Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Learning To Talk Again

The pressure to find solutions for people in pain is powerful.  A friend comes to you with a need or an emergency in a relationship and you feel put on the spot to come up with a piece of advice that will help ‘solve the situation.’ The pressure is even more powerful if you are a Christian talking with another Christian about the stresses and strains in life.  We have created an atmosphere of therapeutic solution finding that has put all of us in a bind.

Crabb believes we are missing the boat entirely.  He is not against finding solutions as such, but he is clear that we miss the mark more often than not in that we simply do not know how to talk with each other out of the depths of what God is doing in each of us.  We like to talk across the surface of things.  It is just easier to do that.  We feel the urge to jump into a conversation and offer some soothing piece of comfort, offer accountability, or the magic pill that will offer the solution to a deeply complicated problem.

So instead of talking out of our own wit, wisdom, or fear, Crabb offers a new way of looking at relationships and life – SoulTalk.  SoulTalk is his way of leading us into a conversation where God is at the center of every life and every relationship in every situation.  He argues that we do not really know how to talk this way and his book offers a series of steps that help us break bad, religious habits and enter into God’s way of working in people’s lives.

I found Crabb’s formulation of SoulTalk to be deeply freeing and rightly prioritized.  In my role as a pastor I am often with people who find themselves in over their heads, or who have finally decided to talk about God when life falls apart, and the unspoken expectation is that a conversation or two might just do the trick.  His advice is to stop talking and start learning how to listen to what the Spirit is doing and wants to do in an individual’s life.  The primary goal in each SoulTalk conversation is not empathy or solution-finding, but Spirit-finding.

Along the way he has a lot of things to say about the place of God in the Christian’s life that simply need to be heard in a Christian culture where we have exchanged Christ’s life for an expectation of blessing and prosperity.  What would happen if intimacy with God for Christ’s sake were more important to us than the cure to our cancer or the ‘fixing’ of a deeply hurting situation?  According to Crabb, when we put these kinds of things first, we find the greatest thing possible, and God begins to do the work in our souls that is needed.

I highly recommend this book for any believer interested in deepening their discipleship, understanding how to relate with others in Christ, and how to learn to listen to the Spirit in all things.

This review is also posted on Amazon. Like if you found it helpful.

Monday, December 24, 2012

An Expanded Vision of Pentecostal Theology - An Initial Thought

I have spent my entire life in the Pentecostal church and now pastor in the world’s largest Pentecostal denomination.  I have seen a lot come and go, I have attended a lot of local, regional, and national meetings of Pentecostals, and I think I have a fairly good handle on what many (if not most) consider to be Pentecostal theology.  The core for many is the matter of speaking in tongues, and depending on your background, it broadens all the way out to praying for miracles and unique manifestations of the Holy Spirit.

I think if that defines our theology, our distinctive as Pentecostals, we have missed most of what was intended by the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Let me first say that I believe in the reality of those things, experience and practice them, and even pray for them.  I believe they have a powerful role in the lives of individual Christians and in the body of Christ.  I am not going to deny any of that, but I am going to argue for something that might strike some Pentecostals as bordering on wanting to have my papers revoked: all those things are derivative truths of Pentecostal theology.  By derivative I mean they are the logical theological extensions of what we believe about the power and reality of the Spirit of God.  Our distinctive theology ought to begin with a pneumatology and then lead to charismata, miracles, and so forth.  A Pentecostal theology that begins with a few effects and uses them to categorically define the cause will miss a lot of biblical insight, and in all honesty, will leave a lot of people undiscipled and badly formed.

If, however, we begin at the beginning – the nature and power of the cause of Pentecost – everything will begin to fall into place, including the more spectacular and public gifts of the Spirit.  The beginning is simply this fact: Pentecostals believe in the imminent, active, and powerful action of the Holy Spirit among the disciples of Jesus Christ, in His church, and in the world today.  If we use a framework like this to begin discovering the role of the Holy Spirit among believers, we have available to us the whole of Scriptural teaching on the Spirit.  If we open this conceptual door first, we become aware of so much more than just a few manifestations.

For instance, the fruit of the Spirit are Pentecostal realities.  Paul describes that familiar list as the consequence of the work of the Spirit, not the achieved character traits of really successful Christ-followers.  They are fruit – the inevitable consequence of healthy trees.  As such, the fruit of the Spirit are the character traits of the third member of the Trinity having his way within our lives.  If this is achieved by even a small group of disciples, we have people living with each other, God, and toward the world in love, joy, peace, patience, and so forth.  A more powerful and spiritual group of people would be hard to imagine, and if this isn’t Pentecostal I don’t know what is.

