Thursday, June 29, 2017

One Hour Seminary (An Equipping Experiment)

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Redeemer young adults meeting at our house

I am going to be launching One Hour Seminary in late July. It will be live, and you will be able to join the discussion.

Purpose: to equip God's people for the work of ministry.

The first OHS will probably be on a Tuesday night, 9-10 PM.

My first OHS teaching will be: "Why I Believe the Bible Is From God."

The format will be this.

If you want to join the discussion:

1. Become one of my Facebook friends.

2. Receive a FB notice of the date and time.

3. Click on the FB Messenger link.

You will see me, live, teaching 20-30 minutes on the topic for the night.

I will see your name, and any comments and questions you type in.

After the teaching I will do Q&A for 30 minutes.

OHS will eventually involve some teacher-friends of mine, presenting on topics that will stimulate deeper thought on the Bible and our faith.

More information coming - blessings!


The second book, Leading the Presence-Driven Church, will be out August/September 2017.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Speaking Tonight in Green Lake, Wisconsin

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Green Lake Christian Conference Center, Wisconsin

I just sent this note to my Redeemer family.

Dear Redeemer Family:

Linda and I are with many of our Redeemer family at our Holy Spirit Renewal Ministries conference in Green Lake, Wisconsin.

We have just had two amazing days with Steve and Wendy Backlund, from Bethel Church in Redding, California.

Yesterday morning Steve and Wendy gave the best teaching on "the joy of the Lord" I have ever heard. And last night's teaching on "tearing down the spiritual strongholds of the mind" was tremendous, and creative, giving Linda and our people new ways to think about what it means to live in Christ.

Steve and Wendy are teaching deep things about knowing and living out our identity in Christ, and refusing to accept the world's unguided, sophomoric, old-school valuations of who we are.

Please pray for Linda and I as we lead worship this morning. Pray for me as I am tonight's speaker. I will be speaking on "Normal Church," and the Church's identity (in contradistinction to what the world thinks of us). I'll share what God is doing in our church, Redeemer.

Thank you for praying for us. We are also praying for you.



Monday, June 26, 2017

Women and Ministry, Part 2 (The Two "Problem Passages)

I'm doing a workshop this morning at our HSRM Conference in Green Lake, Wisconsin, Empowering Women for Ministry.

I am posting this for the attendees, on the two "problem passages" in the Bible - women should keep silent in the church assembly, and women should not teach men.

This is Part 2 of Ben Witherington's clear explanation of the cultural specificity of those verses.

Women and Ministry: Part 1 (The Two "Problem Passages)

I'm doing a workshop this morning at our HSRM Conference in Green Lake, Wisconsin, Empowering Women for Ministry.

I am posting this for the attendees, on the two "problem passages" in the Bible - women should keep silent in the church assembly, and women should not teach men.

This is Part 1 of Ben Witherington's clear explanation of the cultural specificity of those verses.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Studying the Real Jesus


One of my former philosophy students asked:,"I am curious to understand what you mean when you say "The REAL Jesus." Could you tell me about it?"

