Read Charlie’s remarks below in the comments area

Charlie’s post is a great dissenting viewpoint, which I don’t necessarily disagree with. Is there an “us vs. them” mentality? Or is it, as I would argue, a “this vs. that” mentality? We’re not talking about different groups of people, but which methods and principles best organize the people who are already believers to engage the culture for the Great Commission?

Campus Crusade vs. the Local Church: my evaluation

Thanks for the comments guys. I think there are tremendous advantages to the parachurch, but on the whole, the campus ministry variety is a dying class. But first, the good news.

Here’s are some advantages of parachurch ministry:

1. Scope: Singular commitment to a particular vision that has the muscle to reach a larger scope.The local church is at a disadvantage because its scope is going to be, by definition, limited to a particular community.

2. Ecumenism: Since CCC doesn’t focus on doctrines that can tend to divide, it can sweep up a large number of laborers into the umbrella for the purposes of evangelism, while leaving the doctrinal concerns under the purview of their specific churches.

3. Unhindered Focus: CCC can legitimately target those who would be ‘leaders’ while not giving  much attention to those who are less fortunate. That means CCC will generally focus on the educated, the attractive, the influential, the popular, and the articulate. These are the sorts of people that movements are built upon. A church would abandon its mandate if it were to neglect these people, but because CCC is an evangelistic enterprise and not a church, it is not forced to care for those who will not directly advance the mission.

4. The Edge: Because CCC will always be working with the “emerging” generation of young people, they will always have the edge of knowing what trends are taking place in the culture. Campus Crusade was on the forefront of seeker sensitive ministry before Bill Hybels and Willow-Back got on board.

Analysis: With these advantages, why is CCC losing influence? Is it merely because our founder and president is dead?

No. Campus Crusade filled the void at a pivotal time in history when the conservative church had abandoned its Great Commission mandate and buried itself in fundamentalist protectionism. Bill Bright’s vision was large and no church would embrace it. However, (and i say this with sadness) I think CCC will continue to lose influence because now that it has been around for 60 years, its flaws are becoming more visible.

It is, in many respects, a victim of its own success and influence. By this I mean that CCC put out with factory like precision two generations of missional minded people who were committed to the same things that the larger church ignored or thought it already had covered. CCC was the best at building communities of faith with deep relationships, calling people to radical commitment to Christ, Great Commission obsession, contemporary worship music, and so on. The church was quite comfortable in its own routine, largely due to the abandonment of the Great Commission and the influence of fundamentalist protectionism.

But the church learned from parachurch ministries, especially as those college students became pastors, teachers, elders, and so on, and help refocus the church. Now that those values have been largely embraced by the broader church, the church has also recognized that the parachurch way of embracing those values are fundamentally deficient.

Its kind of like learning to read using rudimentary and flawed techniques. After learning to read, one reads about better methods of learning to read and uses that knowledge to teach others the new method.

Its the same with the church and parachurch. The parachurch taught the church many valuable things. The church embraced them over time, only to learn that the parachurch was a flawed approach to embracing those values it had now come to embrace.

My prediction: church planting will replace the parachurch as the primary vehicle for evangelism in the USA. I’ll supply these reasons in a forthcoming post…

Discussion Topic: what do you think of the parachurch?

2 weeks ago i went to Colorado for Campus Crusade for Christ’s staff conference that happens every other year (does that make it biannual?). This is a big pep rally to get excited about CCC. While I was there, i found myself being more and more grateful that I am headed primarily into church ministry. Strange, though, at a place where i should feel most connected and excited about Crusade I found myself dreaming more and more about church. I will post more on this later, but I’d love some reactions from you.

demolition and construction

We finally redid our bathroom floor after a long bout with procrastination. The looming dread of another busy fall semester proved to be the cure.

Before:
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Demolition: (the part that I’m really good at)
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The detail work: (the part that i really suck at. evidently, patience is a handy tool in such endeavors)

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The finished product:

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We had to actually destroy the floor down the the joists and install a new subfloor which would be perfectly level (thanks dad). I think i must have left a screwdriver under the subfloor, though, because my perfectly level subfloor somehow developed a bubble after applying the mortar. Fortunately, i didn’t notice this until the mortar dried so i had no choice but to leave it be. Otherwise, i would have felt obligated to pull the subfloor back up and level it, which would have ruined a perfectly aggravating day.

