May 16, 2008

Show the difference

Posted in Commentary, Sin and Grace, Theology, Uncategorized at 2:08 pm by Matt Porter

It’s time to wrap up my thoughts on the gospel, at least for the time being. I probably have too much to fit into this post, but I’m going to try to pare it down to something less than novel-length.

So, apparently there are plenty of bad ways to give the gospel. What exactly should we do, then?

Number one: Live honestly. Stop sounding like we totally get this God thing, or like we never have any doubts about it, or like we have the life down pat. Admit that we’re fundamentally broken people, not somehow better people just because we’re saved. Be frank about our failings. And be able, in spite of all that, to express our faith that God is somehow working in us. Because the gospel is less about dramatic outward change than gradual inward change. More »

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 »

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 7, 2008

What do you want?

Posted in Commentary, The Basics, Working through Life at 7:57 pm by Matt Porter

WaitingSnowIn the morning, when I rise,
In the morning, when I rise,
In the morning, when I rise,
Give me                         .

How do we finish the song? What is it that we desire above all else? To what do we assign the highest value? Looking at our lives, what would someone else say we want? More »

January 30, 2008

Pictures of Emma’s first debate

Posted in Commentary, Family, Humor? at 6:41 pm by Matt Porter

BennyHinn.jpgPardon the interruption in blogging, if you will. We’ve been busy this week. As the church down the road from us would put it, we’ve been having a “Holy Ghost Revival.” I’m relatively certain that the Holy Ghost was there; as for revival, we’ll have to wait and see. Results from a meeting like this are probably best measured over lifetimes, not days or weeks.

[WARNING: the rest of the post is rather biting. If you don’t want to see me in rare cynical form but still want to see the Emma pictures, follow this link instead. If you want Emma pictures superimposed on sarcastic humor (at least I think it’s humorous), read on.] 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 »

January 18, 2008

What are they seeing?

Posted in Commentary, Theology tagged at 7:27 pm by Matt Porter

I’ve been thinking about something since the Wednesday evening church service. There were three people in church who had, as far as I know, never attended our services before. From my vantage point on the platform, I often wonder what’s going on in the heads of the congregation as we sing, read, and pray. Wednesday, my thoughts were about our three visitors: “What are they seeing?”

What does the average unchurched person see when they walk into a church? We work hard on our first impressions. We maintain the grounds and the buildings. Helpful, friendly greeters stand at the doors to welcome everyone with a smile. The pastor makes a point to stop by and greet them, and may even welcome them from the pulpit. More »