Here's how I think about this.
  1. For forty-seven years I have been studying about Jesus of Nazareth. I engage in "historical Jesus" studies. In my PhD program I did a qualifying exam on ancient Christology. I wrote my dissertation on metaphor theory, and New Testament theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg's idea of "resurrection" as a metaphorical way to speak of an historical reality.
  2. As a "Christ-ian" and Jesus-follower, and as one who once cried out to Jesus to rescue me and got rescued, I've devoted my life to knowing about Christ, and knowing Christ.
  3. But the historical Jesus gets buried under the layers of culture. We have, e.g., an "American Jesus." I'm not interested in that, except as it tells me some things about our culture and religion. What little "Christian TV" I've watched in days past contains much misleading stuff on Jesus, like the "Prosperity Gospel Jesus," which, as far as I can tell, is nothing like the Jesus of, e.g., Matthew 25 (and elsewhere).
  4. I am interested in studies like my friend Craig Keener's The Historical Jesus of the Gospels. Texts like this peel away layers of cultural accretion to expose the Jesus of history. I have a large stack of books devoted to doing this. For a good mini-book by a great New Testament scholar, see Richard Bauckham's  Jesus: A Very Short Introduction. For a longer read see Bauckham's wonderful, scholarly Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony.  
  5. The "Real Jesus" is: 1) the Jesus who walked the earth in the early first century, was crucified, buried in a tomb, and was raised from the dead; and 2) the Messiah ("Christ") who now lives, within and without us.
  6. Strategy: 
    1. Slow cook in and meditate on the four Gospels. Keep a journal on what God says to you as you do this; 
    2. read New Testament scholars on Jesus. Just as anyone wanting to study brain surgery should read texts written by brain surgeons, in studying Jesus one should read the works of New Testament scholars who know the original languages, the socio-rhetorical environment of the time, and the socio-cultural environment of the time; and 
    3. abide in Christ (John 14-15-16), both individually and corporately. That is, live the life Jesus called you to live, as seen in John chapters 14-15-16.
Want to do Real Jesus studies? I suggest the following authors, texts, and websites. (Note: you can ignore Internet Jesus-debunkers who have never engaged in this kind of scholarship.)

This would be good for starters. 

And, of course, read the New Testament for your own self.

  • Begin with the 4 Gospels.
  • Read them as if for the very first time.
  • Take notes.
  • Pay attention.
  • See how and why the Real Jesus was either embraced or despised.
Needed: Old Testament background; Second Temple Judaism background

Monday, June 19, 2017

How to Produce Hell on Earth

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Somewhere in Kenya

I rode my bike eight miles this morning. My bicycle is a philosophical machine. It uses my energy and converts it into silent motion. In the silence I feel the encompassing world.

When I ride my bike I notice more. I experience, I sense, things I would otherwise miss. The white cumulus clouds were beautiful this morning against the blue sky. I stopped on my ride and took some photos. At a few points I just stopped, and saw. These stopping points were like rests in a piece of classical music. Without the stops, things tend to blur.

To produce a hell on earth, simply accept the lie that your worth is the same as your busyness. Measure yourself by all that you accomplish, and then get to work and accomplish more so as to be pleasing in the sight of others. Buy into the myth that sound is more valuable than silence. Eliminate the rests from your existence and experience constant noise.

Thomas Merton writes:

"Music is pleasing not only because of the sound but because of the silence that is in it: without the alternation of sound and silence, there would be no rhythm. If we strive to be happy by filing all the silences of life with sound, productive by turning all life's leisure into work, and real by turning all our being into doing, we will only succeed in producing a hell on earth." (Through the Year with Thomas Merton, p. 107)

Kill Performancism in Worship ("Oh Magnify My Face With Me")

Store, in Ann Arbor, Kerrytown district

My own belief is that fog machine, stage lighting, click tracking worship are signs of acquiescence to cultural decadence, out of a need to be relevant and cool, and make people happy. With that stroke of my theological brush I paint a broad canvas. I am certain there are exceptions (if, e.g., God says, "Pull out the fog machine for this coming Sunday,"; or God says, "I want this worship song to last exactly 5 minutes, 28 seconds."). But it is instructive to remember that the last thing the First Church (book of Acts) was interested in was being relevant.

This is not a judgment against individual churches. It's the kind of thing Matt Redman did when he got the attention of many of us in his song "Heart of Worship." As a musician myself, I know how easy it is to slip into a performer more than a worshiper. (If you have never read Matt's story behind "Heart of Worship" it's worth reading, as a call away from the Consumer Church.) 

We need new voices to call us to attention when it comes to worship. Jamie Brown echoes the same in "Are We Headed For a Crash? Reflections On the Current State of Evangelical Worship." 

Brown was at the recent National Worship Leader Conference. A common theme there was:

"Performancism. The worship leader as the performer. The congregation as the audience. The sanctuary as the concert hall. It really is a problem. It really is a thing. And we really can’t allow it to become the norm. Worship leaders, we must identify and kill performancism while we can."

That's the point, right? 

