ChurchETHOS

Same-Sex Marriages Repealed in Maine

Posted in christian habits, christian thought, cultural relevance by Nathan Creitz on November 4, 2009
maine-question-one-signs

Image from politicsdaily.com

Last night, Maine became the 31st out of 31 states to vote down same-sex marriage. On the other hand, six states have legislated (forced?) same-sex marriage on its constituents through the judicial branch or the legislative branch. Maine’s repeal brings the total number of states that have legalized same-sex marriage back down to five.

I also find it interesting that there wasn’t as much hype about this from grassroots organizations and churches as there was in California last year. It appears that this was a quiet victory for conservatism with not much need for controversial activism. I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t happy with some of the behavior by church leaders in California but here in Maine it seems that the churches in Maine were more civil and fair.

It’s also important to note that this is the first New England state that has had an opportunity to vote on same-sex marriage and it was turned down. Four of the six New England states allow same-sex marriage but only because of judges and politicians, never by a state-wide vote.

So, here are some questions for ChurchETHOS readers:

Are Americans living in the Dark Ages or the Enlightenment on this issue? Is same-sex marriage a civil right or not? Has the church responded appropriately to this social issue? How has the church conducted itself in Maine (respect, fairness, intolerance, etc.)? How SHOULD the church wrestle with the issue of same-sex marriage (personally, publicly, politically, pastorally, etc.)?

Please be respectful in your comments whether you are in favor of or oppose same-sex marriages. I will delete your comment if I find it offensive to people on either side of this issue. Therefore, if you want your voice to be heard find a way to do it with respect and grace.

Here are some news stories:

ABC

NYT

Boston Globe

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Compassionate Moment

Posted in church leadership, cultural relevance, social justice, uncategorized by Nathan Creitz on October 16, 2009

I ran across this video recently from the Catalyst Conference and had some conflicting emotions as I watched it. As a communicator of God’s Word, I am intensely aware of the power of emotion and the importance of using it effectively (though I often make mistakes). Take a moment to watch this video (especially starting from 3:45) and get an impression and then rejoin me for thoughts after:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve made mistakes as a communicator so when I watch a video like this and comment on it I do so for my own learning experience (and perhaps my readers can learn from this as well). Let me also say that I have full confidence in the integrity of Compassion International and for everyone on the stage during this video. However, I think some steps could’ve been taken to avoid an awkward situation. This post is sort of like a case study for communicator’s.

Jimmy and Mark’s story was very powerful. I can’t imagine a more compelling story and I know the Holy Spirit was at work in this moment. Compassion International is a reputable organization and I have lots of friends who have attended Catalyst conferences. But after Jimmy meets Mark, I thought the way the MC handled this situation was distracting and misguided. Again, coming purely from a communicator’s perspective, I think we need to learn from this moment and be aware of the power of emotion. This was a powerful moment but at the end it felt like a commercial (even though he said it wasn’t. I’m always extremely sensitive especially to the way we ask for money even for a worthy cause).

Now, I know that hundreds of children got sponsored through this event, but my concern with this video doesn’t have anything to do with poverty. In fact, it doesn’t have anything to do with motives. I’m sure the people who coordinated this moment were hoping to persuade as many people as possible to sponsor a child and that they were doing so for the right reasons.

I don’t want to attack anyone’s motives, but I do want to caution about methods. To me the moment after Jimmy and Mark met I was longing for someone to whisk them off stage and then lead the crowd in a time of praise for the One who made all this possible. Of course, no one doubted that it was the Spirit who was working in that room at that moment, but it seemed to go way, way too quickly to a plea for money.

So, viewing this as a case study, I invite your insights. Should this moment have been planned differently? Maybe with videos or with more tact? Should someone have prepped the MC to feel free to go off script if the moment was too powerful to proceed? What lessons do we learn as church leaders about the power of emotion and our need to carefully consider what may or may not happen in a moment such as this?

You can also continue the conversation over at the  Compassion Blog.

You can become a Compassion International sponsor here.

The SBC Name Change

Posted in cultural relevance, southern baptist convention by Nathan Creitz on July 22, 2009
SBC_logo

Does the SBC logo look better in color?

My two previous posts urging the Southern Baptist Convention to change its name were wildly and strangely popular. I have to say this is hardly my most passionate topic. I just think the name is irrelevant and I’ve tried to make that point and let that do it, but since there is such a response to this discussion I wanted to give a few follow up thoughts.

Campus Crusade for Christ is considering a name change.

At their annual staff conference today Steve Sellers, one of the VP’s said, “We’re willing to change anything that hinders us from the goal.” They have even hired a firm to look into changing the name. Obviously, “crusade” is a word that hinders effectiveness because it bears the connotation of THE Crusades. Does the term “Southern” hinder effectiveness? Well, it’s irrelevant and it does bear negative connotations for those of us doing ministry outside of the Bible Belt.

– Thanks @spangoo for the info.

TD Banknorth changed its name to TD Bank.

Sure, this was primarily due to a merger between TD Banknorth and Commerce Bank and the legal battles that kept them from naming it TD Commerce Bank, but notice that now that TD Banknorth has banks as far south as Florida, “north” gets dropped. They dropped “commerce” because of legal issues, but they flat out dropped “north” because it wasn’t worth keeping. There was never a scenario where they were considering keeping “north” in the name. Why do we have “southern” in our name again?

