Posts Tagged ‘blogging the book’

Group Blogging Project: Simple Church (Chapter 8)

This is my contribution to a group blogging project using Simple Church.  Essentially, a blogger writes/reflects on one chapter and hosts the discussion on their blog/website over the course of two weeks.  Go to Andy’s website for links to the previous chapters/discussion or the last one (chapter nine).

Without further a due my reflections on Chapter 8 “Focus:  Saying No to Almost Everything”:

Yesterday, I had the chance to go out to eat with a friend and leader.  We went to a typical American chain restaurant with reliable food.  As often happens, I arrived at the restaurant with my stomach growling.  I didn’t have a clue ahead of time what I wanted to eat.  As a result, I flipped restlessly through the menu.  The problem, apart from my hunger, was the multitude of options that were before me.  In addition to the menu, there were a couple of other special menus with even more choices.  You would think that all the choices would make it easy, but in this case, it actually made it difficult to decide what to eat (I eventually settled on a burger & fries – living on the edge, I know).  Same thing happens when we go to get deodorant from the store – so many brands, smells, and promises.  Even though my problem is relatively simple (I’ll stink without it), all of the choices can make something easy – difficult.

The same multitude of choices is being introduced into the church to satisfy a consumer-oriented & elevated culture that feasts regularly upon fast-food diets and wants church the same way (more choices, faster response).  The authors call this “fast-food spirituality” and say that this approach is killing our churches.  It requires us to “say no to everything” that does not fit into the simple process of disciple making & building.  And constant vigilance, evaluation, and courage are required to say no.  But “[f]ocus is a truth taught and affirmed throughout Scripture. The focus of individuals in the Bible is humbling, and principle of one thing emerges…focus is the commitment to abandon everything that falls outside of the simple ministry process.”

The authors suggest the following helps to maintain focus:

  1. Eliminate:  eliminate programs/ministries that are not directly related to a designed discipleship process.  I appreciate that the authors acknowledge the great difficulty in doing this.  It is far better to be simple to begin with, than to try to go back.
  2. Limit Adding: Though it may be hard (and necessary) to eliminate, it should be easier to limit the addition of new events, programs, or ministries. The difficulty here is when the new thing is designed to meet a real or perceived need.  And sometimes new feels very appealing (ah, this is what will help us grow…).
  3. Reduce Special Events: “In general, simple churches are so focused on their ministry process that there is little time for special events.  Special events would get in the way. They would distract.”  The difficulty in this is similar to the problems in numbers 1 & 2 – eliminating somebody’s ministry and the appeal of a special event.
  4. Easily Communicated
  5. Simple to Understand:  The point with both points 4 & 5 are that a discipleship process is that cannot easily understood or communicated is by nature not simple and therefore will not keep the church focused on a simple process.

Focus requires saying no – and even saying it a lot.  This, to me, is the great difficulty.  I don’t like to say no and not many of us want to be the ministry killjoy.  Maybe we could borrow something from the world of pro football.  Every team has that guy that the players striving to make the team avoid at all cost.  He’s the guy that asks for the playbook and tells you you’ve been cut.  Maybe we could have a guy like that in the church:  “I’m sorry your ministry has been cut.  Hand in your keys to the church.  Don’t worry, Jesus still loves you.”  Err, maybe not.

Seriously, as a pastor in a small church, the notion of focus (and simplification more broadly) are challenging.  In our church, we have a lot of people who work really hard to serve the church and the Kingdom of God.  As a result, they are fulfilling the call and command of God in many ways.  At the same time, I often see tired people too.  What is appealing to me about focus and simplification is the ability to free people from the burden of ministry and channel them into the joys of ministry because they know what we are doing is essential to the life and growth process of the church and they are a vital part of that.

But even more than focusing on process, I want people to learn to focus on the Gospel on a daily basis.  Then maybe we can talk about process in a much healthier way.  But I guess that’s another book.

Your thoughts?

