ChurchETHOS

Free Books

Posted in uncategorized by Nathan Creitz on May 29, 2009

Well, I forgot to do the drawing last Friday so I’m doing two today.

If you want a free copy of Don’t Stop Believing by Michael Wittmer, it’s not too late. After today I will still have 9 more weeks to give away one book per week. The sooner you subscribe, comment, and email, the more chances you have to get a free book!

Meanwhile, today’s winners are Eve Lester and Mike Goodwin. Thanks for subscribing and joining the conversations at ChurchETHOS! I will be in contact with them but I wanted to make the announcement here. Congratulations!

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Twitter To-Do List to Make Twitter Useful Again

Posted in christian thought, social media by Nathan Creitz on May 26, 2009

failwhaleConfession: I am a church leader and I use Twitter.

Many pastors who use Twitter, for some reason want to also become a social media expert. I don’t. This will be my only post on the subject here at ChurchETHOS. I’m not writing this post to become recognized as a social media expert, I’m writing it so I can become a better leader in the church.

Why? Because I want Twitter to help and not hinder my ministry. Do I really believe Twitter has benefit to the kingdom of God? If it does, then how can I make the best use of the Twitter experience for God’s glory? If it doesn’t, then why am I wasting my time? Will my ministry get the “Fail Whale” thanks to Twitter?

I’m writing this post to develop my own theory for using Twitter. If it is helpful to you in your ministry then that’s bonus. At the end of this life I’ll be okay with a “Fail Whale” on Twitter as long as my Master has reason to say, “Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Enter your Master’s joy!” (Matthew 25:21 HCSB)

So here is my Twitter To-Do List to maximize Twitter’s usefulness for my ministry.

TWITTER TO-DO LIST

Picture 4 Determine the Value of Twitter

People use Twitter for a lot of reasons. Since I’m not trying to be an expert on social media I’m only going to list those qualities that bring value to me as one who is in ministry.

#whyitweet

It’s not helpful to me to wade through everyone’s random status updates or pleas for recognition or shameless self-promotion. So what is valuable to me?

I’ve determined that the primary qualities I desire from Twitter are:

to network with like-minded people around the world.
to share ideas and links to relevant or helpful content.
to generate discussion about ChurchETHOS content.
to seek mutual encouragement and advice with other church leaders.

I’m trying to make entertainment and procrastination take up less and less of the time I spend Twittering. Which leads me to the next item on the Twitter To-Do List:

Picture 4 Determine How Much Time to Spend on Twitter

tweetdeckI use a Twitter client called TweetDeck to deliver my Twitter content and to organize my network into groups. I don’t know what a good balance of time might be to spend on Twitter, but I try not to have TweetDeck open all day long. If I can open it in the morning, again around lunchtime, and then later in the evening (and maybe one or two more times if I’m honest) then I won’t constantly be distracted by notifications every two minutes.

I may not read every tweet from my friends. Sorry. I will, however, answer all my @replies and DM’s. I also like to quickly scan through the past 100 or so tweets and see if anything jumps out. If you engage in a conversation with me, I will reciprocate.

The users on the other end of my TweetDeck are people not “tweeps” (I’m sorry, I just can’t use some of the lingo). Therefore, I want to benefit from our mutual relationship. All of that can be done during a few 5 minute tweet breaks, IF I make sure I’m disciplined enough to be focused on other work for the rest of the day. The minute Twitter is more a distraction than a tool is when I cease to use Twitter.

Picture 4 Follow People Who Add Value

follow

So far, I’ve determined the value of Twitter (and tried to remove the extraneous), and set boundaries for myself as to how much time I will spend on Twitter. Now it’s time to actually look at who I’m following.

I want my network to be of value to my followers. I’m in the process of removing everyone that hasn’t followed me back (with a few exceptions). When I’m done with that I’ll go through and look at the profiles of my friends and fans to see if they add value to my Twitter experience.

So what am I looking for when I look at someone’s Twitter profile?

Common Interests
You can check out my bio to find out the top 4 or 5 things that are of interest to me. If you are following me just in the hopes that I’ll follow you back so that you can increase your popularity, don’t count on it.

An Expert Resource
Most of the people I follow are not experts, but there are a few people that I’ve hand-picked that provide expertise in an area that is of interest to me (and therefore, are probably of interest to my followers as well). I would rather have friends on Twitter and not fans or followers, but in some cases, I’m willing to follow someone who doesn’t follow me back simply because I respect him or her and recognize they are probably too busy to tweet me up.