KFC was once Kentucky Fried Chicken

But, they aren’t just in Kentucky and having “fried” in the name of a chicken franchise is almost as bad as having “caged” in the name. This example really breaks down, though, because there was a change in name but there wasn’t much of a change in product. The SBC needs both. Also, simply going to the initials still left open the fact that they were kentucky and fried. For awhile they tried to get people to think that meant “Kountry Fresh Chicken” but I don’t know if that’s the official meaning of “KFC” anymore.

Many other examples

There are many other examples of companies changing their brand. Some are successful. Some are not. The SBC really needs both a new name AND a resurgence, if you will, on Great Commission endeavors. Oh right, we’ve already begun the process of a “Great Commission Resurgence”, now we just need the new name (and logo) to go with it. We need to leave the fundamentalist camp and effectively bridge the gap between the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth and the life and times of 21st century western civ.

So, what are some other companies who successfully changed their names or logos? Why did they do it? Did it help them or hinder them? What lessons can be learned for the SBC?

Related Posts:  32 Reasons (and counting) Why Southern Baptists MUST Change Their Name ::  Giving the SBC a New Name

Social Acceptance: A Missional Metric

Posted in cultural relevance, guest post, missiology by Nathan Creitz on June 30, 2009

tape-measure

This is a guest post from Jon Reid. Jon blogs regularly at Blog One Another. He often writes about the intersections between culture, technology, and Jesus-centered spirituality.

__________

What does your church measure, and why?

Evangelicals are fond of metrics. I don’t think the Church Growth Movement started this, but they took it to new levels, looking for ways to measure things that contribute to increased attendance. As a software engineer, I can certainly appreciate this. But I also know a couple of things from my engineering experience:

  • Whatever you measure will be deemed “important,” even if there are other things that are more important.
  • People will “game the system” to improve the numbers, even if it doesn’t have any true benefit.

Some people claim that this makes metrics worthless, but that is throwing out the baby with the bath water. We just need to keep the numbers in perspective. To twist the Master’s words a bit, “Metrics were made for people, not people for metrics.”

So I think metrics are useful. But what do churches generally measure? Worship service attendance, or “number of butts,” is still the a-number-one metric. Why? Partly because it’s so easy. (This certainly predates the Church Growth Movement. Do you remember the sign off to the side showing “Today’s hymns” and “Last week’s attendance”?) Make no mistake, there is nothing wrong with measuring how many people show up to an event. But if we focus on this number, it will drive us to be event-centric rather than relationship-centric.

Counting butts is an attractional metric.
If you want spiritual metrics, I recommend Natural Church Development.
But what about missional metrics?

Hugh Halter of Missio has offered twelve missional metrics they use which I recommend you check out. Today I want to define another missional metric:

Number of invitations from non-Christians

That is, instead of the number of times you’ve invited them to something, how many times have they invited you? Parties, concerts, movies, game nights, sporting events… This is a measure of your social acceptance by any group you are trying to reach. (Another variation to include is the number of times they’ve asked you for a personal favor.)

“Number of invitations” is not a sufficient metric to show well you are communicating the gospel. But by providing a measure of your social acceptance, it can reveal how you are doing at building friendships — which are the single greatest influence in people choosing to follow Jesus Christ. If you are focusing on a particular group and this number is low, try to determine what it means. (Don’t forget to pray for insight and divine appointments.)

So back to the opening question: What does your church measure, and why? Have metrics helped you live missionally, or distracted you? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

[Photo image courtesy of Darren Hester]

Related Post: Checklist Christianity vs. Following Jesus ::  Subscribe

32 Reasons (and counting) Why Southern Baptists Must Change Their Name!

Posted in cultural relevance, southern baptist convention by Nathan Creitz on June 22, 2009
I'm starting a rumor that this logo was created from clipart in Word 95!

Starting a rumor that this logo was created from Word 95 clipart!

I wrote a post a couple of days ago about the need for Southern Baptists to change their name. I gave a compelling argument in my opinion. Now, after receiving a flood of comments and responses on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and via email, I want to refine my remarks to reflect some of the follow up thoughts to my previous post.

The Intended Outcome for this Article

I hope two things will happen as a result of this post:

1. You, the reader, will comment on this post and use all the means of communication at your disposal to let delegates at this year’s SBC convention know about this debate. Online social media as well as blog posts, email forwards, phone calls, letters and telegrams are all strongly encouraged!

2. Someone versed in the parliamentary procedure at the SBC will need to draft a proposal that we research a name change. In 2004 such a proposal was voted down but only by 55%. 44.6% of all Southern Baptists at that meeting were in favor of researching a name change! Today, I believe it would be 51% if you act now!

Reasons to Change Our Name This Year!

1. We aren’t all Southern.

2. A new name could be the first step in throwing open doors for new church plants in non-Southern states.

3. Churches seeking a denominational affiliation in areas outside the South might consider affiliating with us if we had a different name.3. A good name reflects a good reputation.

