Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Do we need theology?

I'm trying to get rolling on my ordination and I'm using Millard Erickson's Christian Theology to get me started on the process. I'm reading the opening chapter and I thought there was a simple question that I should answer before starting this whole ordination process and that some of you may want to chime in on...

" there really a need for theology? If I love Jesus, is that not
sufficient?" - Millard Erickson, Christian Theology (1st ed.), 28.

What do you think?

Monday, February 26, 2007

Reformission #3: "shotgun weddings to Jesus"

This third chapter in Mark Driscoll’s book, The Radical Reformission, deals with evangelism, particularly as it is changing in a postmodern context. This may not apply to all of us because we’re all part of different sub-cultures, but there’s some interesting food for thought on the direction culture is heading and the ways we may need to think as a church – for the younger people in the present and everyone in the future. Despite the difference in approach Driscoll espouses, he clearly believes people are born into their sinful state and need to repent in submission to Jesus with their lives. Beyond that, it may be considered upside-down in relation to our usual order of operations.

“Reformission” (Driscoll’s term) is based upon relationships through a variety of ministries or individuals in the church. For example, they do things like host concerts for non-Christian bands just to build relationships with the kids who come. Evangelism is built upon relationships. Those who need Jesus tend to say “our church” before “our God” – in Driscoll’s experience. People tend to belong before they believe. In belonging to the church, they see “the natural and practical outworking of the gospel in people’s lives” (p. 69). Christians don’t hide their faith, they live it out authentically, talking about Jesus and praying, opening the door for communication. One woman at Mars Hill Church (Driscoll’s church) asked to host a Bible study in her home with someone else leading, because she knew she wasn’t a Christian, but she loved the people of the church.

Driscoll notes that one of the great things about this kind of “reformission” evangelism is that people are often evangelists, telling their friends and family members what they’re learning about Jesus, before they become believers themselves. And, when someone comes to Jesus in this model, they have cultivated the friendships to “belong” so discipleship will be more likely, and they have their network of friends still in tact that they can continue to reach out and love. People are not encouraged to leave their network of friends unless those friendships are leading them into “habitual sin.”

For this model to work, Christians need to repent of self-righteousness that we might open our community to those who need Jesus and model Christian love among brothers the way we’re supposed to. Our culture is increasingly individualistic, depressed, and lonely. And the gospel offers the hope that pays for our sin to restore our relationship with God and make possible relationships with others.

This time the questions are mine, so blame me, not Driscoll (except the last one!).
  • What kind of relationships do you have with those who don’t know Jesus? Would you consider them friendships?
  • Which of your friends or family members do you think might be interested in checking out your Christian community, whether they’re interested in Jesus or not?
  • Where do you lack the confidence that your community would represent Jesus well to your friends?
  • If community is vital to this kind of evangelism, it is important that it be modeled. Which people have sinned against you most grievously, and how has Jesus enabled you to forgive them? (Be sure to respect anonymity if you post!)

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Why are you reading Voltaire?

Nobody has asked me this yet - except maybe myself. As it says at the top of the blog, I like to read a lot, but I don't think through things very thoroughly. I read it, say, "that was an enjoyable use of time," and shelve it. Now I've always wanted to be growing as a pastor so I've really worked hard at reading, to learn from the best minds available. But sometimes I grow weary of reading theology and the like (don't ask me how I grow weary of it when I don't do a great job of internalizing it) and I try not to get sucked into too many TV shows. Soooo ... I decided to branch my reading out a few years into a professional list and a personal list. The professional list has stuff that pertains to my "profession" as a pastor - OT/NT studies, theology, apologetics, preaching and pastoral books, stuff like that. I have a knack for making simple and enjoyable things more complicated than they need to be.

My personal list has stuff that I just like - Grisham (but I've had enough of him at this point), or baseball books. And devotional reading (like Yancey) or books on prayer (Foster and others). But, inevitably, obligation creeps in. I begin feeling like I should read something on church history, and then history in general (I loved history in high school, but it is a pretty distant memory), and then substantive novels (once I got bored with Grisham). Don't worry, I still read baseball books each year (Moneyball by Michael Lewis is my favorite) - at least for the last couple years.

