Friday, October 26, 2012

"lonely Christians going to a building to listen to music and preaching"

"We don’t have to live as lonely Christians 
going to a building
to listen to music 
and preaching"  -Grear line from a post called A Mennonite Megachurch? By Chris Lenshyn

Thursday, October 25, 2012

7 Dirty Words You Can't Say in Church!

I am sure some of you (besides  Keltic Ken, elder elder and Happy Lee, pastorapostle) remember George Carlin's R-rated "Seven Words You Can't Say on Television" (Google them at your won risk, and don't tell your pastor), In that spirit ( and in memorial tribute the theologian George Carlin),  I humbly submit to you I humbly submit to you :
                   7 Dirty WordsYou Can't Say in Church!


Of course, wise saints will note  at least three problems with that title:

  • -We should be hesitant to use the word "should."  Especially, "Don't should on yourself")
  • -The followimng seven are not technically seven words, but seven phrases (But if we call Jesus' seven last phrases "the secen last words of Christ," let's give it a pass
  • -The last two words of the title break on of the seven rules (but hey, it got you to read the post, right?)

As Carlin did, I will first boldly lay out the "heavy seven." and then commnt on them.

Spoiler alert, and "bad language" alert!  (:

  1. minister
  2. worship leader
  3. worship service
  4. pastor (as a title)
  5. church (as a building, or as "in church" or "going to church"
  6. sermon
  7. children's church

Wow, that  was tough , just typing those!  I feel I should wash my mouth out with a bar of (Christian) soap!!  Sorry for the pro-profanity nature of that list.

Okay, since some may be seeking explanations..

Better yet, an explanation about the explanations:
In no way is what I am about to say a dissing of you,your tradition, or call.  Some of my best friends (and I) often say/do these things.  But language matters.  And these are matters that matter so much to me that I have given up these words (and not just for Lent).  Heck, I have even worn a clerical collar, and here's a pic to  prove it (but you need  to click the backstory here)

To kick off the list, the classic "I Love Lucy"  routine comes to mind:
Etiquette Teacher "There are two words you should never use. One of them is 'swell,' and one of them is 'lousy'.

Lucy: "Well, what are the words?"

Fred: "Tell us the lousy one first!".
I think in many ways the "lousiest" word comes first below; strangely (and unobviously to some),  it may well have done the most  damning damage!

Here now, at least,  are the heavy seven

1)MINISTER:  In many circles and traditions, this is term is used synonymously with "pastor."
But besides that is not a biblical word, what does it denote/connote?  The Bible does use the  related word "ministry," but ONLY when it makes the point that all saints/members are in ministry, and thus ministers..  The task of the pastor et al is to equip the other saints for the "works of ministry."  Ephesians 4:1-11 couldn't be clearer.

2)WORSHIP LEADER: Almost everyone nowadays knows what this phrase means:

 the person leading the music.

Bannnnnk! (game-show buzzer noting wrong answer!)
"Thanks for playing, anyway!"

As recently as twenty eight  years ago, nobody in the world would've have understood the phrase "worship" as meaning music.

But the whole world has changed. Now it is the norm for the word worship to equate to "the songs we sing before the sermon and the other stuff."

And everyone knows a "worship leader" is the music leader.
No one would have defined it that way for the last ..uh, several thousand years.

Que paso?
Whatup with that?
Who switched the price tags?

That is no small shift.

Don't hear what I'm not saying. I love to worship via music. But begin with Romans far bigger and broader.

Language matters.
A strange shift began not that manyyears ago,
Ask most evangelical or charismatic Christians in USAmerica about the place of "worship"in a gathering. For some strange reason, the word has come to be synonymous with "the songs sung early in the meeting."
"Good morning! After the worship, the children will be dismissed, and Pastor Steve will share from God's word"
We even call the person leading the singing the "worship leader."Whazzup with that?
Of course, this definition is foreign to Scripture, and to the church in all history and places..until our lifetime in the West.
Google "worship is not music" for some clues as to how this hijacking happened.

Why do we also thing a "worship" gathering (after the music, or "worship set")is for teaching?:

-Robert Webber, Continued here, ht; Len
In the early church the public worship of the church was a prayer of praise and thanksgiving directed not to the people but to God. Seeing worship as prayer is a paradigm shift from the current presentational notion of worship. Today worship is frequently seen as a presentation made to the people to get them to believe in the first place, to enrich and edify their faith, and to bring healing into their lives. But the ancient church did not design (a contemporary word) worship to reach people, to educate people, or to heal people. Yet in their worship, which was a prayer of praise and thanksgiving offered to God, people were indeed nourished by offering God’s mighty acts of salvation as a prayer to God for the life of the world. The point is, of course, that worship as prayer shapes who we are. But how so?...LINK

Not long ago, our church had some documents to fill out for the IRS  (Why in the world is church connecting with IRS?..  But that's another post and topic for another day).  So I said to one of our leadership team, "can we have you sign a form after worship?"

