Akron/Canton Emergent Cohort Oct 12

October’s meeting of the Akron/Canton Emergent Cohort is going to be on the usual 2nd Friday of the month, which is the 12th.

The time is the same (8:00 PM) but the place has changed. We will meet at the Bennigan’s near Belden Village Mall (426 Dressler Rd NW, Canton, OH 44718 - see map).

Here is a blog post I wrote that we will be discussing:

Metanarrative Power-Grabs that Result in Violence

Akron/Canton Emergent Cohort blog

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Modern Apologetics: For Outreach or for Christian Edification?

When I first came to faith in Jesus Christ, one of the first books I read was C.S. Lewis’ classic book, Mere Christianity. Lewis became an instant hero. His clear, logically reasoned defense of the Christian faith helped ground me, helped me be confident that the leap of faith that I had just plunged into was not just dumb belief, but was also something that made sense. I was so grateful to Lewis.

In my first church experience, we talked a lot about the reasoned proofs for the faith. We quoted Josh McDowell’s Evidence That Demands a Verdict; we bought books by Norman Geisler.

When I went to seminary, there was a department dedicated to the “Philosophy of Religion.” I had friends who majored in that, hoping to be the next Ravi Zacharias. Apologetics was a required course for my Master of Divinity, and I remember furiously taking notes in that class so that I could later equip people to defend their faith.

My first ministry was as a pastor for adult ministries in a church of about 600 people. I initiated a ministry to the college students in our church, recruiting some young men and women to lead worship and I preached a series called, “Prepared to Answer,” with messages that defended that God exists, why the Bible is inerrant, that Jesus was resurrected, that Darwinism is wrong, and how evil and a good God can be explained. In doing this series, I was reading deeply the heady writings of William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland. My thinking was that Christian college students needed to be “Prepared to Answer” since it is especially on secular college campuses that Christians had better be ready to make a defense for what they believe.

One of the worst feelings to have is to feel like an idiot. We fear that people will scoff at us who believe in Jesus Christ as if we have no brains. We want to prove them wrong. We want to know what we believe and why we believe it, as Paul Little instructs in his books. We want to show people, especially those who are in our educational institutions, that we can reason and debate with the best. Our faith is not idiotic. It is a “Reasonable Faith,” as William Lane Craig’s book calls it.

And my goal, as a pastor trying to equip Christians to do evangelism well in a secular world, was to help them have confidence that, in a world that demeaned Christians as unthinking people, they could have credible ways to defend the faith against the atheists who will inevitably attack them.

The problem was, most of us rarely meet anybody that we can actually use these arguments against.

What all these defenses of the faith actually accomplished, more than anything else, was to shore up our own belief system. We became assured that what we took on faith was not “just” something that people could believe based on faith, that people could also come to the reasoned conclusion that it was true.

It was almost as if having faith was not enough. Faith needed to be reasoned, it had to be able to be defended logically, or else it was invalid.

Faith without validation by way of reason was baseless, illogical, and therefore was open to the accusation of being downright stupid.

Why did we need reasoned arguments to ground our faith? It was because we were steeped in a modern cultural context.

Myron Penner writes,

"Modernity is often labeled as the Age of Science, or as the Age of Reason, but I would like to add one more moniker: Modernity is also the Age of Apologetics. In modernity, traditional forms of authority (viz. Church and State) are rejected and human reason is re-imagined as universal and objective so that it can fill the authority vacuum. In other words, it is to Reason (as universal and objective) that one must look in modernity for the authority and legitimacy of one’s beliefs and actions (and one must do it for oneself!)...

