The Future of the Church- David Dockery on Leadership Profiles

September 19, 2008

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you- if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” -Titus 1.5-9

As you may know already, and if you don’t I’m about to tell you, I am very interested/concerned in the quality and commitment of the current strand of young adults in the Christian church. I have spoken numerous times on the failure of young adults to rise up into leadership and the problem of so many young adult leaders choosing to be avant-garde instead of orthodox with their theology (see posts in the Throwing Out Jesus with the Bathwater series). I have also spent a considerable amount of time discussing the importance of reestablishing the church as a light unto the world and a gathering which is held in high esteem (see my writings on The Laodicean Project and Rebuilding the City).

It is in light of this focus that I want to link you guys to a message delivered this past week at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary by Dr. David S. Dockery, the President of Union University. The message is a short 35-minute look into what the next generation of Baptist leadership needs to be focused on in order to further the mission of the Gospel in our post-Christian culture.  In it he discusses the need for young pastors to rise up both in spiritually dark urban areas as well as in historically strong but increasingly neglected rural churches. He also introduces a term that I kind of liked (and will probably repeat in future posts), that being apatheist, or “apathetic theist,” which is someone who is apathetic, or showing a disregard, or lack of interest towards belief in God.  Over all I find this to be a pertinent message which anyone who is interested in what the Bible tells us about leadership today should listen to.  Enjoy!

David S. Dockery – A Profile of the Next Generation of Baptist Leaders

The Doctrines of Ignorance- A Response to Aversion towards Calvinism in the SBC

September 17, 2008

It is no secret, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, that the Southern Baptist Convention is struggling with keeping young people in the church. I also spoke of this problem while reading Thom Rainer’s new book Essential Church? Yet, in light of all this there is a mindset in the SBC which completely amazes me, and it has to do with the hardening towards a particular movement among young adults in the church. No, not the emergent movement, which obviously from my posts I am no fan of either, but instead it is a hardening against the increasing numbers of Southern Baptists who identify themselves as (5-point) Calvinists.

Last year at Southeastern seminary there was held a conference entitled “Building Bridges” which was aimed at looking into whether or not Southern Baptists can accept Calvinism as a compatible theology within the framework of the SBC. After listening to every message from that conference I have to say myself that I think it was extremely well done. All points of Calvinism were presented, as well as the historical record of Calvinism/Arminianism in baptist life, each point having a speaker from either side of the debate. And at the end of the conference there seemed to be a general consensus among the participants that Calvinistic views are no threat to our baptist communions, though they are in no way required for membership either.

However, sitting here about 11 months removed from that conference we see the same issue being brought up again. Only this time, I am afraid, the line is being drawn much deeper in the sand. The first place we see this issue cropping up today is in a recent pastor’s survey among SBC ministers, that Ed Stetzer so kindly posted on, which states that a full 27% of Southern Baptist ministers strongly agree with the statement that “the rise of Calvinism among recent seminary graduates concerns [them],” and another 36% somewhat agreed. That’s 63% of SBC ministers who are concerned in some fashion at an increase in Calvinistic beliefs among what would be a mostly younger crowd. That’s nearly two-thirds of the congregations which would be unwelcoming to what is obviously a growing number of young adult Baptist leaders. Now, when we are having a problem with getting and keeping leaders of lesser age in the SBC, doesn’t it seem counter-productive to start turning them away because of their soteriology?

The second thing which bugged me, and on this I am trying to maintain as much charity and respect as possible, is my recent discovery of “The John 3:16 Conference.” Though bearing the name of the great end-zone verse, don’t be fooled about the purpose of this conference, which, as stated by its directors is “to be a biblical and theological assessment of and response to 5-point Calvinism.” (They also make the initial caveat that “This conference is not going to be a ‘Let’s bash the Calvinists’ conference”, which is not really important to say unless you could be misconstrued as being a “Let’s bash the Calvinists” conference). Now, besides the fact that implying John 3.16 is at odds with Calvinism shows a degree of ignorance about actual non-hyper-Calvinism, this conference also does not appear to be making the efforts to display both sides of the argument as the “Building Bridges” conference so masterfully did. What appears to be going on in its place is just a series of five lectures by five non-Calvinists about why they do not agree with one particular point of the TULIP acronym, which, if not bashing Calvinists, is surely pandering to that audience.

