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A key point in the book is that leaders, in a Christian sense, are called more to be servants and fools than endowed with the take charge and “get it done” attributes and skills we often associate with leaders. 

January 24, 2017 4 2 comments
Discussion Topic

Details for Inspire 2017 on August 3-5 in Detroit, MI are unfolding nicely! But before the planning goes any further, we want hear from you. Are there topics you want to discuss or stories you want to hear?

December 21, 2016 1 8 comments
Resource, Workshop or Training, Facilitated by Others

You're invited to a one-day learning event at Crossroads CRC in Des Moines, IA, focused on helping local church leaders and pastors find unique yet practical ideas to bring health and growth to their church.

December 20, 2016 0 0 comments
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One of the hardest things for us to do is to love. It’s hard sometimes as leaders to love the people we are leading, because we inevitably encounter struggles with them. But Jesus gives us thrilling insight for loving each other. 

December 12, 2016 1 1 comments
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Where do we turn to when life perplexes us, when there doesn’t seem to be any clear answers, when we have come to the end of our thinking as leaders? Is it not the poetical books of the Bible? 

November 29, 2016 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

We still live with the incredible notion that the local church consists of one or two leaders and dozens (if not hundreds) of followers. What is our fear of being involved in leadership?

November 28, 2016 2 2 comments
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It’s no secret that ministry leadership can be lonely. So how do you enter into a mentoring relationship with someone you can trust? Here are 5 things I've learned along the way. 

November 21, 2016 0 0 comments
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Reading the gospel of Matthew took away some of my innocent look on how the Bible was compiled. I didn’t realize it was so messy, like digging into a family tree.

November 1, 2016 1 1 comments
Discussion Topic

Loss comes to us when key people move away, when we realize a dream has died, or when we face health challenges. The book "Broken Hallelujahs" suggests three ways of dealing with loss. 

October 25, 2016 0 1 comments
Blog

In Jesus’ world we find a religious, political and cultural soup mix. The broth is a potent mix of Roman, Greek and Jewish cultures. Did God use this culture to make the most of the gospel for Jesus sake?

October 16, 2016 1 0 comments
Blog

Darleen Litson, a member of Four Corners CRC in Teec Nos Pos, Arizona, tells the story of her call to leadership. What about you? Do you have a story about cultivating leadership? 

September 21, 2016 0 0 comments
Blog

For some people, China and Chicago are worlds apart, but what links them together is an understanding that the church needs more and better leaders and a desire to equip leaders for its mission.

September 12, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Workshop or Training

Vocational Wayfinding is a two-part course that will equip participants to navigate the work-life journey, as well as provide tools to make decisions on how to go about the next phase in their careers.

September 1, 2016 0 0 comments
Blog

Spending some time dwelling with these listening resources, as well as with Berger’s book, should pay rich dividends. As leaders, we do need to learn to ask more questions, tell less, and listen well. 

August 28, 2016 0 0 comments
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I felt sorry for these people who believed that they had to live and die this way. They seemed to have traded the "living for God" for living and dying to uphold their interpretation of the law of God.

August 22, 2016 1 1 comments
Resource, Conference or Event

The Leadership Training Event (LTE 2016) for church leaders will be held on Tuesday, September 13 from 6 to 9:15 pm, at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI. 

July 27, 2016 1 0 comments
Blog

A recent church service left me completely exhausted. Too often I have the same feeling at the end of a working day. How can one lead well in the midst of the noise and distraction? 

June 16, 2016 2 3 comments
Blog

Moses longs to be taught by God (humble) and dares to tell God how to behave (arrogant). He was himself before God and yet was called a man of God. Moses’ life shows these are not mutually exclusive.

June 13, 2016 1 0 comments
Blog

Our personality is no longer an excuse nor a hindrance, but instead, it is a vehicle in the process of being conformed to the image of Christ.

May 22, 2016 3 2 comments
Discussion Topic

Churches are ready for the next generation to take on leadership roles as deacons, Sunday school teachers, and more. But is this happening? And if not, why?

May 9, 2016 1 7 comments
Discussion Topic

To prepare for the Gathering, participants were given some questions to spark their ideas on ministry and the local church. We thought it could be helpful to pass those questions on to YOU!

