Posts Tagged erik divietro
He called me primarily because of the way I responded to Rob Bell’s book Love Wins. In a couple of subsequent articles, I discussed the places where I diverge from Rob Bell’s thinking.
As I told Tom Breen, I am thankful for the questions Rob answers. Too many conservatives are afraid of questions, and I think that too often it turns us into reactionaries.
If you missed it, I also took a few minutes to respond to the “God Had a Wife” controversy that has been hitting the blogosphere recently as well.
Tomorrow night at Bedford Road Baptist Church, we will begin our observance of the Easter Season! This year, we are journeying with the people of Judah as they go through the period known as the Exile. This was a very important time in the development of not just the Hebrew Scriptures and the people’s identity but also in their longing for the Messiah and their growing desire for the resurrection – both of which are fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
The printed meditation guides will be available on Sunday during the worship gathering.
In previous years, I have used the blog to send out the daily meditations for everyone, but this year I am going to just attach the PDF of the meditation guide.
You can download the guide by clicking here.
It is formatted as a booklet, which means the pages will appear out of order. To print it, print it double sided and then staple it in the middle. (Most inkjet printers will prompt you on how to reinsert the paper to print it properly.
I love music because I was raised in music. My dad is a guitar player. My sister plays piano and sings. We had bluegrass bands in our church (seriously). There was never a time in my life when I wasn’t longing to play the guitar. And after I married one of the most amazingly sincere and emotive vocalists I’ve ever known, I even found joy in singing (although I’m still uncomfortable with my voice).
What’s more. I love to worship God. There’s something amazing about Christ’s Church gathered and praising together – putting great words in our mouths, elevating our voices to the throne of grace.
But I see a growing problem in worship music that I want to address in a series of articles. It is my most sincere hope that I will not offend any of my many wonderful friends who lead the Church of Christ in worship, but at the same time, I desire to stay true to Jesus’ vision for the church regardless of opinions.
The series of posts is entitled Don’t Close Your Eyes because this is something we as worshipers often do. As a powerful song swells in our hearts and particularly when we echo the words of Scripture, we close our eyes and elevate our hands (ok, not in many Baptist churches…there, we elevate our hands in spirit). We do the same thing when we pray. We close our eyes, shutting out the world around us.
We close our eyes to focus. We close our eyes to cut down distractions. We close our eyes for lots of reasons, I suppose, but through this series, I want to challenge the Church to worship with our eyes open. I want to offer you some reasons to pray with our eyes open, to worship in the midst of the world rather than shutting ourselves out from it.
Consider the words of the Apostle Paul in Acts:
I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. (Acts 17:22-25)
Paul spoke these words in Athens, Greece. After Paul was forced to leave the town of Berea, he made the 200 mile trek to Athens alone. While waiting for his companions, he had apparently taken to walking around the Agora and the area of the Acropolis of that great city. He observed the many altars the Greeks had set up for the gods of their world.
There’s a lot of discussion about the success of the sermon that Paul delivers in Acts 17, but that’s not my focus here. Let’s focus on what was going on within Paul. While in his own walk with Christ, he observed others’ false religion. He quite literally worshiped with his eyes open.
Paul saw others’ needs at the same time as experiencing Christ’s sufficiency. Within his worshiping heart, God’s grace could intersect with spiritual emptiness of others’ journey.
It is easy to see worship as a “me and Jesus” thing, closing our eyes and worshiping – cutting out anything else because we believe it will distract us. We worship within cloistered church buildings, safe from the influence of the world at large; but even there, we feel it necessary to close our eyes.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I close my eyes when I wish to relish something. When my lips linger in a kiss with my wife, I close my eyes. When my daughter sneaks into our bed before I am awake and cuddles up against me, I close my eyes and inhale the beauty of God’s work in making her. These things deserve a moment of closed-eyed enjoyment. In the same way, sometimes the presence of Christ is so sweet and so beautiful that we need to close our eyes and revel in his presence.
But we cannot always be this way. Worship is not just about me and Jesus. It is about Jesus, me, and the Spirit blessing me so I can become a conduit of blessing. Worship must be free to flow through me, touching others with grace. Otherwise, it ends with me – the grace and beauty that is Jesus’ presence ends with me. And that is not how Christ intended worship to work.
Worship with your eyes open. The greatest measure of grace is not that it saves me, but that it can save others. Christ’s compassion and devotion is not simply limited to me. In fact, it is boundless – and if I open my eyes, I will see the intersection of His grace and others’ need.
I really, really wanted to like Larry Crabb’s book Real Church: Does It Exist? Can I find it? – I really did. And I tried hard. But ultimately, it is yet another book from yet another disillusioned Christian begging the church to be something more than it is.
I found it ironic that in a book about how the church has become so focused on meeting people’s needs instead of sharing the gospel that Crabb spends whole chapters talking about what he needs the church to be.
