Saturday, September 15, 2012

Re-Thinking Church Membership (Part 35) - Confusion Over Church Membership

Wanda "Deb" Martin (known better as simply Deb) over at The Wartburg Watch is jumping into the church membership and church covenant topics head first with back-to-back posts, one on each.  In the first post - titled Confusion and Ignorance Over Church Membership? - Deb links to a study by Grey Matter Research that concludes there is "widespread confusion and ignorance on the subject of official membership in a place of worship."

At the end of that post, Deb wonders why the study was done - hmmm - and the next day continues with Are Covenants A 'Yoke of Bondage'? , outlining some of her own experience with church covenants and the unintended - or otherwise - results.

What is just as interesting as what Deb writes about is the comments sections of both posts.  People write in with their own stories about church membership and covenants.  Every time I see something on these topics, I am amazed by the fallout caused by the law of unintended consequences.  Give each post a read.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Tebowmania: The Reason Behind It

I have started about a dozen posts on the Tim Tebow phenomenon, but each one has ended in not being able to finish, until now.  One thing I learned from other areas of life, in the mean time, is that it is not always in the heat of the moment that we can get any kind of point across.  Not that I will this time, either, but I have an opinion as to why Tebowmania was such a big deal.  I'll share it here.

It has to do with the well established sub-culture of evangelicalism.  In the evangelical world view, there is no greater thing than personal evangelism.  It has been exalted to the highest position on the Christian duty list.  It has become not merely means to an end, it is the end itself.  An end which justifies its own means.  And it is revered over and above all other things.  It has become almost a form of worship itself.

In the evangelical sub-culture, "personal witnessing" is pretty much equated with the first great commandment itself; loving God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength.  So much so that the second great commandment - loving neighbor as one's self - is optional.  If you "witness" for Jesus, it doesn't matter how tacky you are in bringing it, or who it offends, or who else it puts off, who it walks over in the process, or even if your boss is paying for it instead of the work you are supposed to be doing.  It doesn't matter if the waitress gets a good tip for her service, or even any tip at all, as long as she gets witnessed to before you leave.

And this is where Tebow comes in.  He publicly announced last year that the media would be his platform for his personal evangelism.  And there's no greater exposure for this type of thing than a nationally televised football game combined with a post-game interview, especially when a last-minute comeback victory is seen as being directly tied to God.  Nevermind taking into consideration Jesus' words cautioning against practicing one's religion to be seen by others.  No.  There is no such consideration in the evangelical subculture.  Forget that "Well, I'd like to thank my personal Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ" didn't answer the reporter's question.  Witnessing is witnessing.  All this was an explosive combination.  But this is less about Tebow than about his giddy followers.

Tebow was ranked as the worst quarterback in the NFL before they tanked their last three games to obliterate any chance whatsoever of making the playoffs.  Outside of a complete Oakland Raider meltdown and complicated tie-breaker situation, of course.  And when the Denver wide receiver took a relatively moderate pass from Tebow and made a stunning 60 yard run to beat the Steelers on the last play of the playoff game, you'd never know from my Facebook page that the receiver had anything to do with it.  I mentioned this on Facebook, and a friend who lived in Denver asked me what in the world I was talking about.  The receiver's name was all over the Denver media.  Real football fans in Denver knew what happened but evangelical facebookers didn't.  But the following week, Tom Brady gave Tebowmania a mortal wound by slicing up the Denver defense in a very short amount of time.  No kneeling and praying for Tebow in the end zone.  No post-game interviews.  Nothing but silence.  It was in an instant like Tebowmania never happened.

I'm no stranger to the exaltation of personal witnessing myself.  I've been within evangelicalism almost 20 years now.  One church I attended passed out bible tracts by the millions.  Quite literally.  People there would spend 8 hours on Saturdays at shopping centers and train stations passing them out.  When asked to leave by management, they considered it hostility toward the gospel.  Really?  With annoyed patrons and thousands of tracts littering the ground?  I never heard of a single convert by using such means, either.  Another church I went to had a prayer meeting every week, and one of the items of prayer was for the non-Christians.  People recounted in detail all the conversations they had the previous week with unbelievers in failed attempts to "steer the conversation toward spiritual things."  Imagine talking to somebody who tried to change the subject after every sentence you spoke.  Would you want to convert to their religion?  Do they care about you or their own agenda?  It was even frustrating for me as a Christian because I didn't feel free to talk about the weather or what I did for a living because everybody else had an agenda of changing the topic.  Yet another church I frequented had door-to-door evangelism.  We were all instructed on what to do before we were sent out.  Keen observers asked what to do in case we encountered "no trespassing" or "no solicitors" signs.  The answers were "trespassing is against the law" and "we'll leave it up to your conscience" respectively.  Dude?  You have to appeal to the civil law in one case, and you allow your church members to disregard the wishes of a homeowner in the other?  The kingdom is at hand for sure.

Before I go, I'll just say that I'm a baseball fan and don't pay much attention to football until after the World Series.  I saw a headline a few minutes ago that said Tebow was booed in New York.  I have no idea what that's all about.  They would boo Santa Claus in New York.  No, wait.  That's Philly.

Friday, September 07, 2012

King David: Blues Singer

Originally posted September 30, 2005 and modified today:

Ever notice how many of the Psalms were written when the author was in anguish over life's terrific problems? The old adage, "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, to use an analogy from today's world.

David made complaints about all kinds of things.  There are some who would look upon people today who make the same kinds of complaints that David did and label them as complainers, whiners, malcontents, people who won't "man up."  Yet if you look at the Psalms, David even complains against God.  He wonders where God is, and why God has forsaken him. 

Some would answer this claim by saying, "Yes, but if you read on to the end of the psalm, David praises God in some way.  Look at how many people who walk away from the faith start out.  They start by complaining.  So you're missing a big point here."  Not necessarily.  When people write music about their experiences, as David did, they may be looking back over a long period of time.  They may have had an extended period of questioning God.  Only later on do they come to praise him.  The song is simply a summary of a longer story.  The person who questions or is struggling doesn't need to be dismissed as somebody who is damaged beyond repair, even if it is viewed as self-inflicted.

Would God have us sing like David?  If not, it seems odd that such a human element of David's experiences would not be expected for us.