Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Strategic Mapping

This will be part 1 of 2 parts on Strategic Mapping. It's an excellent article by one of my mentors, Bill Easum, which identifies how to look at and plan the future of the church.

The article has implications for the way in which the church, our church plans for the future. Do we set a course, strategically plan for it, then work the plan irregardless of the outcomes? Or do we make a map of our preferred destination and work the map knowing nothing is in concrete in life. Read on . . .

Strategic Mappers

Those who follow my antics know that I make a distinction between strategic planning and strategic mapping. To put it bluntly, I don’t think we have time in a warp-speed world to do extensive planning. Moreover, there’s not enough reliable information on hand about the future to do strategic planning. However, I do believe that we must take time to map or chart a course for our journey.

What’s the difference? Strategic plans are drawn before one begins the journey based on the information at hand. Usually one of two things happens: Either people follow the plan even if it isn’t working (because so much time was invested in drawing up the plan that no one wants to discard it), or the plan is placed on a shelf to gather dust.

On the other hand, anyone who has ever charted a course knows that course corrections take up about 90 percent or more of the navigator’s time. Likewise, a strategic map gets drawn as the journey is underway. It is never in concrete like most strategic plans. Consider Moses . . . In taking the people from Egypt to Canaan, he had some idea of the heading on which to begin because he had some idea of the landscape, but he had no concrete plans for getting across the Red Sea. He just knew anything was better than making mud bricks in slavery (continuing the slow death of the congregation), so he started out on the journey. Strategic mapping is starting out on the journey with a general idea of where you want to go, yet being flexible enough to be inspired, take detours, reroute, or even start over again if that is where God leads you. Because the destination is more important than the plan itself!

The reason so many church leaders have problems understanding and accepting this difference is that most of our churches are still firmly in the grasp of people possessed by 20th century Modernity, which includes management by objective, strategic planning, rationality, linear direction, cost-benefit analysis, quality control, and continual improvement. However, in the real world, organizations often find themselves gradually moving in directions they never intended or planned. And if something works, in retrospect they label it a deliberate strategy or a strategic plan. In other words a lot of strategic planning is not very strategic after all.

In his book The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning, Henry Mintzberg uses the metaphor of a potter at the wheel, where strategy is the clay. The key to the potter's craft is the intimate connection between thought and action: guiding the clay, responding to its shape, bringing experience and knowledge to the task while looking to the future, sensing rather than analyzing, and learning while sculpting the clay. Now we are face to face with strategic mapping, drawing the map, molding the clay as we make our way through the wilderness called life. Strategic mapping, unlike strategic planning, is not based mostly on information as much as on hands-on experience.

Think of strategic mapping as different from a highway map that says “this way” or “turn here.” Think of strategic mapping as topographical mapping, filling in the hazards, terrain, contour lines of the culture, canyons, streams, etc. Strategic mapping is not so much a “do this when this occurs” or “avoid this” or “at the next intersection take a right” as it is “Here is the lay of the land. Where you want to go and what you want to accomplish will determine which paths might best get you there the safest or the fastest.” Tom Bandy has a lot more to say about this in his book Moving Off the Map (Abingdon Press).

Any thoughts . . .?

Lunch with Joshua

Had lunch with Joshua, a Subway sandwich, one of his favorite places. Ate with him and about 7 friends. It's fun and interesting to watch Joshua interact on his turf with his friends, and I act as an observer. Although, two times I questioned Joshua on things. Once, when a girl was talking to him and he seemed to ignore her. . . I know he's at that weird stage in life, but you don't ignore people.

Then I had the privilege of having Joshua, or Deutsch, as many of his friends call him tell me I could go outside and play football with them. I heard a couple of the boys in the game say, 'he's good.' It builds a little of the ego for me, but is great that I still have the energy and ability to go out there and that my child wants me to be out there. Oh, the other issue was an attitude issue during the game. Joshua gets upset when things don't go his way. But he did run back a kickoff for a touchdown and caught one of my passes for another.

