The Problem with Pietism

Last night, I was at a public conversation between two evangelicals (more on that soon). After the the dialogue, there there was a private gathering for the interlocuters and some others, with a table of finger food and a few bottles of wine.

The evangelical leaders didn’t drink any wine. One looked at the wine in my hand and made a comment to the effect of, “Looks good; wish I could have some.” I took that as a challenge and spent the rest of the evening trying to ply him with wine or get him to join us at the Town Hall Brewery afterwards. He didn’t bite, nor did the supporters of his ministry who surrounded him.

At one point I exclaimed, “You know, you can love Jesus and drink wine!” to which he chuckled uncomfortably. He then told me a story about a very famous evangelical leader who sent the organization’s custodian to the store to buy his wine.

I didn’t grow up in cultural evangelicalism, nor in pietism, so I can’t quite say that I understand from an insider’s perspective. However, I’ve been told about it. The pietistic behavior among evangelicals is an attempt to maintain “holiness,” as exhorted in biblical passages like,

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Megachurches Make You High

According to a new study, attending worship at a megachurch is similar to getting high:

By: Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer

Published on LiveScience

DENVER — More and more Americans are spending their Sundays at megachurches, enormous churches with congregations numbering in the thousands. Despite the size of these churches, members don’t get lost in the crowd, new research finds.

In fact, a new study of 12 representative megachurches spread across the country finds that the size of these churches is a major part of their appeal. Members report that the experience of worshiping with thousands is intoxicating, the researchers find.

“It’s an addicting experience, it’s so large, it’s so huge,” said study researcher Katie Corcoran, a graduate student in sociology at the University of Washington. “One respondent said you can look up to the balcony and see the Holy Spirit go over the crowd like a wave in a football game.”

Read the rest: Megachurch Study Suggests Big Congregations Make Worship ‘Intoxicating’ Experience.

I have been to megachurches, of course, and they always make me cynical. But I’m sure that some readers happily attend them, so tell us what you like about your megachurch.

9/11 – Time to Get Along

In my most recent posts about Sri Lanka, and in an OpEd in Saturday’s StarTribune, I’ve been reflecting on how Christians, when we’re in the minority, seem to act better. Now, it was just one experience in one country, but it was striking.

Today, the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the U.S., is a good day to reflect on how we deal with those of other religions. Was 9/11 a religious attack? At least in part it was. Religious extremists, to be sure, but religious nonetheless. (And there are extremists in Christianity, too.)

On the occasion of this anniversary, there is a new book that I think will help many Christians think through how they maintain their Christian identity — even uniqueness — in an increasingly pluralistic world.

This is not a book about interfaith dialogue. This is a book about Christian identity. It’s Brian McLaren’s new book, Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?: Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World.

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Why Homeschoolers Don’t Understand “Missional”

As expected, homeschool advocates have turned out in force to defend and justify their decision to homeschool in response to my (provocatively titled) post, “Death to Homeschooling!

Therein, I argued,

So it seems to me that to withdraw my children from public education is to not play my (God-given) role as a missional member of society — like I can’t just choose to withhold my taxes. We give our children all those vaccinations when they’re young not necessarily to protect themfrom polio (since the chances of any one of my children getting it is exceedingly small) but because we live in a society, and part of the contract within the society is that we will never again let polio gain a foothold.

That thinking garnered comments like this one, from Wendy,

That’s a ridiculous article. I have homeschooled for 20 years (26, 24, and 13yr old girls). You DO NOT need to be in the public school to be a witness for Jesus Christ. My girls affected everyone they came into contact with in the neighborhood, township sports, etc. They unashamedly shared Jesus. If you think your kids will have a great influence IN the public schools, think again as your elementary school child has to put a condom on a banana (as the public schooled kids in our neighborhood did). Meanwhile, at home my girls were being given a Godly education – they understand God’s Word, they understand worldviews, they read GOOD books. Invaluable! If you don’t give that to your kids, you will be sorry. I have seen plenty of Christians who think like you do, and their kids are not in a good place now with the Lord. I seriously don’t think you know what you are talking about.

What Wendy and other commenters don’t seem to understand is that, when I use the term “missional,” I don’t mean “sharing Jesus.” At least, I don’t mean it like she means it. I’m not talking about evangelism.

Missional does not mean evangelism. Missional means showing Christlike compassion to other human beings and to all of creation. Here are the two biblical passages that bring me to my definition of missional:

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