Down with the Homogeneous Unit Principal?

My latest article for Out of Ur was posted earlier today.  In it I try to make the case that we need more churches willing to take seriously the reconciling nature of the gospel.  This, I believe, ought to be reflected not just in our preaching and teaching but in our methods and strategies as well.

A lot of energy is currently being expended debating which church models are most Biblical. House or mega? Plant or second site? Video or campus pastor? These may be important questions, but any model that fails to take seriously the reconciliation envisioned by Paul will also fail to fully communicate the Gospel message with power.

The entire article can be read at Out of Ur and I’m curious whether folks think I’m stating things simplistically and idealistically or whether I’m on to something.

Segregated Churches and Immigration

My latest article for Out of Ur went up a few days ago.  In it I attempted to show how the critical need for comprehensive immigration reform offers the American church an opportunity to live up to our calling in some significant ways.  Given how polarizing these issues can be, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the (mostly) thoughtful comments left by that blog’s readers; a small sign perhaps of the growing conviction among Evangelicals of the pressing need for immigration reform.

A Christian Sexual Alternative?

My latest article for Out of Ur was posted a couple of weeks ago.

The title caught my eye: “Reverend reconciles sex and religion.” Was another church challenging married couples to make time for sexual intimacy for seven days straight? A pastor making headlines for an edgy sermon about the goodness of sex? A review of the latest book from a Christian relationship expert with new statistics about Christians’ sex lives?

Actually, the article was much less predictable than any of my guesses. The story’s focus, Debra Haffner, has the distinction of being both a reverend and a sexologist who believes her two professions “offer a unique insight into modern sexuality.” The Revered Haffner—who, by the way, won’t marry people who are virgins—thinks it necessary for “conservative religious leaders to reform their doctrines to fit modern times.” Such a shift includes focusing on the “quality of relationships” rather than on the morality of sexual practices.

As someone who falls within Haffner’s “conservative religious leader” category, it’s tempting to write her off. There’s little new in her claim that our sexual ethics need updating for a new day. Her reading of the Bible (“Genesis is full of affirmations of humans as sexual beings”) is certainly culturally bound and would likely confuse the Bible’s early interpreters. Frankly, it’s hard for me to take seriously any expert who doesn’t strongly consider the historic claims and traditions of the Church.

That’s why I also have trouble with much of the teaching and preaching about sexuality that originates closer to home.

The rest of the article can be read at Out of Ur.

street preachers: good idea?

I’d be curious to hear from those of you with an opinion on the following.  An article I’d written this summer was recently posted at Out of Ur.  In the article, “Angry Preachers or Gospel Musicians”, I wrote about encounters I had with two different groups of Christians after leaving the Lollapalooza music festival.  The first group had set-up within a few yards of the festival entrance.

One held a handmade sign that read—I kid you not— “TURN OR BURN!” He spoke into a bullhorn, warning the young people of God’s coming judgment and listing in vivid detail the sins that would lead them to an eternity burning in hell. The other man held an open Bible and vigorously debated anyone who disagreed with his companion’s portrayal of God.

I bumped into the second group, two musicians, on the el platform while waiting for my train.

The musicians played skillfully and sang a Gospel song with the unambiguous refrain, “In the Lord I put my trust.” Here the small audience of festival goers smiled and clapped generously, their obvious appreciation for the musicians a total contrast to the emotions elicited by the street preachers.

By contrasting these two completely different approaches to Christian witness I meant to point out that both sets of men- the preachers and the musicians- had been significantly formed by their Christian communities.  Having observed the radically different responses elicited by these two approaches, I assumed most would share my distaste for the angry and confrontational approach of the street preachers.

Nope.

Without tallying all the comments it would seem that many within my Christian family view the “turn or burn” approach of the street preachers in an admirable light, comparable to Jesus’ approach with his culture.

These comments were a bit surprising to me.  Jesus, as I read him, reserved his harshest language for the religious.  Those on the margins of religion, like many at the festival, evoked Christ’s compassion.  I’m painting in broad strokes here, but I think this is a fair summation.

Your opinion please: Is the type of public witness practiced by those two street preachers reflective of Jesus’ example and teaching?

Most of us won’t brandish bullhorns anytime soon, but the question is still important.  The way Christians publicly witness to Jesus says everything about our own beliefs about Jesus.

One last thing. To those readers who wouldn’t place themselves within the Christian family, I’m always fascinated by your perspective on these questions.

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multi-site church ad nauseum

My most recent post for Out of Ur went up yesterday.  The audience on that blog tends to be those with an interest in or experience with church ministry.  Frankly, I’m not sure most of the readers here at Signs of Life would find the content all that intriguing, but it’s certainly a blog I appreciate watching and learning from.

My latest post is a bit of a rant about my fatigue with the amount of time spent over the past few years debating the merits or pitfalls of multi-site models of church.  Believe me, if you’re unaware of this conversation you’re not missing much.  I’ve become frustrated with this conversation because 1) it’s not all that relevant to the majority of folks in ministry and 2) it can distract from the legitimate and unique challenges faced by churches, challenges that demand solid theological thinking and creative responses within their local context.

So what could we be talking about instead of multi-site models of church?

I can think of a few things I’d prefer that we were talking about. How about articulating a theology that addresses the plight of millions of uninsured Americans? What about expressing the intrinsic worth of the undocumented immigrants who live in the shadows of our multi-site churches but never enter to see our impressive hi-def video preachers. What about a global conversation about ways the Majority World can influence evangelism in our increasingly post-Christian nation? One day someone will look back at our movement in the early 2000s and judge our priorities. I doubt they will find our current infatuation with sites and venues will all that important.

The entire post can be read at Out of Ur.