Thursday, June 25, 2009
One of my fears as a pastor is that our churches in America have become either “Relational Armies” or “Institutional Armies,” and thus, in some important ways, not really armies at all. And these pitfalls have little to do with theology. Conservative and evangelical churches can become social clubs and museum pieces just as easily as liberal ones if the mission is either forgotten or changed. Instead, I think it is due to the fact we in America are quite accustomed to life being easy and so expect Christianity to be so. We look for comforting structures or relationships with people who look/talk/act/think like we do, never realizing that the whole point of our Christianity is to reach and build up in the faith people who are nothing like us. And so, paraphrasing Chesterton, we find real Christianity difficult and hence leave it untried. But for the Church in America to regain the level of culture changing impact it once had here, it has to re-focus its energies on accomplishing the mission. People are dying everywhere around us, enslaved to sin and Satan, while we spend our time either shining our armor or talking to each other. Advancing into battle is what is required, but will we the American Church hear the trumpet call in time to make a difference in its outcome? I truly hope so.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
A while back, I wrote about the interaction between the institutional, relational, and missional aspects of being an army. Since the Church is, in some sense at least, the Army of God advancing against the gates of Hell, it seems appropriate to warn of some of the dangers of wrongly prioritizing these three elements. One of the big dangers is that the Institutional aspects are allowed to predominate, with the community aspects next, and the missional aspect last. What is interesting about this kind of army or church is that when an army or a church operates this way, it affects every other aspect. The community life is important, but we must all respect and carry on the traditions of the unit, or else major conflict will result within the unit. Change of any aspect of the traditions will result in lack of unit cohesiveness and even division. Moreover, the mission is changed from confronting the Enemy and seeking victory in battle (whether physical or spiritual) to the preservation of the unit in the form in which it has always existed. This means that in the final analysis, the unit ceases to function as an effective army and becomes something of a living museum piece, carrying on the traditions and practices of long ago, but having long ago stepped back from any real battles.
The best living examples I can come up with of this kind of thing is re-enactor groups. One of my former college roommates was a Civil War re-enactor. He wore the authentic uniform, carried the authentic rifle, ate the authentic food, lived in authentic quarters, and was a member of an authentically re-constituted unit. He even authentically charged the enemy over the authentic battlegrounds. But his rifle was loaded not with Minie balls, but paper wads over black powder. The Civil War was over long ago, and the Army of the Potomac no longer exists in any real sense, but these men are committed to maintaining its traditions and history. In the same way, many churches maintain traditions and history but have the re-enactor's effect on the outcome of the actual battles going on in our world today. That is, they continually re-fight battles from long ago for the sake of history and tradition, sometimes little realizing that the battle lines have moved elsewhere. And so they become ineffective at neutralizing the Enemy's work and taking his captives from him for the sake of Christ.
We got back late on Sunday night, just in time to do laundry, fold up the now dry tent and sleeping bags, store away the camping stuff, pick up the dog from a friend's house, suck up the small amount of water in our basement and deodorize the formerly damp carpet. Last night we went to the local swimming pool at the park to ride the slides, jump off the diving boards, remember that we don't know how to dive, and generally stay cool.
It's been an eventful few days. Glad to be back and to be getting back in the saddle again. Hopefully, all my readers haven't given up totally on ever reading this again...
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
- Institution: The structures and supplies that give an army its organization and shape. This includes everything from tanks and rifles to matching uniforms, a chain of command, barracks, units, and even the history and traditions of each platoon, battalion, brigade, and division. Without institutional elements, an army ceases to be army and becomes a mob.
- Community: The relationships between the people who compose the army. The better the relationships and the greater the level of trust between them, then (at least generally speaking), the better the unit's effectiveness in combat. Without community, an army isn't so much an army as a collection of individuals fighting on the same side of a cause.
- Mission: The task of the army or army unit. Generally speaking, the basic task of army is "kill the enemy and take over his territory." Without a mission, there is no purpose for the army's existence.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Blessings to you all. I'm constantly amazed that anyone finds my random thoughts worth reading, but it's fun to share them with you.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
These things seem sort of ordinary, and thus we give them the term "common." But is anything in our world more uncommon than grace? Common grace seems to me as much an oxymoron as jumbo shrimp. And yet it is true in a deep, not quite graspable way that this is exactly what God has given us - indescribable blessings so widely dispersed that we think them little, and thus think little of them. But in reality, even the common grace of God is wondrous beyond our imagining. What kind of a Being, after all, scatters His blessings so widely that even His enemies are recipients? What kind of a Being, having done so, is patient with those He blessed, even as they so commonly overlook His blessings? It must be said, that only God would do these things, because only He is perfect love and can do them.
And so, as Job said, "I place my hand over my mouth. Surely I spoke of things to wonderful for me to understand." Words must give way to worship.
Monday, June 1, 2009
She has followed me from Taylor to Indianapolis to Dallas to Cedar Rapids to Chillicothe and along the way been my constant companion, loving support, and best friend. She has given me two lovely daughters and two strong sons, her prayers, encouragement, strong affection, and even loving confrontation when I have sinned. Who could ask for more? Certainly not I.
So Karen, let me simply say how much I love you and that I never knew how much more I would love you today than I did back when. Here's to 13 blessed years, with a prayer for at least 50 more!