Brown suggests we can kill the Entertainment Church by doing the following.
  • Sing songs people know (or can learn easily).
  • Sing them in congregational keys.
  • Sing and celebrate the power, glory, and salvation of God.
  • Serve your congregation.
  • Saturate them with the word of God.
  • Get your face off the big screen (here’s why).
  • Use your original songs in extreme moderation (here’s why).
  • Err on the side of including as many people as possible in what’s going on.
  • Keep the lights up.
  • Stop talking so much.
  • Don’t let loops/lights/visuals become your outlet for creativity at the expense of the centrality of the gospel.
  • Point to Jesus.
  • Don’t draw attention to yourself.
  • Don’t sing songs with bad lyrics or weak theology.
  • Tailor your worship leading, and the songs you pick, to include the largest cross-section of your congregation that you can.
  • Lead pastorally.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Breathtaking Intellectual Shallowness of Our Culture Is Seen In Its Approval of Abortion

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I bought thee roses for Linda

It's 6 PM in Monroe. Tomorrow is Father's Day. I'll be preaching at Redeemer on "Empowering Men for Ministry." In addition, I, and our people, will pray for anyone who would like prayer for physical or emotional healing.

It's hot today, but there is a nice breeze blowing through the tall pine and cottonwood trees in our back yard.

I'm reading Princeton scholar Robert George's brilliant Conscience and Its Enemies. George, who also has taught at Harvard, is a voice of reason in a country of breathtaking intellectual and spiritual shallowness.

He is a Christian theist, as well. I just read this part about abortion. It's worth quoting in its entirety.

"What is centrally and decisively true about human embryos and fetuses is that they are living individuals of the species Homo sapiens—members of the human family—at early stages of their natural development. Each of us was once an embryo, just as each of us was once an adolescent, a child, an infant, and a fetus. Each of us developed from the embryonic into and through the fetal, infant, child, and adolescent stages of our lives, and into adulthood, with his or her distinctness, unity, and identity fully intact. As modern embryology confirms beyond any possibility of doubt, we were never parts of our mothers; we were, from the beginning, complete, self-integrating organisms that developed to maturity by a gradual, gapless, and self-directed process. Our foundational principle of the profound, inherent, and equal dignity of every human being demands that all members of the human family be respected and protected irrespective not only of race, sex, and ethnicity but also of age, size, location, stage of development, and condition of dependency. To exclude anyone from the law’s protection is to treat him unjustly.
And so it seems to me that justice demands our resolute opposition to the killing of human embryos for biomedical research and to elective abortion. If we would do unto others as we would have them do unto us, then we will insist that law and public policy respect the lives of every member of the human family, including those at what the late Paul Ramsey called the edges of life—the unborn, the severely handicapped, the frail, the elderly."

- Kindle Locations 1468-1479

The Question American Culture Is Frightened Of

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Downtown Monroe

My career teaching logic at the college level is finished. My final semester was this past winter. I will miss parts of it.

My favorite teaching point was this. I loved watching the students, as I said something every logic text affirms: A statement [proposition; belief] is a sentence that claims a certain state of affairs obtains.

Or, saying the same thing in a different way: A statement is a sentence that is either true or false.

And then adding: If a statement is true, it is true for everyone; if a statement is false, it is false for everyone.

This is not about "absolute truth" (which forms a kind of redundancy for me). It is simply about truth.

Many students are confused by this. Some resist it. Some think I am trying to slip something by them. Most don't know why they fell odd about it.

This describes our American culture: most people feel odd about truth, but don't know why. Media newsreaders get outraged, or at least have puzzled looks on their faces, when Christians  make truth claims. Yet, all the time, they make statements that express their beliefs, which beliefs are claimed to be either true or false. Like, e.g., Today is June 17, 2017. Or, Abraham Lincoln was America's sixteenth President. Or, Tomorrow is Father's Day. Or, June 17 is not America's Independence Day. Or, Today is Father's Day (which is false today, but will be true tomorrow).

