April 18, 2014

A Note to Newcomers

monk pray
I have noticed that we’ve been getting quite a few new readers and commenters over the past couple of months, so it’s probably the right time to do an iMonk 101 post restating who we are and what we are all about here at the strange and wonderful world that is the Internet Monk blog. Perhaps it might serve as good review for many of us “oldtimers” as well.

I’m Chaplain Mike, the lead writer. Jeff Dunn is our “Abbot” who oversees the blog. We have several excellent writers who contribute regularly and we often ask guests to contribute posts when we find their insights compelling. We put up at least one post each day, and often two. I write every day except on Thursdays and Saturday mornings, when Jeff weighs in. Our other writers and guest posters contribute when they can or when we solicit material from them. We also regularly feature articles from the archives by Michael Spencer, who founded the blog in 2000. He is, and always will be, the Internet Monk.

Anything you see here that is in red ink is a link. As a start, I encourage all newer visitors to Internet Monk to read the following posts:

To learn more about Chaplain Mike’s journey, I would suggest reading the following posts:

There are also a few key posts explaining why we do some of what we do here on Internet Monk and posts that will give you a good overall perspective of our founder, Michael Spencer’s outlook and approach:

If you would like a full-length treatment of Michael’s thinking, his book Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to Jesus-Shaped Spirituality will give you that. (BTW: the link takes you to Amazon, which is offering the book at a bargain price at this time).

monkposterOur Post-Evangelical Perspective at IM

Many of you have noticed that we often have a somewhat limited focus here on Internet Monk: our articles contain a lot of critiques of “evangelicalism,” especially the American variety. Our byline is “Dispatches from the Post-Evangelical Wilderness.” This reflects the fact that Michael Spencer and most of us who have been entrusted with carrying on his legacy have our roots in the world of American evangelical Christianity, but have also left it by one way or another.

If you would like to understand what we mean by “evangelical” and “post-evangelical,” I suggest you read: “Defining Terms: Evangelical and Post-Evangelical.”

In general, “evangelicalism” refers to the churches and Christian groups in revivalist traditions that gained ascendancy in the 1970′s through the 1990′s in the U.S. and developed an entire evangelical culture (described below). “Post-evangelicalism” refers to those who have become disenchanted with that religious culture and are seeking other ways. Many still find themselves in the “post-evangelical wilderness.”

The other day, I wrote the following to a commenter (it has been edited somewhat to flow better here):

When it comes to evangelicalism, we here at IM all know that your mileage may vary. Some of my best friends are in evangelical churches, and I know many fine congregations and good pastors.

The critiques in our articles generally focus on the public face of evangelicalism, particularly those who put themselves forward as spokespersons for Christianity, culture warriors, and those who dismiss historical traditions and practices in favor of do-it-yourself church. Frankly, we hardly even bother with the “fringes” anymore.

“Liturgy” is not our soap box [a critique often voiced in the comments], but matters of worship are and have always been central to the faith, and one of the ways that many of us came to see the deficiencies of revivalist evangelicalism was through participating in and leading services that purported to be “worship” but bore little resemblance to the way the church has worshiped over the centuries.

Most of us think we are at the end of an era. “Evangelicalism” had a great ascendancy in the 1970′s through the 1990′s in conjunction with conservative politics in the U.S. It was characterized by the church growth movement in its various forms, several charismatic movements, the “Christian-industrial complex” of media and publishing, culture war politics and social engagement, and a number of doctrinal battles over such matters as inerrancy, creationism, eschatology, at the same time that churches were “dumbing down” and becoming more pragmatic and less dogmatic. That entire culture of evangelicalism is in serious trouble, in our view. Michael’s most famous and widely disseminated posts were called “The Coming Evangelical Collapse.”

It is this culture and its characteristics, not necessarily any particular church, leader, or ministry that is usually our focus.

The reason many of us have fled to historic traditions is that we came to the conclusion that this “evangelical culture” has departed from historic Christian thought and practice in so many ways as to actually have become something new and different, with the power to disconnect people from important aspects of our family heritage. The historic traditions we have joined have many, many problems too. But since they also have the liturgy, the church year, institutional ballast, strong theological and pastoral traditions, and respect for the past, they at least don’t have the downside of being something recently created and autonomous.

long-road-walkingI hope this post will help clarify some of the questions our new readers have and provide fertile grounds for our continuing conversation.

