Friday, July 27, 2012

Around the Horn

First, here’s some comments from Jonathan Dodson on evangelism. There are some good thoughts worth serious consideration here. The manner and context of our communication matters just as much as the content of it (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:5 and 2:7-12). I fear we are too often prone to one or the other. We need both.

Second, Joe Carter has a piece here on Batman and Jesus. This is strange to me, to be honest. I don’t get the fascination with this kind of analysis. It almost reads like a parody to me, as in demonstrating absurdity by being absurd. The gospel doesn’t need this, even if it could tolerate it (which I don’t think it can). It should strike us as odd that a large number of people keep going to secular culture to find Jesus themes and redemption themes, as if God has not given us what is necessary to equip us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and everything necessary for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). It is obvious that a lot of time and thought went into this, but for what purpose? Is the Bible not enough for us? Does the salvation of souls and the work of the gospel depend on analyzing Batman?

Third, my friend Mark as an article here on a book I haven’t yet read, though Mark inspire me to read it. Mark says, “many seminary-trained pastors train in bubbles with Belmont values on marriage, industry, honesty, and religiosity for ministerial careers in bubbles with Fishtown values on the same topics. And they sometimes fail in Fishtown and have no idea why.” This resonates with me. I strongly believe in seminary education, to the point that I would discourage anyone from pursuing vocational ministry without at least an Master of Divinity degree. (Go ahead and complain about it in the comments). I agree that when God calls a man to preach, he calls him to prepare. Yes, I know people have been “successful” without it, but having been on both sides of the equation (ministry before seminary and ministry after seminary), I am fully persuaded that the latter is far better than the former, and by “far,” I mean immeasurable. However, I also believe that there needs to be room in seminary education for experience and exposure to something other than Belmont. Classroom learning, though indispensable for actual ministry, will never fully prepare one for actual ministry.

Last, and speaking of Fishtown and Belmont, here’s a good and challenging piece on location and ministry. It has the potential to laden it’s readers with guilt, and that’s not necessarily bad. As I have been known to say, some of you should feel guilty for the way you are living your life. But’s a good checkpoint as well. I got this link from my friend Mike who doesn’t just talk about this and link to it. He lives it. There is a strong move towards planting churches in urban, blighted, dying, diverse, and under-resourced areas by people who are not “drive-ins.” They live, shop, hangout, and minister to people there. It’s a good thing. Read this and find yourself in the list.

Thursday, July 26, 2012


My son turned one-month old yesterday.

And he still doesn’t do a single thing around the house.

Well, a single thing other than eat (apparently whenever he feels moved), and speaking of movement, he does a few other things that will remained unmentioned here.

Mostly he just lays around, alternating between the swing, the bed, and the baby recliner thingie, so long as someone else picks him up and puts him there. He cries until you pick him up and hold him for a few minutes. Then he stops.

He won’t help set the table or clear it off at meal time. He won’t even take his own clothes off, wash himself, or anything.

This is very time-consuming for us adults (by which I mostly mean momma … Okay, I entirely mean momma) because he requires everything be done for him whenever he wants it, and does nothing to help anyone  else out. And he cries until someone gets him what he wants, which takes that someone away from other things they need to be doing.

And this reminds me why the Scripture uses “baby” as a metaphor for some Christians.

Here’s my advice to you, if you are a time-consuming, lay-around-the-church, expecting-everything-to-be-done-for-you-while-contributing-nothing-in-terms-of-real ministry kind of Christian: GROW UP ALREADY.

Quit being a baby.

I’ll tolerate it from my son for a few more days. But that’s because he’s cute. You’re not. So stop doing nothing.

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.  For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.  (Hebrews 5:12-14)

Monday, July 23, 2012

NCAA vs. Penn State: Too Little

The child abuse/sex scandal at Penn State that has come to light over the last year is now being addressed by the NCAA. The NCAA has punished the school by vacating all wins since 1998 (the year of the initial issues), by imposing a four-year post-season ban, and by fining the school $60 million dollars (about one year’s football revenue). The fine will go into an endowment for "external programs preventing child sexual abuse or assisting victims and may not be used to fund such programs at the university” (from article).

In a nutshell, assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was accused in 1998 of child sexual abuse. The school apparently covered it up, successfully, until last year. Sandusky was found guilty and now faces up to fifteen years in prison (which is effectively a life sentence for for the 68 year old).

So what of the penalty? Too light. Way too light.

The vacating of wins is meaningless. Joe Paterno will still be recognized as having those wins, even though they won’t show up on his record. The players still won those games and the other teams still lost them. In short, no one cares that these wins are taken away. The old adage rings true: “Scoreboard, baby.”

The four-year post-season ban is mostly meaningless in the big picture. But no one really cares. When it’s over, no one will care.

The $60 million dollar fine is more significant, but it’s one year’s revenue from the football program. It won’t be missed all that much.