Robert P. George (Princeton) writes that "to speak of truth frightens some people today. They evidently believe that people who claim to know the truth about anything—and especially about moral matters—are fundamentalists and potential totalitarians." (George, Conscience and Its Enemies: Confronting the Dogmas of Liberal Secularism, Kindle Locations 1462-1463)

But all the while these people who are frightened about claims to truth are themselves making countless claims to truth. George writes:

"As Amherst professor Hadley Arkes has patiently explained, those on the other side of the great debates over social issues such as abortion and marriage make truth claims—moral truth claims—all the time. They assert their positions with no less confidence and no more doubt than one finds in the advocacy of pro-lifers and defenders of conjugal marriage. They proclaim that women have a fundamental right to abortion. They maintain that “love makes a family” and make other strong and controversial moral claims." (Ib., Kindle Locations 1463-1467)

What's going on here? Surely George is correct in saying that "the question, then, is not whether there are truths about such things as the morality of abortion and the nature of marriage; the question in each case is, what is true?" Ib., (Kindle Locations 1467-1468)

That is the question American culture is frightened of,  cannot escape, is ignorant of, and refuses to address.

My two books are:

Leading the Presence-Driven Church (Aug/Sept 2017)

Friday, June 16, 2017

Redeemer Fellowship Church - Online Giving

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Our online giving option at Redeemer has been up for a few months.

Thank you for helping with this J.F.!

If this is for you, go HERE for online giving. Thank you to all who support what God is doing at Redeemer!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Secularism Breeds Entertainment-Consumer-Driven Churches (The Presence-Driven Church)

Kitty Hawk, NC

This is a thought experiment, for my own benefit, if no one else's.

I listened to a brief video by atheistic philosopher A. C. Grayling. He agreed that, if there is no God, then life has no ultimate meaning and purpose. When asked, "How then shall we live?" Grayling responded, "Try to be as happy as you possibly can."

I think Grayling is right. In lieu of the non-existence of God, strive to be happy. So,

1. If there is no God, there is no ultimate meaning and purpose to life.
2. If there is no ultimate meaning and purpose to life, then strive to be happy.
3. Therefore, if there is no God, then strive to be happy.

Here is what I am thinking, by analogy.

1. If the presence of God is not welcomed and experienced in church, then strive to make the people happy.
2. To make people happy, entertain them.
3. Therefore, if the presence of God is not welcomed and experienced in church, entertain the people. (Religious utilitarianism.)

If God is not known by the people, in terms of experience ("You will experience the truth, and the truth will set you free"), then there is a great experiential void to be filled. If this void is not met by God, then pastors and leaders must meet it through entertainment, coffee, and donuts. Otherwise the people, who are no longer beholders, but consumers, will not feel they are getting their money's worth.

Practical atheism and secularism, therefore, logically lead to the Entertainment-Consumer-Driven Church. That is, given secularism's influence, one can predict coffee and donuts, stage lighting, and fog machines.

I once went with my son Josh to the Grand Canyon. I will never forget standing on the south rim. The vast presence of the canyon overwhelmed me. At that point I was fully uninterested in the artificial atmosphere and the donuts. But, if there was no canyon, take me to the snacks.

The Entertainment-Consumer-Driven Church is a logical byproduct of secularism. The existential abyss that needs the transcendent is bone dry. All the weary leaders have to offer is momentary happiness.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Step Into the Words of John 17:3 (The Presence-Driven Church)

Downy woodpeckers in my backyard

Now this is eternal life:
that they know you, the only true God,
and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
- Jesus
John 17:3

For Christian theistic philosopher and theologian Dallas Willard, the verse above was key. As you read it, and maybe write it down on a card, carry it with you, and meditate on it, remember that the word "know" means knowledge by experience, not theoretical or sheer intellectual knowledge.

Gary Moon writes:

"I believe that if one were asked to identify a single golden thread that runs through each of Dallas Willard’s books—a key idea that sets his thinking apart from so many others—it would be the idea that it is actually possible to step into the words of John 17:3 and enter into an experiential relationship, a transforming friendship, with the Trinity. In the words of Steve Porter, an ordinary person can grab hold of life from above. An ordinary person can live a “with-God” life—surrendered and obedient to divine will." (Willard, Eternal Living: Reflections on Dallas Willard's Teaching on Faith and Formation, Kindle Locations 292-294. Emphasis mine.)

