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Laundering Frantic Distraction From Christians (via Stephen McAlpine)

Stephen McAlpine writes about church as a place of focusses attention, not impatient demand.
If Christians are to be salt and light, a non-anxious presence in an increasingly anxious culture then our gatherings would be well served to be measured and consistent.
This includes the impulse for non-stop music playing under every activity and word, or a passing parade of faces coming and going from the platform.
From McAlpine’s post:

Jesus lived the life of focussed attention. The world around him (“Everyone is looking for you Jesus!” says Peter) would drag him into frantic distraction. But, by the power of the Spirit, Jesus knew that his greatest asset was the focussed attention that would take him all the way to the cross in Jerusalem.
I don’t get the impression that people in our churches know how to do focussed attention all that much. I don’t get the impression that their work lives, social lives, social media lives, and family lives are built upon focussed attention. I don’t get the impression they are given much option anywhere in the world. Or at least nothing in the world invites them away from frantic distraction towards focussed attention.
So maybe that’s our job as church leaders. Maybe it’s the role of the church to launder the frantic distraction out of our people, in order to better equip them for life in a frantic and distracted world. In order to help them to be that non-anxious presence at work; that listening neighbour who has time on their hands; that person who they meet who needs help.

Read the whole article here.


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The Exhausting Rest Of Modern Evangelicalism (via Stephen McAlpine)

Stephen McAlpine seems to have observed some very similar situations in the church circles he moves in to some that I’ve seen in mine. (I think our circles are not that different)
If you’ve been around for a long time nothing is really new, it’s just old things turning back up relabeled.
When evangelical faith reasserted itself in my denomination it took a long time for people to stop trusting in their activity and trust in the righteousness of Jesus. Now in some circles a profession of faith is taken for granted and the reality of people’s salvation seems based on the degree to which they fall in behind the church program.
Church should never be the place that people feel guilty coming to because they don’t feel they’re doing enough.

From McAlpine’s article:

Yet here’s my concern. Just like Israel, God’s people today are struggling with that concept. There’s a relentless push for progress that we are being swept up in, and in an era of what I call “Big Eva” – the large evangelical ministry juggernaut replete with conferences after conference, ministry tool after ministry tool, leadership summit after leadership summit, technique after technique, there seems very little commitment to true rest. Apex leaders atop ministry pyramids are pushing God’s people with a sanctified version of brick making that has no end in sight.
And what does that look like? It looks like no rest. It looks like aping the pyramid/apex leadership and structures of the Pharaohs. And in a land of secular Pharaohs, the easiest thing to do is to mimic them, and create sanctified versions of the same thing.
My concern is that too many church leaders pooh-pooh the busyness of their people and constantly call them out of it, but merely to call them to a sanctified version of that busyness that, at its heart, is simply another version of brick making: “Hey you’re way too busy over there in your office/work/home, how about you come and be way too busy over here instead, for the right thing.
After all, Israel may have left Pharaoh behind, but they were about to enter a land where Sabbath was also unknown. They were going to have to go against the grain to show what true rest looked like. The default would be to fall into a Promised Land version of being too busy.
As I survey the increasing wreckage of “Big Eva” across the Western world, with the scandals and burnouts, the sexual and spiritual abuses, there is a clear pattern -rest – sabbath rest – is glaringly absent. Left behind the now disgraced pharaohs is a trail of burned churches and exhausted sheep, who were told they were doing God’s work, when all too often they were making bricks for a ministry Pharoah.

Read the whole post here. And then relax.


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The Day Jesus Said “I’ve Got This” (via Stephen McAlpine)

Stop whatever you’re doing and read Stephen McAlpine’s post The Day Jesus Said “I’ve Got This”.
No excerpts, no quotes, the whole thing is a highlight.
Really.
Read it.


