Saturday, August 30, 2008

She Walked Out Of Church And I'm Adding To My Blogroll

Julie Neidlinger lives in North Dakota. A few weeks ago she went to church and was disgusted by the phoniness and trendiness of church. So she walked out. Relating her experience to a cover story by World magazine, she wrote about walking out of church that day on her blog. Take a minute to read it.

What happened next was something she couldn't very well predict. Her blog post made it around the internet and she was flooded with comments and personal email. She was misunderstood, taken out of context, rebuked, questioned. Numerous others linked to her blog. World magazine itself took up the issue and posted an article about it. People questioned her motives, her attitude, her ability to get a date on Friday night (She's single, 34, and wonders about the state of evangelical Christian men today). They took her complaints out of context and used them as a pretext for believing that she was on "their side" of arguments about the state of the church today, and whatever other petty issues were convenient. None of these people even know her.

I was fascinated by this and followed as many rabbit trails as possible trying to get an idea of how people think and react. What is most amazing about all this is that her post was very simple, and simple to understand. Yet many took even second hand comments on remote blogs and painted life pictures of her, like being bitter and dateless, maybe not even a Christian. It's amazing how sketchy misinformation can be used to create such wacky versions of the universe and dismiss people as meaningless.

I like the way Julie writes (her blog is called and has subsections of her blog that I'm interested in, such as blog and studies. I'm adding her to my blogroll. It's also a good time to add Stupid Church People as a link, because it's a blog by a former pastor, I believe, who writes about stupid things church people do in the name of Jesus. It's a good reality check.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Life Blues

I've been feeling lately like writing a series of posts from the standpoint of lamentation. Not about lamentation, but in lamenting. Our family has experienced a number of difficult things in the past two years. Things that go beyond explanation or imagined cure. My theology has also developed to a point of viewing the world in new ways, some not always packaged neatly with bows and ribbons. As joyful as the Christian life can be, there is also much grief, pain and depression. This can be found on the pages of Scripture from many of the most prominent biblical writers. Even Jesus Himself - no, especially Jesus Himself - experienced the suffering of the human condition. I have a hunch I will be able to write about such things only if I am currently in that particular mood. We'll see how it goes.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Six Year Old Installs Google Toolbar

Our six year old son plays video games on the Cartoon Network website and the Lego site. Somehow, he managed to accidentally install the Google toolbar search window to our computer's toolbar section. Somehow. I've been wanting that little box for quite some time because I have it at work. When confronted with this deed, he replied, "What's a Google?"

Sunday, August 24, 2008

King David: Blues Singer [Re-Post]

Originally posted September 30, 2005:

Ever notice how many of the Psalms were written when the author was in anguish over life's terrific problems? The old addage, "you can't sing the blues unless you've lived the blues" applies here. Since the Psalms were all set to music, that would make King David (and maybe Asaph as backup vocals) a blues singer.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Survey: How Long Have You Been A Christian?

If you are a Christian, that is. I'm polling you to find out the length of service of my readership. Leave your answer in the comments section. If you're not a Christian or no longer one, you can answer with relation to your own beliefs. Okay, to make it more informational, maybe I'll add a few more questions:

  1. How long have you been a Christian?
  2. At what age(s) were you baptized? (or you haven't been yet)
  3. What denomination or affiliation do you have? i.e. Methodist, Roman Catholic, Dutch Reformed, Reformed Baptist, Non-denominational, etc. (set aside the stigma of labels for a minute)
  4. Have you read the entire bible?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

On Vacation

I've been on vacation from work this last week, and I missed about four days of blogging on From The Pew. I fell to the temptation that family was more important than blogging.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Day At The Beach

The Scott family travelled to the beach yesterday and had a great deal of fun. We went to Half Moon Bay, about 30 miles south of San Francisco, as the coastal highway winds. It was overcast all day, the fog clinging very close to the coast. Sun appeared at about four blocks inland. It was about 65 degrees, just about perfect. The kids built sand castles and tide barricades with other children playing there. Our middle son threw sand into onrushing "waves" all afternoon, gaining endless delight. Our oldest was running in and out of the water as it came in. Our youngest was exploring the sand and discovered that throwing a ball made it roll down the sand incline toward the ocean. Mrs. Scott and I took a lot of photos.

