Ignoring the wisdom of generations past

elderlyWho wants to listen to the old-timers? When is the next generation going to get a chance to take the lead? Who cares about what people said and did 10, 20, or 30 years ago?

Some of these thoughts are stirred by the slight toward my friend Juan Antonio Monroy. This year is a special anniversary, marking a half century since a story that many of us in churches of Christ grew up with: how this man from Spain found the churches of Christ at the New York World’s Fair and learned that they shared the same doctrine. As Juan comes to the States to commemorate that event, there is one congregation that won’t be taking part: the church that supported Juan in ministry for three decades. There was no room on their schedule for someone who is part of their history, but apparently not of their present nor future.

I remember when I was working on my master’s degree in communication. At that time, I could choose to write a thesis or to do a non-thesis degree. I was considering doing a thesis, preferably something related to the two years I had just spent in Argentina.

That’s when two elders from the University Church of Christ asked to meet with me. These two men had been leading the missions committee at UCC, had made numerous trips to Argentina, and were excited at the thought that someone would do research that would be useful to the missionaries. They asked if I would be interested in doing a study in conjunction with the missionaries supported by UCC.

I was thrilled. It was what I had been hoping to do. I had even broached the subject with the missionaries, and they had expressed interest in the study and a willingness to help shape the research.

Then they mentioned, “But we’ve just restructured things at University, and the elders are no longer on the committees. You’ll need to get approval from the missions committee.”

So I went through channels and submitted a request to the missions committee. A few weeks later, the deacon in charge pulled me aside and said, “We’re not going to help you with this study. I don’t know anything that I need to know to do my job. And no one who has been involved with the Argentina thinks it’s a good idea.”

I was stunned. And saddened. And fully aware of how ridiculous this man’s words were, especially the last sentence. Two of the men who had been most involved in the Argentina work had approached me about doing this study. It was obviously that this deacon hadn’t spoken with them or hadn’t given their input any credence.

Sadly, though, I see the same in me. I give little respect to those who have gone before. Like your current plumber criticizing your previous plumber, I can only see the defects in what previous generations did; I can’t appreciate anything positive that they contributed.

History has value. Experience brings wisdom. We don’t have to be tied to the past, but we do well to be informed by it.

Links to Go (September 16, 2014)

Sharing links for provoking thought and providing entertainment, not as a sign of approval nor endorsement… Tim

What the Bible teaches about spanking

There is much more that can and should be said about this, but these writers conclude that the Bible allows corporal punishment that is non-abusive and that does not cause bodily harm. If you are interested in reading more, I recommend the resources that Naselli provides at the end of his article.

Does Personal Bible Reading Destroy the Church?

The history of church division runs parallel to the proliferation of Bible translation. When leaders can individually interpret what the Bible really says, unity doesn’t stand a chance. The graph of church denominations and Bible translations illustrates this dynamic. More Bibles, more languages, and more literacy equal more denominations.

An Impatience with Biblical Exegesis

I share the temptation that many others of my generation face to believe that talking about the Bible won’t lead to any resolution and so we’re better off simply trying to understand one another’s hopes and fears and offer support where we can. Where the Bible is too divisive, sharing our Christian stories can be something that unites us.
But I am more and more unhappy with this mood or trend, and I’m determined to try to talk more about Scripture in future speaking engagements and debates that I participate in.

How I Kissed Evangelism Goodbye

What I came to discover is how much the world craves a listening ear. The biggest problem I have with evangelizing is that you enter into a relationship with a prescribed intention, and that stands in the way of listening well.
You can’t listen well when you are carrying an agenda.
You can’t listen well when you are looking for ways to fortify your own position.
You can’t listen well when you are searching for what is broken in your conversation partner, in order to introduce the solution.

Should We Kiss Evangelism Goodbye?

The fact is people often have really good reasons for not evangelizing. Some of those reasons include the evangelists. The popular impression of evangelism isn’t positive—impersonal and uncaring, preachy and self-righteous, bigoted and hateful. None of those impressions would stick with Jesus.
If we are going to experience a renaissance of evangelism, we must treat people less like projects and more like persons, distinguish evangelism from proselytizing, and value others’ perspectives instead of rejecting them out of hand.

Whatever Became of Church?

With jaw-dropping vigor, ignorance, and at times unblushing gall, increasing sectors of the evangelical world are abandoning two thousand years of ecclesiology; as if the church was some malleable human construct that can be shaped, altered, redefined or even disposed of as desired. This, coupled with a radical revisionism in terms of biblical interpretation and ecclesial history that would seem more in line with The Da Vinci Code than Christian theology, the doctrine of the church is being reformulated apart from biblical moorings, or simply dismissed as if not a part of biblical orthodoxy at all.

Church Branding Overwhelms the Cross

But I also beg to challenge this sentiment. Is this what is really happening as we elevate our brands into this marketplace of churches in the world today? Who is really getting attention when we glorify our brands before we glorify the cross? What would happen if people did not know the name of your church or even your tagline? What if people simply recognized the building in their neighborhood that was filled with people who lived differently, who loved when they were supposed to hate and gave when they were supposed to protect? What if our brand was non-existent and instead, the cross of Jesus was lifted high?

