Alan Knox, ever thought provoking, talks about an alternative to sermons that he read about from another blogger:
...he lists six principles that he finds in the New Testament: 1) Multiple participation, 2) Order, 3) Group comprehension, 4) Group discussion, 5) Role, and 6) Group edification.
Amen! Study after study has shown that sermons (and lectures) are one of the least effective ways of communicating life-changing truths. It is only as people interact with the truth and make it their own that change can happen—and even that is dependent on the power of the Holy Spirit! The problem is that we have reduced Christianity to a set of intellectual propositions to which we give mental assent. We've lost the central truth of Christianity, which is a life transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit living within us.
And, over at Awilum, Charles Halton has some good thoughts about biblical interpretation:
One of the most foundational elements of an intelligent and thoughtful engagement with biblical texts is calibrating one’s expectations. If one truly desires to try to begin the task of understanding the messages of the biblical authors then he or she must ask the appropriate questions from the text and expect it’s ancient authors to address particular issues in ways that make sense within their circumstances. Furthermore, a thoughtful student of the Bible should have a firm enough grasp of the history of thought to understand where modern expectations, assumptions, and perspectives differ from ancient ones. If we don’t calibrate our expectations then our observations concerning the Bible are likely to be little more than assertions of our own belief structures and opinions and in many areas we will misunderstand the unique messages of biblical texts.
Calibrating expectations is an ongoing task for us all; no one ever does this perfectly and individuals from every ideological position do it badly or not at all.
As he says, it is an ongoing task. What I understand today is not what I will understand tomorrow. I (hopefully!) grow in knowledge and understanding every day. That doesn't mean that the central truths of the Gospel change, just my understanding of the secondary issues, which are what usually cause us to disagree with one another anyway.
Alan Knox again, this time about church covenants and elders:
If God brings someone into our lives, we are automatically “among” the flock of God together. We do not – and so cannot – choose who is or who is not in the church with us. God makes that decision. Remember that Paul told the Corinthians that God arranges the members of the body, each one of them, as he chooses. (1 Corinthians 12:18)
Imagine how different the church would be – and how much unity and fellowship we would enjoy – if we actually treated one another as the church of God… that is, if we treated all followers of Jesus Christ that God brings into our lives as “our church”… or, as I prefer to call it, “the church.”
Yep. What more can I say?
And, finally, Ted Gossard has some good thoughts on prayer. Go read it!
Added bonus link: Roger Olson has a post you need to read and ponder...