Michael Spencer called himself “post-evangelical,” and to clarify that he would say that he had moved past present evangelical culture to seek a “broader, deeper, and more ancient” form of Christian faith. His book further describes his journey as being from“Churchianity” to a “Jesus-shaped spirituality.” 

That is the journey we’re on too.

So, whether you want to join us, debate us, criticize us, sympathize with us, or just hang around and listen to the conversation, we are glad you’ve started reading Internet Monk, and we hope God will use it in your life for good.

Comments

  1. Hey Mike, I did find a reference in 1999 referring to this site, so it is at least that old, but for the record, here is a link to the oldest archived version of the site from 2001. Amazing how much it has changed since then.

    http://web.archive.org/web/20010401152329/http://www.internetmonk.com/

  2. David Holt says:

    I found your Webbsite by accident and hope to become a regular reader.
    This mornings (14th January) “A note to newcomers” has been very helpful.
    One never knows the provenance of such sites. By the way I bought “Return of the Chaos Monsters” on your say so and it is fascinateing.
    David Holt

    • David Cornwell says:

      “I bought “Return of the Chaos Monsters” ”

      Same here, and am about half way through it. Excellent reading which will stretch one’s thinking. Hopefully.

  3. Wow. Just read your post “My Debt to Evangelicalism”. Very helpful in understanding where you are coming from Chaplain Mike. Thank you for your testimony.

    Also thank you for the other links. Looking forward to some reading this week. :)

  4. The reason many of us have fled to historic traditions is that we came to the conclusion that this “evangelical culture” has departed from historic Christian thought and practice in so many ways as to actually have become something new and different, with the power to disconnect people from important aspects of our family heritage. The historic traditions we have joined have many, many problems too. But since they also have the liturgy, the church year, institutional ballast, strong theological and pastoral traditions, and respect for the past, they at least don’t have the downside of being something recently created and autonomous.

    Very well said, Chap Mike. Reading my brain here, but stating the brainwaves so much clearer than I would have. Thanks.

  5. Those older posts bring back the memories…As a disillusioned pastor, iMonk made for a great companion, keeping me connected to my faith, and reminding me that we must love the Church, no matter how ugly the old girl gets sometimes, because Christ loved her and gave himself for her.

  6. I stumbled on this site in 2005 while doing a search for “Youth Ministry”. (Michael was a teacher at a private school.) I immediately sensed that Michael was on to something MUCH bigger than how to keep the kids coming to your next pizza night. This place (along with Michael’s podcasts) has been an ongoing blessing and encouragment.

    • His writing on youth ministry in particular was something I found extremely helpful for the 4-5 years I work in it. Unfortunately, many of his ideas and philosophies go over like a turd in a punch bowl at growth-oriented evangelical churches.

  7. I’ve been reading and commenting at iMonk off and on for the past 5+ years, though with long stretches of time where I’ve been more or less “absent.”

    Perhaps some of the other “new” commenters are actually old commenters in disguise? ;)

  8. Its probably a good idea to recognize that Evangelicalism does not necessarily look the same outside the USA. There is considerable variation, and we see that in the UK and Canada.

    For example there have been Evangelical Anglicans for several hundred years who have not necessarily embraced the ethos it has taken on in the USA. There has been some attempt to come up with a definition, and one has been put forth by Bebbington.

    http://www.evangelicalfellowship.ca/page.aspx?pid=775

    So I am not sure I am quite ready to say the death knell has sounded or will anytime soon. Even in the USA you have the Anglican Church of North America, and other Presbyterian groups that share some convictions with other Evans, but may not be fundamentalist, yet they are still solidly evangelical.

    • Ken, remember, it’s U.S. evangelicalism not evangelicals. We try to define terms carefully and if you will read the “defining terms” post that is linked in the post, you will see our distinctions.

      • I did go back and look at the defining terms, it was the link I did not look at!
        And I never the original, so thanks for pointing me there.

        • Wow, should have looked before sending!

          I went back and looked the defining terms, I had not looked at your link and had not read the original, so thanks for pointing me there.