But what beyond this aggravates (maybe infuriates) me is just exactly who is going to be there. To start off with, the conference is being spearheaded by the well-respected retired minister Dr. Jerry Vines, and is going to be hosted in the church building whose pulpit is occupied by current SBC president Johnny Hunt. From here we see that other speakers include Southwestern Seminary president, Paige Patterson; SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission president, Richard Land; New Orleans Seminary provost, Steve Lemke; and the renowned pastor of First Baptist Church of Atlanta, Dr. Charles Stanley. The event is being sponsored by three of the six SBC seminaries, Southwestern, New Orleans, and Midwestern. Maybe this list doesn’t mean much to you, but it sure does to me. What it says to me is that a core segment of the SBC finds Calvinism untenable, and even counter-productive to evangelism and personal growth. Again, I have to ask, If you are trying to solve an ever-growing age crisis, why are you running off some many up-and-coming leaders over such an unscriptural dispute?

Where will this lead? Well, for sure this is leading to an increasing exodus of young Spirit-filled talent from the SBC and into independent Baptist and Bible churches, and networks such as Acts 29 and Redeemer. But beyond that, when I look at how deeply the lines are being drawn on the non-Calvinist side, it makes me wonder how much longer they will tolerate the likes of people such as Al Mohler, Mark Dever, and Tom Ascol, who are all unabashedly Calvinistic, in the SBC.

I can’t help but feel like this is two-steps back. I am just hopeful that God will choose to raise up men of sound mind and conviction and make these voices of unreason slow to speak and quick to listen so that we can put an end to this nonsense before it destroys the unity we’ve been blessed with in the SBC.

Rebuilding the City- Maintaining Our Focus

September 16, 2008

‘Thus says the LORD of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the LORD.’ Then the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, ‘Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? . . . You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the LORD of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house.‘” -Haggai 1.9

At this point in the book of the prophet Haggai we find that God has allowed for the exiled Jews to return back to Jerusalem under proclamation of the king in order that they may rebuild the temple of God. Yet, once in Jerusalem, we find that the Israelites have taken up resting in their own houses, gathering their own fortunes, while neglecting the house of God. It is to this mindset which God speaks in the above verses.

Similar to the Jews returning from exile I think the church in America suffers from the same problem: we know that things aren’t the way they should be in the church, but we are so concerned with our own creature comforts that we have little urgency for doing the work God has called us to. We create programs and “fellowship” events which, though necessary in moderation, soon become the core purpose of the ministry. We exist to please each other. And in pleasing each other no one ever takes the time to see if God is being pleased by what we do.

John Piper champions the idea of Christian Hedonism, announcing that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” Note the emphasis here, “when we are most satisfied in him.” When we build these church worlds where everyone’s good time revolves around the presence of a big screen TV or the cheese dip brought by Sally Servant, where are we finding ourselves satisfied in God? The big question is, if God wasn’t there would anybody notice? Would anyone notice if there was no God there for us to worship and serve or would everybody continue to act the same as always?

It is important that we maintain our focus in the church. Yes, we can have big events. Yes, we can have extravagant children’s ministries. Yes, we can eat, drink, and be merry. But none of that stuff is worth anything if we aren’t doing it with the ultimate goal of the deepening of our communion with the One True God and the furtherance of the Gospel message to all peoples. If our children’s ministry just exists to give the parents a break for a few hours a week we should kill it. If we are getting together just to make each other feel good, we might as well stay at home. In the Christian life, doing nothing means your moving backwards since at all times you are either serving God or serving the Devil.

God has given us a calling to rebuild the city, to rejuvenate and reinforce the strength of the church in a nation which is becoming more secular every day.  And if we are to see that goal accomplished then it is incumbent upon us to keep our focus in the right place at all times, that being the throne of Christ, seated at the right hand of God.

One Nation Under Two Gods- Who Gets to be the True Supreme Law of the Land?

September 15, 2008

As was predicted by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams several months ago, the British legal system has recently made steps to include sharia law as a legitimate legal standard for practicing Muslims in Britain.  What this means is that, if a British Muslim has a dispute come up which ranges from divorce and domestic issues to wills to possibly even real estate transactions, they now have the option of having their case tried under the letter of the Islamic law and the Qu’ran in place of the letter of the British law and constitution.  You can read about this here.

