Check out the entry here.
Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path
"In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary,
you have been grieved by various trials,
so that the tested genuineness of your faith
-- more precious than gold that perishes
though it is tested by fire --
may be found to result in praise and glory and honor
at the revelation of Jesus Christ."
Whew ... the work is piling up. You'd think it was the middle of basketball season or something.
It's just a bad week, man ... the terrible twos are in full bloom, health issues are rearing their ugly heads, our lawn looks like a rain forest it needs cut so badly, new responsibilities at the office. Must be one of those times that Peter talked about when he said, as followers of Christ, our faith will at times be refined by fire. Of course, I don't feel very golden these days.
I know. Boo hoo, right? One of the things I hate about blogs is that most of them are people who just want someone to complain to, even if it is a computer screen.
When I was in college, this girl I knew had an online journal, and she was all the time whining about this and that and, then, writing about it and telling everyone, 'Hey, I just wrote on my online journal! You should read it!" Yeah. Because that's what I want to do, read about your problems after I just heard yourself gripe about them in person for the last few minutes. Sounds very un-Christian, I know. Then, I wasn't really following Christ in those days, so it's OK, right?
So, just tell me to get over myself, and get over it. OK? OK. There. I feel better.
I'll be back to daily postings soon enough, probably by the end of the week. Hope you'll come back now, y'hear?
Grace and peace ...
Yes, it's audio-visual Monday ... which is, in many ways, my favorite blogging day of the week.
After all, not only is it easy to do, but I get to browse You Tube for interesting stuff.
Quick story: I'm browsing for videos, and I come across a whole slew of prank call videos. Man, that stuff breaks me up. It just does. Of course, I have the sense of humor of an eight-year old -- heck, I am an eight year-old -- but there are few things funnier than someone calling into a live CNN show and pulling a fast one. Someone falling down on ice. That's funnier. Like I said, I'm eight years old.
On to the video, with a little commentary to follow
More evidence of how evangelical thinking has changed in just one generation. When I was growing up, the concept of engaging culture wasn't favorably received. I think it's essential.
(copyright 2007, andrew j. beckner. all rights under copyright reserved.)
Quick story, at the risk of my own embarrassment:
I'd had a hot dog the other day -- I'm not sure what they do to you, but let's just say I was a little bloated.
So, I took care of the problem ... in baby parlance, I tooted.
My oldest daughter -- that's her, by the way -- who is in the midst of potty training, made a gasping noise and said:
"You poopy? Wanna go potty?"
(Maybe you had to have been there.)
When I became a father, I waited for these profound moments of parental joy. I imagined they'd be commonplace, you know?
To be sure, there were some. The first time I heard my daughter say the name of Jesus was such a lovely and moving experience I want her to say it all the time. That's an example. Every time she says, in broken English, "I love you," is another.
But more common are those daily occurences that remind me of how absolutely blessed I am to be a father ... and how important that I realize her life is on loan. If our lives are for service -- and they are -- then we must serve first those to whom God has entrusted us. My life should be spent mirroring Christ to her.
And you want to know something? When that not-quite-two-year-old girl asked her 31-year old daddy if he needed to go to the potty, I'd be willing to bet Jesus had a little laugh Himself.
My pastor, Frank, is a wonderfully beautiful being, a corny joke machine that you just want to hug. Then hug again. The other people, too.
Frank is a wonderful teacher, too -- when he teaches (not preaches), he is all the time telling us stuff like the Greek root words of New Testament scripture or the original Hebrew from Old Testament text. This makes everyone feel smart. And everyone wants to feel smart. Especially Christians, who often are made to feel so very dumb.
My church is what you might call a house church. On any given Sunday there are, oh, about 20 or 25 of us -- children included -- and we meet in the lobby of a dentist's office. Frank's wife works there as office manager.
We're part of a growing trend these days toward smaller, more intimate congregations. Oh, sure, churches like Lakewood, Saddleback and Mars Hill get most of the publicity these days with mega-churches being all in vogue, but there's a movement afoot that's growing in spite of itself.
The numbers, according to the Barna Group, an evangelical research organization:
Whether you want to call it organic church, house church or simple church, the fact is that this is something of a phenomenon.
House2House, an organization that promotes house church and offers resources such as the website Simple Church, claims "Christians in the United States are moving toward house churches faster than any American religious movement of the past 250 years." I can't say I dispute that, becaue there's no way of knowing to what they are comparing it. But when you factor in that if nine percent of Christians attend house churches compared to one percent 10 years ago, well, that's not exactly an explosion of growth. Evidence that there's some sort of momentum, to be sure. But house churches have not gone viral.
