Being Christian


Christian’s have far too many committees.

In fact we have so many of them its amazing we achieve anything at all.

case in point:  I have a friend that recently went to a church meeting  for a ‘team/committee’ at 10pm on a friday night. after recieving a text message to come to the meeting at 9pm,  This meeting was for a ‘committee’ that had met less than one week earlier, the meeting a week earlier had gone for 3 hours and had achieved nothing.

The question has to be asked how can you preach on a sunday about ‘going out in the world and making disciples’ and then have your weekly schedule look like this:

Monday – small group
Tuesday – worship meeting
Wednesday – nothing
Thursday – helping with the small group you lead
Friday – youth/young adults hang out session (because we have to have something that will keep us out of the world)
Saturday – nothing or hanging out with christian mates at night to watch a DVD
Sunday – church once or twice including service in someway e.g. worship team, childrens church, prayer ministry, coffee/tea etc.

 In fact many surveys have shown that because Christians tend to socialise within Christian circles their work colleagues, next door neighbours and non christian friends see very little of them and so are unable to form any meaningful relationships that don’t seem to be overtaken by christian activities.

On the other hand there are a large number of christians (normally single males – i know some of those reading this blog would dispute that) that don’t actually step up to leadership or serving within churches which means those who are serving within churches tend to have a heavier load which takes a greater amount of their time as there are less people willing to serve or lead.

Do your experiences mirror this i.e. are you involved so much at your Church ‘serving the lord’ that your non christian friends and family can count their time they see you in minutes in a week?
OR
have you have had experiences that are quite the opposite?

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I am addicted to TV.

On an average night if I have no planning (meh even if i do) my schedule is this 

4:30 Malcolm in the middle

5:00 The Simpsons

5:30 Home and Away

6:00 News / The Nanny

6:30 Third Rock from the Sun

7:00 Shortland St

7:30-9:30 whatever is going  Desperate Housewives, a crime program, drama etc . Occasionally i might turn the TV off for 30 minutes if a program doesn’t really take my fancy but in general I can fit in 4.5 to 5 hours a night of solid TV watching.  

A couple of days ago I found a few phrases and incidents coming to mind more and more frequently (this tends to be how God speaks to me when I haven’t been paying attention through prayer or bible reading) fortunately he hasn’t got so desperate as to communicate to me via the lines from TV shows (can you tell me how to get how to get to seasame street…….)

  • A sermon a while back from Mark Driscoll where he said that we have become so Saturated in our culture that we no longer notice the appearnce of evil – he was refering to the media usage here.
  • A podcast i was listening to where the speaker was saying that they got a TV for a special occasion to watch some sports event and were watching it with their children and they were absolutely stunned and shocked by the Ads (i find no such shock when watching the ad’s and this worries me)
  • The fact that in the staff room at my school a particular TV programme came up (which had totally inapporopriate content for a christian to be watching) and i said i watched it , anyway some joke was made that was sexually explicit and I had no way of coming against it as I had been watching it to.

So with that buzzing around my head, I am now  on day 2 on a 40 day ‘fast’ of sorts from TV. Today being Monday I am on day 2 (hurrah) I am putting a pink piece of paper on my TV screen to symbolise each day and to write what something I did that day that I wouldn’t have done had I have had the TV on (today for example I emailed 2 friends who had emailed me ages ago but I didn’t evidently have the time for them – bizarre really as I do have hours to watch TV)

My aim in all of this is to be able to hear God much clearer as I think as much as we try to spiritualise the content of a Desperate Housewives episode it doesn’t come anywhere close to actually spending time in Prayer with God, Studying his word and putting it into action.

This post is a reply to Nathanael Baker’s recent post on Syncretism, which I very poorly replied to on his blog site, due to in part the drugged up stupor (all legal – anti biotics and pain relief) I was in and the late hour of the day I was replying.

Nathanael has raised the issue of Syncretism on his blog. Which while sounding like a modern hip ad agency is actually something that dates back to the time of Plutarch. In short Syncretism as it is understood in the modern Christian theological scene is ‘the incorporation of non-christian elements’ into Christendom. Every Christian culture in every epoch has done it. The western church does it, the eastern Church do it, they do it in Africa and Asia, they probably do it at your church (and with that I have now cut my readership).

Syncretism can be found in the Bible and while not mentioned by name (but hey neither is the word Trinity) it is still has a Biblical basis. When I think Syncretism the first thing that popped into my mind was The New Testament Church Jewish Christians who tried to force their laws on gentile Christians in order that they could become ‘real christians’. Other examples of syncretism in the Bible include Israel in the Old Testament who did a pick and mix exercise with God and opted for God and witchcraft/oracles/golden calves.