May 2, 2016 0 2 comments
Blog

Leadership was that scary monster under the bed for me. Thinking about telling others what to do would wake me up at night in a sweat. So how could a guy like me accept leadership?

May 1, 2016 2 0 comments
Blog

Likely you have heard someone suggest that a certain point of view is correct because they make an appeal such as "I have a friend who..." Sometimes the word 'friend' is substituted by a family member, or a person featured in a video, or a person in a book. Of course the personal connection...

April 18, 2016 0 0 comments
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At a recent symposium, “Speaking Truth in Love: A Forum on Human Sexuality”, convened by the Presbyterian Church in Canada (PCC), one of the speakers, Karla Wubbenhorst surmised that at the root of some of the current debates that are occurring within that denomination, willfulness might be at...

April 5, 2016 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

There are many leadership lessons to be learned in the story of the 1949 Mann Gulch in which 13 firefighters were killed and the story is well told by Norman Maclean in his book Young Men and Fire...

March 15, 2016 0 0 comments

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Hi Mark,

I like Boer's idea of spheres of leadership and the church as the body in which all parts are servant leaders without a hierarchical structure. Hope I have opportunity to read it and continue learning about leadership. Thank you.

posted in: Foolish Development

Amen! 

posted in: Foolish Development

Craig -- I just LOVE your passion and succinct messaging!  I couldn't agree more!  It's the sharing of our faith, our personal stories, our willingness to be vulnerable, our heart for others, and the connecting we do that turns us into a church!  It's how we reflect Christ!  Those are all the things HE TAUGHT us!  Yes, it is certainly IN the mix, and some of the sessions will focus on this more than others, but I couldn't agree more!  We, as a team, will go back, with your comments in mind, and revisit the sessions to make sure this will be an emphasis!  I hope you will join us and encourage such behavior as well!

God wants nothing more than for us to represent HIM well in His church!  Praying we can do this as we plan, as we execute, and as we prepare to gather together.  Our prayer is that we can all humble ourselves to each other and BE CHRIST to others as well.  Thank you for your heart and message to chew on!  ~Paula 

I'm sure that this will be included somewhere in this mix but it needs to be talked about specifically, that It's All About Relationships!  We are so good at developing programs, ministries, and even strategies but it all comes down to relationships.  What should be a natural and expected aspect of life has been thrown by the wayside.  The older generation no longer knows the children and vice-versa.  We skitter around from one practice, one meeting, one game, etc.  We send out emails, texts, Facebook messages and consider that our social interaction.  Meanwhile I hear complaints about how church used to be our family and how we used to invite people over but not any more.  I don't care what you are talking about (evangelism, worship, Bible studies, outreach, etc.) it is all about developing and growing relationships and we need to stop for a moment and talk about how we can nurture that.  When I look at my life it was relationships that grew my faith the most and when I hear from those who don't attend church anymore the repeated response is that they don't feel connected.  It doesn't have to do with style of worship, lack of ministries, or anything else.  It is simply because we don't take time to build relationships.  Like I said, I expect and hope that this will be included is some of what has been listed but it can't be a little spice that we throw into the mix.  It is the whole recipe.

Dan -- Thanks for your heart and passion for those that might have areas of accessibility issues.  We have been working closely with Mark Stephenson and his team!  Our goal is that this event will be barrier free and that we can encourage the churches to have the same goal.  We will have specific breakout sessions on ideas/perspectives/reasons for creating environments for ALL of God's people.  We will also have sessions on inclusive behaviors and messaging that would invite and embrace those that are different than us as well... not just physical, emotional, and accessibility conditions.  We are hoping to change the lens by which we see things from how can we help them to possibly how can they help us... be better!  Thanks for the reminder, the passion, and the heart!  God is certainly smiling!

And... I will take a look at the language of our breakout sessions to make sure we are communicating clearly what each session will cover!  Perhaps when the website goes live, the "summary" of each session will give a better idea of the content you'll find in the session.

