Fear Of Whales

Archive for August, 2015

Church Usefulness Over Time

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proportionaldirectTo catch you up, I’ve spent the last three months at Saint Luke’s Baptist Hospital working as a Chaplain as part of a training program to develop leaders in pastoral care. It provided a lot of insight into the world of spiritual care outside the church, particularly among those people who frequent hospitals, who tend to be the elderly.

Until I got to the hospital I had never considered that Older people tend to go to church more because church attendance is much more practical for them. It meets an urgent need. Churches are great to provide a low maintenance community, visitors when sick, or provide with advice for the end of parishioners lives. But young people are more worried about meeting members of the opposite sex, and succeeding in business, for which church just isn’t what it used to be.

Everybody knows that people get more religious as they get older. But nobody has ever been able to offer a great reason why. The prevailing theory I had heard previously is that they were worried about their own death and wanted to get salvation squared away. I’m not buying it. The whole repentance/heaven focus is concentrated in certain Christian traditions, and if this were true, you would expect to see more octogenarians in those churches. Instead almost the opposite is the case, turn-or-burn churches get more middle aged clientele, and older believers congregate (pun totally intended) in the mainline churches especially.

Everybody knows that the millennial are not coming to church as much as other groups. And there are a million unsatisfactory theories about that, but the vast majority assume that church attendance is correlated directly with religious sincerity. And I am not convinced.

Not all of the people I met in their 80s and 90s this summer were very religious. Few of them read the Bible on a regular basis, and virtually none of them (save a retired pastor or two) knew very much about theology, or did very much on service or mission. Almost all of them went to church.

And when I met an elderly patient that did not attend church regularly, my response was concern. I was not concerned because they were risking hellfire, or because they were lacking sound Biblical teaching. I was concerned because there would be nobody outside their family (if they had any) to help them through these difficult years. Where were they going regularly to see people. Who would notice when they were gone? Who would speak at their funeral. Had they even though about these sorts of questions?

I didn’t meet many 20-something in the hospital for obvious reasons, but those I did meet were about as religious as their elders. Their church attendance was much lower. They were in sports, or startups, or projects. They had clubs and leagues, they were involved in causes, and sought out mentors. They went about meeting many of the practical needs the church provides (those needs other than the gospel) in other ways.

I think this should impact our ecclesiology. I think we need to think, and think carefully about how much we want church to fill a practical need, even for those not sold on it’s message, and then build our communities to match. But it is too early for me to say how and in which direction. You figure it out and tell me

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August 26th, 2015 at 6:17 pm

Now I Know Why

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A few months back I wrote a post about a ministry I was working called Cigars and Theology. At the time I felt like I needed to drop it as a project, but I just could not bring myself to give up on it. Now I know why.

random-cigar-and-ashtrayWe had a meeting recently out on the patio on my seminary campus. Part of the struggle of building momentum had to do with the inclement weather and necessity to be outside for a cigar oriented activity, We have had to move venues a lot over the course of the winter looking alternatively for shade, and heaters, and rain protection in various outdoor environments. So even though I didn’t want to meet at a place which was religiously associated, it was the only comfortable place to which I had access.

This was reported to the vice president for disciplinary action.

Not because of the smoking. No, smoking is allowed, so is drinking. The problem was that C&T is not a registered student group and did not have a building reservation to sit outside on the patio. Without a building reservation there could be no way to assure that the smokers are more than 15ft from an entry way (for instance)

So I quite literally went to the principle’s office for holding a rogue Bible study on a seminary campus. I felt a sense of embarrassment, but not because I’d gotten into trouble. I was embarrassed that at a place that disciplines people for starting to many Bible studies I had not been in trouble more.

I had half a mind to try to go down for it. Make a big federal case of it, force the school to file paperwork that says “Ryan is guilty of reading the book of Ruth in community without our permission” if I could get a public reprimand for it I could frame it and hang it on my wall.

Cooler heads prevailed and I simply spoke frankly with the Vice President, who is now implementing changes in the discipline policy. Of course I was sly in the way I did it, having first leaked to several students what was going on and stirred the pot a bit.

Now I know why C&T needed to go on. At least one thing was yet to be done with it, and now that it has things look healthier and momentumier into the future.

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August 12th, 2015 at 3:23 pm

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My God Could Beat Up Your God

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I’m consistently struck by the knowledge of other Christians in leadership, and not in a good way.

13-Small-GodsIt seems that the only consistent lesson I learn throughout my spiritual growth is that I am an idiot, and all of my preconceived notions are wrong again. For some people though, it seems that the more time they spend in the church the more convinced that they become that they are brilliant, and are always right about everything.

I lost the source for the quote but somebody smart said "I wish I knew anything with the surety they have about everything"

So maybe they’re right. After all, it sure is hard to win a debate against someone When their position is "The rapture is set to come in the next 50 years and I can prove it" and your position is "I’m not completely sure the rapture is literal but if it is literal I dunno when it’s coming"

Maybe I’ve had it all wrong about having it all wrong.

But here’s the thing though… Without fail, their God ends up being small, limited, mechanical, and frail, compared to my big incomprehensible God. These clear beliefs and dogmatic statements consistently leash God, lest he leave the particular member sect at hand, or spill over into inferior sects.

And if God is "that than which nothing greater could be conceived" then the dude in the heads of a thousand street evangelists is…. not God.

Because the God I conceived of could beat him up.

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August 5th, 2015 at 11:12 pm

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