Something has perplexed me for a while about the way we do ministry, particularly in evangelical circles. We have gotten used to partitioning ministry into compartments more often than not based purely on age. Regardless of spiritual maturity, you progress from sixth grade to twelfth grade year by year if you are in a particularly large church and from middle school to high school in a smaller church. In your typical Baptist Church (much smaller than the previous two examples), we condense that into ministry to students. Regardless, we have quartered off students into a ministry all to themselves. They are then without much interaction with other age groups. What naturally developed out of that movement were particular methods of student ministry. These methods usually involve flashy lights, faster songs, and crazier games. All the student (and children’s for that matter) ministry I have been exposed to in various parts of the country have worked off that formula. While it seems to work wonders now, I think it is going to produce a problem down the road. Read the rest of this entry
I was listening to a sermon by Reverend Scott Chrostek (UMC of the Resurrection) last night, and he was talking about our conversations with God (particularly in the Bible). He said that we could not stop talking to God just because we are confused or disagree. He encouraged us to think about how that would work in a human relationship. I hope that we would not act that way, dismissing dialogue because of confusion or argument, so why would we treat the God of the universe that way? Cutting off the conversation does not benefit the relationship.
To some the connection may seem strange, but this is why I find such value in the liturgical traditions of the Christian religion despite the fact that I belong to a branch of Christianity that does not. In the liturgy, the exchanging of the peace, the confession, the recitation of the creeds, and the Eucharist, I grow closer to God because that is how we talk. I do not claim to understand fully God or these liturgical elements, but I partake in them anyway. I partake because I want to understand them more fully. Read the rest of this entry
Dr. Joseph Scrivner posted this article on his Facebook today, and it was something that resonated deeply with me and discusses some of the things I have written about, particularly in the “In defense of theology” post, so I thought I would pass it along. It’s called “The Surprise of Being a Christian” by Stanley Hauerwas on his book Hannah’s Child: A Theologian’s Memoir, which is also now next on my reading list.
The Article: “The Surprise of Being a Christian”
I became a theologian because I could not “get saved.” I was raised in an evangelical Methodist church. Evangelical meant that though you had been baptized and made a member of the church on Sunday morning, you still had to be “saved” on Sunday night. I wanted to be saved but I did not think you should fake it. So finally sometime in my middle teens, while we were singing during the altar call “I Surrender All” for the twenty-fifth time, I surrendered. That is, I dedicated my life to the Lord assuming that if God was not going to save me, I could put God in my debt by going into the ministry. That has never happened, but it did put me on the road to college.
By the time I had got to college, I had begun to read and had decided that most of what Christians believed could not be credible. So I became a philosophy major at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas. It was by reading philosophy that I discovered that I did not know enough about Christianity to know if it was true or not. So I went to Yale Divinity School not to study for the ministry but to find out if the stuff was true. God help me, I fell in love with theology, and in particular the theology of Karl Barth. I have now spent a lifetime thinking about God.
Theology is important, it really is. You may not think so, but it is. I could say that knowing names like Origen, Barth, and Kierkegaard are not important, but I would be lying to you. I could say that knowing what happened at Nicaea and Chalcedon were not so big a deal for the average Christian or that understanding the underlying issues of the Arminian-Calvinist dispute are insignificant, but that is a lie. All of these things are important because Church history and Church theology are important. It is necessary to know from where you come so you can better understand where you are. These facts do not save you, by any means, but they are important and profoundly useful. Read the rest of this entry
The following is the original manuscript of a sermon given at Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Gadsden, AL on 18 April 2010. You can listen to the sermon here (Mediafire Link, pardon the ads; eventually I may be able to spend money on a space upgrade to upload it here). Presently, I am also working on a brief academic paper on this subject, as well. You can expect that in the next few weeks.
There could have been a pebble, a bit of rock, in his sandal as he approached the Jordan River to be baptized. It may have washed out as he took those steps off the bank into his ministry. There could have been a stinging wind blowing across his face as he stood in Galilee, amazed at our unbelief. He could have felt the grass between his toes as he fed the thousands on the plains. The sun might have been beating down on his back, sweat rolling down his brow as he cast out the demons in the Gerasenes. He may have kicked up dirt as he took those three disciples up the mountain outside of Caesarea Philippi. There, he ascended the mount and was glorified.
Jesus led Peter, James, and John up one of the outlying hills of the town of Caesarea Philippi six days after their arrival. The text reads that “Her was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.” He appeared among the great heroes of Hebrew lore. Elijah and Moses held conversation with him. Christ interacted with the Law and the Prophets on a level no one else could claim. Peter is interrupted in his praise by a voice from heaven that declared, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”
Then they were gone. Moses and Elijah were nowhere to be seen. But Jesus was there. Jesus stood before them. Jesus stood not as a miracle worker or a great teacher, but the very Son of God. Jesus, whom they had followed from the far-flung regions of Galilee, stood before them no longer as just a man, but as God. Heaven had intersected with Earth, ripping a hole in space and time in which the Divine came down to us, not regarding “equality with God as something to be exploited, but empt[ying] himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross.” These are the events that led up to our passage today.