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Fullness Of Joy That Lasts Forevermore (via Stephen McAlpine)

With the seasonal observations of the euphoria that is experienced by winning football teams and their supporters, Stephen McAlpine reflects on how a joy that seems so complete will fade so quickly (pre-season training will probably commence well before Christmas) contrasts with a joy that is more complete and which will never diminish.
I’m a long way into a set of Bible studies on the book of Ecclesiastes at the moment and these thoughts are very relevant to the theme of that part of Scripture.
From his post:

When people ask the question “Can you be happy without God?”, I say, “Of course!” I don’t buy it when apologists say “no” to that question.
I don’t believe that you cannot be happy without God. Because lots of people – especially in this rich Western world – patently are.
But it won’t last. It will fade. It will die – probably before they do. For if someone dies without having experienced severe suffering, or deep unhappiness, then they are a rare beast indeed.
Die they will, and the joy of a premiership flag will not go with them. Nor the joy of sex, the joy of work, the joy of leisure, the joy of anything outside of the joy of God.
Christians are often described as “kill-joys”. We don’t need to be that. In fact our one true Joy was killed, then raised again so that our joy could go on forever.

Read the whole post here.


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Negative Splitting The Christian Life (via Stephen McAlpine)

Maybe its because I’ve started cranking the treadmill at the gym up to a bit of a canter in the mornings, but this article by Stephen McAlpine caught my eye.
A 51 year old pastor with a passion for running McAlpine comments on completing the second half of a recent half-marathon (about 10kms) in a faster time than the first half – a negative split.
McAlpine develops the thought of completing the second half of a Christian lifetime with more purpose than the first, rather than settling and coasting home.
From his article:

So what about negative splitting your Christian life? What about making the second half stronger, more purposeful than the first half of it?
I say that in the light of being a Christian long enough to see peers either seemingly struggle to reach the finish line and settled into a low grade anger or cynicism, or give up altogether and go down some sidewalk. It’s not unusual for me to meet 50 to 60 year old men who, having started the race with joy and endurance, go into positive split territory or leave the faith altogether, and all the time getting closer to the finish chute.

Read the whole post at Stephen McAlpine.


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Liturgy For The Non-Liturgical Christian (via Stephen McAlpine)

Watch someone with a completely scripted contemporary order of service maintain they’re non-liturgical.
Stephen McAlpine bounces off the observation that all churches have a liturgy of some sort or another, the issue is whether it conveys the reality of the Kingdom of God or is shaped as a pastiche that reflects the Kingdom of the world.
This isn’t a matter of old-fashioned or new-fashioned. It’s a matter of intent and content.
McAlpine states that good liturgy serves as a means for Christians to be re-stored and re-storied.

A sample:

Self-conscious and faithful liturgy re-stories us. We gather to hear that we are in a different story to the stories that we have been plied with all week long. We gather to hear the story that begins in a Garden and ends in a City and that has a vision of the good life and of flourishing centred around the worship of the Lamb, not the worship of the self.
Good liturgy walks us through that story. Not all of it every week. But enough of it over time that we gradually can become impervious to the alternate stories of sex, power and money that are constantly reinventing and re-presenting themselves to us in various guises. Good, self-conscious liturgy is not the sum total of what we do when we gather in various formats as church, indeed it would be strange if it were, but it must the planet at the centre that pulls everything else we do into planetary alignment.
Good liturgy becomes embedded in us so that when those lies come to us as truths, the sheer weight of the truth in us casts them aside, and we find ourselves living liturgically in the gospel due to the sheer length of time we have spent proclaiming true liturgy. Good liturgy doesn’t pretend to be all of our worship, it simply prepares us for a life of worship that is directed towards what is worthy of our worship. Good liturgy sends us out after gathering us in with a clearer sense of the story.
The decision by many churches to cut liturgy at just the time the cultural liturgies were ramping up in energy, was to the church what uni-lateral disarmament was to politics in the 1970s and 1980s.
Both are suicidal and naive.

Read the whole post at Stephen McAlpine.