Later, as we were signing, she said "I wondered wbat happened.  You said we should sign  after worship, so when we didn't sign after worship, I figured you forgot."

I had ansolutely no idea what she meant.

Then it hit me.  In many circles (and in her previous chiurch, the songs that are sung early in the gatherings  are called "worship" or the "worship time" or "worship songs."  So she thought i meant "after the music," and I meant "after the gathering (Of course, my definition was ecen more problematic...(Collect $100 and go to  Dirty Word #3 below )..

3)WORSHIP SERVICE: Once again, the phrase is not found in Scriipture...or is it??
"this is your reasonable SERVICE OF WORSHIP: that in  view of God’s mercy, you should offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God" (Romans 12:1-2, KJV/NIV hybrid)

Hmm, the phrase occurs, but only in a  text and conrext of 24/7 Christian life; wherever you take your body (including the bathroom; see this   and Kraybill's quote: The altar of a church building is no closer to God's heart than the restroom"

THAT is your reasonable 'service of worship.

Sounds reasonable.

So it sounds reasonable that we should restructure our language.
Nothing wrong with meetings (as long as they are "meatings," and prepare us for a lifestyle of worship

4)PASTOR (as a title): The word is good!  But it is never, not once, used in the Book as a title.  Nor are the other "fivefold gifts."  Paul never self-identifies as we identify him: "The Apostle Paul."  He's "Paul, an apostle."  And nearly every time he starts a letter with that identification, he quickly qualifies it with "a slave of Christ Jesus, by the will of God."  See "Apostles as Slaves": by Brian Dodd

What have we done in making central to church a word ("pastor") that is literally NOT MENTIONED ONCE IN THE BIBLE
(click here and count if you doubt)!

Peterson translates Jesus this way.  I wish he had gone all out and included the word "pastor":
5Their lives are perpetual fashion shows, embroidered prayer shawls one day and flowery prayers the next. 6They love to sit at the head table at church dinners, basking in the most prominent positions, 7preening in the radiance of public flattery, receiving honorary degrees, and getting called "Doctor' and "Reverend.'
8"Don't let people do that to you, put you on a pedestal like that. You all have a single Teacher, and you are all classmates. 9Don't set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God; let him tell you what to do. No one else should carry the title of "Father'; you have only one Father, and he's in heaven. 10And don't let people maneuver you into taking charge of them. There is only one Life-Leader for you and them--Christ.
11"Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. 12If you puff yourself up, you'll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you're content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.

 Kraybill is downside up and dead right: 

  •  "With one stroke, Jesus erases titles,"  
  • "Titles are foreign to the Body of Christ"

See also: "Jesus is senior ditch the title" and "Don't call me 'pastor,' I worked so hard to lose that title!"

5)CHURCH  (as a building, or as "in church" or "going to church"

I feel like a broken record  (and some see me as breaking heresy records), but read the Bible.
Never does it occur to any biblical writer to use "ekklesia" for a building.

And the one time the term "building" is used in Scripture for church, it's clear the "building is"

"YOU are God's building."


I am breaking nroken records here, but (again) the word is not in the Bible (our popular titles like "Sermon on the Mount" are not in the text.

Jeremy Myers:

"there is not a single passage in Scripture which commands or even provides an example of the current popular pattern of gathering in a building on a certain day of the week to listen to one person stand up and talk about the Bible for thirty or forty minutes.
It is just not there."  -Jeremy Myers, full article, do read it

I sometimes say in meetings, "All American pastors know that  the Bible knows nothing of a weekly meeting where a pastor preaches a sermon."

  But I wonder.  Do you think they (we) all really know the Bible says that, or are we so blinded but what we think it says that we read it into the Bible (eisegete)?"

The point here is that "the sermon" needs a new name to show how open-source the whole event is.  The very word the Bible uses for the word "preaching is dialogizomai...hhhh, do you see any Engllsih words we derive from that Greek word?

Ask the Irish prophets about this

It wasn't that many years ago I traded my sorrows for'...uh, traded my pulpit for a nice "lectern" or podium...even a music stand.

But I finally had to sell even THAT  (the low-key lectern) at a garage sale
(I couldn't chain-saw it)
What's hilarious, and terribly telling is that my neighbor bought it, joking that he could use it to "lecture to my teenage son!"


I love children.

  And sometimes even in our tribemettings, we send the kids out for their own time.

  BUT the whole point is to share with the whole group something they learned when they rejooin us.  And when they stay in the "redular service": (don't make me say "BIG CHURCH!".

