Archive for June, 2009

Trevin Wax has compiled some statements on Christianity from both John Piper and N.T. Wright to provide some context for their debate on justification.  I read this on Christianity Today and I am more confused than ever.  With so much in agreement, and the big difference being what is meant by “works of the law”, I’m wondering what the big deal is.  I’m not sure why people are so thrilled with N.T. Wright’s developments.

N.T. Wright affirms the centrality of the Incarnation, substitutionary atonement and resurrection to our salvation.  Salvation is received by grace through faith and repentance.  Nothing novel or heretical there.  But, such summaries as this tend to be reductionistic, so perhaps something important is being left out.

As I read Romans and Galatians, I find something different than “ethnic badges” at work.  Afterall, most of those in the Reformed community is baptism as the new “ethnic badge” which has replaced circumcision.  Afterall, Abraham was justified by faith, so faith is not a new ethnic badge.

So, I’m not exactly sure what the hype is about on either side.  Since salvation is by grace through faith in keeping with God’s covenant promises in which He vindicates His righteousness through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus … it seems as though advocates of the New Perspective shouldn’t be all that excited since the church doesn’t seem to struggle with “ethnic badges’ anymore.  I can see where some would be concerned that Paul’s arguments not seem irrelevant to us, but neither would Wright be considered a heretic.

So I must obviously be missing something.  It can’t just be a matter of emphasis and nuance.  Is this thing just a bunch of smoke and mirrors?

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Much was made on Sports Talk Radio this morning about all the good Donald Fehr did as head of the MLB Players’ Association.  Faye Vincent mentioned that he stopped the owners from busting the union, which is the reason there was not World Series one year.  Players make a great deal more money these days thanks to the efforts of Donald Fehr.

But the game, and particularly the fans, have suffered as a result of Donald Fehr’s efforts.  The escalating salaries have meant that smaller market teams face a much more difficult situation.  They cannot hold onto the talent they do develop through their system.  Eventually, the best players will leave via free agency to cash in.  This means a less enjoyable game for most fans.

Teams like the Yankees, Red Sox and other major market teams will have the resources to compete for players.  Teams like the Pirates have been reduced to Triple A++ since that infamous work stoppage.  They develop players to be traded for prospects so big market teams can compete for championships.

The spiraling salaries have also meant that the average fan often can’t go to many games.  They are priced out of the tickets.  A game becomes too expensive for an average family to attend in cities with competitive teams.  Donald Fehr, in his quest to do what is best for the players, forgot that part of what is best for the players is families enjoying a day at the park, passing down a love for the game.

Donald Fehr also fought drug testing on the basis of the players’ privacy.  While that issue has inexplicably worked in the issue of abortion, it has not in the workplace regarding drug testing.  He, with Selig, deserve a big part of the blame for the steroid era.  He hindered the league’s attempts to have any kind of drug policy.  Now the players will reap what he has helped sow.

Fehr’s legacy is that he helped create bloated players’ salaries, and the biggest scandal in baseball after the 1919 Black Sox and segregation.  All players are suspect now.  They may not care since they have lots of money in the bank.  But their reputations are tarnished, and they may not receive the ultimate honor in their sport- Cooperstown.  If there is justice, Fehr won’t be found there either.

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I am not an official Trekkie.  I saw most of the movies with the original cast, but preferred the Next Generation show to the original show.  What I did appreciate was the bond of friendship that existed between Kirk, Spock and Bones.  This became more prominent in the movies.  Those movies were better than the Next Generation movies.  A bit odd, isn’t it?

I was excited to see a reboot to the Star Trek series (rather then delving into the continuing to deteriorate TV series).  That J.J. Abrams was tabbed to direct was a good move in my book.  But the question was how to reboot a series like Star Trek?

J.J. Abrams and the screenwriters came up with a great idea- an alternative universe with all the same characters, but one in which not all will be as it was.

Eric Bana plays the “best”villain since Khan.  He is one ticked off Romulon miner who seeks to gain talonic justice (he thinks) against Spock. In some ways I wonder if he’s meant to represent a Muslim who becomes radicalized after his people are attacked.  Just a thought since this is how some people think this has played out in the Middle East.

This sets the stage for the backstory of how the crew of the Enterprise comes together for future adventures.  Slowly the various characters meet one another to fill out the crew.  The last is Scotty, who adds quite a bit of comic relief.  Chekof’s attempts to master English is funny too.

