Returning home after a memorial service for former Midwestern Seminary President Dr. Milton Ferguson, I started thinking. What do I remember from my seminary days? Does my theological education continue to impact me? In short, does a seminary education stick? After more than 45 years of pastoring, I can answer with a resounding yes.
Much has been written lately about our subtle, invisible idols. These false gods manifest themselves when we put our politics above the gospel, the U.S. flag above the cross or our cultural assumptions above the values of Christ’s Kingdom.
Earlier this winter, 48 years and one week after my younger brother Dennis died from injuries sustained in a car accident, my two siblings and I, along with our families, made a memorable trek to north Missouri. It began as a journey. It turned into a pilgrimage. Something holy took place. It was life-giving, emerging out of tragedy and loss.
In the wee hours of the morning on Dec. 25, parents everywhere were frantically assembling toys to be presented to children just a few hours hence. No doubt, about 2:00 a.m., some mom or dad remembered an old adage: “When everything else fails, read the instructions.”
Last summer, I had the privilege of hearing noted author Brian McLaren speak several times at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly. During one of the Q&A sessions, I asked him a question which had been rolling around in my mind for quite some time. “What is the difference between patriotism and nationalism?”
During the month of October, Christians all over the world will be commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and reflecting on the impact of Martin Luther’s life and legacy. Whether you realize it or not, your spiritual life has been somehow touched by Luther’s hymns, writings, theology and courageous challenge to a powerful Church desperately in need of renewal.
Bitterness seems to be the occupational hazard of church people, including clergy. Because we are socially conditioned to be nice, we often swallow our rage when something irritating or hurtful happens to us, all in the name of keeping the peace and taking the high road. The problem comes when we neglect to deal with the anger, either because we dislike confrontation or because life simply moves us on to the next unpleasantness.
Evangelism isn’t what it used to be. But then, it never has been. Culture shifts have always required new approaches in sharing the Good News. In this third and final column of this series, I invite our churches to do an evangelism upgrade.