Thanks again Dan!  Look forward to seeing you at Inspire 2017!  ~Paula

Terry -- Thanks for your thoughts!  YES!  We are hoping for lots of gathering for churches/leaders/volunteers to share stories.  We have a few breakout sessions designed to ignite those conversations.  However, we are hoping that ALL the sessions (no matter what the topic) ignite conversations with the attendees.  We are praying for new relationships to be birthed, new partnerships to form, new ideas to bubble up, and LOTS of mutual support for ministries happening in very different areas.  I hope you'll come and help spark those conversations.  With 2000 attendees planned, we are not going to be able to BUILD those small groups, but we are creating time and space for them to pop up!

Conversation, energy, and the Spirit of God will be driving this event!  We're anxious to see God at work!  I hope you are planning to come and join in!  In the meantime, please continue to pray -- for the attendees, the presenters/facilitators, and the continued planning.  We all want to honor GOD at this event!  ~Paula

Angela -- Love... that you are looking for this!  We too, have thought this to be a vital part of Inspire 2017!  Although we are not using a specific book to drive the sessions, we have a number of sessions planned for reminding us of our connection with God!  We have a session on discernment of the Holy Spirit's call, one on healthy habits of connecting with God, and another planned to help folks find renewal with God when you are tired and worn.  In addition, we will have a prayer room, a specific prayer walk, and lots of sticky spaces to have partners in ministry pour into each other WITH God!

Thanks for your interest in conversations at Inspire 2017!  Please continue to pray -- for the planning, for the presenters/facilitators, and for the attendees as they prepare to come!  ~Paula

I do not see anything in the plans that highlights the inclusion and belonging of people with disabilities. With 1 in 5 households including someone who lives with a disabling condition, and with the CRc having historically led the way in prioritizing persons with disabilities, this is suprising. I would recommend the following:

- Joint presentations by Mark Stephenson and Terry DeYoung what their office does for CRC churches

- Presentation on the importance of including people with disabilities

- Discussion/panel/presentation on starting a disability team in your church

How about having a session where everyone gathers in small groups of churches (a half-dozen or so) to tell stories, share ministry ideas, and pray for one another?

I looked through your list of topics and almost all of them are about DOING something in the kingdom of God. Not necessarily wrong but what about learning to listen with discernment to what God is doing in the church and following what he is up to. We are using the book "Pursuing God's Will" by Ruth Haley Barton as the basis for spiritual practices that build up leadership discernment. More information about personal spiritual practices are found in Soul Leadership and Sacred Rythms. I believe learning to be in God's presence and being transformed into the image of Christ for the sake of others is crucial for healthy leadership that discerns where God is at work and follows Him there. What about some workshops on spiritual practices like silence and solitude, scripture reading for transformation not information, retreats, fasting, prayer, listening to consolation and desolation to name a few.

 Wonderful!  and hurrah for Mr. Merton, but the leadership of the CRC fails to see Christ in LGBT people and so do many people in the pew, particularly in pews south of the Canada U.S. border. The last Synod drove the nail in the coffin.  I appreciate Mr. Brouwer for posting this.   I hasten to add, sexual orientation is not the only kind of person in whom Christians fail to see the Christ.    

Christ's sumary of all  laws and prophecies into the  one word of LOVE  is a stumbling block for many  Christians.  As long as churches are obsessed with their "Absolute Truth'  and unattainable purity, they will continue to remove the splinters from the neighbour's eyes but because they have a beam in their own eyes they cannot see Christ or see LOVE!   May the Holy Spirit do her work and change hearts and lives and teach them to LOVE!

I hear, more and more, the "narrative of fear" as an explanation for people not stepping up to a challenge, and/or not helping out and have come to wonder whether this is really a misnomer for something else. There is a "meta-narrative that runs deeper in our post modern world, i.e. "disengagement" from institutions and community life that has been evolving over the last 20-30 years that is likely at odds with the vision of communal life set out in scripture. 

Are there really that many fearful/inadequate people out there? It is troubling in today's society and churches to find that many people consider themselves inadequate in engaging in social institutions, etc. when they operate quite "competently" in the work and family world, skills that can be carried over to the former. Yet, having seen the results of a recent Building Blocks of Faith Formation survey, only confirms the inadequacy explanation for not engaging. Think we need to dig deeper.

Question: Is "fear" a mask "cover-up" for something else?

Question: Why is it that in today's church, rather than volunteer, the preference is to hire/pay someone else to do the task?