Late in the afternoon we escaped to hunt down some food before the kids fell asleep. We missed by five minutes. So we trekked a great distance toward home while the kids slept. We tried to eat at one of those chain deals. We were told of a 15-30 min wait. Almost an hour later we were told that there were only two tables in front of us so we were close. By that time, the kids had lost it. We had to split, very disappointed. We pulled out a few snacks and made it to Mel's Drive-In (yes, that small chain of restaurants made famous by the movie American Graffiti) and everything was made right. They have a great juke box full of oldies, good food, and waitresses that we see every time we go. They love our kids and have time to chat, so that makes it all the better. A good day of fun.

Autumn In The Light

On Tuesday, I caught a first glimpse at a sign of autumn, a slight orange feel to the sunlight caused by a lower sun in the sky. Summer has a bright sun; so bright that it cancels out the shadows it creates. Winter has long, very sharp and crisp shadows. Autumn has longer shadows than summer, but a slight orange tint to the sunlight. Or at least that's how I see it. Fall is my favorite season of the year. It'll be here before we know it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Re-Thinking Church Membership (Part 26) Christendom And A Dangerous Open-Door Church Policy

Racking my brain over the recent posts (here and here) made at Internet Monk regarding church membership, I'm going here to combine my thoughts with another concept I have yet to write about: the relationship of church to its surrounding culture. This might explain why so many churches today feel the need to resort to so many extra-biblical methods in constructing man-made church membership systems.

Hearkening back to parts 14, 15 and 17 of this series where I commented on Part 2 of Pulpit Magazine's article on church membership where elders at Grace Community Church admit that they don't know who to shepherd, I quote the following:

Elders can shepherd the people and give an account to God for their spiritual well-being only if they know who they are; they can provide oversight only if they know those for whom they are responsible; and they can fulfill their duty to shepherd the flock only if they know who is part of the flock and who is not.
My sense is that many church leaders are simply overwhelmed by the size of their congregations and feel the need to resort to methods that reduce their responsibility to smaller numbers. They make up extra-biblical requirements such as giving ascent to sectarian confessions or making covenants with each other (as if there were anything to covenant about that isn't already included in the New Covenant of Christ's blood). But, looking at several scenarios that describe a church's relation to its culture might shed some light.

Scenario 1: Small churches in a culture hostile to Christianity (such as the first several centuries A.D. in the Roman Empire, or behind Iron Curtain communism of the 20th century, or within communist China or North Korea today, or in any number of Muslim societies) tend to have "closed-door" policies and meet in secret out of fear of persecution. Secret symbols (such as the fish), or sayings are used to denote real Christians before meeting with them. Great care must be taken in not revealing the existence of church meetings simply out of concern for the lives or property of others. Church leaders know who are theirs to disciple, and they know them intimately.

Scenario 2: Churches that exist in societies that are dominated by Christianity, i.e. "Christendom" (such as the middle ages with the Roman church, many post-Reformation protestant regions, Puritan New England or the Antebellum South, or even many regions within America during its first several hundred years, or even the synagogues of ancient Israel) tend to have "open-door" policies and meet in buildings with open doors, completely accessible to the general public. Communities are made up of a majority of professing churchgoers, and everybody knows everybody else's business in general. There is little threat of "outsiders" entering in to cause persecution or other problems since everybody in the community is already "on the inside." Church leaders know who are theirs to disciple, and they know them intimately.

Scenario 3: Many churches today exist in a society increasingly disinterested in Christianity and increasingly hostile to the gospel of Christ. Yet they continue with an "open-door" policy. Communities are made up of wildly varying religious beliefs, and churches are infiltrated by all kinds of strange people with greater freedom of mobility and transient lifestyles. Anybody who is a spy for the government or a foreign religion or a pot-stirrer or divisive fool or atheist or unbeliever can enter the doors anonymously at any time and cause havoc. Church leaders struggle with knowing who are theirs to disciple, and fail as a result of having little legitimate control over their congregations. They complain quite a bit about declining spirituality and faithfulness in churches today, but really bring on their own problems by allowing it all in right through their open doors. They therefore resort to draconian legalisms to define what a disciple is. Real Christians who are real Christians can often fail to measure up to their definitions and exactments, and suffer as a result, and are often the ones blamed by frustrated church leaders for their own inability to deal with their flocks.

I'm wondering whether in today's religious climate churches that fit scenario 3 wouldn't be better off with a "closed-door" policy. Church meetings would be private affairs in private homes or buildings, and those who assemble would consist of only those that the shepherds are currently discipling. New converts would come via evangelists or by lay-ministering, but only those new converts would be invited to church meetings. Evangelism wouldn't happen in church to a great number of unbelievers, but out in the world. Church leaders would know who are theirs to disciple, and they would know them intimately.

