Monday, October 31, 2016

The Presence-less Church (The Presence-Driven Church)

“We can’t dispense with the formalities, George—there’d be nothing left.”

From the New Yorker, 10/31/16

A month ago Linda and I went to P.F. Chang's in Ann Arbor. I ordered a meal that I mostly get when I'm at this restaurant. After completing my order the waiter said, "I am sorry, sir. We are out of rice."

I was stunned. I thought of logical impossibilities like square circles and married bachelors. An Asian restaurant with no rice? 

I saw the manager walking from table to table, confessing ricelessness to the patrons. When he got to us I had to ask, "How is this possible?" He said, "They are having trouble in the kitchen."

My thought was, "Then you had better get in that kitchen and fix this barren situation!"

On a sunny morning in the 1980s, when Linda and I lived in East Lansing, we went to breakfast at International House of Pancakes. I ordered pancakes. There was no maple syrup on the table.

When it comes to pancakes I am a purist. I don't want the strawberry syrup or the blueberry syrup or the fruity syrup. So, desiring maple syrup, I asked:

"May I have some maple syrup please?"

"Sorry," said the waitress. "We're out of maple syrup."

My response was: Image result for the scream parody

The Big Absence happened two summer ago.

Linda and I were driving from Monroe to Chicago. We were on the Indiana Tollway, and stopped at one of the rest areas for lunch. Linda went to one of the fast food places and got a burger. I got in line at Kentucky Fried Chicken.

I can see the scene as if it were happening now. Three of us were in line. There was a man in front of me at the counter, I was behind him, with a third man behind me.

"I want a three piece chicken dinner," said the first man.

Often, in life, we view events through the framework of what we are currently immersed in. At Redeemer I was in the thick of preaching through the book of Revelation. I was thinking about Revelation all the time! I was reading and re-reading the text, looking at it in the Greek language, and studying the very best commentaries on the subject. The Greek title of this book is The Apocalypse. Apocalypto means "an uncovering," an "unveiling." Like someone who lifts the lid on a simmering pot of stew to see and smell the ingredients, in The Apocalypse God lifts the lid of what is to happen, and John the Apostle is allowed to look inside.

"I am sorry, sir," said the hostess at the KFC on the Indiana Tollway in the summer of 2015. "But we are out of chicken."

With those words the lid was lifted, and a fiery abyss appeared to my right. I heard the hoofbeats of Four Horsemen thundering to my left. The man at the counter did respond. He just walked away, like a floating, drifting planet that just lost its sun, or perhaps his faith.

Then I felt a tap on my shoulder, and a voice spoke to me. I did not turn around as the voice said, "Did you hear what I heard?" Speechless, I nodded my head up and down.

My expectation, when going to Kentucky Fried Chicken, is to be served chicken. Anything less than this is unacceptable. It is the same with God's presence.

When I am with the Church I need to encounter God. I need to experience God's presence. I am like Moses, who despaired at the thought of God withdrawing His presence from the people. Moses pleaded with God, saying,

“If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.  How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” (Exodus 33:15-16)

Every Sunday morning at Redeemer people are there who are desperate for God. They long and hunger and pant, like deer in the Judean wilderness thirst for water, for an experiential encounter with God. Anything less than this is unacceptable. 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Leaving Church Is Anti-Christian

Image result for johnpiippo photos
Amish youth in Ohio

Now and then I meet a person who says they follow Jesus but they will have nothing to do with the church because they see the church as so messed up. So they leave.

Let's call this what it is: absurd. Ridiculous. Heretical. Unloving. Hypocritical. Anti-Christian. Cowardly. Arrogant. Judgmental.

Jesus came to build his church, not leave it. Real Christianity is a community thing. It's the word "you" in the letters of Paul, which is nearly always plural.

If you see something wrong in your church community, then help it, for God's sake.

Real church forges Christlike character. This is part of how Jesus builds his church.

The main test of love is how you do community. How you live and get along with others. How you further the corporate movement. How you work together. How you serve one another.

One another.

