The God of Love in 3-D

I was struck by something today.

While working on some homework in the crowded Koine coffeehouse on the DTS campus, I was listening to  John Mark McMillan’s album The Medicine. The final song on the album is one that I have been doing frequently in worship, How He Loves. Although repetition can be the key to learning, it can also be the enemy of profundity. Every night Lauren and I sing “Jesus Loves Me” to our son before he goes to bed. A common mantra in our church is “Jesus loves us.” No doubt, we worship a God of love. But how often do I actually feel it? How often do I affirm the two dimensional phrase “Jesus loves me” and also experience it in 3-D?

Knowing God is a God of love is one thing. Feeling it is something completely different. Today I was struck by how little I let myself feel that God is a God of love.

My wife called me earlier to give me an update on our son. Apparently today he learned how to take his diaper off during nap time. This is one of the many little fears that new parents have. We know it will happen, but we still dread the day. As my wife walked into his room and saw what had happened, she walked right up to Kyler’s half naked little body without hesitation, picked him up and cleaned him. She didn’t close the door and hope he would some how learn how to put his diaper back on. She didn’t put newspaper over him. She didn’t shame him and yell at him. She gently brought him into her arms, braving pee, poop, and any and all of the other disgusting things our cute baby creates, and showed him love.

We tell Kyler that we love him all the time, but today Lauren got the opportunity to show him that love in 3-D. He may not have fully understood it, but in his own way, he felt loved. Just like Lauren entered the mess of a diaper-less nap time, Jesus entered into the mess of our world. He didn’t close the door. He didn’t try to cover us up. He didn’t shame us. He just loved us.

In those moments when I feel distant from the love of God I affirm, I think of Jesus. The God of love is not merely a theological proposition. It is not a tagline in a song, or a meaningless platitude we tell ourselves to assuage the pain of a fallen world. The God of love is 3-D in Jesus. Through him we can feel it, experience it, and know it beyond words.

Do you sometimes have a hard time feeling God’s love? What helps you?

““For God so loved the world,that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16–17 ESV)


A Theological Look at Worship Pastoring: Part 2

Over the last few months, I have been researching and writing a paper for an independent study entitled “Teaching Theology through Worship Ministry in a Postmodern Context.” As a worship pastor, this has been the most important academic study I’ve ever done as far as influencing my personal ministry. Now that I have turned in my first draft of the paper I’m excited to share with you bits and pieces of the paper (It’s 30 pages long, so don’t worry, I won’t be sharing all of it). Overall, I argue that worship ministry is the perfect medium to teach theology to a postmodern culture because it is a ministry characterized by a dialogue with an incarnate God. Part 2 is the last section of the paper in which I propose four strategies for teaching theology through worship ministry to a postmodern generation. I break every blogging rule in the book on the length of this post, but I would really challenge you to read through this critically and give me your feedback. Part 1 is posted here.

Singer/songwriter genius Sufjan Stevens is a unique blend of spiritual and postmodern in his approach to God in his music. Although he claims no major religious affiliations and certainly does not manifest clear orthodoxy through his songs, there is a sincere desire in his music to engage with a God he longs to be near. In his song, “Oh God, Where are You Now,” Stevens begins by asking God to hold him, to draw near to him as he walks through his draught of faith. In another song off his 2004 album, Seven Swans, entitled, “To Be Alone With You,” Stevens explores the great depths of the implications of atonement, but does it in a very personal, interactive way, that is honest about the underlying doubts inherent in trusting through faith.

I’d swim across lake Michigan
I’d sell my shoes
I’d give my body to be back again
In the rest of the room

To be alone with you
To be alone with you
To be alone with you
To be alone with you

You gave your body to the lonely
They took your clothes
You gave up a wife and a family
You gave your goals

To be alone with me
To be alone with me
To be alone with me
You went up on a tree

To be alone with me you went up on the tree

I’ll never know the man who loved me[2]

            It is a mistake to believe that just because postmodern culture has rejected Enlightenment epistemology, that it has no interest in knowing God. As Stevens’ songs express, there are many in the postmodern context who want God to hold them, who want to be alone with the only man who can ever love them completely. But many feel like they can’t know God through the tired recitations, the practiced bullet points, and the reason-entrenched liturgy of the institutional church. But is this the only way to do church? To understand true things about God, is it necessary to recognize them in an auto-legitimizing knowledge system rooted in Enlightenment epistemology? A look at the means by which Ancient Israel and the Early Church engaged with God liturgically and learned about his character says otherwise.

