What does it mean to be a Member of the Church?

cover30071-mediumIn his new book, I am a Church Member, Thom Rainer tackles the tough question of what it means to be a church member. He does this is in a surprisingly short book by building the book around 6 pledges that we should make as church members. Each chapter explains one of the pledges and ends with a formal pledge with a line to sign and date. The pledge is followed by questions for study. Continue reading

Grace in our Debates

From "The art of boxing, swimming and gymnastics made easy .." (1883)
From “The art of boxing, swimming and gymnastics made easy ..” (1883)

I know I’m at least week late on this, but that’s alright. I don’t want to weigh on any of the debates. I want to talk about the debating. I’ve been thinking a lot about the way debating that has been going on in our nation and I want to comment on how debating happens, especially among fellow believers.

While reading What We Talk About When We Talk About God, I was struck by his chapter on the paradox of talking about God. The paradox of God is essentially the fact that we cannot fully know him or describe him and yet we must. It’s hard to live in this paradox. We want answers to our questions. Bell writes,  “Take faith, for example. For many people in our world, the opposite of faith is doubt. The goal, then, within this understanding, is to eliminate doubt.” Many of us want to eliminate doubt. We want it all spelled out for us so that we know what is right and what is wrong. This desire for right and wrong plays greatly into debates that involve theology and morality and it’s this desire that I’ve been thinking about. Continue reading

Thoughts on the new Pope and Christian Leadership

Photo Credit: Catholic Church (England and Wales) via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Catholic Church (England and Wales) via Compfight cc

I’m not a Catholic, but like most have kept up with what’s happening over in the Vatican. I watched as Benedict left for the last time as the Pope, and followed the announcement of the new Pope yesterday. In all of this, I have watched and shook my head as the American media has tried to understand what it means to be a leader in the church. They have talked about the power that the pope has in the world and speculated (quite a lot) about whether or not they would elect an American. Listening to the news, it all began to sound like election time in America. They were asking who was qualified, what kind of changes would this person make, and did they have the right leadership skills to be the Pope. It was all primarily about the power and position of the papacy.

Then yesterday, the church and the new pope did something that messed with the media’s perception of “power” in the church. They elected someone that no one in the media considered and he choose a name that truly demonstrated what Christian leadership is all about. They elected man who has served the poor and chose to forgo some of the privileges that his previous role allowed him. They elected a man who is known for his act of washing the feet of 12 AIDS patients in 2001. Then they announced the name of the new pope. His name is Francis. He took the name of a very famous saint who is famously humble. Saint Francis chose a life of poverty and spent his life serving the poor and preaching the gospel. Of all the names he could have chosen, I think that this name is quite appropriate for someone who is supposed to lead the church. When it comes to being a leader in the church, it’s not about power or wealth. It’s not about having the most impressive resume or being the smartest guy around. It’s not about being able to dominate the boardroom or be at the top of your field. It’s about being like Christ.  Jesus Christ, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Phil 2:6-8 NIV)

While I’m not a catholic, I am impressed with the new pope’s choice of name and I hope that he lives up to it. I hope that he emulates the life of Francis and the life of Christ. I hope that he leads in humility and shows the world that Christian leadership is different from political leadership. He is a man with a lot of influence, and I pray that his influence spreads the gospel and shows the love of Christ to those in need.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27 NIV)

For more about on this subject please check out my friend David’s post, “The new Pope and why Protestants should care.”