Sep 27, 2011

Love this quote ...

Thomas Merton, in 1967, pronounced that the great crisis in the church is a crisis of authority precipitated because the church, as institution and organization, has overshadowed the reality of the church as a community of persons united in love and in Christ. He now charged that obedience and conformity with the impersonal corporation-church are a fact in the life of Christians. “The Church is preached as a communion, but is run in fact as a collectivity, and even as a totalitarian collectivity.

~ George Kilcourse, ACE OF FREEDOMS: Thomas Merton’s Christ, Notre Dame Press, 1993

Sep 26, 2011

Ecclesiastical Meanderings

In a recent online discussion, I found myself surrounded by burned-out Christians with a languorous disposition toward church life.  The bludgeoning these fellow sojourners received from the local church had left them duct-taping chunks of their very own souls. I had to admit that the  tattered cordage of their wills made lean the joy I was experiencing from having had found an amalgamated forum of Christ-lovers and theological enthusiasts. Yet, their complaints were nothing new. Our world has been experiencing a seismic-shift of disillusionment with the local church for quite some time. 

Here is a snapshot of the flag of their disposition in regards to the local church:

Leadership is in disarray. The pomposity of pastoral staff is reeking at an all time high. Greed, self-preservation, secrecy, and manipulation, have left an ineffable imprint upon the very psyche of those who have become burned-out from the local church. The church either suffers from an inward-focused culture that cherishes sin-management programs coupled with a “wearing of masks”, that portray a feckless apparition of their true self, or they are so outward-focused that they forget the simple call to make disciples, not marketing and production crews spawned from a factory of over-hyped, media-driven automatons watermarked with depthless worship encounters. 

People, I believe, are hungering for spiritual change and thirsting for authentic community. The ostensible theater of playing Church has become a pharisaical vessel of squalor on a waveless future. Christians, finding their souls in a bivouac of despair, are desperately seeking, re-envisioning, and hoping for a new wave of churches to arise or, at least, for some healthy reform to ensue. 

In the quest of creating a new church adventure, there is the danger that they may become experimental theaters of emergent illuminations, or embittered reactions that flounce between unrealistic ideals and rainbows of pure spiritual nonsense. My prayer is that they will be birthed in the theological DNA that translates the hints of God into a Christ-centered community of faith, hope, and love. However, none of this will matter unless true leadership appears.

Sep 13, 2011

The Frustration of Presumed Mediocrity and Superfluous Babbling

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I've just been subjected to a endless foray of psycho-babble.  No, I wasn't caught talking to myself. Rather, I have had to endure several sessions of bumper sticker preaching, that has been soaked in miniscule theology, and served with a heavy dose of salesmanship. I'm oozing with disdain.  Unfortunately, there are not many people who care to discuss these type of subjects. A good grip of people around me have a "eat-the-meat-and-spit-out-the-bones" kind of listening style when subjected to a “tasering” of preaching. I do, too, but I have to vent.  Ergo, I am venting via this media form.  It's therapeutic.  Anyway, I digress ... 

As a preacher, I know it is a very difficult thing to produce a palatable message for the Google infected audiences that surround us.  The Internet can provide a vast array of preaching styles within moments.  This is great for the listener but not so wondrous for the local preacher.  It's sort of like being a local band that's, at least, live compared to the packaged digital music onslaught of the internet/cable/whatever.  So, with that said, my hat off to the local preachers.  

However, I still find myself incredibly agitated by manipulative sermons, pompous windbags, hipster theology, archaic proliferations, fudgy glossalalia, and speculative meanderings that rob the thinking person of, well, thinking.  I just heard a pastor that spoke so fast that once his listener might realize that something he just said was not up to theological snuff, he was already three sentences into his next point. This is not a style problem. I know many preachers that preach that way and are very effective.  Regardless, it was very apparent that he was controlling his audience and hindering their growth.  I was tempted to raise my hand and ask him, with the love of Jesus in my heart, just what in the Hades he was talking about.  Utter nonsense.  

Herein lies my hope for would be preachers:  

1. Think:  Use your mind ... your God given mind ... to realize that not everyone who comes through your door is a simpleton.  Intelligence is not a sin. Freethinking is not a sin. People who don't agree with you are not, necessarily, wrong.    