This is where Candide by Voltaire comes in. I'm trying to "layer" my reading. So, for my "Missions" book (professional list), I'm reading Transforming Mission by David Bosch (it's been on my shelf since seminary). He's talking about how God's mission is being realized in different historical epochs. I was reading most recently about the Enlightenment (some great food for thought on another post). The next book I'll be reading in US history (personal list) is about Lewis, Clark, and Thomas Jefferson (Undaunted Courage by Ambrose). I knew Jefferson was a big Enlightenment guy (from reading John Adams by David MacCullough - great book). I decided to try to align my "novel" reading (personal list) with my historical reading - you know, an influential book of the time. I heard Candide did a great job of capturing the Enlightenment so I thought it would be a good one to read since I'm heading into Jefferson and I just finished reading about Mission in the Enlightenment.

I also try to wrestle with something I'm interested in, or that is controversial. Right now I'm reading, alongside the two lists, stuff on the emergent/emerging church. There's a lot of good stuff in the movement, but some things trouble me as well. That's why I'm reading and posting Mark Driscoll summaries right these days.

That's why I read what I read - for better or worse. What are you reading? Why? What do you suggest is good? What was a waste of time? Do you know of any good books on prayer?

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Ordination #1c: "Preparation for Ministry"

The candidate’s preparation for ministry.

After returning from Portugal, I needed a place for training and my pastor’s daughter was at Christian Heritage College (El Cajon, CA) in the San Diego area (now San Diego Christian College). Since he was letting his daughter go, it must not be that bad. I earned my B.A. in Biblical Studies and served as a Resident Assistant and Resident Director. From there I went to Talbot School of Theology (La Mirada, CA) for my M.Div. in Missions and then my Th.M. in New Testament, which consisted primarily of classes on the gospels and my thesis: Theology of Mission in Matthew.

Most of my practical molding in ministry – successes and failures – came through Cypress Church. Before we came on staff, I was driving a forklift to pay for seminary and working to start a young marrieds class that never really got going very strong, but it was a good experience. In the summer of 2000 I took on the college ministry under the senior leadership of Bill Hull and came on full time a couple years later, overseeing missions and college, along with some oversight of children’s ministry. When Bill left, many adult ministries were shifted to my responsibility during the interim. It was an overwhelming time, but God has been faithful in bringing a great senior pastor to work with, Mike McKay, who is helping me learn to juggle these areas of ministry and move them forward to fulfill God’s purposes.

God wants to use you in ministry. How have you been prepared to be used by God right now? What are you going through now that God might use in the future?

Friday, February 23, 2007

Where have you seen God at work around you?

Last night in the college ministry we finished a series on the seven signs of Jesus. We finished up with Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. In this post, I want anyone who was at the study to share what God taught them during the series.

I don't remember being nailed by one passage, in particular, but asking the question each week: "How did God show Himself to you this week?" was always a challenge because I'm often not looking around me to see where He's at work. But I know He is, so I'm encouraged to look more often.

Where do you see God at work in your world?

Or, what did God teach you during the "Seven Signs" series?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Ordination #1b: "Call to Ministry"

The candidate’s call to ministry.

After high school I was planning on going to state schools, going into education, and being a wrestling coach. After a couple years of school I wasn’t so sure. It was at that time that God, at a youth group meeting not at all associated with missions, laid missions heavy on my heart. I remember trying to shake it and make excuses and then found myself "accidentally" reading Moses’ story in Exodus 4. My excuses wouldn’t work. I spent a month with a missionary in Portugal and that was confirmation that ministry was something I could see myself doing. I went to seminary planning on going to the mission field to teach, but I thought I needed some practical training before I went so I applied for the college intern position at Cypress Church, where we attended while in seminary. I fell in love with my college students and the pastoral ministry at this point and have since seen my role as more of a missions mobilizer, though God may change that at any time.

I've been reading some stuff on vocation, and I don't believe there's only a calling for "ministry." Where do you think God has called you? What makes you think that?

Coming Next: "Preparation for Ministry"

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ordination #1a: "Biographical Sketch"

I received a message yesterday from the gentleman overseeing my ordination council and he wanted me to set a date. That freaked me out. I'm don't feel even close to ready for this process. But at least he scared me into getting to work. This first section of the License Paper is the biographical sketch. This will be three parts, probably two blog posts. Enjoy.

The candidate’s conversion and spouse’s conversion.

