Saturday, February 23, 2008

Ready for Some Controversy?

If so, or even if not, Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola & George Barna is an important read. I'm not ready to comment on it in detail yet, but this book will put it all on the table and force us to deal with some things.

Here's a summary of pages 246-250:

The very early Christians / the church during New Testament times

  • was intensely Christ-centered;
  • had no fixed order of worship. The early Christians gathered in open-participatory meetings where all believers shared their experiences of Christ . . . .;
  • lived as face-to-face community;
  • was the first and only religion the world has ever known that was void of ritual, clergy, and sacred buildings;
  • did not have a clergy;
  • made decisions by the entire assembly deciding;
  • was organic, not organizational;
  • did not practice tithing, and did not give their money to pay local pastors and build buildings, but instead gave sacrificially to 1) support the poor and 2) to pay traveling missionary church planters;
  • saw baptism as the outward expression of Christian conversion (not the sinner's prayer);
  • practiced the Lord's Supper as a full meal which the church enjoyed together;
  • did not build Bible schools or seminaries to train young workers; and
  • did not divide themselves into denominations.

This is a must read. No matter where you land on each of the items listed above, it would be a waste to be a Christ-follower and not wrestle with the contents of this book, in my opinion.

Friday, February 22, 2008


It's difficult to put time & energy into writing something big when you aren't certain that anyone will ever read it. Yet I've had a growing conviction over the past six months or so that I should write (a book?) about the simple church journey I've been on over the past decade or so.

If it is published and read, great. If not, it will be therapeutic and clarifying for me. I have a file folder full of notes. I am on the verge of committing my weekends to writing the sucker. We'll see.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Seasons of the Soul

'Tis February, often called the month of depression. And while I've never been clinically depressed, I sure can feel the lowness of the season. It is much more noticeable in a place where the weather is wet and dreary and cold.

I sense it in the people around me each day; and I sense it in myself.

Last night I read the book of Ecclesiastes. I laughed out loud at many parts of it. That dude was in a major depression when he wrote. He talks about life, and work, and pleasure, and even great achievement being all meaningless. It's all been done before, and it will all be done again. Everything is a big cycle: the same thing over and over and over again. Who even rembers his own great, great, great grandfather? If we don't remember him, then even an unborn baby won't be remembered four generations from now (it's in the book, I'm not making this stuff up).

But there's more: you're better off going to a funeral and crying your eyes out then going to a party and laughing.

The biggest idiot you have ever met, and you, are both going to die some day, so who is better off really?

I could go on and on. You have to read this stuff at face value and be willing to laugh. It's pretty entertaining for a cynic like me.

But even Mr. Depression (the writer) acknowledges some good in: eating and drinking, enjoying one's work, and being with family and friends. Ultimately, somebody else adds in at the end (evidenced by the switch from first person to third person): in the end, all that matters is you and God, really. I think dude was so depressed that he needed someone else to add that in and tidy it all up for him.

One part stood out to me: "to accept his lot and be happy in his work -- this is a gift of God. He seldom relfects on the days of his life, because God keep him occupied with gladness of heart" (5:19-20). That is an ideal to strive for, right there. I find myself re-evaluating everything all the time (and so did Mr. Depression, apparently). But there is a goodness in finding a rhythm in life where one doesn't feel the need to constantly do that.

Maybe that is what March is for?

I highly recommend a reading of Ecclesiastes in February. Just don't do it near any sharp objects.