Friday, February 27, 2009
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Today's OC Register had a front page article on former LA Times religion journalist William Lobdell's new book in which he chronicles his journey into the Christian faith and his more recent total loss of faith (linked here http://www.ocregister.com/articles/lobdell-religion-church-2316379-losing-times)
He is the married father of four boys who first came to embrace a born again faith in his late twenties after visiting Mariners Church and then going on a mountain retreat. Over the ensuing years, he and his wife identified with St. Andrews Presbyterian Church before finally embracing his wife's childhood Roman Catholic faith. The "unraveling" of his Christian commitment began in 2001 while reporting on the about-to-blow-wide-open scandal of child abuse by Roman Catholic priests. The article claims this was further helped along by Lobdell's closer look at televangelists like Benny Hinn (now THERE'S a shock!).
Haven't read the book and probably won't, but I have been "up close and personal" with folks who have either deeply doubted their faith or lost it altogether before, so I feel I know Lobdell's story by instinct if not by detail. I observe that such people do not respond well to the typical "proofs of God's existence" or other apologetics. Often, the faith crisis is precipitated by an emotional or interpersonal set of experiences that leave the person reeling and confused. For some, their crisis resolves as a deeper, more mature new faith commitment. For others, it ends with the person becoming a "reluctant athiest" (Lobdell's own words) for good.
Reading the story in today's paper brought a few particular people to my mind -- people I really care for -- who have, nevertheless, lost their faith and dissociated themselves from their earlier Christian identity and convictions. This is always hard to watch because I believe so deeply in Jesus Christ and have made it my life-long effort to follow Him and to go where that belief leads me. Therefore, I ache when I see others become offended, discouraged, distraught and emptied of their faith after making strong public confessions as believers -- especially when I have engaged in my own struggles to reconcile my inconsistencies as well as the inconsistincies (and even frauds!) of others who claim Christ as Lord.
In light of this, I sent the following email response to the Editor:
"After living a lifetime as a born again Christian, I observe the following: The best people I know, those I admire most and wish to be most like are Christians. And, the people I feel most disappointed in, the ones who frustrate me most deeply and who nearly break my heart are also Christians. Thus has it always been, thus will it always be."
More about faith, doubt and total loss on my next post.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Thursday, February 5, 2009
2. That the attention now given to man-made global warming will be diverted to the issue of man-made ridiculous executive compensation packages.
3. That our new President will get off to a rough start.
4. The best way to stop fighting in the Middle East will be to give everyone access to a good TV set and a subscription to cable.
5. That the public education system will collapse under its own ponderous weight and the children and their teachers will dance on the rubble.
6. That second-hand smoke will come to be seen as the single most important issue in the entire free world.
7. That Arnold Schwartzenager will spontaneously combust.
8. That religious leaders who are in the public eye will have a tough time making sense to people who do not already believe as they do when it comes to any given subject.
9. That, very soon, both Democrats and Republicans will lose credibility with the public and the US will be ruled by the Queen of the Wood Elves.
10. That Facebook and email will go completely blank for one day and everyone will die as a result.
Sunday, February 1, 2009
To understand this notion, it would help to understand three things:
1. Wimber was a biblical literalist. He believed that the "stuff" (his term) we read about in the Gospels and Acts is the same kind of "stuff" that should be happening through and around Christ-followers today. This belief continuously impacted his view of church life, evangelism and contemporary Christianity.
2. Wimber lived as a totally non-churched "pagan" until he was well into his adulthood. In fact, were it not for the outreach of a persistant and bold layman from his neighborhood, it is hard to imagine how a man like him would have ever become a believer, much less a highly-influential church leader. In other words, his own encounter with Jesus as Lord began in the "everyday" place of his house.
3. As a church consultant for a prominent Church Growth institute, Wimber had an intense personal knowledge of the mainstream evangelical church of his time. What he personally saw and experienced through his interaction with thousands of pastors and church leaders only deepened his convictions that churches were too often functionally and philisophically at odds with their own stated mission.
The movement John Wimber led is now more than twenty five years old and he himself has passed on to Glory. Throughout its development, the Vineyard movement has had to struggle to retain the outward, everyday vision for ministry that informed John's sensibilities. But if he were still with us today, I believe he would be pointing us back to "the street" -- calling us to take risks by initiating "street level" contact with people who need Jesus.
Frankly, I don't know if he would have totally understood or even approved of our VCMN network. John was a church planter and a great believer in the local church as it is usually constituted in America. But one thing I DO know, is that he would love to hear the stories we are beginning to tell of how our members are taking the ministry of Jesus to neighborhoods and other everyday places.
These stories of loving God and loving neighbor smack of the down-to-earth discipleship John insisted upon. Maybe, just maybe, it would bless him to see that we agree that "the meat is in the street" and are willing to take the kinds of risks that go with sharing the Gospel in word and works in the places people live, work, learn and recreate (our VCMN mission). And, we're just getting started!