Viral Churches: Chapter 4

This is an ongoing review of Stetzer’s and Bird’s Viral Churches.

There is not much new in chapter four: “New Players.” The pep talk continues that churches need to plant churches. The chapter spends a little time talking about the westward expansion in the early part of this country and how it led to a great church planting explosion. But the what was that the authors seem to long for is certainly in a much different context than todays United States.

And again, I can’t help but wonder about the gap in the pep talk about what the training looks like. They tout the vast number of lay folks who helped spread the movement. That is good, but I wonder how much the lack of training in the westward expansion led to the theologically shallow 2nd Great Awakening.

I greatly appreciate their desire to see people recognize that salvation does not mean sitting, but responding to the call of God on their lives for service: “Today’s attitude of church membership and mission is vastly different. A return to the salvation = call = obedience equation of the Christian life will have a dramatic impact on your church’s chances of seeing a multiplying movement occur.”

They end the chapter with a short profile of Dave Browning and Christ the King Church in the NW and Dave’s success in planting multiple churches through small group ministry. But again, in the rapid expansion of small groups to churches, how does one preserve theological continuity and purity of the faith?

Dangerous Calling: Chapter 1

In the opening chapter Tripp lays out his own personal transformation from an angry, self-righteous pastor to one who seeks to rely upon God’s grace in his daily life. He begins by laying out three diagnostic symptoms for pastors to evaluate their own lives and ministry to see if they are spiritually blind.

First, pastors can allow their ministry to define their identity. The temptation exists to define ourselves as “pastor.” Our faith can become a professional calling instead of a relationship with God. This tends to lead to inserting oneself into a different category than others in our life and not understanding other’s situations. Pastors then can foster unrealistic expectations of others.

Second, pastors can allow their intellectual knowledge to define what spiritual maturity looks like. But maturity is how we live our lives, not what we can do with our intellect. However, sin is not first and foremost an intellectual problem. Tripp says sin is about breaking a relationship with God, which in turn leads to breaking rules. But “intellectual maturity” cannot solve a sin problem that is rooted in the heart—a heart which ignores God’s kingdom for trying to build one’s own kingdom.

Finally, pastors can easily confuse ministry success for an endorsement by God of our lifestyle. Yet God acts because of his zeal for his people. Success in ministry is always more about who God is than what we’ve done.

It is clear from the get go that Tripp is interested in our relationship with God. In various ways, he implies that everything else in our ministry will stem from this relationship.

In Bed with the President

Actually, they are nothing at all alike.

1. Voting for president—even if we believe he will become the most powerful man in the world—is not as important as choosing to become one spiritually with another person.

2. Voting for president—even if we are passionate about his ideals and policies—does not obligate us to continue to love him if he chooses to change his opinions about certain things.*

3. Voting for president—even if we are super excited about doing it for the very first time, in what people say (don’t they always) is the most important election ever—is not as big of a decision as choosing whom you want to spend the rest of your life with in unconditional love.*

*I am of the firm opinion that loosing one’s virginity should happen only to the one you have married and intend to spend the rest of your life with. If you hold to a different opinion, those three reasons may not make much sense. They are, however, a Christian way of thinking.

John Piper’s Bloodlines: Chapter 5

In chapter five, Piper lays out nine issues that are at the root of racial strife, and then makes the claim that the gospel is the only thing that will deal completely with these hinderances to racial reconciliation and harmony. The nine are 1) Satan, 2) guilt, 3) pride, 4) hopelessness, 5) feelings of inferiority and self-doubt, 6) greed, 7) hate, 8) fear, and 9) apathy. Personally, I think three and five are the same thing: just two sides of the same coin so to speak, but regardless, Piper is correct in that the only thing that will speak to the root of each of these problems and offer a solution is the gospel of Christ.

Where this chapter falls a little short is on specifics and fleshing out completely what it looks like, particularly in the section on guilt. For me, the two that jump off the page—maybe because I sense their realities in current situations—are hopelessness and apathy. It is true that “Hopelessness destroys moral conviction by making it look ludicrous. And therefore it destroys almost everything that is beautiful and precious.” And while Piper was just giving a summary of how the gospel deals with these situations—and I am sure that Piper is aware of the hard work necessary in getting the gospel into hopeless situations—I wish he would have spoken more clearly about practicalities. And maybe that is coming in a later chapter. Or maybe that is so distinctive to a particular culture that to speak to it would be just another “Look what worked here; it’s bound to work where you are too!” My gut is the second is true.

