Thursday, August 27, 2009

Deep Church by Jim Belcher

I have only read a few books with church in the title that were any good. Most of them read like religious versions of the marketing solutions for small businesses. In other words they were no help at all in my thinking about this crazy, messy and weirdly beautiful institution we call “the church.”

If you add to the fact there is a raging battle going on in the western church about how to do/be/plant a church, the list of books worth reading actually becomes far narrower. Either the book is so irenic to the point of not daring to criticize anyone or anything in particular or the author simply writes off everyone not like him.

Enter Deep Church by Jim Belcher. Wait, no, lets back up. About, I don’t know – 6 months ago, I think – I became friends on facebook with Jim Belcher. We had a number of mutual friends and seemed to have some similar sentiments/feelings/opinions on a number of things. Anyway, when I saw a blurb about his new book coming out with Tim Keller endorsing it, I pre-ordered it. You see, I have a rule that goes something like this: Order everything that Tim Keller endorses. Pretty safe rule. I also recommend touching his garments for church healing powers.

Now, enter Deep Church by Jim Belcher. Within 48 hours of receiving it, I finished it and filled it full of asterisks and underlinings and exclamation points. A breath of fresh air, it was easily the best book on the debates that are raging in the church today. So, what sets Deep Church apart from all others?

First, most books are arguing for either a ‘traditional’ or ‘emerging’ way of thinking about church life, Deep Church seeks to forge a ‘third way.’ And this third way is not what you might think it is. It is not some Utopian pie in the sky, ‘can’t we all just get along?’ dream. What he does is criticize both groups where it is needed and celebrate what both groups bring to the table. What I appreciate the most about this was how he sympathized (as I and many others have) the questions of protest posed by the ‘emerging church’ about the traditional church. The first 3 chapters are a great introduction about the debate, getting a handle on what the emerging church is and a description of ‘Mere Christianity’ – those beliefs that all Christians everywhere and at all times have agreed on. In the next 7 chapters, he deals with 7 protests of the emerging church and he engages them well, celebrating the concerns they have and seeking to evaluate their answers. Why is this so valuable? Because in my gut I know they have raised some great points. And I want to learn from them without sacrificing ‘Mere Christianity.’

Second, Jim Belcher writes with real humility. This is important because most guys seem to write about the church with a certain bravado. It’s the difference between “I’ve got all the answers” and “lets try this and see if this will work.” His admission of frustrations and failures and difficulties was refreshing. Not merely for authenticity’s sake but for the sake of saying, “Hey, I don’t have it all together. But God does.” His humility throughout the book makes for a very pleasant read.

Third, - and I have no idea how to label this reason for liking this book but - I actually marked this book up a good bit. I do this so rarely that it is a big deal when I do. I cannot keep a writing utensil near me to save my life so when I would read something I wanted to go back and read again or what I thought was noteworthy I would mark it – even if I had to get up out of my chair, step over my children begging me to play with them and go find one. Only those who rarely mark up books will get it.

Fourth, books on the church are not really known for emotionally moving the reader. This one did. I was moved to the point of tears more than once. Once because of the beauty of what I was reading and once because of the ugliness of my own lack of grace and charity and willingness to learn from those who are so different from me. What many may take for granted was very profound for me…

…the emerging church is passionate about the health of the church. They have serious problems with the traditional church and want to see changes. Since they are our brothers and sisters, we have a responsibility out of love, to take them seriously, to listen to them and to understand them accurately. (48)

It really struck me how little charity I show those I disagree with me, acting as if they want to hurt the church. Deep Church convicted me and emboldened me. And that seems to be the way of good books.

Last, the book is just very well written. Books about church life and practice written by pastors should have engaging stories. I mean, that is what is going on in the church on a huge level – people with their own story bumping up against other people with their story and all trying to find themselves in the Great Story of Redemption. To be honest, I had trouble putting this book down. I ignored my family during that 48 hours and when I finished I reintroduced myself, “Hello, I am your father and husband and I want to pastor a Deep Church.”

Don't Assume the Gospel

Brian McLaren to Observe Ramadan

Denny Burk and Doug Wilson have both discussed this at their blogs.

In other news, John Piper reads Jonathn Edwards book.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Interview With Author of 'Your Jesus is Too Safe'

Jared Wilson is the pastor of Element Church and has written an excellent book, Your Jesus Is Too Safe. Jon McIntosh from rethinkmission interviews him about his book. Jared also has a blog I daily visit.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Go, Send or Disobey


I just downloaded the MUTEMATH album, "Armistice" after waiting 6 months for it. The first line of the album is sung with a sneer...

Can you believe this world's got the nerve to insist that it won't trade in for a better one?


Friday, August 14, 2009

A Few Thoughts on Tattoos

1. I can find nothing wrong, biblically speaking, with tattoos. However, right and wrong- according to a list-are no longer the litmus test to whether a thing should be done. The question is now, "Will God be glorified?"

2. The tattoo (in America) is purely a matter of vanity. In other words, it starts and ends there. It serves no real function besides, "look at this." I am sure you will figure out an exception but this will truly be a time where the unique exception will prove the rule. Did the desire for something so permanent start with thoughts of God and his greatness?

3. The objection to my 2nd thought will be, "So are clothes and makeup!" To which I reply, clothes at their most basic serve a function primarily. They cover the body. And you can change your clothes...everyday.

4. What if at some point you decide you have a made a mistake and want a change? What if you regret the decision at some point in your life? I assume many for years must find themselves in the difficulty of talking themselves (and maybe others) into how much they approve of their decision and how much they like what they have tattooed on their body.

