Target the 88%

The video at this link, of Skye Jethani talking about the importance of targeting people's 88%--the portion of their time every day, every week that isn't discretionary--is absolutely dead-on. Too much of what we pastors and preachers speak to in our churches is aimed at people's 12%, the time that isn't already spoken for by jobs, commutes, family responsibilities, etc. How much more effective would pastors and churches be if we equipped people in the things they do with the majority of their lives?

Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?

Brian McLaren has long been among my favorite authors, not because I always agree with him (I don't), but because he always makes me think, always enlarges my understanding, and always does so from a perspective that shows his love for Jesus and regard for the Bible as God's Word.

He mostly does it again in his book, Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?: Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World. In it, McLaren asks the question, "To accept and love God, must I betray my neighbor of another religion? To accept and love my neighbor, must I betray the God of my religion?"

The book is his answer to the question, his quest for a strong and benevolent Christian identity, rather than having to choose between a weak-but-benign sort of Christian life and testimony or a strong-but-hostile experience. He describes his quest in four sections:

The Crisis of Christian Identity. He says, "We Christians will not experience a reorientation of our identity until we are willing to go through a profound rethinking of our history." He suggests that "what we call Christianity today has a history, and this history reveals it as a Roman, imperial version of Christianity"--one that mixes Christ-like elements of love, joy, peace, and reconciliation with "strictly imperial elements" of superiority, conquest, domination, and hostility.

The Doctrinal Challenge. McLaren then goes on to explore how doctrines relating to Creation, original sin, election, the Trinity, Christology, and the Holy Spirit can be understood in new ways--ways that foster a strong/benevolent Christian identity.

The Liturgical Challenge. He next tackles the Christian calendar, baptism, worship and teaching, reading and study, and communion, suggesting new approaches to these practices that conform better (in his view) to the teachings of Jesus. He says, "There is no way forward in the pursuit of a strong-benevolent Christian identity that bypasses a lengthy journey through the wild and challenging landscape of hermeneutics."

The Missional Challenge. In the final section, McLaren addresses the question of how a Christian with a strong-and-benevolent identity might see his or her mission in a pluralistic world. He prescribes "subversive friendship," "friendship that crosses the boundaries of otherness and dares to offer and receive hospitality." He suggests that "explicitly Christian worship can be explicitly hospitable to Jews, Muslims, and others." And he says that "my identity as a follower of Christ requires me first to move toward the other in friendship and then to move with the other in service to those in need."

I liked most of what he said, and loved the spirit in which he said it. I was disappointed in the middle two sections of the book by the impression that the author was not always letting the Bible say what it says, but was sometimes trying to get it to say what it should say (in his view). I think he could have made the same case (and maybe even a stronger one) with a better hermeneutical approach.

Still, like all of McLaren's books, this one delighted me, made me think, take notes, and reconsider a good many things. It opened new doors to understanding and I think has already produced good fruit in me.

Simple Sermon Outline: When You're Losing Your Grip

It is time for another "Simple Sermon Outline" here on the Desperate Pastor blog, for the hardworking pastor who takes seriously the task of study and preaching but is sometimes up against a wall and fresh out of ideas.

This week's outline is from a series I did a few years ago from the Psalms, entitled "God's iPod." Like the other outlines in this series of posts, this one is simple and sparse, in the hope that it will ignite (not replace) the process of prayer, study, and creativity.
When You're Losing Your Grip
Psalm 6
When you feel like you're losing your grip...
1. Run to God (Psalm 6:1-3) 
2. Remember who God is (Psalm 6:4-5) 
3. Release your grip (Psalm 6:6-7)  
4. Rely on God's mercy and timing (Psalm 6:8-10)  
(photo by mferak, via everystockphoto.com)

The Pastor's Desk (Episode 33)

Today's episode of "The Pastor's Desk" here on the Desperate Pastor blog is that of Major Debbie Stacy, who along with her husband, Major Jeff, serves as corps officer (pastor) at The Salvation Army in Lima, Ohio.
I've looked and looked, but still can't see any Bob Hostetler books on or around that desk. I don't understand.

(If you would like to participate in this recurring feature on the Desperate Pastor blog, submit a single photo of a pastor's study, office, or desk--but no tidying up before taking the picture, mind you--to bob@bobhostetler.com, along with a short description identifying to whom it belongs)

Three Simple Requests

Tim Hawkins has just three simple requests for leaders of worship music:

Simple Sermon Outline: When You're In the Furnace

It is time for another "Simple Sermon Outline" here on the Desperate Pastor blog, for the hardworking pastor who takes seriously the task of breaking the Bread of Life to God's people but is sometimes up against a wall and fresh out of ideas. This week's outline, like the rest, is simple and sparse, in the hope that it will ignite (not replace) the process of prayer, study, and creativity.
When You're In the Furnace
Daniel 3:16-27 
You can be thrown into the furnace, and  it may be through no fault of your own 
God is with you in the furnace, whether noticeably or not 
You will be changed by the furnace, one way or another  
You may be defeated
You may be delivered
You will be different
(photo by Petrusbarbygere via everystockphoto.com)