Sunday, September 27, 2009

Which Protocol Would Jesus Use?

In network programming, two important acronyms are UDP (“User Datagram Protocol”) and TCP (“Transmission Control Protocol”). Using the latter protocol, there is an actual connection between two parties. The former protocol can be thought of as involving a “broadcast”, where one party simply tosses some information out there for the benefit of anyone who happens to be listening, but not immediately knowing if anyone actually “gets the message”.

Since this is a blog post, it may be a funny place to ask this question, but isn’t blogging mostly UDP, instead of TCP? How much of the time are we just expressing ourselves, instead of really trying to communicate with some other particular person? I think of my own posts when I ask this, and the question seems particularly urgent here in a Christian blog: “... love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34) That has to be done one-on-one. Does blogging help with this?

A related area where this question comes up is that of social networking tools like Facebook. How much of this is just “broadcast”, but with no “connection”? Can real Christian Fellowship (Acts 2:42) be cultivated like this, when, instead of sharing our lives with other particular saints, we toss the details out there for them all at once?

An area in the church where we often see these issues come up is in the exercise of the ministry: Pastors sometimes see themselves as called to preach in such an urgent sense that they have little time left over for the network of personal one-on-one relationships that are so important in shepherding God’s flock. Elders too can get so wrapped up in governing the church, that they lose touch with its members. I recall being told once at an elder’s retreat that, when we really needed to be able to influence a member of our church, our efforts wouldn’t amount to much if we hadn’t been frequently in his home. How easy it can be to fall into the trap of thinking of “the flock”, instead of thinking as our Lord does, who knows each one of His sheep by name. (John 10:3)

So here it is, as the subversive post of the day: Do we need less time on blogs and social networking tools, and more time sitting down with one another in coffee shops and homes, as brothers and sisters in the Lord? Short of that, how do we get more “connection” back into these “broadcast” media (more TCP and less UDP)?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

"The Marine Who Only Whispers" Breaks the Tape

Bob Boardman, the Marine Who Only Whispers, passed through the gates of splendor yesterday.  He now sings to the Lord he served so faithfully with the angels in full-throated elation.

Thank you, Boardy, for showing the true meaning of "Semper Fidelis", and showing us how a believer lives and dies:  joyful and hopeful through the final strides.  Well done, good and faithful servant ... now enter into your rest!

Our prayers for Jean continue through her grief after losing her 56-year partner in life, love and ministry.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

God-Centered Worship

One pitfall of writing (or blogging) is that a rhetorical point can get lost in translation.  Such seems to have been the case with my previous post, in which I sought to stir up our thinking about worship by poking some holes in the common practice of taking prayer requests before engaging in corporate prayer. As is often the case with such things, those closest to me (who've had the chance to hear my thoughts at length on this topic) responded favorably, while those without the benefit of my context were compelled to supply their own.  So, this seems like a good time to clarify a few things:

First, several things I am not saying:
  1. I am not saying we should never pray for our needs and desires.
  2. I am not saying we should never pray for each other.
  3. I am not saying we should never ask how we may pray for one another.
  4. I am not saying we should never ask for prayer requests during a worship service or prayer meeting.
What I am trying to get across is that the idea of "prayer requests" has become habitual in the church, to the extent that it has crowded out the other important aspects of prayer:  praise, thanksgiving, confession, etc.  Corporate prayer has often devolved into long lists of petitions for the meeting of worldly needs, with occasional head-nods in the direction of the rest.  This takes place in worship services, but also in prayer meetings. 

The point is this:  Worship has intrinsic value, which is often lost in the context of our methods.  For example:
  • Music is chosen with a mind to entertain. 
  • Sermons are constructed with a mind to provide tips for "victorious Christian living."
  • Services are geared primarily to bring people forward at the altar call.
  • Events are planned for maximum turnout.
  • ... and prayer is structured around requests.
The theme is that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with being entertained, or living successful lives, or (of course) making public decisions, or having great turnout.  There is certainly nothing intrinsically wrong with praying for our needs or those of others.  The issue is identifying how corporate worship can get lost in the noise. By the time we're done, what's left of our "worship" is that activity that occurs between the first and last praise song during the "worship time" of the weekly service ... and even that may be undercut by the temptation to entertain or be entertained.

So, to return to the original point:  we need to be wary about how our "prayer-request culture" has contributed to a devaluing of worship for its own sake.
Great is the LORD, and most worthy of praise, in the city of our God, his holy mountain. (Psalm 48:1)