Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Doing Life Together While Living Far Apart

Our friends are moving. Our youngest daughter is upset, but I think that my wife and I are the ones who are devastated  We've enjoyed BBQ and the big games. We've babysat for each other. We've borrowed tools and shared eggs and sugar. And who's going to watch our dog? Good neighbors are really hard to find. 

Doing life together is what family does by default. It's what friends do by choice. Then there is the body of Christ. The church family is supposed to "do life together". But that's increasingly hard when many of its members live so far apart. Tim Chester lays out the following options:
1. Join or plant local churches  I wonder how many churches people pass as they drive half an hour to church each Sunday. Some will be dead and ready for burial. But many will be good churches. They may not be as good as the church people attend. But they may be faithful and engaged in their locality. Why do people do this?It reflects a consumer mentality. We shop for churches like we shop for groceries. If we don’t like the product then we take our business elsewhere. We end up at the big convenience store with the large parking lot and the local shops in Main Street that the old and the poor have to use wither and decline.A particular instance of the consumer mentality, but a very common one is this. If church doesn’t have a big children’s programme then we find another church. Who’s going to say we shouldn’t out our children’s spiritual needs first? Me! A lot of Christians have made an idol of their families. So it becomes an excuse not to do mission or community. Look at what Jesus has to say about biological families. It is all negative! Really, it is. ‘Anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me’ (Matthew 10:37). That’s what Jesus said. Get over it. And think about what moving church for children teaches our children. That the world revolves around them. That church is there to entertain them. That relationships with peers matter more than relationships with  people who unlike them. At best you will teach you children to be church-attenders. You will have missed a big opportunity to teach them to be radical disciples and missionaries.
2. Move closer to one another  Come back to our church in New Jersey. One of the members lives in a neighbourhood of homes, fairly well defined. It centres around a lake. There is a strong sense of neighbourhood, an active residents’ association, regular community events. This Christian family are getting to know their neighbours and last year they ran a backyard Bible school. Imagine if two other families moved into that neighbourhood with perhaps a single person living with one of the families. Now you have a team of seven, attending the church each Sunday, but then working together to reach that neighbourhood. Building relationships with neighbours. Getting involved in the residents’ association. Praying together. Sharing their lives. Involving unbelievers in their shared life. In time holding Bible studies. Dynamite!There are six or seven households represented in the gospel community to which I belong back in Sheffield. All but one of those intentionally moved to be in that area, to reach that area together, to be community. With one exception, we all live within ten minutes walk of each other. Sharing lives is easy! The weekend before I came to the States, one family send a text round saying anyone is welcome to watch our equivalent of American Idol with them. You all watch American Idol – go on admit it. So why not watch it together? It’s a lot more fun!
3. Jump in the car  Again, come back to our church in New Jersey. Some members lives one hour from each other. But of course they are all spread out across the area. So in fact most of them live within ten minutes of several other members. So why not cluster together with those who are near? Ten minutes is not far.I live in an urban area. If you said someone lived ten minutes away then everyone would assume you meant ten minutes walk. Maine is clearly far more rural. Your state is roughly the same size as my country with the population of my city! But that shapes your pattern of life. It shapes the way people think about community and neighborhood. In Sheffield 20 minutes feels like a long way away. But here you travel 20 minutes to get your groceries. So 20 minutes is near. You make that kind of journey several times a week. So why not jump in the car and pop over to see someone? Why not call and say, ‘We’re about to watch American Idol. Why don’t you come over and watch it with us?’
If you can drive 20 minutes to Walmart, why can’t you drive 20 minutes to share life with members of your Christian community?

Monday, August 20, 2012

In God We Trust

Here's a great reminder during this election year from my prof. John Frame:
But what the Bible would teach us above all in this situation is this: we should not put our trust in government, private industry, or economic theory, whether capitalist or socialist. All of these have failed us miserably in the present crisis, and many times in history. We should not be looking to government to make us wealthy or to deal with the sins that have led our nation to this point in history. Now as ever, we should trust only in “the name of the Lord our God” (Ps. 20:7), the name of Jesus Christ.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Why the Chick-fil-A Flap Matters

Long lines on Chick-fil-A appreciation day
I love Chick-fil-A. We don't have one in our town, so when we travel, it's a treat to get their Chargrilled Chicken Club Sandwich smothered in extra Honey Roasted BBQ sauce. It's enough to make my mouth water just thinking about it. So when all the commotion surrounding  Dan Cathy's defense of "the biblical definition of the family unit" broke loose, I saw it as just another opportunity to go to one of my favorite restaurants. Nevermind that the nearest one is over 20 miles away.

Protesters standing against Chick-fil-A
But, of course, much more is at stake than a good chicken sandwich. Marriage and family issues are vital to the health of any society. What we believe about what constitutes a marriage matters immensely. The reaction to Dan Cathy's comments--both pro and con--are evidence of this fact. In the end, truth matters and people will stand up for what they believe in. My appeal to those who stand for traditional marriage (which I enthusiastically embrace) and those who are pressing for non-traditional forms of family units, is to remain civil in the discourse. John S. Ehrett recently wrote a clear and compelling article, "Playing Chicken with the Law: Chick-fil-A and the demise of responsible discourse." He closes the article explaining why the manner in which we engage in debate matters:
First, the aggressive demonization of one’s public opponents – and the suggestion that opponents are undeserving of constitutional rights – must stop. Few issues are more critical to a liberal society (using the term “liberal” in its classical sense). Real “tolerance” – and basic ethical treatment of others –requires that one respect others’ right to disagree.
Second, private pressure must be the catalyst for social change. Those who disagree with Chick-fil-A’s position on marriage have a number of options: they may choose to take their casual-dining business elsewhere; they may demonstrate against the restaurant chain; they may petition the company’s leadership to change its stance. Resorting to political arm-twisting sets an unhealthy and subversive precedent.
The ideological majority of today may be the ideological minority of tomorrow. Ruling factions must not establish a precedent of suppressing dissent...or risk the tables being turned upon them. And that, in a free society, is the death-knell of liberty. 
Suggesting that others no longer have a right to their opinion – even if that opinion runs counter to prevailing societal currents – is unethical at best and tyrannical at worst.
To read the rest of John Ehrett's click here.