My book Leading the Presence-Driven Church should be available August 2017.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Prayerlessness Is Faithlessness

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Weed, in my backyard

I spent a good part of this afternoon on the deck overlooking our backyard. I prayed a lot. My prayer time today included worshiping God, beholding God in the beauty of his creation, thanking God (I do this a lot), just listening, and praying for people that God brought to my mind.

This was a time of great blessing and encouragement. I am better for it. I am focused, hope-filled, renewed. My faith increases. Decades of praying has increased my connectedness to God, which increases my faith.

Praying people grow in faith and trust in God, because the reality of God is experienced by them, in the ongoing act of praying. Conversely, a diminishing praying life will mean a diminishing faith. (How much faith does a person really have if they keep saying, "I just can't find time to pray?")

Rod Dreher writes:

"If we spend all our time in activity, even when that activity serves Christ, and neglect prayer and contemplation, we put our faith in danger. The 1960s media theorist Marshall McLuhan, a practicing Christian, once said that everyone he knew who lost his faith began by ceasing to pray. If we are to live rightly ordered Christian lives, then prayer must be the basis of everything we do." (Dreher, The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation, p. 60).

Monday, June 12, 2017

God Loves Working with People Who Are Failures

Sioux Falls, SD
Someone shared with me that they wanted to follow Jesus, but were afraid they would fail. Their fear of failure was leading them to stay distant from God. Here are some thoughts I have about this.

1. Anyone who follows Jesus will, at times, fail. Follow anything and you will, at times, fail. Mistakes will be made.

2. What's needed is a community of Jesus-followers who are non-judgmental about failure. What's needed are Jesus-followers who are learning to love as Jesus loves.

Paul wrote, "there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1).

Sadly, the amount of in-fighting and slandering within "churches," and towards outsiders, makes church the last place where you'd want to fail. Avoid these churches.

Churches that are successful in the Jesus Way are honest and real about failure, without condemnation and judgmentalism. We all need this kind of more perfect love. "Perfect love casts out fear; there is no fear in love" (1 John 4:18).

3. Unless you get real about your failure, you will never succeed. "Success" is: growing into greater Christlikeness. Not one of us is there yet. All of us are failing in some ways. Avoid people who do not understand this (love them anyway, but don't fellowship with them).

People who act as if they never fail but you do fail are spiritually toxic. They are failure-producing people who want to bring you down to the level of their failure.

4. Remember the Original Twelve, Jesus' inner circle of disciples. They misunderstood Jesus, stumbled spiritually, misjudged things, betrayed Jesus, and eventually left his side at the point of his greatest suffering. Yet out of the rubbish of their failure came the first real Jesus-followers. You and I can likewise be transformed as we go after Jesus.

In the spiritual journal I have now kept for forty years I have recorded many instances of my own failures. Some of these have been seen by other people. A number of them are known only by my wife Linda and my sons. Some are known by God and I. And some are only known by God, and I am ignorant of them.

As I have journaled about these failures of action and attitude, I have always encountered a God of love and grace who forgives me, and continues to mold and shape me. God will not give up on me, or you, if we come to him with a heart that says, "God, I love you, and want to learn how to love you more."

God loves working with  people who are failures. After all, it's all he has to work with.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Religious Churches (The Presence-Driven Church)

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Times Square, New York City

A former seminary student of mine who is now a pastor wrote me this week. He said:

Hello Dr. Piippo,

Greetings. I am in the process of starting a new church plant, and would like to use Acts as my first Bible study.
I hear you talk so much about "normal church," and the things the first church did.
I believe in my spirit that God is calling for a church that is "presence-driven," not another religious church.
I am tired of religious churches!
What would be some good resources to use while we study Acts.

