September 25, 2008

Fishing for people

As I sat last night in a Adult Ministries Committee meeting, reflecting how we as a church reach out to those inside and outside our fellowship, I got to thinking about what we do as a church and why. One thought led to another, and pretty soon I was thinking about why the church exists and what it is supposed to do. Now, this post is not the place to try articulate a fully orbed ecclesiology, but I do want to share one reflection. It seems to me that too often today, churches fall into the trap of seeing themselves as magnets. What I mean is that we focus our energy, time, and certainly money on better facilities, better programs, better worship experience, and the list goes on. We are trying to attract people to us and then keep them. Now, there's nothing wrong with attracting people to come through our doors, it's good to have well-kept facilities, etc. But, it seems we've got a mentality right out of Field of Dreams, if we build it/perform it/provide it, they will come. What about churches as being places where we focus on fishing for people. Where we encourage one another to spread out throughout our community and actually talk to people, share with them, invite them to come. We might spend less energy focused on inward projects and keep our eyes outward a little more.

I know this isn't the basis for a complete doctrine of the church, but it certainly seems worth pondering. Is my service to Christ solely focused on what I do in the church and for churchgoers? Doesn't quite seem right?

September 14, 2008

Zondervan Exegetical Commentary series

I'm becoming more and more a lover of commentaries. I just wish the cost less. But heeding some advice from Eugene Peterson from his great book, Eat This Book, I've been reading a commentary daily. I've also started to fill a big hole in my education and making some initial strides at Greek (which is long overdue, but there is only so much time in a day). Anyway, that's all to say that I love commentaries, and have been slowly building my own collection. So it is with equal measures excitement and consternation I note a new series from Zondervan (HT: Nick Norelli for pointing me to the new academic catalog), the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary series. Here is an excerpt they provide from the series preface:

“This generation has been blessed with an abundance of excellent
commentaries. The key question to ask is, what are you looking for in
a commentary? This commentary series might be for you if
• you have taken Greek and would like a commentary that would
help you apply what you have learned without assuming you are
a well-trained scholar;
• you would find it useful to see a concise, one- or two- sentence
statement of what the commentator thinks the main point of
each passage is;
• you would like help interpreting the words of Scripture without
getting bogged down in scholarly issues that seem irrelevant to
the life of the church;
• you would like to see a visual representation (a graphical dis-
play) of the flow of thought in each passage;
• you would like expert guidance from solid Evangelical scholars
who set out to explain the meaning of the original text in the
clearest way possible and to help you navigate through the main
interpretive issues;
• you want to benefit from the results of the latest and best schol-
arly studies and historical information that helps to illuminate
the meaning of the text;
• you would find it useful to see a brief summary of the key theo-
logical insights that can be gleaned from each passage and some
discussion of the relevance of these for Christians today.”

While part of me does wonder why we need yet another series, there are a few things that get me interested in this series, beyond the great list of contributors. They are the attempt to distill the authors' interpretation of the main focus of each passage down to one or two sentences. I've heard that Michael Gorman does this for each Pauline letter (quite a task) to some success in one of his Paul books, and think it would be even more successful on a passage by passage basis. I also think it is great for a commentary to consciously try to bridge the gap between high-level Greek exegesis done by very learned professors with the Greek knowledge of the average preacher by helping them apply the level of Greek they know, while, I'm sure, still putting their superior experience and knowledge to work. So these elements (along with a relatively tolerable $24 price tag on inaugural volume, James, which is in hardcover!), joined with a strong contributor list, make me rather optimistic that a few of these volumes will find their way onto my shelves in the coming years. So here are the contributors Zondervan has announced:

mattHeW grant r. osborne
marK mark L. strauss
LuKe David e. garland
JoHn i. Howard marshall
aCts eckhard J. schnabel
romans frank thielman
1 CorintHians Paul gardner
2 CorintHians Bruce W. Winter
gaLatians thomas r. schreiner
ePHesians Clinton e. arnold
PHiLiPPians george H. guthrie
CoLossians & PHiLemon David W. Pao
1 & 2 tHessaLonians gary s. shogren
1 &2 timotHy anD titus gregory K. Beale
HeBreWs Douglas J. moo
James Craig L. Blomberg & mariam J. Kamell
1 Peter michael J. Wilkins
2 Peter & JuDe robert W. yarbrough
1–3 JoHn Karen H. Jobes
reVeLation Buist m. fanning iii

(That text didn't cut and paste well for some reason, but you get the idea.) The John, Acts, and Romans volumes have special appeal for me, and I hope they come out soon.

September 12, 2008

Voting for President

Scot McKnight has a great piece over at JesusCreed about voting for president, and it may be one of the best things I've read on the subject this year. I think he is right on to point out that Christians (implicitly or explicitly) seem to have a political eschatology that looks to a president or party for salvation, revival, justice, etc. To my mind, Scot is right on that the election is important, extremely so, and fascinating, undoubtedly so. But our calling as Christians, while certainly not unrelated, has so many more immediate and deeper callings. I wonder if we could spend half the time preparing to share Christ and actually doing it as we spend analyzing and proselytizing for our candidate, what would happen. We can make disciples for Obama or McCain without missing a beat. What about Christ?