Saturday, May 31, 2008

First Annual Cherry Festival 5k run.

Tony encouraged several of us to participate in the Cherry Festival's first annual 5k run. Everyone had a great time. Ben had the fastest time, but Christine was the true champion. She watched ten kids (including the one in the oven) during the race and transported them from the start to finish line.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Newsweek and I Agree?

The following is taken from the June 2, 2008 issue of Newsweek. Lisa Miller writes the "Belief Watch" column and actually does an excellent job identifying the weaknesses of the Evangelical Manifesto (see my earlier post). You can find the article online here:

The Milquetoast Manifesto

What if the evangelicals wrote a manifesto and nobody cared? It was supposed to be a decisive document, a credo that unified American evangelicals around the Christian principles that form the foundations of their faith. It would restore to American evangelicals a sense of mission and history—giving them permission to look beyond party politics for their values while at the same time urging them to be orthodox and ethical in their lives and in the world. Instead, "An Evangelical Manifesto" was released three weeks ago to almost no fanfare. Aside from a handful of news stories and some dutiful intervarsity sniping online, the fallout from the "Evangelical Manifesto" was—and continues to be—less than earth-shattering.

The idea for the manifesto was born three years ago in the mind of Os Guinness, a Virginia-based evangelical intellectual. He was inspired to write it, he told NEWSWEEK, after speaking with people who were so disillusioned with the way that evangelicals were conducting themselves in politics—and with the way they were portrayed in the press—that they no longer cared to label themselves "evangelical." So together with people like Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., and David Neff, editor of Christianity Today, Guinness drafted his manifesto: seven Christian principles that every evangelical could agree on.

There's an old joke, "Ask two Jews, get three opinions," and the same could be said for evangelicals. In the end, the manifesto was so vetted that, for all its 20 pages, it didn't say much: "Evangelicals are Christians who define themselves, their faith and their lives according to the Good News of Jesus of Nazareth." Stop the presses. Then it went on to say that evangelicals believe that "Jesus Christ is fully God become fully human" and that salvation comes through grace, not deeds. Far more revealing was what the document did not tackle head on: the subject of the inerrancy of Scripture, which more than any other issue divides fundamentalists from the rest of the evangelical crowd; the obligation to convert the unconverted to Christ and the appropriateness of doing so in the public square; and, most important in this election season, the kind of civic engagement required of evangelicals beyond the old wedge framework. Michael Cromartie is vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center; he was asked to sign the manifesto but declined. "You put this document down and you say, 'OK, I agree with this, but who do we want on the court? Do we want Obama deciding judges?' "

Indeed, suspicion in conservative circles that the manifesto really amounts to a green light for evangelicals to vote for Obama runs high, and it's hard to find a name-brand right-wing Christian among the signers. James Dobson of Focus on the Family has not signed it. Neither has Prison Fellowship's Chuck Colson or Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention. Also missing are the most recognizable evangelical megapastors. Bill Hybels, of Willow Creek, is not on the list. And though Rick Warren helped draft the document and was rumored to be among the signers, he is not. "Dr. Warren felt more input was needed from all segments of evangelicals," says a spokesman. "His role, consistent with his calling and leadership style, is to bridge different groups." Mouw can barely contain his frustration over how little his efforts have yielded. "I do not support gay marriage. I do not support the ordination of gays. I am a right-to-lifer. Does that make me a lefty?" he asks. As Wheaton College professor Alan Jacobs rightly observes, the problem with the "Evangelical Manifesto" is that it's not a manifesto at all. It's polite and embracing—a welcome change in religious discourse—but it's porridge. America's evangelicals, especially those struggling with consciences about how to vote in November, deserve better.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Theology of Technology

There is a story in yesterday’s Boston Globe on mainline Protestant’s (i.e., liberal Protestants) use of technology in the church. Fearing that they are falling behind evangelicals, they are training their future leaders in “high-tech evangelization.” The story can be found in its entirety here:

The motivation seems to be the fear that more conservative groups are getting ahead because they know how to use a computer:

Saying evangelicals have gotten too far ahead of mainline Protestants in the use of technology to reach out to the unchurched, a liberal Protestant seminary here is launching a new program to train future clergy in high-tech evangelization.

"The conservative evangelical community has been way ahead, and the progressive community has been lagging behind," said the Rev. Nick Carter, president of Andover Newton. "Initially there was a knee-jerk reaction on the part of mainline and progressive churches - 'That's what they do' - but now there's more of a sense that maybe they've got something there."

Carter said that the slow pace of adopting technology in some mainline churches reflects a lack of outreach. He cited as an example how difficult it is on many church websites to find the time of a worship service, because the sites are aimed at insiders.

