There’s a Lot of Book Choosing Going On

Photo Credit: Flickr user, Mr. Ducke, used under CC license

Photo Credit: Flickr user, Mr. Ducke, used under CC license

“There seems to be a lot of book choosing going on here.” expressed one of my church members in a recent conversation. I knew exactly where she was headed, because it’s a common sentiment among evangelicals, especially those out of the Restoration Movement, of which I’m a product.

The follow-up question is always a plea, ” Why can’t we just study the Bible?” It’s not a bad question, but it is a question that is self-limiting and self-preserving, a question that doesn’t lead us to also ask, “Why wouldn’t we take advantage of so many great Christian thinkers that allow us to enrich our understanding of the Bible?”

To begin to answer, we need to know why the question is being asked. It is assumed that “book choosing” is happening, because we’re lazy or we have a lesser view of the Bible, but it takes a serious amount of time to create a quality Bible study even with the tools and knowledge to do so. Why reinvent the wheel when someone has spent years in study and practice and is possibly (though unlikely) wiser than your pastor? But this is only a side point to their real concern.

The concern in my tradition comes in the form of a sola scriptura argument combined with a firm belief in free will and accessibility of the Bible. If our theology is determined by the Bible alone, and we’re fully capable of reading and understanding it, then reason follows that we only need to pull out our text and study the Bible. We don’t need someone else telling us how to think.

The reality is that there are deeper issues at hand in these arguments, and we can only address them briefly today. If we are honest, we recognize that we are not approaching the text for the first time or in a vacuum. We bring to it our preformed beliefs and our own context.

When we read, and even study, someone else’s thoughts and approach to scripture we are exposed to new perspectives on texts we’ve read many times before. Not only do we learn more about the text, we also learn about ourselves and our own beliefs. Sometimes when asked about my theology, I reveal that the person that had the most impact was a professor that I disagreed with.

To wall ourselves off from other Christian thinkers becomes a form of self-preservation. Our beliefs are always right, if we’re unwilling to hear from another. When you are unable to listen, disagree and grow, you cease to grow entirely, and so it becomes a self-limiting question as well.

There are a wealth of quality resources available to us, that can help guide our conversations, help inform our studies, lead us into new understandings, and sometimes reaffirm our current beliefs. We are squandering our resources and our time by reproducing materials.

Worse than that, we are slowing down our potential for growth, understanding and action, if we fail to identify and use these resources appropriately.

Next time I’m asked (church, if you’re reading this), I’m going to respond with my own question, “Why wouldn’t we take advantage of so many great Christian thinkers that allow us to enrich our understanding of the Bible?”

The King’s Speech & Expectations

Saturday Jenna and I saw our first movie in a theater since Khaim was born, only our second date night…Yes, it’s been more than a year. It was bliss! Our movie of choice? The King’s Speech. It was quite an inspirational story, but in reflection I’ve thought less about the internal motivations of the individual and more about the external expectations.

None of us can escape the expectations of our family, friends and others in our circle, and in turn we often expect great things from those around us. Communicating and responding to these expectations appropriately is pivotal in our development and growth as individuals and Christians.

Spoiler alert: Although historical dramas are by nature already spoiled, I’ll give you an opportunity to not read on.
Read on anyway

Good to Great…Sermon Series?

One of the books Jenna is reading (and now me too) for an MBA course has caught my attention: Good to Great by Jim Collins. I’m not the first to recognize it’s potential application for Christians and churches; Collins even wrote a an accompaniment to the book called Good to Great and the Social Sectors. I believe it has an incredible potential for a sermon series, church-wide theme or even an in-depth study among church leadership.

What do we dream about for our congregations, leaders, staff, elders and congregants? Greatness. Greatness looks different in the church than it does elsewhere in our society, a lesson Jesus worked hard to teach his disciples. Jesus wasn’t rejecting greatness as a concept, but he redefined greatness in terms of humility, servitude and discipleship. Collins contends that goodness has the ability to cripple greatness. In the church, leaders and teachers often fall prey to being good; we get lulled to sleep by contentment, consistency, repetition or lack of discipline. I’ve seen plenty of good churches fail to reach for greatness, because they were afraid to risk their good situation. When you come across a leader striving for greatness both individually and for their church, you never forget the moment you met him or her. They inspire you to reach for greatness in yourself and in those around you, and they remind you not to settle for mediocrity (or being good).

A recent conversation about church DNA with a mentor sparked some thinking on church development and growth. He was talking about the sometimes impassibility of a church’s DNA in regards to the shift from good to great. On one hand, many churches have faded into non-existence when their church DNA impeded on their ability to risk the leap from good to great. On the other hand, if you don’t believe in the power to find and inspire greatness in a congregation, an individual or a church, then you yourself may be the one lacking the ability to make the leap from good to great.