So, big deal, right?  Well, possibly, if you are in favor of the continued oppression of women and minorities and the ever-growing cultural assimilation of England into an Islamic state.  What has been making its way through Europe silently over the past decade or so, advancing in the name of multiculturalism and tolerance, has now become a looming cloud on the horizon of Western civilization where all of our both Judeo-Christian and secular democratic principles are being threatened by a strong willed, highly populated movement of devout Muslim immigrants.

Now, lest I sound too polemical and religiously fanatic, let me break down why I believe this to be a bad thing.  First, in the view of just the law, it seems absurd to allow a population to be split between which courts they should go to.  Of course, at this point there are jurisdiction limits and some argue that what is being done is no more than what British Jews have in place already.  But, when you look at other countries such as Iran or Saudi Arabia, you see countries whose entire legal system is based on sharia law, and so it only seems reasonable that the sharia courts in Britain will strive towards this same goal.  This is unconscionable.  A country the size of Great Britain cannot afford to have its people governed under different legal standards, it just won’t work.

Beyond this, the legal standards of sharia law run opposite to the accepted laws of any democratic nation in so many ways.  Sharia law is characterized (not stereotyped, actually so) by a favoring of men over women and a dehumanization of “criminals.”  If we look at sharia law against the Bill of Rights we would find that it violates at minimum the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Amendments, as well as the Fourteenth Amendment.  Sharia law actually allows for domestic abuse in certain cases.  It also calls for the execution of homosexuals.  This is not just an archaic rule that stands without ever being enforced, but is a very well-enforced law in places like Iran (just search the internet, you can find the videos).  All of the tolerance and equality which makes democratic nations so great is thrown to the side when sharia law kicks in.

Moving to a more religious tone, I feel that the inception of sharia law in Western courts is a bad thing because it provides legitimacy and furtherance of a satanic religion.  I say that with as little fundamentalism as possible and with as much biblical support as I can muster.  Islam denies the deity of Christ, his atoning work on the cross, the sufficiency of his sacrifice for our forgiveness, and the power of grace to eventually save us.  There can be no compatibility between Christianity and Islam because to the core we worship two radically different gods.  Therefore, by propping up Islam in the courts we are inevitably propping up Islam in the culture and increasing the aversion to the message of the Gospel and Christ in the general population.

This is a difficult issue to approach because so many people will blindly fall into the trappings of extreme tolerance and open-mindedness and view any opposition as religious fundamentalism and bigotry, but I just want to leave you with one question: if a Muslim murders a Christian because they attempt to share the Gospel with them (as may be prescribed by Qu’ran 22.40), which court would get to try this?

Rebuilding the City- Getting the City Involved

September 14, 2008

Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brothers the priests, and they built the Sheep Gate. They consecrated it and set its doors. They consecrated it as far as the Tower of the Hundred, as far as the Tower of Hananel. And next to him the men of Jericho built. And next to them Zaccur the son of Imri built.

The sons of Hassenaah built the Fish Gate. They laid its beams and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars. And next to them Meremoth the son of Uriah, son of Hakkoz repaired. And next to them Meshullam the son of Berechiah, son of Meshezabel repaired. And next to them Zadok the son of Baana repaired. And next to them the Tekoites repaired, but their nobles would not stoop to serve their Lord. . . . ” -Nehemiah 3

When reading the book of Nehemiah one can’t help but notice the numerous insanely long lists of Jewish names. The first occurrence of this is in chapter 3 as Nehemiah runs off the various people who worked to rebuild the walls and where they positioned themselves at to do this work. It would be easy to just pass this off in the same way we may pass off other lists of names or genealogies that abound in the Old Testament, but instead I think that there is a point in it that we can find, namely that being the point that in order to rebuild the walls of the city it requires the participation of the whole congregation, each taking and constructing their own little piece.

Look at the language used in verse 5 of chapter 3: “And next to them the Tekoites repaired, but their nobles would not stoop to serve their Lord.” The people weren’t just embarking on a public work, they were performing an act of service to the Lord. In the same way we need to accentuate to our people how their involvement in the task of the church is a vital part of service to the Lord and a crucial piece of the wall that is being rebuilt.