Thanks for your help,


I read this letter to my people at Redeemer this morning. I asked them, "What do you think C meant by "another religious church?" The answers included, "legalistic," "governed by rules rather than led by the Spirit," "planned out in advance (timed)," "business model," "institutional," and "entertainment."
What is a "religious" church?  For its etymology see the Oxford Etymology Dictionary. The origin is not especially negative. But today, among many evangelical and Pentecostal Christians, "religion" is a negative word, and connotes the kind of things above.
Religious Church can be contrasted to Normal Church. A Normal Church would, at its core, be God-exalting, Jesus-following, and Spirit-empowered. Like we see, prototypically, in the book of Acts.
A Normal Church would be doing the things that Jesus did. In John 14:12 Jesus tells his followers that whoever believe in him will do the things that he has been doing. I expect Real Church to do the things Jesus was doing.

When I became a follower of Jesus I transitioned from religion to relationship. I took, and still take, "Emmanuel" literally. I broke through the glass ceiling, and moved from secularity into the Kingdom of God. As Charles Kraft says,

“All you need to break through the glass ceiling is to enter into partnership with Jesus in bringing healing and freedom to others.” (Kraft, Confronting Powerless Christianity: Evangelicals and the Missing Dimension, Kindle Location 191)
Non-religious followers of Jesus follow Jesus. They experience God-with-us, they experience God working through them to do what Jesus did, and they experience the Spirit's Acts 1:9 empowerment.

This is what we are not only to do, but are to pass on to others. Because Jesus said, make disciples and teach others to do all I have commanded you.
I am suggesting that a Religious Church would be one lacking the following core qualities of Normal Church, which include:
  1. God-exalting (worshiping, from the heart)
  2. Jesus-following (doing what Jesus did)
  3. Spirit-empowered (Presence-Driven)
  4. Disciple-making (Teaching others to do 1, 2, and 3)
A church that lacked 1-4 could be called "religious." It would be a church that...
  • Primarily relies on human abilities (does things on its own)
  • Adopts business models to govern and administrate the church
  • Measures itself by how many (people), how much (square footage), what size (budget)
  • Tends to be suspicious of experiences, emotions, and feelings
  • Downplays or discourages the supernatural (the things Jesus did)

Thursday, June 08, 2017

My Summer Reading

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Relaxing as summer has finally begun!

Ever since I was an undergraduate philosophy major I have read multiple books at a time. As many as fifteen books at a time. That's just me. It is a passion, and a hobby, for me. Linda is a huge book reader as well.

I do not always finish a book. Sometimes, even years later, I return to the book and finish it.

Sometimes I read only the chapters or sections I am especially interested in.

Often, I re-read a book. I re-ponder it. I have re-read several books.

It sometimes happens, in a re-read, that I feel I finally understand what the book is saying.

When a book is an academic text, it is common for me to read portions and not understand what is being said.

I read hard copies, and books on my Kindle. I like both.

So, here are books I am reading this summer (and I'll probably add some more).

Eugene Peterson. As Kingfishers Catch Fire: A Conversation on the Ways of God Formed by the Words of God. To Linda and I, Peterson is a prophet to the American Church, for such a time as this. He is filled with depth, wisdom, discernment, and insight. He exhibits these because, for decades, he has had an actual praying life.

Jim Al-Khalili. Aliens: The World's Leading Scientists on the Serch for Extraterrestrial Life. I am reading selected essays out of this book. This week I read two excellent articles on the vast improbability of ET life: "A Cosmic Imperative: How Easy Is It for Life to Get Started," by Paul Davies (the answer: it's far, far from easy); and "Alone In the Universe: The Improbability of Alien Civilizations," by Matthew Cobb. Note: Both Davies and Cobb rightly tell us that we cannot predict the probability of life emerging from non-life on exoplanets, precisely because we have no idea of how life emerges from non-life. One cannot estimate the probability of something happening given total ignorance of how it happens.

Curt Thompson, MD. The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves. I mostly read a book like this for my own benefit, since I have struggled, at times, with shame. And, I view it as a universal condition (remember Adam and Eve, discovered in the garden by God).

