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Thoughts from the Energion Tuesday Night Hangout: Stewardship and Worship

Thoughts from the Energion Tuesday Night Hangout: Stewardship and Worship

books tuesday 020216I enjoyed interviewing three different Energion authors last night. The first was Rev. Steve Kindle who talked about stewardship and the importance of starting from an understanding that everything belongs to God. Steve provided some practical steps that a church can use in caring for all of God’s creation. Steve’s book goes into this somewhat more: Stewardship: God’s Way of Recreating the World.

At about 7:30 pm, a half hour into the program, Dr. Jon Dybdahl joined us. Jon is the author of a newly released book Hunger: Satisfying the Longing of Your Soul. When he experienced this longing as a young missionary he started to pursue the presence of God and co-taught a class in college in spirituality. Jon’s PhD is in Old Testament, but he has a passion for serious worship.

For the last 15 minutes, he was joined by Dr. David Moffett-Moore. Dave is author of Pathways to Prayer, and has two doctorates, both a PhD and a DMin. It was interesting and challenging to hear two men with so much education of the mind nonetheless tell us that the intellectual paradigm of religion was not enough. Prayer is an essentially. Coming to know the reality of God’s presence and power is essential.

When I asked Dr. Jon Dybdahl how one would start this in a church as a pastor or other church leader he said the best way was to see your own need and start practicing it yourself. People will sense when your activities in leadership are powered by prayer and time with God whether you’re telling them all about what you’re doing or not. He also suggested a change in terminology that struck me, suggesting we might use “lead worshipper” rather than “worship leader” to take away the separation of the one on the platform from the ones in the pew.

The video is embedded below:

Aim It at Yourself First

Aim It at Yourself First

One of the key things I say in teaching Bible study is: “Aim it at yourself first.”

Now that’s a hard one to follow, and it doesn’t mean one can never discover what a text means for someone else. Rather, it’s a focus. I need to look at what I need to change. You need to look at what you need to change. But, of course, with the second sentence, I’m aiming it at you!

Nonetheless, if I look at myself first, I think I will tend to be less judgmental.

This focus is also important in the participatory Bible study method for which this blog is named. In fact, there is little new in Bible study, and little new in the method except for the emphasis on sharing. I imagine some wonder how “sharing” has to do with aiming it at yourself first. That’s because many of us are used to hearing the word “sharing” with reference to telling other people what we know.

But sharing can and should be much more than that, not to mention less of that. Sharing is a form of accountability. Academics are acquainted with this type of sharing. One of the things I miss from graduate school is how easy it was to find someone who was studying a similar subject to mine. I could then present them with some idea I had, and they’d tear it apart. As a result, I’d be able to refine, or possibly discard my idea before wasting too much time.

People outside of academic circles come up with ideas all the time from their Bible study. Sometimes they just dismiss them, assuming they can’t possibly know something the author of their Sunday School literature didn’t know. Other times, they build up a list of eccentric ideas that haven’t been tested.

You can avoid either of these results by sharing. That means talking to other people about your ideas and listening to what they say. It means finding people who are not in your inner circle, who might think very differently, and hearing their point of view. Listening doesn’t mean you accept everything you hear. It just means you hear it, take the time to understand it, and then evaluate it, and your own ideas in light of it.

Now for a link. Pete Enns posted today on the difference between a spiritual journey and a religious journey. He’s talking about just one key, but I think he has an excellent point. I think you’ll see how it relates. His title is Losing My Religion (At Least That’s the Plan).

Quick Note on (Biblio)blogging

Quick Note on (Biblio)blogging

I note quite a debate around the blogs I read regarding just what is a biblioblog. For a long time, this blog was listed as a “related” blog, then a few months ago was “upgraded” to a biblioblog, and I’ve been in the top 50 ever since, and even made the top 10 a time or two. I’m not going to join the debate. As long as I’m so classified, I will participate in the community by displaying the badge and linking to the biblioblog library. If the classification changes, I’ll still be linking to lots of biblioblogs (however defined), because I subscribe to a number in my reader, and read quite a few more via links from those.