Compare this to the “death penalty” given to Southern Methodist University in 1987. Two whole seasons were cancelled for … wait for it … paying players under the table. Today, that offense is so common it doesn’t even merit much consideration by the NCAA.

And a child abuse scandal receives less than paying players under the table.

Not a good move by the NCAA.

Here’s what should have happened to Penn State, in addition to what has already happened.

Penn State should have received a ten-year ban from college sports. The ban would be reviewable in five years if Penn State has taken appropriate actions to make restitution to the children and families involved, to completely separate themselves in every way from anyone who was connected with this cover up (including the immediate termination of any and all payments such as health insurance, pensions, benefits, etc), and to institute policies so that this never happens again.

In addition, Penn State must hire an outside overseer chosen by the NCAA, and must subject itself to regular reviews by an oversight board to whom the outside overseer is accountable.

The NCAA needs to send a stronger message to its member schools, and to the college sports industry: “If you do this, we will come down hard. Very hard.”

The NCAA has shown it can tolerate a lot of stuff. Now they have shown a willingness to tolerate more.

This was a chance for the NCAA to send a real message. They could have said, “If there are other schools in a similar state, now is the time to come clean. Fess up. And you will receive the same treatment as Penn State. If we find out about this after close of business today, the penalty will be worse.”

But they didn’t.

They missed a chance. Sadly.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Tragedy, Outrage, and Proportion

This past Friday morning, just after midnight, a gunman entered a crowded movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado and shot fifty people, killing twelve.

Americans are rightly stunned and outraged. It is hard to imagine what that middle of the night phone call would be like with a voice on the other end asking you to come and identify the body of a loved one who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It is hard to imagine the depths of evil in the human heart that led to this.

It should grieve us.

And now, at the risk of being accused of bad taste, I want to take this opportunity that remind us that since that midnight tragedy, approximately one hundred times that number of people have been killed and hardly anyone has batted an eye. There’s no stunned outrage. There’s not a torrent of news article and blog posts analyzing the tragedy. Their names will never be known (in fact, they don’t even have names yet). No one will cry out for laws to keep it from happening. In fact, they will cry out for laws to continue to allow it.


Because very few people, comparatively speaking, care about the thousands every day who are brutally murdered everyday in the “privacy” of a “doctor’s office.” They aren’t surrounded by jokers in masks. They are surrounded by highly educated doctors in masks whose goal is to take a human life.

But the outcome is the same: Dead people.

This shooting is a tragedy. But why do twelve people get the headlines, and the twelve or so that died since I starting writing this won’t even get a grave stone?

No doubt some of you will be offended by this article. You will think I am minimizing this tragedy.

Far from it, my friend. I am not minimizing it at all. I am pointing to a bigger tragedy that doesn’t reach our national (or personal) psyche anymore.

I am pointing that we, as Americans, have no sense of proportion to match our outrage. We ignore the death of thousands while dedicating hours of special programming on TV to the death of twelve.

The media who have shown pictures of bloody theatre goers won’t dare show the picture of a bloody baby brutally sucked from it’s life-giving womb.

It won’t matter to them.

People will accuse me of politicizing the issue. But the politicizing started long ago when politicians distinguished between the value of the life at certain ages. They are the one who have refused to offer the promise of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” to all people. They are the ones who have given into the politicization of those with no regard for life.

Life is precious, whether it’s twelve people in a theater at midnight or twelve people in the wombs of their mothers.

The fact that we get morally outraged at a theater killing is good.

The fact that we do not get morally outraged at abortion is a travesty, a blight on our existence.

May God awaken our sensibilities to the mass murder that goes on everyday all around us.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Around the Horn

First, here’s a list of ten characteristics of spiritually-plateaued leaders from Neil Cole via Gary Rohrmayer. I think it is a helpful tool for self-analysis. It is very easy to live a public life that has no corresponding private life. That’s called a lack of integrity—a missing wholeness. As those in spiritual leadership, it is absolutely necessary that we repent of this disconnect between public and private and pursue wholeness.

Second, here’s an interview with Wheaton president Philip Ryken on why Wheaton has joined a lawsuit against the government for the health care mandate, particularly as it relates to birth control. They are joining with a number of other universities, including the Catholic University of America. Ryken explains that this is a freedom of religion issue.

Third, speaking of interviews, here’s an interesting interview with President George W. Bush. It covers a wide range of things, and though it is an hour, it is worth some time. To me, he always had a certain something, a sort of “unpolish,” that communicated authenticity. I don’t know him, so I don’t know if it’s true. But there’s something refreshing about a speaker who doesn’t seem to be reading from a script and repeating talking points.

