Archives for category: preaching

I was deeply disappointed to learn (via Eugene Cho’s blog) that Zondervan will no longer continue to publish the TNIV translation of the Bible. I have been using the TNIV in my personal Bible reading and in preaching & teaching in our church community – I am sad both to see the TNIV discontinued and the way in which Zondervan is handling it.

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What would characterize a uniquely Asian American worship or preaching experience? Does such a thing even exist? asks David Park over at Next Gener.Asian Church.

It seems that, in order to answer this question, we must first begin with the primary issue of our identity, to know deeply what it means to be created as Asian Americans in the image of God. The “neither/nor” struggle — not being fully Asian nor fully American in our identity — has led to shame, rebellion and self-hatred. Because many of us have wandered through this fog for twenty, thirty, forty years, the quest to discover our God-given identity is not easily or quickly resolved. We need the Holy Spirit to repair, heal, restore and redeem the mess that we are.

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I’ve been tagged by J. Evans for this 1-2-3 Meme. Here’s how it works: “The game is to grab the book nearest to you and turn to page 123. Find the 5th sentence and share the next 3 sentences with everyone. Then you tag five people.” So, from my desk to your screen…

Preaching Re-Imagined, by Doug Pagitt

“Is it possible that this kind of phrase (ball hog) could also apply to pastors who do all the studying, all the talking, and even have the gall to think they can apply the messages they create to the lives of other people? In this setting there is little for the hearers to do besides decide if they agree or not. Is it possible that we have, through the practice of speaching, created a culture in churches where agreeability is the necessary posture of our people?”

As a preacher-type, this hits really close to home. I’ve struggled for awhile with tying together the notion of the priesthood of all believers with the role of preaching. Certainly, a vocational pastor will have time to devote to exegesis, study and meditation on Scripture that others do not. Hopefully, prayerfully, this hard work will translate God’s voice to, in and for a particular community. However, I would love to see a more active, participatory engagement of Scripture from our entire community. I don’t know if we’d approach this in quite the way Solomon’s Porch does, but Doug’s thoughts here are a great jumping off point.

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I haven’t really participated in a meme before, but I am really interested in discovering what is on the bookshelf of Sam, Rich, David, Wayne and Dan.

Being in town meant that I would not be missing our Sunday at church. While there is a definite downside to not getting away for the weekend, I could sense how God was using the words spoken through Francis Chan and Doug Fields to enlarge my heart further for my students. Maybe it was nothing revolutionary for them — I’m sure I still managed to lull them to sleep during the sermon today — but I’m praying that, by the grace of God, my love and prayers for them would ever increase.

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After a full day at church, I hustled over to the Town & Country and caught the Q+A part of Shane Hipps’ first seminar. I chatted briefly with him and wandered with him over to his next seminar (which turned out to be a good thing, because I never would have found the seminar room on my own. I’m really bad with maps and have managed to get lost several times this weekend) which expanded on several of the ideas in his book The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture, which I highly recommend.

One of the most important things Shane discussed was the oft-referenced idea, “The methods change but the Message stays the same.” This speaks to our efforts to adapt new ways of bringing the timeless, eternal Truth of the Gospel to different peoples and cultures. Unfortunately, though the sentiment is sincere and well-intentioned, it is also false.

As Marshall McLuhan said, “The medium is the message.” Shane did a fantastic presentation of McLuhan’s life, thoughts on media and the future and how this impacts us as followers of Christ. We must be clear-eyed about the ways in which the media we use — and not only Media Shout or MySpace — fundamentally alters the message we are trying to convey. I saw this illustrated at every general session — although I was often sitting only several yards from the speaker, I found myself (and saw most of those around me) watching the giant screens rather than the actual person in front of us. Shane gave a great quote about this: The screen always wins — it’s almost a creepy, bizarro take on “Love Wins” but it’s so true.

Although this seminar was very much about our current media culture, Shane was really addressing worldviews. And, even to take a step back further from that, Shane was addressing the forces at work that shape our worldview. Another McLuhan quote is helpful here: “We become what we behold.”

The printing press ushered in an age of linear, sequential, uniform, repeatable thinking as normative. And, in the modern world, we find this repeated in unexpected places — from the assembly line of cars and cookies, to the orderly, linear pews in our churches, to reducing the entirety of the Gospel into a sequential formula (e.g., Repentance of sins + Acceptance of Christ = Salvation to heaven).

