Six Ways Forward for the Church

I’m pretty tired of talking about Mark Driscoll.

Rachel Held Evans appears to be tiring of him as well. There was a lot to love about her latest post but I wonder if he is even worth mentioning anymore. Perhaps she needed to at least mention her muse.

Evans names 6 ways Christian (sub)culture can be changed to minimize the possibility of another abusive leader. Frankly, many of these have value and application well beyond the evangelical world she largely speaks to.

  1. We must educate Christians about abuse, bullying, and misuse of power in church settings.
  2. We must value and preserve accountability.
  3. We must take misogyny and homophobia seriously.
  4. We must measure “success” by fruit of the Spirit, not numbers.
  5. We must protect people over reputations.
  6. We must treat our pastors and church leaders as human beings—flawed, complex, and beloved by God.

In particular, number 4 caught my eye as it is as much a sin of small, struggling churches as it is of large, apparently vital ones. While shrinking numbers could signify a failure of leadership or a problematic disconnect with the community, success could just as easily signify cultural accommodation or appeasement as much as it might a real healthy ministry.

Instead of analyzing our numbers in a vacuum, we need to examine growth (and decline) to see if each truly stems from a commitment to core Gospel values. Of course, we can fight over what those should be but hopefully the sane amongst us will recognize that any serious conversation can’t take numerical success as the sole marker of faithfulness.

After all, Jesus didn’t have a lot of solid followers on Good Friday.

You can read Rachel’s post here…

Image Credit: Photo by Maki Garcia Evans.


The Cardinals on the Wrong Side of History, again?

Guest Post by Rev. Joe Kim

I love people. I love sports. It’s sad when some people in sports don’t love other people in sports.

Check out this article by Ishmael H. Sistrunk on the St. Louis Cardinals. There are eerie similarities from 1947 and 2014. Which side of history will you be on? Which side of history will the church be on?

Sistrunk writes:

Over and over Cardinals fans respond angrily to peaceful protesters, suggesting that they do not belong here. The piercing prejudice and irony to those remarks fall upon deaf ears. They claim protests should not disrupt America’s pastime, but wear jerseys altered to read “I am Darren Wilson.”

It’s not just Cardinals fans who are disgusted by those demanding justice for Brown, Kajieme Powell, Vonderrit Myers and others during sacred sports and entertainment events. The staggering amount of vicious, blatantly racist comments left on The St. Louis American’s video of the protest at the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra has made me truly question my faith in humanity.

Click here to read Sistrunk’s full post.

Photo Credit: Image used under Creative Commons from pdsphil via Wikimedia.

U2: Band or Church?

The New Yorker ran an interesting piece by Joshua Rothman called “The Church of U2” shortly after the somewhat controversial release of their recent “free” album. The article explores the not-so-subtle spirituality of the band which is still sometimes missed by fans and those who prefer that musicians wear their Christianity on both sleeves. Rothman attempts to explain this by explaining their developmental context:

Much of the confusion around U2’s faith stems from the fact that they’ve never been an “officially” Christian rock band. The ambiguity goes back to the band’s origins, in the Dublin of the late seventies, during the Troubles. In a country divided along sectarian lines, little about organized religion was attractive.

And then in the next paragraph:

Their break with organized religion was probably inevitable. But it was still traumatic, which is perhaps why almost every U2 album contains a song about their decision to belong to a band rather than a church.

It’s a good piece and worth the read for those who appreciate the band or for those who are curious about how art can be influenced by faith without being overwrought.  I found the turn of phrase in this second quote to be interesting. I wonder if U2 didn’t actually decide to authentically be church by being a band, instead of pretending or going through the motions.

Read the original piece here…

Photo Credit: Image used under Creative Commons from Dorli Photography.


What to do when the pieces no longer fit… Need a hint? It rhymes with glove.

Our family enjoys the challenge of a good jigsaw puzzle. The little ones have puzzles with large pieces that can be completed in a time span complementary to their limited attentions. When schedules allows, my wife and I will work through puzzles significantly more complex. While we chose this as a hobby to reduce stress, it’s amazing how frustrating this activity can be.

It has often been noted that human beings have an exceptional ability to recognize patterns. This skill is key to our survival as a species and essential to our progress in scientific innovation and inquiry. The unique ways our brains work to create connections is deeply related to our drive to understand the world and to derive meaning from our experiences. This skill is also critically important for solving the jigsaw puzzles we find on tables and those we encounter as we live out our days.

If you have ever wrestled with a 1000+ piece puzzle, you will have encountered the false-positive – that piece that totally fits in a place it doesn’t actually belong. This phenomenon is an example of apophenia; a human tendency to see patterns that aren’t really there. When these instances of apophenia are recognized as significant, they are called pareidolia (Greek for false image). In both cases, more data is usually the way we discern our error, make corrections, and move on.