          I think your situation in the US is different than some of the rest of the world. I do know that some of us evangelicals in Canada fight an uphill battle disassociating ourselves with some of the stuff in the USA.

          I have found it at times a serious barrier to dialogue because people now have all these opinions about Christianity that they have absorbed from watching the US media, many of those things are not true here, or if they are it is not as pervasive.

  9. Here is a paper by John Stackhouse in which he tries to define Evangelical in a way that encapsulates a broader definition:

    http://files.efc-canada.net/min/rc/cft/V01I01/Defining_Evangelical.pdf

    If you look it over carefully you will see that the following is not true: Evangelical implies fundamentalist

    although fundamentalists are likely Evangelical

    I wonder how many of us here would be Evangelical under Stackhouse’s definition?

    • Growing up fundamentalist (I attended Bob Jones), I would never identify as an evangelical as that smacked of thing too liberal. Things like being OK with charismatics in Africa and letting women go a bit far and letting in some Calvinist leanings. (Although I do think we could have a long discussion of “The Fundamentals” pamphlets that gave fundamentalism its name.)

      Now that I’m Episcopal, I think my parents would just love for me to identify as an evangelical and not an “almost-Catholic.”

  10. Rick Gibson says:

    I have been reading this site for a little bit, and have posted a few replies. Frankly, I have mixed feelings about your work, and I am not sure that I am going to keep checking in. Here is my problem. What I am looking for, as a Christian, is help going forward. My focus, in my church and in private, is upon letting Christ into my heart and letting Him transform me. I am not very good at it, but, compared to where I was a year ago, I am moving along. I find that, if we really ask Him, Christ does help us. What I really like at my church, The Church of Rocky Peak, in Chatsworth, CA, is that our pastor and our support team are focused upon helping each of us engage more seriously with Christ. I love the fact that our pastor actually knows something about how this work, and has things to say which actually help me move forward. He does things, like seminars on how to pursue God, how to love each other and how to serve sacrifically. As Christians, we are called upon to do all of these things, yet seldom do we get any practical teaching in HOW to do these things. I find it tremendously helpful to get that kind of guidance in church.

    And, frankly, that is the kind of focus I would like to see here. I would like to hear about what is working for people. I would like to hear about people’s struggles to be more Christ-like. I would like an internet community which shares knowledge on how to do this.

    You guys seem to have a similar perspective to mine, in some ways. I have to say, however, I am put off by how much negativity I read here. You guys write a good deal, not about how you are moving forward, but rather about how other Christians are not doing it right. There seems to be a good deal of Evangelical-bashing going on here. Frankly, I am not in a positon to know how true or justified any of this is. My personal experience is more in the Catholic and Episcopal Churches.

    I could, if I wanted to, say negative things about both of those Churches. I certainly encountered many things which made me resolve to look elsewhere for a church home. But what good would that do? How would it help anyone for me to bash other Christians? Maybe the experiences which I had, which I found wanting, would work well to bring someone else to Christ. If other sincere Christians say that something is working for them, who I am to pass judgment on them? I strongly prefer to praise what is working for me, and to pass over in silence the things that did not work for me as well.

    There are, of course, open scandals, where it is important that Christians speak out. The Catholic child abuse scandal leaps to mind in that category. It is certainly important that none of us participate in conspiracies of silence that let that sort of thing continue. But that is not really the kind of thing you guys are writing about.

    All in all, I would like to see you guys writing more about the positive alternative, and less about how bad the other guy is.

    • Rick, I hear you and understand where you are coming from. I’m trying to process all of this as well as an “evangelical”. I’m just beginning to research this info, but I think this is helpful in pointing out “positives” that a church should be:

      http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/defining-terms-evangelical-and-post-evangelical

      • Rick Gibson says:

