May 9, 2008

Jesus + A.A. = BFF, howbout u?

Posted in Christian culture, Theology at 1:25 pm by Matt Porter

This post was written just over a week ago, but I’ve been mulling it over ever since, trying to decide how much to say. Originally, it had two sections; but I’ve removed the second half in order to keep this focused on my current theme—how to (or not to) present the gospel. I’ll post what was the second part of this post at some point in the future, never fear.
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April 22, 2008

Running, and points, which generally don’t mix well

Posted in Christian culture, Commentary, Theology at 6:54 pm by Matt Porter

My original introduction consisted of some hand-waving and optimistic generalizations about how nice it was to come to the end of this series on presenting the gospel. I should have known that, like all my posts, it would grow into a monster when I attempted to corral it into a text box. I intended to answer two questions about the gospel—What do the lost need? and How do we give it to them?—but I fear I’ve only managed to break the surface of the first one. I think the answers to these questions tell us a lot about not only what we say we believe, but what we actually believe as demonstrated through our actions. I’m going to resist the temptation to stick my toes in to test the water; I’ll just recklessly cannonball in and let the splash go where it may. Rant zone just ahead; you’ve been warned. More »

March 7, 2008

The Church Formerly Known As Yugoslavia

Posted in Christian culture, The Basics, Theology at 9:25 pm by Matt Porter

Yugoslavia(Yesterday, I promised to take a long, winding route to get to my ideas on presenting the gospel. This is our first stop in that journey.)

Remember the country of Yugoslavia? Located north of the Adriatic Sea, this Communist state contained a surprising variety of cultures for its size. After the implosion of the Soviet Union and the weakening of its own totalitarian system, Yugoslavia became engulfed in civil war. Old cultural hatreds which had been suppressed by the sheer weight of the dictatorship exploded into violence, and they repeatedly split and rejoined into anywhere from five to a dozen separate areas. Despite the interference intervention of the United Nations, the underlying conflicts were not resolved, and each micro-nation retains its inherited dislike of the others. Despite their commonalities from fifty years of Communist oppression and thirty years of the preceding monarchy, each culture apparently wanted nothing to do with the others (unless it was to kill them). The region has even been verbed: “balkanize” means to micro-divide into hostile groups. More »

February 15, 2008

Goodwill and Church Cookies

Posted in Christian culture, Commentary at 8:15 pm by Matt Porter

ChurchCookiesOur church is having a 50’s-themed Valentine’s dinner tomorrow. In a rare attempt at not being party poopers, we stopped by a couple of secondhand stores to see if we could find period-appropriate clothing. Unfortunately, our trip yielded nothing appropriate to wear (apparently people were smaller in that decade). As my wife commented, while we couldn’t dress like the 50’s, we certainly could have redecorated our house like the 50’s. Her statement gave me two questions to think about:

Why do we give away our junk? Why do we feel good about giving it to someone else?

Both of those questions have more to do with the attitude we have toward our stuff than about the actual giving. Two more questions should help clear things up: More »

February 5, 2008

Happy Pancake Day!

Posted in Christian culture, The Church Year at 4:28 pm by Matt Porter

PancakeTurtleTake a deep breath—Lent is upon us! Tomorrow, the celebration of Ash Wednesday, kicks off the forty day (plus a few Sundays) season which anticipates Easter Sunday. Pancake Day, or Shrove Tuesday, was once the last day before Easter to eat meats, poultry, or dairy products, so many English families would eat a delicious meal (or three) of pancakes in order to use up these foods before Lent. Even as mandatory fasting was relaxed and eventually rescinded, the traditional meal kept its place in English culture. (Or, for another possible tradition, read this post about the Pancake Turtle.) More »

January 25, 2008

Individualism vs. Unity for Baptists

Posted in Christian culture, Commentary at 3:53 pm by Matt Porter

(This is the final part of a four-part series. Part one dealt with the tragedy of the divided Church. Part two summarized the commonalities of all Christians in Christ. Part three discussed how to deal with real or perceived differences among Christians.)

Finally we come to the inspiration for this four-part screed. In a lunch conversation earlier this week, the question came up, “Why is independence among Baptists so often expressed as individualism?” Put another way, why are so many Baptists so determined not to be like any of those other churches? I see this as both a corporate and an individual tendency. More »

January 24, 2008

Dealing with Differences

Posted in Christian culture, Commentary at 12:56 pm by Matt Porter

(This is part three of a four-part series. Part one of this series dealt with the divisiveness present in the Body of Christ. Part two discussed the things all Christians have in common. Part four will discuss some issues specific to my Baptist background.)

Even with the unity we have in Christ, there will always be differences between churches, and even between individuals in the same church. We have different doctrines, come from different economic and social backgrounds, have different cultures, different liturgical styles, different ethnicities, and different experiences. God works differently in each of our lives. It is no wonder, then, that we are different. But how do we work with these differences, since they will always exist? More »

January 23, 2008

One body, one Lord, one faith…

Posted in Christian culture, Commentary at 10:11 pm by Matt Porter

In part one, I stated that Christians have needlessly divided the Church and have used Christ’s authority to support these divisions. In part two, I want to look at what all Christians have in common. Part three will deal with how to handle our differences, and part four will deal with issues specific to my Baptist background.

Things have gone pretty far when many churches would balk at the Apostles’ Creed: More »

January 22, 2008

Celebrating a fictional legacy

Posted in Christian culture, Commentary tagged , , at 4:32 pm by Matt Porter

This is part one of a four-part series:

Celebrating a Fictional Legacy
One Body, One Lord, One Faith
Dealing with Differences
Individualism vs. Unity for Baptists

It’s too bad the inspiration for this post came today instead of yesterday. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day is traditionally a celebration of the life and work of the great civil rights advocate. King argued that blacks and whites should not be treated differently because of their color, but should be allowed the same opportunity to make of their life whatever they could. Unlike many modern activists, he was less interested in making up for the past than in fixing the future. His goal was equality, not retribution.

When I hear King quoted today, my reactions range from the ironic to the irate. It is confounding, though no longer shocking, to hear his legacy used to promote nearly any political agenda, regardless of its harmony with his message. More »