Their response has been not just to renovate their websites but to change the structure of their worship services as well:

Andover Newton has just completed construction of a chapel that is fully wired for video and audio projection and recording. In the sacristy, next to the chalices and candelabras, is a NetLinx integrated controller that operates the sanctuary systems. Brass plates on the sanctuary floor cover data and electrical outlets. And everything that takes place in the chapel is fed into a lower-level room that this summer will become the Massachusetts Bible Society media center, with a recording studio and mixing station.

Yet, the new technology is just being used to promote the same, tired spin:

The Bible Society has adopted a new slogan, "one book, many voices," to reflect its view that there are multiple possible interpretations of the Bible, and has launched, a website that allows readers to ask a professor a question about the Bible. Robertson said the Bible Society is hoping to use the Andover Newton media enter to record and broadcast lectures and other programs.
And the last several paragraphs struck me as particularly interesting:

A study this year by the Barna Group, a Christian research firm, found that 65 percent of Protestant congregations have large-screen projection systems in the
church, but that usage varies by theology: 68 percent of conservative churches
use video projection, compared with only 43 percent of liberal churches.

"In certain corners of the Christian community, using screens and digital imagery and amplified music are very common and familiar and accepted without question, while in other parts there's still a lot of even theological questions about whether it's appropriate," said Mary E. Hess, a specialist in the use of technology in theological education and an associate professor of educational leadership at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn.

"Within churches that are particularly interested in reaching out . . . you see more use of screens, film clips, recorded music, and a whole host of kinds of innovation," she said. However, technology is used less in churches with deep liturgical traditions, such as Catholic and Lutheran churches and in congregations where there is concern that technology "is disembodying, that somehow these technologies separate

The story interested me for two reasons.

First, it is interesting because of what it reveals about mainline, liberal Protestants (or, as they like to call themselves, “progressives”). They embrace those of other faiths…but evangelicals are their competition. In other words, they might participate in multi-faith services in a mosque, but evangelicals are dangerous and progressives need to work to reach as many people as the crazies (my words, not theirs). It also reveals they believe it is their method and not their message that is ineffective.

The second thing that interested me about this is just the subject of technology in the church. As we have been preparing for the church plant, I’ve been thinking through the proper place of technology and media as we seek to fulfill our mandate to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord. For example, as we’ve worked on the website, I’ve been excited as we have thought through how this technology can be used to introduce people to our church before our church even exists. Or, as another example, for awhile I’ve been wondering how to utilize media in the worship service without it becoming distracting.

I think what the church needs is a theology of technology. Here are two of my initial contributions.

First, technology should promote the message and not the method. As in all areas of church life, it should be a means to reveal truth found in Scripture that teaches people about God. Too often, technology becomes a distraction. It can distract in a positive sense in that people are blown away by the “coolness” factor. Or it can distract in a negative way as people are put off by technology being utilized poorly (the speakers squeaking, the PowerPoint freezing up, etc.).

Second, and related, technology should be used so that people’s hearts are responding to truth and not a medium. That is, even if people aren’t distracted consciously by the technology, it can be utilized in such a way that it manipulates a response of the heart. This is one reason why I am personally uncomfortable with projecting images of nature or Jesus on screens while a congregation sings. It is possible that people are responding emotionally to an image instead of to the truths about God as revealed in His word. What is interesting to me is that the use of images in worship is an issue that has been incredibly important in the history of the church, especially in the Protestant tradition, and yet most evangelicals don’t even think about it today.

I have more thoughts on this, but running out of time for today....

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

As I was saying...

I was never able to finish my earlier post about the evangelical movement. Earlier this month, a document entitled "The Evangelical Manifesto" was released. It can be found in its entirety here:

I think it is an important document for you to read and think through. What struck me about the media coverage of the document's release was the focus on its political slant. They read it, perhaps rightly, as a shot at the "religious right."

I had a few thoughts...

First: It is good to consider the origin of the term evangelical.

Here's what Iain Murray writes in Evangelicalism Divided:

In 1525, Tyndale wrote: “Evangelion…is a Greek word; and signifieth good, merry, glad and joyful tidings, that maketh a man’s heart glad, and maketh him sing, dance and leap for joy....”

At the same period all who so thought [like Tyndale] became described as “gospellers” or, less commonly, as “evangelicals”. Over two hundred years
later it was the latter term that was to pass into more permanent usage at the
time of the “Evangelical Revival”. That it did not do so earlier is
largely due to the fact that all the churches of the Reformation were “of the
gospel” in their creeds and confessions. By the eighteenth century,
however, while the profession of the national churches in England and Scotland
remained orthodox there were many pulpits from which no gospel was heard and
when the evangel was recovered a term was necessary to distinguish its preachers
from others: they were the “evangelicals” (1-2).

