January 27, 2021

Random Thoughts about New Life, Church Life, the After Life, and the Myo

questionI have had this stream of consciousness going through my head this week about many of the discussions that have been going on at Internet Monk and elsewhere. Here are some of the things I have been thinking about. Feel free to join the conversation with whatever thought catches your fancy.

1. A recalled a conversation with a non-Christian friend many years ago who was visiting my church. “The people here seem to have something that I am missing in my life. How do I become a member of your church?” What would your answer be? I wonder if anyone will respond as I did? (A hint, it was the wrong answer.) How does someone who expresses an interest in following Jesus become a Christian according to your faith tradition?

2. “Young man, sit down; when God pleases to convert the heathen, he will do it without your aid and mine.” This was the response to William Carey in 1786, when he asked a gathering of ministers if it was the duty of all Christians to spread the gospel though the world. As a followup to #1, and as I am still smarting a bit from some of the responses I got from last week’s post, and after reading the comments this week, I wonder if several of our readers would have given a similar response? Is perhaps a more scriptural response somewhere between Carey’s question and the response he received?

3. Continuing that train of thought, I have heard some recent conversations about the 80-20 rule. These particular conversations were being applied to life in the church and what needed to be done. The observation was that 20% of the people seemed to doing 80% of the work of ministry. Is that a bad thing? Or is this just what should be expected? Matt Redmond’s post on Wednesday prompted some of these thoughts.

4. Did anyone reference Michael Spencer’s post on Wretched Urgency in our discussions this week? That was the post the came to my mind a few times. If you haven’t read it, read it now. It will be the best thing you do all week.

5. Penultimately, from yesterday’s post… I get the impression that people are thinking of the “New Earth” as a renewed Earth. Having watched the latest Superman movie not that long ago, I was wondering if it might be a different location altogether. Which way do you lean?

6. Totally unrelated to the above points, but check out what my son Josh is going to working on for the next four months. Included because of the “cool” factor, but primarily because I have been thinking a lot about my son this week.


  1. If someone wants to follow Jesus our faith tradition will ask them to be baptized.

    Then we would encourage them to worship and attend pastor’s classes and bible studies…and of course receive the sacrament of the altar, regularly.

    But being baptized is number one.

    • Steve, when you say “our faith tradition” without specifying what that is, for anyone that doesn’t know you, “our” would include me, and that is offensive to me. I fully and strongly support your right to state your own beliefs and opinions here as such, but you don’t have authority to speak for me and please don’t imply that with careless wording.

      • ? I understood Steve pretty clearly to be referring to his own faith tradition. Maybe you are being a little over-sensitive there, friend.

        • Rick Ro. says

          That was my thought, too, Dr. F., P..

        • Yes, Doctor, Steve, and others, I reacted too hastily on the run toward a stressful day and regret it with apologies to all for my own careless wording. I don’t apologize for distancing myself from Steve’s generic pronouncement. Yes, many of us know that Steve is not only Lutheran but attends an ELCA church, a distinction that might be lost on many. I attended an ELCA church for twenty-five years ago and I’m sure that the pastor and many in the congregation would have been appalled by some of the things that come out of Steve’s mouth. Not so much in the Missouri church down the street, the only place in my walk with Jesus where I was refused communion. On the other hand, Steve’s suggestions would be agreeable to the great majority in the church at large and that distant congregation I attended as well. I would probably have different emphases for newbies but that’s another matter.

          In any case, the post concerned what to tell new Christians or those seeking, people who are completely vulnerable to authoritative pronouncements and who don’t understand different understandings within denominations and congregations. I remember my own early days and tend to rush to their defense. Martha and Mule and David and others here usually identify which tradition they are speaking out of in recognition that there are other valid traditions as well. That’s all I meant to say but my button got pushed before I noticed.

          Steve remedied the situation with grace for which I thank him and again apologize for not showing equal grace under fire. Thanks, Steve.

      • Most of our readers know that Steve is Lutheran. I don’t believe any offense was intended. Not sure of the exact flavor of Lutheran, and I know that he and Chaplain Mike differ on a few points.

      • But Charles…. few and far between are the variations of Christianity which do not insist on baptism as part of religious initiation. Even Southern Baptist consider it the formal entry into the visible church.

        • “Even” Southern Baptists??? Ironies flying everywhere around the plane.

          I say “ironies” referring to Steve’s insistence on works-righteous acts of obedience such as baptism and membership classes, remembering that he’s otherwise all about grace.

  2. In my Nazarene church baptism would be the culmination of a spiritual birth. We require that a new believer be able explain how he/she knows he/she is a Christian, WHY they are a Christian, and what it MEANS to be a Christian., all before getting baptized.

    Personally, if someone made an inquiry to me (and it HAS happened) I would gently engage the person in conversation about what it is that they see that is attractive and what it is that they see themselves as lacking. It doesn’t necessarily follow that the conversation ends at the altar, but it MAY. More often the person takes time to think things through and decides in their own time.

    I have prayed the sinner’s prayer with people plenty of times and the conversion almost NEVER happened at that time. What it DID accomplish, though, is to open a gateway through which a person could decide to walk though at a later time. The conversion process is a mystery and not a response to some mechanistic prayer mantra such as the four spiritual laws or “asking Jesus into your heart”. Spending three years in street witnessing ministry has taught me that it is the Holy Spirit that chooses and accomplishes the conversion. It has little to do with my acumen.

    • I reassemble those remarks.

      Research indicates that walking up the aisle or down the stands or wherever and praying “the sinner’s prayer” is highly ineffective. Some studies concluded that less than 10% of “converts” under these circumstances show any significant change in their lives (i.e. belief and behavior) a year later.

      Although I had suspicions of this for many years, mostly by way of personal experience from many whom I had “led to Christ” yet had little to no “evidence of Christ” afterwards, the issue was made quite clear to me after reading Ray Comfort’s “God Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life: The Myth of the Modern Message” (published in 2010 and available @ http://www.amazon.com/God-Wonderful-Plan-Your-Life/dp/1878859498, $8.09 on paperback and $2.99 on Kindle).

      • “Research indicates that walking up the aisle or down the stands or wherever and praying “the sinner’s prayer” is highly ineffective.”

        I wonder if that research is in and of itself conclusive. I would also want to know what kind of support/teaching/discipleship did these people who walked the aisle and prayed the prayer receive afterwards. I became a Christian at a college camp retreat in a similar manner and I felt like the change in my life was pretty dramatic (and this is 20+ years ago).. In fact I probably grew most in my walk during the years right after that camp. Who knows, maybe I’m in that 10%, but I think there are other factors in play. Perhaps many of those who lead people to pray the sinner’s prayer are simply ill equipped to disciple them, or they think that after the prayer is done, the person is “in” and their job is done. Either way, I don’t think the primary factor is the method by which the person enters the Kingdom.