I also saw the girl who likes him. Time well spent. It leads me to wonder about anyone with children in their lives, whether younger or older, are you spending time with them, making a difference, just by letting them know you care? Have you said "I love you" lately? If not, don't wait, do it today!!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

More to come

Actually - I have lots more to say about the previous post, but more to come tomorrow. The ultimate reality is on our supporting one another in the love of Christ.

PS - This is my lunch week. Had a great lunch yesterday and again today. I have lunch with Joshua tomorrow; it's great that he wants to have dad eat with him at school. How do I say no to that one.

On Thursday, I meet with other pastors in Muncie at Damon's for a free lunch (can anyone say BBQ ribs). On Friday, I'll just sit by myself and start a diet. Next week, I already have one lunch scheduled on Tuesday. Frankly, I'm having a good time!!

A view from Clayton King

Someone directed me to this post. It's not meant to be self-serving, but I found it refreshing. Curious about your thoughts. It was written by Clayton King who is an evangelist. The web site of his blog is ~ http://claytonking.com/about/?navPage=about

Here's the blog . . .

The Plague: Restoring Honor

I am sure that a post of this sort offers itself to misunderstanding. I write it nonetheless, in hopes that you will hear my heart and glean the good from it.

The church in America seems to have lost the ancient, and dare I even say Biblical understanding of correctly honoring the man of God; one who dedicates his life to service to God and God’s people (this could be the worship leader, youth minister, or most often the pastor). We have confused honor with obsession, treat our ministers like hired hands, and become addicted to personalities on TV or the internet and swallow anything they try to sell us while starving our local pastor on a salary that allows him to qualify for food stamps.

There is a distrust and skepticism afoot that is a result of the hideous scandals of the 1980’s. And I do believe that the Swaggart and Baker scandals were, in the long run, good for the family of God. That bubble had to burst, and the scripture had to come true that judgement must first begin in the house of God. There have been plenty more, even the Ted Haggard scandal of recent days, that have caused the world to view us with a cynical eye. We should expect this and live our lives accordingly so that the world can see a true Christian witness. But in the wake of these scandals, not to mention Enron and WorldCom, there is a “mood” where it seems that churches treat pastors as expendable, replaceable, for hire and for fire. We almost automatically distrust anyone in leadership now.

I am not advocating that the church makes the pastor a little king of a little kingdom with freedom to do or say whatever he wants. That is insanity. I am advocating for a return to honoring the man of God, not worshipping him, but understanding the heavy burden laid upon him, the struggles and pressures he faces on a daily basis that NOBODY else experiences, and the specific needs the pastor faces that are uncommon to all other people in the church.

Perhaps this is the reason so many pastors burn out and quit ministry. The statistics are staggering, so much so that the Eli Lilly Foundation is pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into churches, seminaries, and other non-profits to try and figure out why pastors walk away and how they can help stop the mass exit. When questioned as to this reality, pastors who quit most often say that a lack of support from the church and lack of understanding from the members as to the stresses and pressures of the job is the largest contributing factor to pastoral burnout.

Can we regain a sense of honoring the man of God without becoming obsessed with personalities or worshipping personas? Of course we can. Pray for your pastor. Slip a $100 bill in his hand after church. Send him and his wife on a cruise. Give them gift certificates to their favorite restaurants. Babysit their kids so they can have a night out to watch a movie and eat a good meal. Stand up for them when you hear gossip. Get their back when they cannot defend themselves against the untrue accusations of others. Encourage the deacons or the elders to take up a special love offering for your pastors family once a year, honoring them with respect and generosity.

When I was a young boy, my daddy and I got our hair cut every other Saturday morning at Garrett’s barbershop in Fountain Inn. And everytime that a local pastor would come in the barbershop to get a haircut, all the men waiting would stand up, take off their hats, shake hands with the pastor, and it made a heavy impression on me as a little boy. Since then, I have made it a personal goal to always honor the pastor when I go somewhere to preach, to always honor him from the stage, to tell him publicly how much I appreciate him and his family and their sacrifice for the church, and then to tell him personally and privately how much I look up to him. This simple practice has opened up friendships between me and hundreds of pastors over the years. Sometimes, they just need to know that we believe in them and that we’ve got their back when they need us. Let’s restore honor, correctly, to the man of God in the church.