Then, keeping this same group of fruitful believers in mind, imagine them exercising gifts like glossolalia and prophecy.  They begin with a divine power and wisdom behind what they do and say with each other, so their expression of these unique gifts is filled with kindness, gentleness, faith, and so forth.  Has not every Pentecostal pastor prayed that when people express the gift of tongues and interpretation in public that they do so in a Christ-like fashion?  Is that frustrated prayer the reason why so many churches that are Pentecostal in theology are not so in practice?  How can we expect fruit-less believers to suddenly handle a gift with that much power and potency as if they were fruitful?

And yet, the standard Pentecostal model ignores the primary work of the Spirit, building Christ-like disciples, and emphasizes the effects and then we are frustrated when they are consistently abused and used to abuse.

I am aware of these kinds of conversations taking place in some academic circles, but it needs to be brought to pastors and church leaders.  After all, these are the front lines where most of the training in Christ-likeness takes place and where it too often suffers it most grievous losses.  The Holy Spirit is now God with us to enact the will and kingdom of God among his people and in his creation.  This is a vision so much larger than any of us can imagine, and so much larger than a short list of our favored spiritual gifts can ever encompass.  Let us begin with the presence and power of God among us first and then learn to talk about the expression of the Spirit among us.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christians and Funerals

The Huffington Post posted a short piece by Jaweed Kaleem about the importance of eulogizing the dead.  While it appears that the practice of eulogizing, making good or kind remarks about the dead at their burial, is not always done, it can be a rewarding exercise for all involved.  I have been involved with more than one funeral where the eulogy was the most powerful part of the event.

But few know that the act of holding funerals for everyone is a distinctly Christian cultural artifact.  It might seem disrespectful to most westerners now to imagine not holding a funeral for someone, even if we did not know them well.  We have been trained to believe that it is respectful to have at least some form of remembrance when people pass away, no matter their social or economic status.  You can thank your Christian roots for that part of your moral compass.

It was not always the case that everyone enjoyed a funeral or a moment of silence.  As the Christian church was growing under the persecution of the Roman culture, most people did not rise to the social strata where they were worthy of a funeral at their death.  Only the wealthy and powerful were remembered, and the rest were thrown mostly into unmarked mass graves.

Now this is what happens when a culture is formed by a religion or worldview that does not hold to the inherent value of every single human life.  To the Romans, and the Greek tradition before them, most humans were not worthy of notice and lived to serve the desires of the gods and the earthly powerful.  So what happens when a religious tradition (the Jewish and Christian religions) grows in size and begins having its impact on that culture?

Lactanitus,(AD 240-320) “We will not allow the image and creation of God to be thrown out to the wild beasts and the birds as their prey; it must be given back to the earth from which it was taken.”

Lactanitus was a Christian convert who previously had been appointed by Emperor Diocletian to be the official professor or rhetoric in Nicomedia.  He grew up, was well educated, and succeeded in the Roman cultural system before he converted to Christianity.  He knew the Roman system, and his values changed radically as a Christ-follower.  At one time he would have believed as all Romans did that most people did not deserve a funeral.  As a Christian his view of humanity changed and as a result a core precept of his ethic changed – every human life is created in the image of God and is of ultimate value.

Funerals for the “unimportant” and the “poor” are a vestige of the Christian ethic that helped shape Western Civilization and much of the rest of the world.  When we “pay our respects” for people we barely knew we do so because of the deeply rooted truth in our culture that every human being is due at least that.  And without this part of the Christian influence, things might be very different.  It is the Christian doctrine of creation that imparts value to every human being, and without that doctrine it becomes hard to see how that value would be justified.  And clearly, as history shows us, it was not.

Some references:

How Christianity Change the World, by Alvin J. Schmidt

Thursday, December 06, 2012

A Naked Public Square?

Lawsuit Threat Cancels Christmas Concert (to benefit African children)

These kinds of stories are becoming more frequent around the Christmas holiday.  Some Christian group or church somewhere does something about Christ on Christmas, some atheist group complains, public officials get worried and the public display of a Christian Christmas is somehow muted.  Each circumstance is different, but there is an underlying assumption that needs to be challenged.