  See Gary Goodeel and Graham Cooke for great ideas on how to fully integrate children into the gathering


As Carlin said about his original seven:
"Those are the heavy seven. Those are the ones that will infect your soul, curve your spine and keep the country from winning the war."

Since Cooke and Goodell (in the book above) make much use of their subtitle,"permission is granted to do church differently in the third millenium," I can't imagine a better way to end this rant than to offer you permission...within the parameters of Scripture and leading of the Spirit, to comment on, and come up with your own list of  "seven dirty words."

As Carlin also said about his list:
                       Words are all we have, really.

So be faithful to the Word (Jesus), and the Word that points to Jesus (Scripture),
and pray and play with words.

It might just change as much as everything about the culture of your church.

That's dirty!

"and, you, whore of the American spies, drink also!": as words of institution for communion vodka at gunpoint

The priest  tossed the vodka bottle at her, and demaded: "..And, you, whore of the American spies, drink also!"

Admittedly, it's not quite, the traditional "This is the blood of Christ shed for you and for many, for the remission of sins. Take and drink, all of you."

 But it is in one sense the functional equivalent in one amazing story.

I always enjoy stories about communion elements that are orthodox in an unorthodox way
(See  "My Favorite Heresy: Catholic Nuts for Communion")and posts tagged "

I also collect stories about breaking of bread/meals that are accidentally sacramental (many will catch the  accidental pun on the word 'accident' there); meals where they may be no official naming the Name,  but are somehow sovereignly  Eucharisted, and pick up a leitourgia  leitmotif nonetheless.

 For a couple reasons (it "worked," for one), this story, "Vodka at Gunpoint," counts (in a weird way)!  It's from a delightful book, "Peace Meals: Candy-Wrapped Kalashnikovs and Other War Stories "by Anna Badkhen.

Rea the story  here on Google Books;  pp. 99-110,.. ..though of course, Google Books had to leave out the two most important pages (communitas interruptus!), pp. 108-9.  They are below (click, and click again to enlarge)

Some good books on communion and/or food:

world's largest online library.

Video Description CEO Trip Adler discusses how a Stanford neurosurgeon's publishing problem inadvertently led to the development of Scribd, the world's largest online library.

Pastor-Contextual-Theologian as Future of Church Leadership (Fitch)


The Organic Intellectual: Why the Pastor-Contextual-Theologian is the Future of Church Leadership in N. America  (David Fitch)

also, the article Fitch was responding to:

Sarah Coakley: Ministry is not easier than theology


"the single most misguided thing a major corporation has ever deliberately done"

It is well worth reading the article below, which suggests that what Facebook had done is:

"the single most misguided thing a major corporation has ever deliberately done, bar none, in the entire history of American capitalism and the world."



Thursday, October 11, 2012

Jesus' original intention re: "ekklesia"

On  "Jesus' original intention"  in using the word "ekklesia" in Matthew:

in conclusion,Jesus was interested in establishing his Kingdom on earth, a new order. To do this he wanted to see Local Council Assemblies of believers be his representatives through out the earth. He always intended to remain the King in charge of all of these assemblies, never to have an intermediate person in charge. These Local Assemblies are of course places of worship, but if they never consider how to transform the world around them, then they are not fulfilling their purpose. Therefore the Council part of the definition needs to be worked out in practical Christian love.

I have argued strongly against the word church before. Again, I am not even suggesting a replacement. It is equally possible for us to behave as the representatives of King Jesus in local gatherings without having to put a label on anything. Often when we start to use labels, we begin to shape them into our own human religion and depart from Jesus' original intention. Let's be about doing Jesus' Kingdom.

See also Frank Viola: church is not "called out ones"

Malcolm Gladwell on Mennonites, Underdogs and Forgiveness

Chris Lenshyn posts

This past summer, author Malcolm Gladwell went to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, to connect my wife’s aunt, Wilma Derksen whose daughter was murdered 20+ years ago.  He was exploring the story of the Derksen’s and there particular pursuit of forgiveness.  But in the bigger picture, he was and is wondering ‘where the culture of forgiveness in the Mennonite world comes from.”
Interestingly, Gladwell makes the link between the history of persecution Mennonites have faced and the ability to forgive.
In brief, it is quite true that Mennonites have a propensity for social justice, and within that is a seemingly inherent capacity to forgive.  But deeper still, it must not be forgotten that this ‘capacity to forgive’ is facilitated by the Anabaptist Mennonite spirituality which persistently and consistently pursues the presence of and peace of Christ.
Start watching at the 3:50 mark.  
Where did the Mennonite capacity for forgiveness come from?  Can being entrenched within the devastating experience of persecution have the potential, in the long term, to build something beautiful? -link

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

social sciences as subdivisions of theology/Christianity as a branch of physics

"To put it plainly,
         the so-called social sciences are
                          subdivisions of moral theology."
                      -Neil Postman, complete essay here