But Kirk starts off by alienating Spock.  Apparently it was Spock who programmed the “no-win scenario” that Kirk beats.  What they have done is tap into the Star Trek lore and came up with details about those events in the characters’ histories.  This should add to the fun for those who have followed these characters.  One of the more interesting details was the sub-plot of how Kirk supplanted Capt. Pike as Captain of the Enterprise.  Pike was the Captain in the pilot, and then disappeared (surfacing in a later episode).

But it is not all fun and games.  There is a villain to be vanquished.  Kirk and Spock chase him across the universe before he can complete his revenge by destroying Earth.  In so doing, he tries to use the technology of the Federation, the Vulcans to be precise, against it.  Huh?  Again parallels to events in the Middle East over the last few decades come to mind.  In the process they must learn to trust each other, and not give in to their own desire for vengeance against Nero for the pain he has inflicted on their families.

During the opening sequence, and must of the movie, actually, something Jesus said kept coming to mind: “a man has no greater love than  this, to lay down his life for his friends.”  This is a theme that seems prominent.

There was much to like about this movie, and I really enjoyed it- despite not being  wild about all the casting choices, and some questionable acting performances.  Still, much better than any of the Next Generation movies, and most of the original movies.  This could be a very promising series of films.

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The final chapter of Total Church covers the idea of success.  After a few less than stellar chapters, they end the book with a home run.

Pastors and congregations often fall prey to false (idolatrous) views of success.  Those idolatrous views often assume control, OUR control over outcomes.  We do have control over our choices and decisions, but we can’t control how those turn out.  So they suggest three shifts in outlook.

First, from larger churches to more churches.  We often measure the success of a church by how large it is (or isn’t).  There are many factors that go into how large a church becomes (faithfulness to the gospel, or lack there of an important one).  They suggest we change our model to more churches- measuring growth in terms of starting new healthy gospel communities.  Yes, this could become an idolatrous numbers game too since we are sinners prone to pride.

But smaller churches (or many mulitplying small groups) provide an environment where we can obey God’s call to love one another in various ways throughout the New Testament.  Smaller communities are more likely to maintain gospel fidelity (greater accountability), as well as work out how the gospel has application to the various circumstances of the members.

Second, a shift in leadership from performance to enabling.  It is easy for pastors to get stuck in the performance trap, and many a congregation enables or demands it.  In a smaller community, the pastor’s flaws are more obvious because he is known better.  And you also see how the gospel is at work in him.  Biblically, the pastor’s role is to equip the saints to do the work of ministry.

Here is the rub, in many small churches it often falls to the pastor to do most ministry.  It can be difficult to find people to equip.  This is a challenge, but not an insurmountable one.

As someone in the midst of looking for a new call, I find many churches focused on performance rather than character.  Committees can want you to sell yourself rather than demonstrate character.  We need to rediscover the biblical qualifications for office- all but one is about character!

The third shift is from a theology of glory (success) to one of the cross (suffering).  I’ve been preaching this for years, and it is a tough sell.  But people want to see how to suffer/fail/lose well.  By well, I mean finding the grace to persevere and not be crushed by suffering and disappointment.  Luther took notice of what was happening in the Letters to the Corinthians.  Like the Corinthians, the church of Rome had embraced a theology of glory.  It was about power, success, honor and more.  The American church struggles with this as well today.  Paul preaches a theology of the cross, embracing suffering along with Christ.  The community is one that embraces broken people, instead of being image conscious.  It was where this mindset prospered in the early church that the church prospered.  They took in the orphans and elderly, and the gospel made great in-roads.  But when the shift to glory took place, the gospel was obscured.

Overall this is a very good, profitable book.  Not everything they say may “fit” every congregations situation.  But the overall focus they want people to embrace is a good one, and an overdue one.

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As a small church pastor, we failed to satisfy many a parent’s desires when it came to children’s programming.  This is the plight of many a small church.  This is the subject Chester and Timmis address next in Total Church: A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community.

They begin by exposing the problem they are having in Great Britain.  Despite the focus on youth work, many leave the church upon reaching adulthood.  It seems as though the growth of youth ministry in England has not produced any significant, positive results.  They wonder how churches can make a better impact for the gospel.

Rather than siphoning them off in a youth-focused ministry, they seek to integrate them into the gospel community.  There they are exposed to real-life Christianity.  They are also connected to more mature Christians, deepening their relationships with the whole congregation instead of just the youth worker(s).