I just recently finished reading Thom and Sam Rainer’s new book Essential Church? and the main point of the whole text is that in order for our church to put an end to the exceedingly high number of dropouts occurring when our members are 18- to 22-years old, it is important for us to make them see how church is essential to their life. And one of the ways in which they recommended making this stick is by giving these young people roles in the church. What could be better than putting the next generation of the church, the next generation of inhabitants of the city, in roles where they are working to rebuild the walls?

Another point we need to see is in verses 17 and 23: “After him the Levites repaired: Rehum the son of Bani. Next to him Hashabiah, ruler of half the district of Keilah, repaired for his district. . . . After them Benjamin and Hasshub repaired opposite their house. After them Azariah the son of Maaseiah, son of Ananiah repaired beside his own house.” So many people are discouraged from serving in the church because they see it as the role of someone else to do. This is mainly because a lot of those people see service in the church as being service in a teaching capacity to which they do not feel called. Yet we need to show people how they can serve the church and work to rebuild the city walls by taking care of the area around them, that is, by putting to use whatever talents it is that the Lord has given them.

This may seem simplistic, but some of the most vital ministries which the church performs are ones that seem so benign, such as providing meals for young couples who just had a child or mentoring church members a stage of life behind you. All forms of hospitality and guidance should always be encouraged in our churches as they help to birth the genuine community which is so crucial for the church to actually perform its mission in the world.

At the same time, behind the scenes ministries such as technology assistance and facilities preparation are backbone operations which must be done to keep the church running smoothly and yet are often unnoticed by the average Christian searching for ways to serve. By illuminating these opportunities we can plug dozens more people into the service of the Lord and help shore up our abilities to rebuild the wall quickly and efficiently.

If we are truly going to rebuild the church it is going to take the participation of more than just a select, motivated, talented few. It will take the collective effort of all of God’s people serving in their own areas, putting in time to make sure that every corner and crevice of the wall is as strong as possible.

Rebuilding the City- Desiring Accountability

September 13, 2008

I was very angry when I heard their outcry and these words. I took counsel with myself, and I brought charges against the nobles and the officials. I said to them, ‘You are exacting interest, each from his brother.’ And I held a great assembly against them and said to them, ‘We, as far as we are able, have bought back our Jewish brothers who have been sold to the nations, but you even sell your brothers that they may be sold to us!’ They were silent and could not find a word to say. So I said, ‘The thing that you are doing is not good. Ought you not to walk in the fear of our God to prevent the taunts of the nations our enemies? Moreover, I and my brothers and my servants are lending them money and grain. Let us abandon this exacting of interest. Return to them this very day their fields, their vineyards, their olive orchards, and their houses, and the percentage of money, grain, wine, and oil that you have been exacting from them.’” -Nehemiah 5.6-11

The next step which I think must be taken in rebuilding the distinctive city of God in the church is that the leadership, and more generally the whole of the congregation, must move into a state of accountability to one another. We must be developing a culture in which believers can come together and speak strong words about the sin that they see creeping around in each others lives. Their needs to be a mindset in which we can count on our brothers and sisters in Christ to call us out when we are stepping into iniquity and to trust them enough to guide us out of spiritual darkness that we may not otherwise be able to see. This is the accountability that I’m speaking of and is the type of accountability that I think we see demonstrated in the above passage from Nehemiah.

Speak to most any person outside of the church today and one of the main charges they will bring against Christianity is that it is hypocritical and the believers are strikingly similar to the world around them. These people know we are called to be different. How and for what purpose may elude them, but they all seem to have gotten the memo that that’s the big picture. Thus, to see otherwise is a sign to them of a lack of sincerity or authenticity in belief and is a major turnoff to Christianity (Not that a lack of hypocrisy will win people over, but there is no point in doing more to discourage them). However, living lives which are accountable to the rest of the people in our church can make strides towards rectifying this situation. If there is a core of people inside the church who are holding each other accountable to living like the Bible and not the like the world then the criticisms of hypocrisy will start to ring hollow and the people making them will lose that as an argument for why they don’t need Christ and the church in their life, leading to conviction and hopefully more people won into the kingdom of God.