4. Keeping our current name suggests complacency. Changing our name reflects boldness and innovation.

5. A name change might promote innovation and boldness in other needed areas in the convention.

6. Southern Baptist wasn’t a good name to begin with when it was created during the Civil War era.

7. Our culture responds to brands and ‘Southern’ has become irrelevant.

8. Names have to do with reputation and identity. ‘Southern’ doesn’t.

9. There are 6.5 billion people in the world. (that’s “b” as in billions)

10. There are only 105 million people in the South. (that’s “m” as in millions or less than 1% of total world population.)

11. There are 3.8 million square miles in the US and 92 million square miles in the world.

12. There are 905,322 square miles in the South. (that’s “th” as in thousands or less than 1% of the total world land area.)

13. A new name could perpetuate a closer bond in our denomination with sister churches around the world.

14. Most people have a bad perception of what Southern Baptists are about…a new name could refocus our denomination in a positive direction.

15. Thousands of SBC leaders and pastors are in favor of a name change from WA Criswell to Jack Graham and Danny Akin. Ignoring that challenge for the past half century is insulting to SBC leaders who are not currently located in the South.

16. Some true Southern Baptists (those actually located in the South) tend to have an arrogance that they are the decision-makers for the denomination.

17. A new name and branding would help us truly become a denomination for the 21st century.

18. We may disagree on what a new name might actually be, but ANYTHING is better than ‘Southern’.

19. SBC church leaders outside of the Bible Belt often hide the fact that they are SBC.

20. Some non-Southerners wouldn’t attend an SBC church simply because of their perceptions of the SBC. Changing the name would remove that barrier.

21. In most other areas, people are looking for relevant, transformational churches. Based on the media coverage of the SBC, many wouldn’t even think to look at an SBC church no matter how relevant it actually is. It simply wouldn’t cross their mind much like many of us wouldn’t even think to go to a Roman Catholic Church to find solid Bible teaching and an active engagement with the community.

22. Nothing about our name or logo excites our postmodern, post-Christian culture.

23. Would our Southern churches want to be called the Northern Baptist Convention?

24. People have stereotypes about the South (although they are often unfair and misguided). All the negative stereotypes are then glued to our denomination.

25. Many organizations that go through changes over the years adopt a new name to reflect their fresh identity. This is found in the corporate world AND in our own convention (Think Lifeway, NAMB, the IMB, Guidestone Financial etc.)

26. Our current name is based on a location, not on a vision.

27. Our current name reflects who we were, not who we are or who we want to be.

28. Regardless of what we want the SBC to stand for, what it is perceived to stand for is fundamentalism (if you don’t know that’s a negative term today then you probably won’t be voting in favor of a name change will you?)

29. Our name is not a Baptist distinctive. Changing it would not be a departure from our convictions and distinctives..

30. It won’t cost as much to research a new name as it would have in 2004. Through the use of technology we can get thousands of Baptists involved in brainstorming ideas for a new name and its potential impact.

31. No one comes to faith in Christ because our name is Southern Baptist, but how many have refused to even come to an SBC church, much less start an SBC church or affiliate with an SBC church because of the name?

32. There is absolutely no good reason why ‘Southern’ must be in our name. I challenge you to find one!

__________

33. Half of all the Southern Baptists in the world are located in 5 Southern states: TX, GA, NC, TN, AL. Could that have to do with the name?

34. A good name reflects a good reputation.

Some Names to Get Us Thinking

We’ve come a long way since 1845 in how we organize and in how we name our organizations. Our name should be something that everyone in the denomination can be proud of. It should reflect who we are and who we want to be. It should generate excitement.

Think of all the conferences and networks that are cropping up today: Acts29, Resurgence, Elevate, Exponential, Fusion, Catalyst. If we were just starting out would we call it the Southern Baptist Convention? A name should represent something about our vision and not just something about our past.

Great Commission Baptist Convention | Cooperative Baptist Convention | Bible Baptist Convention | Great Commission Baptists | Lottie Moon Baptist Convention 🙂 | North American Baptist Convention | International Baptist Convention | Global Baptist Convention | Missional Baptist Convention | Global Baptist Movement | Immersion Baptist Convention 🙂 |

My personal favorite is the Great Commission Baptist Convention but I’d like to hear your ideas.

I realize that some of these names are already taken. I’m simply providing them here to get us thinking about who we are rather than who we once were. I don’t even like some of the names (indicated by the smileys) but I offer them here as proof that ANYTHING would be better than Southern Baptist Convention.

Take Action NOW!

I want to hear from you! Southern Baptists need to hear from you! What would you call the Southern Baptist Convention? Do you have other reasons why we need to change the name? If you pastor or serve in a church outside the Bible Belt, do you proudly display your Southern Baptist roots or keep it hidden? Have you seen our current name to be a hindrance to your work in the local church? Why or why not?

If you have answers to these questions or if you want to just express your agreement or disagreement, please do so in the comments section below. Let us know who you are (name, church, etc.). Don’t forget to share this today online AND offline. If you link to this post, I will link to yours. If you tweet this post, I will tweet one of yours. Let’s get this name changed once and for all!

Giving the SBC a New Name

Posted in church reform, cultural relevance by Nathan Creitz on June 19, 2009

sbc_logo

[New Post: I’ve written a newer post entitled 32 Reasons (and counting) Why Southern Baptists Must Change Their Name! It builds on this post so once you’ve read this post, I encourage you to check it out.]

