Friday, January 05, 2007

God For Dessert

For several weeks, I’ve been following a couple of blogsites that have addressed some intriguing topics relating to the church today.

Out of Ur is a blog initiated by the editors of Leadership Journal, and has covered a range of issues such as the commercialization of the church and church growth. Today’s blog is titled, “Have We Become Crypto-Christians?” A crypto-Christian is one who has adapted his beliefs and hidden them so that they are not apparent to others. He looks just like the culture around him—a survival technique practiced by many conquered peoples who have been forced to “convert.”

Geoff Baggett, a Baptist pastor, has a blog called Along the Shore that is also worth reading. He has tackled questions dealing with everything from inconsistency in his denomination’s baptism policies to multi-site churches to the urgency for real involvement in missions.

Although I do a lot of e-reading, there is a certain satisfaction when my print edition of the Wall Street Journal comes each day. It’s hard to fold my keyboard and lie down to read it, or to circle articles for my husband when he gets home. I circled today’s “De Gustibus” column because it addressed some of the same issues of interest to Christian bloggers. The column by Naomi Schaefer Riley is titled, “Reviving Judaism: Consultant-Speak Goes Religious”. Apparently, synagogues are facing the same problems mainline churches have faced for years: declining attendance and a listless constituency.

Just as many churches have become an industry focused on growth, market expansion and product development, Conservative Judaism is now looking to see what Jews want. A new project called Synaplex, sponsored by the Star Foundation, is designed to “provide people with new reasons to make the synagogue the place to be on Shabbat.” Traditional services may give way to “Torah and Yoga”, according to Rabbi Hayim Herring, the foundation’s executive director. Other events might feature a musical service with “latte cart” or a Friday night wine and cheese reception. According to the article, some of the synagogues participating double or triple attendance when they offer a “Synaplex” Shabbat.

The author offers an insightful closing to her column. “Listening tours, marketing gambits and strategic plans may be an inescapable part of modern life, even in the realm of religion. But in the end, for a particular faith to thrive, God can’t just be for dessert.”

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Book Life

I just love to open a new book. A book is the mind of the author in black and white. And it can be a meeting point, a place of discovery, or it can be a battleground.
A good book prompts the reader to question issues and his own beliefs.
A great book raises questions about the author and what has driven him to write about the issues.
The greatest book exposes both the author and the reader and leads to some conclusions about both.
The book of Philippians holds some of the most challenging verses in the Bible. Chapter 2, verse 5 commands: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus...” To have the same “mind”—the same goal, the same worldview, the same heart attitudes as Christ, Himself—seems to be outside my reach. There is so much of my mind that gets in the way of Christ’s mind. In order to have His mind, I have to look out through His eyes, to see others as He sees them. I have to look at myself as He sees me, too, nakedly and without pretense. There is nothing that His eyes cannot penetrate. And what is the purpose of all this? The challenge continues in chapter 3, verse 10. “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death...” Without the mind of Christ, I can never truly be His “soul mate”, intimately becoming one with Him. Without the mind of Christ, I will never experience His resurrection power in my own life. Without His mind, I can never truly suffer on behalf of another, nor appreciate what He suffered for me. And the only way I can climb into His mind is to immerse myself in His Book.