Healing Drought

What’s the best way to water your lawn?

The American Lawns website recommends 3/4 to 1 inch of water per week, and applying it “as infrequently as possible.”

I’ve known this for some time and have been practicing this summer.  We try to limit watering any part of our yard to once per week, and watering deeply enough to soak in.  Any expert will tell you that watering this way encourages deep root growth, which makes for a healthier, more drought-resistant lawn.

Since I love making analogies between physical and spiritual things, I wondered this morning, what is the significance of this deep-water metaphor for spirituality?

It makes sense to me that deep watering of our souls would produce deeper, stronger, healthier roots in our lives.  But what is the difference between deep and shallow soul-watering?  Surely not the difference between daily and weekly devotional time?

Have you been watering your soul deeply enough?  If so, what is your method/process? If not, what are you going to do about it?

Lover’s Quarrel with “A Lover’s Quarrel”?

Viral Blogger Book Review no. 2:

Warren Cole Smith’s “A Lover’s Quarrel with the Evangelical Church.”

loversquarrelYou are a backslider! You’re the worst kind of “Christian;” a lukewarm, liberal Christian.  You probably don’t’ even believe in the Bible!

So I can imagine the 18 year old Steve Heyduck saying, were he to meet the 45 year old Steve Heyduck.

I’m not nearly so sure what that 18 year old might have said to Warren Cole Smith after reading this book.

Smith identifies the problem early; on page 4 he states: “The evangelical church has spawned the megachurch. It had become about power buidling, not power sharing. And it certainly was not about power sacrificing.”  But he still identifies himself as evangelical, so continues the book from the perspective of wanting to identify the prolems and issues with the intent of being part of the solution.

Smith’s work is very helpful in identifying a couple of trends within evangelicalism.  First, he charts the history of the modern evangelical movement flowing from the Second Great Awakening rather than the first.  This is significant because the Second Great Awakening was marked much more by emotional experience of conversion than by actual transformation of individuals and then society around them.

Second, I think Smith is dead-on in characterizing much of evangelicalism as caught up in the “Christian-Industrial Complex.” But are there really any coherent arguments out there today that would disagree that the church as a whole, and the evangelical church included, has drunk too deeply from the waters of consumerism and market capitalism?

I have already posted my concern over Smith’s chapter on “the Great Stereopticon.” Let me summarize it this way.  Smith is grieved at the priority given to technology in worship-chiefly the overwhelming move towards the use if electronic image-making in worship.  Smith concludes: “Words-and not pictures, drama, or any other medium-seem to be the preferred strategy fo God, of Jesus, and of scripture.” (p.179)

His problem is that the example he gives of the use of words is Jonathan Edwards – lead theologian of the First Great Awakening.  Edwards is perhaps most famous for “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”

This is not the “word” to which Jesus had access, however.  Jesus lived 1500 years before the printing press, Edwards more than a century after. Shane Hipps does a fine job explaining the difference the printing press made in Christendom in his The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture.

To summarize my contention against Smith’s assertion that God’s preferred medium of communication is the word is that the “Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.”  God’s preferred medium was the Incarnation, not the printed word!

I like Smith’s suggestions for the evangelical church:

  1. focus on church planting rather than mega-church building
  2. regain a perspective on vocation
  3. disciple for depth as opposed to numerical gain.

Read this book.  Engage Smith’s arguments.  The tone is conciliatory and encouraging.

Much as I wonder hypothetical conversations with an earlier, far less mature version of myself, most of my growth has been connected with the milieu that is Smith’s focus; for this connection and history I am grateful.

Word of the Ancestors

loversquarrelI’m reading Warren Cole Smith’s A Lover’s Quarrel with the Evangelical Church, the second book I’ve received for review as a Viral Blogger.

In the chapter I just finished, Smith has critiqued the image-driven, multi-media hungry “stereopticon” tragedy of the modern evangelical church.  He concludes:

…dependence on the great stereopticon and rejection of the “foolishness of preaching” deny the Word of God itself…. When the Word of God is faithfully preached, as in Jonathan Edwards’s day, it bears fruit.”