They have also witnessed similar problems with churches utilizing children’s church.  Though it sounds as if those churches still had children’s church for teens.  If they are not integrated into the rest of worship earlier than that, then it is no wonder they leave when they graduate.

At Crowded House they integrate the kids into the gospel community as well.  They seek to maintain “dual fidelity to the gospel word and the gospel community.”  They want the kids to see people taking the Bible seriously and seeking how to obey it.  Some of their groups break up into application groups that are age appropriate.

“The integration of children into the life of the church is consistent with an understanding of the church as an extended family.”

I agree with this, yet I have also led family-oriented small groups.  The kids were a huge distraction.  The reality of the situation is that we don’t have to embrace a false dichotomy: either total integreation or total separation.  We can avoid the extremes to find a workable solution that makes sure the kids and youth are consistently exposed to the gospel (not moralism) and the gospel community, yet not distracting to the adults.  Even in the family, the kids often go off to play or study alone while adults spend quality time together.

This brief chapter left me going “yes, but” quite abit.  I embrace the ideals, but have not found their solutions as helpful as they have.

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This morning I had to give my first-ever children’s sermon.  The text was 1 Kings 18 (the subject of their children’s church lesson).  To prepare I broke out my copy of Faith in the Face of Apostasy: The Gospel According to Elijah and Elisha by Raymond Dillard.

The cycle of stories in 1 & 2 Kings about these two prophets are among my favorites in the Old Testament.  Prior to his death, Raymond Dillard did some lectures at RTS Orlando that would later be a part of this book.  It was the first in the Gospel According to the Old Testament series.  The series takes a biblical theological, gospel-centered approach to the texts.  I really enjoy this series.

And it all started with this book.  It was the first one I read, prompting me to keep an eye out for new installments in this series.  I think I’ve been disappointed only once.

This series has been a series that has instructed me in what it looks like to take a redemptive-historical, gospel-centered approach to Scripture.  That simple means to keep each text in the context of the whole, connecting it to the story of redemption which culminates in Christ.

Understood this way, Elijah and Elisha are historical types of Christ.  Their ministry is a reflection of his earthly ministry.  In each chapter Dillard brings us from the days of Elijah to the present through the work of Christ.  Each chapter has questions at the end to help you process and apply that portion of Scripture.

It is my hope to eventually use these materials for a sermon series or small group.  I want my congregation to learn the redemptive-historical approach to the Scriptures and this is one great way to teach them.

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As we move through Total Church, the authors discuss theology and apologetics in relationship to mission and community.  Part of what they are reacting to here is the form of systematic theology that is disconnected to biblical theology.  Not all systematic theology is disconnected in this way.  But too much is.

As a result they argue for a Word-Centered theology.  We are to recognize that God took the initiative of revealing Himself in His Word.  This keeps theology from being speculative, but rather bounded by God’s revelation.

“All theology or discourse about God proceeds on the basis that God has revealed himself.”

We seek to understand what he has reveal.  But we should not try to say much more than he says.  I say “much” because we can draw some good and necessary deductions or implications from the Word.  But to move beyond that is to become speculative, developing a human theology.  Our theology is not to be academic in nature, but the fruit of engaging Scripture and submitting ourselves to it.

“Theology is also the task of the church because the only theology that matters and is worthy of the name theology is practical theology.”

John Frame talks about how we have not properly understood the text unless we have applied the text.  This, I think, is what they mean by practical theology.  I find myself disagreeing with the notion that it must be shaped by a missionary hermeneutic.

This is what I mean, and I’ll put some cards on the table.  In God-Centered Biblical Interpretation, Vern Poythress reminds us that Scripture has many applications and perspectives.  This is due to God’s nature.  If we keep God and the gospel at the center of our interpretative process, we will see its application to worship, mission, sanctification and more.  Each of us tends to gravitate to a particular interest, and seens Scripture in that light.  But the same texts also speak meaningfully to other areas as well.  We should not embrace a reductionistic hermeneutic no matter how important that subject (Scripture teaches a Christ or gospel centered theology from which all else flows.

I do agree with Chester and Timmis that we need to do a better job of explaining and applying what Scripture does teach about the important role of mission in the identity of the church.  In this way, one of the actions the application of Scripture will lead to is mission (as well as maturity in Christ, worship, etc.).


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Spirituality is one of those touchy subjects prone to start a good fight.  And that is just within Christian groups, forget other religions.

By spirituality is meant how one “communes” with God, experiencing fellowship with Him and becoming more like him.