The atheist public square is not a religiously or morally neutral public square.  It is a false assumption, though a powerful one in our culture right now, that removing religious influence from culture somehow makes it more ‘neutral’ when it comes to religion and morality.  Atheism as a public disposition (what some have called the “naked public square”) is just as much a religious and moral statement as is the expression of Christianity.  

Why would I believe that public discourse where God is not a possibility is better than one where God is?

I have had several conversations in which people want to claim that atheism is the “objective” point of view simply and humbly aimed at the truth of the matter, while Christianity is opposed to reason and inquiry and forces belief on people.  This is a position argued for by the so-called New-Atheists, but it lacks the value of sustainability.  In arguing against the worldview of Christianity and for the worldview of atheism, people accept, both explicitly and implicitly, a set of moral and religious beliefs.

Instead of, “there is a God,” or, “there might be a God,” their assertion is, “there is not a God,” or, “there is probably not a God.”  Every one of those propositions will have consequences in the public square, and to deny that is to plead a special exemption for your point of view.  So if each assertion about ultimate reality has public consequences, then what is each believer to do?

Stand up in public and present the best case you can for your point of view.  If each has consequences that affect our lives in powerful ways, and they all do, then it really matters how they are presented to everybody else.

What should we avoid doing?  Exactly what is revealed in these kinds of stories – whine about Christians, squeeze them out of the public discourse, and pretend everything will go along as usual.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

People of the Book Who Don't Read

Christians have been called ‘People of the Book’ for centuries, which is ironic now because so few Christians read.  You might object that more and more books are sold through Christian book stores and online than ever before, but I would counter that most of what is sold is largely shallow and often even less useful than that, and how much of that is actually read?  I often run across Christians who want prayer and input on difficult situations in their lives and it is common for me and people in my position (pastors, etc.) to suggest books to help with the process.  More often than I would like to count, I receive the response, “I’m not a reader.”

It is an oxymoron for a Christian, someone whose faith is explained in the pages of a book, not to be a reader.  There are a myriad of reasons for why people read less and less, but I’m interested here with what happens to you when you don’t read – the Bible or good books.  You can’t not read and get away with it.

So, what happens to the Christian when they do not read?

Over time they can no longer understand their Bibles.

There is a lot of information in a Bible.  There are a lot of themes that trace themselves over hundreds of pages, through dozens of stories, several different forms of literature, and in plenty of doctrines and exhortations.  If a Christian’s primary source of analysis of the world comes in 6-minute increments with commercial breaks severed into even smaller segments then biblical comprehension will be difficult to say the least.

Over time they will misunderstand their Bibles and their faith.

Years ago I was teaching a college/young adult Sunday school class of about 60 people.  We did an exercise in which we traced a quotation from the Old Testament in the New Testament.  The plan, which I thought was highly useful, was to read the context of the OT passage and use that to help us understand the quotation in the New.  The first reaction I received was from a young school teacher who asked, “What do you mean by the context?” The exercise went downhill from there.

Modern media is almost utterly without context, or is at least designed to be consumed without context.  Sitcoms need laugh lines every few seconds.  Linear thought is unnecessary to consume most pop culture.  Popular songs are 3 ½ minutes long as opposed to the popular orchestral pieces played to the masses 250 years ago.  A Christian must fight against the soul malformation that happens in pop culture, tune out of it, and learn to read and think.

Over time they will be mislead about what their faith teaches.

Your Bible requires attentive reading.  Without it individual passages become bludgeons in the hands of all kinds of nefarious and heretical schemes.  Many aggressive atheists do not understand Scripture because they believe they have a handful of knock-down passages which show the Bible to be awful and irrational.  Every one of those I have encountered have been squeaky toys in the hands of children – a lot of annoying noise, no real damage done.  Cults twist passages in ways that make sense to Christians who don’t read.  Pop culture mocks Christianity in ways that frighten Christians who don’t read.

Over time they will stop reading their Bibles altogether.

Why continue to read something so large and difficult to understand when I can get a minute-long devotional from my favorite teacher addressing a practical need in my life which does not even need to reference Scripture or theology?  Isn't it all the same if I come out OK, act like a nice person, and learn how to be a better husband and manage my money a little better? A proof text without context is practically useless.

So what is a Christian to do?  Does it need to be said?  Read.  Read your Bible on a regular basis and read good books which help you understand what is going on in your Bible.  Read an entire New Testament Epistle in one sitting.  Learn to read everything through the lens of orthodox Christian doctrine.  Get used to finishing larger and larger books.  Find a few authors who are good at what they do and can challenge you to reach a little further.

