In Case You Missed It

Earlier this week, Dr. Bruce Ashford posted on his blog discussing the question: “Should Evangelicals be pessimistic about American politics and public life?” Dr. Ashford writes:

Concerning the past ten years in American politics and public life, one thing is for sure: many conservative evangelicals feel like the cultural ground beneath us has shifted so rapidly and so decisively that we many never regain our footing.

 

We have lost ground democratically. We realize in very tangible ways that many and maybe most Americans differ significantly with our vision of the good life. They differ from us in our view of the origin and destiny of the universe, the nature and purpose of human life in this world. They reject our view of the givenness of gender and the purpose of sexuality, and of the value of human life in the womb. They are skeptical about the value and public significance of a robust view of religious liberty. And much more. So we find it difficult to believe that we can restore a Judeo-Christian vision of the good life through democratic means.

 

Dr. Jamie Dew continues his series of posts on the ideas of Anselm in this post: “God the Maker of All Things.

Such is the title of Anselm’s 5th chapter of the Proslogion, where Anselm offers us a quick and easy reminder of who God is. It’s a short little chapter in the Proslogion, but a chapter that is vital nonetheless. Here, Anselm captures several important ideas in the Christian understanding of God, such as what God is like, how God exists, and what God has done in creation. Let me highlight 3 important truths that he sets forth.

 

Art Rainer recently shared 9 steps for transitioning from parsonage-living to home-ownership.

Parsonages are homes provided for pastors by their churches. You often see them sitting right alongside the church building. They are a benefit some churches provide that help compensate for a lower salary.

 

On a flight to St. Louis, I sat next to a pastor from North Carolina. We had a great time getting to know one another.Toward the end of the flight, he told me what I should write about. “You need to write a post on how to transition from a parsonage to owning a home.” He had clearly been contemplating about the transition for himself.

So, for those pastors out there who may be contemplating something similar, let’s take a look at nine steps for transitioning from parsonage-living to homeownership.

 

At the Intersect project website, Owen Kelly shared some thoughts on cultural hermeneutics. Owen writes:

Christians are familiar with reading God’s word. We hear the Bible read and preached every Lord’s Day. This is the most obvious way that we hear God’s voice and learn God’s will. Down through the centuries, the Church has interpreted God’s word through the Holy Spirit’s guidance and passed on Christian orthodoxy. This process of reading and interpreting the Bible (hermeneutics) is a staple of Christian life. But what about reading God’sworld? Does the created order, with its multifaceted cultural institutions, also need to be interpreted? And is there a hermeneutical principle, a process of good interpretation, which can help us to read God’s world faithfully? To all of the above, yes.

 

As American culture seems to disintegrate before our eyes, let me suggest a rule of reading which might help guide our cultural interpretation: God intends earthly things to lead us into heavenly realities. God has a certain “grammar” which he intends for creation to proclaim: “The heavens declare the glory of God…” (Psalm 19:1). The silent voice of God speaks to all creatures, and especially those human creatures imprinted with his image. When we read God’s world, his creation, we should see glimmers of his glory. But God also intends culture to convey a certain “grammar.” The “text” of culture also needs to be read well.  This cultural script is often garbled and illegible, however, because of humanity’s commitment to sin. Reading God’s world is difficult because the characters in this story (we sinners) regularly deviate from the divine plotline. Still: God intends earthly things to lead us into heavenly realities.

 

Krystal Wilson also posted this week at the Intersect Project discussing how black lives and blue lives both matter, and we don’t have to choose.

It happens all too often. I turn on the evening news and cringe at another shooting involving a white officer and black male victim. Officer-involved shooting victims such as Walter Scott, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown and Philando Castile have become household names.

Unfortunately, our thinking about these victims and discussion about these tragedies is fraught with polarization and division. Some people are pro-officers; others are pro-black lives matters. And competing voices urge us to decide: Whose side are you on?

As the daughter of a retired police officer, a former officer myself and a black woman, I have a unique perspective on these events. Here are a few things that are helpful to keep in mind.

