Category: Gospel and Culture

Believe Me! – This is a Great Movie

BELIEVE ME is the film a lot of people have been waiting for. Part satire, part substance, part laugh your head off humor (can you say Ron Swanson or Christopher MacDonald, aka “Shooter McGavin”?), Believe Me does what many films have tried to do with Christian subculture, and the gospel message, and have failed. Believe Me succeeds, in flying colors.

The dialog is excellent. Stephen Jones calls the humor “comedic perfection.” The cinematography isn’t just industry standard, it takes some creative risks, and lands them with skill. The ending is pitch perfect. On top of all that, the soundtrack is killer.

I’m proud of the guys behind this film. Don’t miss it.

How to Be a Good Dad (& What to Do with a Bad Dad)

Father’s Day–some are grateful it’s just one day.

There are many fathers who have heaped unbearable burdens upon their children with unrealistic demands. To you, this day reminds you of failure, not measuring up, not being who Dad wanted you to be. For others, Dad subtracted meaning from your life. Your Dad just cut out on you, left Mom for another woman, a career mistress, or never entered your life at all.

How do you respond to your father while edging out on the ice of fatherhood yourself?

Others see Father’s Day as an opportunity to honor someone they’re grateful for every day. Dad reminds you of warm approval, strong godly character, firm discipline, and vibrant faith. You don’t know how good you got it but you know it’s good. Fathers possess incredible power over their children, for good or for ill, and a new generation of Christian fathers are emerging with very poor role models. Is it possible to redeem your patriarchal past? How do you respond to your father while edging out on the ice of fatherhood yourself?

What to Do with a Not So Great Dad

St. Augustine had great Mom and a not so great Dad. Throughout his Confessions, (a Western classic every Christian should read), Augustine reflects on his mother’s prayerful faithfulness and his dad’s worldliness. In a passage in Book 2, he extols his father for providing for his education in literature and rhetoric. He notes that his father took great pains to secure the necessary finances. It is hard to imagine the Western Church without an educated Augustine. His books, ideas, and turns of phrase have been admired by many, believer and non.

Augustine shows us how to honor our fathers, even when they were less than honorable.

Augustine shows us how to honor our fathers, even when they were less than honorable. Even if your father was absent and just cut a check for child support, at least he did that. Instead of ripping cynically on his absent Dad, he shows us how to carry out the Christian principle of “honor your father” by searching for anything positive and honoring him for that.

But what about his Dad’s absence, or worse, his very real, damaging presence?

Augustine describes his father’s neglect: “father took no pains as to how I was growing up before you [God], or as to how chaste I was, as long as I was cultivated in speech, even though I was a desert, uncultivated for you, O God, who are the one true and good Lord of that field which is my heart.”

Though he received a financial deposit, Augustine was raised in spiritual poverty by his father. His father approved winkingly over his sexual exploits, a badge of manhood. He sent his son in the wrong direction. Dad held the career high–a rhetorician–and Christ low. Augustine repeatedly reflects on his struggle with mistresses and sexual temptation remarking that he was “in love with love.”

Moving Beyond Dad Issues

Until he was conquered by a holy love: “You love, but are not inflamed with passion; you are jealous, yet free from care…who will help me, so that you will come into my heart and inebriate it, to the end that I may forget my evils and embrace you, my one good?

The prison of his father’s neglect was redeemed by the Heavenly Father’s attentive concern. Evils were slowly blotted out from his memory in the presence of the one, true Good. The way we move beyond our Dad issues isn’t to bury them, but to carry them to the Redeemer.

When I was preparing to become a father for the first time, I asked a good father friend for advice. He said, “Be a good Dad by being a good son.” He was saying that fatherhood is less about technique and more about identity.

Be a good Dad by being a good son.

The more a man settles into the perfect love of God, the more his fathering becomes an approximation of the perfect Father. The more rooted you are in God’s approval, the more inclined you are to give it to your kids. The more you are aware of the holiness of God, the more you will call your children into his holiness–cultivating their soul. The more you are aware of God’s unfathomable grace, the more quick you will be to extend it to your children.

Fatherhood is less about technique and more about identity.

Dad, you have an opportunity to cultivate the soul of the next generation. You can point them to the “one true and good Lord of that field which is their heart.” You don’t have to be enough for them because God already is enough. Cultivate your soul and act like your heavenly Father toward your kids. Teach them the gospel, repent quickly, and be present–no perfection required–Jesus has that covered.

Be a good son, and you’ll be a good Dad.


Books & Engaging Culture thru Missional Communities

I had a nice time with some church leaders in our area this evening. They invited me to talk to them on the topic of cultural engagement. I’ll note the resources I referred to under each heading. The talk unfolded along three lines of thought.

What is Culture and Why Care About it?

This is a mash up of Ken Meyers and my own Anthropological training. In his insightful book, All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes (its much better than it sounds), Meyers says culture is “What we make of the world.” It’s a double entendre. Culture is ideas and products, assessments and artifacts.

Developing a brief biblical theology of culture, I cited Mark Noll’s commentary on evangelicals from The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind:

For an entire Christian community to neglect, generation after generation, serious attention to the mind, nature, society, the arts — all spheres created by God and sustained for his own glory — may be, in fact, sinful

Paradigms for Engaging Culture

Here I pointed the foundational work of Richard Neihbur’s Christ & Culture, but advocated a simpler and more flexible paradigm from the lesser known Lamin Sanneh, an African missiolgist who teaches a Princeton. In his Translating the Message, Sanneh suggest three-fold approach that is not sequential but overlapping and flexible:

  • QUARANTINE – holy seclusion from the world through spiritual disciplines and moral decision-making. What we quarantine from may change over time and we mature as Christians in matters of conscience (e.g. Acts 15 versus 1 Cor 8 on the matter of food sacrificed to idols).
  • SYNCRETISM – Syncretism refers to those theological and ethical issues that are no longer normative but are open to conscience, emphasizing holiness and responsibility in the world. It is the first step in contextualization.
  • REFORM – Reform is a prophetic stance that attempts to keep one foot the kingdom of the world and another foot in the kingdom of heaven.  The result is not a condemnation of culture (though that is one possibility), but instead it focuses on the continual reformation of ethics and behavior thus celebrating, condemning, and critiquing culture while anchored in the text.

These can be simplified into REJECT, RECEIVE, REDEEM but using these terms loses some of Sanneh’s nuance.

Missional Community Questions 

1 PEOPLE: What people is God sending you to? Where do they live and hang out? How could we re-orient our lives to be with them. Go to community spots, where people gather in your area: parks, gyms, bars, libraries. You can’t engage people you’ve never met.

2 LANGUAGE: What “language” do they speak? Are these people young families, business professionals, hipsters, etc. Read their Literature. Watch their films. Learn their language, where values are embedded. Language is the passageway to the heart.

3 VALUE: What is most important to them? Success, money, relationships, independence. Ask 2nd  Level questions about people’s history. Most of only know people from a recent period forward. Know their past and how it has formed them. Ask 3rd Level which inquires into the why of their hopes, fears, dreams, concerns. It slices vertically into their horizontal history to understand them more.

4 GOSPEL: How is the Gospel good news to them? How does it address their values? How is the Gospel better than what they value most right now. Build bridges to what they values and apply the gospel specifically to broken or inordinate values.

5 NEEDS: What are their needs? How does Jesus meet those needs? How can we be a part of meeting their needs in a way “shows” the Gospel.