MICHAEL'S COMMENTS -

While, I am not asking for donations, although, a cruise would be pretty cool, and not down an Indiana river. What I am asking for is what I have said since I came here, 'respect me as you want me to respect you.' Now, are there major issues you don't know about? NO. But I don't like to hear about rumors or unhappy people from 3rd parties. When someone rips me or one of our other pastors, defend us, don't be silent, even when you don't agree with the person.

My job is to look to the future of the church so the church can advance the kingdom and build it and help it to grow spiritually and numerically; while making sure other needs are being met within the body. Well . . . thanks for listening.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Systematic Theology

I have really been intrigued more lately about theology. The books I read in seminary were not very helpful. As I have been reading for my doctorate, I have become more excited about just reading a 1300 page theology book. It may sound boring, but it has me really excited, so after I am finished writing my doctorate, I will take an extended time to read theology. My plan is to read 3 or 4 theologies ~ each author's name is linked to their theology book available for purchase at www.christianbook.com or amazon.com

1 - Millard Erickson - Christian Theology. He looks at theology from a Calvinistic (reformed) view and compares it to Arminianism (more Wesleyanism)

2 - Louis Berkhoff - Systematic Theology. This is the grand daddy of reformed theology. It is considered the best of all reformed theology.

3 - Wayne Grudem - Systematic Theology. This is also more of a reformed theology with an evangelical twist.

4. Tom Oden - Systematic Theology (3 volumes) - He comes from a Methodist / Wesleyan view.

If you've read theology, who is your favorite. I am also thinking of doing a basic class in classical theology to help us understand more about our faith.

POP Goes the Church

I mentioned this book last week, in it, Tim Stevens, looks at reasons why church attendance has decreased and at the same time there are more spiritual conversations. He is looking more at pop culture. Stevens believes the church should begin to use its power to influence this culture. The church should help others to know they matter and are loved by God.

The following is from the introduction, which I have copied and pasted ~

"Would your community be any different if your church disappeared tomorrow? Have you ever asked yourself this question? Have you ever considered it with others at your church? If your church suddenly disappeared, could the community even recover? Or would they go on as though nothing at all had changed?

What is happening at your church that is worth talking about? When people leave your service, are they thinking about the e-mails they need to send and the football game they want to watch—or are they thinking deeply about their own choices and thinking how they might make a difference in someone's life this week?

Sadly, for most of us, the answer is a resounding “no.” We didn't even have to think that long about the answer. Our church is great for our friends, our family, and us, but there is little measurable impact on the community. There is little happening that is making a difference outside of the few dozen or couple hundred who regularly attend.

Wouldn't it be great if a local church had a vision big enough to capture people's hearts and motivate them to action, so it had an impact on the community? Wouldn't it be awesome if a church was so effective people began following Jesus, growing in their faith, and as a result, the community was being loved and served?

I love the way John 1:14 is written in The Message. It says Christ “became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.” He came to us—met us where we were. In Jesus' case, the neighborhood was a rural, agricultural society in first century Palestine. He immersed himself in that culture. He wore the clothes, used the language, and illustrated his stories with the signs and symbols of the day to communicate the Gospel of an upside down kingdom here on earth.

If Jesus physically entered twenty-first century America, I believe he would do much as he did in the first century. He would hang out with normal people in the real world, and he would reserve his strongest words for the entrenched religious leaders who love their traditions more than they love their people. I believe he expects no less from us.

The goal of Pop Goes the Church is to stretch your thinking. If you have bought into the belief that church is exclusively for building up the believers, I want you to reconsider. If you think a church service cannot help believers grow AND be attractive to non-believers, I want to convince you that it can. If you have never experienced a church service that stays true to the Bible AND is comfortable for your non-religious friends and you don't think it is even possible, I want you to explore the possibility. The community around you is dying without Jesus, and it is your God-ordained duty to wrestle until you find the best way to reach them. And once you do, don't apologize."

Ice Cream anyone?

Note - If you want a cheap ice cream date on April 30 from 5 - 10 pm, you can go to any Baskin- Robbins store and get a 31 cents ice cream cone. Enjoy your favorite ice cream, and what is it?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sunday Night Reflections

Good worship this morning. I felt there was more energy and passion than last week. The first 4 songs seemed to lead everyone to the right place. Good job, Doug.

