Since then, the original source and I have done some more research and it seems highly unlikely that this picture is of a recent church burning. Allegedly, the image is of people burned in a gas explosion. I found this page that linked to this page; you will observe that the latter page no longer works. I am sure some more sleuthing would allow me to get that missing information, but the fact that the former page is from a full year before the report I posted, and has the same image, strongly suggests that the two do not go together.
What I am pasting below is an essay from long ago that I posted elsewhere. It’s old, but I wanted it on this blog for reference sake. I have been asked to write this note. I cannot write as long of a note as is required. My thinking here is years in the making. I …
The title of this post does not do the matter justice. The word ‘abuse’ is too mild, and it might be even more accurate to say that in actual fact the sweeping trend within Christendom is that there is outright plain ignorance on what these terms mean. The charge only matters at all to those …
But sometimes they just get all in a fit all the same if you include people as agents carrying out God’s mission. That is when you see the ‘hyper-defense’ on display, as if by acknowledging the fact that God uses people to carry out his will, that takes away from the credit that God rightly deserves.
The simple fact is that the Biblical witness is pretty clear: God does tend to use people to carry out his plans on earth. He could have delivered the Israelites from Egypt without involving Moses at all. Sure enough, it was by God’s power that the people were delivered, but he still brought Moses in. Then of course Jesus appointed disciples to go out after his death and resurrection to spread the word. God certainly could have just personally appeared to each and every person on the planet and delivered his message directly. For that matter, he could speak into our minds and be done with it. But he doesn’t do that. Not only does he work through ‘means,’ but he works through people- that is, people themselves are means.
I’ve been thinking about the culture wars lately. I have a real problem with Christians who seem to be driving for a change in the culture just for the sake of having a ‘holy’ culture. I think we’d have to call that a legalistic culture. I believe that the Christian church should be about something more than creating white-washed tombs.
On the other hand, the nature of ‘culture’ is that it perpetuates itself, feeds itself, fuels itself. The culture is the air we breathe and the water in which we swim. It has the ability to mold us into its image, and once so molded, we mold others in that same image. Resistance isn’t exactly futile, but it is difficult. Conformity to the culture is the path of least resistance. It would behoove us, therefore, to ensure that the culture is not toxic. If the culture is healthy, the path of least resistance will more likely result in healthy beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors.
You all will have experienced this. I remember when I worked construction for awhile. After just a month or so, I found myself talking like those guys.
hat I did dwell on there but would like to spend just a moment speaking to here is this premise: “Congregational facilities should reflect the mission of the church. Where you put your money says something about what you value. You can tell a lot about a church and the Church by looking at its buildings and where it puts its money.”
Now, I don’t think this is a controversial premise. Moreover, I don’t think it applies only to the Church. I think this is just a general truism about money and people. But I ask: if true, what message is being communicated about what the Church values in view of the property usage by many, if not most, churches in America?
I think clearly the emphasis is in three places: 1. Church services. 2. Fellowship. 3. Classroom instruction.
The standard configuration of most congregations in America is Sanctuary+Fellowship Hall+Classroom Instruction+Office space for pastor and program administers.
There is another way that the business mindset permeates the Christian churches. The idea that the health of the ‘corporation’ can be measured by the bottom line is rampant. For example, let’s say that a church is struggling financially. Something must change. The solution is to eliminate staff positions. The staff members are turned out into the wind, their livilhood stripped away. The bottom line improves. Conclusion: this is a healthy body.
But it is nonsense. It is nonsense because in the body of Christ, unlike in corporate America, you cannot have ‘health’ at the expense of the brothers and sisters. The bottom line is not the only measure. Indeed, in that it is a measure at all, what it measures is entirely different.
Now, financial realities are financial realities. The point here is not that you can’t have situations where you have to cut staff (or programs, whatever) the point is that you can’t just cut people loose and think that now you’ve improved the body or that you’ve ‘come through a rough patch.’ If the people who have been cut loose are forgotten by the congregation or body of believers and are abandoned by them, I assure you, you haven’t improved the health of the body. Done in this way, you will likely have created very bitter former staffers and in some cases drive them out of the church. But it is important to see that doing it this way is far from intentional. It is the natural consequence of thinking of the congregation’s ‘corporate’ nature as essentially like an American corporation’s nature.
Below I have the ‘video’ of my online presentation on the ‘death of Christianity.’ I have been developing a line of thought and the corresponding presentation for about a year. I adapted by presentation for the uniquness of this format. My adaptations reflected the fact that it was a virtual presentation, that it was predominantly a ‘professional’ church work Christian audience, and that it was predominantly a Lutheran Christian audience. Also, the outline of my presentation (unadapted) is about 45 mins, here I only had 30 mins to work with.
I am hosting the video on my ministry’s new Christian file sharing service, emphasizing apologetics videos. The site is www.apologeticsvideos.net. At this time, I am allowing anyone to post apologetics related videos so if you have got them feel free to upload them. (The chief advantage is that there is no time limit on a video. There is, however, a 100mb file size limit)
With no further ado, here is the video of the presentation:
All in all it was an interesting exchange. I thought his explanation for his disbelief confirmed what I’ve been saying for some time about the church actually creating atheists. In fact, let me take a minute to single out a correspondent from a church in Indiana- is that specific enough?- who recently complained about my ‘law’ posts attacking the state of the church and how we are transmitting the faith and just ask him: do you ever even talk to people who are not Christian? It must be nice to operate in a little bubble where you figured you did your job after you confirmed all the kids in your youth group but then 48 out of 50 of them fall away in college- and you hardly are aware and are happily willing to go on doing everything the same way you’ve always done it. Meanwhile, we apologists strive to clean up the mess. It is a mess made worse, often, I think, then if they had never been raised in the faith at all. (Matthew 12:43-45) Yes, if it’s law, it is a law message that you need to hear.
But I digress.
The conversation I had last night raised a number of lines of thoughts for me
Response to Online Presentation and Archive Link: Tradition without Empathy, Contemporary without Foundation
I often see two groups of people.
One is are involved in a tradition rich church with head knowledge of rules and dogma. In reality for them, God is not often real in their lives and their rules without empathy or transparency drives people away.
The second could be explained as people involved in a newly created, often emotion driven church, with little foundation or knowledge of how firm the foundation of the bible and the church is. When real questions come up, they topple.
Both are in danger of propagating a fragile view of Christianity to people they know and more importantly, their children.
How can the churches out there tackle these problems effectively.
The Obama victory offers us a grand opportunity. Let’s face it, Obama can make the matter only slightly worse, at least in the near term. We are all already acclimated to a world in which a million unborn children die each year in America alone. For so long we pursued legislative means to change this and as legitimate and as important as these efforts were, and are, legislative efforts are successful by persuading more individuals to support your views then there are against them. This individual persuasion is the area where the ultimate solution lies and the area that has chiefly been lacking.