Of course, hypocrisy and evangelism shouldn’t be our only motivation for accountability. We should also be moved towards accountability because it is the clear calling of Scripture to us. In 1 Corinthians 5 we hear from Paul that the congregation is “not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler” (v.11) and to “[p]urge the evil person from among [them]” (v.13). Also, in Galatians he instructs that “if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness” (6.1). Accountability is the charge of the whole church, and the leadership particularly. If there is to be order among the body of Christ and if God’s people are to be growing in righteousness and maturity, then those who are in places of authority and prominence must be keeping account of one another so as to correct and avoid falling into asundry sorts of sins.

Sadly, instead of doing this what we find in most congregations is that those in leadership are only concerned with staying in leadership and so are not willing to opening up about their own sins or to step on toes by pointing out the sins of another. There develops a “go-with-the-flow” mentality in which everything is okay as long as nobody knows. Yet, once people do know, the affects of the lost trust and disappointment can tear whole congregations in two and deeply scar a relationship between the church and the community which it is trying to minister to. The absence of accountability is a deadly problem in many corners of Christianity in America.

So please, if you are seriously interested in seeing the church revitalized in our country, if you are interested in seeing the city of God being rebuilt among his people, pray for, move towards, and live out accountability among each other. We will not have a foot to stand on in changing the world with the message of the Gospel if the message of the Gospel hasn’t first clearly changed us.

Rebuilding the City- The Necessity of Biblical Preaching

September 12, 2008

(This is the third post in a series concerning what principles we can learn about rebuilding the church in America as seen through the books of Nehemiah, Ezra, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi).

And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the LORD had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. . . . They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.” -Nehemiah 8.1-3, 8

It is my conviction that first and foremost, if the church is to be rebuilt among us, the primary concern for our people should be strong, expository, biblical preaching. And I mean that exactly as I said it, it should be the primary concern for our people. So many of us are want to put the onus for biblical teaching on the preacher and “his style,” but what is really needed is a culture which commands a faithful, thorough handling of the Word of God. As we see in Nehemiah 8, it was the people who “told Ezra . . . to bring the Book of the Law of Moses” to teach from. And moreover, it was the people who sat for 4 hours and listened as Ezra exposited from the text. The people desired strong preaching and they called forth a leader who would give it to them. We must share this desire if we are going to make a difference.

But, you may ask, Why is this type of preaching, namely exposition, so important? Well, as a first authority on this I want to refer you guys to Al Mohler’s new book He is Not Silent: Preaching in a Postmodern World. Most of my understanding of the importance of expository preaching has its roots in what Dr. Mohler has taught and so I will defer to him as a superior authority on the topic. However, I will give an argument for why I believe this way.

Expository preaching, as defined in Dr. Mohler’s text, is

” . . . that mode of Christian preaching that takes as its central purpose the presentation and application of the text of the Bible. All other issues and concerns are subordinated to the central task of presenting the biblical text.” (p.65)

In other words, expository preaching is preaching which starts with God’s Word and radiates out to everything else. By preaching in an expository manner the preacher is bound solely to what the Bible says. This is important, though a seemingly trivial requisite until one observes that most congregations in America treat the Bible as only one among a number of central texts, of which may include other religious tomes, man-made religious studies, or even popular fiction (such as the case with The Shack). The people need to be crying out to hear what God has to say about himself and not what things William P. Young has to say about God (or “Papa” as he calls her, eek!). If we aren’t getting God’s Word first from the pages of Scripture then chances are, given the proportion of wackos to devout teachers, we are getting it with a lot of man-made philosophy attached.

This also makes a difference because if one is bound to the text then they are bound to whatever situations it may bring up. And since I do not know of a book in the Bible which is made up of just four chapters on how to avoid road rage (for real, I sat through a sermon on this once) then we will be forced to face theological questions and commandments which may not necessarily appeal to our laissez-faire desires for spirituality. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of applications to be found in the Bible, but those should be a secondary concern of ours to the raw message of Scripture as we encounter it. This is the role of the radiating out. We start with the text and what they show us and then, once we have addressed what God is saying, we begin to search for applications of it to our lives. Unfortunately, there are too many people, including preachers, who have their own ideal of a God they would be willing to serve, and thus only thumb through the Bible looking for passages which they can bend to justify their desires. Correcting ourselves to a right position of Scripture in our views will make a visible change in how we worship.