Think of all the "one anothers" in the New Testament. There are fifty-nine of them. (For example, here.) Fifty-nine exhortations to do loving things to the others in your community. Leaving people is not one of them. Nowhere in Scripture does it say, "Love one another by getting mad at them and leaving them." When that happens the gates of Hades are prevailing.

What spiritual immaturity. What biblical ignorance to view church leaving as an option. And, since you, as a Jesus-follower, are the church, how irrational to think of leaving yourself.

New Testament scholar scot McKnight writes that
  • "Everything I learned about the Christian life I learned from my church."
  • "A local church determines what the Christian life looks like for the people in that church."
  • "We all learn the Christian life from how our local church shapes us."
  • "These three principles are a way of saying that local churches matter far more than we often know."
Yes, some individual churches are toxic. Some pastors and Christian leaders are controlling and abusive. Have nothing to do with them. Find an imperfect church where an imperfect person like yourself can serve and grow.

Bob Sorge - God Could Have Left Job Alone (HD)

I showed this moving video from Bob Sorge this morning at Redeemer

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Square One

Aslan brings Edmund back to Square One
When a person loses their way we sometimes hear them say, “I’ve got to get back to “square one.” For them “square one” means something like: the place of origin; the place where it all began; the beginning place from where the journey began; and so on. Square one is: the beginning. Eugene Peterson, in Subversive Spirituality, uses the idea of “square one” to make some excellent spiritual points.

Peterson writes: “Square One is the place from which we begin learning how to live with Absence with the same ease with which we have come to live with Presence. The generic word that we use for this is Faith – in its classic and never yet improved upon definition, “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).” (Subversive Spirituality, 18)

“The characteristic element of Square One is this: God said.” (Ib., 19) When we live at Square One “the absolutely indispensable word that we learn is: God.” (Ib.)

When we “return to Square One” we return not only to a realization that God or of God, but to a listening. Listening to what God says. “God said.” (23) Now… we’re at Square One! Everything meaningful, relevant, and authentic follows from this. At Square One it’s not about spiritual chatter or spiritual platitudes or talking “Christian-eze.” It is a being-addressed, a being-talked-to, by God. This is not about us talking or even bragging about our spiritual experiences and accomplishments, but rather about “listening to God call us, heal us, forgive us.” (27) Peterson writes:

“This is hard to get into our heads. We talk habitually to ourselves and about ourselves. We don’t listen. If we do listen to each other it is almost always with the purpose of getting something we can use in our turn. Much of our listening is a form of politeness, courteously waiting our turn to talk about ourselves. But in relation to God especially we must break the habit and let him speak to us. God not only is; God Says. Christian spirituality, in addition to being an attentive spirituality, is a listening spirituality.” (27)

Christian spirituality begins with God. God speaks. We listen. We respond. In obedience. To not listen to God is to not respond to him. One can’t respond to a voice they don’t even hear. “Non-listening obedience” is self-contradictory. Henri Nouwen has pointed out that the word “obedience,” from the Latin ob + audire, contains the idea of “listening” (audire, from which we get “audio”). An audiologist tests our hearing. Of course if we cannot hear then we cannot be expected to obey. Not to be in a continual listening-relationship to God is to be in perpetual dis-audire; dis-obedience. If that’s the case, it’s time to get back to Square One, the place of listening, the place where God Says.

I love how Peterson expands on this as he describes the causal efficacy of God Says. He writes:

“Something remarkable takes place when we return to Square One, to the place of adoration and listening – a terrific infusion of energy within us; a release of adrenaline in our souls which becomes obedience. The reason is that the word that God speaks to us is the kind of word that makes things happen. When God speaks it is not in order to give us information on the economy so that we will know how to do our financial planning. When God speaks it is not as a fortune teller, looking into our personal future and satisfying curiosity regarding our romantic prospects or the best horse to bet on. No, when God speaks it is not in explanation of all the things that we have not been able to find answers to from our parents or in books or from reading tea leaves. God’s Word is not, in essence, information or gossip or explanation. God’s Word makes things happen – he makes something happen in us. The imperative is a primary verb form in Holy Scripture: “Let there be light… Go… Come… Repent… Believe… Be still… Be healed… Get up… Ask… Love… Pray…” (28)

And the consequence, the intended result, of God Says? It is: obedience. “I will run in the way of your commandments, when you give me understanding.” (Ps. 119:32) Peterson says:

“Yes, run. Square One, with its attentiveness and listening, is that place of understanding – we know who we are and where we are… and who God is and where he is. At that place and in that condition, there is an inward gathering and concentration of energy that on signal from God’s imperative expresses itself in, precisely, obedience – running in the way of God’s commandments.” (28)

Get back to Square One. Stay there.

