Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Donald Miller’


Much has changed in America since I became a Christian during Reagan’s second term in office. The church has had a variety of reactions from assimilation to abdication.

What is a Christian to do? How are pastors to guide and direct people?

In 2016 I prepared my people for a new set of circumstances by preaching through Esther and then 1 Peter. While “evangelicals” seem to have won they battle of the election, they seem to have lost the war for the culture as numerous articles blame Trump’s victory on them. The disenfranchisement many felt has only deepened with new charges of x-phobia.

Image result for faith for this momentRick McKinley’s new book, Faith for this Moment: Navigating a Polarized World as the People of God, caught my eye. McKinley is the pastor of Imago Dei church in Portland, OR. He shows up in Blue Like Jazz as Donald Miller’s pastor for a time. Like Driscoll, he seemed to fall into the Emerging (not Emergent) Church movement that held to historic Christianity applied to new circumstances.

On the surface this book seems to be The Benedict Option for millennials. I haven’t read BO, though it has been recommended to me often. It seems a bit retreatist to me. It sounds a bit too much like abdication. I could obviously wrongly judging that book by its cover. This book, I read.

I appreciated the overall tone and message of the book. I had some issues with the details and some of his analysis. It is not a long book, so it doesn’t flesh everything out as much as some may like. He’s trying to move people in a direction more than giving them detailed instructions. So, what is that direction?

He begins with the Moment in which we live, how we got here, and then how we should move forward as God’s people. That last part sounds the most like BO as he seeks to reclaim some distinctive Christian practices to help us live faithfully in a world, a culture more precisely, that has become hostile to our existence.

The Moment for him was the aftermath of the Pulse shooting. Christians, in the eyes of an unbelieving culture, we known less for Jesus and His sacrificial love than our opposition to homosexuality and defense of firearms. Though a Muslim, many show Mateen as in line with the “God and guns” crowd that President Obama disparaged.

Lost in the moment was the compassion shown by many churches, locally and in other parts of the country. Lost was Chick-Fil-A providing food to responders on a Sunday. Somehow we were at least partially to blame.

And then came the results of the 2016 election. The backlash is still a popular narrative: evangelicals voted for Trump because they are racist, misogynist, anti-immigration and homo-phobic. This is a world without nuance painting all conservative Christians with the same (wrong) brush.

“We are a society that is messy and complicated, and it appears that Christians, whose voices have been drowned out by misrepresentation and misunderstanding, have little to say about the things that matter most to the world.”

Image result for adam and eveChristians have moved from a group with relative power to being marginalized as a minority group. This happened without moving in a foreign country. We’ve lost our sense of identity and place. We’ve also lost our sense of practice: how we live or act, what we do, because we follow Jesus. Most Christians are caught between “denial and despair”. McKinley is not going to lead us in a pity party, however. Nor is he going to encourage us to go with the flow. He reminds us that for significant periods of time God’s people have lived as the marginalized, the exiled, and have flourished despite that.

He begins with the original exile. Adam and Eve were removed from the Garden of Eden because of their sin. Life changed forever, so it seemed. There was no going back for them. The consequences would be disastrous as one son killed another as sin ran rampant. Abram and Sarai willingly went into exile in following the call of God. They had promises and a covenant but they were strangers and aliens in Canaan.

“This shows us that while exile is a place of loss, it is also a place of hope, because the God who is sovereign over the times in which we live is the one who sustains us in exile.”

He continues with Jacob, Moses (what about Joseph??) and the wilderness generation. He identifies Jesus as the True Exile who voluntarily (like Abram) left “home” to come to this far country to live among us, and suffer with and for us. He entered exile to bring us back to the Garden, but better.

McKinley then focuses on Babylon as a real exile and a picture of subsequent exiles. Babylon didn’t make all of Israel slaves. They were invited to partake of Babylon’s prosperity, similar to the materialism and consumerism of America. Prophets like Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel were calling them to faithfulness in exile. They were not to abandon their faith and assimilate with Babylon. They were to seek the good of the city and put down roots there. Their welfare was wrapped up with the welfare of the city.