Syncretism is not just a finger pointing exercise (although my above paragraph makes it look like it is!) Take for example some Western churches fascination with materialism and the way this is incorporated into church worship practices. To get to the bottom of this syncretism and distortion of the Gospel one has to

1) Uncover and Identify the syncretism properly – e.g. name exactly what the syncretism is and how it conflicts with the Gospel ( i.e. this can’t just be a personal dislike campaign because the church doesn’t play your type of funky Gregorian hymn chants)
2) Understand why the syncretism happened – i.e. did this syncretism replace something? What symbols go with it? What has been the wider Church’s part in contributing to it?
3) Restoration or in the words of Mirsolav Volf – ‘exclusion (of the toxic) and embrace (of the good)

Of course Christianity (or any religion) always interacts with Culture. However the issues lies in how much which influences which and in what ways. For example a ‘Christian’ population who are more likely to read Playboy then their Bible are likely to have a dilution of the truth of the gospel, just as a Christian population who only have access to one or two books of the new testament (say gospels) on an irregular basis due to persecution and accessibility may also have some syncretism issues as they do not have access to the full Bible. On the other hand someone in Africa whose heremutic of the bible is from a Word of Faith perspective is also going to have syncretism issues.

What I am saying is that this issue can not be simply solved by everyone racing down to their local Christian store and grabbing a copy of the Bible and reading it from cover to cover. Nor will it be solved if we make a long list of rules of things we can and cannot do (the Pharisees tried that and look what happened there) Nor can it be solved by some huge authority (such as myself) declaring what is right and wrong. Although I am pretty bloody sure the prosperity doctrine is a load of crap.

Local communities have to take some responsibility for their own doctrine by looking at
• scripture, (The Bible)
• the universal Tradition of the church, (including looking at things like creeds)
• theological reason
• experience of God including the transformation he has had on the individual (think Holy Spirit here people!). For some Christians this of the four is what their theology is built on – which does mean syncretism is much more likely to occur.

and weighing them all up.
What we find in cases of syncretism is that normally one of these 4 is taken way out of proportion at the expense of the other 3 (or the other 3 are manipulated to fit the
Favoured 1) The church in the past has had some huge syncretic mind explosions. E.g the Dutch Reformed church and Apartheid which if looking at the four aspects above mainly revolved around the misinterpretation of tiny selected bits of scripture e.g. darkness not mixing with light this of course resulted in tactfully ignoring things like the creeds.

As Nathanael quotes in his post – simply declaring ‘Jesus is Lord’ means nothing if our practice does not line up with this. The responsibility lies with every committed Christian to live out ‘loving God with heart, soul, mind and strength.’ For those in leadership the bar is even higher (as stated in James) and one must make sure ones congregation/members/people being ministered are given access to the full breadth and width of Jesus and his Gospel be they culturally favoured topics or not.

I went to the local Catholic Church the other day and prayed the last time I did that was about 10 years ago. Man do the Catholics know how to make you want to pray the chapel was beautiful…..

It was most liberating.

I have been one to think that my local Catholic friends live some type of shady life saying Hail Mary’s and not having any true theology of anything like my true self. While I disagree with them on some things (the small matter of say faith and works 😛 for example) my local parish opened my eyes. Their parish magazine was choca block full of things they had been up to in the last couple of months and included articles on

  •  their evangelism plan and how they had been practicing this and ways to get involved, 
  •  missions,
  • Servant leadership 
  •  an article on the women’s ministry – and how they were doing a remit on child abuse to a national organisation,
  •  young adults ministry 
  •   (hold your breath here folks) an article by a priest or monk (couldn’t tell which) on how the Catholic Church owed a lot to the Protestant tradition for their Biblical Scholarship in the 20th Century and how  when we separate the Word and the sacraments we become disjointed.

 Michael Spencer, Internet Monk said some interesting things in his latest podcast about being a Post Evangelical and the fact that as one no one church is your ‘home’ and that one of the advantages of being a Post Evangelical is being able to take the best of all different Church Traditions and not boxing yourself into a corner. I pondered this after my experience with my Catholic Sisters and Brothers.  Unfortunately nowadays I think many in the modern Church  are prone to a huge dose of the ‘Corinth’ 1-4 Syndrome (see 1st Corinthians 1-4) where we think our  brand of church is the Church by which all truth should be judged by at the loss of everything else our brothers and sisters in other traditions have to offer .  

It came to light the other day that often the way we judge other churches comes not from any great theological outworkings or biblical scholarship but merely from a parochial ‘my church is better than their church’  line often with little thought into our views.

How do you view other Churches? Is your view on other Churches influenced by first hand experience/scholarship or by something else?  Do you worship in other denominations with ease? What have other church traditions offered your faith journey?   

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Jesus. Santa. Chocolate.

Now that I have your attention and have lulled you into a false sense of security with the fact that this is going to be just another Christian blog post let me break your expectations *screams and shouts from the blogging  christian community*

I, Lisa, do not like Christmas.

Oh no I here you say – she must be backsliding or not have grasped the true siginficance of Jesus’ birth. Save your breath. I have and do. I love Jesus.  However I do not find this time of year to be incredibly exciting. Don’t get me wrong I love advent, however the Christmas/New Year season is an incredible drain on me.  