Willingness to Dialogue
Other than a few “experts” who don’t follow me back I mostly want friends that are interested in dialogue. A profile that only has announcements and no @replies is a bad sign. Chances are you aren’t actually going to dialogue with me, you just want to type at me.

Opportunity for Mutual Benefit
An occasional retweet is expected among friends. I RT other’s content on maybe a 5:1 ratio before I hope someone will RT mine (I’d like that to be closer to 10:1). If we believe in what we are writing on our blogs then let’s do everything we can to help one another succeed. I assume that when a friend of mine on Twitter writes a post he believes what he’s writing. I want to give you a chance to get that message out to as large an audience as possible. I follow people who share this same value.

Thoughtful Questions
I love when someone is working on a blog post and they get the feedback or advice of their friends on Twitter before posting. Or maybe when you are working on a project or a sermon, how can we help you be the best church leader you can be? This adds valuable to my experience when I get to be a part of your research and hopefully it adds value to your experience because you get live feedback.

A Descriptive Bio and Picture
Okay, this is probably the easiest thing you can do to let people know who you are and what you are about. The 160 character limit helps clarify what you are passionate about. If we have anything in common, I’ll know it just by clicking on your name. Take the time or I won’t follow you.

If you aren’t willing to do a few of these things, then chances are I won’t follow you. Or, if I’m already following you, it might be grounds for unfollowing, which happens to be the next item on my Twitter To-Do List.

Picture 4 Unfollow People Who Don’t Add Value

unfollow

I am in the process of unfollowing the following people (or not following them in the first place):

Incessant Self-Promoters
These are the people that are only on Twitter to drive traffic to their blog or website. There’s no rule against that, but I personally won’t be following you (unless it’s a really, really good blog).

Narcissistic Exhibitionists
You don’t want me standing outside your window watching everything you are doing. So why are you telling me about it? There are some people that just think we are all waiting to hear what you are eating for breakfast or how you lost your keys. It’s silly at best, and narcissistic at worst and a waste of ministry time.

There are even several people I follow who are big church leadership gurus and they often tweet about a conversation they are having in real-time with a real person. I’ve tweeted ONCE in the presence of a live human being. Whoever you are with, be with them and make the most of that interaction. If you have to tell me about the conversation, tell me about it later!

I also don’t want to know about things when you are driving. There have been too many accidents in the Boston area alone due to texting while driving. These are all grounds for an unfollow. The daily, trivial aspects of your life, just aren’t that interesting and if that’s the majority of your content, consider yourself unfollowed.

Bible Syndicators
I have a version of the Bible that I read each day. An occasional tweet about a verse that really struck you is one thing, but for those that tweet verse after verse all day long, stop it. I’m in agreement that the Bible is the Word of God, and I spend as much time as I can studying it and living it as possible but Twitter is not my source for God’s Word.

#hashtag Enthusiasts
A tweet that already is limited to 140 characters cannot be about 5 different things. Make your tweets relevant and focused. Two or more hashtags just make your tweet hard to read. If your tweet is about church planting give it the #churchplanting hashtag. There’s no need to also add #churchplants, #churchplanters, #churches, and #christians.

Ranting Provokers
There are some who just want to get on Twitter and do drive-by tweeting. They are angry at the church. They hate small groups, church buildings, Sunday School, etc. Whatever it is, they don’t like it so they type out an angry 140 character tweet and shoot a dozen of them out there. Then, if you try and respond with a differing opinion, they suck you into a 140 character per thought debate.

There are some discussions that don’t lend themselves to only 140 characters. Don’t get frustrated with me if I can’t understand you. Writing already is divorced from tone and gesture but add to that the brevity of these thoughts coming from near strangers and you can see why some conversations are better in person or on a blog where thought can be articulated more clearly.

Now that I’ve followed and unfollowed the people that add or subtract value from my personal network it’s time to tweet.

Picture 4 Prioritize Tweets

What will be the content of my tweets? I’ve tried to arrange them in the order of what I hope my tweets will be about:

@replies 40% // My goal is to engage in dialogue with other church leaders and not just overwhelm them with my own thoughts or content.

RT 20% // My network is always producing and discovering a lot of great content…more than I can produce myself. So, I promote their content by retweeting their stuff which is usually more valuable than mine.

Questions 20% // My goal is to use Twitter to get wisdom from others. The reason I follow people is to build a network of people I trust who are thinking and talking about the issues that I am passionate about. Asking my network questions helps me in my ministry.