        • Marc B., you should read Comfort’s book, it’s small and can be read in a few hours. He lists where the data came from.

          I have several friends who, like you, heeded an altar call or walked down front and center at an evangelistic event and it proved effective. They, too, are part of the 10% (which, by the way, is a liberal figure; most of what I’ve read claim that only 4% are actually converted (saved, born again, etc,) at these events.

          That many who have led others to pray the sinners prayer are ill equipped may be true in some cases but is not universal. Churches and denominations with this perspective will train whoever is willing (and believe you me, the pressure is on to be “willing”) extensively using a variety of techniques, diagnostic questions, bridge illustrations, and so on to bring about salvation. This, however, is more of a sales technique than genuine proclamation of the gospel.

          Problem is, such techniques are usually shallow and hollow and produce nothing more than a temporary emotional response and not genuine conversion. The individual who was”saved” more often than not resembles the proverbial plant which sprouted among the rocks or thorns rather than the seed which landed in the good soil and bore much fruit (Parable of the Sower, Matthew 13).

          My bigger concern is that we are telling people that they are saved–and will remain eternally saved–simply because they prayed a prayer, sincerely so, even. What is missing here is genuine repentance and faith, what some call “easy believeism.” Then, when the person tubes out they say that s/he is backsliding but are still saved. The upshot of it is that we are filling our churches with goats who think they’re sheep and no one is cautioning them of their ultimate fate.

          • Danielle says

            “The upshot of it is that we are filling our churches with goats who think they’re sheep and no one is cautioning them of their ultimate fate.”

            That’s one danger.

            The other danger is that we’re telling people who are “real believers” (whatever you happen to mean by this) to look back on these decision moments for some kind of assurance, and I don’t think they can support that kind of weight.

            If I pray in response to a “pitch” to pray the “sinner’s prayer,” how do I know if it “took?”

            Is if when I remember this experience and feel that I was “sincere”? (What does that even mean? Can I trust my memory of the event?)

            Is it when I join a church?

            Is it when I join a church and seem to have achieved a certain benchmark of faithfulness according to this group? Is when I do devotions every day? Is it when I witness to people on a regular basis? Is when I volunteer for enough activities? Is it when I feel a certain way while singing? Is it when I don’t commit any sins greater or less than those of the average church member?

            What happens when something changes?

            These are pesky personal and theological questions for evangelicalism. And they are made worse by the fact that pastors and revivalists are always asking people to convert, rededicate, pledge to do things, and sign onto campaigns. And spooking people with the question, “What if you are really a goat?” before appeals of all shapes and sizes is popular tactic. (How many little cards did I sign as a teenager?)

            There’s nothing wrong with a pitch or a “decision,” per se, so long as you move me past this moment quickly to something else that can serve me much better. Trying to get me to circle back to the moment I made a decision, and feel I can trust it, during a dark moment is only useful if I trust myself. (I do not.) It also only works if you don’t keep exploiting my anxiety over my status with God every time you want something from me (and sadly, even if you refrain, the pastor down the street is sure to be picking up the slack).

            This is a long way of saying that the sinner’s prayer makes a bad substitute for a sacrament. The brilliant thing about, say, baptism is that its a public event and you can know that it happened. Also, that it wasn’t something you did by fiat of your sincerity and having the right magical word combination. It’s done to you, and lots of people saw it happen.

          • Excellent points, Danielle, and further evidence why “decisions moments” based on particular prayers and such don’t always work.

            But sometimes they do. They did with Paul on the road to Damascus and they did with me in late 1974. In my case I was reading through Romans when I came across v. 10.9-10,

            “…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”

            And that’s when I first believed and became a “real believer”–for real. And the reason I know that that was the moment for me is that I have continued to believe ever since. It’s that simple in some cases, at least.

          • My evangelism experience was street witnessing. I would say that in almost every instance when I led someone in “the sinner’s prayer” that when we finished I looked into the same non-comprehending eyes as before the prayer. Further, in the few instances where there was some follow up it was plain that the petitioner had no further comprehension of what that prayer was supposed to mean. THAT is why I said that conversion is a mystery!

            Upon praying that prayer myself it took another day before the import of the words sank in and conversion occurred, and THEN only when I had spent time with other believers. I was sincere in my prayer, and KNEW that I was doomed to hell, but it wasn’t until I saw a demonstration of sincere Christian worship that it all fell into place and conversion occurred. I distinctly remember the time and place and comfort myself with that memory whenever I get to feeling down and discouraged. My intimate relationship with the Father began on that very early morning , January 19 1971, in Cincinnati, Ohio, in the Mount Auburn neighborhood in the basement of a rowhouse commune.

  3. Vega Magnus says

    I’m sorry you saw Man of Steel. In my opinion, it is terrible. Next to no character development, bland line deliveries, stupid characters, (Looking at you, Kevin Costner.) and a really poorly executed ending. Oh, and insanely ham-fisted Jesus symbolism.

    • I think it messiah symbolism, not Jesus symbolism – and that would be historically correct, since Shuster specifically wrote the character to be both a messiah figure and a sort of “good opposite” of Hitler. But the movie was all action and no character development…which seems to be what sells these days, if Jerry Bruckheimer, JJ Abrams, and Michael Bay are any indication.

  4. “Penultimately, from yesterday’s post… I get the impression that people are thinking of the “New Earth” as a renewed Earth. Having watched the latest Superman movie not that long ago, I was wondering if it might be a different location altogether. Which way do you lean?”

    It may be because I’m just a sci-fi geek (amongst many other facets of my nerdishness) but I see no reason why it can’t be both. God created a HUGE universe, and once this sin and death nastiness is done away with, I can’t see a reason why we won’t be out and about in it. After all, if you live forever, what consequence is the lightspeed barrier? 😉

    • Mule Chewing Briars says

      I have idly wondered, from time to time, if the effects of the Cross are valid only in a small but rapidly expanding bubble of space with a radius of 2000 light years. Could Kirk and Spock have lost their salvation by using warp speed and outrunning it?

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        woooooooooooooh. Information can travel faster than the speed of light – so if salvation status is information then it could be instantaneous across the entire universe, but if salvation is energy… oh man, some really terrible movies could be made on that premise. But if Kirk’s salvation was within the warp bubble it should have traveled with him – creating multiple cells of expanding salvation space all across the galaxy.

        As for Spock, would Christ crucifixion apply to vulcans or their world? Or would each world have its own salvation narrative?

        Yes, it is Friday, I am prone to tangents.

        • cermak_rd says

          Wouldn’t the soteriology matter here? For if Christ were crucified to be an atonement for original sin, then this would be an earthbound phenomenon as the Creation stories mention only this planet’s creation sequence (though it does mention the cosmos but only on the way to this planet’s creation).

