Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Next Christians: The Good News About the End of the Christian Era

In 2007 Gabe Lyons collaborated with David Kinnamen in unChristian a book that showed us the reality of societies views about those who label themselves Christian. Since I had a friend gift me a copy, I have quoted and referred friends and others to this important text and their advice for overcoming the poor impression that society has of Christians. In The Next Christians not only tells us how to overcome negative Christian stereotypes, but he tells us who will destroy them. Lyons leaves his reader excited for the next movement of God through the next Christians, the restorers. These next Christians struggle against the reality of the world seeking to restore creation to what it ought to be not what it is. The restorers place high value on truth, justice, and beauty. Lyons describes in detail the key characteristics of restorers including their high value on calling, community, countercultural behavior, active engagement with culture and a firm foundation in Jesus Christ. If Christianity has lost its relevance by removing itself from the center of culture, the restorers are our best hope to return saved people to the culture conversation.

The Next Christians is a phenomenal book. Lyons has an ability in his writing to connect all of the dots to things we have all seen in our churches and society in large. As he writes about examples of restorers he knows you begin to think of those in your own life. Those examples that come to mind only further show the truth of Lyons’ writing. Additionally, the book is easy to read due to the engaging material. Honestly, as I got to better understand some of those I interact with, I got excited. I was also challenged with questions about myself as a potential restorer, where I am fighting against the restorers, and how can my own background help sharpen restorers. Lyons’ words lead me to celebrate much of what I do, and also grieve my own non-restorative tendencies. What more can we ask of a book other than lead ourselves down a path of self reflection? The Next Christians also helps reinforce books like Not Like Me. The Next Christians provides a general behavioral overview of restorers, while Eric Bryant in Not Like Me describes the relational toolbox of restorers, though he never makes that claim. The Next Christians is an important book that we as the church need to be discussing and acting on so we can move the Jesus conversation back to the center of the cultural dialogue.

Review Copy Provided by WaterBrook Multnomah

Friday, November 12, 2010

Bad Public Relations

Recently I ran against a bad case of PR. I was sitting in church practicing silence and solitude. Instead of mediating over the verses presented to me for my consideration, I found myself stuck on the transfiguration.

In short summary, during the transfiguration, 3 disciples (Peter, John and James) witnessed Jesus in his glory and in conversation with Moses and Elijah:

28About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. 29As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. 30Two men, Moses and Elijah, 31appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. 32Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. 33As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, "Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah." (He did not know what he was saying.)

34While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35A voice came from the cloud, saying, "This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him." 36When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves, and told no one at that time what they had seen (Luke 9:28-36, NIV).

Here is what struck me. John, we all know about John. He wrote a gospel and epistles and Revelation. Jesus proclaims him beloved. We know a lot about John and his life after the resurrection compared to the majority of the other twelve disciples. John has gotten some great public relations and rightfully we respect him and hold him up as an example to this day.

And then there is Peter, the Rock. He wrote Epistles and his post resurrection actions are documented in Acts and by tradition. We respect Peter, study Peter both his failings and triumphs. And Peter has gotten some great PR.

But then there is James! What about James. He is not the same James who had an epistle added to canon. Acts does not carefully chart James’ movements to help shepherd the early church. Though we can likely assume he was one of the decision makers when Acts refers to the disciples. But beyond being a Son of Thunder with his brother the Beloved, it’s not like we study James’ life intently as an example of holy transformed living or gave him a great nickname.

But why not. Jesus showed James his glory. Jesus not only allowed James into his inner circle of 12 but even added him to the inner inner circle of just three men that got to see this event. So we have to assume that Jesus knew what was in James’ heart and what great work was ahead of him. Jesus chose to reward James by sharing with him this moment. And I have to assume that James did not leave this event changed. I have to assume that after the resurrection, like John and Peter he looked back on this moment and gained strength. And I have to assume that James did great and wonderful things. But again, we don’t elevate him to the position of respect that we do Peter and John.

Now in-depth research, i.e, Wikipedia, shows that James by tradition had a great influence in spreading the church to Spain and was martyred for his efforts. But tradition and history leads me to simply assumption. And my assumption is…James did important things we should all greatly respect. But we fail to place him on the pedestal of John and Peter.

So, what do we learn from this. How about this…..praise doesn’t matter. James did not need accolades to do his important work. James did not need studies completed on his character in order for his efforts to matter. His work glorified Jesus and transformed himself and others. His work was eternal, more eternal than any praise that could be given by men. James mattered to Jesus no matter what raises, plaques, ribbons, gift cards, statues, brand new corvettes or other awards men failed to give him. In the end, seeing Jesus in his glory was more important praise than James could have ever received from men. Jesus’ smile is the best reward any of us can have.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Why I Hate Podcasts

Over the last six plus years I have been lucky to have a job that allows me to listen to a lot of podcasts on a daily basis while I complete my job duties. Over that time I have found some great advantages and disadvantages to having the time and access to teachings electronically. Today I want to provide my take on the disadvantages of podcasts.


There is so much to chose from that eventually it can become too much. And when you become overwhelmed with the sure volume of teachings available online the easiest way to keep from drowning is to turn it off. It is so much easier to move to sports or other less serious topics available on the internet. With the variety of content available online one can simply ignore teachings and not use podcasts as a tool for growth but something that can simply be ignored.

Local Church Discounts

I love the men that I have called my pastors. They have mentored me, they have poured themselves into my life unconditionally. But they have not always been the most studied or charismatic speakers on a weekly basis as the best teachers one can find online on a weekly basis. Let’s face it, the local pastor is simply more likely to have an off week than a teacher God has blessed with gifts that make them as polished as any inspirational speaker who does not need to live by a van down by the river. Our local guy likely lacks the staff and resources that would make him an every week hit. By exposing yourself to fantastic teaching, one can begin to take their local church pastor less seriously or begin to ask why he/she isn’t as good as (insert favorite name here) that I listen to for free online. Basically, if you expose yourself to enough excellent teachings you can begin to take your local teacher less seriously. And this is a major fault on the listener’s behalf. As good as a speaker may be online, that person is not participating in your life on a daily basis and does not love you on the personal level that one’s local pastor does.

Are You Hearing Me

There are things that I don’t want to talk about. There are things I don’t want to think about. When those subjects come up on a teaching, well it’s pretty easy to find another teaching. The reason they hurt is because I NEED TO GROW IN THIS AREA. Since I need to grow it hurts, hey growth is not always fun and happy. I am a completionist, so eventually I return to that message that I don’t want to hear. But the timing may not be a growth moment by the time I return, listening at a time when my focus on the teaching is fairly superficial. However in the local sanctuary, if I was to turn off the message by walking out of dosing off, let’s face it my pastor and everyone else in my community is going to know. In effect, in my community I’m a captive audience, the same cannot be said for a podcast when I control the volume and play buttons.

Selective Listening

When you are listening and multitasking, you don’t always hear everything. And so the speaker’s message can easily get lost. And then you the listener miss the point. The additional hearing problem is when taking in so a bunch of teaching, which is really easy to do it’s pretty easy to forget or ignore the speaker’s main point or call to action. Simply put, I have heard so many talks that it is impossible for me to be impacted on a personal nature by all of them or even most of them. The best I can hope for is that I am being marinated in great teachings that hopefully sharpens my mind, frees my soul and strengthens my relationship with my creator.

These disadvantages should not stop one from interacting with content online. Instead the listener needs to be aware of the blind spots and traps one can fall into by primarily relying on podcasts for teaching instead of engaging in a religious community.