I usually don’t say much about the Southern Baptist Convention since I am not in the South. The name means little if anything to New Englanders.

If SBC means anything to anybody here, it usually means “fundamentalist” or “anti-something” (anti-gay, anti-Disney, anti-abortion, anti-fun, anti-reasonable, anti-interesting…emphasis on the “anti-“)

For years now I’ve heard of people wanting to change the name of the SBC, but many in our denomination who are primarily located in the South refuse to think progressively towards the future. Many think that if we lost the brand “SBC” we’d never get back our influence and name recognition (what about the costs of remaining the same?). In their view, people wouldn’t know who we are anymore. There might even be some who decide to split off from the new movement and remain “Southern Baptists” as if that were a hill on which to die.

Would it be so bad if some people got confused as to who we were? We haven’t exactly had a stellar, “reputation with outsiders” over the years.  Wouldn’t this give us a chance to push the reset button on a denomination that can’t seem to keep up with the growth of the society around us?

Would it be so bad if some extreme “Southern Baptist Only” pastors left the newly named convention? Yes, it actually would, but maybe our 16 million member denomination needs some pruning. Get too big and you lose your pioneering edge. The trouble is, our denomination is “mainline” only in the South. Everywhere else it’s emerging. We may lose some people but we need to do the right thing and encourage people to join us rather than do the irrelevant and non-innovative thing and try to please people.

Newsflash: Probably more people are leaving the SBC thanks to our lack of innovation and relevance in a postmodern, post-Christian culture than there ever will be thanks to a simple but necessary name change.

What would a name change do for the SBC?

– A name change would remove a Civil War era title that means nothing to a post-Christian society.

Population %– A name change would remove a regional brand that means nothing to those of us in emerging regions in North America or those planting churches internationally. After all, we are in the South AND the North, South America AND North America, Southern hemisphere AND Northern hemisphere. “Southern” is irrelevant. It means nothing. There are 3.79 million square miles in the US and 306 million people. Those states that could most easily identify with being called Southern only account for 905,322 square miles and 105 million people.

Land Area %– On a related note, currently, only Southern Baptists IN THE SOUTH are proud to be called Southern Baptists. Most people in other areas go by their association name or leave it out altogether. A name change would actually improve our brand, not destroy it.

– A name change gives us a chance to choose a name that focuses on what we stand for rather than what we were once against hundreds of years ago. (We were on the wrong side of the debate when we were anti-abolitionists, and even though we are on the right side of the debate when it comes to abortion and homosexuality, does it improve our chances of being heard to constantly be the “anti-” denomination?)

– A name change would maintain our Biblical convictions and Baptist distinctives but would move us to a new era in Great Commission endeavors.

What Do We Call It?

Building on the momentum that has come (especially among younger Southern Baptists) from Dr. Danny Aiken’s call to a Great Commission Resurgence, I want to propose that we name our convention the Great Commission Baptist Convention (GCBC). Should we be known as Southern Baptists? Or Great Commission Baptists? You decide! I think “the GCBC” has a nice ring to it.

– This name would brand us as the Great Commission denomination (if you care about branding which I don’t).

– This name would give our denomination the ability to get out of the way of the local church and become the supporting structure that it was always meant to be.

– This name places the focus on making disciples of every nation. In other words, it focuses on the positive, not the negative.

– This name gives us a fresh start and a new vision for the future.

Will the denomination split as a result of a name change? If it does then it simply feeds the perception in many people’s minds that SBC churches would split over any issue (how many times have I heard people say they wouldn’t be SBC because they heard of one that split over the color of the carpet). The fact that that’s the perception in many people’s minds should be reason enough to change our identity in the first place. The SBC needs to be stronger than that. We need a new name and we need our churches to come together on this issue – NOW! The SBC is already declining in influence among younger generations and I believe the name and the baggage it carries with it is part of the problem.

A Final Plea

Most people know the SBC based on what they’ve heard publicly (usually from the conventions when we’ve voted on controversial issues). As a result, people will rarely give Southern Baptists a chance on a local, more personal level. Our denomination has a proud history, but our name has nothing to do with that. We aren’t the largest Protestant denomination in the US because our name has Southern in it. We aren’t the largest missions sending agency in North America thanks to someone’s genius idea of calling us Southern in 1845.

When the people who are most involved in the Great Commission in the SBC are serving internationally and in emerging, pioneering regions, why are we stuck with a name that doesn’t reflect our identity? Those of us who are trying to pioneer works in difficult areas feel like the most effective way to be a Southern Baptist is NEVER to let anyone know what denomination you are aligned with. Doesn’t the denomination exist to support the local church? Or just the ones in the South?

We know what we WANT “Southern Baptist” to mean, but no one else does. Instead, “Southern Baptist” means anti-abortion and anti-homosexuality and nothing else. As a local church leader I want to deal with issues like abortion and homosexuality on a local level in a personal and loving and Biblical way. Making resolutions and statements about what we are against is not going to change our culture. If we really believe in the local church, then we need to let the local church lead. Our name hinders us from doing that effectively in MOST areas of the world.