The great hope for the church in the midst of the seemingly hopeless and nihilistic world of the postmodern is the doctrine of Incarnation. Postmodernists can reject metanarrative all they want, Christians know God through Christ! There is no need to fear the multiplicity of interpretation if the interpretation is coming through a walk of faith with an interactive Savior. In order to teach theology in a postmodern context, pastors need to approach it in a way that recognizes our knowledge of God comes through the manifestation of his presence, not the systematic theologies, tomes of dogmatic didactics, and rhetoric driven information. Worship pastors have the opportunity to re-orient and reshape the liturgical structure of the church in such a way that people can dialogue with God. In order to meet the needs of a postmodern culture and teach theology, there must be a reprioritization of dialectic, incarnational liturgy through which the church can know God through interaction.

Before concluding, there are four brief suggestions for practical steps towards a dialectic liturgy that can teach a postmodern church theology. (1) Return to Pre-modern liturgy, (2) contextualization of songs with narrative, (3) the use of deconstructive aesthetics, and (4) the aesthetic of justice.

The sacramental imagination begins from the assumption that our discipleship depends not only—not even primariliy—on the conveyance of ideas into our minds, but on the immersion in embodied practices and rituals that form us into the kind of people God calls us to be.[3]

1. A Return to Pre-modern Liturgy

            James Smith, in concluding his discussion of postmodernism and the church writes, “The outcome of postmodernism…should be a robust confessional theology and ecclesiology that unapologetically reclaims pre-modern practices in and for a postmodern culture.”[4] Pre-modern liturgy is one founded on Incarnation, not Reason. Before the Enlightenment, people could know things without knowing them objectively, they could embrace faith without fear of it seeming unreasonable. Now that the man behind the curtain of Modern thinking has been exposed, Smith concludes that there is nothing stopping the church from returning to a dialectic liturgy centered on Incarnation and driven by faith.

As is seen in a look at Ancient Israel and the Early Church, there is great precedence for knowing God through dialectic media. A return to practices such as the interactive taking of the Lord’s Supper, the dialectic interaction that takes place through participation in the traditional church calendar, and the communal sharing of stories about God’s interaction in their life can create strong dialectic liturgy that both praises God and forms believers’ understanding of him. As Marva Dawn writes, “The church’s catechumenal process forms us all—both the new in faith and the more mature—to be a people who drink exuberantly of the satisfying Water of life to quench our deepest thirst.”[5] The Lord’s Supper causes the church to interact with the God who saved them and the church surrounding them in a way that forms an understanding of God. Participating in things like Lent can teach Christians their poverty that led to the cross and the value of sacrificing for Christ, much like Ancient Israel knew God through the daily habits formed by Law-living. Recounting stories, both biblical and personal, can promote a dialogue with an interactive God that teaches truths about Him.

2. Contextualize Songs With Narrative

            Music as a mode of both worship and teaching of theology, as discussed earlier, is an important part of both modern worship ministry and historical liturgy. However, modern worship music can often times feel like stars floating aimlessly through space, unaware of the galaxy surrounding them. It is good for the church to sing, “Our God is greater,” but the phrase doesn’t mean as much when understood outside of the context of the narrative that expresses that truth about God. Without the narrative surrounding the songs sung in a liturgical setting, musical worship becomes rhetorical, merely affirming truths about God and not truly interacting with the God of truth.

