All In a Lifetime

In session 3 of the 2016 Passion Conference, Ravi Zacharias ended with a striking quote from Malcom Muggeridge. Here it is:

We look back upon history and what do we see? 

Empires rising and falling, revolutions and counterrevolutions, wealth accumulating and and then disbursed, one nation dominant and then another. Shakespeare speaks of the “rise and fall of great ones that ebb and flow with the moon.”

In one lifetime I have seen my own countrymen ruling over a quarter of the world, the great majority of them convinced, in the words of what is still a favorite song, that “God who’s made them mighty would make them mightier yet.”

I’ve heard a crazed, cracked Austrian proclaim to the world the establishment of a German Reich that would last for a thousand years; an Italian clown announce he would restart the calendar to begin with his own assumption of power; a murderous Georgian brigand in the Kremlin acclaimed by the intellectual elite of the western world as wiser than Solomon, more enlightened than Asoka, more humane than Marcus Aurelius.

I’ve seen America wealthier and in terms of military weaponry more powerful than all the rest of the world put together, so that Americans, had they so wished, could have outdone an Alexander or a Julius Caesar in the range and scale of their conquests.

All in one little lifetime. All gone with the wind.

England now part of an island off the coast of Europe and threatened with dismemberment and even bankruptcy.

Hitler and Mussolini dead and remembered only in infamy.

Stalin a forbidden name in the regime he helped to found and dominate for some three decades.

America haunted by fears of running out of the precious fluid that keeps the motorways roaring and the smog settling, with troubled memories of a disastrous campaign in Vietnam and of the great victories of the Don Quixotes of the media when they charged the windmills of Watergate. All in one lifetime, all in one lifetime, all gone. Gone with the wind.[^1]

Ravi then appended this conclusion:

Behind the debris of these solemn supermen, and self-styled imperial diplomatists, there stands the gigantic figure of one, because of whom, by whom, in whom and through whom alone, mankind may still have peace: The person of Jesus Christ. I present him as the way, the truth, and the life.

(HT: Justin Taylor)

The Changing Politics of Church Property

Church in city skyline

For centuries churches have marked the American landscape. They have stood as icons in the middle of towns, their steeples pointing to a higher reality. But this may no longer be the case. As America continues to urbanize and secularize, and as dying churches shut down and sell off their property, finding a place in the heart of a town or city may be increasingly difficult to do.

I came across an interesting article from Betty Bean discussing this very issue in Knoxville, Tennessee. Bean relays these details:

Former City Council member Carlene Malone says it’s time to reconsider churches’ legal status.

“We’re not looking at churches as perhaps they really are today. We need to realize that this is not the little neighborhood church that’s going to stick around forever. It’s a business model. Land is held like a portfolio, and when the time comes to sell, even though they bought it at residential or agricultural prices, they want to sell it commercial – at commercial prices.”

Malone said that modern mega churches are a far cry from the traditional concept of churches that are active on Sundays and Wednesday nights.

“These are not small uses – not to say they are bad things – but their impact is greater than the old neighborhood churches. The other thing is, what happens when they leave? Do we continue to allow them as use on review in residential neighborhoods because we think they have low impacts, when actually they may well be seeking to expand – and if they don’t expand, they may well move? Or is it time we start looking at them as the business model they actually operate under rather than looking at them as enhancements to neighborhoods?”

This excerpt highlights a number of interesting features in the changing politics of church property…

  • A church is seen more as a “business model” with a portfolio. We will let lie all that stands behind this comment, but the point is churches are seen, at least in Knoxville, as businesses that may need to fend for themselves in the market.
  • A church is no longer considered a low-impact center, but potentially a high-traffic, logistical nuisance to a community (even if the actual activities are good).
  • A church is more aggressive and more transient. It is more aggressive in that it may attempt to acquire more land. And yet, it may be more transient as it potentially shuts down or moves on. This combination is troublesome to many communities.

Of course, we could debate each of these claims, but the point is people like Malone offer a helpful look into the changing perspective on churches and their connection to local real estate. Finding a home for a new church may be more difficult than ever.

Because of these challenges, moving or failing churches will need to think more carefully about how they steward the property they are leaving behind. For example, for the sake of the Kingdom, would it be better to partner with another church than sell off property? Or, for the sake of the Kingdom, could a seller deliberately wait for a buyer that will use the church as a church?

In my opinion, these are questions we need to carefully consider in the coming years of American Christianity. What say you?

Can We Talk About Abortion?

I want to start a conversation.

My mind has been awhirl with the abortion debate and the newly disclosed horrors of Planned Parenthood. I have a million thoughts and feelings right now but no conclusions. So, I have decided to enlist your help and begin with a simple discussion.

I have so many questions, and I genuinely hope to hear from you.

To my older and wiser family and friends, those who have seen the Pro-life movement wax and wane, what advice do you have? How should we move forward? What should we do?

To my student friends, high school and college, how do you view this topic? Your generation has been so vocal about so many causes. How do you think about this one? Is abortion important? Why or why not?

To my more liberal Christian friends, what are your thoughts? How does this topic fit into your thoughts of social justice?

To my pro-choice friends, is there any way for us to talk? Will this always be a “agree-to-disagree” thing? Are you bothered by the recent videos from The Center for Medical Progress? How have you been processing this situation?

I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts. Don’t be shy; please leave a comment.

What I Think

What do I think?

It doesn’t matter what I think. It matters what God thinks.

We live in a culture obsessed with opinions. We have professional opinonators. They fill our newspapers, feeds and screens. What do you think about this? What do you think about that?

This obsession is everywhere. It’s crept into the church. We feel we have a right to an opinion on all matters, and all opinions are created equal. So have your say, and I’ll have mine.

How perfectly postmodern.

Yes, some topics in the Bible are unclear and lend themselves to opinion. But let’s be honest; a great many topics are evian clear. They are dully straightforward. No Greek required. No masters needed. No philologists requested. Just good ol’ fashioned plain meaning.

I wonder if in this yawning cultural rift believers need to reestablish ourselves as people of this perspicuous book, people who constantly point back to the Bible and what God says, people who just quote. Perhaps we need to increasingly say, “What do I think? It doesn’t matter what I think. Personally, I’m okay with lots of things. But the question is what does God think. So let’s listen to what he has plainly said.”

Let’s decline to opine.