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February 2005
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Why Haven't Evangelicals Listened?

Tozer_1Long before the voices of McLaren and Webber and Grenz and Sweet were addressing some much-needed changes within the Church, and especially (although not limited to) the evangelical church, there seems to have been other voices -- calling the Church to account, and giving her a deeper vision of who she was created to be.

I believe A. W. Tozer was one such voice. (1)

Sometimes painful or even aggravating to listen to, I find myself repeatedly drawn to the teachings and wisdom of this man.  Here's an example:

As might have been foreseen, this resulted in a steady decline in the quality of Christian worship on the one hand and, on the other, the rise of religious entertainment as a source of mental pleasure. (2)  Wise leaders should have known that the human heart cannot exist in a vacuum.  If men do not have joy in their hearts they will seek it somewhere else.  If Christians are forbidden to enjoy the wine of the Spirit they will turn to the wine of the flesh for enjoyment.  And that is exactly what fundamental Christianity (as well as the so-called "full gospel" groups) has done in the last quarter century. God's people have turned to the amusements of the world to try to squeeze a bit of juice out of them for the relief of their dry and joyless hearts.  "Gospel" boogie singing now furnishes for many persons the only religious joy they know.  Others wipe their eyes tenderly over "gospel" movies, and a countless number of amusements flourish everywhere, paid for by the consecrated tithes of persons who ought to know better.  Our teachers took away our right to be happy in God and the human heart wreaked its terrible vengeance by going on a fleshly binge from which the evangelical church will not soon recover, if indeed it ever does. (3)  For multitudes of professed Christians today the Holy Spirit is not a necessity.  They have learned to cheer their hearts and warm their hands at other fires.  And scores of publishers and various grades of "producers" are waxing fat on their deliquency. (4)  (Tozer, A. W. --  "Christ Died for Our Hearts" in The Root of the Righteous,1955)

Ok. Here are my thoughts and questions in response:

1) I'd love to hear who you believe those "other voices" might be.

2) Why do we need ________ -- whatever it might be -- in order to enjoy God?  This reminds me of how some people need "weed" in order to enjoy a conversation, need a BIG screen TV in order to enjoy sports, or need to act-out a fantasy in order to enjoy sex.  Do you suppose we have brought this cultural phenomenon into our spiritual lives more than we realize?

3) Is this really possible? Possible that the evangelical Church has so messed-up, that it's wound is incurable?

4) What should we make of entrepeneurs who, within our commericalized society, are personally making millions of $$ from all-things "Christian"?

And one more...

5) Why haven't evangelicals listened to voices like Tozer?

Eugene Peterson Corrects Pendulum Swing?


Best-known for his immensely popular paraphrase, The Message, Eugene Peterson has resumed his prior passion for writing about spirituality. His new book, Christ Plays In Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation In Spiritual Theology, represents the first installment in what will be a five-volume series, dealing with subjects Peterson has talked about for 30 years: scripture, the church, leadership, spiritual formation, spiritual direction, etc.

In a recent interview with Christianity Today, Peterson spoke very straightforward about problems he sees in how the Church is interfacing with popular culture.  Here's an example:

CT - Repentance, dying to self, submission -- these are not very attractive hooks to draw people into the faith.

EP - I think the minute you put the issue that way you're in trouble. Because then we join the consumer world, and everything then becomes product designed to give you something.  We don't need something more.  We don't need something better.  We're after life.  We're learing how to live.

I think people are fed up with consumer approaches, even though they're addicted to them.  But if we cast the evangel in terms of benefits, we're setting people up for disappointment. We're telling them lies.

This is not the way our Scriptures are written.  This is not the way Jesus came among us.  It's not the way Paul preached.  Where do we get all this stuff? We have a textbok.  We have these Scriptures adn most of the time they're saying, "You're going the wrong way.  Turn around.  The culture is poisoning."

Do we realize how almost exactly the Baal culture of Canaan is reproduced in American church culture?  Baal religion is about what makes you feel good.  Baal worship is a total immersion in what I can get out of it.  And of course, it was incredibly successful.  The Baal priests could gather crowds that outnumbered followers of Yahweh 20 to 1.  There was sex, there was excitement, there was music, there was ecstasy, there was dance. "We've got girls over here, friends.  We got statues, girls, and festivals."  This was great stuff.  And what did the Hebrews have to offer in response?  The Word.  What's the Word?  Well, Hebrews had festivals, at least!

Those who want to embrace the culture, emmulate the culture, celebrate the culture, see God in the culture -- they may struggle with this and other viewpoints Peterson strongly articulates within this interview.  It almost seems as though Peterson is "coming out" in order to correct some fo the excessive pendulum swings going on within segments of the Church (I'm thinking especially of "seeker" churches and the emerging church movement).

So how do you interpret all of this?  Are you encouraged? Concerned?  Both? Neither?

Reform Our Deformed Lives

Walterbrueggemann1_4 After many years of praying extemporaneously, it has -- in recent years -- been wonderfully refreshing to draw on the resource of ancient prayers, common prayers, and the prayers of thoughtful people.

To conclude the theology "lab" I was leading last week at Soularize, I asked someone to pray the following prayer from the book, "Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth: Prayers of Walter Brueggemann" - a prayer I found to be profoundly meaningful.