A third wonderful consequence of expository preaching is that when you take what comes without running it through the filter of seeker-sensitivity you are put in a place where many false teachings of Scripture are confronted. This is what I believe the Spirit meant through Paul when he wrote Titus 1.9 speaking of pastors, “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” As is even visible on the comment board here (see comments on “I Choose Hell- CS Lewis and God’s Role in Condemning”), people can construct almost any argument they want using out-of-context Scripture. But when keep within the lines of the larger, coherent message, these heresies and misconstruals are more readily shown in the light for what they really are.

If we want to see the city of God rebuilt and the church to regain its influence and reputation in the culture, we must begin at the level of desiring solid biblical teaching and preaching. As 2 Timothy 3.16 says, the whole Bible is “profitable” to us, and as such we should not neglect any of it.

The Dream that Never Stops- A Rembrance for the 7th Anniversary of 9/11

September 11, 2008

Have you forgotten how it felt that day?
To see your homeland under fire
And her people blown away
Have you forgotten when those towers fell?
We had neighbors still inside going thru a living hell
And you say we shouldn’t worry ’bout bin Laden
Have you forgotten? . . .

“Have you forgotten all the people killed?
Yeah, some went down like heroes in that Pennsylvania field
Have you forgotten about our Pentagon?
All the loved ones that we lost and those left to carry on
Don’t you tell me not to worry about bin Laden
Have you forgotten?

-Darryl Worley, Have You Forgotten?

It is a recurring dream of mine that has been going on sporadically over the last 7 years or so. The setting is not always the same nor is the course of events, but one thing remains constant that lets me know they are all linked together. Sometimes their connection is quite literal with planes flying into buildings, or even closer to home, crashing into my house, and sometimes it is more severe with enemy jets coming in to level attacks with missiles and bombs. Regardless, every time there is some attack coming against my country, against my comfort, which threatens my life.

Maybe I was more apt to be affected by September 11th. I was already extremely patriotic to start off with, and add to that the fact that it happened during my senior year of high school, one of the most memorable years of any American teenagers life, I guess it was bound to mean more to me, and so it did. Still, with every passing American patriotic holiday such as the 4th of July or Memorial Day I get thrust back to that September morning.

I was sitting in my Senior English class taking an exam when, in a seemingly insignificant event, the phone rang. My teacher answered and seemed disturbed, but did not say anything right off. Then about 10 minutes later a couple of students came down to our room to tell the class what had happened: a jet had accidentally flown into the World Trade Center in New York City. We turned on the news to see what was going on, and by the time we had done this a second plane had already crashed into the epic skyscraper. At this point things began to get weird and everyone was speculating about what they had just seen. And then . . .

Almost in unison with the class change bell, the first of the WTC towers fell. Nearly all of the 2,100 students in my school had seen this occur live in front of their eyes, and the ensuing tense, nervous panic in the hallways as we moved from class to class was palpable. Once in the next class, the teachers tried to regain order. Though we were over 1,000 miles from New York, our school was only a half mile or so from a major airport, and with the uncertainty of all that was happening this had made many understandably apprehensive.

So, we sat there, TV on in the background, trying to start the day’s lesson, ready to run at a moments notice. Reports began surfacing that a similar attack had been felt at the Pentagon and that a fourth plane was not being accounted for. Finally, at 10:28am the second tower collapses. With this, classes unofficially end for the day with the entire classroom sitting silent, fixed to the unbelievable scenes being broadcast on the TV.

The days, weeks, and years that followed have been filled with all sorts of emotions towards this event. I did not personally know a single person who died that day and yet the events that transpired have affected me, haunted me, in an sizable way. Regardless of one’s personal involvement, I can’t imagine how anyone was left untouched.

It is for this reason that I am angered by how so many Americans recall this moment in history. You have the conspiracy theory nuts headed by Chief Cashew Rosie O’Donnell, who take this event and try to paint the American government as the ultimate Satan, leading the perpetration of these attacks and bearing the blood of the several thousands dead on their hands. Or the liberal apologists like Keith Olberman who see 9-11 as a political event which can be turned into attacks against any and all conservatives and speak of their “disgust” at letting people see the real life tragedy that occurred that day.