Group Blogging Project: Simple Church

I am participating in a “group blogging project” on Thom Rainer & Eric Geiger’s Simple Church.  Essentially, a group diverse group of bloggers will each take turns hosting a discussion on a chapter of the book over the next two weeks.  I will be hosting the discussion on chapter nine eight, next Wednesday.  To read more about this and to see the schedule (with links to the other bloggers) go here.  And to read or join the discussion on the first chapter go here.

A Journey Worth Taking: Part 5 – Consummation

With Part 5 (Consummation: The View from the Top) of A Journey Worth Taking, we reach the last part of Charles Drew’s book.  In previous sections, Drew helped us to see the implications of Creation, The Fall, and Redemption on our purpose and calling in this world.

There were a couple of thoughts that jumped out at me in the first three chapters of this section:

  • “We seemed to be hard-wired for the future”.  This is true even thous we struggle with our view of the present and find it hard to hope for a different future.  But there is something more to this life and more to come – our hopes serve to confirm this and direct us to the Object of all of our ultimate longings.  (Chapter 15)
  • We are functional secularists.  “We have bought the line that this is the only life…we are desperate to keep our options open because, deep down, we believe that this is the only life – or lest the only life in which fun and interesting things happen.”  Understanding the consummation – the completion of God’s redemption in our lives and in this world – should help us to understand that we will live in this life best, by living in light of the ultimate purposes and promises of God. (Chapter 16)
  • There is a good reminder in chapter 17 about the importance of relationships and people.

A Journey Worth Taking: Redemption

I missed a post last week, though I kept my reading schedule.  Anyway, this post will cover the three chapters in the section “Redemption: Help Along the Way”.

You can read more about what I am doing and see a schedule for reading/posting here.  First post is here.  Second post is here.  Third is here.  The fourth is here.  The fifth is here.

The three chapters (12-14) that make up this section on Redemption have been some of the best of the book so far.  This section follows Drew’s discussion of the impact of Creation & the Fall on our calling and our purpose in this world.  Here, we find great encouragement to pursue calling in light of a renewed relationship with God through Christ’s work on the cross.  This caught my heart’s attention:

With people I am usually either safe or known – but rarely both at the same time.  I am safe, in other words, because they don’t know the real truth about me…Jesus changes all this…With, and because of, Jesus the Redeemer I am both fully known and completely safe.  At the cross, Jesus met me at my very worst.”

These are sweet words to read, because I think we know the truth of the first statement.  And from here, Drew declares the freedom that we experience to discover ourselves and our calling.  In this way, we find our identity from our Redeemer rather than from a broken self-image or response to shaping of others.  But this isn’t about a second chance or Jesus setting us back on the right path with everyone holding their collective breaths in the hopes that we don’t fail again.

The Second Adam [Jesus] is our powerful Friend, into whose wise hands God has placed all things, for our good…It is not enough to have a friend ordering our circumstances.  We need this friend walking alongside us as we make our way.  More than that, we need this friend inside us, changing our motives and removing our fears, so that we learn to grow through the sometimes traumatic circumstances he orders up.”

And then comes the paradox of Christian calling:  we will find ourselves more fully in relation to the shared calling of God’s people to look for and work for the coming of God’s Kingdom and the return of shalom (this is not so much about personal peace, but universal harmony and flourishing).

“…if the Caller is busily at work restoring harmony everywhere, then I must be involved in that task wherever he has placed me.  For I will know myself only as I labor alongside my Maker.”

What a powerful reminder about what life can and should be about – a life that is caught up in the work of the Redeemer; a work that is personal, but is so much larger than that too.  I am thankful for these words from this book.

A Journey Worth Taking: The Fall (part 2 of 2)

You can read more about what I am doing and see a schedule for reading/posting here.  First post is here.  Second post is here.  Third is here.  The fourth is here.