Reform our deformed lives

The words are familiar to us and we are filled with yearning. So we say them glibly, passionately, filled with hope — liberty, mercy, freedom, release, grace, peace. We have some fleeting notion of what we must have in order to live our lives fully. And we have some wistful certitude that these gifts are given only by you, you with the many names ... you ... holy, merciful, just, long-suffering, forgiving, demanding, promising. We gather ourselves together to subsume our hopes under your rich names.

We name you by your name, harbinger of liberty: hear our prayers for liberty. We are mindful of those caught, trapped, held, imprisoned by systems of enslavement and abuse, by ideas and ideologies that demean and immobilize, by unreal hopes and ungrounded fears. We ourselves know much of un-liberty, too wounded, too obedient, too driven, too fearful. Be our massive way of emancipation and let us all be "free at last."

We name you by your name, power of peace: hear our prayers for peace. We dare ask for the middle wall of hostility to be broken down, between liberals and conservatives in the church, between haves and have-nots, between victims and perpetrators, between all sorts of colleagues in this place, and in all those arenas besot with violence, rage, and hate. We know we are not meant for abusiveness, but we stutter before our vocation as peacemakers. Transform us beyond our fearfulness, our timidity, our excessive certitude, that we may be vulnerable enough to be peacemakers, and so to be called your very own children.

We name you by your name, fountain of mercy: hear our prayer for mercy. Our world grows weary of the battering and the vicious cycles that devour us. We seem to have no capacity to break those vicious cycles of anti-neighborliness and self-hate. We turn, like our people always have, to you, single source of newness. Waiting father, in your mercy receive us and all our weary neighbors. Remembering mother, hold us and all our desperate friends. Passionate lover, in your mercy cherish all our enemies. Gift giver, in your mercy embrace all those who are strangers to us, who are your well-beloved children. Make us, altogether, new.

Hear our prayers for liberty, for peace, for mercy. Form us in freedom and wholeness and gentleness. Reform our deformed lives toward obedience which is our only freedom, praise which is our only poetry, and love which is our only option. Our confidence matches our need, so we pray to you. Amen.

Columbia Theological Seminary / January 13, 1994.

I've found that when I read prayers like this, there's frequently some idea, some phrase, some word that leaps out at me, that leaps within me; something that resonates between my own spirit and the Spirit of God. And I belive that this prayer in particular has much to say to all of us, and especially those within the emerging church movement.

And so I'm curious. Do you agree?  Is there something within this prayer that resonates with you or speaks to you about where we've been, where we're at, and/or where we're headed?

Soularize - Theology Pub With Chris Marrow,pt.2

Anonymous_2_1Who the #&@! is Chris Marrow?

Well, if you haven't guessed already, it's me!  Yeah, it was kind of disappointing having my name wrong on everything -- not that hoards of people would have attended my lab had they known it was being led by Chris Monroe (aka DesertPastor) or anything.  In fact, at seemingly the last minute, an extra lab was offered next door to me, via videoconference with some guy named Brian McLaren.

Despite all this, I had an thoroughly enjoyable time fascilitating a fantastic discussion with a half-dozen people on the topic: "Discipleship as a Journey Within Community."  With Mark's gospel as a backdrop, we explored how Jesus' own disciples were far from refined in their followership, but rather, were mess-ups who were very much "in process."  The gospel's witness to discipleship is quite different from the popular notions of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus (especially in light of our prior discussions with Todd Hunter as to how we've tended to differentiate between salvation and discipleship).

One of the women in our lab read a prayer by Walter Brueggemann to conclude our time together.  It was powerful. (see above post, Reform Our Deformed Lives)

Stanley Grenz, Dead at 55


Stanley James Grenz, 1950 - 2005

I SO wanted this not to be true.

A sudden surge in Stan's blood pressure lead to something like a stroke on Friday, which put him in ICU and on life support.  He went home to be with Christ today.  You can read more about what happened here.

Lord, please be especially near to the Grenz family and hold them tight as they deal with this horrible shock and loss.  Support and comfort them in ways that only you can. Amen.

Update:  Here's a tribute, written about Stan by Brian McLaren...

Soularize - Barry Taylor

Barry_taylor_1Barry Taylor facilitated and led worship through music during each of the three general sessions at Soularize.  His versatility and sensitivity was strikingly refreshing.  Day one: he led worship with his iPod (techno tracks + contemplative narration).  Day two: he blended in the prophetic/poetic gifting of Dominic.  Day three: he flowed with the rhythms of Tribe of Los Angeles.

Here's one of the songs, however, where we were moved by Barry himself:

Download barry_taylor.WMV

Soularize - Theology Pub With Mike DeVries

Mike_devries_1Mike DeVries -- a very cool dude (as well as a sharp and articulate thinker) -- facilitated our final Theology Pub today. Notice that the beverage of choice among theologians today was java.

Mike is currently completing his M.Div at Haggard School of Theology at APU, and is also part of the Youth Leadership Institute staff there.  He is one of the leading voices among Southern Californian youth pastors concerning the paradigmatic changes taking place in our culture and in the way we are reaching students today.  In today's pub, Mike shared some of his "journey" with us -- a story that many, many people can related to.

Download Devries1.WMV

Mike_and_chrisAfter our group got chased out of the suite we were meeting in, Mike and I headed across the street and continued the conversation over some excellent Mexican food.  It was a great ending to a great day.