          The Klingons, on the other hand, had gods. But the Klingons (being Klingons) killed their gods as they had become too much trouble.

          And clearly the Vulcans have some kind of relgious tradition what with the Kohlinoor and all.

          • I didn’t know the Klingons had gods. I’m not up on my Trek history beyond the first couple of years of Next Generation.

            But according to Kang, a Klingon commander, they have no devils (“But we understand the habits of yours,” says Kang, in response to Kirk telling Kang where to go).

          • I thought the Klingons saw Kahless as a semi-divine figure, but he started out as an ordinary Klingon kid. They believe in an afterlife, but not everyone gets there, apparently.

        • But Spock is half human. Would that confuse the Holy Spirit as to which salvation narrative?

      • Michael Z says

        Well, if you take the mystical view of communion that it in some sense takes place outside of time – that is, that when we’re gathered at that table, we’re united with all believers past, present, and future, throughout the world, and also experiencing the feast that we will celebrate after the resurrection of the dead and the renewal of all things – then there’s no reason to think that salvation’s benefits are limited by the light speed barrier. 🙂

        Similarly, Adam, taking that same mystical view that in God’s reality, multiple events across time and space can in fact be a single event, it could be that Christ also took on Vulcan flesh, Romulan flesh, etc. and died for them, but that his life and death on each of those planets was, in some mystical way, a single event and a single story being mirrored on a billion different worlds. (That’s better than the alternative of saying that Christ cared about humans enough to become human, but not enough about Klingons to become Klingon!)

      • I think my brain just somersaulted in my head.

    • Dana Ames says

      I could be accused of having little imagination – which would be wrong, as I’ve gotten into trouble with it enough times in my life! – but I believe that even though the odds are that there are planets comparable to earth in the “Goldilocks zones” out there, all that has been revealed to us is that this earth is the arena God made to display his love. There is no other. In that sense, we are the center of the universe, and God did “do it all for us” – and what he has done has ramifications for everything in the universe.

      Consider how many seeds each plant makes, how many germ cells each sexed animal has/makes, how many stars there are, how much dark matter/”empty” space there is. None of it is waste – it all tells forth the glory and handiwork of God.

      One day it will be apparent to us that things are not merely things. All shall be revealed for what it is. I think perhaps the thing that will surprise us most is for how much human beings were made.

      I can’t say any more – no words. I’ve been reading Fr John Behr’s “Becoming Human,” and Fr Stephen Freeman’s latest post.


      • + 1, Dana (though I no longer am certain that this is *the* arena; there is just way too much of the known universe – let alone that which we haven’t yet discovered – for me to feel like I can assert that any more).

        But that is all up to God, not to me, and I am content min leaving it as a mystery. I don’t think my tiny, finite mind would ever be able to comprehend the whole of the story, you know?

      • Robert F says


        I, too, believe in the uniqueness of humanity, and its unique place in the creation (even if that creation is a multiverse). And I believe that uniqueness is rooted in the uniqueness of Jesus’ incarnation, and the fact that Jesus’ humanity is now at the right hand of the Father, along with his divinity, to use woefully inadequate and perhaps misleading language. For this reason, I don’t get excited very much about the idea of intelligent extraterrestrial life, although the vast mysteriousness of the creation itself fascinates me.

  5. Adam Tauno Williams says

    > 1. “The people here seem to have something that I am missing in my life. How do I become a
    > member of your church?” What would your answer be?

    “First, that is the same reason I’ve stuck around churches for 20+ years; some of that time participating, and some of that time just lurking. As for becoming a member? You can talk to the priest about that, but right now to you want to get coffee; the water bagels at the place down the block are amazing.”

    > 2. “Young man, sit down; when God pleases to convert the heathen, he will do it
    > without your aid and mine.” This was the response to William Carey in 1786,
    > when he asked a gathering of ministers

    Oh, the irony! This strikes the chord for every negative stereotype I carry about ministers. The knuckle head who provided this response was **at a gathering of ministers**. Which is, by his statement, a rather pointless affair. Sometimes I hate theology.

    > 3. Continuing that train of thought, … conversations about the 80-20 rule. Is that a bad thing?

    No. Maybe that 80% is the 20% in some other context. People should chill out and mind your own business.

    > 4. Did anyone reference Michael Spencer’s post on Wretched Urgency in
    > our discussions this week?

    I didn’t see it references anywhere. I though of WU, but not specific post. But I’m too far from Evangelicalism for WU to really be an issue anymore; those are just sad and exhausting memories. It is one facet of the Millennials generation that I admire – at least the ones I know – the WU play is really not going to get much traction.

    > 5. Penultimately, from yesterday’s post… I get the impression that people are thinking of
    > the “New Earth” as a renewed Earth. Having watched the latest Superman movie not that
    > long ago, I was wondering if it might be a different location altogether. Which way do you lean?

    (a) I’ve never seen the Superman movie – nor have I met anyone who liked it. (b) I have no idea what-so-ever. I don’t even know how a redeemed creation would work.

    • Robert F says

      “I have no idea what-so-ever. I don’t even know how a redeemed creation would work.”

      Ditto. When you start trying to think about the deeper questions surrounding this issue, it inevitably leads you link by link to the more, shall we say, mundane questions, for instance: shall we defecate in the new creation? And I don’t think that question is merely a piece of impiety, because it touches on a constellation of other questions surrounding issues of predation, violence, entropy, evolutionary physiological developments, spiritual body vs. our present bodies, etc., etc., etc. Who can answer these questions? Better, I think, to leave them alone, and proceed on the basis of the little we can have some comprehension about right now.

      Jesus is our past. Jesus is our present. Jesus is our future.

      Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
      As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever, world without end.

      That’s all the eschatology I need, and, at times, it’s even a bit more than I can handle.

      • Maybe I read too much Narnia growing up, but I always thought of the New Creation as more rather than different, per se. Of course, those questions don’t go away. Even if we are vegans, we will be consuming plants, and the cellular death of the plant is no different, biologically, from cellular death in anything else. I know it sounds impious, but one of my favorite pastimes is weight-lifting, and I’ve always wondered what it will be like in heaven. I mean, if there isn’t “blood, sweat, and tears” weight lifting just isn’t fun. Which leads to a whole host of things we enjoy here precisely because of our limitations.

        • Robert F says

          “Which leads to a whole host of things we enjoy here precisely because of our limitations.”

          Can we exist without limitations? I don’t think so. But I suppose the limitations will be different in the new creation, because they will not form the contours of death, whatever that might mean. At the same time, Jesus did not merely leave death behind him when he resurrected and ascended, did he? Death was swallowed up in new life, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it no longer exists; it could mean that death continues to exist, but in a new context, the context of the new life. My wife has often said she hopes that songs written in a minor key continue to exist, even in the new creation/eternal life, and I agree with her. I just can’t imagine perfection being perfect without sad songs and rainy days.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says

            Yes, to all the above.