Foolish Words

We like to think these things are embarrassing because they are so uncharacteristic of us, but in reality, they reveal sides of us that we would prefer to keep hidden. I am more apt to embarrass myself when I’m trying too hard to be funny or clever, or trying to draw attention to myself. I don’t usually put my foot in my mouth when I’m trying to build others up. If I spend my time listening to other people, rather than thinking of the next thing to say, things go better.

Look and Live

You fight through the crowds and you stare a hole through that bronze serpent. And time stands still as you feel with every passing second the healing flow through your veins as you had felt the poison flow before.
Poison in veins. Bronze serpent raised.
Do you imagine anyone was bored that day?

Get Over It and End Cuban Embargo

Normalizing relations with Cuba would provide several benefits to both the U.S. and Cuba: Ending the crippling economic sanctions would allow an impoverished nation to raise the standard of living for its people. There are numerous U.S. companies in real estate development, agriculture, manufacturing, energy and tourism that would benefit from the end of the embargo. It would also allow the U.S. to take the diplomatic initiative in resolving a long festering problem.

McDonald’s USA Perks Up The Nation With Free Coffee

From Sept. 16 through 29, guests can get a free small McCafé coffee during breakfast hours at participating McDonald’s restaurants across the country.

Generational differences in the church

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve been thinking about generational differences in the church. Not just the “how do we attract millennials” stuff that’s so popular these days, but more of “how do we best utilize the resources of all generations.”

I’m torn between two poles. One is seen in Paul’s advice to Timothy:

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12)

We can’t dismiss people merely because they’re young.

The other pole is seen in the story of Rehoboam in 1 Kings 12. After his father, Solomon, died, Rehoboam was made king. Solomon had taxed the people heavily, and the people asked Rehoboam for some relief. Rehoboam consulted the elders, and then he consulted his peers. As the Bible says, ““Rejecting the advice given him by the elders, he followed the advice of the young men…”, and Rehoboam destroyed the kingdom before he ever began to rule.

We can’t dismiss people merely because they’re old.

I want to talk a bit, but I’d love to hear your insight. How do you see things in your church? Is it youth-driven or youth-ignoring? Does experience count or is everything past irrelevant? I’m especially curious to see if you feel that your age group is empowered or not.

(I’m expecting a flood of commenters who don’t usually participate on this blog, what with all of the generational justice advocates out there)

Links to Go (September 15, 2014)

Josh Graves on Reading the Bible (and Being Read by the Bible)

Rather, in the long run, I think the progressive Churches are taking some time to consider all their options and find a direction that may not be that well trod. Maybe there’s a better approach that 30 years ago we could only glimpse. Maybe we have the chance to be far truer to the scriptures than we could have imagined when this all started.
After all, the goal is not to leave legalism but to come as close as possible to the heart of God. And surely God is best understood in light of the fullness of the entire Bible.

Dear Fundamentalist Trolls: You’re Not Helping Anyone (and I say this in love)

  • “Is my tone loving?”
  • “Am I judging someone I don’t even know?” (and if you are, DON’T POST THE COMMENT.)
  • “Would I make this comment, and make it the same way, if I were having a face to face conversation with this person?”
  • “Does this comment make the message of Jesus more attractive?”
  • “Is my comment edifying, helpful, or uplifting?”
  • Finally, read your comment and ask yourself “Does this sound like something Jesus would say?”

4 Habits of Punctual People

  1. They’re realistic thinkers
  2. The give themselves buffer
  3. They’re organized
  4. They’re comfortable with downtime

Steve Jobs Was a Low-Tech Parent

Children under 10 seem to be most susceptible to becoming addicted, so these parents draw the line at not allowing any gadgets during the week. On weekends, there are limits of 30 minutes to two hours on iPad and smartphone use. And 10- to 14-year-olds are allowed to use computers on school nights, but only for homework.

Preachers and preaching styles

7eb33edc0158b7a592b746f5277444341587343I want to bring out one more point from Flavil Yeakley’s Why Churches Grow. This one is especially for preachers.

In his studies, Yeakley looked at the preaching style of the preacher. The preachers were asked to self-report on the style that they favored. One style was deemed positive, seeking to provide encouragement, inspiration, and instruction to the audience, with a focus on believers. The other style was deemed negative (with “corrective” being the term favored by most preachers), seeking to convert non-believers and point out the errors of other religious groups.

It’s interesting to note that the preachers who self-identified as “positive” almost exclusively used the more effective open dialogue style of evangelism. And their churches grew. Those that self-identified as “corrective” favored the more directive evangelistic styles we saw the other day. Only 2 out of 27 in this group were in churches that were experiencing significant growth.

That’s one point that I could definitely see as changing with time and culture. If you were to guess at what we might see today, or in the place where you live, what would you expect the results to be?