Rick Advises Pastors

I think that Rick Bennett is one of the most under-appreciated emergbloggers around.  Today he’s decided to dole out some advice to pastors.  He and his family have been looking for a church, so he knows of what he speaks.  A few of my faves:

3. Wear shirts that fit. Don’t raid Ed Young, Jr.’s wardrobe. Please. Heck, put on a freakin‘ suit if you need to. And, if you like those tight shirts, lose weight.

17. Offer some snacks and coffee, but don’t brag about it. Wow! You have
Starbucks. I will now come to your church. I mean, you just saved me
$2.00 per week. What a bargain. Conversely, if you have fair trade (and
you should!), let us know. And, don’t just offer fattening donuts. You
are a church and gluttony is a sin.

21. If you actually value the place of women in your church, give them
something to do besides greeter, nursery or back up singer. Your words
betray you.

And last… stop trying to make your church seem so cool. It is
not. It is church. Church does not equal cool. Your marketing should be
honest, not an attempt to show how cool and “with it” you are. The more
you try, the worse you look. Just tell us who you are and invite us
along for the ride. I have seen too many churches trying to be cool and
being inauthentic. If you are a suburb church, don’t act like a city
church. If you are all suburbanites, we will notice when you move your
church into the city to be edgy and then drive home to suburbia. If you
don’t like poor people, justice and art do not fake it just to make us
come to your church. You have turned important things into marketing
points and propaganda. We notice when you are faking it, probably before you do.

Do People Still Hit their Kids?

Yes, they do.  It’s called “spanking.”  Here’s the premise: In order to improve your children’s behavior, you hit them.  Makes virtually no sense, right?  Well, that’s exactly what a new study confirmed: Children who were spanked tend to be more aggressive as they grow up.

But leave it to FOX News to provide a “fair and balanced” debate.  If you take the time to watch this short video, you tell me if you think the host’s questions are “fair and balanced.”

Emerging Church Round-Up

There’s been some pretty good stuff floating around the interwebs recently on emergent/ing church movement.  I wrote about my experience at the Christian Book Expo last week.  Meanwhile, there was an historic meeting of over 900 at the first-ever Catholic-Emergent meet-up in Albuquerque.  Jonathan Brink was the intrepid reporter on-the-ground for Emergent Village:

What then followed really surprised me. We spent almost thirty
minutes in a round table talk. The average age at my table was 50 and
Catholic. It was incredible hearing the voices from those in the
Catholic church on how they saw the Protestant Reformation. Some quotes

1. We’re so worried about abortion that we’re missing the fact that there are wars going on.
2. Our church is being thrown into total chaos over the GLBT issue.
3. Emergence is going from exclusionary to inclusionary.
4. Words of how we feel: hopeful, excited, searching, human, very excited, energized, thankful.
5. We see you Protestants as having been distracted over the last 500 years.
6. (a Catholic) We’re just now discovering we can read the Bible for ourselves.
7. I’m learning to debunk the myths of my own faith.
8. It’s nice to talk about who the central authority is: Jesus.

Mike Todd reflected on the event on the plane ride home:

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What Is Practical Theology? Part Eight

After an all-to-lengthy excursion into interdisciplinary method,
it’s time to get back into the four core tasks of practical theology.
Having been through the descriptive and empirical moments, the third
moment of PT is the normative moment.

It is now, after gathering data and using the best of several
disciplines to interpret that data, that the practical theologian makes
normative claims for the life of the church. Often, practical theology
is in conversation with the other volumes of the “theological
encyclopedia” at this time, consorting with the likes of biblical
studies, systematic theology, and church history.

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What Is Practical Theology? Part Seven

OK, this is the final part of what was meant to be a brief tangent. But Jimmy brings up an important caveat in his comment
below. My not-so-hypothetical situation of a troubled teen in the
school counselor’s office was sanitized of the real-life complications
of power. Being a trained
social worker, and a special ed. teacher, Jimmy knows the power
dynamics at work in a situation like this. It should come as no
surprise that the pediatrician will come out on top in this hierarchy;
not only does she have the most schooling, but physicians — and the
scientific reasoning they employ — are highly regarded in our society.
In contrast, social workers, psychologists, and youth pastors are often
seen as dealing in data that is “soft,” over against the “hard”
scientific data of a physician.