You might be surprised how much better you will be for it.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

An 8th Reason Why

In his post, “7 Reasons America Has Not Been Reached for Christ,” I believe Greg Stier has some very important things for the church to hear and fix.  In every point he is right about our neglect.  I would simply add one more that might be a bit more conceptual but crucial nonetheless – We don’t know the Gospel anymore.

Stier mentions that we are ashamed of the Gospel and that church leaders are no longer leading the cause of spreading the good news, and he is right.  In addition I believe a growing number of Christians (possibly an alarmingly large percentage of them?) no longer truly believe Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.  In other words it is quite possible that American Christians have lost their urgency to proclaim the Gospel because they no longer think it is necessary to do so.  They have become soft religious relativists.

I taught ethics on the college level for both a community college (younger students), and at a university adult education extension and I found both demographics struggled with making arguments for the rightness or wrongness of ethical points of view, not to mention the inherent exclusivity of truth itself.  And as a pastor for going on 20 years now, I’m not so sure I can label “them” as the only relativists out there.

A Christian does not know the Gospel when they do not believe it is the only message of good news and reconciliation between the Creator and his creation.  A believer does not have a solid intellectual grasp on their faith if they are willing to believe that other religions are basically the same, and in so doing, neglect the urgent task of being ambassadors for Christ.

In addition to his 7 Reasons, could it also be the case that American Christians are simply losing their grasp on several of the essential tenants of the faith?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Being Well-Rounded and Getting Coffee

You can overhear some of the most interesting conversations while standing in line for coffee.  We missed a some friends and I decided to get the coffee anyway, and while I was in line I heard a couple of people over my shoulder talking about having faith versus being a ‘well-rounded’ person.  The fella’s concern was about limiting himself as a person if all he did was have faith in Christianity.  The implication seemed to be that there was more to life – specifically his ‘reason’ – that could not be captured by faith alone.

I have a couple of thoughts about this relationship between faith and reason that seems to confuse and even frustrate a lot of people.

First of all, is there a genuine conflict between faith and reason, or more colloquially, between having faith and using your mind?  The right kind of faith is never opposed to reason or the use of your intellectual faculties.  How would you answer this question – what kind of person would you trust with your life?  You would probably tell me they would have to be someone reliable, someone you know and know to be trustworthy, and someone you believe will do what they say they will do in the future (especially at a moment of crisis).  And this answer is entirely reasonable.  You have based your faith (the same Greek word for ‘trust’ in the Christian Bible) in the right person on good reasons. 

So it is with faith in Christ.  The Christian has good reasons to believe in the existence of God, his good and powerful character, and the belief that he will keep his word in the future.  There is nothing unreasonable in that kind of biblical faith.

Secondly, Christian faith, rightly exercised, excites the life of the mind and intellect.  Though large segments of the Christian church in the last century have demeaned the life of the mind, for two thousand years many of the great figures in Western history (and not a few around the globe) have advanced civilization because of the love for Christ.  Rightly understood there is no conflict between the use of your capacity of reason and your faith in Christ, and through the lens of history, the two have been necessarily connected.  In fact, it would be reasonable for the orthodox Christian to ask another who has left behind the exercise of their rational capacities what is wrong with them.

There is no good reason to believe the popular point of view that religious faith, specifically Christian faith, is for the young or weak mind and science and reason are for the advanced and mature.  This has always been and continues to be a false dichotomy.  And the Christian should live and think in such a way as to demonstrate that.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Culture, Sex, and Foreign Affairs

I have one question and two answers: Why do we suddenly know so much about a sex scandal and almost nothing at all about the foreign policy disasters of Benghazi and Fast and Furious?

It is a provocative question, but I do think there are (at least) two fairly clear and simple answers which help us understand some of the culture shift around us.  First of all we are a sex-obsessed culture.  Sex scandals make more sense to us than the complexities of foreign policy.  We watch these kinds of tawdry affairs unfold in fiction and 'reality' TV every day of our lives, so we easily and quickly grasp who did what to whom.  In addition, there is not much difference between what is called the Mainstream Media and TV entertainment.  They are two different heads of the same creature.  The MSM has a cultural point of view to promote and a juicy sex scandal involving high ranking military personnel fits right in.  On the other hand it takes time and intellectual effort to reflect upon and absorb the details of who was in Lybia, what they were doing, what kind of help they asked for and were denied, who was involved in the attacks, and who bears responsibility.  It only takes a couple of brain cells to imagine an affair.