          • I can’t even begin to imagine a new heaven and earth without night, sleep, the moon and stars – and afternoon naps. All that “no more night” stuff in Revelation is a bit scary if taken literally, although I no longer view it that way.

          • Some minor-key music is pretty happy – depends on where we’re from and what kind of music we make/listen to, I guess. I can think of more than a few major-key pieces that I find oppressive (believe it or not!) But even then, we don’t need to look far for examples of minor-key pieces that overturn the usual views – take gospel blues, for example. (A lovely subset of black gospel music that uses blues and, sometimes, a bit of jazz as well.)

          • Robert F says

            Yes, I know about the minor key thing, and so does my wife, since she is a musician. And not all rainy days are sad and pensive, either. I was just using a folkloric generalization to make a point. If you take me too literally, you will misinterpret me; I’m like the Bible in that way

          • I’m a musician, too, which probably has something to do with my getting overly exercised on that point, Robert! 😉

          • Robert F says

            Yes, I’ve gathered from your comments over the years that you are a musician, and seem to know a good deal about art history, too, and history in general.

            I would hate to get to heaven/eschaton (whatever it is) and find out that I could never hear Neil Young’s song “Cortez the Killer” (for my money, the saddest song ever written [historical idiocy of the lyric notwithstanding], and written in a minor key to boot, I think) again.

          • Robert – yeah, I’m an art history (and former studio art type) in mufti, having taken off the professional hat long ago.

            One of the fascinating things about art history (to me, anyway) is that in order to study it, you have to have a basic working knowledge of religious and cultural history, as well as more than a little political/military/economic stuff as well. With Western art history, obvy, the primary religion is xtianity, and it *really* helps to know the Bible (both OT and NT) in order to be able to understand why certain subjects are depicted, as well as the “how” aspects (media, technique, who commissioned a work and why, etc.).

            But my main ting really is music… mostly non-Western, though I love lots and lots of Western music (classical and non) and have done my time behind a record store counter and all of that. My forte is Middle Eastern and West African (specifically, from parts of Guinea and Mali) percussion, though I would *love* to get the chance to learn to play in a Brazilian samba ensemble (bass drum preferred).

            And… I was in the kids’ choir, growing up Lutheran. (Since we are so big on music and choral singing.) Didn’t like going to church, but *loved* being in the choir.

    • “Maybe that 80% is the 20% in some other context.”

      Great thought!

  6. Richard Hershberger says

    “Maybe that 80% is the 20% in some other context. People should chill out and mind your own business.”

    This. The idea that you or I must be part of the 20% in every activity we engage in is also to say that you or I are only to engage in that small number of activities we have the time and passion to devote full resources to. Nonsense. We are allowed to have casual interests, and we are allowed to take breaks.

    My daughter is in girl scouts. Neither my wife nor I have the time to dive fully into troop parenting. Fortunately, there are other parents in the troop who do. I am deeply appreciative of them, and make a point to tell them. The thing is, if every parent in the troop were in full “do 80% of the work” mode, we would be tripping over each other. When you are passionate about something like this, you want more people to show up just to have them.

    Then there is taking a break. I recently did two consecutive three-year terms on church council, with two of those years as president. We are term limited after two terms, but can run again after one year off. When I was eligible again last Fall I was asked if I were interested in running again. I laughed. I undoubtedly will serve again, but right now I still am on break.

    • Firstly, I agree with everything Richard said here. I’d take this even farther, out of the present and across the stages and circumstances of life.

      Right now I’m in my early thirties and have no kids. I am a member of our parish council, our chief librarian, and one of our two music directors. If we had a hat set aside for “the guy that helps people get involved”, I’d be wearing that one, too. I am certainly part of the 20%. That is exactly as it should be – my particular life situation gives me the time, energy, and a loose enough schedule to do all those things. That isn’t a burden, it is a joy.

      I love that I have the ability to come early to services and get things set up. It means that those in more challenging situations can skate in just in time or late, trusting that the everything needful has been done and they can just settle into prayer with us. That is a gift that those of us in my kind of circumstances can give the family with four kids, a peaceful prayer oasis in a busy week.

      In the past, I have forcibly been in the 80% for most things. In the future, given my particularities, I surely will be again. I see this time as an opportunity, to pass on that ease to the current 80% that I myself received in the past. I appreciated it then, and I get to do it now.

      • Richard Hershberger says

        Good points all. In my traditional long-established multi-generational congregation we have the usual share of elderly, making the gradual transition from vigor, through just being able to show up, to perhaps showing up for Christmas and Easter and having the pastor bring the Eucharist to them in the pew. But look in the records from twenty or thirty or forty years ago and you find that these people were the ones keeping the church going. The good Lord willing, in twenty years or so I will be that geezer hobbling into the pews. If any whippersnapper talks about the 80-20 rule I will whack him with my walker.

        • Robert F says

          Richard, You’re church sounds like the one (Lutheran) my wife works in, and where I spend as much time as she does, though we’re not members. What is missing, though, are the twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings, the ones who will come up and fill the places of those older who are gradually passing on. Oh, there are some, even a few who have joined in recent years, but not nearly enough to keep the parish of the next generation going.

  7. Rick Ro. says

    I think one reason the 80-20 thing happens is because of the joyless way the 20% go about doing God’s work. For about 85% of those 20%, it’s become a grind and a duty. They’re doing it because they think they need to, they’re trying to please God, they’re trying to look holy, “someone needs to do it,” etc. etc. Then comes the ultimate burn-out.

    The other 80% of the congregation wtinesses the burn-out and how joyless the work is, so they avoid “doing.”

    Somehow, we need to realize how free we are in Christ, that his burden is easy. Then “joy of service” has an opportunity to develop. I think if more people went into service for God with joy in their heart, the rule would shift.

  8. Rick Ro. says

    Re: New Heaven, New Earth. One of my main problems with “New Earth” is that we’re so frickin’ “Earth-centric.” Do you realize at one time everyone thought the sun and galaxy rotated around Earth? It’s such a huge universe. Why would God have created such a huge universe if just for Earth? My mind can’t comprehend the immenseness of God and the immenseness of His creation. Somehow, I think Heaven involves something I can’t even wrap my head around.

  9. Regarding your question number five: it would almost certainly have to be another location altogether, if only because if we are going to have a place for anybody who has ever been alive up until now plus anybody who’s alive now as well, we’d need plenty more room than we have now.

    • Michael Z says

      “The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 1400 miles in length, and as wide and high as it is long.” (Rev 21:16)

      That’s describing an arcology approximately 500,000 stories tall, with about 5*10^13 square feet of living space on each floor. Allocating 500 square feet per person would give you a maximum population of roughly 5*10^16 people, or 50 quadrillion.