On this issue, the authors of Total Church come down decidedly on the side of the Reformed heritage that informs most of their theology.  They argue against the more mystical views of Christian spirituality, of which the Anabaptists would also lay claim.  The mystical forms of spirituality encourage contemplation, silence and solitude.  Instead of these, Reformed spirituality focuses on Word, petition and community.  This creates a Word, mission and community centered form of engaging with God rather than an individualistic, non-rational way of engaging God.

We are to contemplate, or meditate, but on God’s Word.  We get to know God as He revealed (and reveals himself- as we understand in the doctrine of illumination) in the Bible.  On the basis of the gospel and its promises, we petition God to fulfill those promises for us and others.  The Word, not our self-interest, sets the agenda for our prayers.

Union with God is not the result of our devotional exercises.  Our union with Christ occurs by faith as we believe the gospel.  It is this union with Christ that enables us to have access to the Father.  In mysticism it is the goal, not the means.

“The living, active word of God does its heart-softening work through gospel people reminding one another daily of gospel grace.”

The part of this probably most foreign to most people is the aspect of community.  We are used to hearing about private devotions, quiet times etc.  Those are not wrong by any stretch of the imagination.  But Scripture also recognizes corporate spirituality.

Our sin is most clearly brought to light in community.  Alone we are prone to neglect our study of the Word and prayer.  But practicing the spiritual disciplines together is meant to be an encouragement.  I know I pray longer and in a more focused way when praying with others.  Alone, sin easily decieves us.  Together we apply the gospel and its promises to our circumstances.  We are more likely to enjoy a healthier, more consistent spiritual life than just alone.

This chapter is probably too short.  It reads more like an article.  It could bear more fleshing out of the ideas.  But I can’t take any exception to what they do say, they just needed to say more.

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Total Church moves from the outward focus to the inward focus that sustains the outward focus.  I like that they started with the outward focus.  Churches, just as C.S. Lewis said about sinners, tend to be curved inward.  Rare is the church that is to outward focused.  Most struggle against being ingrown, housebound and narcissistic.

They seek to maintain that dual fidelity to the gospel word and the gospel community as they seek to teach one another to obey everything Jesus has commanded.  This is the essence of discipleship.

“The means by which sinners are evangelized, the gospel word and the gospel community, are the means by which sinners are discipled.  We continue to “evangelize” one another as Christians because it continues to be the gospel message with which we exhort and encourage one another.  The good news that gives life is the good news that transforms, while the community that incarnates the gospel truth for the sinner is the community that incarnates gospel truth for the saint.”

I could not have said this better.  While we usually affirm the necessity of the gospel word, we often neglect the need for the gospel community.  Our churches often, intentionally, become too big for meaningful relationships.  Our gospel communities should look to begin new gospel communities through church planting to maintain quality life-on-life relationships.  They quote Chesterton:


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I was a little surprised when CavWife said she wanted to see Taken.  I had heard of the brutal torture scene (yes, though extracting information it was torture and tainted by revenge), and thought she wouldn’t be interested.  Ironically, while watching a preview she commented “that’s just about revenge.”  Nevertheless, while at Redbox, I picked up Taken and a Val Kilmer movie I’d never heard of, Columbus Day.

Liam Neeson plays a former CIA “preventer” named Brian Mills.  His casting in this role seems less likely than even Matt Damon as Jason Bourne.  Perhaps I should be cast as Mitch Rapp.  But, I’ve never seen Liam in person so I have little context for this assessment.  Perhaps he’s stronger and quicker than I imagine, but I think it is largely the result of quick shots and editing.

Anyway, his teenage daughter Kim travels overseas.  She tells her father she’s going to Paris to see the museums, but he discovers she’s really going to follow U2 around on a European Tour.  Shortly after arriving in Paris, she and her friend are taken by human traffickers.  Brian uses his skills to track the traffickers and retrieve his daughter.

There is not much of a plot besides this, and it moves at a rather quick pace.  He’s working against the clock, and he’s been trained to compartmentalize so he’s not agonizing over any of this.  But he kills and maims his way around Paris to find his daughter (granted, more noble than Bourne’s escapades in Europe).

As I lay on my bed it came to me- this was a picture of grace (granted, a stunted one).  I realized this when I reflected on the fact she didn’t deserve it.  To be rescued (yes … I’d rescue my daughter, perhaps even creating similar carnage).  She lied to her father and manipulated him.  She was also lied too by her friend who put her in such a dangerous position.  But she was essentially a spoiled, ungrateful child who disobeyed and betrayed her father and placed herself, by her selfishness, into the arms of human flotsam.