Dallas Willard and Gary Moon. Eternal Living: Reflections on Dallas Willard's Teaching on Faith and Formation. OK - I have finished the book. Linda is nearly finished. We are both re-reading. This is a book I would recommend everyone to read. You will be inspired and blessed and moved.

Rod Dreher. The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians In a Post-Christian Nation. Yes, everyone is reading this book, and so am I. For good reason. Time for a reality check for the Church.

Charles Kraft. Confronting Powerless Christianity: Evangelicals and the Missing Dimension. I just read Kraft's presentation to the faculty of Fuller Theological Seminary. Wow! (Ch. 3, "Ten Critical Issues for Evangelicals")

Robert P. George. Conscience and Its Enemies: Confronting the Dogmas of Liberal Secularism. Linda and I watch hardly any secular media. I'd rather read scholars on ethical and political issues. George is one of my favorites. He is Prof. of Law at Princeton, and recently Visiting Prof of Law at Harvard, What a great thinker and writer, an intellectual force to be reckoned with, and a strong follower of Jesus as well.

Alan Burdick. Why Time Flies: A Mostly Scientific Investigation. Good, creative writing on not only the philosophy of time, but the biology of time.

John Jefferson Davis. Worship and the Reality of God: An Evangelical Theology of Real Presence. My friend Dave Nichols and I are reading and re-reading this excellent book on the Presence-Driven Church, with a liturgical spin. I'm still thinking about Davis's analogy between an ontology of games, and real worship.

Peter Bussey. Signposts to God: How Modern Physics and Astronomy Point the Way to Belief. This satisfies a perennial intellectual itch.

Greg Boyd. The Crucifixion of the Warrior God: Volumes 1&2. I'm fifty pages in. I need to set aside hours to keep up with Greg's thesis on the "violent" God of the Old Testament.

Craig Keener. Spirit Hermeneutics: Reading Scripture in Light of Pentecost. I'm fifty pages into Craig's book. This is a book I have been waiting for. It's on the role of experience in understanding the biblical texts.

Charles Taylor. The Language Animal: The Full Shape of the Human Linguistic Capacity. Taylor is one of our major philosophers, and a follower of Jesus as well. I am working to understand how he frames the idea that language is constitutive (not merely descriptive) of reality.

Focus on Influence, Not Size (The Presence-Driven Church)

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Raining in my backyard

Reading Eugene Peterson's The Pastor: A Memoir, solidified in me an idea
I have had for many years. Which is: as a pastor and Jesus-follower,
I am to desire influence, rather than size in terms of numbers of people. 
I don't think it is important how big a church is. I think it is important 
how influential a church is. Influence, not size, is what really matters.  

By "influence" I mean the kind of things Jesus talked about when he used 
metaphors like "salt" and "yeast." "You are the salt of the earth," Jesus said (Matthew 5:13). 
A little bit of salt can flavor a lot of food. What's needed are salty Jesus-followers.

Salt influences food rather than it is influenced by it. Salt is active, not passive. 
So, I am to influence the world, rather than being influenced by it.

Non-salty "Christians" are, in Jesus' eyes, "no longer good for anything, 
except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot." (Matthew 5:13)

Jesus-followers are to influence and salt "the earth," which mostly takes place 
outside the walls of the church building. I now think of my philosophy students. 
For most of them, "church" flavors nothing about their lives. They can't taste "church" at all. 
I attribute this to a lack of influence.

How many people are in my church? Wrong question! Instead, ask, How salty is my church? 
Is it influential as regards Jesus and the Kingdom? Focus on influence, by disciple-making.

And, be yourself influenced by Christ. Such influence flows from the Vine to the branch 
as one continuously abides in Christ. The focus is not on numbers but staying connected 
to Jesus. This results in a daily being-influenced by him.

The core prayer of a Jesus-following pastor is not, “God, supersize us!” It is, “God, use us.” 
At this point numbers do not matter. My understanding of church history is that cultures, 
communities, and even nations that began to follow Jesus did so as a result of what 
God was doing in a small number of Christ-abiding, salty people.

My two books are:

Leading the Presence-Driven Church (coming late summer 2017)

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God