The point Smith misses is that if we are to be historically accurate to the Biblical tradition, we cannot merely go back to the Reformation fervor aided by the printing press.  To be faithful to the Word of God to which he refers, we would have to go back to the first century, when even the literate had very limited access to reading materials.

The printed word, so prominent in Jonathan Edward’sday, was not at all the same printed word as in Jesus’ time.  Perhaps I’ll learn differently by reading the rest of the book, but thus far I haven’t found Smith recognize that Jesus lived not only before video on demand, but also almost 1500 years before Gutenberg.

The Art of the Sermon

Last night was my first ever experience of Rob Bell in person preaching/speaking/delivering a message.   I intended to take notes, perhaps even twitter it, but found myself rather just listening, watching, absorbing.

Bell has been a major influence on me for these last 4 or 5 years, so seeing/hearing him in person was a joy.  This guy comes across as passionate and genuine as I feel when I preach.

In fact, honestly, I have adopted some of his style, method, and intonation.  This is apparently not overdone, else I’m sure I would have heard about it from colleagues by now.

This conference is about “reclaiming the art of the sermon.”  For that, I’m all in.  The part of that that I’ve always gotten is the part of the art that springs, sui generis, from the identity of the preacher.  The part I want to develop, and that I expect this conference to help with, is the study, the work development and practice of the art that brings it together over time.

I have already found the inspiration and motivation that going to a conference offers; so, for the next two days, I am eager to find the rest of what is in this for me.


WDJWWhat Did Jesus Watch?

I am reading Shane Hipp’s The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture: How Media Shapes Faith, the Gospel, and Church. Hipps re-tells the story of the West in terms of the rsie of the printed word.  From my perspective, layering this over all the reading and research I have done in philosophy and political science, this is astounding!

So, back to What Did Jesus Watch…?

Nothing, of course; at least, nothing on television, film, or the internet.  That’s a no-brainer.

Books and magazines, though, are a different story for us.  Books and magazines, as well as other printed-word-media, have eben around since before our grandparents were born.  We assume their existence.

What Did Jesus Read?

Well, if Jesus read anything, he didn’t read nearly so much as you and I do. Jesus lived about 14 centuries before Gutenberg gave us the printing press.

What does this mean?  It means that just like a lot of renaissance painters gave us images of Biblical events with all the figures dressed in renaissance garb, we tend to dress Jesus up like ourselves.

Here are 4 of Hipp’s points about the affect  that print culture has had on us:

  1. Print made us more individualistic
  2. Print introduced the notion of objectivity
  3. Print made us think more abstractly
  4. Print intensifies linear, rational thinking

Take some time to let sink in the way these four characteristics have ruled the West, and the Church.

Jesus didn’t watch what you watch, but he didn’t read what you read either (except, perhaps, the Hebrew Bible).  Jesus did not live under the influence of the culture of the printing press.

What difference does this make?

Too Good not to Pass On

You’ve got to see this by David J. Wood.  here is all you need to read before clicking the link, of you haevn’t already:

Last week, I came across an article that drew upon firsthand interviews with folks who “manned” Mission Control. Here is the fact that leaped out at me: the age range (actual ages, not the average) of the personnel of Mission Control in Houston—the center responsible for Apollo 11 once it left earth’s atmosphere—was 25 to 28. The oldest in the room was the Flight Director. He was 35! The astronauts were the old guys in the program—they were 38, 39, & 40.

Reflecting on the youthfulness of the program, the Commander of Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong, said, “This new Space Age required people who understood digital computers and most of the people in that category were in their 20’s.”

Could the same thing be true in the church?

Journeys and Destinations

I blogged a few weeks ago about my effort to try Waco’s bus system.  As it turned out, I didn’t get to ride the bus that morning.  The route I was expecting, it turns out, doesn’t start as early on Saturday as I needed it to.

I had called and asked if the busses ran early on Saturday, and was told they start one hour later than on weekdays.  from the miminal information available on the website, that was good enough.

