary of the popular slogan: “Black Lives Matter.” Some are even angry at the actual movement that is associated with this name and believe it is harmful to our culture. I’ve heard various responses regarding this negative view of the slogan and the movement but the most common is that this is a bogus notion because Christians should say, and believe, that: “All Lives Matter.” The truth is, as often is the case, much deeper and more socially and personally nuanced.

It is true that “All Lives Matter.” From conception to the grave life matters. This is, at least for the broad tradition of Christian faith and practice, the truth. This is why I believe the death penalty needs to be abolished. It has become a “cruel and unusual punishment” in its present form. (This assumes it was right in the past and I even question this conclusion on ethical grounds as I understand the New Testament and the teaching of our Lord.) I also believe environmental concerns must become the concern of the

ACT3 Network and Social Media

I work regularly with a leadership consultant who is lending help to me so that ACT3 Network can better use the social media. While I continue to major on face-to-face friendships and growing relationships I believe the social media can both supplement and help such friendships I also believe it can establish the basis for such a friendship. The social media is not an elixir for Christian ministry but it is important.

To the end that we better use this media I offer this update so friends can pray for ACT3 as we try to expand our vision of “empowering leaders and church for unity in Christ’s mission.” Pray that each day I respond in true love to those God brings across my path and pray that every post I write is both thoughtful and focused on this mission statement.

National Workshop on Christian Unity

Since 1963 the National Workshop on Christian Unity (NWCU) has met in a designated city in the United States. It began when a group of Roman Catholics, in the context of Vatican II, met to equip local leadership for the task of ecumenical ministry. In 1969, they invited leaders of other Christian communions to join, and today the national ecumenical officers of the churches continue their oversight of the workshop, which is planned by national and local committees. There are both denominational and ecumenical sessions during the workshop. The NWCU celebrates the spirit of ecumenism by:

  • providing meeting seminars for all who are concerned with the ministry of Christian unity: laity, clergy, ecumenical officers, theologians, staff of ecumenical organizations;
  • stimulating an exchange of ideas and experiences among people concerned with Christian unity and the bodies they represent;
  • being a resource and balance between national planning and local responsibility, general ecumenical discussions and particular interchurch conversations, and regional leadership efforts and local realities,
  • encouraging denominational networks to develop and serve as a framework within which they can interact;
  • celebrating the unity which already exists among Christians and searching for ways to overcome the divisions that
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