I just finished reading Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell. It was a quick and interesting read and made me continue to think about my faith and working it out in our every changing world. I liked the book, not because it was profoundly challenging, but because it put some substance and articulation to a lot of what I have been already thinking about. Granted, there are things I don’t agree with, which is fine, but for what it is, I think it is definitely worth the read. In terms of critique, I find some of his interpretations of scripture troubling…not necessarily the bad kind of “troubling”…just the “I never thought about it like that before and I need to find out more” kind of “troubling” (an example would be his interpretation of Binding and Loosing).
School is over and I finally get a reprieve from reading school assigned books and doing papers. I am looking forward to these next few days and being able to read books I want. I have several on the “to read” pile that I have been looking forward to and will no doubt make some comments on them in the bloggs to follow.
I bought and finished the book “Preaching Re-imagined” by Doug Pagitt this week and it was one of the most challenging books I have read on preaching. I am not saying I agree with every thing Doug says but he make some valid points and compelling critiques on preaching as speaking and offers what I think is a viable alternative (although I still have questions and concerns with it). He echoes a lot of the sentiments that I have felt and others I know have expressed when it comes to the typical way of preaching and speaking. I have a lot of questions about how “progressional preaching” would actually function and work and hope that I would watch it in action some day. Regardless, he makes several great points and even if you disagree with his solution his critique of the current style/process of preaching as speaking is compelling and worth reading.
I just finished reading Gordon MacDonald’s book, “Ordering Your Private World” for class and I was struck but the following quote:
“Almost every pastor is judged on the basis of whether he/she has a vision. And this usually means a vision of how the church can grow, grow, grow. The pastoral care of the people – which for hundreds of years has been the aim of a church – is less important in comparison to the gathering of more people.” (Page 35)
I was struck not because it was a new idea for something I have never heard of before, but because it was speaking to something inside of me. Maybe it is part of my personality but there has always been a drive in me – a voice telling me to do more, grow more ministries, or get more people. I am not sure why that is and there is probably a deep physiological reason for it I’m sure, but it is there and our North Americian church culture doesn’t help it. I’m a creator, visionary and entrepreneurial by nature, all of which are qualities I’m proud of but I am prone to what Gordon MacDonald describes. That is my fear – that my drive becomes vision, growth and ministries rather then people. The Kingdom of God is not an institution, ministry or a human creation but people. I know that by my effort I can grow an institution and maybe even a ministry but I can not under my power or effort grow the Kingdom of God and that is what I am commissioned and called to do. I love people don’t get me wrong, but maybe like you, it is hard to consider successful what our world (and dare I say even some churches) doesn’t seem to consider important.
I just finished the book God is Closer Than You Think by John Ortberg. Ortberg is a gifted communicator and this book comes across as what it is meant to be a written sermon. I am sure that is how it started or ended up: as a sermon series at Meno Park. It was a fast read and here are a few quotes from it that I found interesting:
“Thomas Merton once said that if you find God with great ease, perhaps it is not God that you have found.” As a guy who is half introverted and half extroverted and a contemplative it was a great reminder that my struggle at times to find God is a good struggle and an essential part of my spirituality.
I was also struck by the quote from Karl Barth: “God would rather be the suffering God of a suffering people than the blest God of an unblest people.” Ortberg adds to this by talking about “the cross as the ultimate paradox: God experiencing the absence of God so that he can draw close to us in our loss and grief.” The whole paradox idea in Christianity is something I want to explore further with a movie review I want to write soon on “Primer.”