Blog Posts 15% // NOW I can send you a link to my own content. After all the dialogue and questions and answers and useful links and retweets I can now add my own content to the mix. Hopefully that also adds value to my network but I don’t presume that my stuff is the only thing that’s valuable.

Random 5% // Okay, so every once in a while I do tweet the occasional irrelevant tweet that has nothing to do with ministry. I’m not trying to get people to weed out everything that’s frivolous, I’m just trying to come up with some of my own guidelines so that I can be disciplined when it comes to Twitter.

Well, there’s my Twitter To-Do List. Now I need to go and unfollow some people to make my network more meaningful for your sake and mine. Meanwhile, anything you would add to the list? Anything you disagree with?

Is God’s Word Living and Active?

Posted in christian thought, personal devotion, spiritual disciplines by Nathan Creitz on May 22, 2009

Romans 8.1This is going to be a very personal and transparent post.

Today I had such a meaningful time with God that I wanted to share it with you to encourage you.

Every once in a while I like to read through large chunks of Scripture in one sitting. This week I had two separate conversations about that practice with friends. In addition to that already being on my mind, this morning I had such a hunger for the Word of God that I sat down and began reading.

I’m currently reading in the gospels but I feel God led me to Romans to read today. I read the first eight chapters in one sitting. I can’t describe to you the joy and amazement I felt as I spent that time worshiping God. I wasn’t just meditating or reading, I was worshiping. His Word came alive in a fresh way.

WHY DID GOD’S WORD COME ALIVE?

Because it was the Word of God.
Obviously, God Himself is the One who makes His Word come alive. The words aren’t the objects of our worship but they are inspired words because they cause me to worship the living God. Not only do the words persuade me to worship but God’s Spirit opens my heart and mind to understand what God is saying to me. Today, my spirit was renewed, my mind was informed, and my heart was softened simply because it was the Word of God and I was reading it.

I love reading books and sometimes an author makes a point that grips my heart or encourages me to live out my faith in a fresh way. Those are good books, but nothing compels me to worship God like the Bible.

Because I was alone with God.
As if God’s Word alone wasn’t enough, there were a few other things that really made my personal time of worship special. Solitude is something we often miss. I can have a great time of worship while reading the Bible at a coffee shop, but what if His Word causes me to jump for joy, weep, or sing? I’m just not that public with my emotions so even if I am moved by the Spirit I might just sit there in silence.

Today there were too places that I broke down and wept/gave thanks to God. After 64 verses of God’s wrath being “revealed from heaven against all godlessness and and unrighteousness” I came to “But now…” How inspiring and captivating are those words:

But now, apart from the law, God’s righteousness has been revealed – attested by the Law and the Prophets – that is, God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ, to all who believe, since there is no distinction. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:21-24)

Reading Romans 5:1-8 brought the same kind of joyful and tearful response from my spirit:

For while we were still helpless, at the appointed moment, Christ died for the ungodly. For rarely will someone die for a just person – though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us! Romans 5:6-8)

I’ve heard these sections of Scripture quoted aloud in front of an audience and people shouted and applauded to hear God’s Word. Listening and meditating on God’s Word prompts a response. When we are in seclusion we can be free to respond with joy, laughter, tears, sorrow, or spontaneous eruptions of gratitude. It’s a bit harder to do that at Starbuck’s or even at home if your not alone in a closed door meeting with God.

Because I was reading aloud.
I heard God speak today. God’s Words came to my ears and I heard them. We can’t always read aloud but when we do it adds something. The benefit of reading aloud is that more of your senses are activated to really understand that God is speaking to you. I wasn’t just thinking in my head, I was hearing God speak. He used my voice and His words to speak Truth to my heart.

Again, not something you can really do at Starbuck’s.

Because I matched the tone of my voice to the mood of the passage.
I would encourage you, when you read God’s Word aloud, try to get a feel for the mood of the passage. When I was reading, “This is why God delivered them over to degrading passions…” or “There is no one righteous, not even one” I read it with a heavy heart. Those 64 verses of God’s wrath shouldn’t be read with a big smile on the face.

On the other hand, how would you read this: “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” I read that section more rapidly with excitement, not to be dramatic as if it were a performance, but because that’s how I felt.

Reading the Bible aloud while matching my tone to the mood helped me to really hear God’s intended message to my heart. I can really grasp the passion or the emotion of a verse in its context.