However, the world in which we live changed long before the advent of the internet. Shane argues that the invention of the telegraph, photograph and radio began a dramatic shift in how we see the world. The telegraph, or “Victorian Internet,” broke the relationship between transportation and communication. The photograph recalls the stained glass of the Middle Ages — consider the difference between seeing the printed words, “The boy is sad” versus this photograph of a sad boy. The words are rational, linear and left-brained; the photo is intuitive, non-linear, right-brained — qualities that describe the shift toward postmodernism.

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I will interact more in the future with some of these thoughts. Shane’s seminar today triggered quite a few thoughts that I’d like to work through — especially regarding the built-in fluidity and ability of Asian Americans to navigate between and through different cultures. He was extremely gracious in fielding all manner of questions, and taking time out to chat with me a bit before leaving to catch his flight. It was interesting to listen to the line of questions that people raised afterward — questions about doctrine, defending our faith and jumping straight to the “take-home” revealed their linear, sequential, rationalistic mindset.

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I’m getting packed up just in case we need to clear out of here because of the wildfires raging around here. Please keep us in prayer.

I am worn out after day three of NYWC but, finally, in a good way. I always have difficulty articulating my inner life but I have been in a particular state of disorder in the weeks leading up to NYWC. In the midst of busyness and weariness, I have not been listening well for God’s voice. Today, at the convention, the fog began to lift in myriad ways. This was a full day of getting to sit under some great teaching, and Mike shared about building a holy rhythm to our lives.

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I have been looking forward to hearing Francis Chan since I saw that he would be a main session speaker. He is a dynamic and gifted communicator — and, as an Asian American, it is so encouraging to see a face to whom I can relate up on the main stage. I am sure, though, that his words spoke to everyone there this morning. I won’t attempt to recap everything Francis said (although I’m sure I will wear out the CD of his talk that I picked up), but God was definitely speaking to me through his words this morning. Several times, I found myself in tears as I listened.

When Francis began to share his heart, as a parent, about what he wanted from his daughter’s youth pastor, I was completely convicted. More than programs and messages and the big show, he is looking for a youth pastor who will love and pray passionately for his daughter. I know I would wish the same thing for my daughter — and, if that’s what I’m looking for, then I cannot offer any less.

Francis’ words about actually believing the Bible and living it out — not mediated or filtered through someone else’s lens, but engaging, living and breathing the Word of God in real life. The consequences in the life of Francis and his church have been nothing short of revolutionary.

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In the afternoon, I went to a brilliant seminar by Mike King. His words gave voice to so much of that with which I have been wrestling over the last couple of years. He exhorted us to find out what makes us feel fully alive, and to incorporate those things into our everyday lives. I am looking forward to reading his book Presence-Centered Youth Ministry. He gave several practical, creative, engaging ways to incorporate a rule of life into our daily living.

In particular, his words about community spoke powerfully to me. Not just community as a concept, but the physical, proximate community of people with whom we actually live our lives. The commuter church has not been kind to our family in terms of building and maintaining these kinds of meaningful friendships — I feel my heart gravitating more & more towards this friendship and proximity.

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Tonight’s main session was brutal in all the right ways. Doug Fields spoke about his deepening concern for the heart of youth workers and he identified ministry envy as a primary killer of our hearts. While we might be good at masking the obvious envy we have of others, it comes out in the way we talk about and criticize others. Sure, we might try to disguise the envy by claiming that we’re just pointing out our differences, but it looms large in many of our lives.

In a powerful exegesis of the Genesis account of Joseph and his brothers, Doug showed us the crippling effects of envy — and ways in which we can combat it.  By celebrating others and their accomplishments we are protecting our own hearts.  Celebration counters our tendency to turn those who should be colleagues and friends into rivals.

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Doug’s words caused me to reflect more deeply about what I recently wrote about the American worship music industry.  My words might have come across as an unfair attack against Matt Maher, in particular.  I sincerely regret speaking quickly and foolishly.  There is plenty of room for legitimate criticism when it comes to the worship industry, but I want to be much more careful with my critical words — not to speak out of envy, bitterness or cynicism.  I want to spend more time celebrating those things I genuinely love and appreciate than in criticism (legitimate or not).