How to Save Your Failing Marriage

Our back yard

Linda and I are always meeting with couples whose marriages are failing. We consider it a privilege to do this. We also feel with these couples and at times agonize with them. We feel a holy desperation about the state of marriages in America today. In America Christian marriages are in no better shape than non-Christian marriages.

If your marriage is struggling to the point that you are wondering if you will make it, we suggest the following six things.

  1. Look at your own self. Be open to the idea that you are the problem, and not your spouse.  You are your marriage and the reason your marriage is failing. If you do not have this heart-insight then expect no more from your marriage than what it already is.   If you don't see yourself as 100% contributing to your marital failure your marriage will not be saved. Of course the same is true for your significant other. It will take two to do this. But you are not the one to give them this insight.
  2. You won't be able to help yourself. If you keep being "you" in your marriage your marriage will keep seeing the same results. Therefore, get help for your marriage. If you are a Jesus-follower your pastor can pray for you and love you as a couple but may not be skilled enough to counsel you. In Southeast Michigan the two places I recommend are here and here
  3. Get help for yourself even if your spouse won't. It's not unusual for only one partner to realize #s 1 and 2 above.  
  4. Trust your counselor. Be helpable. Be open and willing to look at your own marital failure. Your counselor will not be shocked by anything you say and will not condemn you.
  5. Trust God. Enter deeply into God's presence. Pray. Read Scripture and meditate on it. Read John chapters 14-15-16 and follow Jesus' advice.
  6. Know that your marriage can be saved. Linda and I have never met a marriage that we thought could not be rescued and transformed. This should give you hope! I have written some things about this here.

On Counseling Relationships


Linda and I have many people asking us for relationship or marital counsel. If they are part of our church family, we work with them. We don 't counsel people who don't come to Redeemer since, for us, coming to Redeemer is part of our counseling package. We want to get to know the couple, and have them begin to know us.

When we begin to meet with a couple we first work on understanding them. Only after we feel understanding has been achieved do we point them in a direction. Because they have asked us, we tell them what to do. Of course, since we are their counselors.

At this point it gets interesting, since sometimes one or both don't want to do what we are asking them to do. If that happens, then obviously we are no longer their counselors. The individual or couple wanted us to affirm what they want to do, rather than follow what we think they ought to do. At this point we part ways, wondering why they wanted us to counsel them in the first place.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Prayer and Boredom: The Antidote to Boredom is the Acquisition of Meaning

Will eternity with God be boring, with all that repetitive worship going on? I've had people ask me this, and wondered it myself. I think the answer is "No." We see this on the definition of "boredom."

"Boredom" is not: having little or nothing to do. It is not: doing the same thing over and over again. You can have a lot to do and not feel bored (like spending all day in your garden); you could engage in repetitive activity and not be bored (like, e.g., practicing your guitar because you love it).

"Boredom" is: finding no meaning in what you are doing. The meaning of "meaning" is: fitness within a coherent context. 

So the antidote to boredom is the acquisition of meaning.

Philosophy of Religion - Oral Exam #2

To: My MCCC Philosophy of Religion Students:

Last evening I passed around the sign-up sheet for the second oral exam.

The exam review is this coming Tuesday, Nov. 1. Students who have missed no more than once may attend the exam review.

The oral exams will be on Thursday, Nov. 3, and Tuesday, Nov. 8.