For example, we all know that Romans 3:23 is bad news when quoted by itself: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But when you realize that this verse is in the context of God revealing His righteousness to those who believe, the mood has changed. Romans 3:23 becomes a part of the good news because we realize that God knows our condition (we are sinful) and that He has taken steps to change that (those who are sinners and who fall short of God’s glory “are justified freely by His grace…”)

This is a cause for celebration! When you read aloud the context, and match your tone to the mood, insights like that spring out of the text and into your heart. God’s Word is alive if we let Him speak to us.

Because of my choice in translation.
Okay, so this one is more preferential than the others. Some enjoy the beauty of the old King James language and that causes the Word to come alive. Others really like the readability of the NIV or the NLT. Still others are appreciative of the accuracy of the NASB or the ESV.

Since I’m describing my own personal experience, I can share that the Holman Christian Standard Bible removes a lot of barriers that might keep my devotions from being more inspirational. I’m not tripping over the grammar or stumbling over “thees” and “thous” but at the same time, the HCSB is also very accurate and less theologically motivated than other translations.

So, all of that to say, find a good translation that you are comfortable with and allow God to speak to you. I’ve found the HCSB to be a reliable choice but my point here is simply that you should find a translation for yourself that allows you to hear the Word of God.

How many chapters are there in the Bible?
What really struck me today after I was finished reading and after sitting there quietly for a few moments was that I had only read eight chapters. If I read that many chapters each day it would take me 5 months to read the entire Bible. There are 1,189 chapters in the Bible and I was overwhelmed after only reading 8! There are 1,181 MORE chapters just waiting for me to turn to them and feast on them. And I had read those chapters before and had been inspired and encouraged by them. The feast is always in front of us. I have the rest of my life in front of me to either squander by ignoring God’s Word, or to spend wisely by listening to and meditating on the very thoughts and will of God.

Is God’s Word really living and active? I can’t say that it always feels that way, but on days like today I’m reminded of the power of God and the truth of His Word.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, because they will be filled. (Mt 5:6)

What are the practices you have when spending time alone with God that makes those moments rich and inspiring?

Do Right Beliefs Get in the Way of Good Works?

Posted in book review, christian thought, social justice, theology by Nathan Creitz on May 19, 2009
DSB Logo

DSB Question 2 of 10

The second question that Michael Wittmer asks in his book Don’t Stop Believing: Why Living Like Jesus Is Not Enough is, “Do right beliefs get in the way of good works?”

Wittmer asks this question because he felt like his very conservative background “reduced the Christian life to little more than an information dump”. His church encouraged people to come listen to about three sermons per week but there was little action that transpired as a result. There was truth but not much love.

On the other hand, he contrasts the conservatives with the “postmodern innovators”. This group seems to be practicing a faith that is exciting. The only problem is they seem to have love but no concern for truth. Wittmer writes, “I appreciate this renewed turn to practice, but wonder why we must turn from doctrine to get there.

So, conservatives might answer the question, “No, our beliefs carry over into good works.” but their lives would not be a reflection of that “belief”. Postmodern innovators might answer the question, “Yes, right beliefs do get in the way of good works” and their lives would be a true reflection of their answer. At least the postmodern innovators are being true to their convictions. Sad, that the conservatives who strongly focus on right doctrine are often the ones being untrue to their convictions.

There’s “nothing that excludes faster than belief” in the minds of the postmodern innovators. They have even gone so far as to say that God’s love is accessible to everyone. The only ones He excludes are those who themselves exclude others or those who opt out and want nothing to do with God. This is seen as a loving position by postmodern innovators.

Wittmer illustrates the two positions like this:

DSB conservativesDSB postmodern innovators

As you can see the conservatives have strong, exclusive beliefs, but are they showing love? On the other hand, the postmodern innovators seem to be showing love to their neighbors, but do they really believe in anything? Peter Rollins, a postmodern innovator said, “When it comes to God, we have nothing to say to others and we must not be ashamed of saying it.” Rollins even eschews evangelism to be evangelized by others, as if other beliefs have as much (maybe even more?) value than does Christianity. Wittmer disagrees and says, “Those communities that downplay the specific, historic doctrines of the Christian faith in order to ‘share experiences and encounter God in other traditions’ will soon become a baptized version of a Rotary or Kiwanis Club.”

So is it really belief if you don’t act? Is it really love if you just accept?

Wittmer does a great job of showing the deeper love that comes as a result of true beliefs. Only Christians can express God’s love to others. He asks, “But what if love is broader than inclusion? What if it means to seek the best for the other, to sacrificially give of yourself so that the other might flourish, and what if the unique items of the Christian faith supply both the model and the motive for doing this?”