According to the American Religious Identification Survey, the “Nones” (those who have no religious affiliation) have grown from 8.2% in 1990 to 15% in 2008. They are the only group to have seen growth in all 50 states, most other groups are declining. In fact, people identifying themselves as “Christians” shrunk from 86% to 76% in less than 20 years. Massachusetts has seen a 21% increase in “Nones” and Vermont has seen the largest increase with 34% MORE people claiming no religious affiliation. If people in New England had a hard time identifying with “Southern” Baptists before, does anyone seriously think that things are going to improve until we change our name? I have a friend in Chicago who told me that the radio talk show hosts STILL make fun of “the day the Southern Baptists came to town” (referring to our strategic focus city initiative that tanked in Chicago though they have been more successful elsewhere).

What are the arguments against changing our name? I can’t think of a good one so please respond in the comments section if you’ve got one. Our denominations refusal to change our name is one more indication of how we are a denomination that is against and not for. I think “Great Commission Baptist Convention” is a great start to removing this perception. But I’ll let others make the innovative decisions necessary for our future because.

I strongly encourage our convention this year to draft, propose, and vote in favor of a resolution to submit a new name to the convention delegates at next years convention.

Oh, and we need a new logo anyway. Living in a macbook, iPhone, Google sort of world, we don’t need something that looks like it came from Word ’97 … just sayin’.

Next Post in Series: 32 Reasons (and Counting) Why Southern Baptists Must Change Their Name!

Related Post: Are You A Public Christian? Please Say No! ::  Subscribe

The Christian Response to Prostitution

Posted in christian thought, cultural relevance, social justice by Nathan Creitz on April 23, 2009
Rembrandt "Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery

"Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery" by Rembrandt

On Tuesday I wrote a post about the legalization of prostitution. The response to that post in the comments, on Facebook, and other social sites like Twitter and Reddit has been very interesting. Everyone from fundamentalists to sex workers have been voicing their opinion on the matter. Some have voiced their opinions on legal grounds and others have been on moral grounds (though I tried to do a fair job of keeping it on the legal side for the sake of discussion).

So, what do we do about it? ChurchETHOS is meant to help the church think about it’s habits and it’s reputation in the world. Churches have a lot of bad habits and as a result many people have rejected the teachings of Jesus because of our poor reputation with outsiders. When confronted with an issue like prostitution what can your church do to make a positive difference?

» Show Some Love

Whatever you do, don’t get out your Sharpie and poster board and start thinking up catchy slogans about how much God hates certain groups of people. For one thing, He doesn’t! For another thing, it’s exactly the opposite; God loves prostitutes, homosexuals, murderers, and fundamentalists even if He doesn’t condone their actions. So, if we are in fact, children of God who bear the DNA of the Creator, then we will love people. I’m not going to say, we should love them, because that sets up an us vs. them mentality. I’m not going to point to Bible verses so that we feel obligated to love people who aren’t like us. There is no obligation; there is no need for exhortation; a child of God loves people! It’s part of who we are.

» Preach the Word

Pastors and other church leaders need to preach and teach the Word to the church. Emphasis should be on God’s love in giving us sex and intimacy and marriage and family. We need to talk candidly and frequently (but tactfully) about the blessings of sex but we shouldn’t shy away from talking about the dangers physically and morally of engaging in sex outside of marriage. More than that, we need to cast vision for husbands and wives that they can be faithful to one another. We need to cast vision for parents that they can raise their children to avoid moral pitfalls. We need to cast vision for teens that even though they are inundated with sexual images daily they can find ways to live a victorious life through Christ.

» Make it Personal

The church has thrown away it’s street cred by trading in it’s relational mission to the poor and the marginalized for a seat of power in Washington. It is debatable whether that seat has done more harm than good for the kingdom of God. Our collective denouncement of the world has taken its effect: we got our seat for a time but people got tired of hearing what we stand against. Not to mention that the fundamentalists failed to consider what happens when the White House no longer cares what the church thinks. The social capital that once belonged to the church is spent.

I’ve written elsewhere that our faith shouldn’t be a public faith (or private). Instead, our faith should be personal. If your church leans more towards boycotts than towards building relationships with people who don’t watch Pat Robertson on TV then change needs to happen in your church. I’m willing to let our voice in Washington fade if we renew our Gospel mission to our neighbor on a more personal, relational level.

» Show Compassion

A lot of people who are involved in prostitution don’t want to be involved in it. The church can help them find something better for their lives. The church can help counsel those who have sexual addictions. The church can take troubled teens into their homes who may have been trafficked for sex. The church can provide a non-judgmental atmosphere for people to ask questions about God. The church can raise money and awareness for social issues.

Laws only take us so far. They are given primarily to protect society. The church can do more through compassion than the government can through taxes and policies and legislation. That will only work, though, if the church actually addresses issues like prostitution. If we just try and get more control in Washington then the real mission work will never get done.

» A Parable

Once, a group of religious leaders brought to Jesus a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery (John 8:3-11). I always wondered about that story. Didn’t they catch the man in the act of adultery, too? Why didn’t they bring him to Jesus? What would Jesus have said to him? It seems unfair that the woman is the only one who is blamed.

To anyone wanting to legalize prostitution I promise I won’t try and fight you on it. I’m not going to stock up on poster board and Sharpies. Of course, my personal vote in the ballot box is one thing but I’m not going to try and mobilize an army of voters against you. Legally, I would rather see us place more emphasis on those who kidnap, abuse, and exploit women and children for their own monetary gain than on the women who often feel ostracized from society.

