Art and artisans since Moses

The contemporary church has failed to appreciate the value of art, artists, and artistry as an expression of our worship. The Protestant Church in the 16th century expelled much of art and believed that it was unnecessary and extraneous from the core of the gospel. This is why we have not seen much Christian art since the rise of Protestantism.

In the Old Testament (14-13th c. BCE), God had Moses commission the best of the artists, Oholiab, to design items of worship for the sanctuary. These items were not merely for practical uses, but were also meant to be beautiful and artistic–thus, demanding the best of the best artisans to design and craft the holy hardware.

“…and with him was Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, an artisan, a designer, and an embroiderer in blue, purple, and scarlet yarn and fine linen.” (Exodus 38:23, NET)

During the exile of Jerusalem, the Babylonian King, valued the artists so much so that they were taken captive along with the best military officers, soldiers and craftsmen.

“King Nebuchadnezzar took all of Jerusalem captive, including all the commanders and the best of the soldiers, craftsmen, and artisans—10,000 in all. Only the poorest people were left in the land.” (2 Kings 24:14, NLT)

Art was highly valued in worship and is common in all cultures. Why should Christianity not also value artistry in our worship of the Lord?

A glass wedding chapel in Taiwan

I am currently visiting Taiwan and will blog when I get the opportunity. I saw this church on the internet and thought this was interesting. It is a glass slipper church in Chaiyi, Taiwan.  There are no worship services, and was built with the intention to be used as a wedding chapel.  Seems like a bit of a luxury.  The BBC websites blogged about this here.  Might be an interesting place to visit if I get the chance.

A ‘lost’ generation can be ‘found’

I spoke with parents whose children no longer come to church. There are many young people who are now adults who made an exodus from church. You’d never know they once accompanied their parents to church.  The thing is, they never got to know Jesus in the way that Jesus would have wanted.  Maybe that’s why some see the ‘church’ as a stodgy old place where rules and regulations are recited and taught from the pulpit.

This is not to say that God isn’t holy–the holiness and righteousness of God is utmost and paramount.  Maybe some of our churches might need a little bit of reform and teach more about God’s grace, mercy, love, an embodiment of His powerful living presence, and God’s very own righteousness instead of our own human righteousness.   This is what I hope the church can be, and be more about. I saw this YouTube spoken word video on just this topic.  I liked it because it resonated with me.

Anatomy of a sick church

Thom Rainer posted on his blog about 10 symptoms of a sick church.  Many churches don’t realize they’re unhealthy or sick until they get to the latter stages of the sickness and near death.  Let’s hope and pray that these churches would wake up and realize our need for healing and for Jesus to come and heal our body.

  1. Declining worship attendance. Surprisingly, the majority of church leaders do not monitor worship attendance. I advise leaders to compare each month’s average worship attendance to the same month of previous years.
  2. Decline in frequency of attendance of church members. This symptom is the number one explanation for attendance decline in most churches. Members are not as committed as they once were. Their waning love for their church is reflected in their declining frequency in worship attendance.
  3. Lack of joy and vibrancy in the worship service. Obviously, this symptom is subjective. It is still, however, very important. Most people can sense when a worship service is vibrant, lukewarm, or dead.
  4. Little evangelistic fruit. As a general rule, a healthy church will reach at least one non-Christian for every 20 in worship attendance. A church with a worship attendance of 200, for example, should see at least ten new Christians a year.
  5. Low community impact. In my consultations, I attempt to find clear indicators that a church is making a difference in its respective community. I ask both church leaders and community members for clear examples and indicators.
  6. More meetings than ministry. A sick church will meet about what they should do rather than do it. Some churches have more committees than conversions.
  7. Acrimonious business meetings. Christians can and do disagree. Sick churches have meetings where the disagreements reflect obvious bitterness and anger.
  8. Very few guests in worship services. A vibrant church will attract guests. A sick church will not.
  9. Worship wars. Yes, they still exist in many churches. Those wars are indicators of an inward focus by the members.
  10. Unrealistic expectations of pastoral care. Sick churches view pastors and other staff as hired hands to do all of the work of ministry. Healthy churches view pastors as equippers for the members to do most of the ministry.

[ See full blog post here ]

Poll: Authority of the Bible vs. the Church’s Teachings

Here’s a poll for you.  Have we gone too far in rejecting the authority in the church, or not far enough?  Find out where your church or congregation stands on authority–on the bible alone, or also on the teachings and traditions of the church?


It seems like the majority in the evangelical church today tend to understand the authority of the bible vs church tradition in this way:

Accepting the infallibility & inerrancy of the bible which is the only authority (to the exclusion of the authority of the church’s teachings)

while

Rejecting the authority of the church’s teachings/traditions based on the bible (but not to the exclusion of the bible as the only infallible authority)

Yes, seems like a small difference in wording but implications can be huge.  It comes down to this: Where upon which does the onus for infallibility lay?  1) Upon our individual congregation’s interpretation of the bible, or 2) Upon the Church’s historic, catholic, and apostolic interpretation of the bible?

What are the implications?  Many evangelicals are never taught anything about the historical meaning of the Church’s early traditions and confessions. As a result, have we evangelicals become individualistic and have a type of privatized inner spirituality where we see our faith as a kind of “me, God and my bible”?  I know it’s a tough question to answer because we need to dig really deep to examine our inner spirituality.

Historical background: The Reformation in the early 1500s carried a strong conviction lrose_stainedglass300that the Scriptures alone was the word of God.  Luther did not trust in the pope or councils alone because, in the past, they had spoken in error and contradicted themselves.  Therefore, reformers like Luther and Calvin rejected the pope’s official words as being the very words of God Himself, thus the phrase: “sola scriptura” and “word alone”.

