Dedicated to reflecting theologically on mission, music, movies, books, and the world.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Are We Making Disciples

Christianity Today has a new project brewing.

Check it out:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Some Random Thoughts on 9-11

U2 helped us heal...Their hope and faith album "All That You Can't Leave Behind" was released almost a year before 9-11, and the band was in the midst of touring, but they essentially became a big part of helping America through those tough times.  They were the first big band to play New York after that day, and the songs from "All That You Can't Leave Behind" seemed to be prophetically written for that time, and then there was this:

Wilco's essential "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" was also seminal during those days, but from a different angle.  I will let  John Hendrickson of the Denver Post put it much more eloquently than I ever could:

Peace, and I hope and pray that finally this day will just be the darkness before the light, and that 9-11 will finally be put in its place when He returns.

Love God and love your neighbor.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

RIP John Stott

One of the giants of modern evangelicalism passed away last week.  He will be missed.  Over at Jesus Creed, they had a great bit on him from Christianity Today and Mel Lawrenz, here is a good part:

Stott demonstrated spiritual leadership not because he built an organization or led an institution. He led by planting the seeds of truth—widely, deeply, continually, over a period of decades. In John Stott’s final public address he raised the question: what are we trying to do in the mission? In his mind the answer was unambiguous: to help people become more like Christ.
The core elements of Stott’s leadership-by-truth-telling are within our grasp immediately, and Stott would probably be the first to say so. We must…
1. Make personal devotion to God in Christ our highest priority.
2. Live consistently, with integrity. Resist the temptation to develop a public persona.
3. Develop core disciplines like Scripture reading and mediation, prayer, work and rest.
4. Trust in the unchangeable truth of Scripture. Go deep in our study of it.
5. Prepare public talks with a focus on substance. Look for the connections and orders of our ideas.
6. Value relationships with other leaders. Be a mentor without having to be called a mentor. Follow natural patterns. Don’t reduce discipleship to a program.
7. “Read” the truth of God written in the natural world. Stott was an avid ornithologist. His cumulative knowledge made him a world expert. This was both an avocation and an act of worship. Like many other Christian leaders, Stott practiced a full awareness of God’s presence and work, and that included participating in the Creation with a developing sense of awe and wonder.

Friday, July 15, 2011

How should we plant churches?

Here is a good article about the state and future of "planting churches."

A good read and a lot to think about.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The State of "Christian" Music

Here is an interesting post from Scott McKnight over at Jesus Creed about Contemporary Christian Music and my thoughts below.

From my viewpoint there are two major issues with CCM.

1. CCM arose and was justified (partially at least) during much of the 70s and 80s out of fear. I don't think this was intentional, nor am I suggesting a conspiracy of some sort, just that evangelical's fear added to the milieu, in a significant way, that saw the rise of CCM When I was growing up in the 80s in evangelical circles there was a lot of time and energy spent on showing the dangers of rock music. Contemporary music at best dealt with sinful topics and at worst was a front for Satanism. Not a small amount of ink, and Sunday school material was spent on warning young Christians of the danger of contemporary music from ACDC to Richard Marx (yes that anyone would be worried about Richard Marx is funny). So as kids we were taught to fear music and then hauled off to Petra and Stryper concerts, where often we had the sense that while on one hand there was a sense of belonging and identification with this Christian music, on the other hand it somehow wasn't quite as good as what our non-Christian or mainline friends were listening too. It also removed us from another point of relevance with our friends. The problem is that fear is no way to motivate people, and no way to create an artistic environment. Or maybe better, a culture of negation (we are not that) is not a conducive argument for sublime music. By the end of the 80s and into the early 90s most evangelical teenagers and young adults who had grown up with this sense of fear, where realizing that there Sunday school and parents were wrong. First of all, the music that they were worried about ACDC, Judas Priest, and the lothario Richard Marx, were not what we were listening to. By the end of the 80s U2, REM, and Depeche Mode were the cultural music icons. The artistic emptiness of a lot of the hair bands and pop music of the previous decades had been revealed by the next the burgeoning "alternative" music scene. What is more, for the most part all my non-Christian friends survived these dangers. Most today are doctors, lawyers, engineers. They have kids and stable lives, even some have become Christians. The interest in this "dangerous" music was in actuality nothing more than the time honored tradition of youthful rebellion and swimming in the cultural tides of whatever was cool at the time. Now I am not saying that all this music is benign, nor am I saying that there weren't folks who got caught up in some harmful subculture or thinking that was associated with this music that in the end harmed them, but I think we can all agree that for most the part music was not the sole contributor to their problems. Nonetheless, the great downfall of Christianity and American culture that was to occur because of the influence of rock music never happened. Churches could have been a lot more successful at teaching kids how to judge for themselves the artistic merits or lack there of, of the music of their day. In any case, eventually a generation of evangelicals awoke to this reality, which led to the further irrelevance of CCM.