However, the postmodern, hermeneutic turn has done a great service,
for it has leveled the playing field. Even the “hardest” scientific
data is rife with agendas and money from pharmaceutical companies. In
other words, no one is capable of delivering a straight, objective
account of what’s going on with this boy.

There’s been lots of good work done by postmodern theoreticians about power dynamics. The most famous theorist of power is Michel Foucault; I think that Pierre Bourdieu
also deserves serious consideration. Both attempt to deal honestly with
power dynamics at play whenever human beings are attempting to
negotiate a situation, and both are downright pessimistic about the
possibilities of getting through power to the other side. Of course,
they’re both lacking the Christian hope that God might have a hand in
this negotiation…

Christian Book Expo: My View

I’d been waiting for Publisher’s Weekly to file a report on the Christian Book Expo of last weekend, and now they have.  Marcia Nelson begins with this ominous lede,

Stacks of unsold books and glum publishers stood for three days inside
the cavernous Dallas Convention Center this past weekend at the
Christian Book Expo, a first-of-its-kind event designed to connect
publishers and authors directly with readers in the evangelical
Christian market. Only problem was there were few readers to connect
with, despite the show’s location in Dallas, the buckle of the Bible
Belt and a top market for Christian publishers. The show, sponsored by
the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, attracted 1,500
consumer attendees; it had hoped for 15,000-20,000. 

My experience there is reflective of Nelson’s report.  I was on a panel about the “emerging church” sponsored by Christianity Today and moderated by Mark Galli.  My fellow panelists were Scot McKnight, Kevin DeYoung, and Alex & Brett Harris.

We were in a room with probably 700 chairs, and there might have been 100 people in attendance.  The discussion on our panel wasn’t all that energetic, with the only real juju coming when Scot accused Kevin and his co-author, Ted Kluck, of being “uncharitable” in their book on why they’re not emergent.  Galli interjected that McKnight was crossing a line in calling DeYoung uncharitable, but McKnight persisted, arguing that by knowingly misrepresenting their opponents, DeYoung and Kluck are, by definition, uncharitable.


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What Is Practical Theology? Part Six

OK, I’ll start with a concrete situation in order to illustrate the promise of “tranversal rationality.”

[UPDATE: This is a hypothetical
situation; the "boy" is meant to represent a concrete situation or
problem. Another analogy could be, for instance, all the people who
together had to decide what to build on the site of the World Trade

You’re a youth pastor, and you get
a call from the guidance counselor at the local public high school; she
wants you to come to a consultation. There’s a boy in your youth group
who is really struggling in school — and in life — and the school is
calling together a group of people to brainstorm about what can be done
to help him.

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Are Academic Theologians Useless?

I’ve posted on that question over at Religion Dispatches.

We’re at a turning point, right now, because of a confluence of two
events: 1) the MSM has finally figured out that 3/4s of American’s are
religious, and 2) the Religious Right has lost its monopoly in the
public square.

Read the rest.

A Conversation at the Christian Book Expo

Following my panel discussion, about which I will report soon, I was approached by a well-dressed guy wearing name badge that identified him on the staff with the Institute for Creation Research, an organization with which I was not familiar.  Here’s how it went:

Guy: Did that other panelist say that you think gays can be Christian?

Me: I’m on the record on my blog. I believe that gay marriage is a lifestyle that can be biblically virtuous.

How can you say that?

Do you make women wear head coverings in your church?

Well, I’m not married and I don’t have daughters, so I’m not in authority over any women.

Seriously, did you just say that?

But if I were in authority over women, I guess I would.

Well, if you were a pastor or elder at a church, would you make women wear head coverings?

I have a friend who’s a pastor…

I’m asking you.  Not your friend.  It’s a yes or no question.  If you were a pastor or elder of a church would you make women cover their heads to pray, remove their braids, and not wear gold?

I guess I haven’t really studied that, so I don’t know.

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What Is Practical Theology? Part Five

How does one navigate the pluralism of our world today?

There’s a lot at stake in this question. Currently, there are only
a few options available to Christians in a
globalized/pluralistic/postmodern society: liberal accomodationism,
conservative retreatism, Hauerwasian sectarianism, and the newcomer:
Milbankian (Radical Orthodoxy) withdrawal into the liturgy.

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