It is little wonder, then, that Christians found it necessary to take up the arms of modern rationality and defend themselves. In short, in response to the attacks on Christian belief from modern philosophy, modern evangelical Christians developed a “scientific” apologetic, modeled after the philosophical method and rigor of modern analytic philosophy, which attempted to establish the universal rationality of Christian belief using the same “objective” and “presuppositionless” premises required by modern empirical science." (A New Kind of Conversation)

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A "Commissioning Service" for everyone in every line of work

It is my contention that we need to get beyond the false secular/sacred dichotomy that is so prevalent in the church today. One glaring way we create this false dualism is in saying that pastors and missionaries are the ones "called" to ministry. This creates the presumption that all the rest of us are simply working at our jobs. And underlying that is the presumption is that those not in "full-time Christian vocation" are doing something less than spiritual. Maybe their main purpose is to make money so that they can financially support those with the high call of ministry. It is not often that somebody comes right out and says these things, but they are our presumptions.

And they are ridiculous.

Every Christian is in "full-time ministry," no matter what they are doing, no matter what it says on their business card, no matter if they punch a time clock or are on salary, no matter if they are doing technical work or people work, no matter if they are paid or a volunteer, no matter if they work for their boss or for their family as a housekeeper.

Every line of work, no matter what it is, is full-time ministry. Because every line of work needs to be transformed into a calling from God to fulfill the cultural mandate of Genesis 1 & 2. Our first command from God is to create culture - "to fill the earth and subdue it, to work it and take care of it" (see Gen 1:26-28; 2:15 below).

My proposal, then, is this: Instead of having "Commissioning Services" only for pastors and missionaries, local congregations should, on a very regular basis, offer commissioning services for every single Christian in the marketplace. Pastors need to see the workplace as the greatest opportunity for the gospel to shine, as Christians work to transform their workplaces and vocations into that which is reflective of God's Kingdom. Pastors talk a lot about "equipping the saints," and yet when was the last time a pastor visited the people he is shepherding at their workplaces, encouraging them to live out the gospel there, helping them to make the connection between Sunday and Monday?

Here, then, is a "Commissioning Service" that local churches can begin using on a regular basis to create a missional mindset toward vocation.


Commissioning Service

Opening Prayer
“Lord, Redeemer of all, we commit ourselves to the call to be your people, going into all the earth to proclaim that you are King of kings and Lord of lords, bringing harmony and flourishing back to your good creation. We do this for your glory, Amen.”

Scripture Reading
Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule… So God created human beings in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground”...The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” (Genesis 1:26-28; 2:15)

Leader: As those who have committed to following Christ’s call on your lives, will you allow the expression of your personality and the exercise of your spiritual gifts and your natural talents to be directed and empowered for the glory of Jesus Christ as Lord?
Everyone: With God as our help, we will.
Leader: Will you obey the command of the cultural mandate to have dominion over the earth, to work it and take care of it, fulfilling your image-bearing ability to create from that which was created for God’s glory?
Everyone: With God as our help, we will.
Leader: Will you be used by God to transform your vocation so that it reflects God’s Kingdom values in its service to humanity and in its role of cultivating the world’s resources?
Everyone: With God as our help, we will.
Leader: Will you encourage one another toward seeing your work as more than “a job” or “a paycheck,” but as the very means by which God is redeeming the world through His people?
Everyone: With God as our help, we will.
Leader: Will you always give yourselves fully to your work, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain?
Everyone: With God as our help, we will.
Leader: Will you work six days and then take a Sabbath day’s rest, trusting in God’s provision and viewing work as part of the rhythm of a holistic life of worship, with no secular/sacred dichotomy?
Everyone: With God as our help, we will.
Leader: In whatever you do, will you work at it with all your heart, because you are actually working for the Lord, not just for human leaders?
Everyone: With God as our help, we will.

Scripture Reading
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1Corinthians 10:31)

Closing Prayer
Lord, we know that our work really, truly matters. All that we do for your glory will last and will be transformed by your purifying fire when we enter the new heavens and the new earth. Thank you for our calling. We want you to show us how you meant things to be, how things are fallen, and how you intend to transform them. And we want to know what you want us to do in our work lives so that we can be agents of your redemption of all things. Your kingdom come and will be done, here on earth as it is in heaven—especially in our vocations. We seek to glorify you in all that we do. Amen.

