Knowing Your Why, Baseball Edition

Church revitalization begins with knowing your why, your reason for existing, the irreducible minimum that everything else either supplements or, occasionally, is at odds with.

If you know your why, it’s easier to figure out what you must do, what you can do without if you have to, and (sometimes) what you need to stop doing. But it’s hard, because everyone in a church already has a why, a reason they attend church, support it financially, and participate in its community and ministries. Most if not all of those why‘s are good reasons, and most are roughly aligned with the why‘s of the other people in their church.

Probably.

But most churches don’t do the hard work of figuring out their why. If it ain’t broke, why make waves, etc. What if you figure out your why and your best friends at church have a different one?

But it’s not just churches. Major League Baseball has the same problem. (And they charge a lot more for season tickets than churches do!)

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Bishop Barron – long interview

I’ve enjoyed a lot of Bishop Barron’s postings inspired by things going on in pop culture. So I was intrigued when YouTube recommended this longer form interview between him and Dave Rubin. Barron is especially interesting here discussing gay marriage, since he’s talking to a married gay man.

Here’s part one of two:

The part about gay marriage is in part two, about 10 minutes in.

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Honoring God’s Name

In the book of Malachi (Malachi 3:16) we read that “a scroll of remembrance was written to record the names of those who feared him and always thought about the honor of his name.”

What is the honor of God’s name? What does it mean to think about it?

I suspect that many of us have our own ideas about what would honor God’s name in different circumstances.

The first thing I noticed is that this is a continual rethinking: you can’t simply act as if you always know what brings glory to God’s name, as if it never changed in different circumstances.

The second thing is that our ideas are suspect, because we are the fallen people. The only trustworthy way to think about God’s name and what brings it honor, is by study of the Scriptures, and especially the example of Christ.

For example, we can honor God’s name by thinking what the name is. In the Hebrew Scriptures the name of God is YHWH, the Tetragrammaton. It means the living God: the God who is not a dead idol, but who acts.

In the New Testament the name is Jesus. Joseph is told to name the child Jesus … why? Because he will save his people from their sins. His name is the name of salvation. It is in his name that we are taught to pray—not our own name and our own merit, but his. It is his name that we are to gather in. It is his name that we are to baptize in. It is his name at which every knee shall bow, and which every tongue will confess. It is his name that is superior to the names of the angels.

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Habakkuk – a Good Question

In verses 12–13 of the first chapter of Habakkuk, the prophet affirms that God is sovereign. Israel’s troubles are not because God is unfaithful or weak. Rather, the Babylonians are tool God is using to punish Israel:

O Lord, you have ordained them as a judgment,
and you, O Rock, have established them for reproof.

The prophet poses this question:

Your eyes are too pure to look on evil;
you are unable to look at disaster.
Why would you look at the treacherous
or keep silent when the wicked swallows one who is more righteous?

There’s an unstated assumption at the end, that Israel’s sin is less than Babylon’s. This is shaky ground. Who can say whether one sin is more offensive to God than another? Is religious pride and idolatry less offensive to God than violence and cruelty?

If we can find a way resolve that matter, however, there is a great question here: does the end justify the means? Is it right for God to use an evil tool to achieve a good result? That’s a great question even for us frail mortals, who work in a world where everything is tainted with evil. How much better a question is it for God? On the one hand, God can see everything clearly, and will not be overcome by the tools he uses. But for him not to stand off and watch, but to engage evil directly in order to use it: how can he do that?

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Sunday Worship Attendance

Tony Morgan has a series of blog posts about declining attendance in Sunday worship services, and I found it interesting:

Part 1: Panic at the Church: Dealing with Less Frequent Attendance Patterns

Part 2: How One Church Leans In to Less Frequent Attendance

Part 3: Church Attendance Decline? There’s a Problem with Your Product.

Part 4: Large Church Gatherings Are a Strategy, Not the Mission

Part 5: Why You Might Not Want People In Church Every Sunday

It’s well worth reading. Part three is tough, especially for people in church leadership, but part four is just plain thought-provoking.

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Wesley’s Questions

If you’re familiar with 12 Step programs, you might remember that Step 4 is the Truth, i.e., “Make a searching and fearless written moral inventory of yourself.”

There’s a reason they say *searching and fearless* — it’s hard to be honest about yourself. (Especially in writing.)

John Wesley and his Holy Club used to do that every day (not in writing). They had a list of questions to help them do it. Here are the first two:

  1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I really am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
  2. Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?

I should mention that I hate those questions and rarely do this.

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GA222

My friends from Seminary, many of them, are posting from #GA222 in Portland. Reading their posts, I feel like such a dog in the manger. “They’re happy. Why can’t you be happy for them?” I ask myself. The reason is the same reason I wouldn’t be happy if someone had cancer and they were treating it with homeopathic remedies. (“None of the side-effects of chemo!”) They may be happy, but they’re not addressing the problem.

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Well. Oregon-Idaho takes up support for RCRC denied at GC2016. RCRC is the religious coalition for reproductive choice, i.e., they advocate for abortion rights.

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Korax

Raven
Accretion Disc | Flickr

“Consider the ravens,” says Jesus (here).

Ravens are popular in Alaska, and for much of the year, they’re the bird we see the most, possibly because their obnoxious croaking attracts one’s attention.

That croaking may be how they got their Greek name. The Greek word for “raven” is korax, –akos. If you’ve heard them, you have to wonder if their Greek name is onomatopoeiac. (From a Greek word that means what Greeks mean when they say echomimetico, which would probably be a better word than onomatopoeia.) I don’t know that, and BDAG is silent, but it seems likely to me.

Raven Chow

Certainly, Jesus is right that God feeds them. Ravens in Alaska are huge, like our deer and bears. I routinely see ravens as big as chickens—or maybe turkeys. What I’ve seen them eating isn’t very appealing, however. In the zoo (pictured right) it’s revolting, but in a parking lot, it’s worse.

Scavenging carrion may be one reason ravens were unpopular (judging from the Hebrew Scriptures) in ancient Near Eastern culture. Leviticus declares them unclean, Proverbs points to them as a caution, and Isaiah uses them in a curse. Only two references to ravens are neutral or positive: Noah initially sent out a raven, but we hear no more about it. Subsequently, Noah used only doves. In the Song of Songs, the woman compares her lover’s wavy hair to a raven.

But Jesus probably wasn’t thinking about that when he mentioned ravens. (Luke records Jesus saying “raven” specifically, rather than just “birds,” as in Matthew; Luke 12:24 and Matt 6:26.)

Two references in the Hebrew Scriptures suggest that Jesus was alluding to proverbial wisdom about ravens’ foraging ability: Psalm 147 credits God with feeding them. Job 38 uses this idea to illustrate how far God’s wisdom is above men’s.

But as Jesus’ audience considered ravens, they would surely have remembered how God provided for Elijah in the wilderness (1 Kings 17). Not only does God feed the ravens, but sometimes, God uses ravens to feed people. That was the point Jesus was making, that you don’t have to be anxious, since God will take care of his children. Maybe even by means of ravens.

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Good grief. The brain trust at World HQ published the PC(USA) Book of Confessions as a PDF without a table of contents. Way to move (cautiously) into the 1990s!

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