Thinking Out Loud

October 16, 2017

Skye Jethani’s State of the Modern Church Address

Those of have heard Skye Jethani speak, be it a sermon, conference message, or podcast conversation, know him to both extremely forthright and wonderfully articulate on matters related to church and culture. He brings this gift to a new book, Immeasurable: Reflections on the Soul of Ministry in the Age of Church, Inc. released last week by Moody Press.

The book is a series of 24 short essays on various aspects of church and ministry leadership; interconnected, but presented such they can be studied in any order. While I have heard him touch on many of these before, as assembled here, much of this material was new to me.

Skye Jethani’s forté is analysis, and a major part of his analytical toolkit is a knowledge of the broader sweep of modern church history, some of this no doubt afforded by his years serving in various departments of Christianity Today, Inc. and as a local church pastor. While much ink has been spilled over the last 20 years lamenting the state of the modern church in North America, Australia/New Zealand and Western Europe, the words here are more prescriptive; a look at where the church may have lost its way presented alongside healthy doses of routes we might take to get back on track. Each essay ends with two or three “next step” questions or applications.

Some standout chapters for me — many of which were brought to life through some clever analogies — included:

1. Ambition (and motivation; always a good place to start)
3. Wastefulness (versus efficiency which can enslave us)
6. Dramas (there are three playing out in church leadership)
8. Simplicity (versus the complexity we see everywhere else, discussed in chapter 9)
9. Complexity (the longest chapter in the book; Jethani at his best)
10. Redundancy (an interesting approach to the matter of pastoral succession)
12. Illumination (another longer chapter; on sermon expectation and who might preach)
15. Platform (this chapter is gold; a look at how we confer authority in the local church)
16. Celebrity (analysis of the rise of the “Evangelical Industrial Complex”)
18. Consumers (again, I preferred the longer chapters; this one is about church choices; some of the other chapters not listed I would like to have seen fleshed out in greater detail.)

And then there was chapter 24, an even more autobiographical essay which strikes at the heart of ministry from the author’s early experiences as a hospital chaplain. A fitting ending in so many respects.

On a personal level, if I’ve learned nothing else in the last 20 years, I’ve learned that while ecclesiology is by definition the domain of pastors, books about ecclesiology are widely read by a variety of lay-people who who feel a sense of ownership in the local churches in their community. With so much reconstruction taking place in the look, feel and purpose of weekend gatherings; many want to champion these changes while others are fearful of going too far and thereby losing the plot. So while the book is being marketed more as an academic title for Bible college or classroom discussion, I think the finished product is something I would encourage many of my friends to read.

 


Read a short sample from Immeasurable at this link

Related: Skye Jethani on news and media

Related: A review of the 2012 title, With.


Photo: Skye Jethani on the weekly Phil Vischer podcast.


Thanks to Martin Smith at Parasource Distribution & Marketing for a review copy of Immeasurable.

March 10, 2016

Throwback Thursday

Recent comments by Dr. Russell Moore on how he wants to distance himself from the term Evangelical has sparked various discussions including one on this week’s edition of  The Phil Vischer Podcast about the rise of a new category, Progressive Evangelicals. I was reminded of a very lengthy post we did four years ago when a large controversy was happening over a book written by Rachel Held Evans.

We live in a time when battle lines are being drawn between conservative Christians and progressive Christians. I usually find myself standing somewhere in between, trying to build a bridge between both groups; trying to maintain doctrinal orthodoxy while at the same time recognizing that this ain’t 1949 or 1953 or 1961. It’s 2012 already.The world changed in-between; the world changed last year; the world changed last week.

We need to be mindful of the duality as we interact with the broader culture; as we live between two worlds; as we exist as aliens and strangers, having citizenship in another country; but having to live, eat, breathe, work and play in a world that’s not our permanent home. (See graphic below.)

To that end, we need authors and publishers who will translate our message into the vernacular of the day, or even the hour. We need books and book distribution networks that will illustrate Christian worldview in a way that people can understand.

In the end, the books we create should, at times, make us uncomfortable.

Christians Live in Two Worlds


If you’ve ever visited the blog platform Patheos, you’ve also seen that bloggers are divided into two categories, Evangelical and Progressive Christian (as well as Orthodox and Catholic, but strangely, not Mainline Protestant).  I’ve always felt that Patheos was ahead of the curve on this one in terms of making the distinction long before some had consciously considered the differences.


Another throwback: As I write this one of the many, many debates concerning Donald Trump’s aspirations to be U.S. President surrounds the idea of having someone elected to the position who is not a career politician, not a Washington Beltway insider. Some feel this makes Trump uniquely qualified.

Four years ago, we did a tongue-in-cheek post about a guy who is visiting a church and notices a board vacancy in the bulletin. He makes an argument for the refreshing perspective of someone who is not a congregation insider:

Dear Nominating Committee;

Visiting your church for the first time last Sunday, I noticed an announcement in the bulletin concerning the need for board members and elders for the 2012-2013 year. I am herewith offering my services.