 

Amen - a modern summary and pointing to why "the priesthood of all believers" is such a critical part of the Reformation and continues to be important. Thanks Keith.

It's great to read about these assignments again from your view point Joe. Thanks for sharing.

How very timely Mark. Thanks.

posted in: Leadership and Loss

First off: Awesome use of the Apocrypha.

Second: Great question at the end of this article, which actually illuminates our culture in the light of the Gospel. Generally, ‘Conservative Chrsitianity’ minimizes scriptural mercy and ‘Progressive Christianity’ minimizes scriptural holiness. To side with either of these truncated philosophies is to live only half a Gospel, usually in the hope of gaining some power or control over how the Kingdom is maintained or expanded.

Jesus’ absolute love of God and neighbor calls us to place our entire outcome in his hands – whether we can see the outcome or not. We can learn a great lesson for our personal life and public culture by being so satisfied with the obedience we are called to live that ‘power’ and ‘control’ – winning – looks cheap in comparison.

Thank you Fronse for your response to this challenging and relevant question.

As we look at what is being exposed in our country today (more specifically racism and police brutality), it is so important for our churches to know how to biblically, contextually and culturally help raise African American next generation leaders. We have a powerful role to play in raising up our young leaders and modeling good leadership before.  There is a place for them to serve mightily in advancing God's kingdom. We have to help them discover their God-given gifts, strengths and callings at an early age. It requires intentionality.

You are right about the importance of adult influences and the need for healthy role models in every arena of life. They are impressionable and some are faced with many negative, unhealthy role models.

We pray for God's guidance and the Spirit's power.  I am thankful for the many years of the Black and Reformed Youth Conference and its educational scholarship for young people.  I believe there are other encouraging stories about the good things our young people are doing in God's work.  Every seed we sow will reap a harvest!

Rev Posie, This is a very challenging post and question. There are built in church structures to involve adults, fewer for youth. Each minister and council has opportunities to ensure Youth development.

How? From early childhood, parents and council can form youth to be leaders by including and encouraging youth participation in church events, planning and worship.

The greatest words to build self confidence are "You've done well." Children achieve when they have structured kindness based encouragement. Let youth plan an event, not be told what to do.

yes, constructive criticism is sometimes needed and should be done in love.

Cadets is the structured group that can be a base. Juneteenth, MLK, KWANZAA are cultural events for Youth and family participation.

one last comment: our children and Youth sitting in the pews hear adult tone and tenor very well. Thus we must prayerfully consider how WE speak and act around them. They take their ques from us.

Thank-you for the reminder of how my own quieting myself of/from distractions is a gift I bring to those to whom I pastor.

Thanks, Mark, for your thought provoking article... and for the resources to help us all become more attentive and better listeners.

Thanks, Mark, this is good stuff.  thanks especially for the book suggestions, and the Simone Weil link!

 

I appreciate Mulholland's insight.  In a world of "niche" spirituality, he urges us to not only appreciate how God has made us but also how we need to sometimes "play against type" in order to grow spiritually, venture into those areas that are naturally uncomfortable for us, where we feel the most vulnerable and not in control and therefore, find ourselves relying more on the Spirit then our own tendencies and strengths.  As a natural introvert, I've definitely found this to be true in those times when I've been called into extroversion.  

 

An interesting dovetail with this is Gordon Smith's work on conversion, his book Beginning Well, where he notes that moments of spiritual growth/continuing conversion often take place when we are exposed to a Christian tradition not our own.  

Love this post! I often forget how deeply personality type influences spiritual formation. My introverted nature often affects my willingness to participate in small groups and other group settings, but it has also allowed me to serve in other ways. It's so interesting to see how different personality types serve the various needs of a church. I love that God works through all personality types, and that he can also push us to grow and move outside our comfort zone too when needed.

Good review Angela, I also enjoyed the book and it is encouraging for personal spiritual growth.

Good questions, Staci. The position descriptions were shaped by the gifts of the young adults, and the needs of the congregation. For some, it meant continuing their education on issues surrounding immigration, cross-cultural and urban ministry by participating in trainings to become a workshop facilitator (i.e. Church Between Borders and the Dance of Racial Reconciliation). Most interns worked to raise awareness and educate about issues of justice in their church community by speaking to different church groups and planning intergenerational service projects. The mentors met with interns weekly, ideally. They were church elders, pastors, and ministry leaders--all people with experience ministering in the congregation who were able to support and encourage the interns as they served and learned.