In order to connect worship songs effectively to a postmodern culture in a didactic way, the singing of them must happen in a dialectic context. This means contextualizing songs with either the biblical narrative surrounding them or the narrative of the church. Lee Wyatt, although writing primarily about preaching in a postmodern context, still makes an appropriate point. “If we allow the shape of the Story to inform our preaching, then we will be primarily storytellers. No longer will we simply dip into the Scriptures to find a text, or use lectionary readings in isolation from their larger contexts. Specific texts will be embedded in a larger Story.”[6]

Likewise, specific songs need to be embedded in the larger Story of faith. As a worship pastor, before leading the church through a series of songs about God’s faithfulness, I might try and share the story of God bringing his people back from exile, or talk about Jesus’ faithfulness to Peter despite Peter’s denial of him, or have a member of the congregation come and share her story of God’s faithfulness in her own life. By contextualizing songs in narrative, a liturgy that is currently rhetorical becomes dialectic again. Just as Moses sang out of response to God’s presence and interaction, the church is singing in a response to the narrative they inhabit. This simple addition to the current worship form of many Evangelical churches would turn music into a strong dialectic liturgy and a powerful didactic tool to a postmodern culture.

3. Deconstructive Aesthetics

John Caputo describes deconstruction as the “hermeneutics of the Kingdom of God.”[7] What he means is that the kingdom of God, the advent of Jesus in the world, is the deconstructive force that tears down the systems of self and idolatry characterizing the world and reconstructs it in the image of Christ. He writes, “In my view, deconstruction is good news because it delivers the shock of the other to the forces of the same, the shock of the good (the “ought”) to the forces of being (“what is”), which is also why I think it bears good news to the church.”[8] In Caputo’s conclusion, he describes a “church” in Ireland called Ikon, which exemplifies the idea of incorporating a deconstructive aesthetic to create a dialectic liturgy. In its service there are interpretive readings and dance, plays expressing the darkness preceding the resurrection, dramatic iconography asking questions about forgiveness and acceptance of gays and lesbians, pallets and paints available for people to respond and an ultimate suspension of judgment for the sake of all entering into God’s presence.[9]

This, even by Caputo’s admission, is an extreme example of postmodern liturgy that would be difficult for many Christians, even Liberal ones, to enjoy participating in. However, it does show the powerful effect deconstructive aesthetics can have in helping people engage with God. A more palatable example of deconstructive aesthetic is Rob Bell’s series of devotional videos called Nooma. The videos range from two minutes to thirty minutes and usually consist of a series of questions or statements that invoke the viewer to work through the truth of God for himself. In these videos, theology is not normally explicitly expressed but rather inferred through its deconstructive presentation.

Deconstructive aesthetic is any form of art that causes the receiver to actively engage with God. It is a prophetic voice calling the church out of her slumber into an active dialogue with her Redeemer. In order to create a dialectic liturgy in a postmodern context, art must not merely be used as passive reflections on truth, but active deconstructions that invoke interactions.

4. The Aesthetic of Justice

            Smith in his conclusions about a radical orthodox church writes, “The Christian ekklesia must be not only liturgical but also local; it must transform not only hearts but also neighborhoods; its worship must foster not only discipleship but also justice—indeed, disciples who are passionate about justice.”[10] During the research for this paper, I was surprised by the descriptions given by postmodern theologians like James Smith, John Caputo, and Merold Westphal of what postmodern liturgy should look like. It seems the assumption they make about postmodern culture is that it is a culture filled with highly educated people with nuanced artistic tastes. Although that does describe a small part of them, it is not characteristic of them all. In fact, the majority of postmodern culture is comprised of people who would find radical forms of deconstructive art off-putting. It is for this reason that I would like to suggest something new to be thrown into the discussion for what postmodern liturgy should look like. It is the aesthetic of justice.

I am currently a worship pastor at a church called Fellowship White Rock in Dallas, TX. It is a new church started a year ago as a parish offshoot of the church Fellowship Bible Church Dallas. As an attempt to engage a postmodern culture with a dialectic liturgy, the teaching pastor and I decided to change the traditional structure of Sunday services to incorporate the aesthetic of justice into our common liturgy. Every fourth Sunday of the month, instead of the preaching and singing, instead of communion and story, we serve the community in which we inhabit. Since we meet in an underprivileged, underachieving school, there have been numerous ways to serve the community in meaningful ways. Doing things like planting a vegetable garden, hosting block party celebrations for the school kids, and even refurnishing the home of a student who lost all he had in an apartment fire, our church is actively engaging in making right the physical, community wrongs we see around us.