God’s kingdom’s reign…in our weakness or strength?

My last post was on God’s coming kingdom.  Although how extremist-Islam’s version of God’s kingdom is to come about is violent and forceful, Islam also believes in a new kingdom.  However, if I may also be critical of us as Christians, throughout sectors of the church, some of our Christian ideas about God’s coming kingdom hasn’t been exactly all correct either.  I’m speaking about our “Kingdom Now” theology that some Christians believe in.  God’s kingdom is here now but we just need to claim it for ourselves.  This is true in one sense but false in another.  Theology is not so simple and clear-cut. We are citizens of God’s heavenly kingdom but it hasn’t fully manifested itself on earth yet, until the Last Day.

What some of us Christians might not like to hear is that Christ will accomplish His will in us in our weakness–and not in our strength.  In some parts of the Church, even today, it has deluded itself into believing that God’s earthly kingdom must be strong and victorious in an earthly way and we must exert our power and influence over the earth.   We look to grandiose schemes that are really focused on the earthly realm and view them as reflections of God’s future powerful rule on earth.   This is a theology of glory that attempts to achieve God’s kingdom via human strength–which is pure vanity.  The truth is, God’s kingdom is not of this world and will be nothing like what we imagine.

God’s kingdom is of the spiritual realm–which is unseen, and unknowable through earthly eyes and mind.   It cannot be built or achieved through the secular-earthly realm.  As Christians, some of us have also placed too much confidence in physical-secular power and wisdom.  We ignore the Sovereign and Almighty Power and Presence of God the Creator and trust more in our own wisdom and human potential, which in God’s eyes, really doesn’t amount to much when compared to his omnipotent power.  Our own ignorance and our arrogant attitudes within the church is proof enough.

Two thousand years have passed since Jesus ascended to heaven and returned to the Father and we still ignore what Jesus reminded the Church just before our Lord ascended.

In Matthew 24:23-27, Jesus also goes on to warn his followers about false messiahs and false prophets, who will also be performing signs and wonders to deceive even the elect.

God’s kingdom will come even in our weakness, and amidst our persecutions, trials and hardships.  Didn’t Jesus say:

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth…Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:5,10)

Both Muslims and Christians alike can fall prey to the evil one’s manipulation of believing that God’s kingdom must necessarily come through our strength and power.  If God is God, then can’t the kingdom of the Sovereign God come in the midst of our meekness and weakness?  When it does, then we know the kingdom belongs to our Lord, and not to us.

What NOT to say to the preacher

simpsons-in-church-sleepingI caught this from Thom S. Rainer’s blog and found it almost hilarious, but true.  These ten things can deflate a minister, especially after what the the preacher felt was a Spirit-inspired message.  It’s funny how some people see it as their job to put the pastor in their place, or they’re just totally insensitive.

Which one of these have we said, or thought silently to ourselves, on a Sunday morning?

  1. “I am going to be late for lunch because you preached so long.”
  2. “You must not have had much time to prepare that sermon.”
  3. “My former pastor preached a much better sermon from that text.”
  4. “I wish {fill in the blank} would have heard that sermon.”
  5. “You act like you weren’t feeling well while you preached.”
  6. “I’m sorry I fell asleep while you were preaching. Your voice just puts me to sleep.”
  7. “Your subject/verb agreement was incorrect three times in your sermon.”
  8. “I wish you wouldn’t preach from the Old Testament.”
  9. “Let me tell you what you missed in your sermon.”
  10. “Are we ever going to be done with this sermon series?”

Thom Rainer always has serious stuff to say about pastoral or church issues, but this one was just too good to pass up because we can all relate to it (in a wierd way).

Theological pilgrimage

I have blogged about this matter in the past but only very briefly in passing.   After many months of self-reflection and getting resettled, I now have more time to reflect upon my journey and share with  readers here (and anyone else who may be interested).

Since November of 2011, I have made a journey that has brought my family and I to a new denomination, and to another province.  As  some of my old readers may know, I began serving as an ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church. My family and I decided to leave the Lutheran church for various reasons–partly for family and ecclesiological reasons.  The ELCIC denomination (Canadian equivalent to the ELCA) in which I was a part of had made big changes in the summer of 2011 in the way it treated marriage between two people of the same gender.  I believe its interpretation of Scripture had gone awry and I know that this goes against the popular beliefs in society today. The atmosphere in this denomination made it very difficult for pastors to speak their mind (despite what they may say).  After some time praying and reflecting upon this, as a family we decided that it was better just to leave rather than remain within the system.  The theological currents within the ELCIC was too powerful, especially in its leadership level, so I was under no deception about this.

Despite these huge changes, many of my former fellow colleagues in ministry chose to remain in the same denomination (since they are mostly life-long Lutherans).    I know how hard it is to leave a denomination they have known all their lives.  It takes a lot of courage, perhaps too pressure to stand alone for most.  [but to my Lutheran colleagues and brothers and sisters who choose to remain, I pray for them God’s richest blessings. ]

For me, it was a much easier decision to leave because I was already very familiar with the evangelical church.  I had grown up a classical pentecostal assembly (PAOC) in Vancouver, and was baptized by immersion in a Christian & Missionary Alliance (C&MA) Church in Ottawa in my early 20s, and had fellowshiped in evangelical churches most of my life.  (…yes, I’ve been on a theological-ecclesiological journey.)  So to return to the evangelical fold was no problem at all.  Our family packed up our belongings and moved from the prairie towns to the Greater Toronto Area in eastern Canada.  We finally feel more settled now.  We’re recently in the middle of a transition, but overall, this move has been a spiritual pilgrimage back to our evangelical roots.  In looking back I think this pilgrimage has also stretched me in  ways to become a better pastor. I have recently served as a pastor in a Baptist Church (CBOQ).