As Christians we should believe that we were once living in sin. We believe that God’s grace has rescued from that life of sin and He has forgiven us. This leads, not to another belief, but to an expression of gratitude to God. So, our beliefs have turned into an expression but it doesn’t end  there. This gratitude causes us, as Wittmer suggests, to ask “How am I to thank God for such deliverance?” We soon discover that good works are a natural way of showing our gratitude to God. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey my commands.” What commands? Without a correct understanding of where we’ve been (sin, death) we will never adequately share with others where they could and should be (grace, life).

We’ve seen the mistakes of the conservatives and the postmodern innovators. So what should it look like to have good doctrine and good deeds? Here’s another illustration from DSB:

DSB right belief

Sometimes it is loving and necessary to exclude. Wittmer gives the example of parents who lovingly push their child out of the “nest”, a coach who demotes a player until she begins training harder, or a church that removes an unrepentant member from the privileges of membership. Sometimes, love excludes if love is acting in the best interests of the other.

Another example of mine is that I personally would hate to believe a lie, live for a lie, and die for a lie. Sadly, we must realize that with all the religions in the world believing all sorts of different things, someone is believing a lie. There is either no god, one god, or more than one gods. Only one of those can be true. The truth hurts but it is an act of love to help people to see the truth.

Our beliefs should generate loving deeds to our neighbor. If they don’t then we’ve got a big problem with our beliefs. Our love should be rooted in our belief that God has forgiven us and that He loves us. If it isn’t then our love is empty and worthless (filthy and rag-like I’m sure). Right belief produces right practice. If we leave one out then we don’t have enough respect for Jesus to follow Him the way we should.

This post is the third in a series of posts that will answer the ten questions that Michael Wittmer raises in his book “Don’t Stop Believing: Why Living Like Jesus Is Not Enough”. Learn how you can get a free copy of the book here.

Sunday Reading

Posted in uncategorized by Nathan Creitz on May 17, 2009

Here’s what I’m reading today:

Michael Hyatt: Recycling Your Blog Content

John Meche III: Killing is Killing

Ed Stetzer: Weathering the Economic Storm

Benson Hines: Your seat (or tweet) on the road trip is waiting

Tom McClusky: How Pro-Abortion Can You Get

DSB Logo* Don’t forget to sign up to receive a free copy of Don’t Stop Believing. I still have eleven copies that I will be giving away one at a time each Friday. Find out how to get your free copy here.

DSB Giveaway #1

Posted in uncategorized by Nathan Creitz on May 15, 2009

Congratulations to Paul Stebelton for winning a free copy of Don’t Stop Believing by Michael Wittmer.

Now there are 11 more chances for subscribers of ChurchETHOS to win. I’ll give another one away next Friday.

For more info, check out how to enter to get your own free copy here and make sure you read the first two posts about the book Don’t Stop Believing here and here.

Must You Believe Something to be Saved?

Posted in book review, christian thought, social justice, theology by Nathan Creitz on May 15, 2009
DSB Question 1 of 10

DSB Question 1 of 10

To my conservatively raised ears, this question really sounds irrelevant. Just off the top of my head I think of things like: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16 HCSB) and “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 HCSB) and finally, “if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9 HCSB)

So what’s the problem? Why ask that question?

In his book, Don’t Stop Believing, Michael Wittmer tells us why we have to ask this question. He brings up the question that all conservative Christians have been asked at one time in our lives. Like the father who asked “Would your God send my boy to hell because he never said, ‘Jesus save me,’ but he’d let Hitler go to heaven for saying the magic words?” To my knowledge, Hitler never did say “the magic words”, but this hypothetical scenario gets to the heart of what it means for God to be just. Is it really a few words spoken with sincerity that can make “the everlasting difference between me and the guy in the next cubicle”?

The question about Hitler was posed to postmodern Christian thinker Brian McLaren. He responded by saying that the man’s son “acted a lot like Jesus,” and that “God must be proud of your son.” All this because he did a good deed. Does Brian McLaren know the heart of the son? It seems to me that this enabled the father to conclude that Brian’s God respects good behavior – never mind about good beliefs. God doesn’t need that kind of PR because it doesn’t adequately respect who God is!

And by the way, my answer to the question about Hitler is that God has a track record of redeeming violently evil people. Think of the apostle Paul. What about Sam Berkowitz? To believe that God couldn’t save someone like Hitler shows a lack of faith in God. Had I been in Brian McLaren’s place I would’ve assured the father that God sent His innocent Son to die so that his son could live an abundant life fully in favor with God. Does that sound fair?