      And no, I’m not actually being serious, I’m just enjoying the sci-fi theme of today’s comments.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        That sounds like it describes a Borg cube… as wide and high as it is long….

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          You are not the only one to make that comparison.

          And a lot of the ideas of Heaven (as opposed to New Heavens/New Earth) out there add to the resemblance. Worship Bots/Worship Borgs, Prepare to be Assimilated or Damned, Resistance is Futile.

          • Vega Magnus says

            One of my A Beka textbooks actually referred to New Jerusalem as “the space city.” I’m not joking.

          • HUG, I *really* like your bots/Borg analogies! Sad that they’re so characteristic of some parts of the church, though thankfully, not all.

            I hope and pray that those who are feeling ground down by these kinds of views will find freedom and relief.

      • Joseph (the original) says

        yeah…i’ll wander down this rabbit trail for a while…

        re: the dimensions of the New Jerusalem; will our existence be proportionally the same as now? it seems when Jesus was resurrected He did not change in stature (height+weight). He was physically the same, correct? if so, the dimensions of the New Jerusalem exceeds our planetary proportions. it would extend further into space than the living conditions nearest the surface of the earth. so, will there be new laws of physics too? if there is no sun or moon to be the light of the New Earth, could that imply it will be a larger rogue planet with a proportionally accepted Mega-City as its main feature? God will be its light and energy source? a rogue planet/spaceship roaming the entire universe on a voyage of discovery and enjoying the amazing secrets of God’s creation? I think the New Heavens/New Earth is only our solar system renewal/reset as there will be no need for a fixed place in our Milky Way galaxy and we would be free to roam wherever the New Earth spaceship was sent. but there are the unknowns of God and Jesus interacting with us in our physical forms that will certainly have a definite dimension that will also operate in ways just like we do now, so that implies a similar law of physics that will also be the recognizable foundation of how we get to live, and move, and have our being in this amazing new, endless future…


  10. Rick Ro. says

    My answer to 1. is vastly different than it would’ve been 27 years ago when I began my walk with Christ. Back then, it would’ve been about the sinner’s prayer and leading them to whatever my denomination’s “faith statement” was and the do’s and don’t’s of walking with Christ. Now, it would be more about “relationship with God, Jesus, and his people.” It’d be more about “ignore all the man-made rules you will have tossed at you by various folks, and rest easy on the sacrifice of Jesus and his resurrection.” I would probably toss him/her a Bible and suggest they begin exploring it. I’d jot down a few places as starting points and then try to get with them periodically to respond to questions.

    Regarding 2. Yes, God can do whatever He wants to do and doesn’t “need” us to convert anyone AND I also believe that we can aid in bringing people into His kingdom. Why do people insist on making it seem so binary?

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > Why do people insist on making it seem so binary?

      Ditto. I think this issue, like many many issues, is complicated, and one scenario/scheme may not apply to everyone everywhere in every context. Focusing on how to make our role as productive and positive as possible seems more fruitful a pursuit than teasing out the theological mechanics of salvation [to the extent the texts we have even allow us to do so – really].

  11. Mike, thanks for pushing us. There have been so many traumatic experiences for folks who are navigating the wilderness that it seems any mention of disciple-making is immediately associated with wretched urgency.

    In a life of faith, it just seems difficult to inspire and hold people to responsibility without giving the appearance of “shoulds” and legalism.

    • Hi Sean,

      I do think their is a balance to be struck. I think that Chaplain Mike and I have both have a balance approach to this. We both want to stay away from the extremes. We might be on opposite sides of the yellow line, but we are both middle of the road.

  12. David Cornwell says

    “I have heard some recent conversations about the 80-20 rule. These particular conversations were being applied to life in the church and what needed to be done. The observation was that 20% of the people seemed to doing 80% of the work of ministry. ”

    The rule is one made up by the 20% who think they are doing all the work. In actuality the other 80% may be living out their lives for Jesus doing the common work of doing their jobs, providing for families, raising children, being good neighbors, and praying for peace. None of this is particularly easy. When one does all these things little time is left for participating in church programming schemes or whatever else the 20% might think to be important.

    Love your neighbor. Love God.

    • I agree. Usually the citing of this rule is just evidence that the person appealing to it has a very specific view of the role of the church and how busy it ought to be offering a purpose-driven panoply of age-specific programming. ‘Cause this is how we reach out to people, and build the kingdom of God. ‘Cause this is how all the big churches do it, and they’re reaching many people.

      It’s just another example of good intentions run amuck. Church life activity that is burning people out on busy work has simply become an obstacle to the message of joy and peace we ought to be conveying. Less is more, I say! …plus, when all these smaller churches keep trying to offer scaled down versions of the big church programs, all they can hope to provide is an inferior knock off. …which basically means we’ve given them absolutely no reason to belong to our congregation whatsoever if they can get the exact same thing, only better, just down the block. There is no greater failure to “be yourself” than the small church who tries to “cut and paste” the strategies of the big church. The big churches love to push this, ’cause when they’re surrounded with a bunch of mini wannabes, they become even more the best show in town.

      Us small congregations need to embrace our smallness. Christ can use that, but too often we get in his way by trying to mimic the “success story” of the business model used elsewhere instead of strategizing how our more limited resources can be used effectively for the building of the kingdom of God.

      • David Cornwell says

        “small congregations need to embrace our smallness. ”

        Absolutely, because there is nothing wrong with being small. Pastors or other church workers need to be careful about pressuring people to do things. If they say “no,” respect that answer. And when asking, ask in a way that “no” can be an answer. When that happens people will respect you more, because you respect them.

    • David:
      Love your answer. What is really meant is that the self-styled ’20’% are busy (in so many instances) practicing….and implementing “CHURCHIANITY”…..that they utterly ignore, and often lose sight of the idea of Christ’s Presence permeating every five of one’s being…whether at the ball game (incomprehensible to me, but i’m not a sports fanatic)….or Bowling (as in my verbiage when I throw a gutter ball), or at home…or work!

    • deerintheroad says

      ++1 ^ what he said.

      Plus tipping baristas generously !

  13. #6 is cool! Thanks for posting, and best of luck to your son.

  14. “How do I become a member of your church?”
    The Catholic church has the best answer to this I have ever seen: RCIA. The Protestant world has some catch-up to play in this regard. For the vast majority of us, it’s believe, be baptized, take a membership class. We’re sometimes so concerned with making entry into our traditions as easy as possible so that people are actually willing to jump through our easy hoops, we loose the importance of the transition we are walking them through and fail to do it in a way that befits the significance of the lifelong journey they are being initiated into. My experience with this in the Protestant scene screams that we are more interested with quick converts than lifetime disciples. It’s a very American way of doing business, I suppose.

    • …and to the question “How does somebody become a Christian according to your church?” we agree with the apostle Peter in Acts 2:38 – Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins, and you WILL receive the Holy Spirit.