Doing a baptism is always special for me. It's a great leap and profession of faith. Good on ya', Sue.

I felt people took in the message about reaching out to others. It's not always easy to do, but it is what we are called to do and be. Great to have Doug and his family come forward to join the church. He's been a great addition. As is his family. I look forward to their arrival in Alexandria so I (we) can get to know them better.

Tonight was a carryover from this morning. I was exhausted after a 2 1/2 hour premarial counseling session, which went really well, but as worship began a gained my second wind, which is slowly dying now. We had lots of laughs tonight, but the point of Jesus is to serve, to humble yourself, don't think too much of yourself . . . God will reward you and exalt you. Although, we do need to give thanks to one another and encourage and build one another up in the love of Christ.

So, good day, long day, tiring day.

Blessings and nite - nite~

Wesley Quote

I was asked to reprint this quote whch I ended Sunday's message. It's from John Wesley, the founder of Methodism ~

Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as you ever can.”

Friday, April 18, 2008

Outreach

Read about a church doing the following ~

On the night of April 15th, as Americans scrambled to mail their 2007 income tax forms, members of Pathway Church (Palo Alto, CA) eased the suffering by giving away 1,000 free postage stamps.

As a “Planned Act of Kindness,” they created 500 mini-books of stamps (outreach cards with 2 stamps each). Standing on the streets near a post office, they held signs stating “Free Stamps! Tax-Day Relief!” as they gave away the mini-books. Scott Aughtmon describes people’s reactions,
  • They were so surprised and thankful, you would’ve thought we paid their rent/mortgage for a month! Even people driving by who didn’t need or want a card rolled down their windows and told me, “That’s so cool what you’re doing!”

It's a cool idea, I like the creativity of this outreach. It ministers to people during one of the grumpiest times of the year and gives them a moment of happiness.

What other outreach ideas do you know of, participated in and want us to know about?

I feel the earth move under my feet

I felt it, did you?

Debbie and I both woke up, looked around, and realized it was an earthquake. We turned on the news and they were baffled about what happened.

Of course, if we could have had it an hour or two later, would have fit my sleep patterns better, especially since I went to sleep at 2 am.

M.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Pop Goes the Church

I've been reading a new book, hot off the press by Tim Stevens of Granger church in Indiana. It is a very in your face book, I'm going to include a section of it in my part of the newsletter. I've never done this one before so it should be interesting to hear the feedback, yet, I believe Stevens is right on.

If you see a copy pick it up, it's a pretty easy read.

Business Meetings

I have never been a fan of business meetings, I see too many become disruptive, but I have really appreciated the opportunity to share more and more of the vision God is planting within me. I spend a lot of time preparing for these meetings, more than I do for a Bible Study. But I really believe there will be great benefits in the long run for the church.

So, thanks for listening last night. A quick recap would be to look at the following websites -

www.touchedtwiceunited.org
www.kidshopeusa.org
www.angelfoodministries.com
www.daveramsey.com

I spoke about the needs in our community and what we can do to have a common vision, because I know we are doing lots of great things, but we are also competing with one another for time, people and money; and that is not healthy.

Since that meeting, I feel much more at ease. I was feeling very burdened about the meeting and feeling broken because of the many needs which are not being met in Alexandria. I am hoping to have more small group meetings and have more people get on board to do ministry, active ministry as a church in Alexandria. That excites me!!

This Sunday

I am really excited about Sunday's message. I have no idea what I am saying yet, not one word is written, although there is about an hours worth of stuff in my heart, soul and brain. The text is Matthew 25:31-46.

Read it in advance and pray about it, and for me, and what it means for our church.

Tungsten Ring

Last night (Wednesday) I must have taken off a tungsten ring which I wear on my right hand, and now it is gone, lost, I feel somewhat bare without it, so if you happen to see a tungsten (silver) ring, let me know. There is a reward in store for the finder. It was a Christmas present from 2 years ago.

