This is my final post here at Blackbeans. To follow my new blog click here.
There’s an interesting article over on the Anglican 100o site entitled Bad Reasons to Plant a Church. It offers an interesting glimpse at a secular perspective on church planting as well as a challenge to examine the real reasons to plant a church.
Planting a church is not an endeavor to be entered into lightly. There are many hazards along the way. There is uncertainty and sacrifice, not least of all by the sending church. It is hard work that demands all that you can give spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. It is entrepreneurial but for the kingdom of God. I cringe at the thought of it being considered a franchise in some consumeristic way.
In the course of the discernment process to begin planting Holy Trinity, and even now, it has been important to constantly hold this mission loosely, openhandedly before God and our community. It is vital to earnestly examine our hearts and be skeptical of our motivations. Planting a church is apostolic work. It is noble and it is important. But we do not seek to plant a church for power, authority, or some foolish desire to have it our way. We plant a church, which is the fullness of him who fills all in all, to see Christ glorified and his kingdom come.
As we continue, may we constantly hold before us the reality that this church is not for us to have a local franchise of faithful Anglicanism. There are people we do not know who will come and encounter the living God here. There are many unknown to us who are being summoned even now to come and encounter the reality of our Lord and his grace at his table. There are many with gifts and passions we don’t have, who will come and join in with what God is doing here. As we press on in obedience, praying, fasting, and trusting in his grace, we continue to hold this all loosely, knowing it is the Lord who is the Great Shepherd, the maniacal Sower, and the faithful Harvester. May he bless this work and give us joy as we serve him.
There’s an interesting article on the BBC > World site entitled, “Dutch Rethink Christianity for a Doubtful World.” Here are the opening lines:
The Rev Klaas Hendrikse can offer his congregation little hope of life after death, and he’s not the sort of man to sugar the pill.The Exodus Church is part of the mainstream Protestant Church in the Netherlands. An imposing figure in black robes and white clerical collar, Mr Hendrikse presides over the Sunday service at the Exodus Church in Gorinchem, central Holland. It is part of the mainstream Protestant Church in the Netherlands (PKN), and the service is conventional enough, with hymns, readings from the Bible, and the Lord’s Prayer. But the message from Mr Hendrikse’s sermon seems bleak – “Make the most of life on earth, because it will probably be the only one you get”.
“Personally I have no talent for believing in life after death,” Mr Hendrikse says. “No, for me our life, our task, is before death.” Nor does Klaas Hendrikse believe that God exists at all as a supernatural thing.
Postmodernism is alive and well in the Netherlands!
Bishop Phillips Brooks was well known in his life for his preaching. As rector of the Church of the Holy Trinity in Philadelphia, he preached to large congregations. He gave a famous sermon (still well worth a read) on Abraham Lincoln the week after his assasination while his body was visiting Philadelphia. It is an interesting example of one pastor not only ministered to his own flock during a time of national crisis but to the entire country. Interestingly, he also wrote the words to the well-loved Christmas hymn “O Little Town of Bethlehem” after having served at a Christmas Eve midnight service in Bethlehem.
Brooks died just 18 months after being consecrated bishop of Massachusetts. He also wrote a book entitled The Joy of Preaching that was used to teach seminarians on both sides of the Atlantic.His Lyman Beecher lectures on Preaching at Yale (1876 – 1877) are still considered standard-setting. Here is an excerpt:
“The relation between preacher and congregation is one of the very highest pictures of human companionship that can be seen on earth. Its constant presence has given Christianity, much of its noblest and sweetest color in all ages. It has much of the intimacy of the family, with something of the breadth and dignity that belongs to the State. It is too sacred to be thought of as a contract. It is a union which God joins together for purposes worthy of His care. When it is worthily realized, who can say that it may not stretch beyond the line of death, and they who have been minister and people to each other here be something holy and peculiar to each other in the City of God forever?” — “Brooks, Lyman Beecher Lectures on Preaching,” p. 216.
Anglicans have rightly been referred to as the people of the book, that is people of the Book of Common Prayer. Our spiritual heritage and our common ground with other Anglicans is rooted in our common prayer and our common liturgies contained in the BCP.
100th Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, noted in his lecture “The Anglican Spirit” that it is the BCP that distinguishes us Anglicans from other continental, reformation movements.
