Religious Naturalism

plantinga2Writing in the 40′s, C.S. Lewis found himself “constantly opposed not by the irreligion of our hearers but by their real religion.” The “real religion” of the popular world of Lewis’ time was one that he defined as Pantheism. Pantheism is the religious idea that the universe or nature is one with the divine. Pantheistic religions include Hinduism and New Age. Buddhism, though pantheistic, claims to be a philosophy rather than a religion because at core it is atheistic. Nevertheless, most would see Buddhism as a religion as well.

For Lewis to claim that most opponents of theistic belief were Pantheists is not to suggest, however, that most of his opponents were adherents of an Eastern religion. Instead, what Lewis was pointing to was the naturalism of his day that dismissed the idea of God and replaced him with the universe, or nature, or naturalistic evolution. MacArthur argues that Carl Sagan well represented this form of naturalistic pantheism with his motto, “the cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be.” According to Sagan’s description, the universe seems a great deal like a god. It is of YAHWEH that the angels proclaim in Revleation 4:7, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.” MacArthur goes on to argue that in Sagan’s worldview (insert: religion), the cosmos is God and scientists are the new priesthood.

In this new religion, all moral and ethical accountability is erased in the name of naturalism, evolution, and survival of the fittest. It is common for those who oppose Christianity or any form of theism to claim that religion is bad for the world and that they are opposed to religion. In truth however, once one … Continue reading

Training or Developing?

As I was researching some leadership development options for use among our staff, I came across a Forbes article from 2012 that argues leadership training should be scrapped in favor of leadership development. The author lists 20 of the primary differences between leadership training and leadership development, and I couldn’t help but see the ways that each of the 20 points carries over into the development of ministry leaders within the local church.

If we are not careful, we buy into cookie cutter approaches to discipleship or leadership training that focus on best or right practices without focusing on the unique and different skills and gifts in every individual. In these models discipleship is not primarily about producing disciples, but checking off a list of boxes (small group? check; accountability, check…). Evangelism can even become about a method rather than a goal (evangelism is only cold call or altar calls).

Below, I’ve copied Mike Myatt’s list of 20 items that highlight the differences between training and development. What connections can you make from this list to your ministry?

  • Training blends to a norm – Development occurs beyond the norm.
  • Training focuses on technique/content/curriculum – Development focuses on people.
  • Training tests patience – Development tests courage.
  • Training focuses on the present – Development focuses on the future.
  • Training adheres to standards – Development focuses on maximizing potential.
  • Training is transactional – Development is transformational.
  • Training focuses on maintenance – Development focuses on growth.
  • Training focuses on the role – Development focuses on the person.
  • Training indoctrinates – Development educates.
  • Training maintains status quo – Development catalyzes innovation.
  • Training stifles culture – Development enriches culture.
  • Training encourages compliance – Development emphasizes performance.
  • Training focuses on efficiency – Development focuses on effectiveness.
  • Training focuses on problems – Development focuses on solutions.
  • Training focuses on reporting lines – Development … Continue reading
  • Ministry Along The Edges

    attheedgeoftheworldAs pastors, we are right to prioritize and emphasize public proclamation of the gospel and carefully planned and structured times for discipleship and counseling. Most pastors appreciate structure and ample time for preparation. We like the security of the pulpit and our study, but if we are to do the necessary work of “bearing one another’s burdens” to “fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2), then we must be willing to work in unplanned moments outside of our set structures.

    If we are to be God’s men for God’s people, we must be willing to get into the lives of people, and it is often not as hard as it seems. I have found great opportunity to counsel, disciple, love, care, edify, and even rebuke during informal times. The “edges” of the church are great places to apply the Word of God as a pastor. The “edges” or the “periphery” of the church include places like hallways, parking lots, sidewalks, foyers, and nurseries. There have been times in my life when my most important ministry on any given day took place in a hallway or a quiet corner after service ended.

