And Another Thing…

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Things I Don’t Think We Should Care About: The President’s Church

Christianity Today and Time both rushed to report that the President and his family have selected a church at which they plan to identify themselves as members. However, it appears that they may have spoken too soon.

And I submit to you: how important is this to anyone’s faith, or lack thereof?

So why am I even writing about it? Because people evidently think that this constitutes news. What’s more, some atheists are chortling over this as though it lends further credence to their meme (which apparently some of them really need to hold on to) that Obama is a closet atheist. If you don’t believe me, check out the Obama tag over at Friendly Atheist. I defy you to find at least one comment thread where some idiot doesn’t suggest that Obama pandered to all the slope-browed, mouth-breathing believers in order to be elected.  (FA is also the same site which gleefully informs us that a member of ABBA is an outspoken atheist. I guess if a member of a mediocre 70s vocal band doesn’t believe in God, well, the faith is sunk).

Until proven otherwise, I will maintain my default position that the god of all politicians, regardless of party allegiance, is power. Their only sacrament is approval ratings and their only holy day is the first one of their next term. I don’t need a pastor-in-chief to believe, and you don’t either.

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Filed under: Faith and Religion, Politics, Rants, , , , , , , , , ,

Maybe this is how it’s done

There is a great profile of Tim Keller in this month’s issue of Christianity Today. For those of you who don’t recognize his name, Keller is a pastor, author and church-planter. In 1989 he and his wife began Redeemer Presbyterian Church in the heart of Manhattan. Keller’s prior experience had been as a pastor in the suburbs and a seminary professor. Balding, bespectacled, and studious, he is by his own admission neither dynamic or hip. In fact, he admits in the article that he didn’t even want to go.

Sounds like a recipe for disaster, doesn’t it? Yet today Redeemer has an average Sunday attendance of 5000 and shows no signs of slowing down their growth in the near future. Redeemer’s membership body is made up of life-long New Yorkers, Wall Street wizards, blue-collar workers, and everything in between. Every ethnicity in the city is represented. And they are in the process of planting new churches all over the city. They do this without multimedia, soft rock, or interpretive dance. Keller’s sermons follow the liturgy and the music is traditional, except for evening services. They didn’t even advertise. Consider:

“Redeemer’s worship is seemly and traditional. Instead of using video monitors, casually dressed worshipers follow a 20-page bulletin that includes hymns, prayers, and Bible texts. Organ and a brass quartet lead the music. For evening services, jazz musicians play contemporary Christian songs.

Standing 6’4”, with a bald head, glasses, and a coat and tie, Keller, 58, does not look hip. Nor is his sermon funny, charming, or daring. He preaches from the first chapter of Genesis, on the doctrine of Creation.

Keller speaks like a college professor, absorbed in his content, of which there is a lot. When longtime friend and founding member Dee Pifer invited colleagues from her Manhattan law firm, she would say, “I want you to hear a really good litigator.”‘

How does this happen?  You really need to read the article to get the whole picture, but the following points stood out to me:

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Faith and Religion, , , , , ,

I knew it…

 Christianity Today on-line recently posted the results of a survey of Christians that reveals the diversity of fidelity and opinion amongst believers. In an article titled “5 Kinds of Christians,” many of the things I have long suspected about Christianity in the U.S. have been confirmed:

  • The faith of a vast majority of Christians in America is a cultural expediency or a “default position” – the largest segments of Christians identified in the article are “Private Christians” and “Cultural Christians.” Private Christians constitute 24% of those surveyed, and their features include: a belief in God, doing good things, and owning a Bible but not reading it. Cultural Christians make up 21%, and are defined by few outward religious behavior or attitudes, an awareness of God, and a leaning towards universal theology.
  • Consumerism has taken hold in the church – From the article: “‘These days, people can get good teaching, wonderful music, and excellent writing, whether through iPods, TV, or online,’ says Wilkerson. ‘They learn to shop around and pick and choose. Then they expect the same high quality in their local church. A generation ago, the average person learned to accept his home pastor and was faithful to his local church.” and “we probably end up perpetuating that kind of appetite by trying to be as high-quality as what we find out there. The temptation of larger churches is to compete and to be as good as the others are.”
  • Media personalities are dominant – Again from the article: “Private and Cultural Christians might not use traditional Christian media, but I would bet they disproportionately watch [Lakewood Church pastor] Joel Osteen on cable,” …[shudder]
  • Apologetics needs to be a priority for all believers, not just theologians – From the article, yet again: “Many churches feed their congregants a steady diet of messages that do not require intellectual engagement or an understanding of the biblical narrative. And that is a huge problem.” Hunter says, “We need to preach with apologetics in mind, with a rational explanation and defense of the Christian faith in mind, so that the people who are in the church really know how to phrase that to people who aren’t in the church. We should say, ‘You need to be able to tell other people what I’m telling you.'”

I have been saying these things for years. So believers, what do you think we need to do?

__________

For church of Christ readers: 

For a while I have been enjoying the writing of Bill Gnade over at Contratimes. A writer, photographer, and self-described “Episcopal-in-exile,” Gnade’s post on a recent worship experience at the church he currently attends is a must-read for anyone in our fellowship on either side of the seemingly endless A Capella – instrumental music discussion. Enjoy.

Filed under: Faith and Religion, , , , , ,

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