Disturbing and Troubling News at Home

I learned last night and again today, my little, young innocent first born child, named Joshua, has now been asked on 2, that's right 2 dates. Aaaahhh, he takes after his daddy, a studly man! But, seriously folks, I was not thinking about addressing this stuff for maybe 10-15 years.

Yikes!!! Any unsolicited advice would be welcome, of course, we'll do what we want, but just not sure what we'll do.

The only advice I told Joshua tonight was "never, never, put a girl down, and you don't talk about a girl to the other boys." Hopefully some of that connected, but I'm not ready for this.

Joshua did tell both girls "no", and one of them wants to talk to Joshua at recess tomorrow (gulp). More on the social life of my child later.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Forensic Justification

WOW!! Deep words, we even talked about this at tonights CE meeting and a bit of what Pelagianism means. This is what doctoral projects do for you. ALthough no sermons, but maybe a Wednesday night to explain how our theology arises from the 4th century, mainly Augustine and Pelagius. For one of the first times in my Christian life, it makes more sense to see our faith from a 4th century construct.

Well, I'm just finishing writing about 5 pages of criticism about Dallas Willard's view of sanctification and forensic justification. It seems strange to be critical of someone held in such high regard, but some of his statements just didn't make much sense to me. For example, look at this statement from an article I found written by Willard,

The "aim of disciplines in the spiritual life - and specifically, in the following of Christ is the transformation of the total state of the world. It is the renewal of the whole person from the inside, involving differences in thought, feelings, and character that may never be made manifest in outward behavior at all."

I don't get how you can be changed on the inside, in your heart, because of Christ, yet not have any corresponding outward actions! That does not compute for me, so if you have any insight which leads me to be reading this statement the wrong way, let me know. I might add, this was in my first submission and was not questioned.

Anyway, I have only 1 1/2 more items to update, correct, etc. One is a deeper explanation of Paul's statement about being a new person in Christ from 2 Corinthians 5:17. That will take more thought and more theological reading about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Blessings and nite nite!!

Monday, April 14, 2008

International Fest

Had a great time at the International Fest at the High School.

I met a number of students who are seeking a spiritual relationship, and many others who were just curious about religion. I shared my story with a number of students and teachers. Overall, it was a fun event for me; and I had the opportunity to meet new people and make some new relationships which who knows how God will lead the youth and adults to Christ.

I hope to be asked next year; and I will have pictures, etc. to share. Some pictures of gang members from Chicago who I worked with fell out of my Hebrew Bible and I was able to share about working with Chicago gang members as well.

The National Park World Versus the Jungle

I received an interesting blog from one of my mentors about the church world. Bill Easum believes some view the church as a National Park, while others view it as a Jungle. What are your thoughts ~

Consider The following comparisons:

National Park World

Are neatly laid out

Predictable and slow to change

Warn you about dangers animals

Provide adequate shelter

National parks change very slowly

You are entitled to the experience because your taxes paid for it

National Parks can be traveled alone

You don’t need a compass or GPS

When you look up you can see the horizon

No problem seeing the horizon

You don’t need a compass

There are no bottom lines

People aren’t totally broken

Christianity is King and Queen

The Jungle

Nothing is neatly laid out

Nothing is predictable and changes are fast

Predators are everywhere

You are on your own for shelter

Changes from day to day

You’re not entitled to be there because it belongs to the animals

No one goes into the Jungle alone

You have to have a compass or GPS

When you look up you cant see the sky much less the horizon

Most people are basically broken

Values no longer are ultimate or universal

There is no bottom line

Christianity is nobody to the culture

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sunday Reflections

I think today everyone needed a jolt. It seemed quiet and almost like the cold rainy weather hit everyone and we were a notch off.

While nobody messed up on anything, it seemed people were tired or something. Not sure what it was, but we'll definitely spice things up next week.

It was a long day, Doug, Damon (thanks for driving) and I went to the N.E. Area Annual meeting in Fort Wayne. It was not very exciting, so we did it, we tried it, and that is that for that!!!

Anyway, I hope to go to sleep early tonight. Joshua was sick on Saturday morning, 101 temp, and it was back again this afternoon. Otherwise, we're all good. It was good to see Debbie's sister Sue, we always have fun with her. Good pitch in with the joy and branch class; and great to have the John and Jan come forward to join the church.