5. I cannot but help think the tattoo is the falling off on the other side of the fence? The alternate side? Plastic surgery. The difference is simply one of cultural taste. One might desire to be edgy and cool. The other might have the desire to look like a desperate housewife. If the desire is not the glory of God, then perhaps it should have been thought better of.

6. Is there any real difference between the bible verse tattoo and the tie with a bible verse bought at the local Christian bookstore?

My above thoughts are not in their entirety fixed. I may need to be corrected on some thoughts. I have no desire to judge but I am asked this question a lot. And before you ask for my cool card, I listen to Rosemary Clooney, read Jane Austen, have never seen Boondock Saints and like cheap coffee.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Games People Play

Matt Chandler has been bringing it lately in his Luke series at The Village Church in Dallas. His last 3 sermons, entitled 'Games People Play' are probably the kind of sermons people will be referring back to for years.

I Love the PCA But...

This video totally creeped me out.

HT: imonk

Update: Here are some of my thoughts...

1. It is a beautiful structure.

2. In the comment section on imonk's blog all those who justify this kind of building never use the Bible to do so.

3. What justification is used is an appeal to the importance of the arts and the artistic gifts of the community of faith.

4. People keep talking about "reverence" and how "holy" places like this are. Which is weird because I thought the veil was torn and now such ideas were gone with the Old Covenant.

5. I find it amazing how many people complained about the look of many modern-looking churches even though the NT is stunningly silent on an issue.

6. It is impossible for me to think about this without thinking about this.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Student Ministry in America is a Joke

And this is why.

We play games while they put their life at risk.

Coral Ridge Disciplines 6 Church Members

I have to admit I was very surprised when Coral Ridge voted for Tullian Tchividjian to be their new pastor. But I am not surprised by this story that there are some from Coral Ridge who are not happy with him.

Tchividjian has written a phenomenal book, Unfashionable, which I would highly recommend.

Update: Here is the letter sent out by the former pastor's daughter with a petition to have Tullian removed.

Piper Messages from Worship God '09

2 Messages By John Piper from Worship God '09

Monday, August 10, 2009

Interview With David Platt

David Platt is the pastor of Church at Brook Hills in my hometown, Birmingham. Here is an interview of him by Colin Hansen.

4 Part Interview With Andrew Peterson

JT interviews Peterson over at his blog, which by the way is the best blog on the net.

Friday, August 07, 2009

"She's Got You"

I could listen to Patsy Cline sing the phonebook...

What Pastors Wish Their Members Knew

Thom Rainer talks about some on his blog.

Jesus Is Altogether Different

1. He chose a barn. We would have chosen the women’s center at the nearest hospital.

2. He chose obscurity. We would have chosen notoriety.

3. He prepared for ministry by being tempted and hungry. We choose vacation.

4. He picks clueless, proud, misguided sailors and tax collectors. We use résumés.

5. He tells us the way to save our life is to lose it. We upsize everything.

6. Jesus lets a whore wash his feet with her hair. We would have kicked her out and laughed at her hair.

7. Jesus tells stories so some cannot understand. We tell stories so they can.

8. Jesus rejoices that the wise don’t get it. We fire people for that.

9. Jesus forgives a traitor. We would have laughed when Rush parodied him.

10. Jesus promises a sword. We promise peace and happiness.

11. Jesus celebrates mustard-seed faith. We celebrate actors and rock stars.

12. Jesus went to where he would be rejected. We run towards acceptance.

13. Jesus offends people with weird statements to the point of them leaving him. We soften and smooth out the rough edges.

14. Jesus teaches hard doctrines to simple people. We ask them to say the ‘sinner’s prayer.’

15. Jesus attracted those who needed him and his message of forgiveness of sin. We attract those most likely to watch Fireproof.

16. Jesus makes strong wine. We forbid it.

17. Jesus asks us to choose our souls over gaining the whole world. We dream of bigger houses and nicer cars.

18. Jesus’ default was grace. Ours is law.

19. Jesus is in sync with what God is doing. We ask for people to get in sync with us.

20. Jesus ridiculed the religious leaders of the day. We give them deference.

21. Jesus emptied himself of his glory. We buy coach purses.

22. Jesus says we are blessed when we are persecuted. We think we need a lawyer.

23. Jesus prepares us for a cross. We shoot for the primrose path.

24. Jesus tells us to lay up treasures in heaven. We buy storage space.

25. Jesus is not impressed by every profession of faith. We make big announcements about every one.

26. Jesus heals as he moves toward his own suffering. We move away from suffering while moving toward our own health.

27. Jesus let his friend die so we could see God’s glory. We glorify God only when someone is healed.

28. Jesus washes the disciple’s feet. We demand from fellow disciples.

29. Jesus says it is good for him to go away and for us to have the Spirit. We, pastors think our congregation cannot survive without us.

30. Jesus prays that we would see his glory. We grumble when everyone does not see our value.

31. Jesus made himself nothing. Pastors want to be called “Dr.”

32. Jesus goes to the cross. We get practical.

33. Jesus died to justify sinners. We are dying to justify our sin.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Questions To Ask When Talking About Marriage With Someone

John Piper gives some much-needed help.

Dylan Working on Christmas Album

Bob Dylan is reportedly working on a Christmas album... which I will be buying.

Interview With Emma Watson

Here is a great interview with Emma Watson, who plays Hermione in the Harry Potter films.

Monday, August 03, 2009

25 Evangelical Myths

Go Here Now.

Some Great Piper Quotes

Here is a list of some hilarious and witty piper quotes. My favorite?

"He’s got about 120 people after 3 years of ministry and he’s the Son of God. That’s not a very impressive church plant."

Saturday, August 01, 2009

The Maker

I have been listening to Emmylou Harris (whom my wife calls my girlfriend) over the past few days and thought I would share one of my favorites from her live album 'Spyboy.'