Friday, September 30, 2011

Here We Go Again, Rob...

Well, here we go again. Let’s see what happens in the blogosphere regarding this recent bit of news.

If you haven’t heard, Rob Bell is leaving his church. Moreover, it now appears that we know, at least in part, the impetus for Rob’s departure.

Now, I’m not going to attempt to decipher Bell’s personal intentions. I don’t know the man; in fact, I’ve never even met the man. And, to be sure, we should remember the hailstorm that came when bloggers began attempting to decipher his recent bestseller, Love Wins, a bit too early (which, in retrospect, was more often than not a critique of his public promotional video, which I am convinced, in the end, was appropriate). Still, it is with a bit of trepidation that I try to offer a few thoughts regarding the public news of Bell’s departure.

What concerns me most is what appears to be a relinquishing of any kind of Christ-exalting, gospel-centered, accountability-infused pastoral ministry.

Let me explain.

First, in regards to relinquishing a Christ-exalting gospel-centeredness, all that has been offered regarding the spirituality of Stronger is that it will include “spiritual overtones”. What does that even mean?! (I suppose that is on par for Bell, though, as he leaves us with more questions than answers.) Instead of providing a robust, Christ-centered gospel, we are left with vague and opaque “spiritual overtones”. I have no doubt that Bell wishes to share “the message of God’s love with a broader audience”; however, if Christ is not intrinsically present, then there is no salvific value to any of it. If we relinquish the gospel, it is because we have relinquished Jesus Christ, for he is the gospel. I’ve written previously about what I think the message of the gospel is, so I will leave you with that.

Second, Bell (along with others) has already been criticized for leaving his ministry to “pursue a growing number of strategic opportunities”. Now, if you are being called by God to pursue something else, you better do it. Moreover, we ought to pause when questioning someone’s calling, for only God and the individual know their true calling (in these situations I often remember the statement made by my Bibliology/Prolegomena professor regarding claimed spiritual experiences; he said, “You cannot tell someone that they did not experience what they claimed to have experienced, for only God and that person truly know what, or if, they have experienced). And yet, my concern, to echo Stetzer and Warren, is the potential for ego-feed and/or lack of pastoral accountability in completing future projects. My hope and prayer is that Bell will come under a good church to keep him accountable as he pursues these future strategic opportunities.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Devotions? Eh...

So…I’m back. A short-lived "hiatus", if you want to even call it that. I’ve decided that blogging provides too great of an avenue for fleshing out what I’m thinking; therefore, if you read this, you will have to continue to deal with me, at least to a certain extent, for some time…

With that said, I’ve been thinking through something recently…

What is the purpose of a “devotional” time or “quiet time” before the Lord, and does that necessarily have to be distinct from an academic biblical/theological pursuit?

To be sure, I am going to make a distinction between the “reading” and “praying” parts of a “devotional” time, namely, in focusing on the “reading” aspect.

Now, some background to my conundrum:

Throughout graduate school, this was a constant struggle of mine – Do I need to set aside a time to read, for instance, a Proverb or a chapter from one of the gospels everyday, although I am, in one of my classes, working through the Greek in Galatians? Do I need to be, for instance, reading a Psalm everyday while, in another class, I am studying Scripture attempting to discern the hypostatic union of Christ?

Or, once I finished graduate school, I found myself prepping for sermons, etc., and I found myself trying to discern whether this prep-work needed to be separate from a daily “devotional” reading? Is not an exegetical study of Eph. 2:1-3 (i.e. the total depravity of man) “devotional”?

Or, the events of these past few months have relit my passion to write on a pastoral level, which I have done here, here, and here. But in these pastoral pursuits, does this equate to a “devotional” time, or do I need something separate?

Or, lastly, as I work for/with Dr. Preston Sprinkle on researching his various Pauline quests, this problematic question still lingers…

What’s the purpose? What’s the difference? Is there a difference?

What are your thoughts on this issue?

Thursday, September 1, 2011