Theological Thoughts

Community and Isolation

Community and Isolation

Our tendency to isolate ourselves is grounded in several factors, but one reason we usually avoid the company of fellow brothers and sisters stems from a stream of endless hypothetical situations about what might happen should I actively pursue community. “But what if they see me as I really am?” “What if they perceive me to not be as strong as they envisioned?” You see, fear leads to over-protectiveness/preservation of one’s aloneness, which means pursuing life together is crushed by the tyranny of the unknown. And God wants you to jump into the sea of uncertainty when it comes to church life. It is good and right to allow yourself to be known.

On Roles and Respect, Part 4

One of the problems we see with disdain for titles is the dread of the dated. Anything that appears to reflect the ethics of Mayberry or Casablanca receives the stamp of disapproval from an “enlightened culture.” The same applies to professional titles in our day. We have lost the common courtesy due to those who play important roles in our communities.

A recent article in the Huffington Post expresses this disdain for hierarchical categories when the writer says that authority titles serve to create a “culture of hate” since it places one person over the other. But to the contrary, using titles for doctors, pastors and leaders in the community serve to identify their roles and recognize their callings and place in their communities.

Three simple rules (by no means exhaustive):

First, when attending formal environments where distinctions exist for the sake of order, always refer to those who have active roles by using their titles (Pastor Schneider or Dr. Carter). When in doubt, ask your leaders how they would like to be addressed.
Second, children must always address leaders by their last name (Mr. Adams or Mrs. Smith). In addressing family members, there is more flexibility (Aunt Suzy).
Finally, remember that addressing professionals by their titles provide an environment of mutual respect.

Some professionals may discourage you from using such titles due to their own tendency towards informality. In these cases, I’d encourage one to insist on these habits and explain to these individuals why addressing a professional by using appropriate titles builds honor into a culture where honor is no longer virtuous.

On Roles and Respect, Part 3

One author writing for the Washington Post last year observed that the “first name” basis culture even between the elderly and the young stemmed from fear that someone might feel “beneath” someone else. I heard of a Christian couple recently in the Pacific Northwest who encouraged their children from their earliest days to respond with “Yes, sir” and “Yes, ma’am.” The people from the church they attended demurred their supposed authoritarianism.
I am arguing, in contrast to modern sentiments of equality, that referring to a man as “sir” or calling him “Mr. __________” is a way to produce and perpetuate the great tradition of honor. When we lose such things, we lose the foundational structures of a society; yes, we lose the necessary boundaries formed by the fifth commandment.

On Roles and Respect, Part 2

We have a loss of civility in our day. Part of that loss, I argue, stems from disrespect of authority figures. We express that disrespect by ignoring titles. In our congregation, we make a concerted effort–under whatever administration– to follow Paul’s exhortation to pray for “kings and rulers” (I Tim. 2:2) such as the “President” of the United States and our “Governor.” Regardless of political dogma, we are to pray for those who rule over us. I suspect were we under Nero, we would still pray for him and address him as “Emperor” Nero. One reason there is a fatigue with titles and overall respect for authority figures is that we choose to honor whomever we see fit to honor. We have become selective in our respect and our disregard for titles removes more grass from the civility field leaving us a bit less civilized.

On Roles and Respect, Part 1

On Roles and Respect, Part 1

I’ve read a host of articles on the loss of civility in our culture in these last few days. The profound casualness in virtually every place leads to a disregard of titles and inevitably a loss of respect for authority roles in our culture. I want to just address the child/parent relationship at this stage.

As I walked to the green isle to grab the lettuce, I overheard a child (no more than 10 years of age) who was vehemently disagreeing with his mom whom he addressed affectionately as “Nancy.” She looked at me and then recognized my role in society (I was wearing a collar), and respectfully greeted me as “Pastor.” She quickly acknowledged what her child failed to acknowledge: that when roles are trivialized or not honored, relationships do not function as they should.

