Wednesday, September 29, 2004

The Gospel of Grace and Redemption

In my Religious tradition, we recently rediscovered grace (cut us a little slack...we're a few years behind other groups on a few things). The result has been interesting. One segment of "us" dug in their heels because the shift was just too different from what they had always known and retained a doctrine/praxis/motivation-by-exclusion religion (that may sound overly harsh, but it's a generalization). The overriding thought seems to be that I have to work really hard and do everything just right. This life and this world are terrible, but one day I'll go to Heaven and "Won't it be wonderful there?"
Another segement did a pendulum swing to focusing on grace, almost as an end unto itself. The rightly asserted that grace covers doctrine, morality, and misunderstanding. But the major point seems to be that I can quit worrying because my personal salvation is sure and I, myself will be going to Heaven when I die. I just have to ride out this life and then "won't it be wonderful there?"
While these positions are overgeneralizations and no one would actually describe themselves that way, they are both catagories that I can honestly say I fit into at different times in my life. But each of them miss the point entirely. The gospel of Jesus Christ is about both Grace and Redemption. The "new" understanding of grace (which is actually quite old) is more accurate, but it simply doesn't go far enough. Grace is not and was never intended to be an end unto itself. Grace covers and clenses you so that you might be redeemed. It takes care of your "stuff" so that you can quit focusing on yourself and begin focusing on God and other people exclusively. Redemption carries with it the idea of being changed or exchanged for something that is useful or of value. When you are focused on yourself, even on your own salvation, you are of no use or value to anyone else. When you can quit focusing on yourself, you then become useful, not only to God, but to the world. You can be "good news" to them in the same self-sacrificing way that Jesus was. In a corporate sense, the church could become "of value" to the world instead of something it is coming to resent (imagine what that would do for evangelism). Grace frees you to become a part of God's vision/mission/dream for this world...that it would be "on earth as it is in Heaven." In his book "The Radical Reformission", Mark Driscoll says "...neither the freedom of Christ nor our freedom in Christ is intended to permit us to dance as close to sin as possible without crossing the line. But both are intended to permit us to dance as close to sinners as possible by crossing the lines that unnecessarily separate the people God has found from those he is still seeking."
Grace alone is only "good news" for me. Grace and Redemption are the Gospel.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Changing Stories

I read a great quote by N.T. Wright in his book "The Original Jesus" the other day. He says:
"So, Jesus' stories, people say, were just 'earthly stories with heavenly meaning'. But that's rubbish! Stories are far more powerful than that. Stories create worlds. Tell the story differently, and you change the world."

I love that quote! Stories are powerful, especially in this emerging culture. I am really excited about a new study I have begun with a small group of teens. We are going through "The Book of God" together. It is basically a novelization of the Bible that picks up with Abraham (Abram) and carries through to the establishment of the church as a single story. My idea (which is not original to me) is that they will begin to view the Bible as a one story instead of a collection of stories. Then I want them to make the connection that their life is an extention of that same story. We've had our first meeting, and they are into it. There was no was just an hour and a half discussion about the Bible with teenagers (mostly driven by them). Their story is changing, and as it changes, so does their world.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

I'm Batman!

I was recently having an IM conversation with Tony , who really wonders about me sometimes. We were talking about the new "Currently Reading" feature and "Books I highly recomend" link that I've added to the blog and specifically the fact that Tony never likes any of the books I reccomend to him. Here's a sampling of the conversation (as you read, remember that we are very good friends and both somewhat sarcastic):
Tony: thanks for stearing me away from your reading list. for a moment there, I thought about checking it out. who knows what might have happened if I wandered into such a trap! thanks man! you saved me!

Adam: you never like anything I reccomend

Tony: because, for the most part, I don't find much value in the reading. sorry. I don't perceive the problems that you do.

Adam: I know. I find that facinating

Tony: to be honest, I think some of the problems you perceive are manufactured by the bias of the reading you do.

Adam: I think that's probably true, but I don't think it's a bad thing

Tony: your addmitance of this manufacturing is facinating to me.

Adam: lol manufacturing/enlightening/whatever

Tony: "enlightening". I feel a not-so-subtle jab there. an implication that I'm living in the dark ages of naivete. "Oh, if only Tony would wake up and smell the coffee made by the barista in the church foyer!"

