Do YOU Suffer from MGS?

September 29, 2006

And now…an important public service announcement from your friends at RwtL:

depressed.jpgDo you come from a faith tradition that once emphasized works-based salvation? Was your childhood filled with fear that you would go to hell for wearing shorts, swimming in public pools, and attending school dances? Are you now a part of a church that emphasizes “missional living”?

If so, you may suffer from Missional Guilt Syndrome. MGS is a painful disorder that results when Christians try to transfer a system of works-oriented salvation into a mission-oriented mindset.  

Typical signs of MGS include:
– A constant, nagging feeling that you aren’t “doing enough” to help the marginalized in your community.
– Feelings of inadequacy when you don’t volunteer for more mission-oriented ministries.
– Constantly comparing yourself to others, who seem to be “doing more” for the poor and homeless.
– A fear that God is angry at you because you didn’t make eye contact with that guy who was holding the “work for food” sign.
– Feeling the need to tell people that “I don’t do as much as others, but…” every time you describe one of your experiences in reaching out.
– Fear that you are returning to a relationship with God that is laden with guilt and anxiety.

If you are one of the thousands of Christians who suffers from this serious, debilitating condition, help is available. You can live a life that draws you deeper into God’s mission without feelings of inadequacy and guilt.

Call the Center for Missional Guilt Recovery now. The toll free number is 555-SOS-MGS1. Thats 555-767-6471.

[Phone Rings] “Center for Missional Guilt Recovery. How can I help you?”

“Yes. <sniff!>… I need to talk to someone about my missional guilt.”

Call now. Operators are standing by. 

Flickr photo credit:strph.


Does God Like Torture?

September 28, 2006

The evidence continues to mount. America is torturing suspected terrorists. The reports are too wide and too detailed – too readily confirmed – to be ignored any longer.

Those in charge of defending the status quo continue to endlessly parse the definition of “torture,” of course. They evade questions about the mistreatment of people by giving answers to imaginary questions about the Geneva Convention, a treaty that can be lawyered into legally justifiable exception after exception.

But we all know – its happening. And where America isn’t doing it directly, it is looking the other way while others do it.

Are we proud of this? If not, why aren’t Christians speaking out? Why is there no massive, visible movement of evangelical Christian leaders in opposition to this practice? Is it because it is okay with us?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not an absolute pacifist. Sometimes bad people threaten to do very bad things to others, and states have the right to stop them. But, if, while taking such an action, we become nothing more than another bad guy, we have defeated its purpose.

As I said a few posts back – theology matters. It influences the way we behave. Islamic extremists have their own twisted view of God – one that justifies the mass slaughter of innocent people. But is it possible that our own theology is also flawed – that our own theolgy also, more or less, justifies the same treatment of our own enemies?

Is torture “okay” because – according to our own theologies – God is going to end up torturing these people in much worse ways for a much longer time, anyway? Do we think that God will treat them exactly the same way, eventually, so why not make it sooner and later?

Are our ideas about the nature of God making it easier for us to look the other way? And how would we respond differently if we believed God was good, that God loved our enemies, that Jesus will do anything – even giving up his own privilege and life – to reconcile himself with them?

For a moment, forget about the atrocities that result from Islamic fundamentalism/ extremism, and consider this: perhaps, to understand why we are so indifferent to increasing reports of the abuse of human beings by our military and intelligence communities, we need to re-examine what we believe about God.

Jesus, Inc.?

September 26, 2006

These words come from Frank Viola (via Subversive Influence):

Organizational leadership, as a model for facilitating church (as a living life-force entity), is inadequate at best and detrimental at worst.  Our business/organizational/ leadership models are simply not up to the task for facilitating a living, God-directed process.

By definition, our organizational leadership models are about human control: set understandable goals, develop mechanized strategies to reach those goals, implement, evaluate.  If you look at this clearly, you can see that we are in trouble right from the start.  How can one set understandable goals for something as beyond-this-world as the living church?  I am not suggesting that a believer must never set goals.  We do live in a world that requires a certain amount of control and order.  I am simply saying that using these tools as a primary way to bring leadership to God’s church is wholly unsatisfactory.

NeverendingboyThis is something that has been on my mind lately. Are business models the best way to orgainize a “living, God-directed process?” Do management models, in particular, have any bearing on the way the family of God relates to itself?

Frank, of course, has the advantage of coming from a house church environment. He’s not dealing with the management problems that come with larger church organizations. Still, even in that environment, I squirm when people start using too much “business” and “leadership” language to talk about the way things are organized….

