Friday, April 15, 2011

True Confessions: I Read and Finished 'Love Wins'

I've just finished 'Love Wins,' by Rob Bell. Five minutes ago. I am glad to be able to tell you I liked it.

I liked the simple, crisp language--like the Gospel of John in Greek. Simple, but profound.

I liked the questions that were asked.

I liked that Rob was willing to ask the hard questions about God and the Gospel and evangelicalism and love and hell and judgment that many people are asking outside the church but few within the church (the evangelical church, at least) are willing to voice.

I liked the typesetting and the arrangement of the words on the page. Kind of like the writing here.

I liked that at the very end, Rob described how, as a child, he had asked Jesus into his heart, and his life was forever changed. Ah, familiar language to warm an evangelical's heart.

There was much I liked.

But I have to come clean and admit there was a lot more that I didn't like. I'm not going to address the biblical and theological issues in any depth here. Others more capable than I have done that and you can chase down those links in some of my earlier posts, if you're inclined.

What I will say here is that I'm really sad. I honestly don't mean that in any condescending, patronizing way. My sadness stems from the gutting of the gospel that is the essence of this book.

To be continued...

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Earliest Picture of Jesus?

Discovery: The impression on this booklet cover shows what could be the earliest image of Christ

"The image is eerily familiar: a bearded young man with flowing curly hair. After lying for nearly 2,000 years hidden in a cave in the Holy Land, the fine detail is difficult to determine. But in a certain light it is not difficult to interpret the marks around the figure’s brow as a crown of thorns.

The extraordinary picture of one of the recently discovered hoard of up to 70 lead codices – booklets – found in a cave in the hills overlooking the Sea of Galilee is one reason Bible historians are clamouring to get their hands on the ancient artefacts.

If genuine, this could be the first-ever portrait of Jesus Christ, possibly even created in the lifetime of those who knew him."

Read more from today's fascinating Daily Mail article here:

Read an earlier caution from a scholar of early Christianity re too much hype:

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Elephant Room

Last Thursday I was treated to an intriguing day conference in Illinois: 'The Elephant Room.' About 200 of us were part of the studio audience for the above seven pastors' conversations, from different perspectives, on a variety of contemporary church issues. The feed went via satellite to numerous locations and, I'm guessing, will likely be made into a dvd series, so sitting in the front row with some buddies just a few feet away from these guys was a lot of fun. Maybe sometime I'll share some thoughts on the cult of personality. :)

Here were the conversations:

Preaching to Build the Attendance vs. Preaching to Build the Attendees
Matt Chandler and Steve Furtick
Is the goal of the weekend sermon evangelism or sanctification? Is it biblically legitimate to plan a whole series for reaching seekers? Is preaching to "felt needs" the opposite of "preaching the Word" or can they work together? What does it mean to "preach the Word" and how do we know we have done it? If we have failed to preach the "whole counsel of God," what topics will we likely have avoided? Is the message helped or hindered by a marketing package? When is the shaping of a series an access point for people and when has the "package" become a distraction?

Unity: Can't We All Get Along? vs. Discernment: My Way or the Highway
Steven Furtick and James MacDonald
What criteria should decide whom a pastor publicly endorses/partners with? When do my associations negate the orthodoxy of my own ministry? Is there ever a time to publicly critique another pastor? Is sincerity enough to draw my endorsement? When does my energy over non-essentials limit and isolate my fruitfulness?

Culture in the Church vs. Church in the Culture
Mark Driscoll and Perry Noble
Does it matter that culture sees the church as unconnected and out of touch? Are movie clips and secular songs effective in leading people to Christ? Does a pastor really need a "brand?" How and when does style mute the message of the Gospel? What do churches miss when they choose to ignore the lessons of the broader culture in leadership and organizational management? What chance does the "dork" have in reaching people and building his church? When does our emphasis on style become a subtle form of Arminianism? What are some things you've seen churches do that go too far to penetrate the culture or not far enough?

Love the Gospel vs. Share the Gospel
Greg Laurie and Mark Driscoll
Why does it seem that those who revel most in the Gospel are least effective in seeing people saved and baptized? What are the elements that cannot be left out of the Gospel without distorting it? What is the meaning of "free offer of the Gospel" in preaching and is it biblically modeled or mandated? Why give an invitation when the biblical mode of confessing faith is baptism? Does preaching Christ in every sermon require a full explanation of the way of salvation?

David Platt and James MacDonald
How has materialism infiltrated the church? What is the true meaning of stewardship? Are big beautiful houses of worship an artistic expression of praise or an extravagant self indulgence? Is Jesus ministry normative for the minister's finance? How is the current trend toward poverty influencing the North American church for good/bad? What is the impact of renouncing money upon spouse/children? What is a biblical standard of living for a minister of the Gospel? Is it wise stewardship to make your teaching resources free?

Multi-Site: Personality Cult vs. God's Greater Glory
Perry Noble and Matt Chandler
Is it biblical for someone to pastor people they never see? Are multi-site and massive ego synonymous or is there a place to pursue this course in humility? Is celebrity status the fault of the pastor or the people he is trying to lead? What's the difference? What dangers must be avoided in the multi-site approach? What can we say to those who label multi-site an unbiblical ecclesiology and what must they explain?

Compassion Amplifies the Gospel vs. Compassion Distorts the Gospel
Mark Driscoll and David Platt
How important is it to express the compassion of Christ in tangible ways as pre-evangelism? In what ways is compassion ministry an 'easy out' and safe haven from the offense of proclaiming Christ? What is our obligation to express the compassion of Christ beyond the household of faith? Are we really responsible to affect change in every needy area of the world simply because technology allows us to know about it? Are we supposed to reach cities or individuals? What have you done that elevated compassion in your people without drawing them away from evangelism?