It makes me sick to think that a so-called Christian leader could dismiss the justice and mercy and the grand story of God so casually and make it sound like it’s up to your own good behavior to find favor with Him. Again, that’s not the kind of reputation that God Himself presents to us, so why would we spread those lies to others?

These are the reasons why we must answer the question: Must you believe something to be Saved? It’s because of people like Brian McLaren and Spencer Burke (who believes that we begin life accepted by God and that we “stay in his grace, unless we opt out”). Wittmer even describes meeting another influential “Christian” leader who said that we must update our theology to stay relevant to our culture.

There is nothing more relevant than the timeless Truth already given to us by God: We are hopelessly incapable of pleasing God, but God loves us and offers His Son as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. Hitler doesn’t deserve that kind of forgiveness, but neither do I. I hate to say it, but without God’s grace and forgiveness, I would be closer in morals to Hitler than I would be to Jesus Christ. There is no comparison between my good behavior and God. That’s why good behavior will never be enough.

So why did God decide to let it be about belief and not behavior?

Why won’t He allow us into His kingdom if we can answer affirmatively the questions, “Did you experience joy in life?” and, “Did you help others to experience joy in life?” Why won’t He allow us into His kingdom if we simply follow a good path, but not necessarily the “Jesus path”? Why won’t He allow us into His kingdom simply because our good behavior outweighs the bad?

God made it about belief because His favor cannot be earned. He could’ve made it about love, or acts of kindness, or compassion, or mercy, but those things would then be a source of pride to us. Only belief says we are completely at His mercy. Only belief is humble enough to admit our own weakness and trust in His strength. No one can boast in their belief, as if they have more belief than another. Belief is belief. You either believe or you don’t believe. It doesn’t matter how much or how little belief you have, it’s not about you. Belief admits that it’s all about Him.

“For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift – not from works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 HCSB)

I guess some like McLaren and Burke can easily dismiss God’s revealed Word casually, but I can’t. Does that make me a fundamentalist? Well, according to Wittmer, I’m more of a postmodern conservative. I agree with him that it needs to be about belief and behavior, faith and works. Wittmer asks, “Doesn’t God demand right belief and right actions?”

What should we believe?

The part of this chapter in Don’t Stop Believing that I really like is the section on what believers must believe. We must believe that we are sinners and that it is through Jesus that we can find forgiveness. Not too complicated.

But Wittmer takes it a step farther by talking about the truths that a Christian must not reject: the Trinity, the deity and humanity of Jesus, and the “historical truth and significance of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and return”. Finally, he advocates for some truths that we all should believe: perfections of God, humans are the image of God, Church is Christ’s body, Bible is God’s Word, Biblical story of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation. Of course, these beliefs may not be understood when someone first receives Jesus as Master of their lives, but if they trust Jesus enough to follow Him, these other truths will be easy to accept.

Wittmer writes, “Contrary to what some postmodern innovators believe, those who reject these foundational doctrines of the Christian faith cannot be saved, no matter how swell they are and how well they behave. Being good is not good enough. We must know and believe something – the basic facts about salvation – to be saved.” He is referring to the “must believe” and “must not reject” categories as essentials to being a Christian. Indeed, it is not enough merely to do good deeds. However, our faith leads to works. Because we recognize the love God has for us, we freely show others grace and compassion and love.

Good belief without good behavior is like mixing in all the ingredients for a loaf of bread but forgetting to put it in the oven. Good behavior without good belief is like putting a loaf pan in the oven without filling it with ingredients. Either way, the world doesn’t get to benefit from the Bread of Life because of our unwillingness to believe or behave in a way that brings glory to God. Belief isn’t really belief if it doesn’t inspire living like Jesus in the first place.

This post is the first in a series of posts that will answer the ten questions that Michael Wittmer raises in his book “Don’t Stop Believing: Why Living Like Jesus Is Not Enough”. Read my introductory post to the DSB series here, and then learn how you can get a free copy of the book here.

ChurchETHOS Book Giveaway

Posted in book review, christian thought by Nathan Creitz on May 13, 2009
DSB Giveaway

DSB Giveaway

In case you missed it, ChurchETHOS is giving away twelve copies of Don’t Stop Believing by Michael Wittmer! Special thanks to Zondervan Academic for providing eleven of those copies especially for ChurchETHOS subscribers. One book will be given away each week so keep reading and interacting on ChurchETHOS for a chance to get your own copy for free.

The first book will be given away this Friday!