The second answer is that our prevailing philosophy of foreign policy, both in the current administration and in pop culture, is cultural relativism.  Cultural relativism is a horrible basis for a foreign policy, but it is where we are nonetheless.  For possibly two generations now the predominant educational point of view on other cultures has been officially labeled "multiculturalism" but is in effect a raw and reactionary belief that no culture is morally better or worse than another.  In fact, the only moral transgression this pop foreign policy recognizes is the denigration another culture.  As a result, our administration is loath to call murderous aggression what it is, and our culture would violently revolt if it did.  In the place of genuine moral reflection and even outrage, we have the pablum of pop culture and cultural relativism.

The sex scandal is terrible news for a lot of people, especially for the family directly involved.  Adultery destroys families, friendships, and trust and should never be taken lightly.  But the foreign affair bungles in the last few months have cost lives, require public deceit, are morally deplorable, and are (most likely) impeachable offenses.  Nevertheless, it seems we would rather suck on the lollipop of an affair than tear into the red meat of genuine public offenses.

Friday, November 09, 2012

The Call of Discipleship

A necessary reality to being a genuine disciple of Christ is recognizing the call it places upon your life.  When Jesus found the soon-to-be disciples along the Sea of Galilee, he called them to become fishers of men.  When John the Baptist’s disciples asked Jesus questions he told them to come and spend some time with him.  When Jesus ran across Matthew, he called him away from the life of a tax collector.  And on the story goes.  The call of the disciple is a call away from and toward: away from a life antithetical to the way of Christ and toward a way of life transformed into the image of the Son of God.

Christ went and found disciples and called them to be with him.  In the case of Mark’s story, they were average, probably young, laborers going about their task.  Christ found them in the midst of their family’s work, called them and changed everything about their lives and ours.  In the stories in John, Jesus took interested people and drew them into life with him.  For others, like Nathaniel, Jesus answered questions – even skepticism – and brought them into his power and kingdom.  In every case people became disciples because they left what used to be and became intimately aware of Christ.

But we need to be careful not to assume that discipleship is a call away from ‘normal’ life and a change of vocation into full-time ministry.  Christ calls us all, he demands a change of life from us all, and provides the power for that change for all of us.  The critical factor is not necessarily the change of job or vocation, but of life.  Following Christ changes our priorities and outlook on everything and it might change what we do for a living.  It will change how we do what we do and how we relate to everyone and everything around us, but it just might leave us in our job.

The disciple who remains in their vocation but whose priorities and perspectives are changed by Christ has answered the call. The disciple who leaves everything behind, yet whose priorities and perspectives remain unchanged, has not answered the call.  

So the significant question for the disciple may not be exactly, “what do I do now?” as much as it is, “how do I do it now?”  Christ’s claim on your life is complete and he will in all likelihood leave you in the place in life where he found you, so now the way you do everything changes.

In fact, Mark’s story of the calling of the disciples is instructive at this point.  They were working.  They were tending nets, preparing for the day’s catch, and probably reeked of fish and lake water.  Jesus did not hunt down the most pious among them or the ones who were already most of the way toward moral and spiritual perfection.  He sought the right people, who were average people, and changed everything.

Jesus did not look for what the world calls excellence when he called any of the disciples, but his call turns into excellence.  So it is with us.  We are not called because we are already the cream of the crop, but after the call there is an almost severe expectation – the work of Christ in you is a work of totality.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “When Christ bids a man, he bids him come and die.”  And while the call of discipleship is a claim on your moment of death, it is also a claim on every breath between now and then.  Many a preacher has said that there is only one thing you do not say to your Lord, “No.”  So, the reasoning goes, if you have told Christ “no” then he is not, in effect, your Lord.  Something else is.

A sloppy and half-hearted disciple is one who has not come in contact with Jesus Christ.  They fit into a stale rhythm of church attendance or a cold routine of some prayer or simple observance, but their life lacks the fire of dedication and transformation.

A disciple rigorously devoted to their vocation and pursuits, but who languishes in their pursuit of Christ has misunderstood the beauty and truth there is in Him.  They are busy trying to find their fulfillment in other things, putting them ahead of the mind of Christ, thus misusing and misunderstanding both the God-given gifts of the world and the Giver himself.