2. CCM music was never innovative, it was always imitative. Because of the fear narrative, CCM often was just filling a vacuum; i.e. since we can't listen to "secular music" we need a substitute to match up to the trends of our day. Most CCM music was simply whatever style of music was popular with Christian themes and culture inserted into. Even The Simpsons saw the reality of this situation pointing out the Christian rock was just rock music with the word "baby" changed to "God." I even remember that when Third Day came out they were mainly touted by most my friends as "sounding like Pearl Jam." Moreover, the production levels and song craft were often way below the quality of mainstream music. This was also coupled with the stringent format requirements of what constituted CCM music (clearly Christian and positive lyrics, a fairly vanilla-radio profile, and clean cut image) and the strong sense of evangelical cultural control pretty much squashed any hint of creativity, artistry, or innovation. Interestingly, these things and their ambiguous and uncontrollable nature is often what is needed to create good art. Now I am not saying that the "secular music" world is packed with innovation, to the contrary most music is a copy of something else. Amatuers borrow, professionals steal. Nonetheless, CCM artists never had the freedom and creative license to find the right mix of timing, history, and personal identity to create something great and timeless, like "Highway 61 Revisited," "Yellow Submarine," "The Joshua Tree," or "Ok Computer." Therefore, their music is almost (with a few exceptions that are often marginalized within the CCM movement) always simply imitative, usually a few beats behind the popular culture. I mean even Derek Webb can't put one curse word on a CCM album. This is not to disparage the personal artistry of many Christian artists, but just to realize the serious constraints of the CCM context. Of course the one Christian band who almost intuitively saw this trap, and avoided it, is U2. A band that early on flirted with the Christian music industry, but then chose to reject it completely, became arguably one of the greatest rock bands ever. Interestingly, it was when they were artistically most out on a limb, with "Achtung Baby," "Zooropa," and "Pop," and the entire ZooTV and PopMart performance as art concerts, that they were the most criticized and ostracized by Christians. What is more interesting, is that much of the intellectual inspiration for the this phase in their career grew out of CS Lewis and a church in England that was using multi-media in worship. Never mind that the core message of this phase to was to show the emptiness of the secular-consumeristic narrative of the Western world and in the tradition of the Psalms point people to love and God. In any case, U2 set an example that was followed by other Christian artists and musicians who rejected the false narratives and dichotomies of evangelicalism critique of popular culture and music. U2's success and their maintenance of their faith and artistic integrity served as a possible model for many. That combined with the Christian's exploring other bands and artists with strong faiths, or at the very least a willingness to delve into the topic (Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, The Hold Steady, POD, to name a few) in an authentic and creative way, has further trivialized CCM. Basically, the imitation and control of the CCM culture has essentially exposed it for what it is, an fairly empty, inauthentic, and vacuous medium. Its just not that good. I had a professor in seminary who liked to play a song from CCM radio and then a song from U2, and then point out the poor theology and un-biblical qualities of the CCM song, while showing the sound Christian theology in the U2 song. Sometime within the last decade, basically for a lot of people CCM became irrelevant, so much so that evangelicals in my generation who like a CCM type band, will always preface their enjoyment of said band by saying, "they are a Christian band, but they are really good." In many ways, once pastors started using movie clips and non-Christian music in their sermons, one had to realize that evangelical's thinking on art and popular culture had radically shifted. CCM became more and more irrelevant.

I don't think these are the only challenges facing CCM, I think there are many other issues out there, often equally associated with evangelical culture. But, I do measure the maturity of evangelicalism as I have noticed more and more the number of evangelical friends and acquaintances who listen to fairly "important" music, but who don't listen to CCM music, aside from worship music. That is even a shift from 10 years ago, where I still felt the need to defend my choice of music and a twinge of guilt for abandoning CCM to the majority of my evangelical friends who listened exclusively to CCM. In the end, people want to listen to something that is high quality, something that is real and authentic, something that hits them somewhere in the gut, something sublime, unfortunately that is few and far between in CCM.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Some Good Blogs

Here are a few blogs that I have been enjoying lately.

Scott McKnight's is probably one of the best:

Darrell Bock, is a top notch scholar, and while he doesn't post that much, there is always something good.

Also, like this one from Michael Patton

Also, really enjoying reading Miroslav Volf's collection of essays, Against the Tide: Love in a Time of Petty Dreams and Persisting Enmities . Its pretty brilliant.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Ending Hunger..... And a few other things

A good read, about a new book and the real issues about hunger and how the church can help.

-Also, just started reading N.T. Wright's "Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. So far, its a brilliant book. His defense of the resurrection is amazing. Also, he is moving towards a more robust view of the mission of the church, as being more than just getting people into heaven, and more about renewing the earth and establishing God's kingdom here and now.

- Looking forward to Johnny Cash's second posthumous album with Rick Rubin, "Ain't No Grave.'

- Been really into Ryan Adams lately. Good song writer, but a little inconsistent.