Posted in: Esther and the 2nd Amendment
Creating equivalency between Esther and today’s gun debate has its challenge. For example, the passage that allows for self-defense also advocates for plundering the property of enemies. Still, if the argument is for self-protection then advocate against guns not for them. In the U.S. a person is ten times more likely to die by gunshot than in any other developed country precisely because of the proliferation of guns. Additionally, homes with guns are statistically less safe than homes without.
My real concern, however, is the choice of buying a gun for the purpose of meeting violence with violence. To be a Jesus follower is to embrace an ethic of non-violence. This is not absolute, of course. Leaving the upper room Jesus permitted his disciples to take a couple swords with them. But the night ended with Jesus repairing an aggressor’s ear severed by one of those swords. And the following day Jesus prayed for those violently taking his life with the words, “Father forgiven them for they know not what they do.”
Of the disciples carrying those swords for self-protection John Calvin wrote: “It was truly shameful and stupid ignorance that the disciples, after having been so often informed about bearing the cross, imagine that they must fight with swords of iron.” Today, I suppose, John Calvin would speak against carrying guns of iron.
Like most Americans I can live with guns for sport, built for sport. I cannot, however, figure out how Christians can advocate for guns built for self-defense or, worst, acts of assault or aggression. Somehow the American ethic of gun ownership has overcome the Christian ethic of non-violence.
Posted in: Esther and the 2nd Amendment
What you describe, Doug, is an experience far from any I have known. During my 62 years I've never been threatened by a crazed attacker nor had anyone order a contract killing against me or the ones I love. I live in a community where we keep doors unlocked and where a well-functioning society with an empowered police force provides more than sufficient protection for daily living.
My prayer is that the dystopian world you describe doesn't become the mental framework for conversations about guns and gun control. I fear a devolving society in which every person becomes a law unto themselves and every person, by necessity, carries a side arm to protect themselves and those they love. That certainly is not God's intended society of shalom but a society of chaos and upheaval. I believe that it is the duty of every Christian to invest every effort to create communities where people can live at peace and without fear. When we give into our worst fears and embrace violence in response to violence we promote the very brokenness we are called to confront.
Posted in: Becoming a Low Bar/High Bar Congregation
Thanks Ben for your insightful and helpful comments.
Posted in: Rightsizing Smaller Congregations
Twenty years ago I pastored a congregation immediately following an exodus of members to form a new non-denominational ministry. The congregation requested permission to move from "organized" to "emerging." This decision proved helpful for several reasons. First, we were partnered with another congregation that provided ministry support. Second, we were able to form a steering committee from the most gifted members (both men and women) who were specifically focused on revitalization rather than maintenance. Third, the obligations for ministry beyond our own congregation (i.e. classis and denomination) were significantly reduced. Finally, it created a new atmosphere of urgency, fresh beginnings, creative thinking, permission for risk taking and the assumption that business as usual would have to embrace change.
I'd suggest joyfully embracing emerging status when it becomes clear that resources are limited, ministry focus is necessary and a ministry partner would be beneficial.
Posted in: Vision Casting: Essential Work of Elders
Let’s think about this a little further.
In Acts 6 the apostles resist “the daily doing of ministry” by saying “no” to waiting on tables. They conclude that their focus must be on prayer and ministry of the Word.
Why invest in prayer and ministry of the word? Is it not to discern and communicate God’s will for His people? And what is discerning God’s will for His people all about? Is it not discovering a picture of God’s preferred future for His church and His world? And isn’t a picture of God’s preferred future just another name for vision? So to the extent that the work of pastors/elders is about prayer and ministry of the Word it is also about seeking and articulating a biblical vision.
Blessed are churches led by pastors/elders who can say with the apostle Paul, “I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven” (Acts 26:19).
Posted in: Keeping An Eye On Your CVI
As the author of "Keeping Your Eye on Your CVI" I'd like to make another try at speaking into the CVI.
As I read the helpful and thoughtful comments made about the article I heard folk saying "numbers should not be the measure of ministry." To that I say a hearty "amen." Numbers cannot capture the full story of an authentic missional move. I was reminded of that during a recent visit to several Northern New Jersey churches who's Yearbook numbers do not reflect the vibrancy of their after school programs, half-way houses, investment in local neighborhoods, discipleship programs, youth projects, dynamic Gospel preaching and the like. I was humbled by what I discovered.
So numbers cannot be a measure of ministry but they are often a helpful reflection on aspects of ministry that need our attention in the same way that high cholesterol numbers are a call to action even if a person feels entirely healthy.
Take for example one of the CVI numbers; namely, persons coming into the life of the congregation through evangelism. If evangelism is defined as persons who were disconnected from faith and faith family who are now connected to faith and faith family and if that number is a small handful over an entire decade then those numbers may indicate the need for a congregation to focus on a more intentional discipleship pathway. In other words, the congregation may be good at building bridges from the church into the community but not so good at building bridges from the community into the church. Evangelism numbers can identify this concern and lead to practical solutions to an important ministry opportunity.
Numbers, rightly understood, are a friend to ministry leadership. They provide the opportunity to increase urgency, focus resources and develop a renewed vision of becoming intentional missional congregations that make more and better disciples.
Posted in: Simple Steps to Faith Sharing
Thanks Marian for your insights and your question.
Yes, you are exactly right that sharing faith is all about relationships. Relationships are God's tilled field for the Gospel. The Church Renewal Lab emphasizes this reality as we teach the importance of nurturing a "personal parish" where everyone invests in intentional relationships with those God places in our path.
The three-step plan suggested in this article seeks to provide simple training so followers of Jesus are able to give answer to the hope that is within them. Recently I put this into practice with a young person God put in my path. Our first meeting was not faith connected but during subsequent gatherings I began to introduce "God-words" into our conversation so he understood that I was a person of faith. During an extended coffee time a couple months later I asked if I could share my testimony with him and when he tragically lost a couple friends in a drowning accident I was able to share the hope of the Gospel.
Moving from God-words, to testimony to sharing the Gospel has been an important part of my own faith sharing journey.