I would hope that millenials, and all other age defined groups for that matter, predominantly serve outside of the institutional church.  This is not to say they shouldn't serve within the institutional church as well, but it needs to be understood that we serve (or should serve) in all that we do, and that message ought to be a core message of the (preaching and teaching and encouraging) institutional church to all its members.

I think the more the institutional church effectively teaches this Calvinist/Reformed/Kuyperian message, the more members will be convicted that all they do should be service to their Creator, and the more they are so convicted, the more they will connect to, and serve in, their institutional church, even if most of their service to their their Lord is done outside the institutional church.

Hi Judy: Thanks for the suggestion! I will definitely check it out. 

Have you read the book,"I hate religion,but I love Jesus"?I think it addresses these issues quite well.

  JonkerJudithBredeweg

Forgot to ask, what kind of leadership tasks or mentoring would be part of the paid internship? Sounds like an interesting model and I'd love to hear a bit more about how it would work!  

Awesome! Thanks for sharing, Shannon. I completely agree about giving youth ownership as early as possible. One of my best church experiences in high school was serving on the Pastor Search committee. I felt so honored to be included and was humbled to have my voice heard. I think the earlier we place youth in positions of church leadership, the more comfortable they will be when the opportunity comes up to step in to a role such as deacon.  

Thanks for posting this, Staci! You bring up a lot of really good questions for those of us who love the church, and want to see youth be an integral part of it. A few years ago, as I started work on a project for the denomination that wrestled with this very question (it was called LEAP), a colleague told me that we need to start with how we think and talk about youth in the church. "Youth are not the future of the church," he told me, "they are the church." It has struck me since then that this is where we need to start. When we have conversations in our congregations about increasing youth engagement, we tend to talk about them like they aren't already there. That couldn't be farther from the truth.

For the LEAP project, we did some research and found that young people returning from mission trips in high school and college would love to be plugged in at their church afterwards, but don't know how. Congregations want to increase their engagement, but they don't know how to do it, either. So we tested a model where young adults could serve as a paid intern in their churches for anywhere from 3-12 months. During this time, young people were equipped and encouraged to continue their learning, to grow under a mentor, and to challenge their congregation to grow in their engagement of mission, community development, and justice issues. 

We learned that both young adults and congregations appreciated this model. We are hoping to develop it into something that the denomination can offer small grants to congregations to try this model in their community. Stay tuned!

Beginning a community garden on the church grounds this spring. Inviting members of the community to garden a plot.

Persisted and endured:  multi-generational yearly serve project to Guatemala; partnership with local service agency (Love, INC) by hosting a clothing center and food pantry for Love INC clients on our campus; 8th grade school graduates serving for a week in June at a church in Northern MIchigan which arranges projects

Here is a list of them, we used the first one of the list. 

https://www.huddle.com/blog/team-building-activities/

also - interesting ones here in part two:

https://www.huddle.com/blog/team-building-exercises/

However, you can keep google it and see what else you find. 

Grace, Daniel 

 

Thanks! Yes, I see it is working now. Thanks again. 

Thanks for letting us know of the problem. I'm not sure why this particular video just stopped working. The file has been replaced and it's working now.  

Sorry about this - I will check with the folks at the Network to see what the problem is. Thank you!

I can't get this one to play. 

This sounds like a unique approach and different perspective on the quiet strength and faith that is needed to be a good leader. I'll have to check it out! Thanks for sharing.

A good book is Beyond the cosmos,  by Hugh Ross ..very good on extra .dimensions.

 

Naturalist

Exactly. The real leaders of every church are the ones doing spiritual grunt work rather than the ones telling the congregation and council what they ought to be doing. It's amazing how often that is misunderstood.

 

 ". . . found themselves relegated to spiritual grunt work . . . ."

"Spiritual grunt work" is the stuff the true saints of the church do, the stuff the rest of us don't want to do. Anyway, it isn't my place to tell the congregation and the council what I should be doing for them.

LOVE this post! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the thoughts of other women, Elaine. 

