Bridging the past and the future

Van Gogh shepherd

Tradition is the living faith of those now dead.

Traditionalism is the dead faith of those still living.

Jaroslav Pelikan
The Vindication of Tradition

Traditions of a church can provide an organic link to her past. They can also choke out the future. It takes discernment to have traditions without traditionalism.

Another reason that I think that, in most cases, the elders are the ideal ones to lead the church is their tie to history, their ability to bridge the past and the future. The average minister comes into a congregation and spends a limited number of years. He’s not part of the past of the congregation and probably won’t be part of the future.

A wise minister recognizes the temporal nature of his work. He doesn’t defer to his elders on everything nor kowtow to the youth at every turn. He works to shine God’s Word on the church’s present situation, helping provide insight that might not be there otherwise.

A strong eldership provides the knowledge of the past with a desire to prepare the church for the future. It allows the minister to focus on God’s Word and its application to the congregation, while the elders focus on shepherding the flock.

Lots of ideals there. But I think a healthy congregation has an eldership that refuses to be a board of directors and a minister that refuses to be CEO. They choose to walk the path of the Lamb rather than the cold cobblestones of Wall Street.

Links to Go (September 19, 2014)

3 Questions No Victim of Domestic Violence Should Have to Answer

  1. What Did She Do to Provoke the Attack?
  2. Why Did She Defend Her Abuser?
  3. Why Did She Stay With Her Abuser?

How to Steward the Power of Marriage

Marriage is a good that many people in our culture do not and will not experience. For those of us who have been given the stability and power that comes with it, my hope and prayer is that we wield it well. That we use it not only for ourselves but for our neighbors, not only for our own comfort but for the comfort of our community, especially for those who are particularly vulnerable among us.

Dads: Plan for family time this fall

The point of planning the season ahead isn’t to pack your schedule with everything you could possibly do, but instead to redeem your time (Ephesians 5:15-16) and to lead your family as a good steward of the opportunities unique to fall before the days fly by and the next season is upon us.

Don’t Assume Anything

  1. Don’t assume I understand what you haven’t explained clearly.
  2. Don’t assume your adult son or daughter knows that you are “well pleased.”
  3. Don’t assume that people in your church understand why you do what you do.
  4. Don’t assume your minister is doing ok financially.

Thoughts on a Call to Worship

Finally, we come together for a specific purpose. After a week when we’ve been tempted to worship money, relationships, control, sensuality, and ourselves, a call to worship God wakes us up to the fact that we are sojourners and exiles in this world (1 Peter 2:11), that there is one true God, that he deserves to be exalted in our minds, hearts and wills, that he calls us together so that we might build each other up, and that that’s what we’ve gathered to do.

Guatemala government responds to news story before it is published

Guatemala’s government posted an online response to a newspaper article about the country’s vice president before it was published, provoking criticism the government was spying on the country’s media.
Pictures of the article, which linked a luxury property owned by Vice President Roxana Baldetti to businessmen who have benefited from government contracts, were put up on the government’s website, along with a written response.

How to park for free at the airport

The basic idea behind FlightCar is this: Instead of driving to an airport parking lot and paying to park your car, you drop it off at the nearby FlightCar lot instead. While you are away, FlightCar will try to rent your car to an inbound traveler. If it does, you’ll get paid. If it does not, you’ll get free parking and a free car wash! How does that sound?

Peyton Manning says legalized pot has been good for his pizza business

“There’s some different laws out here in Colorado,” Manning said. “Pizza business is pretty good out here, believe it or not, due to some recent law changes.”
Of course, Manning was referring to Colorado recently legalizing recreational marijuana.

The leadership of elders

Van Gogh shepherdWhen you listen to preachers talk, many of them complain about their elders. It’s a bit like men and mother-in-laws, as far as stereotypical relationships. It’s just supposed that preachers and elders will be at odds.

Sometimes that does happen. The church is made up of humans. I think it can be especially hard when the preacher and the elders are from different generations. Then all of the tension that we’ve been talking about this week enters into the equation.

The churches of Christ have typically been an elder-led movement. Some have intentionally sought to change that, wanting to give the preacher a more prominent role.

I don’t buy it. I do agree that elders should take the lead in shepherding, which is one of the reasons I dislike the trend of calling a preacher “pastor.” Elders should be pastoring. The fact that our society expects it to be done by the preacher shouldn’t change that.

Many have wanted to follow the corporate model, with the elders serving as a board of directors that hires the CEO (preacher) and lets him run things as he sees fit, until he loses their confidence. I don’t see that as a healthy model for the church. You can’t parallel an organism like the church with an organization of this world. There are some principles that will overlap, but no corporation is the Spirit-filled body of Christ.

I don’t think elders rule. I don’t think elders dictate. But I do think that elders lead. Or should, at least.