There are some things that should not be on the market: drugs, machine guns, sex, etc. They can all be dangerous because of their power even though they aren’t bad in all contexts (like in medicine, military, and marriage respectively). The buyer should be just as accountable as the seller when it comes to such dangerous commodities. However, I want to address issues like prostitution the way Jesus would address them. He spoke personally to the woman caught in adultery. He challenged her not to live in sin. He went beyond the law that demanded her death because he knew her accusers couldn’t live up to the law either. He spoke to her heart. He loved her. He connected with her. He forgave her.

May we the church begin acting in a way that is pleasing to our Lord and that brings about transformation in the hearts and lives of our neighbors!

Related Post: Should We Legalize Prostitution? ::  Subscribe :: Why Subscribe?

Should We Legalize Prostitution?

Posted in christian thought, cultural relevance, social justice by Nathan Creitz on April 21, 2009
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image courtesy of wili_hybrid

Should we legalize prostitution? As far as I can tell the answer to that question in most people’s opinions is basically either “yes” or “no”. An astute observation on my part as you can see. But maybe there’s another response to the question? Before we can arrive at a conclusion let’s look at the various complexities and reasons for these two choices.

Yes! Let’s legalize prostitution.

The major legitimate arguments in favor of legalizing prostitution are summarized as follows:

1. What two consenting adults choose to do behind closed doors is their decision, regardless of the consequences. Prostitution is a victimless crime.

2. Legalized prostitution would allow better regulation and protection for women who would otherwise keep quiet if they suffer abuse in any way.

3. Since prostitution is outlawed it is often done in shady locations. Legalizing prostitution would cut down on “back-alley deals”. Besides, our jails are overcrowded. We should focus on the real crimes.

No! Prostitution should remain illegal.

The major legitimate arguments in favor of keeping prostitution illegal are summarized as follows:

1. To decriminalize prostitution would send a mixed message to society that this is acceptable behavior.

2. It destroys families. Trust between a husband and wife are broken. Finances that could be used for the family are spent recklessly.

3. The prostitutes themselves are the real victims, often suffering abuse or are the victims of other crimes such as trafficking.

4. Prostitution, for obvious reasons, is one of the major contributors to the proliferation of sexually transmitted diseases.

Hopefully, the reasons given above are fair to both sides. In the comments section you are free to add other reasons why you might choose to answer “yes” or “no”, but now I want to give my commentary on the issue and hopefully make a case for a “third way”.

What Do I Think?

At this point, you might expect me to pull out a few Bible verses to support why I would say “no” to legalizing prostitution. However, since our society consistently rejects Biblical values, I want to argue my position on their terms. Secondly, my answer isn’t “no” to the legalization of prostitution…but it isn’t “yes” either. There is no question that prostitution is morally wrong on Biblical grounds. The question is, should it or should it not be illegal? We are not discussing the morality of prostitution, we are discussing it’s legality.

So what is my position? Leave prostitution alone until we’ve done something about the men (primarily) who are raping, demeaning, and enslaving women through prostitution! In other words, I’m not as concerned about the selling of sex (Again, we are debating legality not morality) but paying for sex should’ve been illegal yesterday. Let me explain:

Legislation is passed for several reasons, but primarily it is for the protection of the members of society. The quick “yes” or “no” answers to the question of the legality of prostitution have led to a stalemate. Those who answer “yes” to our question believe the “workplace conditions” would be safer if prostitution were legal. Those who answer “no” believe the practice of prostitution itself is unsafe, and therefore should be illegal to keep more people from engaging in it.

But consider the following statistics:

– 92% of women prostitutes said they wanted to leave prostitution immediately, but couldn’t because they lack basic human services such as a home, job training, health care, counseling and treatment for drug or alcohol addiction. (Factbook on Global Sexual Exploitation)
– The average age of when a girl enters prostitution is 14. (Prostitution Research)
– Females in prostitution have a mortality rate 40 times higher than the national average. (Factbook on Global Sexual Exploitation)
– 68-80% of prostitutes are raped during prostitution. (Prostitution Research)
– A compilation of sources suggests that about 60% of all prostitutes are forced into prostitution against their will, 38% are forced into prostitution due to hardship and economic factors, leaving only 2% that willingly engage in prostitution and (apparently) love their job. (Prostitution Research)

These statistics (and others that could be cited) show that primarily the buying and selling of sex is of most harm to the woman. I would surmise that, emotionally, the person that is harmed most besides the prostitute is the wife of the man who is paying for sex. This isn’t a crime against the man, the man is the criminal. He is primarily the one who is doing the damage to society in this case.

We pass laws to protect society. I’m not suggesting that we legislate every issue that might be harmful to a person or to a society. We all make stupid decisions that may or may not have an effect on others. But the preponderance of issues like rape, drug abuse, physical abuse, adultery, murder, incest, sex trafficking, child exploitation, alcohol abuse, theft, low mortality rate, female exploitation, divorce, and kidnapping that are linked with prostitution give weight to my argument. We need to make it illegal to pay for sex in America.

What Now?