The people who go to our church, for the most part don’t look like radical postmodernists. Although educated, they are mainly young professionals who couldn’t recognize the beauty of a Jackson Pollock painting if it punched them in the face (which could happen). However, they are postmodern and recognize the beauty of seeking justice for the people around them. They are learning that God is a God who transforms people groups, that God’s grace seeks justice, that God’s people should be blessings to those around them. They are learning that the Gospel is both a now and not yet transformational force. In order to create a dialectic liturgy through deconstructive aesthetics, pastors need to think beyond the traditional realm of art and explore the more accessible aesthetic of social justice.

[1] Sufjan Stevens, “Oh God, Where are You Now? (In Pickeral Lake, Pigeon, Marquette? Mackinaw?),” Greetings from Michigan, comps. Sufjan Stevens, 2003,.

[2] Sufjan Stevens, “To Be Alone With You,” Seven Swans, comps. Sufjan Stevens, 2004,.

[3] Smith, 140

[4] Ibid., 116.

[5] Marva Dawn, A Royal “Waste” of Time (Grand Rapids: WIlliam B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999), p. 251.

[6] Wyatt, 160.

[7] Caputo, 26.

[8] Ibid. 26-27.

[9] Ibid. 131-133.

[10] Smith, 142.

Why Did Jesus Have to Die?

Today is Good Friday, a day we celebrate with both sorrow and joy. Sorrow for the suffering Christ endured, but joy for the salvation it accomplished. Many of us today may be going to a church service where we will sing songs about his death, take the Eucharist, sit in quiet meditation, and listen to a sermon. I hope that we can all do something today to remember the great price paid.

I know, for me, the repetition of the traditions surrounding holidays like Good Friday can be important in giving me occasion to think about what God did and remember. However, it can also be easy to do the traditions and remembrance of the events, but forget why it happened in the first place. Too many fear that “why” is the antithesis of faith, but what is faith if we can’t answer “why?”

So here is a list of five reasons Jesus died on the cross that I hope will help us have context for why today is such an important day and why our great God suffered such humiliation for us.

1. God is a God of wrath – This is an unpopular truth about God. I think a lot of people hear God’s wrath and assume it means that God is some hot head who gets upset over petty things and uses his power to exact trite revenge on people who offend him. This is an easy association because in a lot of the other ‘wrathful god’ situations, especially the Greek and Roman mythology, the wrath of gods was petty. But the true God’s wrath is not. When he looks at the injustice of the world, the exploitation of the poor, the violence done to one another, the dishonest and undercutting behavior people have with each other, God gets angry. It is a righteous anger that is violently and justifiably opposed to the evil that exists in our world. The reason Jesus died in the manner of the brutal and humiliating cross instead of dying quietly in his sleep is because the manner of death needed to reflect the measure of God’s wrath towards sin.

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” (Romans 1:18 ESV)

2. God is a God of Justice – Not only does the cross reflect God’s wrath, but it also shows God’s justice. The motivation for the wrath of God being poured out on the Son is that justice might be had for the injustice of sin. Not only is God’s justice positively for the weak and oppressed, but it has to be against the wicked. God has to punish wrong, and the consequences for rebelling against God is death, not merely physically, but an eternal separation. So for God’s justice to be satisfied, there needed to be a death. Not because God is unnecessarily cruel, but because he is necessarily just. Jesus’ death was the result of a just God.

“Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” (Hebrews 9:22 ESV)

3. God is a Holy God – Although it is our nature to think of God in terms we can relate with and in fact create God in our image, the truth is that God is something completely and totally other than us. The realm in which he dwells is completely separate from us. This means that God is a God who’s uniqueness does not allow sin into his presence. Even though he has a deep desire to dwell among people and let them dwell with him, his holiness separates him from sin. This is why God can’t just ignore people’s sin and allow everybody to just be with him in heaven. He is holy and separate from a world sin. The only way for someone to stand before God is to be in the same holy state as him, namely, perfect. The holiness of God is the reason the cross had to happen in the first place, because if God was not holy but just as tarnished as we are there would be no requirement of perfection to be in his presence.