The exam questions are:

Mackie's Logical Argument from Evil Against the Existence of God

Buddhism's Idea that Evil Is an Illusion

Plantinga's Refutation of Mackie's Argument

Rowe's Evidential Argument from Evil Against the Existence of God

Wyckstra's Critique of Rowe's Argument

A Consumer Church Is an Antichrist Church

I was a Eugene Peterson fan before he translated the Bible into The Message. In his book The Jesus Way: Conversations on the Ways That Jesus Is the Way Peterson writes about the Real Jesus, and the distinction between the Real Jesus and the American Jesus. Peterson is correct about this. He is one of God's prophets for such a time as this. 

  • “The ways Jesus goes about loving and saving the world are personal…; …The ways employed in our North American culture are conspicuously impersonal.”
  • In churches today “the vocabulary of numbers is preferred over names…” A "number" is an impersonal abstract object; a person is flesh-blood-and spirit real.
  • “Jesus is an alternative to the dominant ways of the world, not a supplement to them.” The Real Jesus cannot and will not be used to build kingdoms alternative to his kingdom.
  • “The North American church at present is conspicuous for replacing the Jesus way with the American way.” Which is the Consumer Church.
  • In America “we are the world’s champion consumers, so why shouldn’t we have state-of-the-art consumer churches?… [T]his is the best and most effective way for gathering large and prosperous congregations. Americans lead the world in showing how to do it. There is only one thing wrong: this is not the way in which… we become less and Jesus becomes more.” The American consumer mentality runs so deep that many churches unreflectively replicate it.
  • Is this bad? Yes. How bad? Peterson writes: “A consumer church is an antichrist church.... We can’t gather a God-fearing, God-worshiping congregation by cultivating a consumer-pleasing, commodity-oriented congregation.”
  • “North American Christians are conspicuous for going along with whatever culture decides is charismatic, successful, influential - whatever gets things done, whatever can gather a crowd of followers - hardly noticing that these ways and means are at odds with the clearly marked way that Jesus walked and called us to follow.” To verify this simply read the four Gospels and use them as a lens through which to evaluate American churches. American churches are largely dictated to by American culture. Here is where "relevant" becomes a bad idea.
  • “Jesus’ metaphor, kingdom of God, defines the world in which we live. We live in a world where Christ is King. If Christ is King, everything, quite literally, everything, every thing and every one, has to be re-imagined, re-configured, re-oriented to a way of life that consists in an obedient following of Jesus.” (To re-orient our people at Redeemer I preached through the four Gospels, chronologically. This took us seven years.)
  • “The ways and means promoted and practiced in the world are a systematic attempt to substitute human sovereignty for God’s rule. The world as such has no interest in following the crucified King.”
  • “Once we start paying attention to Jesus’ ways, it doesn’t take us long to realize that following Jesus is radically different from following anyone else.” 
Follow Jesus, not our schizophrenic culture. Influence culture, via Jesus.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Wykstra's Criticism of Rowe's Evidential Argument from Evil

(For my MCCC Philosophy of Religion class)

Wykstra's essay is: "Rowe's Noseeum Arguments from Evil."

I. Wykstra says Rowe commits the "no-seeum fallacy." Explain.

II. State Rowe's argument, which is:

1. As far as I can see there is no point to the fawn's suffering.
     2. Therefore, there is no point to the fawn's suffering.

This argument commits the noseeum fallacy. 

*      Rowe argues:

·         1. There appears to be no point to the fawn’s suffering.

·         2. There is no point to the fawn’s suffering.

THIS INFERENCE, says Wykstra, fails. You can't go from the premise to the conclusion unless...

III. The CORNEA Principle is met.

CORNEA - Condition Of ReasoNable Epistemic Access

We can argue from “We see no X” to… ”There is no X”… only when X has “reasonable seeability.”

E.g. -     

1. As far as I can see President Obama is not in the room.

      2. Therefore, President Obama is not in the room.

There is a claim of inference from 1 to 2 in this case because CORNEA has been met. That is, were Pres. Obama in the room I would be able to see him. The "reasonable seeability" condition has been met.

An example of CORNEA not being met:  

1. As far as I can see there are no germs on this hypodermic needle.

      2. Therefore there are no germs on this hypodermic needle.

Wykstra agrees with Rowe that God would only allow intense suffering if there was some point to it.