What does this have to do with ChurchETHOS? Remember, ethos has to do with the habits or customs of a group or society, and it also has to do with the character or reputation of an individual, group or society. How we respond as a church to this issue will reveal our character to those outside the church. So, I will be posting a follow up post with some practical things I think the church can do to tackle this issue responsibly that strengthens our reputation with the unchurched. There I will describe exactly why this issue will help us think through our habits and customs and how to improve our relationships with those who don’t share our convictions. Meanwhile, feel free to share why you would say “yes”, “no” or “prostitution isn’t the main problem” in the comments below.

Related Post: The Christian Response to Prostitution ::  Subscribe ::  Why Subscribe?

Cultural Relevance

Posted in body of Christ, christian habits, christian thought, cultural relevance by Nathan Creitz on November 7, 2008

Before I publish the second part of my book review on Between Two Worlds: The Challenge of Preaching Today by John Stott, I wanted to address a habit that I’ve seen percolating in the Church today. Stott suggests that for a preacher to be relevant, we must understand the Word and the world. We need to be “bridge-builders” with one foot in the ancient world and one foot in modern culture. Seminary teaches a lot about how to understand the context and culture in which the Bible was written. We learn Hebrew and Greek so that we can understand the historical, grammatical, and lexical data of the text.

But how do we get a better understanding of modern culture? How do we connect with people and share with them the truth of God’s love?

I think the answer is obvious but too many people think they know the answer and that the answer is to watch more movies, wear cool glasses and hats, sip frothy lattes, and immerse themselves in CNN and the New York Times. I love what Ed Stetzer had to say today. He said, “Seems like everyone wants to be missional but when they say “missional” they really mean “edgy,” “innovative,” or “contemporary.” We want to connect with the culture but we are going about it in the wrong way. 

Before I give THE answer to the question, “How can we better understand and connect with culture?”, let me first point out the pitfalls that many of my Christian brothers and sisters are falling into:

Watch What They Are Watching

Watch more movies, that’s the answer! Right? TV and movies can provide a glimpse into the thinking of the culture. Movies like Religulous show us how Christianity is perceived and points out some of our own faults as well. Movies like Napolean Dynamite generate a cult following that has glamorized the life of the nerd. TV shows like Friends and Sex in the City have influenced culture and have changed the way we think about sex and relationships. Pop culture influences general culture but that’s not all there is to it. 

Let me be clear: Watching more movies will not make Christianity more relevant to the world. Today, a guy named Nick quoted John Piper who encourages us to “turn off the television”. We are wasting our time watching hours and hours of TV and we are justifying it by saying we are trying to understand our culture. I’m not suggesting that movies don’t provide some insight and that we should throw away our TVs. My wife and I have Netflix and watch about one movie per week (which is probably a lot by some standards). I watch a couple of news videos online about five days a week (that way I don’t have to watch the stories that are of no interest to me) and we might watch one or two shows a week on TV. Our TV is probably used a grand total of 4 hours per week. We don’t even have cable. 

I’m not asking for a pat on the back. I said all of that to say that I like what Erwin McManus says about being a connoisseur of information rather than a consumer. In an age of information and sensory overload we have to limit our intake to a few choice servings so that we don’t get so saturated with information that we can’t make sense of it all. My wife and I try to spend time with friends, play games, go for walks, etc. rather than just let the TV do all of our entertainment. That way, we don’t have to make excuses for the amount of time that we waste on TV by saying “we’re trying to understand the culture better.” I’ll never understand culture better if I just let culture happen on the screen in front of me.

Understand What They Are Thinking

Another way people try to get a pulse on the culture is by studying philosophy and world-views. This is of definite interest to me as a thinking Christian and enjoy reading and discussing this stuff all the time. I like to study other religions and compare and contrast that with the Bible as an exercise in discipline. I try to engage my mind and the minds of others as I read both Christian thinkers and secular philosophers. But this isn’t the answer either.

Is it helpful to understand postmodernism and how it differs from modernism? Is it helpful to study the various generations (millenials, boomers, busters, etc.) and how they act and think? Is it helpful to compare world-views and study various religions? Should we have an understanding of politics and global interconnectivity? Yes is the answer to all of those questions. These are helpful things to know but they are not necessary for understanding culture. A follower of Jesus can relevantly reach out to the culture without ever hearing the term “postmodern” much less study it and be an expert on it. A person can engage culture and never think through the characteristics of a postmodern world-view. 

Condemn What They Are Doing

One other way people try and engage culture is by yelling at them. I don’t see Jesus holding any signs by the side of the road cursing people for their sin. Yet, there are people who don’t care to watch the “devil’s box” or try and understand what the culture is thinking. They would rather “engage” culture by simply bashing a 50 pound King James Bible over their heads and condemn them all to hell. Many of these “Christians” seem to have little concern about what people need. They prefer to keep the world at arms length and believe they are holy and blameless and are doing God’s work by shouting at people about their doom. Is there ever a time when we should confront someone on an issue that we know is displeasing to God? Yes, but I believe the best way to do that is in the context of a relationship, which brings us to THE way to understand and connect with culture:

Share Your Life With Them

If you are a thinking Christian and you are concerned about the ethos of the Church (that is, the habits and the way of life of God’s family and the character and reputation that we have with those outside the Church) then you have probably already intuitively guessed the right way to understand the culture around us. It’s simple: Share your life with them! That’s right, you have to know people. The best way to understand culture is to build relationships with your neighbors and co-workers. Go to parties, participate in school activities. Don’t do it with some ulterior motive to win them to Christ. Simply get to know them. Enjoy the relationship. Don’t try and perform or convert. Be yourself. Listen to their hopes and fears and dreams and convictions. Share with them your hopes and fears and dreams and convictions. Be a friend. Laugh and cry with them.