 

In Case You Missed It

Dr. Bruce Ashford posted an article earlier this week giving seven reasons to put down your phone and pick up a book. Dr. Ashford writes:

This week, my family and I leave for a one-week vacation. In addition to relaxing at the beach with my family (if “relaxing” is what one does with children ages 6, 5, and 3) and keeping up with the Republican National Convention, I intend to do some reading. For starters, I will finish reading two fine books, Os Guinness’ Impossible People and Anthony Bradley’s Black and Tired.

 

While my mind is on vacation—and therefore on reading—I thought I’d write a brief post about the rewards of reading. In previous posts on reading, I gave 5 Tips for Determining Which Books to Read (and Which Not to Read) and 4 Tips on How to Get the Most from Your (Non-Fiction) Reading. But in this post, I want to focus on some of the benefits accrued from building a life-long habit of reading. Among the many rewards, here are seven.

 

At the Intersect Project website, Walter Strickland writes discussing that if you are living for the weekend, you are working for the wrong reasons.

The song “Livin’ for the Weekend” was made and remade because it resonated with the American workforce. Each Monday, laborers punch the clock with the thrill of the weekend behind them and the dread of another workweek ahead. For many, five of seven days each week are a necessary evil, endured to pay the bills arising from a weekend of leisure. Many workers dream of becoming wealthy enough to escape the rigors and monotony of the workplace. For them, work is a curse to be escaped.

 

Jonathan C. Edwards posted an insightful article at his blog titled: “Thanks to Seminary, I’m Dumber than I Was.” Jonathan writes:

8 years ago I found myself in my first seminary classroom. I was nervous. I was hesitant. I was skeptical.

 

I was a lot of things.

 

Among all those things, I was arrogant. I thought it was going to be such a joy ride over the next several years as I earned a degree that certified I knew more than the average Christian and could speak with authority on a variety of topics.

 

The professor walked in and addressed the aspiring pastor theologians and said something I will never forget. He spoke eloquently about the glory of God and the majesty that is the Resurrected Christ. He spoke humbly concerning the deep things of our Heavenly Father and how that had changed him, humbled him, and made him forever grateful for the sacrifice of Jesus. He then said these words:

 

When you graduate from this institution, the goal is not for you to be smarter than you are right now. The goal is that you have less knowledge and have a deeper awareness of all that you don’t know. The goal is humility, not arrogance. In a sense, you will graduate dumber than you are. That’s the goal.

 

At the Blazing Center, Matt Rogers writes of his fear of falling off of his own platform.

Another week passes, and another painful story about a prominent pastor surfaces. The details vary, but I’ve noticed one common theme. It seems that the very traits that cause a man to rise to prominence invariably lead to his demise. The personality traits that allowed him to climb the mountain of ministry, and do so with relative success, often push him off the mountain on the other side.

 

A new pastor longs to do something great for God, and he does—but then this drive causes him to base ministry success on how prominent he feels and how big of a platform he has created. Another pastor’s charisma allows him to engage a new culture with ease—but then this charm fosters an improper relationship with a woman in the church. Or, a pastor is a savvy leader, knowing how to put money and people in play in a way to maximizes strengths and minimizes weaknesses—but then this ingenuity leads to underhanded financial practices that disqualify him from ministry.

 

It seems that this trend does not merely apply to those who have achieved some national level of fame. It’s not just those who preach to big crowds, write bestselling books, or are sought-after conferences speakers. Countless other pastors and ministry leaders crash every day. We’ll likely never hear of them, but I’d guess the process is much the same in every case.

 

At the Intersect Project, Nathaniel Williams gives four ways to pray for Baton Rouge.

Last Sunday, we awoke to yet another tragedy. Three law enforcement officers were killed and three more injured in Baton Rouge, mere weeks after the death of Alton Sterling.

 

As I saw the horrific news develop, I wanted to know how I could pray for this city reeling in pain and division. So I reached out to Katie Harris, a friend who serves in Baton Rouge with AmeriCorps. Since she lives and ministers within the city, I knew she’d be able to help me know how to pray.

 

She offered four ways I can pray for the city. I hope that these help you pray as well.

 

Chris Martin recently shared three ways the church can fight against worshiping work more than Jesus. Chris writes:

Everyone is always busy. We have so much to do all the time. We all have our reasons, right?

 

For some of us, we can’t learn to say “No” when others ask us to volunteer for projects or sit on boards. For others of us, it’s because of our kids, who “can’t drive themselves to band practice, you know.” Some of us, unfortunately, keep ourselves busy because it makes us feel important.

