Saturday, September 27, 2008

Emergent Worship?

Recently there has been a growth of worship coming out of the migration of young people into Reformed theology. People enthralled with Piper, Edwards and Calvin are touring the nation writing and singing songs like "Indescribable," and "How Great Is Our God." Add the David Crowder Band on top of Chris Tomlin and Passion and throw in a mix of hymns being redone, and you have a recipie for a new generation of worship.

Where are the emergent worship song writers? Maybe you can point me in their direction, but I have a hunch. There probably aren't many (or even any) who are genuinely emergent, becuase there is no one to worship if emergent theology is to be believed. According to emergent leaders, there is a god who is our most important conversation partner, the great moral example to people who just need to do the right political things to be OK, and one who needs a 5 year break in talking about homosexuality, but not a transcendant and incarnate God who graciously extends His love to unlovable creatures.

Monday, September 08, 2008

A Scourge In Our Age

In her speech on Wednesday night, the Republican nominee for Vice President, Sarah Palin, referred to her 5-month old baby as, “perfectly beautiful.” Just about every parent of an infant would say that, but what makes her statement extraordinary is that Trig has Down syndrome.

Abortion is an epidemic and smear on our culture, but the reality is even worse among pre-born children diagnosed with physical and mental disorders. With the advent of prenatal testing for pregnant women of all ages, 90% of children diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted. We are deciding what “normal” people look like and the kinds of kids we want to raise, and we are disposing of the rest.

What makes this form of abortion especially abhorrent is that it is not only murder, it is murder in the name of eugenics. Eugenics is the act of deciding what kinds of people are superior to others, who deserve to live, and marginalizing the rest. The most blatant form of eugenics is the legacy of the Nazi regime, which underwent a bloody policy of genocide and medical experimentation. Not only did the Nazis try to rid the world of Jews and Gypsies, they rounded up the mentally and physically handicapped, experimented on them, took them out of the normal stream of society, and exterminated thousands.

In the same morally audacious category is the current trend of aborting the same kinds of people the Nazis tried to rid the world of. In the article cited above, the accompanying video quotes the couple as worrying about the world in which their child will grow up. If there are fewer and fewer of her type around in the near future, they worry the world will be less accepting and loving of her. And I think their fear is well-founded. If we are this intolerant of these pre-born infants, how long will it be before we are that intolerant of them after they are born?

The nebulous and propagandistic slogan, “choice,” is a really bad way to justify eugenic murder. Part of what makes morality a discipline is that sometimes the right choices are hard. Families who chose to give birth to and raise a special needs child make some very hard choices, but often tell stories of unbounded and surprising love. “Choice” is lesser moral good than life, even when that life is different than ours.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

The Sermons We Endure

Last week our church hosted a missionary couple and over lunch one of them told me something fascinating. He referred to my sermon that morning and said that it had been years since he heard an expositional sermon. In other words, as he further explained, it had been years since he heard a sermon in which the minister opened the Bible, took a chunk of Scripture and explained it to people. The fact that this came from a missionary is important: in our denomination missionaries “itinerate.” That means they travel from church to church raising their support and are often in 4-6 different churches in a month.

They had not heard a sermon serious about a passage of Scripture in years.

I have actually heard this often in recent months. My style of preaching has always been expositional. So much so (to prove the depth of my commitment), we recently spent two years in the book of Jeremiah, and it was probably the most powerful two years of work I have ever done. As more people become accustomed to my style, they tell me it has been a long time since they needed to open their Bibles in a service or that they are excited that they hear people in the sanctuary flipping the pages of their Bibles during the sermon.

What is your experience? I worry that the “non-biblical” sermon is becoming more and more common in our evangelical services. A decade or two ago it was probably the influence of the seeker-sensitive movement with its self-help pop-psychology approach that dethroned the Bible in our pulpits, and today my guess is that the social liberalism and literary deconstruction of younger evangelicals and emergents is behind much of it. (A sermon on being green and recycling is, in my opinion, not a sermon but a platform—it’s not hard to find those mp3s on many church websites.)

Frankly, if the Bible isn’t the primary source and Jesus isn’t the primary target on any given Sunday, then what are we doing and why are we doing it? My basic contention is that what happens in the church should be the kind of thing that can only happen in the church. If you have accomplished something that could have been done at a political rally, a local community organization, or anywhere else, then what you have done, no matter how nice, wasn’t really church.