Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Conservative & liberal

No one can truly read another person’s heart, but it looks to me like the ideas of “conservative” and “progressive” approaches to doctrine have a lot more to do with the psychology of the disciple than with the Word of the Lord. Conservatives choose an approach that lets them hold onto what they’ve always done, to keep discipleship comfortable and familiar. Progressives embrace an approach that encourages change and expresses their liberation from restrictions they were forced to live with in the past. Both are imbalanced approaches to discipleship.

How do we find balance? Some churches make a valiant effort to have it both ways through “blended” services and other compromises. True balance comes not from moving to the center, but from running headlong to the cross. When we come to know the overflowing, loving grace of God, we see both our freedom and our bondage--not to our psyches, but to our Lord. Mature disciples know both that “all things are permitted” and that “not all things are helpful.” Mature discipleship is more broad than the most progressive congregation and more narrow than the most conservative--both at the same time.

(c) Copyright 2007, A. Milton Stanley

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Crossing the bridge

The best lesson anyone ever taught me on preaching has to do with bridges. I'd always seen preaching as the bridge for taking the Word of God from the Bible to the congregation and making it relevant for the lives of the people. Then somebody set me straight. The idea of a bridge is OK, but the traffic was all in the wrong direction. The job of a preacher is not to take the Word of the Bible and make it relevant for our world. The real job is to take us out of our world and make us relevant to the Word of the Bible. You can't make Relevance relevant. It's like trying to make Lake Michigan wet, or sunlight shiny. The Bible is already relevant. The real question is, are we going to be?

(c) Copyright 2007, A. Milton Stanley

Monday, February 26, 2007

Foolishness

Yesterday we talked about attracting seekers with nothing but Jesus Christ crucified. But Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him take up his cross daily and follow me.” Hmm. We may have a problem here. What’s attractive about denying yourself? It’s un-American. We want people to follow Jesus, but is it realistic to expect them to follow him to the cross? Realistic or not, it’s what Christ’s church has been proclaiming for the past 1970-odd years. And somehow, souls keep answering that call.

(c) Copyright 2007, A. Milton Stanley

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Attraction

What’s the best way to attract unbelievers to the church? Every Christian has a different answer, but all of us ought to burn this one idea into our minds: “What we attract them with, we attract them to.” Do our worship gatherings tell the world we’re deeply concerned about dressing well, sitting still, and keeping quiet? Well, then, we’re trying to attract with order, discipline, and conformity. Does our worship proclaim we’re all about getting excited, hearing a message aimed at my needs, and singing songs that lift my mood? Then we’re trying to attract with personal gratification. In both cases, those are what we’re attracting folks to as well.

Notice what’s not mentioned in either approach? The Good News. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Kingdom of God.

So here’s the challenge for the church: How do we attract seekers to nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified?

(c) Copyright 2007, A. Milton Stanley

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Energy

When it comes to Christian ministry, energy is a whole lot more than metabolism. Body energy, the kind we usually think about, comes from chemicals. Spirit energy comes from God, and it's specially designed to serve the Kingdom. A hurricane has a billion billion times more energy than a hot skillet, but even a Category 5 can't fry an egg. Size doesn't matter, but quality counts. Who really has more energy to serve--the 30-year-old firecracker with spiked hair, beltless blue jeans and Adidas Superstars, or the 60-year-old with pot belly, sore knees, and bones on fire for the Good News?

(c) Copyright 2007, A. Milton Stanley

Friday, February 23, 2007

Intro

Downing a bottle of undiluted truth all at once can be deadly. So as long as you’ll keep reading, I’ll keep giving it to you a dose at a time, once a day in the mornings. Let’s begin by taking a peak at the one administering the dosage, and, more importantly, a peak at the Cure.

Don’t let style fool you. The well-ordered resume, unthreatening sweater-photo and gentle words on my web sites are all designed to soften the shock-and-awe, knock-down power of what I’m carrying. It’s something you don’t mention in your cutting-edge position announcement, but it’s more powerful and unexpected than Lileks on a bleating rampage. I’m talking about Jesus Christ and him crucified. I’m talking about foolishness to the world and a rucksack full of C-4 to the-way-we’ve-always-done-it-here. Oh, and also life and light and love and joy.

Well, that’s your dose for Friday. Please don’t feel the need to e-mail me a response each day. Just keep applying one drop in each eye, once a day. Peace.

(c) Copyright 2007, A. Milton Stanley