Take a deep breath

After spending a day and a night in Cincinnati, its time to take a deep breath and evaluate. We liked the city a great deal, and were able to connect with some great dudes who showed us around the town. We really liked the east end of town, in particular the Oakley, Hyde Park, Mt. Lookout, Norwood areas, which are pretty diverse culturally, economically, racially, and so on. A church in the middle of all this should be able to draw UC kids (a big plus) but also poor, rich, and a large swath geeks, sluts, motorheads, dorks, dweebies… (please tell me you’re not too young to catch this movie reference…) Here’s a picture of the skyline taken from N Ky. Beautiful.

skyline from Newport on the Levee

I took a bajillion pictures of the different neighborhoods and also pictures of the map to keep them separate. Laura made fun of me. I don’t care. map

So after all this, we’re thinking Cincy was the place. Talking about it more, however, made us think that there was a sort of cloud of gloom hanging over the place. Bestplaces.net confirms this. Economics, population, and job prospects are all on the decline. We pushed the pause button, are taking a deep breath, and just praying for guidance.

Another option, Columbus, is booming with great prospects for the future. Probably worth a trip up there as well.

Writing your own marriage vows

Laura and I wrote our own marriage vows when we got married. We thought it would be cool to do something different. I never really questioned that until I read this in World Magazine by David Blankenhorn.

David Blankenhorn

I think it’s better for couples to use the vows of their faith community, rather than make up their own. If you make up your own vows, the not-so-subtle message is that the couple is bigger than the vow—the couple, in that sense, is the God of their marriage.

But isn’t it more true and beautiful to say that the vow is bigger than the couple? That the vow makes the couple, rather than the other way around? I wish more ministers who officiate marriages would insist that the couple, in this sense, try to conform to the vow rather than imagining that they are creating the vow. — from World Magazine, August 4, 2007

Why Cincinnati?

This is a question that I’ve been asked a lot lately. To be honest, I have no friggin’ clue. When I drive through the city on my way to Cleveland, I like it. It’s big. There’s lots of non-believers there. It’s a city. It’s close to grandparents. It’s close to Louisville. It has a river running through the middle of it. There’s roads and neighborhoods and people people people. There’s black people there. There’s white people there. There’s poor people there. There’s rich people there. There’s liberals there. There’s Nader worshipers there. There’s a road named after Ronald Reagen there.

One of the most wicked places imaginable was ancient Ninevah, part of the Assyrian Empire. The Assyrians were exceedingly violent and wicked people, who tortured the people they captured in conquest and skinned them alive, stacking heads on pikes to parade through the cities and raping at will.

God loved Ninevah. There were lots of cows there too: Jonah 4:11 says “11And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”

Cincinnati reminds me of Ninevah, in all its beauty, majesty, and sin.

The real question is, “why not?”

Dreaming about Church Planting…

My dad asked me the other day, “why plant a new church when so many churches already exist?”

Great question.

Tim Keller, one of my heroes, answers the question here:

But the less spiritual answer would be this: so many churches are entrenched in turf wars and tradition and protectionism (which is not the sole domain of the old fundamentalists), it would be extremely difficult to find the right kind of church, in the right location, with the right kind of people, who are teachable and eager to be led.

Thus, plant a new church, with a fresh vision (not a reactionary vision), to:

1. reach people who are unchurched with a compelling vision of Christ and not gimmicks

2. build a community of people committed to Christ, each other, and the Great Commission

3. develop a network of other churches (and new plants!) who will strategically spread out throughout a city to see it changed for Christs’ glory.

The Value of Creeds

When someone thinks of God, that is, to use the word “God,” any number of ideas may come into their minds that may or may not reflect who God really is. If you asked Oprah who God is, you’ll likely get a very different answer from orthodox Christianity the longer she speaks.

Unfortunately, people like Oprah exert a great deal of influence on what people think about God. The God of modern America is a Santa Clause who doesn’t want me to experience much pain but does want me to be happy. Thus, the right thing to do in most situations is to follow the path that seems, on the surface at least, to make me most happy. This sort of God values equality the most, accepts people along similar lines of an Equal Opportunity Employer who doesn’t discriminate based on sex, race, gender identity, and so on.

This is nothing new. From the very inception of the Christian faith after Jesus ascended the opponents have had their knives drawn to carve up Christianity however they could. How did the church respond? How did they try to express who the true Jesus was apart from the deceptions? We needed a brief and concise statement of beliefs that unify us and demonstrate specifically what it is we believe. These statements, or creeds, are centered upon the person of God and his redemptive work through Jesus Christ.