 

Then there are those of us who are too busy because we worship our work, no matter how much we enjoy it or hate it, because we worship the provision and security it provides.

To Pokémon Go and Back Again: A Modern Day Adventure in Evangelism

Pokemon1

By: Christopher G. Poirier

By this point many of you have started playing Pokémon Go, and if you haven’t started chasing around the digital Pokémon, you have at least heard of or seen people playing. One almost cannot wander outdoors and not run into someone who has transfixed their gaze upon their cell phone as they shuffle along in search of that ever elusive legendary Pokémon for their collection.

To state that Pokémon Go is taking the country by storm may be an understatement as many reports now show that there are more people logged on and playing Pokémon Go, than those who use Twitter day to day.

So, yet another fad has come screaming into the world and many of you are probably asking yourself: “So what?”

Like most things in culture there are many things we as church leaders should choose to learn and understand about this new phenomenon, and also many things we can and should consider in how we can engage the culture.

What You Need to Know: 

  • Pokémon go is free to download and play. However, please be aware there are in-game purchases that can be made. Also, be aware that because it uses GPS data to drive the game, it also can require a lot of data. If you have data caps on your cell phone plans, be aware of how much data you use! Also, it is wise research any security concerns before installing.
  • Pokémon Go is still growing. That means more and more people will possibly be playing in the future.
  • Pay attention, be alert, and be careful. Because of the use of GPS data, and some out-of-date location data, many locations may not actually exist anymore or may be in locations that are not easily accessible. Please don’t trespass or leap any fences as you hunt Pokémon and scare your neighbors.
  • There are people in your congregation who are playing. If you looked up from the pulpit this weekend and it seemed like more people were looking at their phones than usual, it wasn’t you, and you weren’t alone. There is probably a good sermon in this point, but know this: You have people in your church already playing. 
  • Your church is most likely a location in the game. As mentioned earlier, the game uses actual locations for in-game Pokéstops and Gyms. Your church is likely one or more of these things in game. If you have seen new visitors walk through your property in the last few days, they are likely looking for these locations! 

 

So What Can We Do as a Church?

  • Find out if your church is a location in the game. This does not mean you have to have your senior pastor playing Pokémon Go, but it does mean someone on staff should take a moment to download the app, and find out what game locations may be on your property. This allows you to know you will have visitors stopping by throughout the week. 
  • Find Ways to engage. If your church is an in-game location, that means people will be coming. Just the other night at a church event I watched three cars pull through a parking lot just to obtain the game resources at a nearby church. So, take advantage of the situation by welcoming Pokémon Trainers, providing snacks, and having staff or volunteers around to chat and get to know folks as they come through. Many of these visitors have never been to your church before, but they are there now. Even if you cannot have a physical presence, consider having signs that welcome Pokémon Trainers and make sure they include your church’s social media and/or website information. Welcome them and make and make sure that they don’t feel like trespassers. 
  • Be social about it. Many churches and local businesses have figured out they are game locations and are now advertising, placing signs, posting to social media, and even on their websites about being a Pokémon Go location. This lets people in the community know that you are aware and that you are open to people visiting for that purpose. Again, this provides a way for those around us to seek us out and engage. 
  • Stay up to date. Games can change as they grow and become more and more popular. So, stay up to date with the game content and your location so you can know how to engage people who may visit.

 

 There is a clear opportunity here to engage people who do not typically engage the church. Pokémon Go and its lightning fast growth is pulling a large community of people together for a common purpose that is transcending lines of race, economic backgrounds, age, and religion. This a great chance to engage our community in something they enjoy, while also welcoming them to our churches. Though this may feel strange and confusing, if we set the course with the Kingdom in mind we can take this bit of culture and shine the light of Christ.

Even when a current fad seems strange, we should always be aware of what is happening around us and be willing to trust God that we can engage for the Kingdom in even some of the most unlikely of places and in the most curious of ways.

Chris studies North American Church Planting at Southeastern Seminary where he focuses on new and unique ways to engage culture. He and his wife Rebekah serve at Restoration Church in Wake Forest, NC. Chris also has worked in the technology start-up industry where he has published work in technology, disaster management and social media.