I grew up with a mother who went to church faithfully as far back as I can remember. I think she started going when I was about one or two. I went regularly as a child to Calvary Baptist Church in Renton, WA. I often felt “compelled” to go forward during the altar calls, but never did. During my junior year of high school I went to church more regularly again – after several years away. Our new church did communion on Sunday evenings and I asked my mom if I could go with her that evening. She obviously consented, but warned me that communion was only for believers. I knew I was supposed to commit my life to Christ for some time, but I just didn’t do it. I took this opportunity and told her I wanted to be a Christian. We went to her room to pray. I don’t remember much in terms of details beyond that, but that marked the beginning of my commitment to Christ.

My wife grew up on the mission field with her parents in Spain and Mexico. When she was five years old she was thinking about hell and didn’t want to go there. She prayed to receive Christ with her mother in the bathroom.

I'd love to hear your story.

Coming Next: "Call to Ministry"

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Reformission #2: "and now, the news"

This next chapter in Driscoll's book (The Radical Reformission) is both compelling and challenging for me to think through. He encourages us to take the timeless gospel and declare its relevance in any culture, particularly the culture we find ourselves in. Driscoll urges us to repent of two opposite dangers - nostalga and innovation. There hasn't been a "Golden Age" since Genesis 2 and we cannot live in the past. On the other hand, we can't become so eager to align with culture that we lose our prophetic witness, pointing people to God. We become too much like culture. Driscoll writes, "Innovation, when not tethered to the truth of the gospel, leads to heresy" (53).

Just as God has used great evangelists like Billy Graham and Bill Bright to communicate God's timeless truths to their culture, so we must do the same in ours - even our micro-cultures. Driscoll gives seven "signposts" for helping people find Jesus in his life (pp. 58-60) - I've summarized, on some points, what he's talking about.

1: the gospel connects to this life. It's more than just going to heaven; there are benefits to following Jesus in this life.
2: the gospel infuses daily activities with meaning.
3: the gospel names sin and points the way to forgiveness. We can't get away from the problem of sin when we contextualize.
4: the gospel transforms life. God wants to do an extreme makeover in our lives. The gospel won't let us stay the same.
5: the gospel builds a spiritual family. The church loving each other should be a powerful apologetic for the gospel, not a reason people reject Jesus.
6: the gospel is about participation with God. We're saved to do good works (Eph. 2.10).
7: the gospel is about Jesus as the means and end of our salvation. Jesus isn't supposed to get us anywhere. Glorifying Him is the destination, everything else is the means.

    1. If you were to write a gospel for the people in your culture, where would you start?
    2. If you were to write a gospel for the people in your culture, how would you explain sin?
    3. If you were to write a gospel for the people in your culture, how would you explain Jesus?
    4. If you were to write a gospel for the people in your culture, what about Jesus' life and teaching would they most resonate with? Why?
    5. Which of the signposts have been most helpful to you personally?

      From The Radical Reformission by Mark Driscoll, p. 61.
What do you think?

Monday, February 19, 2007

Reformission #1: "eat, drink, and be a merry missionary"

A few weeks ago, our senior pastor challenged us to reach out to our community, sharing our "Most Important Relationship." Most of us are pretty intimidated to share our faith. I'll confess that, while I like it once I'm in the process, I'm not great at getting those conversations started. But I want, like most of you, to see our community reached for God's glory.

I thought, since Pastor Mike issued the challenge, it might be good to offer some thought-provoking questions about how we can reach our community in Cypress.A few weeks ago I read a good book called The Radical Reformission by Mark Driscoll. He's theologically conservative, but committed to bringing the gospel to his culture in a relevant way. His book isn't for everyone, but it is nothing if not entertaining and thought-provoking. Over this next series of "Reformission" posts, I'll give a brief description of his chapter and then some good questions all of us could work through to reach your community - because, as Driscoll notes, there are so many sub-cultures around us that we all could be reaching different communities within just a few miles of your church.