I do not get gushy feelings of romanticism nor do I feel the overwhelming urge to run out onto the streets and sing christmas carols. Instead I often feel the urge to run in the opposite direction from civilisation (generally I find christmas to be incredibly over hyped). I find that Christmas time riles me up no end with feelings of frustration and unhappiness and the fact that my introvert personality gets exhausted with the never ending demands of extrovert activities. I also find christmas/holiday TV and radio programming incredibly boring as do many of the inane conversations I am forced into (much grace required).

However I have been working with God over the last week on many issues including this one and have been discussing many things. Some recent discovervies that have helped:

  1. Mary’s song for joy  in Luke 2 – Beautiful –  thanks to the Tony Campolo podcast
  2. Working how to relate with people better at Christmas celebrations that bore you to pieces and drive you crazy – thanks to Mars Hill Bible Church – The Table Podcast from 18/11/2007
  3. Grasping the eschatological significance of the first and second comings.
  4. Praying for others, so that their christmas times are what they want.
  5. Internet Monk Podcast no 80 – AWESOME – the most uncliched christmas podcast! Thanks Michael Spencer!

 So may this Christmas season for you be grace fulled and peace fulled!  May you experience the realities of his fullness in whatever situations you come across. Emmanuel!

It is said that when part of the church hurts we all hurt. Oh God might that be so. May we be on our knees for those in the west and the east , in the north and the south where violence jars the image of the peace of the Christ Child.

On Sunday in America the church of New Life and YWAM (in 2 different places and locations) were affected by shootings.

The shooting at New Life Church saw Matthew Murray, a former Homeschool student from a religious family (didn’t attend the church) kill two sisters and injure several others. It is here where God’s grace, mercy, wisdom and all those other words that I want to be start to glimmer despite the horror.

Murray was killed by an armed female security volunteer at the church before police arrived. The security guard was not on duty but felt the Holy Spirit urge her to take her gun that day**.HT boundlessline Despite the shooter wearing a bullet proof vest, the guard’s aim killed the shooter and in effect saved hundreds of lives as he did not get that far into the building. There were 7000 people in worship when the shooting erupted. They were safely evacutated downstairs to a basement where they stayed for 4/5 hours as the church ground was cleared of a range of smoke generating devices around the grounds.

It is here where I am in awe of the people of New Life and God’s work in them :

Ashley Gibbs was getting into a car with David Harris when they heard the gunshots — a sound like someone kicking ice from the side of a car, she said.Harris said he saw the gunman, and it looked like he knew how to handle a weapon…… They stayed in the vehicle and prayed for the gunman. “It was obvious that he was in some sort of pain and going through a lot,” Gibbs told “Today.” “I just prayed God would bring him peace– Fox News

From the press conference – quotes from Pastor of New Life, Brady Boyd.

… our hearts go out to the family of this young man, the attacker, he has a mom and dad somewhere, he has a family, and we want them to know that at New
Life Church we are praying for them. We know that there is a grieving process
for them as well, and we certainly are praying for that family

We had a detailed evacuation plan in place given all kinds of scenarios, and had a large group of people that knew what to do, we had places on our campus that were designated as holding areas, and people were taken there immediately. People were ushered off the campus or taken to safe places. We had security details in each of those locations to keep people safe. That’s the reality of our world. I don’t think any of us grew up in churches where that was a reality, but today it is. So we prepared in advance for that, and because of that, although we are grieving today because of the loss of two lives, hundreds of lives were saved because of the plan we had in place. We are grateful to God for giving us the wisdom to do that and for protecting us yesterday.

** I am not one in favour of Arms control, however this is not what this post is about. The fact that this is what this woman felt she was urged to do by the HS is what is at call here. One’s cultural perceptions (of arms control or any other matter) should not get in the way of allowing God to move or in being able to see God move. It is a sad day when ones cultural perceptions become moral absolutes. You may like to refer to my previous post on this issue….

One Christian book that has had a major influence on my life has been the visual addition of ‘What’s so Amazing about Grace’ by Phillip Yancy in that book there is a page where the authors and illustrators have juxtaposed some Christian people picketing with the idea of Grace.

I am constantly in agony at myself and at my Christian brothers when we choose to stand and shout at non Christians rather than roll up our sleeves and be Jesus in a situation.

One organization who I think do this brilliantly (be Jesus in a situation) are xxxchurch.com

XXXchurch is the #1 Christian porn site designed to bring awareness to the porn problem. From the United States, Australia, Asia, and Europe, XXXchurch is a movement of people and ministries putting accountability to those struggling with porn and those calling porn a career.”

XXXchurch.com runs a Christian anti-pornography website that aims to help those who struggle with pornography. Its target are those who are consumers (including christians and non christians) and those in pornographic industry.

Perhaps one of the key things they do (which links back to what I have said) is they hand out bibles to people who attend porn shows. (they will be attending one in Auckland next year doing this very thing). This has many ‘conservative’ Christians riled up, but I will let you think and pray it through for yourself after watching the two different forms of communicating Jesus to those at Porn Events in action.

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