Bringing it home today is a website related to Bush’s education initiative called the Global Report Card. You can choose your local school district and see how it compares statewide, national, and international. My local school district has a 9% rating in math in 16% in reading vs. the world. That means that 91% of schools around the world do a better job of teaching math that our local schools. Within our state, we have a 17% rating, which means that only 17% of schools do a worse job of teaching math. This may explain why the district is constantly running short of cash … that and paying $200K plus bennies to a superintendent for a failing school district that is losing students left and right. I can fail at that job for a lot less than 200K.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Ryle on Pastoral Ministry

I cannot read the Bible without desiring to see many believers more spiritual, more holy, more single-eyed, more heavenly-minded, more whole-hearted than they are in the nineteenth century. I want to see among believers more of a pilgrim spirit, a more decided separation from the world, a conversation more evidently in heaven, a closer walk with God*

Though perhaps this wasn’t directly about pastoral ministry, it is surely true that the preaching of a pastor will be better when it is guided by this simple statement from J. C. Ryle

*J. C. Ryle, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties and Roots (London: William Hunt and Company, 1889). 70.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Around the Horn

First, there’s a man who is running a church in his backyard in Phoenix. The city has fined him $12,000 and sentenced him to jail time for building code violations. I’ll spare you the commentary and just remind us that the gospel matters, and when your neighbors and your city are ticked off at you because you ignore them, it’s hurt the gospel. Filing lawsuits will not recover the gospel witness.

Second, Doug Wilson attempted to preach on the healthcare debate here. I say “attempted” because I view preaching as involving the right use of Scripture to say what God says applied to our world today. I think Wilson succeeded only in that it applied to our world today. Otherwise, I think this is a good example of how not to preach. The pulpit is far too important to use it for things like American democracy. And adding a some constitutional commentary on to a few Bible verses doesn’t make the grade.

Third, with college football just a little ways away, here’s a good reminder of just how bad things are. In this story, a young man with a serious gun charge is given a scholarship to play football at Alabama State. We live in a world that wants to pretend there are no consequences for choices. Before you yell, “Everyone deserves a second chance,” let me say that I am fine with this young man getting a second chance to go to college. But as long as schools tolerate this, there will be no incentive for it to be different.

Finally, here’s a good word from Ed Stetzer bits on ministry pornography. It’s only about three minutes long, but it’s an excellent reminder to grow where you’re planted, and not to lust after other people’s ministres. No matter where you are, some place else usually looks better. Sometimes it is, but be careful. And I never knew John Acuff looked like that.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Around the Horn

First, if you want to know what’s at stake in the creation/evolution debate, this post at Jesus Creed gives some insight. It is about the evolution of immorality, and what is particularly instructive is the comment section. Once you give up man as a special direct creation in the image of God, you have introduced some serious issues into the world, including the lack of a rational explanation for an almost universal sense of morality tied to something outside the individual. There are some things that are simply unable to be explained rationally from an evolutionary viewpoint.

Second, here’s a short chronology of the life of Augustine. You might like or hate him, but he is undeniably a significant figure in church history.

Third, my friend Jared Compton writes a good piece on a piece about why women still can’t have it all. It’s a good reminder for us to be cautious about what it means to “have it all.” Contrary to popular opinion, I think the Bible has a very high view of women, and we should take steps to encourage that. There’s not many ancient cultures that placed women on a par with men the way the Bible does, that encourages and honors their industry and work, and honors their personhood, (not to mention killing a whole city because one woman got raped). Having spent a few days recently being Mr. Mom, I am quite confident to say “I don’t want it all.” I like the dynamics of family partnership.

Last, Roger Olson tells us what he admires about Calvinists. It centers around the idea that Calvinists typically do a better job of teaching their congregation how to integrate life and Scripture than non-Calvinists do. I am pretty sure this post was edited after its initial version, but here’s the key part:

My experience of non-Calvinist Christians (from membership and leadership in about 12 churches during my lifetime) is that they are not, by and large, theologically trained at all. They have picked up pieces of this and that (theologies) and pasted them together in ways that seem good to them without any real reflection on the outcome (the eclectic worldview, theology that results from that informal process). I’m not saying that doesn’t also happen among Calvinists; I’m just saying it’s not as common IN CALVINIST CHURCHES.

Not sure if he’s right, though I tend to think he is. I think I can make an argument as to why, and perhaps one day I will. But until then, his thoughts are worth considering.

Monday, July 02, 2012


A certain South African missionary society once wrote to David Livingstone: “Have you found a good road to where you are? We want to know how to send some men to join you.” Livingstone wrote back: “If you have men who will come only if they know there is a good road, I don’t want them. I want men who will come if there is no road.”

In Gary McIntosh, Finding Them, Keeping Them: Effective Strategies for Evangelism and Assimilation in the Local Church, pp. 29-30.

I recently saw where George Washington said that most things attributed to him on the internet were not things he actually said. In that same spirit, I have no idea if Livingstone actually said this. But if he didn’t, he should have. It’s a thought worth considering.