Honestly, I do not know if it is my disillusionment with this kind of books that kept me from identifying with the author’s disillusionment. It might be. Regardless of the reasons, however, the Real Church just did nothing to stir me, said nothing that intrigued me, and ultimately left me struggling to finish it.
Yesterday, both Heritage Baptist Church and Grace Baptist Church announced plans to merge the congregations into one. To say this is an awesome movement of God would be an understatement, and we are all eagerly anticipating what God is going to do through the new congregation. (Of course, this is far from a done deal and we have a challenging road before us.)
Because we will be journeying together toward this merger, we will be posting some thoughts about the merger. Any time two congregations take a faith risk like this, there are a lot of concerns and we want to try to make sure we address these concerns.
We will begin by addressing the BIG questions that we addressed during the meeting at Heritage Baptist Church yesterday:
Is this a takeover?
No. Heritage is not taking over Grace, and Grace is not taking over Heritage. We are privileged to be participants in the birth of a new congregation out of two. This is something new in our experience, and we will be working through all the details.
Is this about money?
It is hard to say that anything in our modern world does not involve money, but this decision is not motivated by money. Heritage’s leadership has actually requested that Grace place their cash reserve in escrow during the transition period (1st and 2nd quarters of 2010) to alleviate fears that the ‘other church’ will spend their money.
Yes, there is a financial aspect to this consolidation. The combined congregation will save the $30,000 per year that Heritage invests in our rented space because Grace Baptist owns their property outright. This substantial savings, combined with Grace’s savings and the expected growth of the congregation will free nearly $50,000 per year to invest in ministry and building funds.
Who will lead the new congregation?
This is an excellent question that needs to be asked. The three elders of Grace Baptist Church will join with Greg Jones and myself to form a joint elder board of five. I will serve as the senior pastor and the vocational pastor. This means I will be responsible for preaching and vision casting, working with these four men of God to lead the new congregation through the transition and into the future.
As the senior pastor, I will be ‘first among equals.’ This means that I will have somewhat limited executive power because of the recognized calling of God on my life; but my position will not be (and should not want to be) the seat of power. All the elders share equal authority with different gifts. Leadership decisions will be made by all of us as elders and not by any one of us individually.
Will we give up our identity?
Both churches will need to yield a certain amount in most areas. This is part of merging. It is necessary. As much as we treasure our own way of doing things, what is not Scripture is up for discussion. Just as a blended family must take the best of both and sometimes compromise to choose an option that works best for both groups, so too the blended church must learn through one another’s values and practices.
Will they accept our ‘quirks’?
Every body has quirks. They are part of who we are. The most important thing to acceptance is learning to explain and not be offended when we do something that is not part of the other’s makeup. In time, we learn to value what others value and we grow together.
How much further will I have to drive?
Since the combined congregation will meet at Grace’s facility, there will be an additional drive for some of us. On average, drives will extend about 6 miles. At an average speed of 45MPH, that’s an additional 8-10 minutes of driving. For those living to the east, the increase will be greater. To conserve gasoline and promote fellowship, consider car pooling from time to time.
I have taken to reading a paragraph or two of Plato’s Symposium every morning – in Greek. The Greek is different from New Testament koine and it is so well written.
If you are unfamiliar with Symposium, Plato uses the setting of a drinking party to present contrasting views of Eros or “love.” Eros has an interesting, multi-layered, sometimes very disturbingly sexual meaning in Greek. It was a complex idea which the Greeks often personified as a deity. The dialogue in Symposium takes place among Socrates and about a dozen other men as they take turns explaining the cause of Eros.
One of the things that catch my eye when I read it is the sarcasm that runs through the whole work. Socrates has got to be one of the most sarcastic people ever featured in a philosophical work. As Plato writes him, Socrates has a retort for everything and the longer the drinking party goes, the better he gets. And the other guys at the party are just as quick witted. They speak to each other in these fast exchanges that are extremely male but also quite profound.
Let me give you an example of the exchange. One of the companions, Aristophanes, has just finished a discourse on human nature. He has explained quite elaborately how man was created with two heads, four arms and four legs and the gods split them in half and now they run around embracing anything they can find. (It is his explanation for, among other things, adultery and homosexuality.)
I have translated it dynamically to convey more of a sense of what they’re saying rather than try to refine it into some kind of classical English.
ARISTOPHANES: There, Eryximaches, is my Word [logos] about Eros, which is distinct from yours. I’ve asked you not to make fun of it because we want to hear what the others have to say – since only Agathon and Socrates are left.
ERYXIMACHES: I will obey you because I enjoyed your Word [logos]. If I didn’t know Socrates’ and Agathon’s experience in erotica, I would fear they would be left speechless after hearing everything we’ve heard; but you can see that my confidence in them is unshaken."
