Posts Tagged ‘church’

Let the Church be the “Body of Christ”: Continued Reflections on Urban Churches

Monday, November 1st, 2010 by Antipas Harris

Paul describes the Church as “the Body of Christ.” This means that the Church is a Christological organism and not a corporate organization. While organizational management has its place in the operation of the church, the organizational ideals that find themselves antithetical to the Church as an organism are problematic to the continued presence and work of Christ in the church. For example, recently I attended a church ministry conference wherein a noted guest speaker, a ministry consultant commented that in this time of economic challenge, this is a good time for ministry leaders to re-evaluate her or his vision and “get-rid-of ideas and people who he or she does not need.” Such advice may be appropriate to mainstream organizational leadership training wherein the organization has its own vision as central to its objectives. However, the conference speaker’s advice seems adverse to principles and theological ideals related to the Church as organism – the Body of Christ. There must be a more compassionate approach to handling hardships and economic challenges for churches. Scripture teaches principles for showing grace and love towards people struggling during desperate times. Certainly, the church should lead this charge. Read the rest of this entry »

Macedonian Cry from the Urban Streets: ‘Come Over and Help Us!’

Monday, September 20th, 2010 by Antipas Harris

If twenty-first century ministry leaders take the divine call to ministry seriously,  in the words of John Perkins, “they must take the gospel to the streets.”[1] I have spent time on the streets, praying with people, talking to them about the problems they face, feeding the hungry, picking up drug-addicts and taking them to Teen Challenge, pulling men off the streets late at night to prevent them from vandalism and robbery, and helping the homeless find safe places to live. None of the people I have ever worked with wanted to be in the situation they were in. Situations and poor choices landed them there. Their deepest cry has been ”Please, please help us!” From the ravages of Katrina to what’s left of the earthquakes in Haiti, Cuba and China, people continue to cry, “Come over and help us!” From the urban war-zones of Los Angeles, the south side of Chicago, Boston and many places in-between, there is a cry from the streets, “Come over and help us!” From battered women to trafficked girls, there is a cry from every corner of the urban world, “Come over and help us!” From the brutally treated undocumented residents to the swollen bellies of the hungry children, the cry resonates, “Come over and help us!” I have seen the eyes of pain and have heard the cries of anguish. The hearts of people are bleeding and their souls are crying out. Read the rest of this entry »

Is the American Church Selling Out?

Friday, September 17th, 2010 by Diane Chandler

In a recent book entitled Thieves in the Temple: The Christian Church and the Selling of the American Soul (Basic Books, 2010), author G. Jeffrey MacDonald levels a caustic critique of the American church. 

As a former pastor and journalist, MacDonald offers a basic premise that the contemporary American church has lost its impact on contemporary society because it has sold out to consumerism. As a result, the church’s effectiveness has not only been diluted but it has lost its primary mission of providing a conduit of authentic spiritual growth for the church body and being a powerful witness in the world of moral formation.

MacDonald starts with three stark observations aimed at church leaders.  First, he notes the entertainment-orientation within the American church-at-large by citing the prevalence of hefty operating entertainment budgets, large projection screens, worship styles that are more worldly than God-honoring, and an emphasis on the cash collection devoid of a worshipful expression.  He comments, “Unfortunately, a church that functions like a fun house cannot fulfill religion’s central mission.  The Church can’t transform the desires of people it’s trying to titillate” (p. 36).

Second, MacDonald accuses the church of offering comfort to the exclusion of healthy confession, which has led to making church members happy at the exclusion of deep inner transformational change. He writes, “Small groups, organized around shared interests, offer indiscriminate affirmation rather than the rebuke or admonition that participants sometimes need” (p. 62).

Third, MacDonald identifies the weak moral character of the church, noting the financial indebtedness and mismanagement, evidence of rampant personal addictions, and unresolved relational conflicts that provide anything but a positive witness.

In summary, MacDonald attacks the religious consumerism that he observes running rampant in the American church as indicative of the consumerism in the American culture, which caters to a “feel-good” mentality in order to appease church-goers. He cites as an example of consumerism the practice of mega-churches opening their doors to corporate sponsors. Anyone seen Starbucks coffee available in church lobbies? 