That is me.  I didn’t deserve to be rescued from the mortal danger I’d placed myself in.  Romans 5 says that Jesus died to save us while we were ungodly, sinners and enemies of God.  We do not deserve this, nor can we earn it (as Capt. Miller told Private Ryan to do).

Perhaps that is why she exclaims “you came for me!”  Maybe, while being to be sold as a sexual slave she realized how selfish she had been.  Some days I need to recapture the amazement that “He came for me!”

Unlike Brian Mills, He didn’t rescue by taking out the even more evil ones.  Oh, that will happen later.  But Jesus came to rescue by offering His life in our place.  This is why I say the redemptive theme in Taken is stunted.  Brian Mills only risked his life, and offered to pay a ransom.  He wasn’t the ransom.  Jesus was.

But, as I lay on my bed after a sin-filled, selfish day, I was reminded how undeserving I am, what grave danger I was in, and that He came for me.  Yes, a picture of grace.

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Let me tell you a story ….

Years ago in Orlando I was the member of a church that was beginning a capital fund raising program to move across the street into a huge new facility.  They thought it would take $5-6 million.  I met the pastor for lunch one day.  I asked him about the abandoned super-market next door: might make a good sanctuary and office space.  Apparently his deacons didn’t think it looked like a church.  I thought it would save lots of money.  “What about planting a church?”  I was not expecting the response I got.

He claimed you needed to have a membership of 3-400 to plant a new church and not “harm” the mother church.  “So, you’re telling me we have to spend $5-6 million to get a congregation large enough to think about planting a church?”  He said yes.

Since then I’ve seen churches committed to church planting rather than endless building programs.  I worshipped in one today that has planted 3 churches so far.

The authors of Total Church think this should be the rule rather than the exception.  I agree.

“Church planting puts mission at the heart of church and church at the heart of mission.”

It is too easy for churches to lose sight of vision and mission in order to maintain and sustain a bulding and programs.  Churches move into a maintenance mode, so they plateau and eventually decline.  But a gospel community is one for which growth is a commitment.  And a natural expression of that growth is the planting of new churches.

“But mission very easily becomes one activity among others in church life.  It sits on the agenda alongside a list of other items, vying for attention.  Or it is left to the enthusiasts to get on with it at the edge of church life.  For some churches mission seems a distant dream as they struggle to keep the institution of the church afloat.  Putting on a weekly service is challenge enough.”

Sounds strange, why go all the trouble to convert and mature those Christians if you’re going to send them off to start a new church?  Sounds just like a family.  You have and raise kids so they can go and start their own families.  It is part of the natural growth process God has established for your household … and His.  Building His kingdom (instead of ours) means having His priorities and passions of mission instead of ours.

The Book of Acts reveals to us that God’s priorities are for new Christians and new churches- worldwide.  Most of that book is taken up with Paul’s missionary journeys, which resulted in new churches.  The church is God’s mission strategy: locally and globally.  Remember, Paul and Barnabas were sent out by the church to form new churches (not merely convert individual sinners).  Gospel communities want to beget new gospel communities, just like families want to beget new families at least if they are healthy.

Not only that, but it takes it back out of the realm of “programs” and into the very rhythm of life.  It is no longer a “special event” but something you are always working towards, something that intentionally affects each decision for the community.

“Mission is a communal project in which a number of gospel communities are involved together as they seek to extend the reign of Jesus though planting more churches.”

Precisely!  Chester and Timmis are calling us back to gospel priorites in these chapters.  We would do well to listen.  Bigger is not always better.

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After the introductory chapters on gospel and community, Total Church authors Chester and Timmis begin to practically work them out in a variety of important areas.  They start with evangelism and social involvement.

“Our conviction is that Christian are called to a dual fideltiy- fidelity to the core content of the gospel accompanied by fidelity to the primary context of a believing community.  To ignore or minimize either is not merely to hamstring the task of evangelism; it is effectively to deconstruct it.”

Their thesis is that evangelism focuses on the gospel word within the gospel community.  A phrase often attributed to Francis of Assisi, (apparently falsely) “Preach the gospel; use words if necessary” has wrongly separated gospel preaching and words.  The gospel is a message, so words are necessary.  Sometimes actions are too!

Too often we think of our need to do evangelism individually.  We all have a personal responsibility.  But we all have strengths and weaknesses that should be balanced out in the context of the community.  Not only that, but as the gospel community “incarnates” the gospel, people have an easier time grasping the power of the gospel.