"If my thesis is correct..
          Christianity will become 
                          a branch of physics."
                        -Frank Tipler, here

Prodigal Pirate

Here are some helpful links on the most provocative part of Kester  Brewin's, "Mutiny: Why We Love Pirates and Why They Can Save Us":
his "dark" retelling of the Prodigal Son as  a pirate:

>>Kester Brewin on the failed “mutiny” of the prodigal son

>>Kester Brewin: The Tragedy of the Prodigal Son


>>Conversation on Kester's posting forum about the Prodigal Son as pirate

":a hedge of protection"

photo from "Stuff Christian Culture Likes"
Jonathan Acuff's chapter  on "The Hedge of Protection"(in "Stuff Christians Like") is a classic.  As you can see by the graphic  at left and the Tim Hawkins video at bottom, this s a popular  phrase in Christianese.

Here and below is  his chapter, in full.  It's not really complete without the illustration that accompanies buy the book, already!

I think the uber-popular  Christian prayer request for a  "hedge of protection" is in the Bible, but I'm not sure.  It sounds like something David would have written in the book of Psalms. He's very poetic and our most Bono-like writer.  But a friend of mine once revealed that he’s always found that to be an inadequate security measure. As a child, when his mother would pray that he would have a hedge of protection around him or a hedge of angels around him, he would think, “Anyone can jump a hedge. How hard is that? Forget the hedge of angels, I’m praying for a dome of angels.”

At first I laughed at that story, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. These are troubling times, and I’ve never seen a hedge and thought, “That thick collection of bushes is both terrifying and impenetrable.” Maybe instead of a hedge of protection, we should pray for:

A Beaded Curtain Of Wasps

Your enemy would see this from a distance and think it was a standard beaded curtain. “Sweet,” they’d think. ”Hippies. Let’s go steal their stuff.” But as soon as they touched the curtain, they’d be rained down on by wasps that were enraged at being delicately strung together in a beaded curtain formation.

A Trampoline Moat Of Lions

Throwing a plank across the average moat renders it useless. That won’t be an issue though…with the trampoline moat of lions, or T-MOL. You’ve admittedly got to pull insane permits to build this thing. But once you do, trust me, it’s worth it. Few things are as scary and imposing as a pride of lions that have figured out the mechanics of a trampoline. Just imagine a hurricane of fangs and claws and manes bouncing skyward as they “give each other air.”

A Rugby Scrum Of Angels
When people say a “hedge of protection” or a “hedge of angels,” I start imagining a bunch of angels in pleated khakis standing around, bored, waiting for the bus. Forget that. A rugby scrum is where players from both teams lock arms and heads and start swirling around in a tangle of power and aggression and swagger.
That’s what I want angels protecting me to be doing. I want them to be constantly brawling, like some sort of angelic version of the Patrick Swayze movie Roadhouse. When something bad comes my way, the angels don’t have to warm up. They just turn to my foe and say, “You want to get in on this? We got more than enough to go around.” -
Jonathan Acuff's chapter  on "The Hedge of Protection"in "Stuff Christians Like,"   pp 68-70

Monday, October 08, 2012

Pete Townshend re: abuse, child porn and guitar smashing

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TED Talk on Bible translation

by Joel Hoffman, of the God Didn't Say That blog:

we don’t know where we are going

"There are no experts in the company of Jesus.
      We are all beginners,
             necessarily followers,
 because we don’t know where we are going."
-Eugene Peterson, The Jesus Way, p. 12

Note: if that last sentence doesn't ring true..consider the writer of Hebrews:

Knowing where you're going is overrrated

" I have no idea where I am going"

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Pulpit Freedom Sunday: Colbert

"Jesus: A Theography"

Some books seem impossible to review...other than to say they  are amazing, make my top ten list., and everyone should own it.

Such is the case with "Jesus: A Theography," by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola, a book that creates a word...and a genre.

I don't know where to start, so I'll start at the beginning...and the end.

And the middle:
  • The entire book was checked by the Biblemaster, Craig Keener...and they took all his suggestions!  That alone would make it a six (out of five) star book.
I an tempted to  turn it up to eleven,
but I'll give it a ten..

Buy the book already..

"the greatest song ever sung"

In this video (and in the new book by Sweet and Viola), Sweet makes the case that "the greatest song ever sung" was Psalm 22.....and the singer was Jesus: 
 (more info, see  "The Lord Be With You...Even When He's Not!" and posts tagged "lament" below).
The Greatest Song Ever Sung from Marble Collegiate Church on Vimeo.

The Greatest Song Ever Sung from Marble Collegiate Church on Vimeo.
Sermon preached on Sunday, February 6th, by Dr. Leonard Sweet at the Marble Collegiate Church in New York City.

"grace and choice"-- Mumford and Sons "Babel" links