I went to Harvest "University" in Chicago last week. The purpose of my visit was to sit through the elder learning track. I have been attempting to think about the development of our elders team and thought that sitting, listening, and discussing for a couple of days would be the best way to come to some conclusions about our situation here at OBC. The two days were helpful. I am thankful that one of our elders went with me. That made it even that much more enjoyable.
The learning was good but what was even more fun was finding out what the hotel staff thought of Willow Creek and Harvest. Two mega churches within short driving distance is amazing and the two campuses and approaches to ministry could not be more different (even with recent changes at Willow). James and Rick (founding pastors) are my good friends and I am sure they will get a "kick" out of learning what the hotel staff where we were staying knew about Harvest.
When we arrived at the Holiday Inn we needed to find directions to Harvest. I asked one of the hotel staff if she knew where Harvest Bible Chapel was. She did not but went to ask her manager. Upon returning the manager said she did not know the location but with radio in hand contacted one of the shuttle drivers. She then proceeded to ask the driver if he knew where Willow Creek was. I, as a good Canadian and not wanting to offend my American Harvest friends, promptly corrected her and said, "no not Willow Creek but Harvest Bible Chapel". Her response was a Master Card moment, "priceless". She said, "they are the same thing aren’t they?"
It was both a hilarious and instructional moment. I could imagine in those brief seconds those at Harvest rolling their eyes with thoughts of "are you kidding we aren’t anything like Willow". I wanted to tell this story to James and Rick but chose distance for means of safety (lol). The more I have thought about it, however, the comment is instructional. For most who are not into church the two mega churches are just really the same thing. They don’t care to know or don’t see the philosophical or theological differences. Whether we speak as one voice or not many perceive that to be the case.
Our church is a rural/suburban church and we have really sensed God’s leading to be involved in regional outreach as part of a vision to be used by God to transform our region. It is an amazing privilege to try to navigate the complexity of life with those who are in need while attempting to be a blessing of redemption and reconciliation.
We started our journey with "The Externally Focused Church" and after engaging in this journey the last couple of years we are looking for ideas and expertise that will help us better be ambassadors of Jesus Christ. I was intrigued recently to read "Toronto the Good " and many of the related articles about church and city interaction from the Work Research Foundation. There are many great resources here and the positive tone of how the church can indeed make a difference is refreshing.
One of the things that the research has found is that churches have a harder time working together than they do with other faith groups or even city hall. While working together can pose challenges the benefits of blessing for the community are enormous and of course the expression of unity of Spirit and the love of Christ life changing.
If you are interested in these kinds of practical expressions of gospel ministry I would encourage you to read on. May God use the ideas to spark a divine initiative.
I am just finishing Timothy Keller’s, The Reason for God. This book is worth the praises it has received. While Keller recognizes that there are different barriers to people believing in God he spends most of his time investing in the intellectual reasons. The first half of the book deals with many of the well known "doubts" that people have regarding the existence of God. The second half of the book deals with the reasons for faith in God.
This is a good read. I found it intellectually stimulating and very affirming. In particular I found three chapters helpful.
"Intermission", the in between chapter that is between doubt and reason, gave a great apologetic visual. Keller talked about C.S. Lewis’ metaphor for knowing the truth about God as the risen sun. His point is that instead of looking directly into the sun (which will burn your retinas) for proof that the sun exists why not look at "what the sun shows us". Keller says, instead of looking for irrefutable proofs for God why not look at what account of the world (worldview) makes most sense of the world and ourselves. Seems obvious but not to most.
"The Clues for God" reminded me of the power of beauty and creativity as pointing to the existence of God. You can read the chapter for yourself but I was again reminded of the importance of art as a window to the soul. This is what it means to be a human created in the image of God.
"The Knowledge of God" chapter speaks to the issue of morality and who decides what is moral. The evolutionary arguments to morality seem to leave us with a "bad taste in our mouths" where as the understanding that morality is rooted in God while not an irrefutable argument certainly is a strong argument for the existence of God and a certain type of God.
Thanks to Keller who not only gives reasons for but also explains the story of scripture. Those interested in apologetics would do well to read this. It reminds all of us that giving a defense for the hope in us is not primarily about answering everyone’s questions and objections as it is about pointing people to Jesus.