        Joel. I took a look. I think that we are in a time and place where the labels are breaking down and becoming very confusing. If we want to speak so that others can understand us, I think we need to be specific about our own experience. As I read this site more, I get the sense that most writers here were brought up in an Evangelical mileu which was not particularly connected to the history or tradition of the larger Church. It seems that many of the writers here found their church experience superfical and have found a deeper experience by going to more traditional churches. I follow that. My own experience has been more or less the mirror opposite. In my childhood, the only strongly religious person was my Grandmother, who was a very unreconstructed pre-Vatican II Catholic. I very strong and very powerful memories of her taking me to Mass as a small child. My parents, however, were of the whole rebellious generation of Catholics that were always looking for the next Pope, who would, once and for all, toss out all of the medieval nonsense, get women priests and so forth and so on. As soon as we moved away from Grandma, needless to say, my parents stopped going to Mass. Since I insisted on going to Mass, anyway, my Dad eventually broke down and took me to Episcopal Church (“If you are going to insist on going to Church, at least we can go a socially respectable one, instead of that immigrant church!”) I found the Episcopal Church in the 1970s to be very peaceful, very quiet, to teach a bunch of abstractions and to not be life-changing in any way at all. Over the years, I went to the Episcopal Church, on occasion, but I found it to be more and more focused on liberal political issues and less and less focused on God. For a long time, religion was something private to me. I read many of the great mystics, such as St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa de Avila. I found basically no connection between my private reading and the churches that I had encountered. Some years ago, I had an impulse to get connected to a Church community. The first place I went was the Catholic Church. I have always loved the mass, and loved the liturgy. I found, however, that the church offered no way to penetrate more deeply into the faith. It basically invited me to show up, participate in the rituals and that was about it. While I was not down on any of that, I wanted something more. Frankly, some of the most lively and engaging forms of Christianity that I had encountered were some of the Evangelical ministries on the radio. I also found myself getting into contemporary Christian music such as Chris Tomlin. I started looking around. After a few stabs, I found a very congenial Church home at the Church of Rocky Peak. Frankly, I have very little idea how we fit into anything larger. We call ourselves non-denominational. Our mission statement is to unleash a passionate movement of Christ-followers. To my mind, Rocky Peak is obviously an Evangelical Church, but, to me, that phrase carries no negative baggage.

        I have to say, the problem that I have with the more traditional churches that I have encountered is two fold. First, I am sorry, but many of the mainstream churches have just simply and frankly given up preaching the Gospel and are instead pursuing a political and social agenda. I imagine this varies, church to church, within denominations, but I have seen a great deal of this. Second, so much of the time the attitude of the high churches toward the liturgy is that of tourists in a museum. I happen to love the music of J.S. Bach, but I think that Chris Tomlin, Jeremy Riddle and Hillsong are more appropriate for worship now. Why? Because, for most of us, Bach is beautiful, but emotionally distant. The contemporary music has far more immediacy.

        So, where I end up is, we live in a confusing and creative time. Many of the old lines are blurring and confusing. If your experience of the Evanglical Church is Jerry Falwell, OK, I can see why you would want to move on. But if your experience of more traditional churches is a lot of social and political liberalism, with very little Jesus, then you also want to move on. I have the great good fortune to have found a wonderful church. I hope that similar churches exist elsewhere, but, frankly, I do not know.

        • Thank you for sharing this. I can tell you are passionately seeking God’s Truth and following Jesus. My church sounds very similar to yours. Its a Calvary Chapel church and would probably be considered a “mega” here in Vancouver, Wa. http://www.crossroadschurch.net/. It’s a great community of believers. Big? Yes. Small groups? Yes. Liturgy? No. Christ and Bible-centered in making disciples. Yes.

          I think you are right about being specific because labels ARE breaking down and becoming confusing.
          As long as we are pursuing our Lord Jesus, that is the main and plain thing. God has given us the ability to discern for ourselves what is of Him and what isn’t.(2 Timothy 3:16-17) in our churches and within ourselves( Hebrews 4:12-13).

          • Rick Gibson says:

            Joel:

            I could not agree more. I, frankly, could hardly care less about the label a church uses, how big it is or other similiar issues. What I care about is, is this a community of people who are passionately seeking to conform themselves to Jesus Christ? If yes, nothing else matters. If no, nothing else matters.

          • Rick, this is an interesting comment, and one which I think exemplifies a difference many of us have come to see between the pietistic path of revivalistic evangelicalism and the more objective path of the historic traditions. While passion and zeal are admirable and desirable, they are not of the essence of what makes a church sound. If the Word is proclaimed and the sacraments given, Christ is there. The standard is not our passion.

            I know that is hard to accept for many. I remember someone who once told me that when looking for a church, he would search for “wherever the glory was.” As a result he moved from church to church to church. If our standard is the passion of the people, they will disappoint us every time.