Which means we as the church must do the hard work of thinking and praying and being active in our communities and allowing these truths to enter in to our unique situations, but never forgetting these nine issues that we are dealing with, however they happen to manifest themselves in our place and time.

John Piper’s Bloodlines Part I

I had started John Piper’s Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian several months back but got derailed with other things. I am starting over and writing about it as I go.

Piper begins his book by defining some terms, which has to be done in today’s pluralistic, relativistic society. He would prefer to avoid the term race and spends an entire appendix on why it is a term that does not hold clear meaning. I would encourage anyone who starts this book to read this appendix first and not just the “A Note to the Reader on Race and Racism” section at the beginning. That was a little confusing to me without the larger context of the appendix, for Piper seemed to contradict himself—though, when I read the appendix, his meaning became clear—as he was distinguishing between race and ethnicity. The confusing line was “…ethnicity with a physical component and race with a cultural component.” Piper means with as alongside of, not with as containing.

Nevertheless, he continues to use race and racism in the book because “…they are too embedded in our language and in the thousands of books and articles and sermons and lectures and conversations that make up the world we must relate to.”

Finally, Piper’s definition of racism is taken from the PCA’s 2004 definition: “Racism is an explicit or implicit belief or practice that qualitatively distinguishes or values one race over other races.”

With that, I will go forward and continue reading and writing about Piper’s views on how we treat and should treat one another in this world.

The U.N. and the Muslim Uprising

A couple of days ago, I posted about the White House’s attempt to get the video pulled from google to help stem the violence in the Middle East and other parts of the world.

Now the U.N. has jumped into the fray as well. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon gave his opinion on what constituted free speech. Here are a sampling of quote. Note, these quotes were taken from the article on Reuters. I have been unable to find the source or the actual text of what Ki-moon stated. It is possible that in the past he has condemned hateful rhetoric toward Christians as well, but I have searched some of his speeches and have been unable to find a statement toward that effect either.

“Freedoms of expression should be and must be guaranteed and protected, when they are used for common justice, common purpose.”

“When some people use this freedom of expression to provoke or humiliate some others’ values and beliefs, then this cannot be protected in such a way.”

“My position is that freedom of expression, while it is a fundamental right and privilege, should not be abused by such people, by such a disgraceful and shameful act.”

So again, where is the outrage against the humiliation of Christian values and beliefs? No one that I have read seems appalled at this blatant double standard. Could it be that the world is still too afraid of the terrorists to call out this hypocrisy. Have the terrorists already won?

The Slippery Slope

Conservatives like to use the slippery slope argument to point out why things they disagree with shouldn’t be allowed. If you allow x, it will eventually lead to allowing y.

“That would never happen,” cry others.

Abortion is one of those areas. We already see the horrific consequences of so called “partial-birth” abortion. And though the idea of infanticide is not new, it now has a new name: “after-birth abortion.”

The abstract of an article by Dr. Francesca Minerva and Alberto Giubilini from The Journal of Medical Ethics:

“Abortion is largely accepted even for reasons that do not have anything to do with the fetus’ health. By showing that (1) both fetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons, (2) the fact that both are potential persons is morally irrelevant and (3) adoption is not always in the best interest of actual people, the authors argue that what we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.”

and in the conclusion:

“First, we do not put forward any claim about the moment at which after-birth abortion would no longer be permissible, and we do not think that in fact more than a few days would be necessary for doctors to detect any abnormality in the child. In cases where the after-birth abortion were requested for non-medical reasons, we do not suggest any threshold, as it depends on the neurological development of newborns, which is something neurologists and psychologists would be able to assess.”

The whole article can be accessed here.

Right, no slippery slope exists.

Abortion and infanticide are human rights issues. The left, which never had a leg to stand on in this debate to begin with, is coming closer and closer to losing all credibility in their worship of the god of selfishness.