Their vision is to have people bringing people to social events where the gospel is lived and proclaimed by the community.  This takes some of the burden off of us to think we have to answer all questions, address every concern and close the deal like some cold call salesman.  Some are better at building relationships with others and inviting them into the community.  Others are better at discerning the particular gospel issues that need to be addressed.

Does this happen automatically?  No, but the goal is to create a culture of gospel intentionality where the community works together to proclaim the gospel.

“If church and mission are redefined in relational terms, then work, leisure, and family time can all be viewed as gospel activities.  Ordinary life becomes pastoral and missional if we have gospel intentionality.  Watching a film with friends or looking after a burdened mother’s children can simultaneously be family time, leisure, mission, and church.”

The gospel is also about the marginalized (economically, socially, racially etc) experiencing acceptance in the community because of the gospel.  This means that the gospel community is involved in society’s problems.  It does not merely do good, but connects it with the gospel.  We show love because God is love.  We show compassion because God is compassionate.  We offer acceptance because Christ has torn down all dividing walls to create a new living temple.  The grace of God is at stake, as we see in places like James 2.  The church is to be an economically, socially and racially diverse community.

“If our congregations are full of respectable people, then it may be that we have not truly grasped the radical grace of God.”

They make three assertions:

  1. Evangelism and social action are distinct activities.
  2. Proclamation is central.
  3. Evangelism and social action are inseparable.

As with evangelism, Chester and Timmis advocate a healthier, more biblical approach to social action.  We act together, rather than as individuals.  In this way people are connected to the community, and not just an individual.  As a result, the full reality of the gospel is make known from the outset- God saves us into community.  This also protects us from creating a disconnect between evangelism and social action.  The social gospel movement merged the two, losing the distinction and usually the gospel.  Fundamentalism separated the two, often abandoning social involvement in a knee jerk reaction to the social gospel.  We are to distinguish them, but ultimately not separate them as we do the 2 natures of Messiah as well justification and sanctification.

Total church is on the right track here.  It is here they lean on their Reformed heritage rather than the Anabaptist influence which has been more characterized by retreat from society (understandable since they were persecuted greatly in Europe).

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I’ve been working my way through Total Church: a Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community.  So far, it has been mostly positive.  Chester and Timmis rightly perceive many problems with how “church” is done in the Western world in which we live.  Most of their corrections are very good.  A few are frustrating.

They start with the dual call of Scripture to gospel and community.  They argue that the gospel is both word-centered and mission-centered.  It is a message to be believed, and proclaimed.  It is through this proclamation of the gospel words that community is created.  And that gopel word is proclaimed in and through the gospel community.  They build a solid understanding of the centrality of the Word (and therefore the gospel) in ministry.  It is through this message (which declares God’s acts of salvation and their implications) that God saves sinners, sanctifies saints, expands His kingdom, and more.

The church exists both through the gospel and for the gospel.

So they argue for a “train and release” strategy rather than a “convert and retain” strategy so common today.  This is one of the implications of a mission-centered view of the church.


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In Paul Blart: Mall Cop, comedian Kevin James reunites with long-time collaborator Nick Bakay.  What emerges is something akin to John Candy’s Only the Lonely meets Die Hard. James has the sensitivity of Candy, but the strong physical humor of Belushi and Farley.

Paul Blart is a loveable loser.  He’s a mall cop who can’t seem to make the NJ State Police force due to his hypoglycemia.  His ex-wife only married him to get her green card, so he lives at home with his mom and daughter.  He exudes shame, confronted with his failures, seemingly, at every moment.  He seeks comfort in food, which just adds to his shame (this is how addictions work).

But Paul’s heart is taken with young and beautiful Amy who works at one of the kiosks.  He tries to be himself, and woo her- but mistakenly gets drunk and acts the fool.

All this leads up to Black Friday, and a plot to rob the mall Paul guards.  He uses his wits and knowledge of the mall to slowly subdue them.  Like McClain, he’s the inside man talking to his friend on the outside while the specialists remain clueless.  He refuses to escape to safety so he can rescue Amy from the robbers.

This is a silly romp that does not take itself seriously.  What results is a fun little movie that requires little of the audience.  But, this shame-filled man becomes a hero.  The self-important people who belittled him folded under the pressure, but love drove Paul Bart on to risk his life to save others.  So, in the silliness there is a message.  It’s not who people think you are that matters, but who you really are.  Enjoy the silliness.

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