Traditions, generations, and a warning of death

abandoned churchThere’s another side to the generational issue. Just as there are young people who dismiss their elders, so there are older Christians who “despise the youth” of those with less life experience. To many, it feels like the only thing that younger generations want to do is change things.

The reaction is often to fight back with three deadly phrases:

  • We’ve never done it that way before
  • That’s not how we’ve always done it
  • We tried that once and it didn’t work

In the end, it boils down to tradition. Dr. Wendell Broom once described the creation of a tradition. He said that there is a problem that needs to be solved, and a solution is found. That solution works, so it is used again and again. Over time, that one possible solution becomes the only solution; tradition becomes law.

This happens all the more in a movement like the Restoration Movement. When so many have staked so much on being right, having right understanding, and doing things the right way, any deviation from tradition becomes (a) deviation from what is right; and (b) a condemnation of what was being done before (and thereby those doing it).

If I’m convinced that I have fully restored the church and made it exactly what it should be, there is no longer room for “movement” within my movement. No room for thought or study. Rather than passing on a passion for investigative Bible study, we pass on conclusions; any Bible study that doesn’t reach those same conclusions is necessarily wrong.

And that’s when movements become institutions. What was an organism becomes an organization. What was an animate being slowly becomes an inanimate object. And death is not far away.

Fortunately, that’s an extreme. Few congregations follow that route to its conclusion. But it should stand as a warning to all. We give future generations room to grow, explore, and learn beyond what we know, or we condemn our churches to a slow, painful death.

photo courtesy

Links to Go (September 17, 2014)

Why Climate Change Concerns Pro-Life Christians

Lately, because of political controversies and headline-grabbing court cases such as the Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision, the public’s view of evangelical reverence for life has been reduced mainly to fetuses and fertilized eggs. In truth, evangelicals are addressing myriad threats to life, from poverty and slavery to genocide. If the life movement can devote itself to fighting these, can’t it also confront the threat to our life-giving water — and compel the small- and large-scale actions that will conserve it for human beings today and tomorrow?

The Typecast Church

“The mentor’s role,” writes marketing and storytelling author Jonah Sachs, “is to make change irresistible but not mandatory.” That sounds to me like a great story for the church’s relationship with culture in the 21st century. This is the story in which we compel people toward our particular version of the good life, rather than coerce them into superficial, deistic moralism. The mentor never threatens, ensnares, or bullies. Instead, the mentor points, challenges, trains, and releases. To borrow from Antoine de Saint Exupéry, mentors teach protagonists to yearn for the vast and endless sea.

Social Media and the Panda Predicament

As we stood there, something happened: the glossy, perfect, unrealistic, airbrushed version was replaced with something way better. The longer we looked, the more amazing that real version became. Of course, they weren’t perfect. Of course, they were actually a little dirty and their fur a little soiled. We stood watching those pandas sit on their bums munching on snacks, and the more we saw, the more adorable they became.

Seat 21A

To see another human, to be allowed into their world, is an incredible privilege. In an age of convenience and obsessive consumption we rob ourselves of that opportunity. We trade long-term satisfaction and growth for comfort in the short-term. It’s vulnerable to look into the eyes of another —so we look at our phones and our screens instead.

The Jerry Jones Conundrum

How many entrepreneurs, owners and CEOs, like Jones, choose their egos over potential greatness? The list is depressingly long. One is reminded of Apple cofounder Steve Jobs. In the early days Jobs was so ego-soaked that he’d steal credit for the inventions of others. He hired John Sculley as CEO and almost immediately tried to undermine him.
But then Steve Jobs did an amazing and rare thing: He outgrew his fatal flaws. He morphed from an immature egomaniac during the 1970s and 1980s into a superb team leader until his death, in 2011. What caused this transformation? His Apple ouster in 1985? The struggles of his successor company, NeXT? His purchase of Pixar, where he learned the power of a light-handed management style? Marriage and children? (By all accounts, Jobs was a devoted husband and father.) Whatever got Steve Jobs to trade in his ego for lasting greatness, it worked.

It’s Satanist vs. Satanist in Detroit’s newest political tug-of-war

But some of the loudest opposition to the Satanic Temple in metro Detroit has been from other Satanists. The Satanic underworld, like virtually all other religions, contains groups firmly in disagreement.
Even the Church of Satan, claiming thousands of members worldwide, is quick to distance itself from the Satanic Temple, despite agreement on atheism, individualism and affinity for pentagrams.

Funeral home offers drive-thru visitation

“When you enter the drive thru you’ll drop a memorial into the memorial box, sign the register book, drive forward and you’ll be able to sit in the privacy of your vehicle for three minutes,” Phillips said.
Paradise is providing the drive thru option to families at no additional charge. It’s designed to allow more people to see someone who has passed away, even if they can’t make the traditional visitation because of work, disability or other challenges.