The Gospel according to ‘The Shack’…

The Shack.jpgThis past weekend, the movie adaptation of the best selling book ‘The Shack’ was released. The movie (and the book) tells a story of trauma, tragedy, and loss, and explores several questions that most everybody asks at different times in their life. And because of the familiarity and popularity of the book inside of the church and Christian world, many churches, mine included, had formal and informal group outings to watch and (hopefully) discuss the themes of the movie. So I wanted to take some time and share my thoughts about the central questions and themes of the book and movie.

However, I also want to pause and acknowledge that the story also carries some controversy. There are concerns that the story lends itself, intentionally or unintentionally, toward poor theology. And while I agree that there are those elements within the story, I don’t think they’re the central themes. Questions of universalism, karma, and atonement theory are certainly raised, but not nearly given the same attention as pain, suffering, justice, and God’s place in all of those things. This story doesn’t seek to systematically rewrite theology – it’s an exploration of the existential questions; the ‘here and now’ stuff.

So with that being said, here are some thoughts on ‘The Shack’. SPOILERS Continue reading

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Wanted – Christianity, Very Used…

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You can do a lot in the world of online garage sales. You can have auctions, sell some of your own stuff, and even place a ‘Wanted’ ad if you’re in the market for something. It’s recommended that you include a ‘condition’ (usually new, gently used, used, etc.) in the description to help people figure out if they should respond. So, for example, if I wanted a dining room table, and I was comfortable with a couple of dings or scratches, I might put out an ad like this:

‘Wanted – Dining Room Table, New or Gently Used’

Over the last few years, I’ve watched as Christianity and culture seem to get further and further from each other. And while I certainly don’t know all of the reasons why the walls of the church get higher, so to speak, each year, I do have an idea or two.

Many in the church seem to be trying to ‘collect’ their Christianity, in the same way as any other collector would. Churches seem to serve as large display cases or china cabinets for pristine figures, comics, or dishes. They seem to be concerned with preserving the quality of their wares instead of fully using them.

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Here are a couple of thoughts on ‘collecting’ Christianity: Continue reading

Who Moved My Stuff…

A little over two weeks ago, I got married. And after taking our honeymoon, my wife and I moved back into my our house and began to settle into a “new normal”. For the first couple of days, the house was an absolute wreck, what with wedding gifts, luggage, and another persons stuff to put into the house I had been living in. But over the next few days, my wife and I got the rooms organized, began a garage sale pile, and went shopping for some things. Slowly but surely, the mess got sorted and put away, and the house became our home. There was just one problem:

I didn’t know where half my stuff was.

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Now, I was mentally prepared for things to get moved around. I knew that the kitchen would get reorganized from the way I had it. I knew the bathroom was going to need to get rearranged. And I knew the bedroom was going to moved around.

What I was unprepared for was the amount of emotional attachment I had to misc things and their places. The sofa was always under the windows, but not anymore. Never mind that I like the new lay out, it’s just weird. My cereal was always on the counter, not the cabinet above the fridge.

All of these small changes got me thinking about how someone’s life changes when they first become a Christian. Here are a few ways being a newly wed is like being a new Christian: Continue reading

How to pray w/out stopping…

Way back when, the apostle Paul wrote a couple of letters to the Thessalonians (Thessaloopians if you’re a Veggietales fan). Near the end of the first letter, Paul tells the reader to “pray without stopping” (1 Thess. 5:17). And without fail, every time this phrase gets brought up at a Bible study or Sunday school, everyone in the class turns to me and asks: “Preacher, how do we do this?”

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The implication is that we as people don’t have time to pray throughout our entire day. We have families, careers, and numerous other things that all clamor for our attention, so we can’t just stay home and pray all day, every day. What about when we’re eating, or sleeping, or going to the bathroom?

So here are a couple of my thoughts on praying without stopping: Continue reading

6 Things Pastors Should Look For In Their Community…

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Every community, from the smallest village to the largest city, has a character all its own. One of the most important things a pastor or ministry leader can do is understand that character. It will tell you what ministries are needed and how your church could go about initiating them. And with so many United Methodist pastors settling into their new appointments, I thought this would be a good time to share 6 things to help you learn about your community. (For the record, you can be in year twenty of your ministry at a church and still benefit from these.)

As a point of citation, the points (in bold) are the work of Michael Mata, and the questions are the work of Michael Frost, who is a professor of Missiology and my additions.

So here are six things you should look at to understand your community: Continue reading