    • Here ya go:


      The Awe-Inspiring Rites of Initiation: The Origins of the RCIA, Second Edition Paperback
      by Edwin Yarnold SJ (Author)

      This new edition of Father Yarnold’s 1972 authoritative work has been recast so that it corresponds throughout with the Rite of Christian Initiation as it now exists. Anyone with a serious pastoral or scholarly interest in the rite will benefit from this definitive, readable blend of history, theology, patristics, and liturgy.

      Each period and step of the RCIA is explained and compared to the fourth-century rite after which the modern one was modeled. In addition to more subtle improvements, this second edition gives a clearer and more accurate account of the three anointings, and a better explanation of the scrutinies.

      The sermons of Cyril, Ambrose, Chrysostom, and Theodore, which form the basis of our understanding of the rite as originally celebrated, are conveniently gathered in this one volume in an accurate and readable English translation, with introductions and notes

  15. For point #2, Mike, Carey was dealing, if I recall correctly, with a board of hyper-Calvinists, superlapsarians (if I’ve spelled it correctly) who literally embrace sovereignty to the exclusion of evangelism. I really doubt anybody here does that. The vast majority of Calvinists, historically and in this hangout, are infralapsarians. The difference is crucial, and nobody who doesn’t understand it has the intellectual standing to give a legitimate critique of Calvinism generally.

    Keep in mind, just ’cause many of us don’t agree with how American Evangelicalism does church planting, reject decision theology, and dogmatically insist that doctrine is more important than drawing a crowd, it doesn’t mean evangelism and missions aren’t very important to us. Most of us belong to church traditions that are very invested in this, which we support in many ways.

    Carrey’s story is too often pulled out as a negative caricature of anybody who would resist a religious entrepreneur’s methods on theological grounds. But it’s not the same thing. One is a resistance to all methods, the other is a resistance to bad methods. We can disagree about which is which, but don’t think we don’t give a rip for the lost just because we really want them to understand and receive the Gospel, and not the American sales pitch version of it (revivalism).

    Some people will make a wonderful, lifelong spiritual home for themselves in revivalist traditions. I have many dear friends and family members who have. Also seen many get disillusioned, burned out, and leave (including myself). Some of them leave the faith for good. Some of us see such glaring problems with it that obstruct the Gospel so much it too often becomes a barrier to faith. It is specifically because we care for those who are not in Christ that we must remain critical of what we consider to be a false teaching.

    We can agree to disagree on the doctrinal underpinnings of Revivalism, but I’m sorry if the responses stung a bit last week, Mike. Honestly, I really look forward to your posts each week, even if I rarely agree, because they almost always start great discussions, even if it quickly becomes heated debate.

    • “Carrey’s story is too often pulled out as a negative caricature of anybody who would resist a religious entrepreneur’s methods on theological grounds.”

      Fair enough, but unless you are accusing Mike of propagating this caricature… well, what are you saying? It is one thing to reject a caricature, but it is another thing to reject the authentic by citing a caricature of it/

      • In response to his question, “I wonder if several of our readers would have given a similar response?” I am asking him to consider whether, as I said, if “several of our readers” fit Carey’s story of dogmatic resistance to evangelism generally, or rather, merely the propagation of harmful false doctrine, even if we disagree on what qualifies for that.

        Just ’cause we don’t go knocking on doors with chick tracts doesn’t mean we don’t want souls to be saved.

        • “Just ’cause we don’t go knocking on doors with chick tracts doesn’t mean we don’t want souls to be saved.”

          To which I would say, you’re citing a caricature. Yes, it’s out there. But here, since we’re citing IM readership… come on, man.

          • Even if the historical setting of Carey’s challenge is not completely analogous to our setting of the evangelical wilderness, it is at least a fair point of reference as far as this: Carey challenging the theological status-quo about their responsibility to make disciples.

            I might suggest that those in the wilderness need this very challenge. Because of the damage done by the extremism and the need for recovery from it, one might be tempted to theologize from a static, comfortable position in regards to mission (i.e. “I was subject to/propagated manipulation, therefore this will never be part of my faith again”), rather than reframing what mission really means in the Kingdom and how to go about it in a doctrinally and emotionally healthy way.

          • No, Sean, I am most certainly not caricaturing Mike. I quoted him. Show me how I have caricatured. The point of the chick tract comment is that Christian A and Christian B both believe in evangelism “A” does evangelism through method X, and B rejects method X in favor of method Y, believing that X is wrong and harmful. Christian A then concludes that Christian B is against evangelism if he rejects method X, because he doesn’t know any other way of doing it. Some of us have found a better way, that is all. But you seem to assume that we’re sitting on our hands. Who is caricaturing here?

            It is not a fair point to refer to Carey at all. Carey rightly challenged those who held an incorrect theology. The pastor who rebuked him was wrong, period (we can agree on this, right?). In this case, we are not objecting from a position of bad theology. It is not about bad experiences form manipulation: it is about a teaching that creates those situations. Not all post-evangelicals are against mission or inactive in it. You may want to look a bit more closely before prescribing challenges – you seem to hold a caricature of us you don’t even realize.

            Many of us have also found our way out of the wilderness into new homes. In these homes, we have embrace paradigms of mission and disciple making that are new to us, but older than Evangelicalism itself. We are discovering what it really means to go about mission in God’s kingdom in a way that is doctrinally and emotionally healthy. Revivalism isn’t it, and we will continue to object to it.

            Ironically enough, Revivalism is the status quo in American Evangelicalism. It is the majority report in need of a serious challenge. If we can’t challenge it without being told we’re getting in God’s way, who is telling who to “sit down, young man?”

          • Sean Muldowney says

            “you seem to assume that we’re sitting on our hands.” No, not at all. I believe you, that you care about the lost, as you put it. And im not sure who the “we” is that you speak of.

            I haven’t accused to of caricaturing Mike. I took umbrage at the ungracious chick tract statement, which is a broad caricature of evangelicalism, and I was direct about it. But you’ve defended that statement, so I’ll go no further.

            I’m comfortable with our differences, and with those who have found new homes. It’s why I’m here. But I don’t get why you have such a hairpin defense mechanism, and must lampoon evangelicalism at every turn. You know it’s a big tent. It comes off as quite ungracious.

            Correct me if this is not true, but as it regards conversations about evangelism, mission etc., you are assuming that you are being targeted and judged. You’re not.

          • Sean, I’m just answering your questions and responding to your assertions.
            “but unless you are accusing Mike of propagating this caricature… well, what are you saying?”
            …simply that the Carey story doesn’t fit the situation, for myself and what I read of the thread.

            “I might suggest that those in the wilderness need this very challenge”
            “one might be tempted to theologize from a static, comfortable position in regards to mission”
            …sounds a little like sitting on your hands to me. But I guess not. I was less clear with my chick tract analogy, I suppose (and yes, I know that hardly anybody uses them).