Wykstra thinks Rowe’s claim that there are instances of pointless suffering is unjustifiable. That is, Rowe cannot claim this, because of CORNEA.

IV. Wykstra further argues that the reasonable seeability claim cannot be met in the case of God.  He uses the parent-infant analogy to show this.

·         Wyckstra writes: “The disparity between God’s vision and ours is comparable to the gap between the vision of a parent and her one-month-old infant. This gives reason to think that our discerning most of God’s purposes are about as likely as the infant’s discerning most of the parent’s purposes.”

For some big-time academic explanation see "Skeptical Theism" in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. "Skeptical theism is a strategy for bringing human cognitive limitations to bear in reply to arguments from evil against the existence of God."

Buddhism's View That Evil Is an Illusion

I took this picture of the massive "Reclining Buddha" in Bangkok.

For my MCCC Philosophy of Religion students.

Today I introduced my Philosophy of Religion students to the Buddhist idea of evil as an illusion.

J.L. Mackie, in his logical argument from evil against the existence of God, states that one adequate solution to the problem of evil would be that the third statement in his famous "triad," "evil exists," is false. Mackie doesn't think it is false (neither do I), but some do. He probably is referring to Buddhism in its pure form, untainted by cultural influences.

BUDDHISM & the PROBLEM OF EVIL (Evil = “Gratuitous/Pointless Suffering”)

The time: 6th century BCE.

A prince, Siddhartha Gautama, has lived in a wealthy household and has been sheltered from all forms of suffering. One day he tells his father he wants to see the outside world. Reluctantly, his father lets him go.

He sees suffering in the form of sickness, old age, and death. Plus, he sees a wandering ascetic who has left behind wife and family and job in search of spiritual liberation. These four sights cause a crisis in Siddhartha. He decides that there must be more to human existence than profit, power, pleasure, and prestige.

The result is: Siddhartha leaves his wife and children and father, rides to the border of what would have been his vast inheritance, shaves his head, takes off his expensive clothes, and becomes a wandering holy man in search of the meaning of life. He wanders around North India, studies with various holy men, and his body becomes skin and bones.

One day he is sitting under a tree in North India. He vows to stay there until he is given the secret of our meaningless wandering from rebirth to rebirth. After 49 days he is “awakened.” He is “buddhaed” (“Buddha” means: awakening, enlightened.) What did he see?

He saw that all things are impermanent and ever changing. He saw how we wish the world was different, permanent. Through these insights his own suffering went away.

He then began to teach others what he had learned. In a deer park in North India he found five travelers. To them, he gave his first sermon. It was on Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path.

The Four Noble Truths
  1. All of life is suffering.
  2. The cause of suffering is craving.
  3. The end of suffering is getting rid of craving and grasping.
  4. The method to use in overcoming suffering is the Eightfold Path.
 “Buddhism is about removing the arrow of suffering.”[1]

The Eightfold Path[2]
  1. Right view. The disciple gains proper knowledge about illness – how he or she becomes ill, endures illness, and is released from illness.
  2. Right aim. The disciple must be prepared to renounce attachment to the world and give benevolence and kindness.
  3. Right speech. The disciple must not lie, slander, or use abusive or idle talk.
  4. Right action. The disciple must abstain from taking life, from taking what is not given, and from carnal indulgence.
  5. Right living. The disciple must put away wrong livelihood, acts that are condemned in the fourth step, and seek to support him – or herself by right livelihood.
  6. Right effort. The disciple applies the force of his or her mind to preventing potential evil from arising in him – or herself, to getting rid of evil that has arisen in him – or herself, and to awakening and sustaining good potentials within him- or herself.
  7. Right mindfulness. The disciple looks on the body so as to remain ardent, self-possessed, and mindful. The disciple has overcome the craving and dejection common in the world. The disciple also looks on each idea, avoiding craving and  dejection common in the world.
  8. Right concentration. Aloof from sensuous appetites and evil desires, the disciple enters the first jhana (meditative state), where there is cognition and deliberation born of solitude, joy, and ease. The disciple moves a step toward the fourth jhana – purity of mind and equanimity where neither ease nor ill is felt.
All things are impermanent and every-changing.