          • Rick I just want to encourage you to keep following Jesus closely brother. I pray your wife will come to know Him as well. What a privilege it is to be able to show your wife the love and life in Jesus. God bless. :)

            And keep posting here too! :)

          • CM not sure who ever said the “standard” is passion? The standard is God’s Word. But since we are sinners saved by Jesus, who have emotions and a pulse, some of us will be passionately grateful for what He’s done for us…no matter what “mood” we are in.

        • Rick:
          I consider myself ‘post-evangelical’ and I’ve been following IM for a few years, yet I fail to find anything in your description of Rocky Peak to criticize. Just sayin’.

        • Rick G:

          I may know a bit of the tension that you are speaking of. Jesus came after me some years ago and I ended up in an evangelical denomination. For many years I felt that the best combination would be a combination of valuing tradition but an openness to some of what we have learned since the reformation (including the Holy Spirit).
          Throw in there a strange twist (for some), a willingness to learn and practice some of the spiritual disciplines that have stood the test of the years. I have been influenced by the Benedictines and things such as practicing silence, Meditative reading of scripture and observing the Christian Calendar.

          So a few years ago through an unusual chain of events I found myself in an Anglican Church of North America in Victoria British Columbia. I later met with the bishop of Western Canada and today we are involved in a church plant.
          We are not in the liberal stream but are a combination of low church evangelicals and anglo catholics! So we embrace the liturgy as a wonderful gift passed down to us but at the same time take the bible seriously and desire to have it dominate our hearts.

          We are not perfect by any means.

          As far as iMonk goes, it has been a great place for people to come and rest, and lick our wounds. We do get emotional about some of the issues and there is time for that. Many of us need to process the past and may have no where to do that, so Chaplain Mike and Jeff let us do that.

          For some it has played a good role in helping to get on a healthier footing. So I think we need to look at it in that light.

    • I have often had similar feelings to yours, Rick, regarding (perceived) negativity around here. Over time, though, I’ve come to realize that much of the negativity shows how damaged some of the people are who have wandered in here from the Post-Evangelical Wilderness. Because I haven’t been as damaged (in fact, I would say that overall my church experiences have been fairly health), my initial reaction to some posts is, “Why so negative, why so much bashing?” Now I try to back away from MY experiences and put myself in the shoes of those burned by Christianity, and this usually (not always) helps me look at the negativity differently. As you say, though, I’d like to see more CONSTRUCTIVE criticism. That, to me, would help.

      By the way, Rick…I encourage you to remain a reader and commentor. I have sometimes taken a position counter to the general consensus (my defense of Francis Chan comes to mind) and find those discussions to be challenging, civil and beneficial. This is a great community of FOLLOWERS OF JESUS.

      • Rick Gibson says:

        Rick Ro:

        I have been posting comments, because, while I find more negativity than I would like, I also find here an intelligent engagement with Christ, and a civil discussion. It is a difficult issue, how does one properly engage with the damage done by destructive forms of Christianity? It is, of course, important to be able to speak, and ot have others listen, about past bad experiences. On the flip side, it is always easier to complain about how the other guys are screwing up, than it is to build something constructive yourself.

        I have an interesting slant on this issue, because my wife is an Israeli Jew. To her, ALL Christians are simply the enemy, the relentless and merciless persecutors of her people. In the last few years, as I have come very seriously to Christ, this has presented a difficult issue. She often feels that I am preaching to her, and trying to convert her, which she pretty much equates with genocide. What I have found, over time, is that the best way to communicate with her about it is to stay away from overt preaching. Instead, I am focused on transforming myself, through Christ, into a better person. She is seeing it. She will not come to church with me, but she is glad that I go, because she can see that I am visibly and clearly a better husband and better father because I have come to Christ. I think this is what we have to do. We have to focus, first, upon transforming ourselves. Instead of having an aggressive sales pitch to over people, we need to change ourselves so much that other people start to ask, “What do you have, and how can I get some?”

      • I would say that most weeks the ratio is about 5:1 positive vs. critical posts. You’d have to factor in, though, that the critical posts generate more feedback and discussion.