Part 25 . . . . . . . . Part 27

Monday, August 11, 2008

Re-Thinking Church Membership (Part 25) Internet Monk Series

Michael Spencer, aka the Internet Monk, or iMonk for short, has started an at least two post series on church membership. His first post is an interview with Jonathan Leeman with 9 Marks Ministries. I am excited about his series, but am not holding my breath in expectation of something new and refreshing from the evangelical community.

Spencer states a basic concern for his series: "Is the concept of local church membership viable- even essential- today or should it be abandoned?"

My answer to his question would be this: The concept of local church membership as described by the bible is both viable and essential - today and always - and should never be abandoned, but the concept of "formal" church membership as put forth by many churches and their pastors today should be abandoned as quickly as possible.

Part 24 . . . . . . . . Part 26

Friday, August 08, 2008

Baseball and John Armstrong - A Great Day

Over the years I have gained a great friend through the fine pastime of blogging; John Armstrong. John is a minister who lives in Chicago and shares along with me a great love for three things: theology, blogging and... baseball.

John's ministry brought him to the San Francisco area this week and we wanted to catch each other at a Giants game (John is on the right in the photo). Needing to spend time with his ministry supporters, John offered to meet me at the game early and spend an hour and a half together during batting practice, so I bought a single ticket for myself elsewhere, confident that the pre-game time would be cherished. But God answered a previously made "selfish" prayer of mine that I haven't yet revealed to John. Namely that one of the attendees in their group would cancel and I could spend the entire game with John. (John, please forgive me and apologize to him for me!)

And that's what happened. The other two men in the group were Don Broesamle, an elder at the Church of the King, Santa Cruz (Andrew Sandlin's church), and a man named Tyler. These men were a delight, both as Christian men and men who loved baseball. John is a lifelong Braves fan (the Giants played the Braves on Wednesday) so he had so much insight into their team. We shared stories, good natured ribbing (John thought Petco Park in San Diego is a better park than AT&T) and much laughter. Peanuts and intense "digestion-challenged" ballpark food provided for a few good chuckles, too. Don was a gracious man as well, and I'm glad I got to meet him and talk for a few hours. He did chaplain work for the Giants (other Bay Area sports teams, too) back in their "God Squad" days.

I will treasure my memories of this day. Thank you John, Don and Tyler. The Giants beat the Braves on a good pitching performance from Tim Lincecum. Read more about the baseball side of the day over at my From the Bleachers blog.

Monday, August 04, 2008

That God Shaped Void

Every now and then I want to write on a very specific thing I've been thinking about, only to come across somebody else who does first. This in turn triggers my post. Today I came across a post from Michael Spencer, the Internet Monk (aka iMonk), about the idea of the God shaped void. I've heard it said a thousand times in preaching and teaching and in common Christiantalk that there's a God shaped hole in everyone's heart, and that unbelievers fill it with everything else except God. They sense the void, and are extremely unhappy with life. Their gluttonous appetite for superficial things leads them to mask their despair with vain materialism. What I didn't know was that the original idea supposedly came from St. Augustine. The iMonk's post contains a link to his older post on this.

A few months ago I started thinking about this, since I heard the God shaped hole thing somewhere, and I realized that in general, unbelievers were capable of being quite happy and fulfilled with life. Many of them don't live in despair and generally aren't clutching at anything and everything to try to add meaning to their lives. I also saw an unbeliever comment on a Christian's blog somewhere a few months ago about his unbelief or atheism (or whatever), and other Christians' replies to him that he was leading a meaningless life and was depressed about it. He replied with incredulity that others could possibly know this, and their reply was that he was lying to himself because they knew better!

The Scriptures say many things about men's hearts and thoughts, but they also say much about the happiness and contentment of nonbelievers. Luke 16 (the rich man and Lazarus) describes the rich man "gaily living in splendor every day." Gaily living? How was this man living gaily as opposed to in superficial pretense? David opines in Psalm 73 about his witnessing of the wicked being at ease and prospering while he himself is stricken and afflicted. There are many other examples of unbelievers finding joy in earthly things. They trust in money and fame and worldly achievements. Why is it thought that these things can't bring joy? It seems to me that often we don't try to understand those around us and simply rely upon some incomplete interpretation from our pet bible teachers. Unbelievers often see through this and discount our witness, while we think it's all their fault all along why they don't listen to us.