            But how am I lampooning Evangelicalism? And how is it being defensive to articulate an objection to an analogy I that I don’t think fits?

            I said: “Some people will make a wonderful, lifelong spiritual home for themselves in revivalist traditions. I have many dear friends and family members who have.” – “We can agree to disagree on the doctrinal underpinnings of Revivalism, but I’m sorry if the responses stung a bit last week, Mike.” -and – …”false doctrine, even if we disagree on what qualifies for that.” I think I’m quite comfortable in the big tent. I don’t understand how you see my comments as so aggressive.

          • Sean and Miguel. I think I should elaborated a little more on point two. Note my final question: “Is perhaps a more scriptural response somewhere between Carey’s question and the response he received?”

            Seeing as we are talking caricature, I see Carey as representative of the evangelical “wretched urgency” caricature that is: “it was the duty of ALL Christians to spread the gospel though the world”

            The response he received, represents the other caricature.

            I think those at Internet Monk lean towards the latter rather than the former, but probably because so many have been burned by the former.

    • David Cornwell says

      While in retrospect we can see the extremes of revivalism, and some of the damage it may have caused, at the time I’m not sure what the alternative might have been. I’m not sure what kind of evangelism was offered by Lutheran or Episcopal churches or what would have happened if they were all we had to depend on at the time. Methodism was born out of the deadness of the established church. Circuit riders, both Methodist and Baptist, in many ways defined the birth of revivalism. Cane Ridge type camp meetings encompassed a wide range of theological and denominational backgrounds. It would be hard to deny that lives were changed in frontier America.

      Mistakes and extremes often occur because of these kind of movements. The failure to adjust out of revivalism as the nation matured probably could have been avoided. And to carry it on today shows a failure of imagination.

      If I’m wrong about what I’m saying, let me know.

      • Interesting thoughts. It’s really hard to say what might have happened, it’s never really possible to know. Worth considering, however, is that Methodism originally WAS a movement within the Episcopal church, with both Wesley and Whitefield remaining Anglican ministers, but the movement quickly outstripped the ability of the institution to keep up with its expansion, to the point it became a hindrance. Neither revivalist wanted a new denomination, but it was created as a matter of expediency, I believe. I know that often Episcopal churches can seem like country clubs for the rich (Anglicans, am I wrong?), but let us remember they were the initiators of revival, combined with Johnathan Edwards, who was a congregationalist (and VERY Reformed). I am much more critical of the second great awakening (Charles Finney, Campbellites) than the first.

        Many Revivalists point to the “deadness of the established church,” but I can’t help but wonder what they mean. The established church had the Word and Sacraments, and thus, the activity of the Spirit, creating and sustaining faith in its membership. What it didn’t have is a frenzy of activity and creative proselytization. But is that truly where the life of the church lies? It seems like Revivalism generally trades one for the other, which imo, actually takes the life of the Church from her. Wesley, I believe, would have had both. I think the Methodist church of today is recovering this.

        Also, the Lutherans were very active on the frontier and had their own circuit riding pastors. Our doctrine of ministry, combined with a shortage of itinerant pastors, was largely influential in the decline of communion frequency in the frontier churches, which has made a substantial recovery in recent decades. I do know that at many turns their efforts were frustrated by competing ideologies. Revivalism appealed to excitement, and Lutheranism is anything but. What makes an easier sell in a free market?

        That isn’t to say that Lutheranism can’t be exciting (I think our parish can be), but excitement isn’t a part of what it means to be Lutheran. For Revivalism, however, excitement is indispensable, which is why it is generally not a very sustainable faith for the suffering.

        • Robert F says

          ” I know that often Episcopal churches can seem like country clubs for the rich (Anglicans, am I wrong?), ”

          Less true now than it formerly was, although most Episcopalians tend to fall on the affluent and well-educated side of the graph (exceptions like me and my wife are far more frequent than they used to be….meaning that you don’t have to belong to the right country club to get into the Episcopal Church anymore; if you’re breathing and baptized, you’re good to go: it’s just that not many want to go).

    • Miguel, you are absolutely right that Carrey was dealing with hyper-Calvinists and supralapsarians (please note the corrected spelling). Both supralapsarianism and infralapsarianism are Calvinists perspectives, but the former is way closer to hyper-Calvinism than the latter. Calvin did not teach supralapsarianism although his hand-picked successor, Beza, did. And I believe that it was such excesses which led Beza’s pupil, Arminius, to reject Calvinism.

      A good explanation of these terms can be found @ http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/articles/sup_infr.htm, including this summary,

      “Those are the two major Calvinistic views. Under the supralapsarian scheme, God first rejects the reprobate out of His sovereign good pleasure; then He ordains the means of their damnation through the fall. In the infralapsarian order, the non-elect are first seen as fallen individuals, and they are damned solely because of their own sin. Infralapsarians tend to emphasize God’s “passing over” the non-elect (preterition) in His decree of election.”

      • Correct me if I’m wrong, but I do believe Carey remained a Calvinist?

        • All indication is that William Carey remained a Baptist and a Calvinist until his death in 1834. I do know he was not a hyper-Calvinist, which was prevalent among English Baptists back in the late 18th and early 19th century. In this respect Carey agreed with his friend Andrew Fuller who had written against hyper-Calvinism’s premise that all men were not responsible to believe the Gospel. It was John Collett Ryland who supposedly told Carey “Young man, sit down; when God pleases to convert the heathen, he will do it without your aid and mine.”

  16. I’ll stand up for Man of Steel a bit. It wasn’t a super great movie but it wasn’t bad, and I’d recommend it. Most of the complaints have nothing to do with the movie itself but what the movie evokes in people (the ending specifically); for my part, I applauded. I’ll agree with the whole Jonathan Kent thing being a mess, but overall, it was a pretty entertaining film, and certainly the best Superman movie so far. It felt closer to the comics than anything short of the cartoons.

    tl;dr – it finally made me believe a man could fly and did away with the stupid Reeves brought to the character.

  17. Robert F says

    Regarding the statement made by the hyper-Calvinist regarding missionary activity: I don’t believe that the salvation of a single person depends on any of my actions. Witnessing to the gospel of Jesus Christ is a form of discipline for those engaged in it, a means whereby we are conformed to the image of Christ by publicly identifying with the crucified and resurrected God. That God uses this witness as a means to communicate the gospel to those have not yet accepted it does not mean that he depends on us to bring others to faith; remember that in the NT, the good news of Jesus Christ, both his incarnation and his resurrection, are first communicated to human beings by angels. If I’m not mistaken, the meaning of the word “angel” is messenger, and God has no lack of such messengers. That he allows human beings to convey the gospel is a privilege, as well as a discipline, a learning, for those of us he has commissioned to do so.