        • Rick Gibson says:

          Chaplain Mike:

          And let me be quick to add, as Rick Ro has correctly pointed out, that the discussion seems to be both civil and intelligent. As the well-known incident of Jesus throwing tables in the Temple indicated, a little negativity now and again is sometimes called for.

          Maybe here is the difference between me and some others here. I am still fairly new at being a serious Christian, and I live in an environment — LA — where I am usually surrounded by non-Christians and non-believers, of every variety. To me, serious Christianity is a new and exciting thing, something fresh and different that the world around us seems to badly need. So, I am focused on being a light to other people, most of whom are non-Christian, as best as I can. I get the sense that most folks who write here are in a very different place. You seem surrounded by people who call themselves Christian, but whose commitment to the Lord is superfical and filled with hypocrisy of one sort and another. Frankly, I think you guys are in the tougher place. It is easier to be a follower of Christ, in an environment where it is rare, then it is to be a Christ-follower, in an environment where most people think they are Christian, but are not really. I get it.

          • Rick, I would not say I am “surrounded by people who call themselves Christian, but whose commitment to the Lord is superficial and filled with hypocrisy of one sort and another.” I’m not really in the habit of judging people like that.

            Again, our focus here is on the culture of evangelicalism.

          • Rick Gibson says:

            Mike:

            I am not sure that I get that. To me, the proper focus of all Christians is upon following our Lord. I am not sure how a focus upon the culture of evangelicalism is a proper focus for Christians. You make it sound like anthropology or social science. I think that Christians should support each other in the Lord. If some have strayed, then following the example of Paul in Cornithians, we should carefully and with discretion offer Christian counsel and guidance. Am I missing something here?

          • scrapiron says:

            Rick, I don’t think CM is saying that the focus of his life is on the culture of evangelicalism. I think he is referring to the IM blog. When something is wrong, somebody needs to step up and say so and IM has been doing that for years.

        • scrapiron says:

          This might be a weird test of your positive/negative ratio estimate, CM.

          For a quite a while during the last few years I have been really bitter and angry about the way evangelicalism has messed up my life. Because of that, I was only interested in reading the negative stuff, because it affirmed me and let know know that there were other people out there who thought like me. However, I almost stopped reading, because way too many of the posts were just too positive.

          Thank God I am in a much better place now, but my experience confirms, in a sort of negative way, that this blog is actually pretty positive.

  11. A general theme here on IM is a criticism of the “mega” church

    Real quick, how many people would qualify as a “mega” church?

    And what happens if a small church remains Christ-centered and preaches God’s Word and starts to grow into a “mega” church?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Real quick, how many people would qualify as a “mega” church?

      Real quick, how many hairs define a beard?

      I would say a few hundred is definitely NOT and many thousand definitely IS. The dividing line is not hard-and-fast, and varies from congregation to congregation.

      And what happens if a small church remains Christ-centered and preaches God’s Word and starts to grow into a “mega” church?

      Then it had better keep a sharp eye out for the Troop-Size Limit, where individuals blur into a single abstract collective whole. Where their deaths cease to be tragedies and only become a numeric statistic.

      • For instance, our church is a “mega” but does a great job welcoming people into a community of believers. We have pastors that minister to specific needs. Our small groups are a great way to connect within our community and soon a big world becomes small. All one big group growing in God’s Word and following Jesus.

        I know I might be misunderstanding, but the criticism of “megas” sometimes makes it sound like our church should start turning people away at the door.

        • Rick Gibson says:

          Joel:

          I have exactly the same experience. I am not sure if our church counts as a mega. We are at about 2,000 and rising quickly. We also have small groups, which are very serious and very welcoming. We have a staff of pastors, who respond quickly to needs to every type. In our large church meetings, we have a very uncompromising pastor, who holds our feet to the fire and insists that we take God’s Word with the utmost seriousness. Particularly given that we function in an otherwise fairly Godless environment, I personally would like nothing better than to see our church double and triple in size, as long as we keep out comittment to what we are doing.

    • Real quick, how many people would qualify as a “mega” church?

      Does the pastoral staff each know a majority of the congregants? Assuming they’ve been on board for a year or so. Now you might not know the name of every single adult or child but you do know the family as a group and likely the names of the adults.

      If not, it’s a functioning mega church. If they do know the people, it is not a mega.