Here’s what you do:

1. Subscribe to ChurchETHOS through a feedreader or by email.

2. Make a thoughtful contribution in response to any post here at ChurchETHOS.

3. After subscribing and contributing a comment, email me your address to officially enter the drawing.

Note: You only need to enter one time and each week you will be reentered in the giveaway. I will announce the winner each week on my blog.

Read my introductory post about the book here and stay connected with ChurchETHOS for the next eleven posts in the “DSB Series”. I will be writing responses to each of the questions Mike Wittmer raises in the book. The final post will hopefully be an interview with the author based on questions my readers raise in the comments to these posts.

I will be blogging about other topics other than the DSB Series over the next few weeks so at the end of the series I will do a recap post to collect all of the posts in the same place. You can also find links to each of the posts on my Book Review page.

Here are the links to all the posts in the DSB series:

“Don’t Stop Believing” by Michael E. Wittmer
Must You Believe Something to be Saved?
Do Right Beliefs Get In the Way of Good Works?

“Don’t Stop Believing” by Michael E. Wittmer

Posted in book review, ChurchETHOS by Nathan Creitz on May 12, 2009

51VDd6LY8nLMichael E. Wittmer writes 1980’s rock and roll songs books that are rocking the establishment in more ways than one. His first book Heaven Is A Place On Earth has now been followed by his second book, Don’t Stop Believing. I’m suggesting that his next book be “Karma Chameleon” but somehow I doubt that will happen.

In the Introduction to “Don’t Stop Believing,” (from Zondervan) Wittmer begins to set the stage for providing a third way between the ubiquitous liberal vs. conservative divide. In fact, he changes the terms to postmodern vs. conservative. I was slow to accept his terminology because I feel like I’m both postmodern and conservative but as I continued reading I began to understand his methodology. In fact, the goal of the book is to come to a middle ground while shaving off the problematic tendencies of both liberals and conservative. I found that I was in agreement with what he was talking about and that’s why I somewhat identified with both categories.

As Wittmer defined his terms and described the postmoderns and the conservatives, I was struggling to recognize those he was describing. He contrasts the worst of the fundamentalist conservatives with the worst of the postmodern liberals and other than TBN and the Ooze, I just couldn’t get there. However, as the first few chapters rolled on I realized that he was highlighting the extremes to illustrate where each of us might be headed if we stray from right belief (orthodoxy) or from right practice (orthopraxy). He is dealing with a systemic problem that both camps seem to have. He did a great job of showing how we have the tendency to align ourselves with one or the other camp. The best way is to have right belief AND right practice.

Wittmer proposes a third way, and that third way unfolds with how we answer the following questions. For too long we’ve simply answered these questions as liberals or conservatives, but Wittmer encourages us to answer them as followers of Jesus who show their love for Him by obeying Him but by also believing in Him.

What are your answers to these questions?

Must you believe something to be saved?
Do right beliefs get in the way of good works?
Are people generally good or basically bad?
Which is worse: Homosexuals or the bigots who persecute them?
Is the cross divine child abuse?
Can you belong before you believe?
Does the Kingdom of God include non-Christians?
Is hell for real and forever?
Is the Bible God’s true word?

Depending on whether or not you are liberal or conservative you might answer those questions in many different ways. Wittmer does a great job of helping us find an anchor in Scripture and tradition but also in the world around us so that we can answer these questions with confidence.

This is a fun, easy-to-read, scholarly book. There are 166 pages of content from Intro to Epilogue, but there are an additional 42 pages of Notes. Don’t let that scare you; as end notes, they aren’t in the way as you read through the book the first time, but there is so much there that you will want to read this book again soon to explore the extra information the author has so meticulously included at the back of the book.

This is a pretty brief book review but I find it to be a well-written and important book and almost exactly what I want to say here at ChurchETHOS. So, I’ve decided to begin a series on it that will dedicate one post for each of the above questions. The series will be interrupted by other posts at various times but at the end I will include a follow up post that will include links to each post in the series. Also, I will be reaching out to the author to see if I can set up an interview with him through email.

Free Books

Finally, to show how much I’m behind this book, I want to give away a free copy. In addition to the free copy I’m giving away personally, Zondervan Academic has offered to give another eleven copies away to ChurchETHOS subscribers. So now I’m giving away twelve free books. Find out how here.

I hope you enjoy the book!

Social Languages for Transformation

Posted in book review, church leadership, ChurchETHOS by Nathan Creitz on May 11, 2009

511kjbb76klIn my last post I began a book review of How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work by Kegan and Lahey. What an incredible book about transformation, leadership, and interpersonal relationships. This book has important implications for church leaders, which is why I decided to review it here at ChurchETHOS. Our churches are often slaves to bad habits and destructive tradition and if you’ve ever wanted to change things, this is the book you need.