The search for permanence in any experience leads to suffering (dukkha[3]). This is because “there is no permanence either in the world or in the one who experiences it.”[4] Everything is characterized by transiency.[5] Everything that is born must decay and die.

Suffering is a result of trying to grasp and hold on to this world and the things of this world. On Buddhism suffering comes from “ignorant craving.” It comes from mistaking things as unchanging and then clinging to these so-thought unchanging forms. Or, as one Zen Buddhist teacher has said, “Suffering arises from wanting something other than what is.”[6]

“Mahayanists emphasized that the world of experience is only appearances; the real world is one revealed in the enlightenment experience.”[7] (Mahayana Buddhism)

There is no “self.”

In Buddhism “the ‘self’ is a figment of the imagination.”[8] “You” are not. There is no permanent self to experience anything. So what’s going on then?! What you think is a self is really the aggregation of five basic groups, or skandhas[9], of experience that generate the appearance of a “self.”

Here Buddhism departs from Hinduism, claims there is an eternal self that continues on through a series of bodies. Buddhism disagrees with this. Consciousness is not the “self.” “A person is an aggregation of psychological activities, all temporary. In death, the aggregation comes apart. These five skandhas make up what we refer to as a person. Those who seek permanence of the self suffer, for no self exists.”[10]

There is no ego, no soul, only a temporary gathering of skandhas. Since objects, persons, and processes are impermanent, trying to keep them produces suffering.

The End of Suffering

Knowledge, or “enlightenment,” brings an end to suffering.
  • We see there is no objective, permanent world to be grasped.
  • We see there is no permanent self.
So, suffering (evil) is rooted in an illusion.

1. Suffering (evil) is caused by desire.
2. There is neither a self to desire nor a permanent world to be grasped.
3. Therefore suffering (evil) is an illusion.

“Seeing clearly the nature of a person – that there is no permanent self – helps bring an end to craving. Realizing that everything is only part of impermanent psychological processes makes grasping foolish. There is nothing to have and nothing to be had… Letting go is the end of suffering.”[11]

Nirvana – to “puff out” or “extinguish” or “be released from” desire and craving.

“In Buddhism, the state of being free from egocentrism and the suffering that it causes. Positively, it is joy and peace.”[12]

[1] Stephen Prothero, God is Not One, Chapter 5.
[2] Matthews, World Religions, 6th edition, 112
[3] Dukkha means: “suffering.”
[4] Matthews, 112.
[5] Prothero, Ch. 5.
[6] In Prothero, Ch. 5.
[7] Ib., 133
[8] Prothero, Ch. 5.
[9] the five elements that sum up the whole of an individual’s mental and physical existence. The self (or soul) cannot be identified with any one of the parts, nor is it the total of the parts. They are: (1) matter, or body, the manifest form of the four elements—earth, air, fire, and water; (2) sensations, or feelings; (3) perceptions of sense objects; (4) mental formations ; and (5) awareness, or consciousness, of the other three mental aggregates
[10] Ib.
[11] Ib., 113-114
[12] Ib., 115

You Are a Reconciler, Not an Enabler or a Divider

Green Lake Conference Center, Wisconsin

 If you are a Jesus-follower, you have a ministry of reconciliation. You bring people to God, and bring people to one another. You are a reconciler, not a divider. Any fool can divide; blessed and few are the peacemakers. 

The apostle Paul wrote: 

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

God reconciled you, through Christ, to himself. God did not count your sins against you. God did not look at you and the mess you made of life and say, "Nothing good can ever come from this person." You have the message that God did not treat us this way. You are to share this with others. This is Good News.

Because of this basic, core message of Real Christianity, Linda and I labor to reconcile husbands and wives in failing marriages. We have a ministry of reconciliation, just like you. Un-ity, not di-vorce, is the God-thing. 

Tap into God's creative, restorative, reconciling abilities to unite people. God can work, through you, to dissolve disparity between people. 

Abide in Him, and receive His empowering for a peace unlike this world dishes out. 

Do not assist division. Reconcilers refuse to enable dysfunction and sin. Have nothing to do with tearing marriages and families and friends asunder. 