It turns out, however, that the operator didn’t answer the real question I had, because I didn’t ask the right question.  Had I asked if the No. 8 bus would be able to pick me up at 7 am, she would have nkown to tell me that the No. 8 wouldn’t be available until 8.  I didn’t ask the right question, so how could I expect the right answer?

This reminds me of a time a couple of years ago that we were driving to a football game in another city.  My daughter was driving separately with some friends.  She called me not long to ask for help finding the stadium.  I asked her where she was.

“At McDonald’s,” was the answer I got.

In a city with at least half a dozen Mickey-D’s, this information didn’t help at all.  I needed a street name, and preferably a cross-street.

Thomas said to Jesus, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”  (John 14:5)

My two expereinces above remind me that in order to know the way to the place we are going, it is essential to know where we are now.  This is true geographically as well as spiritually.

Thomas was unsure of the way, and he was standing in the presence of Jesus. How much moreso those of us who feel so very far removed from Jesus!

To figure out where you want to go, you’ve got to be able to identify where you are.  For help, you’ve got to be able to ask the right questions.

Blast from the Past

I thought this might be an interesting thing to do now and then – under this topic heading, I will pull a book off my shelf and find a quote therein to share here.

Today I pulled Stanley Hauerwas‘s In Good Company: The Church as Polis (1995) down and found this on page 58:

We decisively reject that presumption [that theology can be divorced from the practices of the church], believing as we do that theology cannot escape into “thought” but remains rooted in the practices that constitute the church as a community across time.

What a wonderful statement leading the chruch into postmodernity!

Modernity was that which (presumed it) could separate thought from practice.  The church bought into this hook, line, and sinker.

I remember a Covenant Discipleship group I was in when I was not long out of seminary.  My then-DS, now Bishop  Ann Sherer assembled a group that, we soon learned through conversation, had two representatives from each of 3 different seminaries (not counting our DS).

Upon discussing our experiences at these 3 seminaries (all of which were complete 2 decades ago, so there is no sense identifying them here), I was interested to find that the majority of the faculty at the other 2 seminaries had little or no ministry experience.  On the other hand, most of my seminary courses were taught by professors who not only had minsitry experience, but many of them were currently servnig in some sort of active minsitry in addition to their faculty positions.

This is one illustration of theology divorced from church practice. Another is far more common.  Someone, likely a member of a church, can explain some fairly complex theological understanding, whether of the Trinity or the atonement (or, more likely, eschatology), but this understanding has and shows no clear relevance to anything about this person’s lifestyle or practices.

Practices aren’t about a community service project here or there, either, practices are things we do in the direction of affecting change in how we actually live our lives.  The church practices to which Hauerwas called us in 1995 are those which have us learned (by practice) to live lives that begin to look like the Kingdom of God which Jesus announced as  “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.” TNIV (Mark 9:1)

The Kingdom of God is in your midst (Luke 17:20-21).  Let us live like it; not merely theologize (or worse, debate) about what this means, but let us take up the rpactices that Jesus and his disciples lived by and begin to show those around us that the Kingdom of God is indeed in their midst.

Rohr should be heard!

Bob Carlton shared Mike Todd’s notes from Richard Rohr’s thoughts at the Emerging Church Conference

Richard Rohr:

* With dualistic thinking, someone always has to be blamed. The system caves in on itself * The sun rises on the just and unjust. You can’t form a system of exclusion on that! * Jesus did not come to change God’s mind about humanity. He came to change humanity’s mind about God * We have fly-paper minds… everything that gets close sticks. Don’t call that ‘thinking’. It is narcissistic, egocentric, needy, and fragile * “I have no doubt that the Spirit was in the works of the Reformation.” But you can’t have the need to prove the other wrong (adversarial thinking) and be the contemplative mind * We don’t want to be contemplative because we have to give up control * Belonging/belief systems have come to replace transformation. We must turn from a belief system to an inner experience. Know them, don’t believe them * Recognize that I am living inside a mind bigger than my own. Someone is loving through me, and all I am is the conduit. * Francis didn’t run off and join the Franciscans – He just did it.