“Exile can be a place of deep spiritual transformation and kingdom advancement if we are willing to step into it with courage and faith.”

It is easy to miss that Israel was in exile due to her sin. She lost her place because she forfeited her faith. It was time to regain her faith in exile. The church in the west, in particular in America to whom McKinley writes, has lost its place because it largely lost its faith. It fell for the American Dream instead of the Kingdom of God. It is time to regain our faith in Christ and His kingdom.

He focuses on that passage in Jeremiah in Baptize It, Burn It, or Bless It?. Here he discusses Christendom, both its rise in Rome and its fall here in America. Christendom is the blending of Christianity with the dominant culture such that you have a civil religion that largely reflects the culture. It is a largely assimilated faith. Racial pride, ethnic price, economic pride etc. are identified with Christianity.

While I agree with him, I also struggle with some of his points. For instance, on the issue of a border wall he sounds reductionistic to me. The threat is not the “other” so much as the lawless for many. He rejects just war theory as if it were the same as “manifest destiny”. For instance, he writes “When our hope becomes misplaced in these things, we begin to see other countries as a threat rather than a neighbor.” We live in a world of sinners so all our homes have doors, with locks. Every home in my neighborhood has a fence because there are boundary lines. I don’t hate my neighbor or fear my neighbor. Many politicians and celebrities who chastise us about a wall live behind walls and travel with armed security. That is wise in a world of sinners. Are nations to eschew wisdom for foolishness?

Another example, this time of overlooking details. In the context of same sex marriage he mentions that the church has done little to reduce its own divorce rate. I agree that some portions of the church have high divorce rates. But he seems to ignore the movement toward “covenant marriage” in many states in the Bush 43 years. These laws made getting a divorce more difficult for those who chose to enter that kind of marriage.

In response McKinley focuses on piety. He lays great weight on these practices to remain distinctive. He appears to lose the connection between being and doing. Theology informs our being. To be fair, he could have teased more of that (theology) out of his first practice. But he sees theological distinctives are part of the problem.

“The way forward will require us to move beyond doctrinal divides of conservative and liberal. We will need to find a set of practices, born from faith, that can make us distinct in our identity and our way of living in this moment in which we find ourselves.”

Image result for the borgHe is right that cultures make disciples. “You will be assimilated! Resistance is futile!” cries the Borg. Here he brings in some Lesslie Newbegin and contextualization. The gospel is a-cultural. It transcends cultures instead of being culture bound. The church is called to “navigate its relationship to the culture it finds itself in at this moment.” We embrace elements of culture in agreement with biblical norms and reject those in conflict with biblical norms. He breaks out what looks like a triperspectival triangle. The gospel is the norm, the church is the existential perspective (who we are) and we live in the circumstances of a particular culture. The gospel does not change. It is the norm that is intended to transform both church and culture- though in different ways. The church lives out the gospel in culture, and addresses that unchanging gospel to the particular culture it finds itself in a way that the culture can understand and applied to the culture’s problems.

McKinley expresses this in the terminology of “windows of redemption and opposition.” Each culture has ways we can address the culture “in its own space and through its own language and values.” But there are also “values, beliefs, and practices that are at odds with Jesus and the gospel.” If your gospel doesn’t present any offense it probably isn’t the biblical gospel. If it is only in opposition to culture, it probably isn’t either.

He then moves into the history of his congregation to show how this worked out. They needed to repent, often, of their lack of involvement with their community and culture. We often act like strongholds, at odds with those around us instead of seeking their holistic welfare.

“We must be willing to be honest with ourselves, to be broken over the state of our own hearts and the part we played in making the church the way it is.”

The book moves into the final section focusing on the spiritual practices he advocates. It seems strange to me, to compare us with Muslims (or the Amish or Hasidic Jews) as identifiable by dress and customs. I’m not sure about focusing on such externals. He does point us to practices that may standout, but not dress. The goal he notes is to turn us around (repentance) and “fully enter the story of God in our everyday lives.”