Internal Languages for Transformation was the first post in this series and it described the languages that help us move from complaint to commitment, from blame to responsibility, from resolutions to competing commitments, and from Big Assumptions to assumptions we hold. Ultimately, the goal is to discover what you are commited to that needs changing, accept responsibility for that change and discover the road blocks that are keeping you from the change that is necessary. The book is written by educators and they are great at making this not just an easy read but a workshop where you can sound out your own complaints and turn them into commitments.

This post will focus on the final three languages: the social languages. These languages are external. They help you work with others to bring about change in a group or a company or a church (in our case). I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts about these languages.

THE SOCIAL LANGUAGES:
From the Language of Prizes and Praising to the Language of Ongoing Regard

The authors write, “We all do better at work if we regularly have the experience that what we do matters, that it is valuable, and that our presence makes a difference to others.” Nowhere is that more necessary than in the church. As leaders in the church, we look to God to ensure we are glorifying Him and advancing His Kingdom. However, we need feedback from others too.

It’s easy to praise someone publicly. “Great job!” “You’re a value to this team!” “Let’s give Fred a round of applause for his contribution!” Those sorts of praises feel good, but they have a tendency to puff us up. Instead, the author’s encourage the language of ongoing regard. They want you to genuinely experience the value of a coworker’s behavior and then share with them why their behavior meant so much to you.

Be Direct – Don’t express your appreciation to others about someone, deliver it directly to the person.
Be Specific – “Thanks for all your hard work” isn’t enough. What was the hard work? What aspect of their role in the job was of particular note? Really be specific about what the person did to make a valuable contribution.
Be Nonattributive – Rather than characterize the person’s attributes (generosity, patience, persuasiveness), describe your experience (you learned something, you gained something, etc.). An example might be: Rather than, “Alan, I appreciate what a generous person you are.” Try, “Alan, I appreciate the way you took all that time to fill me in on what I missed. It made a real difference to me.”

When we praise people publicly it can also have some negative effects. The others in the room might be jealous. The person being praised might become prideful. Everyone might begin working for the approval of men rather than for God.

When we speak the language of ongoing regard it is an encouragement to people. It’s direct and meaninful. You are able to share with the person exactly what they did that was of value and prompts them to do more of it. Finally, ongoing regard tells the person that they are valuable to the company, mission, church, etc.

From the Language of Rules and Policies to the Language of Public Agreement

Rules and policies are to be kept and followed. Public agreement means that everyone is committed to the same thing. The language of public agreement is basically harkening back to the first language of moving from complaint to commitment. This language gets a group to discover what we are all committed to, together.

This language is not committed to a top down approach to leadership. Instead, it is “intended to create organizational integrity…from within.” In other words, it’s hard to change rules and policies that were drafted in the 50’s, but when you learn what we all agree on and then come to public agreement, when we break those we are letting ourselves down.

From the Language of Constructive Criticism to the Language of Deconstructive Criticism

The authors intentionally chose the subject of conflict for the final language. Up to this point, we’ve learned how to adopt internal languages that help us change our own behavior. We’ve also learned ways of leading group change through the language of ongoing regard and public agreement. But there are times when you need to confront someone head on.

The language of constructive criticism is common (maybe you could try improving your speaking skills), the language of destructive criticism is even more common (that sermon was irrelevant and boring). A third option is deconstructive criticism.

The problem with constructive criticism is that there is often a lack of confronting the real issue. Deconstructive criticism chooses to disassemble bad habits or behavior and help the person to reconstruct a positive habit or behavior. However, the object of attention doesn’t start with the other person’s behavior it begins with our own evaluation of that behavior.

The authors explain this language best: “The language of deconstructive criticism is about holding two simultaneous realities together: I respect myself to the extent of taking seriously that I have formed a negative evaluation, and I respect the other as an independent constructor of reality who might have quite a different picture of what is happening, a picture based on premises and assumptions that might usefully inform my own.”

Conclusion

“It must be remembered that we exercise all the languages for the purpose of making our work settings richer contexts for learning. The kinds of change we are looking for are transformational. They go to the roots. They are not about fixes at the surface.

My hope is that as we learn how to bring about change in our ministry contexts that we will, as a result, form more meaningful relationships with people and that we will begin the process of change by thinking how we might change before considering what we should do about others.

First Post in Series: Internal Languages for Transformation ::  Subscribe ::  Why Subscribe?