“But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”” (1Peter 1:15–16 ESV)

4. God is a God of Mercy – The violence of the cross is explained by God’s wrath, the death on the cross is explained by God’s justice, the impetus for the cross is God’s holiness, but why was it God in Jesus who suffered all these things? If God is wrathful, just, and holy, the grotesque death of a person on the cross would actually make sense, but why was it Jesus, both God and man, on the cross and not us? This is answered by God’s mercy. Because his wrath needed to be placed somewhere, justice needed to to punish sin, and man become holy to be in God’s presence, God decided to allow all of those things to be placed on a substitute instead of ourselves. In order for ancient Israel to atone for sin and maintain their covenant, God mercifully allowed them to use the substitute of animals to meet the needs of God’s wrath, justice, and holiness. Jesus was the ultimate substitute expressing God’s mercy. The reason it was Jesus and not me on the cross is because God had mercy on me and allowed himself to be the substitute for my sin.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—” (Ephesians 2:4–5 ESV)

5. God is a God of love – The question still remains, why would God grant mercy on a people who have rebelled against him in all ways? Why would he take our place and endure the consequences of his wrath, justice, and holiness? This is because, despite ourselves, in spite of ourselves, and not because of ourselves, God actually loves us. He, our Creator and Father, loves us with a love that initiates and pursues beyond what we can ever fully comprehend. The exact nature of his death and the presence of Christ on the cross may be answered by the above attributes, but the whole reason God was there in the first place, the reason he even cared to do anything to save humanity from the inevitable death we chose by sinning, was his love! And this is why we humbly, somberly, but joyfully celebrate Good Friday. Because in the cross, the whole nature of God was both manifest and satisfied and as a result, we are now children of God!

Have a great day and remember why Jesus died as we celebrate what he did!

Sermon Sneak Peak: Playing with Boxes

This last Christmas, Lauren and I got to experience Christmas morning in a completely different way…as parents. It was an incredible experience watching our son, who didn’t really understand what was going on, open his presents. I wrote about the experience more here.

Lauren and I had been warned about this, but the cliche happened to us. Kyler with his wide eyes would tear open the paper around his presents, look at the new book or rattle or other colorful toy, throw it to the side and start playing with the box.

Obviously, it was cute when Kyler did it. However, I think it shows a deeper and more sinister tendency in our hearts. Tomorrow night at the Awakening, we are going to take a look at the story of Israel and the conquest of the land of Canaan. As Joshua distributes the land to the tribes of Israel, God shows his true hand in what the tribe of Levi receives as an inheritance.

This story provides the foundation for the two points I will make tomorrow:

1. Treasuring the blessings of God over the presence of God leads to idolatry.

2. True worship is a life lived in the reality of God’s presence as a our great inheritance.

For a deeper look at these issues come to the Awakening tomorrow night at 7pm. Also, for more background on the application of the distribution of Israel’s inheritance, check out my previous post here.

A Prayer for Palm Sunday

“And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”” (Mark 11:7–10 ESV)

Oh God, my great king and redeemer, how often have I praised you and welcomed you gladly only to reject you and scorn you afterwards?

It was my sinful hands that both raised the palm and drove the nails, my sinful mouth screaming both “Hosanna” and “Crucify”. Oh God, you could have silenced our shameful, duplicitous praise and let the rocks, who have no pretensions, praise you whole heartedly. The rocks would have been a better welcome than the fronds.

But you were driven by a love deeper than my sin, a justice greater than my rebellion, a holiness more perfect than my efforts.

My sin, what bitter wells of sorrow! You have replaced with living water.

The unleavened bread of my soul, now rises with the yeast of you kingdom.

You entered on a colt, and exited a cross, descended to the depths, and rose again victorious. I praise you oh God with the same sinful lips that welcomed you with “Hosanna”, but I stand before you on your nail-gorged feet. Thus I stand with confidence!