2. Train: Seminary, teamwork, Internet, listen to other pastors, watch yourself on video, ... READ, etc. PRAY ... 

3. Test: Develop a healthy network or team of people who will lovingly, and with wisdom/skill, present constructive criticism. Also, if your style is filled with prophecies and outrageous statements ... those should be tested as well. 

Alright. I'm done. I still am thankful for those pastors.  We need everyone to rise up and answer the call that the Lord has placed on their hearts.  They just need to allow that "iron-sharpens-iron" mentality to permeate their being a bit more.  



Sep 12, 2011

Existential Angst

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Being complex creatures entitles us to a life of frustration in a world filled with reductionist solutions. When things are not going our way, we look for help. That's simple enough.  So, as we head out to the bookstore, local church, or favored website, we may become overloaded with simplistic procedures that promise to remedy our predicament. However, we are not simple creatures. There are obvious situations that come our way that are going to crush our spirit, and there will be no rudimentary procedure available to restore us to our former place of happiness. Even when things are going well, there is a high probability that a bittersweet sensation will be ever present. As Proverbs says, even in our laughter there will be sadness. (Prov. 14:13)


My boredom-driven frustration with so many Christian messages, today, is their tendency to reduce every problem down into a moral issue.  If, for example, our joy is gone, life is hard, friends are jerks, or our dog died, we shouldn't be surprised to hear, from these sources, that it is probably because of a simple moral failure on our behalf. I'm not saying that such may not be the case. Moral stupidity brings a truckload of difficulty into any person's life. And there are plenty of great resources available, regardless of simplicity, that may, in fact, be the solution to the problem. But, I'm talking about the reality that the entire human condition is more complex than any seven-step program can solve.  We are fallen people living in a fallen world with a God who is invisible. Those are the ingredients to an existence of trouble and anxiety.


What I hope to see is a broader acceptance of the mysteries of life in the Western Pop-Christian market.  There will always be a need for simple programs and solutions, but living in the tension between the promises of God and the failures of humanity needs a theology that cannot produce answers, just acceptance and worship.  We need to accept the fact that there are things in life beyond our control and we may never know, on this side of the grave, why God allowed them to happen.  They will (possibly, must) remain a mystery.  


Of course, writing things off as a mystery is also very reductionist.  Hmmm. Maybe, I need to write a seven-step program on how to nullify simplistic messages that ignore the mysteries of God.   



Sep 9, 2011

Interview with Greatness

As I sit here in utter bewilderment at the clientele that frequent all that is Panera West Palmdale, I ask myself one simple question: "Self, who would be the absolute most essential and relevant person in the world that I could interview right now?" Unfortunately, that person is not available. (Something about a restraining order and how illegal it is for me to be within a mile of that person). Ergo, I will have to settle for Noah Stepro. I mean, if his wife can do it, so can I.

I am literally filled with tingles as I wait for his arrival. That is probably due to the five cups of coffee I inhaled in a span of three minutes. Noah, of course, has no idea that I am going to interview him. Why should he? I'm just bored out of my mind and thought it would be fun. Well, at least it wouldn't be horrible. Kind of.

This place just packed out. I love how certain persons will take up an entire table that would normally hold seven people just so they can plug their computers into the wall. Geeks. I'm so envious.

Noah should be here soon. He may already be here. The line is so long that in curves out the door and ends across the street at Best Buy. I think. I didn't really look.

There's a couple about to make out at a table next to me. For the love of God people, I'm married! Knock off this freak show.

Add 2 more cups of coffee.

Geesh. I'm actually losing interest in doing this. Maybe I should just make up the interview? It would be more interesting anyway. Here's a sneak peek:

Awesome Dude: Mr. Stepro, How were you able to subdue the terrorist plot?

Noah: Google.

Awesome Dude: Of course.

He arrived! Now he's off to the bathroom. As a real investigative journalist, I decide to go through his backpack while he's detained. It is filled with nothing I can mention. I don't want him to get in trouble with his wife. I did decide to pocket a thumb drive, for investigative reasons.

Awesome Dude: Mr. Stepro, ....

Actually, he just left.

We never got around to it.