Let’s start with the basics: Children need to refer to their parents as “mom”, “dad,” or some variation. To remove titles means a parent loses his position of authority, and children now receive virtually equal authority in domestic decisions. When parents refuse to inculcate distinctions in the home with their proper titles, we lose the necessary structure and environment that make the home run.

Amputating the Bible

We must confess the fact that much of evangelicalism has turned the Old Testament pages into a series of unconnected moralistic stories. This reminds me of a lecture delivered by R.C. Sproul one time where he asked for a copy of the Bible. A young college student threw a copy of the New Testament Gideon’s Pocket-Size Bible to him. Sproul looked at it and threw it right back and said, “I asked for a Bible, young man!” We have disassociated the Scriptures and treated it as a collection of unrelated stories. The reality, however, is that the Bible is a collection of unified stories made to build on one another with each story adding a more nuanced and elevated art form to the big picture. The Old Testament Scriptures are far more than moral lessons, it’s the very environment that makes the New Testament coherent. The presuppositions of the Gospels and Apostolic writings depend heavily on the assumptions of the Law and the Prophets. The Bible, to paraphrase Luther, “is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me.” To categorically divide Old and New is to amputate the Scriptural intent to hold and illumine our hearts and minds.

Praising our Children

Praising our Children

One of the emphases I’ve made over the years is the need for parents to rightly praise their children. Echoing the language found in the baptism of Jesus, I remind folks of the Father’s bold declaration that Jesus is His “beloved Son with whom He is well pleased.” I especially wish to emphasize the profound affect praise has when it comes from the lips of fathers.

While praising required duties (Lk. 17:10) like doing daily chores is not always necessary, acts of confession, truthfulness in the midst of culpability, genuine acts of repentance, honor to those in authority, etc. should be praised often and consistently as acts that shape and develop the character of our children as they grow in godliness and grace.

Let’s go to Church!

My good friend Randy Booth once observed that Christians ought to make a decision to go to Church on Sundays (excepting extraordinary circumstances) once in a lifetime rather than every Saturday night (or early Sunday morning). Men, I urge you today to make that commitment with your family, if you haven’t already.

Micro-Managing Children

Micro-managing our children is a poor strategy. Yes, we need to protect, but micro-managing parents suck the life out of children. Not all their mistakes nor the poor use of words need to be corrected. Some of the most joyful children I’ve met were not micro-managed, but talked to and treated by parents with utmost respect. If we exert micro-managing authority, children will find ways to manage their sins in the dark. If we exert our authority in love, respect, and openness, our children will by God’s grace lovingly, respectfully, and openly speak of and confess their sins.

Additional Comments:

” I do think that micro-managing finds a more suitable home in home-schooling environments for a variety of reasons which are too many to list. But I see this tendency lived out in patriarchal-like circles in a tendency to isolate from church life and preserve a certain pride in our “way of doing things,” and refusing to be like “them.” The result is a new generation of sophisticated atheists who know how to think and use their stories of growing up in such environments to write blogs and start Facebook pages for disenfranchised children of such parents. It’s almost a movement.”

” I wonder how many of us have the boldness to ask those who know us to honestly assess if we fit that description.”

“My central point being that micro-managing produces children who do not confess or are afraid to confess their faults and failures.”

Image result for micromanaging dilbert

Parenting Via Perfection

The notion of parenting via perfection is a myth. When parents say “We are not perfect,” they are merely echoing a false sentiment. No one expects parental perfection. What the Bible demands is parental faithfulness. Faithfulness turns father’s hearts to hurting sons/daughters. Perfection is a myth. Faithfulness is the way of the kingdom. The clearest path to faithfulness is when parents embrace the life of repentance before their children. You can carry the excuse of not being perfect to cover your mistakes/anger or you can carry the faithfulness model and repent before your own children and assert again and again that this home is a place for people that need Jesus daily, and of those, I am most consistently in need of Him.