Thank you for entering and engaging! I love you Lord Jesus!


A Theological Look at Worship Pastoring: Part 1

Over the last few months, I have been researching and writing a paper for an independent study entitled “Teaching Theology through Worship Ministry in a Postmodern Context.” As a worship pastor, this has been the most important academic study I’ve ever done as far as influencing my personal ministry. Now that I have turned in my first draft of the paper I’m excited to share with you bits and pieces of the paper (It’s 30 pages long, so don’t worry, I won’t be sharing all of it). Overall, I argue that worship ministry is the perfect medium to teach theology to a postmodern culture because it is a ministry characterized by a dialogue with an incarnate God. In Part 1, I am posting the introduction to the paper framing the argument.

I know this might be a bit headier than is appropriate for a blog, but the truth is, there are a lot of people writing on worship ministry, but not many writing in a deep, theological way. Below is an attempt.

“But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody”[1]

Bob Dylan, in 1979, put out a very spiritually motivated album called Slow Train Coming. In one of the more popular songs on the album, a bluesy Motown throwback called “Gotta Serve Somebody,” Dylan posits that it doesn’t matter if someone is the president or a beggar on the street. Regardless of who a person is, he will inevitably serve somebody. Although it may not have sung as well, Dylan could have easily entitled his song, “Gotta worship somebody.” To serve something is to worship something.[2] The deferral of one’s identity to an outside influence, the subjection of a human to some form of authority, even the myth of self-authority, at its core is worship. John Calvin writes, “There is scarcely an individual to be found without some idol or phantom as a substitute for Deity.”[3] Paul, in his letter to the Romans, observes, “Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”[4] Whether it happens properly or improperly, humans are bent towards worship.

To define worship as succinctly as possible, worship is dialectic. Worship is the dialogue that occurs between the initiating God and his responding followers. As Marva Dawn writes, “We worship only because God comes to us, loves us first, and enables us to worship. We respond with love and gratitude, adoration and praise.”[5] This dialogue can take many different forms, such as art, music, social action, prayer, tongues, bible study, etc. However, regardless of the form it takes, all worship is defined by the interaction between God and humans. Geoffrey Wainwright writes, “Whether the correspondence be located in freedom or reason or speech, humankind is seen throughout Scripture as made by God sufficiently like himself for communication to take place between the Creator and the human creature, a personal exchange in which each partner is meant to find satisfaction.”[6] Worship is dialectic.

Preaching, on the other hand, is rhetorical. Although in a broader sense the call to preaching may very well be seen as a dialectic response to God’s transformation on a person’s life, the actual act of preaching is rhetorical in that it can happen without dialogue. Preaching is the active transmission of information to a passive recipient. For much of church history, the main means by which people learned about God, the central conduit for teaching theology to congregations was through dialectic liturgy.[7] However, as the Protestant Reformation progressed, founded by such preachers as Luther and Calvin, the tide shifted towards rhetorical preaching being the preferred medium of teaching theology to the church.[8] Preaching fit well with the epistemological paradigm brought on by the Enlightenment.[9] There was no overwhelming cultural suspicion of religious meta-narrative as long as it came through a reasoned argument taught by a credentialed speaker. Therefore, theological knowledge was transmitted easily from a credible preacher to a receptive church.

Rhetorical preaching, however, is no longer sufficient in and of itself for teaching theology in a postmodern context. With the onslaught of postmodern angst and suspicion, the deconstruction of previously indestructible meta-narratives, and the rejection of systems of thought having carte-blanche authority over how people interpret the world around them, rhetorical preaching alone no longer has credibility. In order to effectively teach theology, preaching needs to occur within the context of strong dialectic liturgy. To put it differently, if a modernist wanted to learn about the homeless population in Dallas, he would go to the local library, find a few books on the topic, read some of the statistics, and collect the germane information to get a better understanding. If a postmodernist wanted to learn about homelessness in Dallas, he would go to Dallas and become homeless for a week. In each instance, both would walk away with a better understanding of the issue, but the means by which they reach their conclusions would vary immensely.