As far as topics are concerned, I find that many times when I think I have written something significant, nobody notices. At other times, when I think I’ve batted out a few throwaway lines, I get a bunch of links. I’m not sure whether my “significance meter” is on the blink or if my readers are, on average, a bit weird. It could be both.

My most popular post at the moment is one that relates to the Bible, though it isn’t very academic: Ephesians 6:18 – Always Pray in the Spirit. That struck me this morning because yesterday I wrote a post titled A Sense of the Spiritual, in which I noted that it can be hard to really feel a Bible story as the original hearers might have without also having (or at least truly understanding, I suppose) a strong sense of the nearness of the spiritual realm as they did.

So much for reflections …


Does Science Education Lead to Atheism

Does Science Education Lead to Atheism

Several discussions have led me to think about this question over the last few days. There is a significant group of scientists who think that the inevitable result of scientific knowledge is a loss of faith or a turn to atheism. On the other side of the line there is a significant group of fundamentalist Christians who feel much the same way. The major difference is in which they would give up. A recent story gives the encouraging reminder that about 40% of scientists believe in God. Encouraging, indeed, but for which side?

There has been a great deal of discussion on just how compatible religion is with science. Obviously for myself I’ve decided that good science is compatible with my theology, though not without some adjustments to how I understand the theology. My theology today is not the same as what I grew up with in any number of ways. But let’s lay that one aside.

What does the church offer to the educated person? My education is related largely to theology, and I have spent a good deal of my church life being urged to ignore some things, greatly simplify others, and basically to leave my education behind at the doors to the church. This is by no means a universal attitude. At the same time as one person would be telling me not to bother people with things I knew, others would be inviting me to teach.

But consider the difference between my education and that of an evolutionary biologist for example. Since I’m trained in Biblical studies and most particularly in languages, there is always someone in church who wants some portion of my expertise. I have even been invited to programs where I’m pretty certain my primary role was to sit with the other speakers and be “the guy who knows Greek.” There’s a certain respect for that. But the hypothetical evolutionary biologist isn’t going to find much call for his knowledge in church.

Now that is the trial of the specialist. You have to gather with other specialists to talk about your specialty. But in church, other people frequently feel free to express uneducated opinions on just about any topic, and especially to talk about the great danger of education to faith, and the one way to be accepted in that society will be to claim that your education is not important to you.

I’m painting this rather negatively, more so than I actually feel, but I do believe there is a problem. It’s variable with churches. In the United Methodist Church, for example, I have found a great deal of appreciation for education in any area. At the same time, for many people in the pews the educated person, especially one who questions any of the standard explanations of life, the universe, and everything, can be looked on with suspicion.

In my view, faith and fellowship go together. Someone’s faith is not going to be nurtured when there are no other people to take that walk with them. While I think many churches do try, and I really appreciate the United Methodist congregations of which I’ve been a member, I think there will be a substantial problem for a scientist looking for a congregation where he or she can explore and examine faith freely and openly–in other words, to have constructive fellowship.

It may well be that a significant number of those scientists who have slipped away from faith did so not because they were philosophically convinced that God does not exist, but because they never found a place to explore faith in a vital and constructive way with other people who welcomed their questions, their doubts, and even their unbelief.

I do not mean in any way to question the intelligence or judgment of those who have made a conscious decision based on their view of the evidence to reject belief in God or to become agnostic. I even find many of their arguments quite reasonable myself in a certain context. But I suspect there are many who have slipped away from faith simply because they are not particularly trained to deal with spiritual issues, and those who should have helped them were unwilling, or perhaps unable, to deal with them doubts and all.

I don’t know what numbers would be involved, but I’m convinced that having fellowship is an essential part of one’s faith journey. I’m further convinced that many people don’t take the fellowship needs of the educated seriously. Education is simply another characteristic of the people God brings together into his church; their needs need to be served as well.