Very interesting comment Cindy.  Thanks for adding your contribution to the dialogue.  It’s good to see a variety of responses from different vantage points.  My comments have not been in favor of this third wave movement that is getting a foothold and gaining some momentum in our CRC denomination.  It doesn’t bother me to discount a movement, because it seems less personal attacking a movement rather than a person.  So I really don’t want to disparage your personal experience.  That is your experience and it seems to bring meaning to your life and Christian experience.  So I apologize if I am hitting too close to home.  But I do feel experiences and testimonies like yours could help to clarify, what I see as a problem with this movement.

I realize that personal testimonies of having witnessed demon possession and having personally entered into battle with demons seems to add credence to this spiritual warfare perspective.  How can one argue against first hand experience?  But a first hand experience isn’t necessarily an objective viewpoint.

The mind is a tricky thing.  And a particular mind set can easily lead one (or many) to believe something is true when it likely is not be true.  It’s called deception or being deceived.  How does this work?  What might be a good example that comes close to home.  In my last response, I mentioned the witch hunts of the 15th and 16th centuries (the Salem witch hunts being most notable).  These witch hunts had their origin within Christianity and were based upon both Old and New Testament Scripture. Although there was an European precedent, in the U.S. it was the Puritan movement and churches that authorized and sanctioned these witch hunts.  As you may know, the Puritans were known for their very strict and puritanical life style. Life and living was a very serious matter.  The Puritans didn’t celebrate holidays. Play, even, by children was discouraged; toys were outlawed, especially dolls (that’s easy to understand why); children were put to work at a very early age. Fun for the sake of fun was strictly forbidden.  Drawing from the Bible, as their ultimate authority, joy was distinguished from fun.  Joy was permissible because joy is always directed toward God.  The angels who rejoiced in the birth of Jesus were expressing joy toward God, but were not there to have fun.  David, in the Old Testament, danced before and unto the Lord, but he was not dancing for the sake of fun.  David was not participating in a high school sock hop.  For the Puritans, as with many Christians, all of life was to be lived to the glory of God.  Anything that didn’t promote his glory was wrong and sinful. “Fun”, as opposed to “joy,” always turns in upon self.  The Bible nowhere promotes fun, but does promote joy.  So you can begin to see where the Puritans got this idea that “fun” was not just wrong, bad, or sinful, it was Satanic.  “Fun” was Satan’s imitation of “joy.”  And people who wanted fun in their lives were dabbling in Satanism or witchcraft.  The mother who wanted her children to experience some fun in their lives was in serious trouble.  And the mother who had a fit rage or went into depression because her children were not allowed to have fun gave the sure signs that she was possessed by the devil or by demons.  And she was dragged away from her Christian home and punished or burned for being a witch.  I”m sorry I can’t take longer to explain further.

This is just one example of how a Christian cultural perception influenced the behavior of an entire community.  And certain behaviors by individuals were sure signs of demon possession.  Did this perception of witch craft have Biblical support?  It certainly did.  Probably as much or more support than the Bible gives for this third wave movement that has come to the CRC and other Christian churches.  The preponderance of other religions (false religions) also give evidence of how a world and life view can affect whole communities of people. So I would say, think twice before jumping on this “third wave” wagon that is traveling through our denomination.  It may make some Biblical sense (like the witch craft of the Puritans) but is totally unreasonable and illogical.

If I may help to clarify, The Network currently has four main content types: Resource, Discussion Topic, Blog and Q&A. Each ministry section (e.g. Pastors, Safe Church, Classis) has a "Filter by Type" option on its main landing page. On The Network home page at http://network.crcna.org/ these content labels are quite visible and you'll see them to the left of the titles and/or under the picture thumbnails. In addition to "webinar recordings" like this one, we have over 40 other classifications of resources. I hope that's helpful to you as you navigate the site.