Dawn later notes that in a worship context we “learn more about God’s character.”[10] A postmodern culture does not learn about God by means of intuition, but by means of interaction. In order to effectively teach theology as pastors in a postmodern context, there must be a shift in priority from rhetorical preaching to dialectic liturgy. The specific field of worship ministry provides an advantageous office through which to teach theology to a postmodern church.

[1] “Gotta Serve Somebody,” Slow Train Coming, 1979,.

[2]A Hebrew word commonly used in reference to the worship of God has its etymological roots in the term for slave. So, the worship of God in the Hebrew understanding of it was tantamount to enslavement to God. Cf. HALOT, 773.

[3] John Calvin, The Institutes of Calvin, trans. Henry Beveridge (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers Inc., 2008). 1:5:12

[4] Rom 1:22-23

[5] Marva J. Dawn, “Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down: A Theology of Worship for the Church in Postmodern Times,” in Confident Witness – Changing World, 270=282 (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999). 271

[6] Geoffrey Wainwright, “Christian Worship: Scriptural Basis and Theological Framework,” in The Oxford History of Christian Worship, 1-31 (Oxford: Ofxord University Press, 2006). 9

[7] Ibid. 14

[8] Ibid. 15

[9] Although the Enlightenment is a very broad term that can refer to multiple aspects of culture and history, the specific way it is meant here is the epistemological priority of reason over tradition in understanding the world brought on by Descartes’ famous statement, “Cogito, ergo sum.”

[10] Marva J. Dawn, “Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down: A Theology of Worship for the Church in Postmodern Times,” in Confident Witness – Changing World, 270=282 (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999). 271

Crawling, Corners, and the Dangerous Life of Faith

A few weeks ago, it started. Our sweet, smiley, and immobile son, became mobile. Kyler started crawling. Lauren and I didn’t realize how easy taking care of Kyler was until he started moving. Now everything is fair game for him. Plugs, cords, dog food, toilets, etc. He is no longer content to play with his toys, or sit in our laps and read, or lay on the ground kicking his legs, or practicing rolling over. He just wants to explore. He is addicted to his new found freedom.

It is so much fun to watch Kyler move around and get excited about everyday objects that seem mundane to Lauren and I. He is having more and more fun and is more and more happy the more mobile he becomes. He has also hurt himself more in the last three weeks than he ever has before. Bumps on his head, bit tongues, black eyes, sore knees are all just becoming a part of his daily accomplishments.

As I watch Kyler, I can’t help but think about when I first came to know Jesus. When I was first born into the new life of Christ, although I was a new creation, I was fairly immobile and didn’t know what to do. It took time to figure out how to use my new arms and new legs, to experience different sensations, and to digest the food of my new life. After growing up a bit in my faith, I began crawling and exploring my newfound freedom in Christ. I discovered his daily grace, the depths of his love, the intricacies of his truth. I looked on his mercy the same way my son looks at the fireplace cover we won’t let him play with. There was a constant wonder and intrigue that increased as I stepped out more in faith.

At the same time, I got hurt more. As my freedom in Christ increased, so did the risk of falling down from his grace, of hitting my head on the sharp corners of his holiness, of sticking my finger in the electricity of his power. It would be easy for Lauren and I to not let Kyler explore, keep him in the crib all the time, or just put bumpers and pads on everything (including him). But if Lauren and I don’t allow Kyler the risk of getting hurt, we also deprive him of the joy of the freedom he has in living and moving around.

If we were to protect Kyler from everything and put him in a bubble suit, most people would find that strange, possibly abusive. So why don’t we find it equally strange and abusive when we do that to ourselves and others when it comes to faith? Freedom in Christ not only means unfathomable joy, but also infinite risk. We can run in fear and hide ourselves in the comfort of immature faith. We can try with all our might to convince everyone that we are still infants and immobile, but if we do we are keeping ourself from experiencing the new life God paid his life for us to experience.

So as I watch Kyler both laugh harder and cry harder than he ever has before, I will remember that a life lived by faith is dangerous, but so incredibly worth it.

“So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight” (2Corinthians 5:6–7 ESV)