Creeds function like a spiritual address. If you want to know where to find someone, you need their address. Although God is omnipresent, that doesn’t mean that all religions lead to God. God lives at his address. God’s address is the apostle’s creed, which goes to great lengths to separate the correct beliefs about God from the incorrect ones. It is a systematic theology in 60 seconds or less. For believers who don’t go to seminary, or perhaps can’t even read, God’s address can be memorized and recited in a minute. That’s why we value them, memorize them, and recite them. They are the rallying cry of God’s people, a fitting summary of the core beliefs of Christianity.

The Apostle’s Creed

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,

the Creator of heaven and earth,

and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:

Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit,

born of the Virgin Mary,

suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, died, and was buried.

He descended into hell.

The third day He arose again from the dead.

He ascended into heaven

and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,

whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy *catholic church,

the communion of saints,

the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body,

and life everlasting.

Amen.

More on God’s Justice…

A.W. Tozer’s chapter in Knowledge of the Holy on the justice of God is so potent and powerful, yet so painfully brief! Yet here are a few observations.

First, he says that justice is not a standard that exists above God and which God is required to obey. This would be to imply that God is not the highest standard of justice but is subject to a higher standard of justice. No, God is Himself the standard of justice and he executes his justice perfectly. Yet, Tozer says that “there is nothing in His justice which forbids the exercise of His mercy.” God’s justice is free and perfect, and there is never a time when he is unjust. As the Psalmist Asaph ponders the prosperity of the wicked, he is reassured with this knowledge:

“ 18Truly you set them [the wicked] in slippery places;
you make them fall to ruin.
19How they are destroyed in a moment,
swept away utterly by terrors!
20Like a dream when one awakes,
O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms.” (Psalm 73)

When he considers the justice of God with the mercy of God, he concludes first that “no attribute of God is in conflict with another.” Secondly, he says that “mercy does not become effective toward a man until justice has done its work.” That’s the rub; that’s the cross. He’s referring to a theology of redemption that teaches the severity of God’s wrath, the depth of God’s love, mercy, and compassion, the absurdity of the cross, and how God is completely consistent with Himself in the whole matter. At no point is His justice compromised in His exercise of mercy. On the contrary, the very manner of his demonstration of mercy vindicates His justice, because mercy is accomplished via the cross.

It breaks down like this. God is always just. If one wonders if God is just towards the wicked, he need look to only two places: the cross, or to hell. Does God punish sin? Yes. The punishment for every sin will be meted out in either hell or on the cross. There is not one solitary sin in all existence that his escaped the scrutiny of God’s just eyes and His vengeful wrath poured out upon the sinner. For me, and all my sin, God’s vengeful wrath was poured out on Jesus Christ. And all the riches of the glory of Christ, his glorified body, his righteousness and favor with God, are all mine (not that they were taken away from Christ to be given to me, the resurrection proves that he can suffer punishment for sin and yet be raised again to live because God is himself the source of all life).

For those who do not know or love Christ, who do not repent of their sins and obey him, they will meet the justice of God in hell. When someone dies apart from Christ, they will get nothing more or less than they deserve. God will not punish them more than their sins require, nor less. His punishment for sin is just, and that justice is hell.

So then, God’s justice for sin is seen in two places: on the cross (for believers) and in hell (for non-believers).

That was the hope of Asaph in the Psalm, as well as the hope of Job, Jeremiah and others who wonder, “why do the wicked prosper? (Jeremiah 12:1).” The wicked prosper for only a season. God has his own purposes in not handing down judgment immediately, otherwise he would have destroyed Adam and Eve and this whole human experiment put to an end right then. No, God desired to redeem humanity, which required a temporary suspension in his justice. This suspension would have been unjust were it not for the fact that God knew he would redeem in the future. If God had no plans to redeem in the future, then why suspend judgment? Why not just send Adam and Eve to hell right then? Why allow them to procreate when there was never any hope of anyone ever living a righteous life who was their descendant? This is why it is appropriate to say that anyone who lived before the time of Christ “borrowed” from the cross the mercy that they may someday hope for. Old Testament believers, such as David, Samuel, Enoch, and so on, lived in a time of suspended judgment under a system that could not permanently redeem them from their sin. “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins (Hebrews 10:4).” God’s mercy was extended during a time when mercy had not yet been purchased by the cross. They borrowed mercy from Christ not knowing from whom or by what means mercy would come.

This is the hope of the Christian. God’s justice for my sin was met in Christ on the cross. But death could not hold Christ down. Because he is God and is the source of all life, the resurrection secures for all who are “in Him” all the things that are his. We will be like him, glorified in body, purified in heart and conscience, righteous before God in deed. Perfected. God’s justice also insists that those who are righteous before Him and are in Christ receive those things promised to Christ and belonging to Him, an eternal inheritance. Amen!