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Labored Day

by Mike Metzger, The Clapham Institute
September 3, 2007

No Labor Days.
If you love Labor Day you might not enjoy heaven that much. But don't worry. Anyone can acquire a taste for eternity. The key is unpacking the origins of Labor Day, work and holidays. It also requires changing the way we imagine heaven.

Samuel Gompers is the man behind the inception of Labor Day. The Industrial Revolution of eighteenth century England and nineteenth century America forced thousands of farmers from working in fertile fields to filthy factories. They toiled in demeaning and dangerous conditions. English factory workers went so far as to describe this kind of work as a "job" – from the old English word meaning "criminal or demeaning activity." Robbing a bank is sometimes still called a "bank job."

Gompers led the American labor movement that demanded better working conditions. He organized an unpaid day off in September of 1892 for New York City union workers. With national elections on the horizon, Congress and the President sprung into action and Labor Day was signed into law in 1894. Gompers called it "the day for which the toilers in past centuries looked forward, when their rights and their wrongs would be discussed..."

When was the last time you discussed rights and wrongs on Labor Day? Uh huh. It's more about drinking than debate. That's partly because Gompers viewed work as toil. It wouldn't exist in a perfect world. Labor Day became more about getting away rather than getting more out of our work. And that's why some of us might not enjoy heaven that much. According to an ancient faith tradition, work is good and lasts forever.

In the ancient "four-chapter" gospel, work was designed in creation as good and enjoyable. That's Chapter One. But our default is to view work as toil or a job. That's because of Chapter Two – the Fall. When Adam disobeyed God, the Lord said, "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life."1 Toil is the same Hebrew word for "the pain of childbirth" that women suffer. Ouch. Chapter Three – redemption – tells us what we can do about today's toil. We can begin by returning to a dignified view of work rather than retreating from work altogether. Holidays are a good time to pursue this, since "holiday" comes from "holy day." Holidays are supposed to help us see our work and our rest as sacred.

Finally, a great many people are surprised to learn that those destined for eternity with God will work. Forever. This is Chapter Four – eternity. Of course, it's not the kind of work we imagine. It won't be toil or a job. There won't be office politics. It will not exhaust us. It'll be fun. Eternity's chefs will be better than Bobby Flay. Lawn maintenance workers will surpass Augusta's greens – and without the battle against crabgrass and chickweed. Transportation will be intergalactic yet not consume nonrenewable resources. Heaven, in other words, is more than harps. The "new heavens and new earth" will faintly resemble our earth (there might even be a new New York!). And those most qualified will become mayors and governors, yet not have to deal with crime and injustice. Remember, Jesus did say, "Well done, good slave, because you have been faithful in a very little thing, be in authority over ten cities."2

Imagine this: Flight attendants will no longer be surly. Teachers will educate engaged and eager students (gasp). We'll still enjoy holiday breaks but they will be to appreciate and discuss good work. And to appreciate rest. Our work in eternity will no longer pollute the environment or eradicate animal species. In fact, we'll get along with all the animals.3 Isaiah looks forward to a time when violence and cruelty will vanish, even between the animals. Hosea's promise for what happens in eternity affects even the birds and animals and will ultimately abolish weapons of war.4

This is why if you love Labor Day – but see it only as an escape from your job – you might not enjoy heaven that much. "Heaven is an acquired taste," said C.S. Lewis.5 It means enjoying work… forever. The Labor Day holiday in eternity will help us get more out of our work. It won't resemble today's celebration where we're simply trying to get away.

If you've never heard of this view of work, start with the "four-chapter" gospel and imagine work as one of the most fantastic experiences in the universe. It's all part of an eternity that is unimaginably good: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him."6 See if this whets your appetite for eternity and helps you acquire a taste for heaven.
1 Genesis 3:17-19
2 Luke 19:17
3 Isaiah 11:6-9
4 Hosea 2:18
5 Letters of C.S. Lewis, ed. W. H. Lewis (Harcourt Brace, 1966), p.164
6 I Corinthians 2:9

For more by Mike Metzger, go to the website for The Clapham Institute.

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