I am not of the Christian Reformed denomination; I work in the offices of another denomination and regularly check this network for useful resources.  I wasn't able to see the webinar on its original date and just now greatly appreciated the archived version. It sounds like some of the comments already posted come from the very type of worldview development the presenter describes, where, as scientific knowledge expands, we become somewhat arrogant in thinking we need less of the spiritual side. Be that as it may, I can personally attest that demons are active today, and that it is possible to invite them into our lives by yielding to temptations or creating situations where they feel welcomed.  I used to be an evening supervisor in a domestic violence shelter where many of the residents brought serious spiritual baggage with them.  Some of them were in the habit of watching extremely questionable material on television, especially while the supervisor was busy in the office or another area of the shelter. You could literally feel the movement of demonic forces in the shelter TV room, but I found that if I took my guitar or a CD player to work, those forces could be driven away with praise music lifting up the name of Jesus Christ.  Once, I actually surprised a demon in that room and it hid in an empty bedroom, pushing a bunk bed in front of the door to prevent my coming in.  No kidding--a bunk bed moved about two inches with no physical person in the room. I wedged the door open and commanded it to leave in Jesus' name, which it did. Please don't assume I was smoking something illegal at the time, LOL; I was one of those who thought everything could be explained by natural means until I began experiencing things like this while working in that environment. 

In another context, I am involved in occasionally leading worship for the meetings of an addiction recovery ministry.  I believe that people suffering from addictions are unfortunately all too familiar with the spirit world.  However, having experienced the dark side of spiritual involvement, many recovering addicts who accept Christ are very responsive to spiritual warfare in dealing with their situations.  They readily accept that angels are there to go to bat for them and the Holy Spirit is very present to help them.  Consequently, many experience miraculous provision and are awesome witnesses to others.

Demons are a very real and present threat, but we have authority over them in the name of Jesus, and we have the Holy Spirit to remind us when our personal activities are giving them cause for bothering us. Thank you for this webinar.

 

 

I doubt that the empiricist feels any compulsion to disprove the miracles of the multitude of religions.   A strict empiricist simply denies them because there is no empirical evidence to support them.  And if there is no support other than opinion or belief, why consider them.  It seems to be a matter for those who believe in a particular miracle or miracles in general to give proof, and not the other way around.  Believing something is true doesn’t make it true. When there is verifiable evidence, I imagine even the empiricist would admit validity.  

Of course, you realize there are a variety of shades of empiricism.  You seem to be talking about the stricter empiricist when talking about empiricism.  I haven’t placed myself in any such categories, but if I were to, I might feel closer to pragmatism which stresses practical consequences.  And I don’t really see much in the area of practicality when it comes to the spiritual warfare espoused by the third wave movement (Pentecostalism).  That’s especially true when we realize that the science of psychology, with a good track record, has tackled the problems associated with what neo-Pentecostals have associated with spiritual warfare.

A Frank Peretti fictional scheme of spiritual warfare may look fantastic on paper, but it’s fictional and doesn’t work in reality.  And the same is true of third wave spiritual warfare. It interesting that our ecumenical creeds don’t touch this topic, and what our confessions have to say is very scant.  And even what our confessions have to say doesn’t fit nicely into the paradigm of the third wave movement. This whole third wave movement is very recent and gets its impetus from a more recent form of Pentecostalism.  And it seems questionable.

Of course, I guess we could go back to the  witch hunts of the 17th century.  They, too, were part of a Christian religious movement (Puritans) that had no grounding in reality or truth.  That’s an example of something thought to be true (with religious grounding) among a segment of Christianity but in actuality belonged to an archaic mind set.  The same could be said for palm readers, sorcery, magicians and witchcraft.  Throughout history, but especially in early history, belief in magic and people possessing magical powers was common.  Even Pharaohs and kings claimed magical and divine powers.  This too, was part of a primitive or archaic way of considering reality.  Perhaps you don’t agree.  But very few political leaders today claim divine or magical powers or insight into reality that others don’t possess.  We’ve moved beyond the primitive cultural perceptions of reality that belong to a past culture. And we can still believe in God.  So yes, Jeff, the Bible was written under the umbrella of an archaic culture in many ways and what was seen was witnessed through the lens of that culture.  That’s similar to the Puritans truly believing that many in their communities were witches and possessed by demons and should be burned at the stake.