“Too many of us are exhausted from the pressure of the empire, and we find ourselves binging on its pleasures to short-circuit the anxiety we feel, even if those pleasures are only a temporary fix.”

He begins with that story in the practice of listening and obeying. Scripture is to be the story that shapes our worldview. The Story of redemption should shape how we live, eat, work etc.. He then moves into hospitality. He misses the point at times, focusing on how our government welcomes some immigrants and not others. I get that our hospitality is intended to be distinct from the governments, but the government has a different mission and goals than the church does. He doesn’t really develop the differences between the church and the state. This warps some of his statements.

In the chapter on generosity he seems to misunderstand some basic economic principles. Capitalism isn’t built on supply and demand. It certainly honors that reality in a way that other economic theories but it is built on the idea of using capital to create supply to meet demand. He also confused greed with capitalism on that same page.

The fourth practice is Sabbath. The practice of ceasing from work and engaging in rest and worship is contrary to the consumerism of America. We regain our focus and become refreshed so we can be better and more principled workers as a side benefit. He doesn’t want us to complicate it, but some of his quick encouragements seem to miss the point. Like, light a candle.

The last practice is that of vocation, seeing God’s call in our lives in work. God calls us to work and gifts us to work. It is not about money, but the gospel calls us to work out of love for God and others. We flourish, generally speaking, when we work to help others flourish.

As I mentioned earlier, this is more a big picture book than detailed book. I think that the practices are good for us. I do have some concerns with his pietistic bent that in some ways de-values theology. This can be a helpful book as long as one spits out the bones. More conservative readers will find a fair number of bones in his political references and perspectives.

[I received a complimentary copy of this book for the purposes of review.]

Read Full Post »


I missed this catagory on Steve McCoy’s Big 5 Books list- Big 5 for Seekers.

The idea is what books would you give to someone who is seeking to understand Christianity, or address a question keeping them from Christ.  Here goes!

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.  It is a classic which is best for those skeptics with a more “modern” view of the world.

The Reason for God by Tim Keller.  The Mere Christianity for this generation.  Keller addresses many of the objections he hears in his ministry.  It interacts with contemporary and classic skeptics.  Love it.

Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller.  There is something to be said for humor lowering defenses.  Miller gives a good, winsome, broader understanding for the younger crowd.  He moves beyond seeing salvation of individuals without neglecting that.

Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller.  See above.  Miller talks about how we are all searching for redemption, somewhere, even if we don’t realize it.  Something about that imago dei thing.

The Prodigal God by Tim Keller.  I love the book, and think it would help many people make sense of the core message of the gospel.  Maybe I’m crazy.

Basic Christianity by John Stott.  Short and to the point.  I used to keep these as a give-away.

Knowing Christianity by J.I. Packer.  I haven’t read it, but knowing Packer it is solid.  This covers the basic doctrines of the faith.

I need to find more of these………

Read Full Post »


I predict ...

I predict ...

Lack of funding.  They need another $2.8 million to complete the project.

It’s actually a funny interview– what with Steve Taylor and Donald Miller involved.  The target audience of the movie doesn’t have the money to invest.  And those who do have the money have never heard of the book.

I like this part:

Both men say they won’t invest any of their own money into the project.

“Writers don’t make much money anyway,” laughs Miller. “Like Obama says, it’s above my pay grade.”

Angst Personified

Angst Personified

Taylor took out a sizeable loan against his home to help make The Second Chance a few years ago, and says he’ll never do it again.

“I should have called that move The Second Mortgage,” he says. “I made a deal with my wife back then that we’d only use that strategy once.”

Miller and Taylor both say they’re sure the film will get made.

“I’m convinced it’s going to happen,” says Miller.

Asked if there was any chance the project will die, Taylor quipped, “Not unless I die first.” But when pressed for a timetable, he added, “Are you pre- or post-millennial?”

Read Full Post »


More from Confessions of a Reformission Rev.