    I am sure that many of you reading this have had similar experiences—times when you were able to minister to a grieving widow over a cup of coffee or give a single parent a break by taking her kids to the playground for fifteen minutes. Perhaps you have shown care to couple struggling in their marriage by allowing them time away from their children to speak with their LifeGroup leader or loved on a college student by taking them to lunch or dinner after a service. Regardless of the situation, we have all experienced fruitful ministry for which we did … Continue reading

    Growing on Purpose or Drifting by Accident

    boat-956x537I love to fish (though I don’t seem to be doing much of it lately). Specifically, I love to bass fish. When fishing for large mouth bass you rarely anchor your boat, normally you troll slowly casting the entire time. This is not a problem so long as you are fishing and controlling the motor. Occasionally, however, the fishing has to stop to take a fish off of your hook, tie on a different bait, or to eat (this is very important to me when I fish). It’s funny, but when your attention shifts from fishing and driving to doing some other task within the boat, the boat has a tendency to drift. I know a guy who wound up with a snake in his boat because he drifted under some low hanging trees one night. Fishing and driving happen on purpose, but drifting happens accidentally all on its own. In our spiritual lives, we will either grow on purpose or drift by accident or neglect. This morning, I took some time to think through ways that I could get more of God’s word into me and get me more into the word. I made a list of several different steps that include most of the usual things like my quiet time, scripture memorization, and prayer. Of course, these are the kinds of things that you plan time for and you fill the time you have planned with the practices for which you have saved that time. But, if you are like me, you’ve got lots of other time in your life that gets filled up by accident. Those accidental times like the grocery store line, waiting to pick up kids from school, driving to work, or running an errand. In these … Continue reading

    I Love You, But…

    funny-quotes-36Peter tells us in 1 Peter 4:8, “Love covers a multitude of sins.” A multitude, that is a bunch, and I’m very grateful for all of the people who love me enough to overlook many of the sins in my life. I’m thankful for a Savior who loved me enough to “cover” my sins with his sacrificial blood and to grant me salvation. But, I know that I’m not always as willing to offer this kind of “covering” love as I am to receive it.

    I have learned over the years that receiving unconditional love is much easier than offering unconditional love. The reason is probably because I find my sins much less offensive and perceive of myself as much more lovable than others. See, if I were pressed on the issue, I’d probably have to admit that deep down, I think I’m better than you, that’s why it can be so easy for me to judge you and yet expect you to love me. Of course, I’m not alone, you are probably the same way. And yet, God is not satisfied to leave us right where we are.

    Imagine all that he has done for us. Imagine all that we have been forgiven for. And then, think about the small things that we allow ourselves to grow angry over and for which we hold others accountable. “You cut me off in traffic…” Really? “She ignored me…” Seriously? “Don’t look at my kid that way…” You’ve got to be kidding.

    As a pastor, I speak publicly often, and I am thankful that I’m not held accountable for every misspoken word that has fallen out of my mouth (I one time called the people in my congregation “stingy jerks”). As a husband … Continue reading

    Aubrey’s First Deer and My Life Lesson

    IMG_2493I took Aubrey hunting on Saturday. Wyatt went the week before, and I have even been so brave as to take them both at the same time. Last year Wyatt and I shot two does in one evening and he learned how to track a wounded deer, load it, and properly care for it.  Saturday, Aubrey and I were blessed to kill a big 10 point buck (picture included). I consider both of these experiences out of the ordinary, not because taking them hunting is out of the ordinary, but because seeing deer when I take them hunting is out of the ordinary.

    IMG_8199-1My kids are not great hunters. They like the idea of hunting with daddy, but they do not like to be still and quiet, and they are not very keen on being in the woods after dark (we take multiple flashlights for a sense of security). When the kids talk about hunting, they usually tell people about all of the snacks they ate or about the chance to play a game on daddy’s phone. I do not expect to see deer, but that’s OK. I don’t take my kids hunting to see deer, I take them hunting to spend time with them. I get to be alone with them for the drive to our hunting property and back home, in addition to the time we spend in a deer stand. Even though they are getting older, when they get cold, they still cuddle with daddy and I’m transported to something close to heaven.

    Hunting with kids is all about expectation. If I expect to see deer, I’m probably going to to be frustrated. If, on the other hand, I expect to … Continue reading

    The Daily Docket (10/7/14)

    Ministry on the Edges– Here’s a piece I wrote for LifeWay about the importance of ministering around the edges of your church.

    What is Discernment– Sinclair Ferguson examines what discernment is and how it should be applied.

    Facing the Music with Jennifer Knapp– Trevin Wax reviews this new memoir and examines the ways that divorce can ravage a young child.

    Are You Intellectually Humble Enough?– This is a good checklist from Biola University’s Center For Christian Thought blog.