Next Sunday I will be baptizing Sue Baker, I look forward to that. I also want to begin offering baptisms on the final Sunday of each month - it would be good to keep that out in front of folks.

Have a great week . . . and make a difference for Jesus!!

Monday, April 07, 2008

ESPN - Sunday Conversation - Tiger Woods

A great interview about 27 minutes worth with Tiger Woods.

Check out this link and watch from 10 minutes to 8:50 left. It's an excellent commentary about how we, as Christians should live our lives.

I hope this link works, if not let me know ~

http://sports.espn.go.com/broadband/video/videopage?videoId=3331650&categoryId=2378529&lpos=spotlight&lid=tab4pos1

Michael

Sunday Reflections

it was great to have a guest speaker. Tim Long did a wonderful job bringing the message. Without talking about what he would say, he was on target about his question, "what do people think about when they look at our church? What do they think this church represents?"

With than in mind how are we the salt, light and leavening agent of the world? that theme was continued at night.

Even though my Spanish has been long lost, 3 years, and I pick up a word or two, communion was meaningful to hear it and see it from another language and tradition.

Thanks to the Neslon's for hosting Tim and driving him to the airport.

Next Sunday raps up our series on Spiritual Disciplines, then 2 weeks of "what next?" A communion message then a series on family, men, women between Mother's Day and Father's Day.

NCAA Tournament

What a terrible weekend!!!!!!!!!!!

Both of my men's teams lost, in fact, they were annihilated. I am not a Kansas fan, except for Leftoverture, ahh, 1976, high school graduation . . . remember those days. Anyway, I'll take Memphis 81-70.

On the ladies side, only Tennessee made it, and barely. I look for Stanford to upset Tennessee in the finals, 74-68.

Extra Information

I received this from a friend. Not sure if this is true or not, but thought I would forward it anyway~

On Friday night they parked in a public parking area. As they drove away he noticed a sticker on the rear window of the car. When he took it off after they got home, it was a receipt for gas. Luckily his friend had told him not to stop as it could be someone waiting for them to get out of the car. Then this email was received:

"WARNING FROM POLICE ...BEWARE OF PAPER ON THE BACK WINDOW OF YOUR VEHICLE--NEW WAY TO DO CARJACKING (NOT A JOKE)"

Heads up everyone! ... Husbands, wives, kids, everyone!!! Please, keep this circulating... You walk across the parking lot, unlock your car and get inside. You start the engine and shift into Reverse. When you look into the rearview mirror to back out of your parking space, you notice a piece of paper stuck to the middle of the rear window. So, you shift into Park, unlock your doors, and jump out of your car to remove that paper (or whatever it is) that is obstructing your view. When you reach the back of you r car, that is when the carjackers appear out of nowhere, jump into your car and take off. They practically mow you down as they speed off in your car.
And guess what, ladies? I bet your purse is still in the car. So now the carjacker has your car, your home address, your money, and your keys. Your home and your whole identity are now compromised!

BEWARE OF THIS NEW SCHEME THAT IS NOW BEING USED.

If you see a piece of paper stuck to your back window, just drive away. Remove the paper later. And be thankful that you read this e-mail. I hope you will forward this to friends and family, especially to women. A purse contains all kinds of personal information and identification documents, and you certainly do NOT want this to fall into the wrong hands.


As always, wherever you go, whatever you do, be careful, look around in parking lots, don't assume. That's your public service announcement of the day!

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Mission Conference

Hey all -

Much kudos to our church. I heard so many positive comments about the food, the music and the hospitality. Everyone who brought food, cooked, cleaned, set up, played music, smiled, etc. etc. etc. a big

THANK YOU!!

As Dick Vitale, a college basketball announcer would say, you were all "PTPers Baby!!" That is Prime Time Players!!

Thank you for your efforts, it was a tiring, but wonderful day!


I look forward to hearing Tim Long speak and lead us in communion tomorrow (Sunday).

Friday, April 04, 2008

New Quote from Bill Easum

Bill is one of my leadership mentors, he wrote,

"The unmotivated are oblivious to the obvious."