      As a practical matter this means you’re very likely a mega if your weekly attendance is 1000 or more.

      • Thanks David. So its not so much the number of people as it is how well the “shepherds” in the church are tending to the “sheep”.

  12. “Rick, this is an interesting comment, and one which I think exemplifies a difference many of us have come to see between the pietistic path of revivalistic evangelicalism and the more objective path of the historic traditions. While passion and zeal are admirable and desirable, they are not of the essence of what makes a church sound. If the Word is proclaimed and the sacraments given, Christ is there. The standard is not our passion.

    I know that is hard to accept for many. I remember someone who once told me that when looking for a church, he would search for “wherever the glory was.” As a result he moved from church to church to church. If our standard is the passion of the people, they will disappoint us every time.”

    If I may add one more thing Chaplain Mike, in response to this statement, it seems like you are either making false assumptions about our churches or you are just not coming out and saying that the Lutheran Church is the only place Christ is. Our church takes communion and baptizes. Our Pastors preach and minister from God’s Word and exhort us to obedience and faith in Jesus. Who are you to tell us we are not on an objective path? How do you know? This seems extremely presumptuous and a little arrogant.

    This isn’t the first time you’ve done this and I find it a little dismissive.

    • scrapiron says:

      Quoting CM directly, “If the Word is proclaimed and the sacraments given, Christ is there.”

      How does this even begin to hint that the Lutheran church is the only place Christ is?

      • Because it seemed like this statement was made in CONTRAST to Ricks church. I guess I misunderstood this.

    • Joel, relax, I’m only responding to one specific statement, which asserted: “What I care about is, is this a community of people who are passionately seeking to conform themselves to Jesus Christ? If yes, nothing else matters. If no, nothing else matters.”

      I was trying to gently suggest that some of us have come to care about something else, and that to us it does matter. My statement reflects a lively debate that has been going on between pietism and more “objective” approaches for centuries. I tried to state my position in such a way that it would provoke discussion. Guess that didn’t work, huh?

      This was not a wholesale dismissal of all evangelical churches or an assertion that the Lutheran church is the “one true church.”

      • Chaplain Mike, I respect your opinion. Which is why I don’t understand your assessment of his statement. In contrast to his prior experience in churches, he has found a community of people who are “passionately seeking to conform themselves to Jesus Christ.” You contrasted this to a more “objective” approach. Which seems to imply that the previous approach is “subjective” , which seems to imply that Biblical Truth doesn’t matter to this approach. This is why I take offense at your reply to his statement. I understand you are trying to encourage a discussion, but it comes across to like he isn’t concerned with objective Truth. I’m not sure how you can draw that conclusion. Why is it one way or the other ?

      • Chaplain Mike, sorry I “lost it” here. I see what you are saying now. You’re making sure our churches are based on God’s Word and not on “enthusiasm”. My bad. Apologies.

  13. IM has become a daily part of my life. Sometimes I just can’t go to bed until CM gets the new post up. I’m still working out a lot of stuff. My life these past 4 years has really changed, about 60 to 70% off my evangelical friends are gone and I have had new ones that I’ve grown close to. They are now all across the board. I’m popping up in churches trying to talk with pastors, etc… to discuss the problem of evil, etc… and its still hard.

    • Eagle, I think it is always hard, tho there are times of refreshment along the Way. Jesus spoke of the narrow path and used the metaphor of picking up your cross before demonstrating just how literal that could become. Perhaps you agree with me that what we are discussing here is the search for Truth.

      There are a lot of facets to that Diamond. They all work within their particular context, even as they often contradict each other within a larger context. It seems to me that progress is made as we go step by step getting closer to God and the Oneness that Jesus prayed for near the end. There are many paths available. Jesus had a lot to say about them. It seems to me that his prime directive was, “Follow Me!”

      In my experience, the lessons start getting real when it dawns on you that, “Hey, I can’t do this!” Will power and human strength and the intellect take you to the point where you either ask for help, or you don’t. That help can come from flesh and blood teachers or dead ones on paper, or even thru pixels like this. Ultimately it comes from God and it has to resonate with your spirit to take you forward. Even the negative experiences can help point the Way if you don’t stop to wallow. God bless your journey.