Blatant Publicity Stunt of the Week

September 25, 2006

Good news, ladies! Eighteen year-old Aaron Carter is still available! Thats right: Aaron has broken off his engagement with 22 year-old “actress”/Playboy Playmate Kari Ann Peniche after proposing onstage in Las Vegas about one week ago.

Us magazine quotes Carter as saying, “I’m not ready for marriage quite yet.”

Carter is, however, ready for you to check out his new reality TV show – “House of Carters” which – by strange coincidence – happens to be premiering in less than a month. Weird that something bizarre like this would happen so close to the premiere of his show, huh?

Anyone want to volunteer to alert Extra!?

Hell: Here I go again

September 24, 2006

flames.jpgFor about a year or two, I have had what I will readily admit is a bizarre obsession with the “theology” of hell.

I’ve written about it. A lot. But not in a few months. For the most part, I’ve been whining about how, in most evangelical circles, “hell” (i.e., what is it? who goes there? for how long? what happens to you while you’re there?) is seldom discussed any longer. Indeed, it sometimes seems like it is anathema to bring up the subject.

So…at risk of developing a reputation as someone who is overly obsessed on this topic, below, I have tried to summarize the implications of what I believe was the mainstream evangelical view about 30-40 years ago. No one would quite say it in this many words, but it seems to be the inescapable conclusion insofar as the questions of sin, hell, and salvation are concerned:

The vast majority of human beings are destined to be tormented by God in the most unimaginable ways possible for all of eternity.

To put it mildly, this seems to be a very grim perspective, particularly for people who claim to be bringing “good news” into the Earth. Will this be the true nature of the universe – the ultimate reality – for virtually all of humanity that has lived, that is now living, and that will ever live? 

My working theory is that a lot of folks are uncomfortable with this way of thinking, but they aren’t sure there is an alternative that is faithful to scripture. On the other hand, part of the reason there seems to be no viable alternative may be precisely because everyone has stopped talking about it. A lot of street-level evangelical theology has changed in the last 20 years or so. Perhaps the thinking on this subject may have also changed if it were only discussed more openly.

What do you think? Has the time come to have a long, hard look at this subject? Or should I just get over the whole thing, because everything that needs to be said has already been said?

At this point, I’m not even asking anyone to take a position here. I’m just wondering if anyone else thinks its worth talking about…

When in Romans…

September 22, 2006

Sheila and I are doing a series on Paul’s letter to the Romans in November and December, and we are currently working our way through the book, chapter by chapter, talking about it on or semi-daily walks.

I have heard it said that Romans was received amidst great controversy and that – whenever it is properly preached or taught – it will always create a stir. Now, I’m beginning to see why its true.

The reason? Romans tells Christians that they are supposed to be living in an open, diverse community. It is wrong, he says, to separate yourself from other believers based on ethnicity, culture, etc. Instead, all believers are to be “welcomed” or “accepted” within each Christian community.

That message applies to formal, institutional exclusion for sure. But I think that it is also applicable to the creation of a church culture/environment that is equally effective in getting across the message that “your type isn’t welcome here.”

Thursday Catchall

September 21, 2006

RIP Even where I haven’t fully agreed with him, I’ve enjoyed reading and interacting with Greg’s freewheeling, in-your-face way of dealing with life and spirituality. His presence in the blogsphere will be missed. (Greg himself, by the way, is doing just fine – except for a small surgical wound…you can read his last few posts for more info.)

(Update: turns out Greg was yanking our chains. He has only changed domain names so he can have the more presigious “.com” after his site name, rather than the un-cool designation of “.net.” Please disregard all of the nice things I said about him.)


In the meantime, I suppose the move to wordpress is paying off. I’ve been registering a lot more hits, including hits off of search engines and feed aggregators, than I ever did at blogger.

I’m still amazed that people actually read and get something out of this stuff I’m writing, particularly since I write so much about Christian spirituality. I’m not a world renowned bible scholar or writer on the scale of a Dallas Willard or NT Wright. The only thing I can offer that those guys can’t is a street level perspective on the things that they are already saying. And I’m humbled that you-all see fit to drop in every once in a while to see what I’m posting.

Did anyone else watch Studio 60 on Sunset Strip earlier this week? I finally watched it on the DVR last night and was thoroughly impressed. Great writing. Interesting characters. Intriguing setting (basically, its a “behind the scenes at SNL” type-concept). It shows a lot of promise. Then again, I thought Invasion was really good, and it got booted off the air after one season…

The debate over the prosperity gospel continues. You can check out Preacher Mike’s blog if you’re interested in taking in the latest flame war on this testy subject.