MacDonald’s admonishes, “The Church must overcome both its baggage and its present tendency to pander in order to become a character-shaping force in the twenty-first century” (p. 87).  So I pose these questions ~

  • Is MacDonald’s critique of the contemporary American church valid?  Why or why not?
  • What specific counter arguments might you offer in response to MacDonald’s criticism? 
  • How can the American church remain culturally sensitive without losing her soul and central mission?

Globalophobia: We are afraid of the world

Monday, September 13th, 2010 by Wolfgang Vondey

Let’s admit it, we really just want to be by ourselves. We are comfortable with ourselves, our houses, spouses, and children, our jobs, and the demands we can comfortably meet by next Thursday. We have enough on our plate thinking from here to the front yard. Our job demands enough from us without having to think globally, the world, the planet, the earth, or whatever they call it. There is no need to engage the whole globe! Who can handle the whole world?

Underlying this resentment is really a fear of getting lost; an uncertainty of what the world has to offer, why we should engage the world and on what terms. We disagree with the statement that the world is getting smaller. All this information overflow is not getting the world closer together; it adds more and more on top of everything until there is no knowledge of who wants what and why. This symptom is called globalophobia.

Okay, I made this up. The term globalophibia does not really exist. But it should. Because most of us are afraid of the world.

We are not afraid of any specific place, or country, or culture, or ritual. We do not mind going to Haiti, or Nairobi, or Shanghai. We can handle concise places. We can survive for a week in a country whose language we do not speak or understand. We can eat food we have never tasted, and worship with people we never met. At least once.

What we cannot handle is globalization. To be honest, we do not really know what that means. Who are we? Who can tell us who we are? Who can we trust?

Globalization is the monster that triggers our fear of the world. We do not want to be globalized. We don’t even want to be “global”. Even “international” is not an adjective with which we are truly comfortable. We don’t really even know who we are. We know what we are called. But we don’t know how to think of ourselves in terms of the world. We have learned to think of ourselves in terms of this building, that sanctuary, those people, last Sunday, or tomorrow’s baptism. But beyond those isolated coordinates we dare not see ourselves. We have lost our sense of history and what was once called the communion of saints. We are in the world but not of the world. We are afraid of the world. We are — the church.

Don’t Be So Dull!

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010 by James Flynn

Perhaps you have the same struggle as me.  I am not in imminent danger of tossing away my salvation to adopt a life of wonton sin and pleasure.  I have been married for 32 years and plan on staying that way.  I have been “doing the ministry thing” for just about three decades now, so I am not plotting to reject my calling any time soon.  I haven’t kicked the dog lately or called anyone bad names.  So what do I struggle with?  Dullness of heart.  Not flaming hardness, just insidious dullness. That is my weekly struggle, and whatever else you struggle with, you probably have that one on your list. Just like an automobile, our spiritual life does not maintain itself, and requires regular maintenance to keep it running in tip-top shape.  I determined a long time ago I was not interested in a spiritual life that runs like an old clunker – life is too short for that, and eternity too long.  My priority each day is to chase away a dull spirit so I can live each day to its fullest.   

The Scriptures record God’s ongoing frustration with people “. . . Who have eyes but do not see, Who have ear, but do not hear” (Jer. 5:21). It’s one thing to have a set of eyes and a pair of ears, but it’s another thing to use them. Human beings are notoriously effective at hearing what we want to hear. Our spiritual eyes and ears can become dull (Isa. 6:10) and that is a dangerous place to be. We listen and see selectively on our own terms, often when it is convenient and expected. Spiritual blindness and dullness of hearing can occur when we drift away from proper relationship with God…

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Playing Don Quixote: Church and Academy

Monday, August 2nd, 2010 by Wolfgang Vondey

Don Quixote is probably best known for his fight against windmills, which he mistakes for giant adversaries in a relentless pursuit of chivalry. The monsters are figments of his imagination, but the windmills are real. Don Quixote is really fighting. In his real fight with what seems to be nothing but his own imagination, there is no winner. It is similar with theology in the church and the academy. In our relentless pursuit of God we mistake each other as the giant adversaries that step in our way. Read the rest of this entry »