Excellence is one of the missing ingredients in discipleship among American Christians today.  Maybe we have grown a little soft, maybe we have grown sloppy in the way we think about Christ and the faith, maybe we have had too much spoon-fed to us for too long. Maybe we simply have not grown into adulthood mentally, spiritually, and emotionally.  Whatever the cause, we simply are not, as a whole, excellent for Christ.  The church and the Christian family need to be places where the greatness and grace of God are on constant display.  Our God is Lord over all the spheres of life, but can we articulate the wisdom of God at all in any of them?  Is the church the center of cultural greatness and beauty in our communities?  Is the church a place where people are enamored of a Creator God and understand the truths of science?  Is the Christian family the house on the block where things simply are different by the grace of God?  The evidence of the majority of the Christian church seems to be on the side of mediocrity right now.  That has to change.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The American Church's Task

I believe the election of November, 2012 to be evidence of a deep cultural shift.  It has been happening in different ways for a long time, and many people have written, remarked, and even warned about it.  And while some may reasonably call the election itself a cultural shift for us, it is most certainly evidence of the shifts that have been taking place for a while now.

Demographers, sociologists, Christian philosophers, and many theologians have remarked on how radically different the church’s culture has become, and how the connections between an orthodox church culture and the non-church culture have either disappeared or changed in fundamental ways.  To take one well-known example, the work of Christian Smith and the National Study of Youth and Religion uncovered a remarkable shift among American and evangelical teens in which they no longer believed a version of their parent’s Christian faith. Their spiritual beliefs were different enough to be classified by the research team as a different religion altogether.  His now famous “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” is the title he and his researchers gave to this new form of religious belief.

I bring this up here to highlight the simple fact that these are teens who have grown up in evangelical churches to evangelical parents and who no longer hold to the orthodox Christian faith.  What they (and so many others) believe in has been shaped more by the prevailing winds in education and culture around them than by the historic Christian faith.

This should be the kind of finding that rattles churches a bit, and add to it the numerous studies about the cultural and generational shifts taking place in younger generations, and we are lead to a conclusion.

The Church can no longer rest on its laurels.  We can no longer depend on cultural structures or commonly held morality to support an orthodox Christian view of the world.  We cannot assume that people in churches understand the core of their doctrine or the practical outworking of their faith.  We cannot hope that public structures (formal and informal) lend even tacit support to the place of church and the Christian faith in the public square.  Those structures may still exist in some places among some people, but the Church in America will make a serious error in simply assuming they are there as they always have been.

What we need to do as a result is twofold: relearn how to present the Christian faith to our culture and live as people genuinely transformed by Christ.  As Christians in time past have put it – we need to out-think and out-live the world for Christ.

To that end I want to propose a few places where the church (not just the Christian academy) needs to step up and do some serious work.

By this I don’t mean the generic sense of all Christians being followers of Jesus Christ.  That is obviously true, but as evidenced by study after study and anecdote after anecdote this affirmation alone is not doing the trick.  The church needs to regain a sense of the priority of discipleship, the absolute lordship of Christ, and a hatred for the idolatries of this world.  Christians need to be told by Christ how to be Christians, not sitcoms, newscasts, pundits, or political parties.

The church has expected (maybe with good reason) that the culture would value industriousness, thus supporting the Christian doctrine of work, but that is simply no longer true.  We need to make a stronger and wiser case for a theology of work that emphasizes God’s design for flourishing human beings who work with the gifts God has given them to enrich their culture, work for His Kingdom, support their family, loved ones, and those around them in need.

Compassion/Social Justice
Welfare is not compassion.  Food stamps are not compassion.  The Nanny State is rightly called this because it creates a surrogate for both parenting and labor.  Traveling down a road of more and more entitlements that last longer and longer and which cover more and more people militates against the good of the human soul and family and a Christian simply cannot support such a system and at the same time hope for the best in families and individuals.

Marriage and Family
The belief that marriage is the life-long union between a man and a woman is one of the areas where recently we see the most cultural change.  It has been the case that the church could rely on public opinion to protect that definition, but that is eroding quickly.  Thus the church needs to relearn why it believes these things and why God’s design for families is good for husbands, wives, kids, and culture. And then we need to be bold and winsome enough to argue it.

How many in the church (how many leaders in the church) can articulate a theology of education?  Do we understand the warp and woof of Wisdom Literature and its emphases on maturation and the value of knowledge?  Do we have a good grasp on a child as a whole human being and as someone who needs guidance and formation in a myriad of ways?  At the very least, Christian families should be given a chance to understand education through the lens of Scripture instead of being given a couple of pre-packaged secular options.