Some may not like that, but really think about it, not too long, but you realize that those who are unmotivated (in the right direction) are unaware of what is really right in front of their nose.

Bohoeffer - Cost of Discipleship

This is long, but well worth the read. These are all assorted quotes from the first two chapters of Bonhoeffer's book The Cost of Discipleship.

Quotes from The Cost of Discipleship

Chapter One - Costly Grace
Theme is the contrast between what Bonhoeffer calls cheap grace vs. costly grace.

Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting today for costly grace.

The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations or religion are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is represented as the Church’s inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing.

Cheap grace amounts to a denial of the living Word of God, in fact, a denial of the Incarnation of the Word of God. Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything, they say, and so everything can remain as it was before.

Cheap grace is not the kind of forgiveness which frees us from the toils of sin. Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all of his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: ‘ye were bought at a price,’ and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.

Costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. Grace is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: ‘My yoke is easy and my burden is light.’

It was grace because it cost so much, and it cost so much because it was grace.

Costly grace was turned into cheap grace without discipleship.

But if grace is the data for my Christian life, it means that I set out to live the Christian life in the world with all my sins justified beforehand. I can go and sin as much as I like, and rely on this grace to forgive me, for after all the world is justified in principle by grace. I can therefore cling to my bourgeois secular existence, and remain as I was before, but with the added assurance that the grace of God will cover me. It is under the influence of this kind of ‘grace’ that the world has been made ‘Christian’ but at the cost of secularizing the Christian religion as never before.

The Christian life comes to mean nothing more than living in the world and as the world, in being no different from the world, in fact, in being prohibited from being different from the world for the sake of grace. The upshot of it all is that my only duty as a Christian is to leave the world for an hour or so on a Sunday morning and go to church to be assured that my sins are all forgiven. I need no longer try to follow Christ, for cheap grace, the bitterest foe of discipleship, which true discipleship must loathe and detest, has freed me from that.

Chapter Two - The Call to Discipleship
Theme ~
Because Bonhoeffer believes so strongly in a total, absolute and obedient following of Christ, there ultimately is a cost to the call to discipleship.

The disciple is dragged out of his relative security into a life of absolute insecurity (that is, in truth, into the absolute security and safety of the fellowship of Jesus), from a life which is observable and calculable (it is, in fact, quite incalculable) into a life where everything is unobservable and fortuitous (that is, into one which is necessary and calculable), out of the realm of finite (which is in truth the infinite) into the realm of infinite possibilities (which is the one liberating reality).

It is nothing else than bondage to Jesus Christ alone, completely breaking through every program, every ideal, every set of laws. No other significance is possible, since Jesus is the only significance. Beside Jesus nothing has any significance. He alone matters.

Discipleship means adherence to Christ, and because Christ is the object of that adherence, it must take the form of discipleship.

Christianity without the living Christ is inevitably Christianity without discipleship, and Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.

Discipleship without Jesus Christ is a way of our own choosing. It may be the ideal way, it may even lead to martyrdom, but it is devoid of all promise. Jesus will certainly reject it.

The ramifications of Luke 9:57-62 are outlined.

He wants to follow, but feels obliged to insist on his own terms. Discipleship to him is a possibility which can only be realized when certain conditions have been fulfilled.

Bonhoeffer’s proposition only he who believes is obedient, and only he who is obedient believes.
Lengthy section follows on the call to be obedient. The life of discipleship is obedience.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Cost of Discipleship

Had a great time Wednesday night, it was the most discussion we've ever had. I will post a number of quotes from the first two chapters, hopefully tomorrow.

Ladybugs

Hey - those cute little ladybugs seem to come out everyday in our house. I kill about 5-7 ladybugs a day.

I remember in Illinois we had ladybugs in the fall, but the 100's, especially out in the country. have you ever noticed how bad they stink. Catch one on your hand, then smell your hand, even if it is there for a second, your fingers or hands smell. I am on a ladybug hunt.

Anyone else have that problem or know how to resolve it?

The Courage to Grow!

I appreciate devotionals which are real and relevant.  This devotional perfectly meets that requirement.  Annie Downs has written a powerf...