  18. Thinking through #1 a bit more carefully, “becoming a member of your church” isn’t necessarily the same as conversion; in fact, a “born-again believer” could easily say this. In fact, I said it upon visiting the Lutheran church of which I am now a member. But regarding conversion, I have moved away theologically from an understanding of salvation as some point in time tethered to a decision or prayer or what have you. While the promise of Peter still stands (repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins), the actual conversion thing looks more like a process. The problem I have seen is that we create some steps for joining the tribe, and then that is it, instead of looking at faith as something to be grown and nurtured. The parable of the sower comes to mind. I now tend to take conversion experiences a little more lightly and continued growth a little more seriously, both for myself and others.

    • Rick Ro. says

      ->”The problem I have seen is that we create some steps for joining the tribe, and then that is it, instead of looking at faith as something to be grown and nurtured.”

      Yes, we are way too tribal, aren’t we? Even “united in Christ”, we are tribal. In fact, pretty much down through history, from that first recorded, war and violence all tends to begin with some form of tribalism.

  19. Rick Ro. says

    Random though alert, totally unrelated to Mike Bell’s Random Thoughts, and also completely non-spiritual in nature….

    (Which leads me to wonder if the Internet Monk community could have a “message board” on which to leave Random Thoughts unrelated to current articles…?)

    I was looking at the rating for the new Godzilla movie and saw it was rated PG-13 for “intense sequences of destruction, mayhem and creature violence.” Man, o man…does that sound awesome or what? And wouldn’t you love to have been the person determining how to convey the definition of the content for the PG-13 rating?

    “Let’s see, it’s not just sequences of ‘damage,’ but of DESTRUCTION! Not just scenes of ‘chaos,’ but of MAYHEM. And it’s not just ‘violence,’ but CREATURE violence!”

  20. Marcus Johnson says

    For question 1: I’m a little disappointed at folks who would answer that question with a list of beliefs and actions that a person should take. I would think a proper answer to the question, “What do I need to do to be a member of this community?” would be “You need to be a sinner.” Yes, there’s baptism, and a creed, and church services and mentoring and small group this and Sunday school that, but it feels like having that as the immediate answer introduces someone to the rules of the community before they can be introduced to the community itself. Seems iffy…

    • I can see where you are coming from, theologically, but if someone actually and literally responded that way to me, I would roll my eyes and walk away into the sunset.

      • Jesus said a few things that caused a similar reaction in many. Including something not altogether different in Mark 2:17.

      • Marcus Johnson says

        Okay, I wouldn’t literally respond that way, unless I was ushering for a Hillsong concert.

        But the idea is still the same. The doctrine and practices will come later, but people belong because God created them and they are sinful beings.

    • “You need to be a sinner.” Right on! Jesus comes ONLY for sinners, and non-sinners have absolutely nothing to get from him.

      The problem is, in the “rules of the community,” you include the Gospel. The Gospel is not a rule to be obeyed, it is a free gift to be received, through faith. I understand the reluctance to say “Christians are people who [insert overwhelming to-do list],” but we must be careful to at least be willing to include what the Apostles did when people asked them similar questions. We must not be too afraid to introduce certain rules that we fail to give them Christianity at all. They can meet the community later – they need the Savior, because He is what makes us Christians and gives Christians (both individually and as communities) their identity.

      So who is Jesus, what has he done, and how does that relate to me? The answers to these questions are not rules – they’re good news.

    • And now the big reveal as to my response at the time…

      “Our church doesn’t have membership.” Doh. About the worst possible response I could have given.

  21. Calijenn says

    Regarding the “new earth”, I read a few years ago that the word for “new” is the same word that is used when it is stated in 2 Cor. 5:17 that if anyone is in Christ, they are a “new” creature; the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new. That leads me to believe it means something like a “redeemed” earth.

  22. 3) I think that this really depends on the definition of the work “in the church”. We are a life that is being lived out in front of the world and supposedly to the glory of God, even if it is in a “mundane” way. The picture that the 80% are to support the 20% who do the real “work in the church” is just the other side of the coin of the Christian vocation that he was speaking about. I don’t say this to shame people, or put pressure on people, but I think that there is more to the life of the believer than to live a good life and show up to church on sunday.

  23. Robert F says

    ” Having watched the latest Superman movie not that long ago, I was wondering if it might be a different location altogether. Which way do you lean?”

    The new creation started in Jesus’ resurrected body. I tend to think the rest of the new creation follows the pattern of the one who inaugurated it.

    So, was Jesus’ resurrected body an altogether different one from his pre-resurrected body, or was there some element of one-to-one correspondence involved?

    I tend to think the latter, because I don’t think that our spirits are abstracted essences that can transmitted from one body to another, as if the body is merely a container. I think that our particular spirits are inextricably related to our particular bodies. That doesn’t mean that my entire body would have to be intact for me to be resurrected; it does mean that maybe one molecule, or one curl of DNA, or bit of physical information, from my present body would have to be involved in the the resurrection of my “spiritual” body.

    But our bodies, even in this life, are not dependent on the continued presence of all the matter that they started out with. I believe current biology indicates that every single molecule in our bodies is replaced at least one time during our lifetime, including the entire nervous system, which was previously thought to be lifelong (if I’m wrong on some of this, please feel free to correct). But our DNA certainly continues to pattern the components of our physical bodies throughout our lives. I’m beginning to believe that the body is not matter itself, but the patterning of matter by the material component of DNA. Its like a seal that leaves a certain shaped impression in every lump of wax it’s impressed into. If this is the case, then the body/soul matrix is an even deeper mystery than the distinction between matter and spirit, and the body itself already transcends assignment to any assortment of dancing matter.

    • Robert F says

      And then there’s the whole question of how matter and energy are related, how they seem to be different forms of the same underlying reality. The deeper you go into it, the more speculation you undertake, the thicker the plot gets, and the more questions and complexities arise. My Zen teachers warned me to beware of all such metaphysical speculations, because they tend to lead us away from what is right in front of our faces.

  24. Christiane says

    I once read a comment by a Southern Baptist minister that ‘the Earth was cursed’ . . . . and I thought that he didn’t understand how the coming of Christ impacts ALL Creation

    I also think that the Paschal Mystery transcends boundaries of place and time in ways we have not understood.

    We take way too much for granted

  25. deerintheroad says

    Heheh remembering when i was of the 20%. It meant I was the water-carrier-table-setter-upper-dish-washer for the micro-managing Ministry Leader- True Christian™(HUG where are you?) Gaaawdly-Woman-of-Faith and anything I did outside of that context did not , uh, “count”.
    Still trying to wash off the ick.

  26. Final Anonymous says

    Mike, I must have missed it, but if you don’t mind me asking, what got you “smarting” at last week’s post? (Pretty sure I commented there, don’t want to have unintentionally offended)

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