Saturday, March 24, 2007

Is There an Atheist in Your Closet?

Geoff Baggett’s blog today referred to a news article about Congressman Pete Stark from California, who has just come out of the closet as the highest-ranking government official to admit that he is an atheist, or non-theist as they call themselves these days.
It’s true that Americans have a right and a responsibility to determine the values of the people they vote into office, so there is benefit in knowing the core beliefs of those who would be our leaders. At least, with Pete Stark, Californians know what they have endorsed as representing them.
On March 14, the San Francisco Chronicle ran the story about Congressman Stark and made some observations by a pollster about the importance of religious beliefs in the democratic process.
Pollster Ben Tulchin stated, “California…, is probably one of the most nonreligious states in the country -- maybe the most nonreligious state.'' He went on to say, that in polling in California "we rarely target voters by religion.''
That doesn't mean Californians "are not religious, don't believe in God, or don't go to services,'' he cautioned. For example, he said, "you have a fast-growing population in Latinos, and religion does matter to them, and religious issues matter to them. But on a day-to-day basis, religion doesn't play a significant role in most Californians' lives in a way that shapes their politics on a daily basis,'' he said.
In other words, people who have always voted for Stark will vote for him, anyway.
They may be “Christians” by profession…but atheists in practice.
It’s easy to criticize California voters, but I wonder how many Christians are doing the same thing. Every time we leave God out of the equation when we make choices in our own lives, we are practicing atheism…even while we profess Christ. Most of us really don’t let God play a significant role in our lives in a way that shapes our actions on a day to day basis. We live as though He does not exist.
Is there an atheist in your closet?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Tax Season and Theology in Life

In just twenty-seven days, Tax Season 2007 will be over!

What is tax season? And what does it have to do with theology? Well, at our house, it has a lot to do with it. My husband is one of three elders in our local church…and he is also a Certified Public Accountant with both corporate and individual accounting clients. At our house, January 1 marks the first day of tax season, and that means work weeks of up to 90 hours until April 15.

For people in bi-vocational ministries, as we are, there are stresses and time crunches that threaten to erode both personal time with the Lord and planned times for study and ministry. And, when Sunday is one of the focal points of public ministry, it can be more draining than refreshing.

That’s when plurality of leadership within the church is such a blessing.

Although my husband has been responsible for most of the Sunday morning preaching, one of the other elders will taking over that ministry. The third elder has been teaching the adult class, as well as planning fellowship activities. He also meets with some of our men for a weekly Bible study, and my husband teaches a mid-week study at our home.

Bi-vocational ministry—working in the secular world (as our elders do)—and also ministering to a body of believers is far from the norm in our area. As churches grow, they are hiring more and more staff people to take the burden of leadership off the pastor. And that’s okay, but it does tend to build a protective barrier between the “clergy” and the “laity”, a bit like the barrier the secretary provides between the CPA and his demanding clients.

When the members of the body know that their leaders are facing the same kind of pressures on the job that they are, when they can sit down with them in their homes, when they see them cleaning the floors and changing light bulbs in the place where they meet…Then they are seeing their theology in action. They can see how Christ meets the leader’s needs when he faces tough situations or uses opportunities to share God’s grace in the secular world. They can experience hospitality and real servanthood.

There are twenty-seven more days til the end of Tax Season. Twenty-seven more opportunities to show people how to experience God’s grace through the high-pressure days of life. Twenty-seven more opportunities for God to show us how to live so that others can see Christ in us.

I wonder if twenty-seven days will be enough time for the lessons to be learned?

What are your thoughts on bi-vocational ministry? I’d love to hear from you.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Re-Thinking the Lord's Supper

Alan Knox, over at his blog, The Assembling of the Church, recently published the following post: The Assembling of the Church: The Lord's Supper as a Meal? Since then, he has posted a series of reviews on some of Watchman Nee's teaching, including one on The Breaking of Bread. In the first, he posits the celebration of the Lord's Supper as an actual meal (instead of the appetizer-sized elements that most of us utilize). In the second, he brings out the command for the unity of believers as we come to the table. Some interesting and thought-provoking stuff.
At Living Hope Bible Church, we have varied the times and manner of our celebration (although it is all too easy to fall into a pattern of same-ness. Sometimes we include the Lord's Supper as part of a Sunday evening supper. The one that made the most impact on me was a "Bread and Water Supper", of which the menu consisted of....bread (any kind, as long as it was bread), butter & honey, and water. We did use matzoh and grape juice as the elements for the time of remembrance, but our focus was on Christ as our Bread of Life and Living Water.
I guess one of the things the Lord has been impressing on me is the need for His Supper to be central when we celebrate...the focus for the morning (or whenever we gather for that purpose) instead of it being the "closing act". Perhaps everything should point to that as the reason we are gathered instead of its being an accessory.
Read what Alan has to say, and stop back here to share your comments. I'd love to see what you think. How can we make the Lord's Supper meaningful for children? Any ideas?

Friday, March 09, 2007

The Bible as Textbook

Possibly as early as next Monday, the Georgia legislature will take a final vote on revisions on a bill to establish elective courses in the public schools in both the Old Testament and New Testament. The bill has already passed both houses of the legislature overwhelmingly. If the revision passes, it will make Georgia the first state in modern times to establish the Bible as part of its public school curriculum. The state's Department of Education will have a year to create these elective courses.

The Bible is already being used as a course study in as many as 1,000 American high schools, and has been allowed by the US Supreme Court, as long as it is presented objectively and not taught as fact. The option to use the Bible has been open to local school boards, but Georgia is the first state to implement Bible courses throughout the entire state, although individual school districts may opt out if they wish. Apparently Alabama and Missouri are also considering statewide Bible courses.

Sponsors of Georgia's bill say that students need an understanding of the Bible to better understand the foundations of Western culture. Much of Western literature and art, from Michelangelo, to Shakespeare, to contemporary writings draw from Biblical sources.

In the late 1700's Congress actually printed 40,000 copies of the Bible, and it was the most quoted source for the writngs of our Founding Fathers. Early textbooks relied on Scripture text to teach both reading and comprehension, as well as moral lessons.

As more states consider adding the Bible as literature and history courses to their curriculum, there will be a much wider debate about its scope and the intent of its Author.

What do you think about it? Should the Bible be taught in this fashion in public schools? Why or why not?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Show Towels

Recently, a guest in our home asked an innocent question after visiting the powder room. “Do you mind if I use your show towel?” she asked. I guess the towel in question had a holiday theme, but we do use it, not just look at it.
After she’d left, though, I started to wonder how we treat different areas of our lives. We decorate our houses…but some areas are off-limits to regular family use. They are the “show rooms”. They are what the world sees, the public places, not the places where we really live. Those places aren’t always color-coordinated, stylistically consistent. We tend to have a lot of unfinished business in those rooms. Stacks of papers (at least in mine) and projects that never made past the planning stages. They are the places, too, where real relationships are forged.
And that brings me to the show towel…
When people look at Christians, when they look at me, what do they see? Do they see an authentic life, or do they just see a show towel that cannot be touched? Our “working” towel gets used for all kinds of stuff. Spills on the floor. A grandchild with a nosebleed. The mud that didn’t quite get washed off. It gets stained by life as we live it. Because life IS messy, and when I invite someone to share mine, their messes affect me.
Jesus has invited me to share His life, and He has taken on my mess.
If I am to communicate that to others, I have to be willing to do Jesus as well as to tell Jesus. He was no unused show towel. I don’t have the right to be one either.