Soon Mars Hill became a stench in their neighbors’ nostrils.  The congregation had outgrown the facility, so parking problems erupted.  The loud music on Sundays created additional issues with the neighbors.  An even bigger problem loomed- the 150 barrier.

I’ve seen this in effect in churches of which I was a member.  150 is a tough barrier to break, and it has something to do with how we are made.  There is a limit to the number of folks the average guy can relate to.  And that number is …. 150.  So in his attempt to overcome this obstacle, he went to 2 services (like many a pastor before him).  As many other congregations before had done, they resisted.

This is a familiar concept.  Churches want to grow- just not too much.  We want a village.  We don’t want a church like a city- a large community of multiple smaller communities (neighborhoods).  Driscoll tried to address this.  Yes, some pastors are ambitous.  But many long to see the advance of the gospel tangibly.  Church growth is not an evil thing, though it can be pursued for wrong reasons, and wrong means.

To artificially limit the growth of a church could be sinful.  It is placing our preferences above what God may choose to do.  I didn’t see Him asking the early church how they felt about Him adding 3,000 to their number in one day, or the continual growth thereafter.  They rejoiced!  And so should we.

(more…)

Read Full Post »


“I think we are supposed to love our friends and introduce people to the story, to the peaceful, calming why of life.  I think life is spirituality.”  Donald Miller in Through Painted Deserts

Read Full Post »


I really liked Blue Like Jazz and Searching for God Knows What.  They are funny, but made you think.  They are an engaging way to talk about faith in a meaningfulway.  Through Painted Deserts is Donald Miller’s first book.  I read the revised edition while on vacation.  It showed hints of what Miller’s work would become, but it does not approach the other books.

This is the story of a friendship, as 2 young men begin what they later discover to be a pilgrimage.  While on the road they learn about themselves, and God.  Donald was raised. like many people, in a religous setting.  Not necessarily one of vibrant faith, but one of church going and “jumping through hoops”.  This is the story of how he left home and began to own a faith.

It has some very good moments, like his discussion about going to a Stephen Hawking lecture and being disappointed that this great, brilliant man think life here was planted by aliens.  That’s the best this guy can come up with- begging the stinkin’ question.  And there are some other funny bits, often including mention of someone’s johnson- which is sure to tick off someone.

But I was disappointed since the earlier mentioned books were so freakin’ good.  But we all have to start somewhere.  This is where Donald started.  And I’m glad he kept going, perfecting his craft.  So, if you are a fan you may like it.  But if you want to introduce someone to Donald Miller, try one of this other books.

Read Full Post »


Mark Driscoll’s in trouble again.  Some people have found some of the language in his book Confessions of a Reformissionary Rev to be offensive.  I have not read the book, but intend to.  I did read the section in the link above (and found it funny, but I’m weird).  The GospelDriven Life has some great points on those who are pointing to the splinter in Mark’s eye.

There is nothing like a cuss word or crude reference to a body part/sexual act to upset a fundamentalist.  Let me start by saying I grew up across the street from some of the most foul mouthed people around.  It was like living Good Will Hunting.  Now, I know this is hard for some of you to believe- but many people actually speak like that.

Joe Carter in the Evangelical Outpost has a great post on the subject of vulgarity.  A few things-

1. The language Mark used is PG compared to a number of places in Scripture where God is literally exposing the sins of Israel.  Try reading Whoredom: God’s Unfaithful Wife in Biblical Theology Ray Ortlund, Jr (now entitled God’s Unfaithful Wife).  God is not nearly as embarrassed by earthy language as we are.  Ever read Luther’s Tabletalk?  Lots of stories and words to upset the dainty-eared.

2. In Isaiah 6 we see that Isaiah repented of being a man of unclean lips from a people of unclean lips (check out my sermon on it).  Did he need to have his mouth washed out with soap like I did as a youngster?  In our culture we’d lean toward cussin’ & swearing.  But Isaiah was most likely confessing that he and his people had spoken the names of false gods to deliver them.  They were probably criticizing God because things weren’t going well.  They had forsaken the true and living God.  The use of slang terms is not the issue here.

(more…)

Read Full Post »