It is important to notice that while other churches on the Continent with Reformation roots also had their sets of articles, the Anglican Settlement as now defined had not only a confession, a set of articles, but also a Prayer Book. It is this foundation that was, and remains, so very characteristic of the Anglican paradosis (that which is delivered over by teaching or tradition, the substance of teaching). And it is true to say that while there are churches in Christendom where, when you ask, “Now tell us what you stand for?” they will say, “Well here are our articles, that is what we stand for,” it has always been characteristic of Anglicans to reply, “Yes, here are our articles, but here is our Prayer Book as well – come and pray with us, come and worship with us, and that is how you will understand what we stand for.”
Michael Ramsey, The Anglican Spirit, p. 17-18.
“We may be confident that liturgical worship is the best of all. There is some loss in the use of printed words; but there is a greater gain. We have in them the accumulated wisdom and beauty of the Christian Church, the garnered excellence of the saints. We are by them released from the accidents of time and place. Above all we are preserved against the worst dangers of selfishness: in the common prayer we join together in a great fellowship that is as wide as the world; and we are guided, not by the limited notions of our own priest, nor by the narrow impulses of our own desires, but by the mighty voice that rises from the general heart of Christendom.”
– Percy Dearmer, Everyman’s History of the Prayer Book, 1912
A note from a friend of a friend that I found very interesting. I’d love to know your thoughts.
I had an interesting conversation with Elizabeth XXXXXX yesterday that I thought was worth expanding into a written reflection.
It seems to me that a lot of people’s faith in God rather closely tracks the vagaries of their personal lives. Something “good” happens to them, and they react by praising and thanking God. Something “bad” happens to them, and they fall into doubt and confusion. Their faith bounces up and down like the stock market. What I’m wondering is, is this the way faith is supposed to be?
It’s easy to raise some objections. The stock-market God apparently goes to great lengths to grant us parking places when we want them, while calmly allowing 300,000 people to die in an earthquake—though perhaps saving a few of them “miraculously”. Apparently, the stock market God takes sides in sporting events, deserves the credit for my not being seriously injured in an accident but not the blame for the accident happening in the first place, and can ensure that it won’t rain on the day of the church picnic but can’t (or won’t) prevent a drought that causes thousands to starve to death. Is this really a true picture of the God we worship? Speaking for myself, I hope not.
On the other hand, what are the alternatives? One alternative is one that, roughly speaking, I live by. My faith in God doesn’t really
fluctuate along with fluctuations in my personal fortunes. My faith remains high (though not at 100%) regardless of whether something “good” or “bad” happens in my personal life. This approach has the advantage of avoiding the wild contradictions of the stock-market approach. One side effect, though, is that I don’t spontaneously announce “Praise God!” when something “good” happens—say, when a medical test allows me to rule out a serious illness. This isn’t because I’m ungrateful, or because the question of God’s role doesn’t occur to me. The point is that I know that if the medical test had turned out the other way, I would have accepted it with the same equanimity. To me, praising God for a negative test result carries an implicit assumption that a positive test result would *not* have been cause for praising God (or at least that praising God for a positive test result would require finding some silver lining in the cloud). Since I don’t want to promote what I regard as a false view of God’s action, I refrain from exclamations that might be construed that way.
This attitude of mine strikes some people as wrong. Surely my faith must be dry, lifeless, sterile, intellectual, stoical, and excessively
rational. Surely I must be failing to engage my heart and my emotions. Surely I lack a vibrant personal relationship with a personal God who cares intensely about my personal life. Surely the believer who exults when “good” things happen and whose faith soars as a result, and who gets confused and struggles in anguish when “bad” things happen, enjoys a much more vibrant and meaningful spiritual life. Surely?
I’m not completely sure how to respond, but one thing I do believe is that I don’t think my emotions are any less engaged. The word “emotion” seems to be associated with irrationality and with big up-and-down swings. In my view, though, calmness, interest, and alertness are all emotions. When “good” or “bad” things happen, all the knotty problems surrounding the attribution of God’s action instinctively leap to the surface of my mind, because they are issues that I think about all the time. One doesn’t constantly think about something that one is emotionally disengaged from. Just because I have, through deep reflection and long training, arrived at a steady stock price that doesn’t destabilize with each piece of fresh news, doesn’t mean that my faith is “unemotional.”
Nevertheless, stock-market faith seems so pervasive that I have to wonder if we should regard it as “normal.” That is, someone with a “normal” spiritual life is supposed to engage in soul-searching every time bad things happen, but ignore the deep theological puzzles behind the problem of evil when good things happen and just directly attribute pleasant events to God’s intervention.