Refuse to entertain words like "This marriage will never make it," or "We could never be friends again," or "Nothing good can ever come out of these people." (Warning: as you refuse to enable sin, the enablee will be outraged because, from their egocentric viewpoint, you are not "helping" them. They may even accuse you of not following Jesus, as if Jesus assists people on the road to destruction. In short, the enablee will likely dishonor you and, in their blindness, view you as trying to control them. How absurd!)

Your core belief is: God is able to reconcile. You know this is true, for He reconciled you, to Him and to others. The idea is: If two people follow Jesus, and are "in him," they will come together since, in Christ, divisive relationships are nonexistent. View things this way. Think community, not individuality.

If you are a Jesus-follower, you are a gatherer, not a scatterer. You assist people on the road to life, rather then enable people on the path of craziness. You are someone who brings people to God, and brings people together. This is dynamic, far more so than those dark, mediocre voices of relational failure that enumerate sins against people and give up on them. 

Language Is Constitutive of Reality - The Presence-Driven Church

Image result for john piippo photos
In my doctoral work on metaphor theory and my long interest in philosophy of language (Wittgenstein, J.L. Austin, John Searle, et. al.) I became familiar with the Sapir-Whorff hypothesis. The idea is that the language we use affects the ways we think and shapes our perception of the world. One's language changes one's view of reality.

Take, for example, the term "marriage equality." This term was virtually nonexistent a few years ago. Now, it is commonly heard, and it changes our way of looking at marriage. The term itself covertly redefines "marriage," without justification. It has become acceptable, thoughtlessly. This is the power of words as propaganda, the intent of which is to get people to see reality differently.

The Sapir-Whorff hypothesis is not only about how terms shape experience. The semantic structure of a language shapes or limits the ways in which we form conceptions of the world. More recently, Stanford neo-Whorffian cognitive scientist Lera Boroditsky has been arguing for the effects of language on cognitive processes. (She does not believe, as Noam Chomsky does, that all languages share the same deep structure of thought.) 

The semantic structures and the words we use frame how we see things. Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor, in his recent book The Language Animal: The Full Shape of the Human Linguistic Capacity, argues for language as constitutive of reality. He writes: This "gives us a picture of language as making possible new purposes, new levels of behavior, new meanings, and hence is not explicable within a framework picture of human life conceived without language." (The "framework picture" of language holds that words enframe or capture reality as it is, rather than constitute reality.)

Language, writes Taylor, is constitutive of the reality, is essential to its being the kind of reality that it is. Thus, the language we speak is important. To understand a culture's language is to understand how that culture sees and experiences reality.

This applies to church culture; e.g., the Entertainment Church. Words like "program" and "stage" are lifted from the theater and employed in church. "Church" then becomes an event that is timed and predetermined. The controlling metaphor is Sunday morning is a production, and the terms that fit within this language game are utilized. When the words and phrases generated by the controlling metaphor become the deep, embedded social imaginary of the people, the people become an audience, and say things like, "The service went too long," "I didn't like the music," "I did like the music," "I like his preaching," and so on.

In transitioning from an Entertainment Church to a Presence-Driven Church the language must change. The vocabulary of the Presence-Driven Church is different from the Entertainment Church.

Instead of the word “success,” speak words like “connectedness” and “obedience.” If “success” is used at all, redefine it in terms of connectedness and obedience, not in terms of numbers, size, and finances.

In the Presence-Driven Church use...

“disciple” rather than “decider,"

“influence” rather than “numbers” (of attendees) and “size” (of the church budget and building), 

“abiding” before you use “doing,” 

“being instruments of righteousness” rather than “getting tools for ministry,” 

“discernment,” not “decision-making” (“What is God saying to us?” rather than “What do we think we should do?” and “Let’s vote on this”),

“God-seeking” rather than “brainstorming”), 

“listening” before you use “speaking,” and “relationship” (with God), not “rules of order.” 

Words create. (See my post "God's Commands are Authoritative Words That Have Illocutionary Force.")

(To be further developed in my book Leading the Presence-Driven Church.)