Is it reasonable to believe in God? If there is a God, how do we go about getting to know him / her / them? Has science ruled out the possibility that God exists?
These are a few of the questions that people who are seeking tend to ask. When someone is seriously asking these questions it is helpful to gently and lovingly point out their blind spots so they are able to see all the possibilities.
The Ignorance of Tolerance
Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions.” GK Chesterton
Tolerance is a desirable virtue. Someone who is tolerant is someone who is peaceful and respectful of other’s beliefs and values.
However, we can be peaceful and respectful and still point out flaws. In fact, it is a loving thing to point out that it is a bad thing to harm yourself or others in the name of religion, for example.
Most people simply go along with tolerance as an ideal because it is the foundation of our society (when it comes to various religions) because it is the path of least resistance.
There is a debate about whether the church should be an organism or an organized institution.
Rather than find a healthy balance, there is a tendency for the two sides to run to the extremes. As a result, those who debate the issue stake their claim on one extreme and attack the other rather than finding the strengths of the other’s position.
It’s okay to be organized. It’s okay to be organic. The problem comes when a church becomes overly organized or overly organic.
The Overly Organized Church
The overly organized church borrows more from the business world than from the Bible.
The overly organized church has flawless policy manuals. They establish structures and systems and, for the most part, everything runs smoothly.
The overly organized church hires a Pastor/CEO to oversee the systems and structures and boards and committees. If he fails the task then he is fired and a search committee is formed. Resumes are vetted to determine if this person has the necessary business acumen to lead the organization effectively.
How do you find a good Bible translation? Well, it depends on what language you speak. If you speak English, I can recommend the Holman Christian Standard Bible. It’s my choice of the modern translations because it is accurate, it is readable, and it is not as theologically biased as some translations tend to be.
If you aren’t satisfied with my recommendation then I will happily point you to Mark Strauss and Gordon Fee’s book entitled, How to Choose a Translation For All Its Worth.
The problem of choosing a translation in English is a minor problem. If you grab an NIV or an HCSB or an ESV or even the older KJV you will be reading the Truth (just don’t fall into the trap thinking that The Message is a translation!). There are nuances where a word choice could have been more precise or might have captured the original meaning more clearly, but it’s a minor problem that is solved by careful exegesis of the text.
There are bigger problems to worry about.
Bible Translations Needed
What if you don’t speak English? Well, there are Bible translations in 4,516 languages. There are even some languages that also have numerous versions to select from, though I don’t know if it is to the extent of the selection in the English language.
I’ve never been able to remember what an “Ebenezer” is. It always bothered me when a song leader would say something about “raising an Ebenezer” in the middle of a worship set and confuse 90% of the congregation (much less the outsiders who are visiting that day).
I don’t think I’ll ever forget what Ebenezer means again.
Samuel and Ebenezer
I want to briefly share two stories. One is a recent experience of God’s faithfulness to us and one is a story of God’s faithfulness to a group of Israelites who were huddling together in fear in a town called Mizpah nearly 3,000 years ago.
With the threat of attack by the Philistine’s, Samuel the prophet reminded the Israelites to abandon their worship of other gods and to worship and serve the One True God.
This post is part of The Disciple Making Preacher series. This series attempts to answer those who are against preaching and to propose that preaching is an irreplaceable means of disciple making in the church today.
The prophets of doom in today’s Church are confidently predicting that the day of preaching is over. It is a dying art, they say, an outmoded form of communication, ‘an echo from an abandoned past’. John Stott
Modern forms of communication have had a profound effect on preaching, preachers, and parishioners today.
Some preachers have shortened their messages to cater to the dwindling attention spans of their people. Others have supplemented their sermons with video clips and other visual aids in preaching.
But perhaps worst of all, there are those who have decided that preaching is completely outdated and must be replaced altogether. While supplementing a sermon with video or drama on occasion is not inherently bad, supplanting the sermon completely is a big problem.
A Media-Saturated Problem
The average American watches nearly 5 hours of video each day on TV’s, phones, and computers according to the latest Nielsen Cross-Platform Report.
The average YouTube video is 2 to 3 minutes. Most hour long TV shows might have 6 or 7 commercial breaks.
Hollywood movies have even found a mathematical formula that lets them match the effects of their shots to the attention spans of their audiences.