Chapter 1: "eat, drink, and be a merry missionary: imitating the reformission of Jesus"

Jesus is the model of mission. Driscoll talks about Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman and how we need to be willing to cross barriers if we really want to be a people on mission. A little explaining is probably in order.Jewish men didn't have much, if anything, to do with women outside their family and particularly not Samaritans. Samaritans were despised. I've read that Jews would walk all around Samaria just to avoid being defiled by their land. Samaria was part of the former Northern Kingdom of Israel and, after the Jews were deported after Assyria crushed them in 722 BC, the land was re-populated with a variety of people with whom the Jews, upon returning, inter-married with. In essence, the Jews of Jesus' variety saw the Samaritans as shameful half-breeds. There were also religious issues. The Samaritans had their own temple on Mt. Gerizim and they only accepted the five books of Moses (the Pentateuch, which is Genesis through Deuteronomy in our Bibles). Obviously the Jews in Jerusalem didn't care much for the Samaritans.And yet, Jesus reached out to this despised people. And not just any Samaritan, but one who came to get water during the heat of the day because she was a Samaritan that even the Samaritans didn't like, an immoral woman. And yet Jesus loved her and offered her the living water that only He can offer.

A key quote for us to grapple with from Mark Driscoll's book is this: "To be Christian, literally, is to be a 'little Christ.' It is imperative that Christians be like Jesus, by living freely within the culture as missionaries who are as faithful to the Father and his gospel as Jesus was in his own time and place" (p. 40). Driscoll offers some good questions for us to wrestle with if we want to reach the many communities we reach within our little community of the Cypress area.

If you have not recently read the account of Jesus and thewoman at the well,
I would encourage you to read John 4:1-42 and then answer thefollowing

1. Who do some Christians in your town, or the larger area inwhich you live,
consider to be Samaritans? Why do you think someChristians dislike them?
2. What parts of your town or area are like Samaria to you - theplaces you avoid
because you do not like the people who live there?
3. What were the Samaritan woman's sins? What do you thinkmight be some of hte common sins among the Samaritans in your town?
4. What pains must the woman's sins have caused her? Whatpains are your Samaritans' sins causing them?
5. In your area, where are the Jacob's wells and pagan templeswhere the Samaritans hang out?
6. What barriers did Jesus need to cross to evangelize theSamaritan woman?
What barriers would you need to cross to connect with theSamaritans in your
7. What changes took place in the woman's lifestyle? What might change in the lives of the Samaritans in your town or area if they met Jesus and repented of their sinful lifestyles?
8. Why do you think Jesus' disciples did not say anything whenthey saw him speaking with the Samaritan woman? What do you think some ofyour Christian friends might say if you befriended a Samaritan?
9. Why was the woman at the well best suited to do mission toSychar? Which
people, if converted, would be best suited for mission inyour town?
10. What was Jesus' sense of urgency for harvesting souls, and doyou and your Christian friends share his sense of urgency? Why or why not?
11. In what ways is your salvation story (or perhaps the story ofsomeone you know) similar to the story of the woman at the well?
(Mark Driscoll, The Radical Reformission pp. 40-41)

I hope this post helps all of us start being intentional about reaching our community. This is the first in a seven part series, based on the chapters of Driscoll's book. Enjoy and share any insights that we all might learn from. It has already helped us be more intentional in our new apartment. We haven't been intentional witnesses in the other places we've lived, but we intend to do better here. For example, an easy way to meet people is basic hospitality (and having two adorable kids). So Suzanne, myself, and the girls took Valentine's cupcakes to the neighbors just to say, "Hi. We're new in the neighborhood/complex." We'll pray these relationships turn into friendships.

For example, which of the questions most challenges or troubles you? Or, if there's an area where you feel like God has gifted you in line with these questions, tell us about it.

Ordination #0: Any Ideas?

I'm getting ready to begin my ordination paper for the Evangelical Free Church of America. I'd love to tell you how excited I am to begin it, but I can't seem to get started. However, I do see the value of the process and I think I'll enjoy it once I get into it.

I intend to post the sections of my paper as I produce them. Thrilling, I know. I enjoy exegesis and teaching, but I'm not a great systematic theologian. I would love any astute readers to ask probing questions on what I write, or set me straight. If you don't, the ordination council will. Your input will be greatly appreciated.

Before I get started, I'd love any input that any theologian who might stumble upon this might have on good resources I should use in the process. The systematic theologies I have and use are Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology and Millard Erickson's Christian Theology. I have books on the different subjects within systematic theology, like John Stott's The Cross of Christ or Gordon Fee's God's Empowering Presence - and others. But I'd love suggestions on other good systematic theologies as well as any good theological topics that would be helpful. I look forward to your input.