In chapters 10 and 11, Charles Drew in A Journey Worth Taking, concludes his probing of the effects of the sin of man on the way that we approach work, purpose, and life in general.  Chapter ten describes some of the symptoms of how our calling and sense of that calling has gone wrong;

  • Delusions of grandeur or innocence
  • Delusions of worthlessness
  • Ingratitude masquerading as modesty
  • Isolation brought on by competition
  • Envy

As I reflect upon these symptoms, I find that it isn’t just one of them that is a problem, but that all of them can operate in our hearts and lives depending on the situation.  The end result is the same: frustration at best and at worst what we really want…to be the center the cosmos rather than God.  These themes show up in our work (including school) where we “tend either to devalue work or make it too important.”  Towards the end of chapter eleven, Drew makes this statement that stood out for me:  “When we give our lives away to any created thing – however good that thing is – we begin to die on the inside.”  This goes back to the topic of idolatry and I wonder how many of us are really dying because we have done this?

A Journey Worth Taking: Fall (Part 1 of 2)

You can read more about what I am doing and see a schedule for reading/posting here.  First post is here.  Second post is here.  Third is here.

In A Journey Worth Taking, Charles Drew is using a “theology map” to look at the topic of calling and purpose.  Drew moves from Creation to Fall in chapters 8-11  and these are the chapters we’ll consider the next two weeks.

Regardless of whether someone accepts the biblical teaching on the Creation and the fall of man, we all know that something is not right with us and with our world.  It is virtually undeniable.  Drew writes in chapter eight:

The doctrine of creation fills us with enthusiasm and hope as we set out to find our place in the scheme of things.  And then we bump into ‘real life.’…What’s wrong?  We are fallen creatures living in a fallen world.”

Drew goes on to describe some of the ways that we experience the fall in our lives, particularly with regard to our calling:  this includes nature, relationships with people and institutions, and our own fallen nature (“Nature sabotages calling, we sabotage each other’s callings, and we sabotage our own callings”).  In short, we find ourselves frustrated in our calling and our labors because of the reality of our falleness.

In chapter nine, Drew delves more deeply into the crux of our own sabotage:  idolatry.  I think he makes a particularly germaine point here about the way we allow our secondary calling or self-discovery to “eclipse” our primary calling to love God.  As a result, both aspects of calling are misplaced – not to even mention the call to service.  Again, I think this something most of us can understand and see, both in ourselves and in others.  Particularly convicting for me, was the section on how this can be just as true for those in full-time vocational ministry – nope, we’re not immune to this either.

Any thoughts or questions from those reading along?

A Journey Worth Taking: Creation (part 2 of 2)

You can read more about what I am doing and see a schedule for reading/posting here.  First post is here.  Second post is here.

I love how Drew is directing us in chapter six to make God the priority of our lives – that that will be the most meaningful way for us to “find ourselves”.  This, again, is counter to the current notion of self-discovery that pushes us out to the edges instead of to the center of all life.  Or the notion that I (and I alone) am the definitive voice for all notions, whether they be about who I am or what I will do.  In discussion Psalm 34:3 (“O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exult his name together.” – KJV), I loved the following statement:

How strange this language is when you think about it.  Isn’t God already big – isn’t he already infinite?  Indeed he is.  The problem lies with us.  For multiple reasons we have difficulty seeing his greatness and therefore must train our vision.  We also have difficulty giving God center stage and therefore must train our hearts.”

This then leads to Drew coming back to the notion of all work being sacred and therefore we can “worship while we work…Our pursuit of calling unfolds in God’s world, not ours.”  And finally there is this thought:

Our calling…is ‘missional’ – not in the narrow sense of going into foreign missions (though it might include this), but in the much broader sense of finding and promoting him in everything we do.”

How rare I imagine that this is in our lives and how often we miss the opportunities to see God, let alone promote God in everything we do.

This article (an interview really) on byfaithonline fits nicely with the topic of this book.

(I will probably post separately on the topic of chapter seven, “Finding Ourselves in Community”)