But many of us who call house church our home, we're missing something here: the long-term impact. Just what is it?
In more proof that Generation X is slouching toward respectability, my biggest concern about home churches has to do with my kids.
Home church, at least in our time, is a new concept, the effects of which over a longer period can't be known. What of my two daughters? Will the efficacy of Jesus' gospel be hindered by their being raised in a house church? I grew up in a traditional church, and my foundation was strong because I was given age-appropriate training in biblical wisdom. Now, I know it's trendy to decry this type of "indoctrination" of youth, but the Bible admonishes us to train -- not raise, train -- our children in the ways of God. If that means teaching Jesus while using a flannelboard, that's not all bad, is it? What about children's church? Lock-ins? Group trips to bowling alleys or swimming pools? House churches decry this sort of "programming." Besides, there aren't enough people to minister specifically to kids anyway.
To House2House's credit, it addresses the issue, saying "our house churches do not sufficiently emphasize the importance of growing children. The war is won or lost by the age of 13." I don't agree that the war is won or lost by the age of 13, but the point is well made.
Then there's the issue of insularity. In a recent story in the Colorado Springs Gazette -- Colorado Springs is the home of the massive New Life Church, better known as the former pastorate of Ted Haggard -- a "pastor" of a house church there was quoted as saying "We focus on each other. We don't exist for anything less than that." The question remains: do they exist for more than that?
Again, house churces decry programming, but if all a house church exists is for their own sense of community -- and I can attest that our congregation loves each other very much, which is the very epitome of Christ's message -- then what's left for a needy world?
Indeed, the Colorado Springs story says -- written by the author, mind you -- people "involved in house churches often don't feel a need to network with large groups of people. That's part of the point." And that point is a problem.
The author acknowledges this, writing, "Other critics believe house churches are ... unwilling to reach out and help those outside their close-knit group."
I wonder what Jesus would make of church today. What kind would He go to? Would He go at all?
A lot of this house church growth certainly comes from the guidance and wisdom of the Holy Spirit, but its roots are in the meetings of the first-century Christians. But we look at the first century church through what Mars Hill calls "a brush of idealism."
Yes, the first century church met in small groups, but that was a function of both persecution and the fact it was a new faith with relatively few followers. They had to grow. Does that mean bigger churches are more effective, considering the biggest explosion in church/Christianity happened after those first house churches, through the power of the Holy Spirit, flourised into something that could more effectively minister the Gospel?
There are, to be sure, pros and cons on the issue of house churches:
There are more questions here than answers. There's a reason for that. The movement, while not brand-new, has reached a tipping point where some of this stuff has to be addressed if we're to understand how Christ wants us to move His church forward.
I didnt' get this written in time for Tuesday -- which is normally one of two days for original content -- meaning I've run into Wednesday's links day. So, here are a few, courtesy of those you can always access on the sidebar on the right-hand side of your screen. For starters, you can access house church websites by clicking here (House2House), here (SimpleChurch), here (OpenChurch) or, check out the Wikipedia article on the house church movement here.
Agape Christian Fellowship -- Our church. As the unofficial webmaster, I'm at work right now tweaking the website to offer streaming video of Frank's sermons, complete with slides of scripture and study notes.
On the Way Ministries -- I had a chance to meet Bill Smith, founder of On the Way Ministries, last summer. Sharp, sharp cookie. He has some great insights.
Theology Online -- Like to debate? Click on over here and have at it.
Grace and peace ...
So here's the plan. The more you update you blogs, the more "pings" you get on blog search engines and the like.
And the more "pings" you get, the more readers you get.
And the more readers you get, the more people hear about Jesus.
And the more people who hear about Jesus ... well, if you know Him, you know what I mean.
So, in the interest of writing something on the blog six days a week -- and that's the plan, for good or ill -- I've decided to have a feature specific to each day of the week, barring Saturdays. That's my day off from adding my two cents to the blog-o-sphere.
Here's the lineup:
MONDAY -- Audio/video day ... there's all sorts of interesting and faith-related stuff on YouTube, VidMax and the like. The plan is to post one of them every Monday.
TUESDAY -- Original content ... you know, the stuff I write
WEDNESDAY -- Links day ... I'm always browsing, surfing -- pick your synonym -- and coming up with interesting sites of faith that are worth visiting.
THURSDAY -- Potpourri ... that's how you spell it, yes? Just a random collection of thoughts, kind of like Jack Handy (a reference you'll get if you were in high school/college in the 1990s.)
FRIDAY -- Original content
SATURDAY -- Yard work, rough-housing with the kids, staying out of trouble with my wife ... typical day off
SUNDAY -- News of the Week
There you go. Hope you'll come back.