While I realize that the fact I don’t actually attend your church may seem like a drawback at first, I believe that it actually lends itself to something that would be of great benefit to you right now: A fresh perspective.

Think about it — I don’t know any one of you by name, don’t know the history of the church and have no idea what previous issues you’ve wrestled with as a congregation. Furthermore, because I won’t be there on Sundays, I won’t have the bias of being directly impacted by anything I decide to vote for or against. I offer you pure objectivity.

Plus, as I will only be one of ten people voting on major issues, there’s no way I can do anything drastic single-handedly. But at the discussion phase of each agenda item, I can offer my wisdom and experience based on a lifetime of church attendance in a variety of denominations.

Churches need to periodically have some new voices at the table. I am sure that when your people see a completely unrecognizable name on the ballot, they will agree that introducing new faces at the leadership level can’t hurt.

I promise never to miss a board or committee meeting, even if I’m not always around for anything else.

I hope you will give this as much prayerful consideration as I have.

Most sincerely,

November 20, 2011

If Luther Were Alive Today…

…Here’s a list of 95 Theses he might post for our generation

This has been available online for just over a year. Just as Martin Luther posted his ‘memo’ with 95 ‘bullet points’ to the door of the Castle Church at Wittenberg, so also did Greg Gordon offer this to the church today. Internet etiquette requires you to click the title link below to read it on the original site, but since some won’t, it’s also appears here in full.

95 THESES TO THE MODERN EVANGELICAL CHURCH by Greg Gordon

I believe many need to hear these truths and they are shared in the humility of my weakness and lack in my own Christian Life. May all of these lead people to experience the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ and to proclaim His Gospel clearly and accurately. May God in His mercy come and revive, reform and renew North American Christianity for His glory alone. “May the Lamb of God receive the reward of His sufferings in our lives today!” – Greg Gordon (founder of SermonIndex.net.)

1. The “church” at large has forgotten that the chief end of man is to glorify God. (Rom 16:27; 1Cor 6:20; Mt 6:9; 1Cor 10:31)

2. Christians ignore most of the methods, practices and principles found in the book of Acts. (Acts 2:42,44; Acts 2:46; Acts 2:38)

3. Many treat “church” like any other social club or sports event that they might attend. (Acts 2:46; Heb 10:25; Acts 1:14)

4. We’ve made Christianity about the individual rather than the community of believers. (Rom 12:5; 1Cor 12:12; 2Tim 4:16)

5. In most “churches” the priesthood of all believers isn’t acknowledged and the role of pastor is abused. (1Pt 2:9; 1Cor 12:12; Eph 4:11-13)

6. The “church” as a whole has lost the concept of their being grafted into the promises given to Israel. (Rom 11:15, 17-18, 20, 25)

7. There needs to be a recovery of teaching the whole counsel of God, especially in expository form. (Acts 20:27; 1Tim 4:6, 2Tim 2:15)

8. We take it too lightly that we have the blessing and honor of having God’s Scriptures in our possession. (Ps 119:16; Acts 13:44; Neh 8:9)

9. There has never been more access to the Word of God, yet so little reading of it. (1Tim 4:13; Neh 8:1-3; Ps 119:59)

10. Some read the Scriptures to attain knowledge, but do not practice what they read. (Jam 1:22; Mt 7:21; 3Jn 4)

11. Worship has become an idol in many “churches.” The music often resembles that of the world. (Amos 5:23; Phil 4:8; 1Jn 5:21)

12. The world is shaping the views of the “church” more than the “church” shaping the world. (Rom 12:2; Mt 5:13; 1Cor 1:22-23)

13. The “church” spends more money on dog food than on missions. (2Cor 9:6; Lk 21:2; Acts 4:34-35)

14. We take lightly the cost of discipleship laid out by Jesus Christ and do not deny our lives. (Lk 14:33; Lk 14:26-27; Mt 8:19-20)

15. There is a lack of true discipleship and making others to be obedient disciples. (Mt 28:20; 2Tim 2:2; 2Tim 2:14)

16. Many subscribe to the error that parts of life are to be spiritual while others are to be secular. (1Pt 4:2; Col 3:3; 1Jn 2:6)

17. Modern Christians often find Jesus’ command to sacrifice and serve abhorrent. (Phil 2:21; Jam 3:16; Rom 12:1-2)

18. Self disciplines in the Christian life such as fasting and praying are considered legalistic. (2Tim 2:21; 2Tim 1:8; Mt 6:17)

19. Little thought and contemplation is put towards the lostness of men, the seriousness of the Gospel. (Phil 3:8; Gal 2:20; Heb 10:34)

20. We are living with an epidemic of cheap grace with flippant confession and shallow consecration. (Lk 14:28-30; Lk 14:26; Jam 4:8) (more…)

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