Adam: not necc. I think that context and calling are important. This stuff may be neither for you, although it is both for me

Tony: explain

Adam: I think God calls people to be different kinds of ministers. I believe I am called to be that kind of minister in the Cof C. I think you are called to be a more pastoral minister in the c of C

Tony: I question your calling. but I'm glad you feel this.

Adam: of course you do

Tony: why do you say, "of course I do"?

Adam: there exists a natural tension between the roles but both are neccessary. It's sort of a Batman/Superman kind of thing (wow, that was nerdy) I would say that you are more superman and I am more batman

Tony: LOL. I would too although I don't know why. explain

Adam: There is a tension that exists in the comic book world between Batman and Superman. Superman questions Batman's methods. Batman thinks Superman is too much of a boyscout. To the reader it is obvious that both are good/right.

Tony: boy, that was nerdy. but I see your point. which makes me nerdy, too. so I'm the boy scout, and your methods are wack

Adam: in your view, yes

Tony: in my view, because there are no absolutes (this is fun!)

Adam: no, you stinking boyscout. In your view b/c it's not compatable with your role i.e. the lenses you look at it through

Tony: LOL

Adam: now, tuck in your cape and go check out the list on my blog

Tony: wow, don't get your bat suit all in a wad

Adam: it rides up something awful
This whole Batman/Superman thing was stirred in my thinking when I was listening to a CD of a lesson Tony Campolo was doing at a convention. He said that in the OT there were 2 kinds of ministers/pastors: prophets and priests. The priests lived with the people and did the weddings and funerals and cared for the people. The prophets came down from the mountains and pointed toward the Kingdom of God. Campolo then suggested that in our times we have tried to merge these roles (out of neccesity) into one. The problem is that these roles conflict with each other. My theory is that each minister is wired to be primarily one or the other: priest (Superman) or prophet (Batman). I'm working on developing more "priestly" qualities, but I am Batman.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Safe and Sound, Home Sweet Home, or some other cliche'

We're back in PC. In spite of the many tornadoes, our house sustained no damage and actually didn't lose power (unlike Dana's parent's house, which did lose power). Thanks for all the prayers.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Running From Ivan

Well, I don't usually do this, but my family and I have decided to evacuate b/c of the hurricane. We left P.C. at about 9 p.m. last night and arrived at Dana's parents' house just before 3 a.m. We'll be hanging out in Birmingham for the rest of the week. Please keep everyone who's in the path of this storm and the ones who were affected by the previous 2 in your prayers.

Friday, September 10, 2004

The Ambulance Driver's Delima

I've started reading Brian McLaren's new book, "A Gererous Orthodoxy", and last night I ran across something in the introduction that described what I've been feeling lately better than anything I've come up with so far. He says:
"Meanwhile I have realized that my deepest passion isn't for church people: it has always been for those outside the church. I want to welcome them in, to help them become part of our life and mission. But often I have felt like an ambulance driver bringing injured people to a hospital where there's an epidemic spreading among the patients and doctors and nurses. You know the feeling? What do you do? You try to help the hospital get the epidemic under control again, so they can get back to helping people heal."
Man, I identify with that. I guess that's why I tend to focus on certain things and concepts in my teaching and preaching. Still, there is great hope. There is a new generation springing up (younger than me) who are showing less and less symptoms of the epidemic. In addition, many church leaders are trying to "get the epidemic under control again, so they can get back to helping people heal". Check out Mike Cope's Blog and read today's post (Sept 10) for a great example.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004


I was doing some research yesterday for a lesson I am writing on "The Kingdom of God." In my resarch, I was glancing through a book by McLaren and Sweet called "A Is For Abductive." In an article about "mission," they say the following: "The question is not whether your church has a mission, the question is whether God's mission has your church"
In our pragmatic, consumer-oriented society, our thinking in the church tends to get sucked into that mindset. I think there is a fine line that we are walking in this emergent/postmodern conversation between trying to reach people as a part of/into God's mission and making our church's mission the preservation and promotion of itself to it's own end. It's quite tempting to think in marketing terms, i.e. if this is the direction that culture is going then this is the direction we need to go if we want our church to be successful. On the other hand, part of God's mission is to reach these people in whatever culture they exist in. The difference is intention and motivation...and that difference is huge.


Saturday, September 04, 2004