SOCRATES: Your own knowledge is impressive, Eryximachus. But if you sat where I sit, or rather where I’ll be after Agathon’s turn, you would be more afraid and be up against a hard place as I am.
AGATHON: You’re trying to bewitch me, Socrates, so that I’ll be flustered by the high expectations everyone has for my speech [erountos].
SOCRATES: Me? Agathon, how could I possibly forget the way you carried yourself on stage with your troupe? How you looked out at the vast crowd to show you meant business with your production and how it did not bother you at all? Why would you be flustered on account of a few guys [anthropon] like us?
AGATHON: Now, Socrates, I hope you don’t think I am so arrogant that I have forgotten that anyone with intelligence is more afraid of speaking to a few brilliant, quick men than to a crowd of fools.
SOCRATES: Oh no, Agathon, that would be wrong of me to think you would be so foolish. I have no doubt that among such men whom you consider clever, you would think more of them than the crowd. But perhaps to you, we are no better than the crowd for we were there, among the crowd at your play. Perhaps you would only be intimidated among a group of truly brilliant men who would not go to the show?
SOCRATES: So, before the crowd [and by implication, us], you would not be ashamed of doing something you would consider shameful [before brilliant men]?
PHAEDRUS: My dear Agathon, if you keep answering Socrates, he will distract you because all he ever wants to do is argue. I enjoy listening to Socrates’ arguments, but he’s getting us off topic and you both have speeches to make. Give your speeches, give the god [Eros] his due and then have your argument.
I don’t know whether I have done the text justice in my translation/paraphrase, but I think I’ve captured the sense of it. Here is a group of guys I would enjoy hanging out with. They are quick-witted, completely comfortable in each other’s presence, and they are willing to just go at it. I love Eryximaches slam on Socrates and Agathon: “If I didn’t know Socrates’ and Agathon’s experience in erotica…” The subtle implication of what he is saying is that perhaps Socrates and Agathon have a little more homosexual experience than the rest of the group. But then, Socrates comes back with: “Your own knowledge is quite impressive.”
This is just a group of guys in the locker room, trading jabs.
And this is why I love the classics. When you read them as if they are classics – to be esteemed and revered – they lose their wonderful earthiness. Are these guys, including the great playwright Agathon and the philosopher Socrates, any different than any of the guys I know today, some 2,400 years later? Not really. It is good to know we’re all human, and that being human hasn’t changed that much over the millennia.
Because being human hasn’t changed much, the God we need has not had to change. We’re still the same fallen race, and he is still the same loving Father. We’re no worse or better than our predecessors; and Jesus is still sufficient for our restoration.
A couple of guys from our church team and I are down in Lynchburg, Virginia, for Innovate ‘09. We are intentionally not going to every session because I think there’s just too much going on to actually be able to absorb it all. Yesterday, we heard Eric Geiger, co-author of Simple Church.
Both of the guys who are down here with me commented, “Isn’t this pretty much what you did?” The answer is yes. We looked at our church and said: let’s not do programs just to do programs. Let’s have meaning and vision for everything we do. We clarified our vision and we ask the hard questions to keep ourselves focused. We take our time and do things right.
One of the thoughts Eric shared was that too many churches have ministries that are “silos”, distinct from the other ministries of the church. Eric said it just as an illustration, but I spent most of the session thinking about the idea of silos in ministry.
It is no secret that I am highly cynical about the way the modern (and postmodern) church at large does ministry. To me, the purpose of the church is to lift Jesus Christ up and create environments where people encounter him. Too much is invested in church and not enough on living the Way of Jesus.
And this idea of silos really resonates with me because I grew up on farms, and I know that silos are for storage. They are for accumulating grain and storing as much of it as you can for later. Jesus spoke on the problems with this in two different situations.
Jesus said to his disciples:
The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. [Luke 10:2, ESV]
He makes it clear that we are called to be laborers in his fields rather than farmers of our own fields. In fact, it reminds me of a church growth book I read a few years ago that talked about how pastors need to be ranchers instead of shepherds. This idea always struck me as a bit off from what Jesus said. Jesus does not call us to own the church but to be his servants in the church.
Which leads me to the second time that Jesus spoke on this topic. He told a parable:
The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ [Luke 12:16-20, ESV]
Here is the danger of building silos instead of working in the fields, in believing we own the farms instead of living as workers in the LORD’s fields. We become complacent; we become content. We store rather than serve. We forget the amazing blessing of seeing the harvest come every year and knowing it is from God.
Jesus spoke on this theme of ownership at another time:
A man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants and went into another country for a long while. When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent another servant. But they also beat and treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent yet a third. This one also they wounded and cast out. Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’ And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others. [Luke 20:9-16, ESV]
Do you see what Jesus is saying to us? We cannot afford to think that the church is ours, that our ministry there is somehow ours to control. We are his servants.