2,752 people died. 2,752 Americans woke up that mid-September morning to head to work, not in their wildest imaginations thinking that the day would end abruptly with a plane crashing through their office or by their flight slamming into a rural Pennsylvania field. 2,752 Americans died that day knowing that true evil exists. Now, 7 years later, it seems like so many people have forgotten. When you can look at what happened that day and all that you think of is conspiracy theories and political leverage, the depravity of man should be so clear to you it’s almost deafening. How can one see such tragedy and sadness and only feel such worthless emotions as these?

After 9-11 droves of Americans flocked into their local churches, seeking prayer and protection, seeking the comfort of community and the hope of experiencing God. Seven years later these people have forgotten. There is no noticeable change in American church attendance in the long-run. The comfort sought was only temporary, the evil of the day not enough to break us from our routine for too long. We praise this response as a testament to the perseverance of Americans, but should we be so proud of our near-sightedness in the face of such a clearly broken world?

I still have these dreams. I don’t know when they will come or what triggers them, but every few weeks they pop in just to remind me of that day. Of the terror and helplessness I felt, watching those lives come to an end, watching the drama of tragedy and heroism play out before my own eyes in the moving images of the TV set. Today, seven years removed from 9-11, I can’t help but reflect once more, both in sadness at what happened, fear at what evil still might strike, and astonishment at how so many have forgotten just what really went down that day.

Have you forgotten?

Rebuilding the City- The Call of this Generation

September 9, 2008

Then I said to them, ‘You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision.’” -Nehemiah 2.17

The walls of the city are torn down and God’s people stand exposed. Fierce wolves and lions run in and out of their midst without hindrance. Fiery darts reign down on them without any protection and all the nations make sport of watching the city burn.

This was the state of Jerusalem in 430 B.C. in the time of Nehemiah. It is the state of the church in America today in 2008.

We have been crippled. The wall separating us from the world has been destroyed. Now evil runs to and fro, inside and out, polluting the body of Christ. This generation must work to rebuild. We must grab our tools and our swords and work to restore that which God has called us to defend. This is not a wall of protection from having to go out into the world, but a wall which sets us apart (for we are called a holy people, 1 Peter 2.9), repels the attacks of our enemy, and provides for us a name in the world which is above the derision and humiliation which the world casts on us now.

Leaders must emerge with a heart to do this work, and I will be one!

Rebuilding the City- The Work of the Church in the 21st Century

September 8, 2008

Then I said to them, ‘You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision.’” -Nehemiah 2.17

‘Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the LORD, the God of Israel- he is the God who is in Jerusalem.’” -Ezra 1.3

Over the past week I have begun reading over what is probably my second favorite book of the Bible, and definitely my favorite in the Old Testament, that being the book of Nehemiah. In reading it my attention has been turned once again to Nehemiah’s call to rebuild the city of Jerusalem and his efforts to cleanse the city of all of its’ impurities, be it from within the Israelites or from without. This, of course, is great biblical history, but I can’t help but seeing something more when I read it.

The something more I see in Nehemiah is this: Nehemiah has been called to return to God’s holy city, to rebuild its walls and to reestablish his people there. For over a hundred years the Israelites were beat down and derided in this place, but in the years of his ministry Nehemiah (along with Ezra and others) saw to it that Jerusalem would once again stand out as the city on top of the hill, shining down the glory of God to all the nations. In the same way, as we stand, the church in America has been ravaged, attacked from all angles, inside and out, and subjected to ridicule and hatred in the public square. It has fallen from the shining city on a hill which led the foundation of this country and has become a place of scorn or of “useful idiots” for advancing secular agendas. Just as Nehemiah came and rebuilt Jerusalem, so must we rebuild the church in our nation (This of course, is not specifically a flaw in America, but in all Western societies in general. Refer back to my posts on The Laodicean Project for more).

So, what I propose to do with my posts over the next couple weeks is to extract a few principles that we see revealed in God’s Word in the books of Nehemiah and his contemporaries (Ezra, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi) and to discuss what I think it says to us as Christians about how we should act in moving towards rebuilding the church in our nation.