One other thing, Jeff.  CS Lewis said (in your quote) he doesn’t deny miracles performed outside of Christianity or even through other religions (pagans).  But I would imagine he (and you) would deny the miracles that confirm the truth of other religions, such as the angel Gabriel being the agent though whom God gave Mohamed the Koran, or the angel Moroni revealing the golden plates (the book of Mormon) to Joseph Smith, therefor making those writings the God inspired writings and therefor without error.  It’s easy to acknowledge miracles if there is no great consequence involved.  We, as Christians, believe, similar to the Muslims and Mormons, that our Scriptures are the inspired word of God and therefor absolutely true.  On what basis do you know that Christianity is the one true religion and that Christ is the only way to God?  And is the reason you give the same reason they would give for believing their religion is the one true faith?

 

It seems that the possible presence of the miraculous or supernatural in other religions is a greater threat to the empiricist that it is to the Christian. 

I think rather than painting all Christians with one brush, you'd have to admit for a wide variety of viewpoints on this subject even within conservative Christianity. For example, this quote from CS Lewis : "I do not think that it is the duty of the Christian apologist (as many sceptics suppose) to disprove all stories of the miraculous which fall outside the Christian records…I am in no way committed to the assertion that God has never worked miracles through and for Pagans.” 

But to return to the original question-- are the miraculous and supernatural elements of the New Testament accounts archaic, or simply not in line with a modernistic worldview?

CS Lewis can speak of a “chronological snobbery,” but Christians have their own form of snobbery.  Christians can speak of their religion as though it is the only valid religion in existence.  Christianity considers itself as the exclusive religion, and other religions do the same. Religions tend to be mutually exclusive, but none more than Christianity. That’s the height of snobbery.  So when it comes to the miracles of other religions (miracles that are central to their faith) we, as Christians, discount them as groundless, unrealistic or unreasonable. Just consider how we view the many so called miracles of the Mormon religion or the Islamic faith.  And, of course, their miracles are backed up in their Scriptures which are fully inspired by God, like our Scriptures.  So how can we claim, we’re right and you’re wrong?   But didn’t you say, Jeff, that Christianity at its core is irreducibly miraculous.   It would seem that Christians use the same principles, to discount the miracles of other religions (and therefor those religions themselves), that these so called modernists use to discount Christianity’s miracles.  But, all the while. we claim that our miracles (which are central to our religion) are valid and should not be called into question.

We think modern science is unreasonable to call into question Christian claims (such as the six day creation account).  This is another example of Christian arrogance.  Christianity is not the only religion that has miraculous religious creation accounts.  Are scientists suppose deal with all the differing religions one at time.  Why is it that Christians think that their view of a miraculous creation is the only valid account and only one capable of standing up to the science of today?  Isn’t this another example of our snobbery?

Or as Christians, we send our missionaries into Islamic countries in order to get Muslims to change religions, even when it may mean they will suffer terrible persecution.  Isn’t this part of our Christian arrogance?  Our religion is not just better than yours, but ours is the only true religion and your is a false religion.  “So change and suffer. You’ll be better off.”

From inside our box of Christianity, we don’t think we are arrogant or snobs.  But from the outside we are seen as the epitome of snobbery.   So it doesn’t really do much good for CS Lewis or other Christians to criticize when the mud is really on our own faces.

You are right Jeff, everything old is not necessarily bad or outdated.  But, at the same time, there is much that is old or very old that is archaic or primitive.  And this whole spiritual warfare movement represents a first century mentality or world view that is archaic.  The fact that there is no objective verification for it confirms it’s primitive nature.  I did like the movie, “Ghost Busters,” but I’m not ready to claim that it represents reality.

Roger,

Granted. It just seems that there is a sense of what CS Lewis would call "chronological snobbery" in your earlier comments, the thought that because something is old it is therefore bad or discredited. Simply because something is ancient doesn't therefore mean that is archaic. Has modernity progressed in some ways? Certainly, but at the same time what is termed " reasonable" according to modernity is also often very reductionistic. The resurrection may seem very unreasonable to a modern worldview, but that may be more a judgment on the worldview and not on the resurrection.

I'm sure we can debate this, but historic orthodox Christianity at its core seems to be irreducibly miraculous. If we remove the miraculous from it as simply archaic, I'm not sure what we' re left with.

Perhaps third wave Pentecostalism's view of spiritual warfare isn't the formulation or framework or language most in harmony with reformed theology. But there are formulations out there that don't neglect or entirely discount this area. That's another discussion, I think.

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