Colossians 4:5 says, “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the time. Your speech should always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.” Stop wasting your time “brushing up” on culture through stuffy books and pointless movies. Plant your foot firmly in the Word of God and the other foot firmly in the world in which you live. Live out your convictions and your faith but don’t push people away. Think Christianly about your relationships. Relationships take time and people want to know that you care about them and not just about getting another convert for Jesus.

It’s interesting that In Luke 10 Jesus says we should love our neighbor as ourselves. When asked, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus responds by telling the story of the Good Samaritan. A person from a different culture and a different world-view helps a man who is in need. He sacrifices his time, money, and maybe even reputation by helping this man. When the religious leaders pass by on the other side, it is the Good Samaritan who stops and helps. Jesus spent a lot of time with “tax collectors and sinners” and he was rejected by religious leaders as a result. He did it, not to understand them or to be like them, but to love them and to develop a relationship with them. Shouldn’t we do the same? Let’s determine how we should act and what habits we should form by what Jesus said and did. How did he become relevant to culture?

Jesus was relevant because he was relational. Share your life with others. Love God and Love People. This is the WAY we should LIVE.

Related Post: What is ChurchETHOS?

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An Unnatural Life

Posted in body of Christ, christian thought, cultural relevance by Nathan Creitz on October 28, 2008

The Church is on the decline in Western society today. There is division in the Church in part due to a lack of diligence on the part of elders to ward off false teaching. Christians have become lazy in their thought and in their actions. The Church has ceased to have any major impact on the world.

There are thousands of root causes to the lack of influence possessed by the Church in the West. However, there is one cause that presents itself as a large heading under which many of those causes are categorized. The problem with the Church in the West is that we’ve forgotten that Christianity has no power apart from struggle. Indeed, many church goers are doing their best to avoid struggle and pain. They are hoping that the Church will give them their best life now. Surely, being a child of the King of Kings bears a certain pride and privilege. After all, we aren’t like those sinners are we?

Many of the qualities of the fruit of the Spirit require struggle before they can be obtained. It takes effort. I’ve grown up hearing people say, “Don’t pray for patience or you just might get what you asked for.” They glibly realize and articulate that if our desire is for patience, God just might test us in a difficult way. We just might have to undergo a beating before we get it right. When we finally learn a lesson of patience God might just make us go through it again so we don’t get caught up in pride – humility being another quality that takes a lot of “lessons” from God (of all things, don’t ask God for humility, right?).

Struggle is essential to the Christian life. God will not develop such things as discipline, humility, selfless love, peace, and patience in us without tests of our character. The fact that the Western Church today lacks these qualities is due to the fact that we run from trials and tests. Peter says, “You rejoice in this [inheritance], though now for a short time you have had to be distressed by various trials so that the genuineness of your faith – more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:6-7) James even encourages us to “consider it joy…whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4) From these passages and others (not to mention the sufferings of Christ) we find the call to suffer. This call is referred to in several places as a refining process. The verse from 1 Peter even talks about being distressed by various trials even though we have a right to an amazing inheritance. 

Why do we go through this struggle? Purity, Genuineness, Sincerity, Experience, Endurance, Joy, Maturity, Perfection and God’s glory are but a few things that come to mind in light of the above verses and reflection on the life of Jesus. What happens when we don’t endure this struggle? Division, Greed, Selfishness, Laziness, Complacency, Unorthodoxy, Immorality, Jealousy, Strife, Envy, and Drunkenness all come to mind based on Galatians 5 and even a cursory glance at the status of the Western Church today. 

God has called us to something that is unnatural. God has called us to something that is impossible apart from Him. No wonder people give up so quickly when confronted with a difficult challenge. This is not natural! It’s not natural to discipline your body and your mind for God’s glory. There are natural laws that tell us the universe decays and winds down. Our spiritual life is under the same natural law that tends towards decay unless the Spirit of God energizes us and enables us to… to what? To have our best life now? To obtain all of the promises and inheritance of God? No, the Spirit energizes us to serve, to struggle, to discipline, to grow, to mature, to be patient, and to love. That doesn’t come naturally. God is the force that is at work helping us in our weakness to overcome various trials and tests.

The decline in the Church is due to natural rather than supernatural living. The Church is not in the habit of suffering and serving. We have traded in good habits for bad habits or simply stopped being spiritually disciplined all together. The Church is winding down due to a decreased desire for struggle and an increased desire for stuff. Ultimately, the Church will come to a complete stop if we don’t realize that we are called to live an unnatural life that is pleasing to God. It’s not natural to live by faith. It’s not natural to be self-controlled. It’s not natural to be patient. It’s not natural to love. But with God all things are possible. Let’s pray that the Church will receive the discipline of the Lord and become disciplined in their habits and actions.