What a great understanding of the original purpose of the term evangelical! We've certainly strayed from that original understanding!

Second: I think it is good to consider how to define what we believe more precisely.

I like the idea of making our borders sharper...less blurry. I think we should warn the flock that there are some who are outside the bounds of orthodoxy who still would claim to be evangelicals.

Third: Unfortunately, I have some misgivings about this document.

There seems to be a strange desire among many evangelicals to align themselves with what have traditionally been more "left-wing" agenda items, such as radical environmentalism and the war on poverty. Some of those who are responsible for the evangelical manifesto are part of this movement. While the causes they champion are noble (ending AIDS, fighting poverty, racial reconciliation), the passion for those causes is more often pragmatic than theological. In other words, they are not passionate about these things because they love the glory of God and have gone to His word with a desire to be obedient to Him. Instead they have looked to their culture to drive their ministry.

For example, why are evangelicals suddenly so pro-environment? I don't think its because they have been studying the Scriptures and suddenly found that it speaks to this issue. I think they have found that the culture is passionate about the environment so they are co-opting this issue. A truly biblical view of the environment would be trumpeting the need to produce, the need to do so in a responsible manner, and the temporary nature of matter.

Similarly, true, biblical evangelicals should recognize the line between debatable and non-debatable issues and have a greater passion for the non-negotiables. There should be a greater passion for the gospel than for tax policy. Furthermore, even as we consider our involvement in the political realm, we should acknowledge a heirarchy of issues based upon the clarity of biblical revelation on a particular issue.

That is one reason I become weary of hearing some evangelicals say something along the lines of "We are not just about the pro-life movement, we are also passionate about the government providing for the poor." Due to Scripture's clarity of revelation, the pro-life issue is a far different issue than the government's responsibility to the poor through welfare. Certainly we should think about tax-policy and our opinion should be informed by isues such as fairness and justice and protection of the weak and encouraging people to work if they wish to eat. But there is a spectrum of acceptable positions for a beleiver to hold on this issue, whereas only one consciounable position on the issue of the life of the unborn.

A far better critique of the manifesto can be found at Al Mohler's blog here: and here:

It's Alive!

It's up and going. Check out

Thursday, May 22, 2008

This doesn't seem as brilliant this morning...

Whitney's in Texas right now visiting her sister who just had a baby. That means late nights of working for me. It also means falling asleep in weird places. For example, here is the post I was working on last night/early this morning:

The term "evangelical" is a term that means very little right now anddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddas hit ap

Monday, May 19, 2008

One step closer...

As hard as it is to believe, our church plant took one more step toward becoming a reality as we met for the first time as a group this morning. Only 15 weeks until we plant the church! I'll have more details soon.

The new church website is almost up and going. There are just some things I need to get to our web guys so they can put the finishing touches on the site. Shouldn't be long now! Once I get that going, I'll pay attention to my own blog again...probably.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Am I going to get this excited about everything?

I'm not sure why, but I just got excited when I saw the "construction" page for the new church website:

Pretty pathetic to get that excited, eh?

I don't know why, it's just incredible to think about being at this stage. On the one hand, things that I have been dreaming about for years are starting to happen. On the other hand, lots of things still haven't happened. We're kind of on a cusp of the wave and there's no turning back now!

Bethany Community Church Special Update

Here's a church plant email I just sent out...I'm really excited about the possibility of working with Ben.

Dear Bethany,

I just wanted to personally comment on something that will be arriving in many of your mailboxes tomorrow and Monday. That “something” is a letter from Craig Hodges regarding our associate minister position. Craig was the chairman of the associate minister review committee. The purpose of his letter is to share with you more information about the position the man we believe God is calling to fill that position.

On Sunday evening, June 1, we will be voting as a church to confirm Ben Davidson as Associate Minister at Bethany Community Church at our annual meeting. Prior to that meeting, at 4:30 PM, there will be a time for Q & A with Ben in the upper room by the gym.

Let me share two quick thoughts…

First, I’d like to encourage you to come to the Q & A time and stay for the evening service and meeting. I know summer evenings can be busy, but this is an exciting time in the life of our young congregation! Come and support Ben and his family as they seek God’s confirmation of their call through you.

Second, I’d like to share with you how excited I am about the prospect of working with Ben. Many of you know Ben from his work with our campus ministries. I have had the opportunity of working with him in a variety of ministry contexts. I have been consistently impressed by his love for the Lord, his passion for the lost, his administrative abilities, and his consistent focus on discipleship. Beyond this, I have been personally challenged by his focus on personal holiness and biblically shepherding his family. I trust that those of you who participate in the church plant will also benefit from his ministry in your life.

Be checking those mailboxes!!!

By His Grace,

Pastor Daniel