Tag: belief

The great divorce: Belief from action

IMG_0349Ask a dumb question and you’re bound to get a bad answer. In the vast online discussion on living for Christ one such questions is rampant. What is more important: theology or how we live? Let me be frank, it’s a dumb question. Why? We act (live) based on what we believe (theology).

God to Joshua
God tells Joshua that he MUST be absorbed with the Torah (first 5 books of the Bible). Why? That Joshua may be careful to do all that is written in it. The result is success. God did not distinguish between action and belief, He called for both. Right actions flow from right thinking. God designed us as theological & philosophical beings. Theology and philosophy are intensely pragmatic because it’s the source of our actions.

Paul to Timothy
A key theme Paul wrote to Timothy was to guard both ministry (living) and doctrine (theology). This theme echoes the idea that God instructed Joshua. Either bad theology or bad living will undercut our mission of making disciples. This is a tension in life that is best left in place. Resolving this tension, which is too often done, creates a bigger mess. Poor Christian living is often a result of bad theology.

The other words of Christ in red…
Jesus makes this point as well. In the seven letters to the churches in Asia Minor Jesus upholds the value of upholding correct theology and living. Jesus calls out the error in either direction and praises success in either direction. While incorrect, people often value the words of Christ in red as more important than the other Holy Spirit (who is also God) parts of the Bible. Hilariously, people often forget the red words in Revelation. Jesus will judge our actions and doctrine.

This divorce hurts our kids
When we focus on belief vs action we lose the ESSENTIAL third rail of proclamation. God wants to be known and made known. The belief vs action debate is inherently self-focused. God upholds correct theology and correct living because He wants us to make Him known. It’s time to hang up the “preach the Gospel and when necessary use words.” God wants us to use words. Bad theology and bad living will undercut our sharing that message. Our focus should be on our spiritual children and grand children.

The trinity
God the Father has a plan. Part of that plan is making Himself known to us. Life is not about us. God leads for His own name’s sake! God gave us the Bible (special revelation) so He could be KNOWN (theology). God the Son acted as a servant to point people to the Father. (He also did a lot of theology.) In communion this aspect of servanthood is demonstrated as we take the bread that symbolizes Jesus’ body which is for us. Becoming like Jesus is fundamentally servanthood (action). God the Spirit empowers God’s plan and living like Christ. The Spirit is our third rail. Acts 1:8 points this out. The Spirit leads us to not just live well, but to make God known (proclamation).

The bottom line:
We act based on what we believe. This drives us to share with others who God is by the power of the Spirit. Being like Jesus involves correct theology AND correct living for upholding our message of a risen savior. Don’t get stuck with the dumb question of belief vs living. Ask this question: Is my theology and life such that I can boldly proclaim the excellencies of Him who came as a servant, died innocently for our sin, rose victoriously on the third day and will soon return as King to make all things new?

Why not Wednesday? Buy a Mac

I was a Mac addict for as long as I can remember. When I attended college they would not support the simple, elegant and (far superior) platform, so for a time I used a PC. I wanted a Mac. Here are some ministry lessons from my love of all things Mac:

Form follows function, but it follows
Aesthetics mean something. While function is essential and a primary mover in what we do or develop, the form does not lose significance. In fact, sometimes the form is equal to the function. The form allows one to focus on the task at hand. God designed life with beauty of form, not just solidarity of function. Aesthetics matter. God is the originator of art and function and art can be one.

Simplicity and usability
The thing I love about Apple is they understand complexity and work hard to not pass that on to the end user. The minimalist philosophy of Apple develops into something that is usable. Less is often more. Apple does not shy away from complexity, but it understands where complexity should be and where simplicity should be. In ministry we often over complicate things such as the Gospel, a relationship with God, and worship. Less really does mean accomplishing more.

Build it well so it runs well
Mac’s do have a steeper price tag. The flip side is they are also built well. When asked why Apple doesn’t have an inexpensive entry level computer Steve Jobs quipped: “We don’t know how to build a cheap computer.” (At points a MacBook ran Windows faster than PC laptops.) Yes, there are Macs that have technical issues, they’re machines. Excellence is important.  Sometimes in the ministry rush we stick on a temporary solution that really becomes permanent. Taking time to build a solid ministry with excellence is counterintuitive. Build well to create well. Be aware of the proverb: buy cheap, pay twice.

You act based on what you believe
The Mac platform took a change from a “best in technical specifications” approach to a “usability” approach. You can have the fastest machine in the world but if you can’t use it well, what good is it? Apple called the Mac strategy the “digital hub.” Apple endured a few years of criticism over this approach as their machines were technically slower. Their strategy still holds, and speed is now a non-issue for the platform. Heavy criticism doesn’t always mean you’re wrong when you stick to your theology. Just be wary of arrogance and not continuing to develop your theology.

Think steps not programs
Each step Apple took with their platform lead into the next step. Each step built the infrastructure needed to move to the next step. Apple innovated more than created, as there were digital music players, smart phones and tablet PC’s prior to Apples (brilliant) incarnations. The success isn’t just due to Apple’s form and usability. There was an ecosystem (infrastructure) to support each new development. In ministry focus on building a church vs a mosaic of programs. It may be a slower process of growth and development, but it will be sustainable and grow well in the long run,

The bottom line
Buy a Mac. People looked down on the strategy over a decade ago. Over a decade ago people would say that Mac would never go beyond 4 or 5% market share. Dell even essentially said Apple should just close up shop. Apple took its time revolutionizing the “computer” industry. In ministry perhaps we should slow down and be more theological and methodical in our approach. The urgency of the Gospel does not mean we have to rush in building churches. After all, ministry is a marathon, not a sprint.