Taking the Roof off

Francis Schaeffer uses the illustration of “taking the roof off” in reference to dismantling intellectual safety structures which we build to protect ourselves from reality itself. We convince ourself that a lie is true. We ignore the facts which make us uncomfortable. We do this in order to live a life of our choosing, namely one where God does not occupy his rightful place. Reality has a way of coming crashing down on us, so we build a roof to shelter us. We protect ourselves.

If it is true that we believe lies or ignore parts of God’s reality, then the most loving thing that someone can do is to take that roof off and allow us to feel reality as it really is, to experience the rain as well as the sun. Until that roof is gone we live with a false security.

But taking the metaphor a bit further, we can critique our own flawed methodology. If someone arrived at my home and began yelling and mocking me for my roof, I would not sit and listen to them. If they began punching holes in my roof without permission, I would be inclined to call the authorities.

Yet that is often what we think of when it comes to apologetics. The loving act of providing a reasonable critique of the world’s lies and defense of the gospel is not done through one liners, angry shouting, or in televised debates with skilled orators. It is done with boldness and grace, fervor and love. It is done when some level of trust has been built.

If someone were to come to my home and point out rotten spots in my roof, showing where the structure was compromised and the materials disintegrated, I would begin to listen to their solutions. I wouldn’t expect less from an inspector, and I for sure wouldn’t expect less when it comes to my worldview.

Church In Many Houses Read-Through: Ch. 1

Chapter one: Signs of Hope

Summary: The cell based model has numbers to demonstrate its effectiveness in reaching a group of people with the gospel.

Quotes and Commentary:

“But the effectiveness of these dynamic cell churches demonstrates that a local church can significantly penetrate a region with the light of the Gospel” (Loc. 178).

Note: Models can be effective even if the founding principles are not biblical. And models can be ineffective even if the founding principles are biblical. We have to strive to see both.

“God has chosen to make his Church the instrument through which He will extend His kingdom. When the Church reaches the unreached by demonstrating and proclaiming the Gospel, God’s kingdom advances.”

Note: This wording used here of “Kingdom advancing” is often thrown around without a proper understanding of the theology of the Kingdom.

“Noted cell church researcher Joel Comiskey offers this simple and clear definition of a cell church: “a church that has placed evangelistic small groups at the core of its ministry” (Loc. 215).

Note: While a “cell group” is “a group of 3-15 people that meets weekly outside the church building for the purpose of evangelism, community, and discipleship with the goal of multiplication” (loc 236).

“One way cell groups differ from other small groups is that they are fundamentally outward focused“ (Loc. 240).

Note: While not a strict distinction, I think the concept built into cell groups is distinct from most small groups, at least in practice.

“The goal of the cell-based church is to help equip Christians for the ministry of making disciples who make disciples” (Loc. 245).

Note: Again, this is in contrast with many small group models which attempt “to keep” people a part of the body. It can do both, but when we focus on “keeping people in” I think we forget to focus on “bringing people in.” You can have the “keeping” without the “bringing”, but I don’t think you will see the “bringing” without getting the “keeping” tossed in.

“We can see the early church’s rhythm of ‘cell and celebration’ in these passages from the book of Acts: ‘Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts’ (Acts 2:46) ‘Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.’ (Acts 5:42)” (Loc. 249).

Note: This is very true. So much so that I think we could handle a lot more development of the New Testament texts here.

Overall, relying on numbers and “effectiveness” can be misleading. Models can be effective even if the founding principles are not. And models can be ineffective numerically even if the foundational principles are biblical. The point is to be faithful in doing what is biblical. So this chapter could use a whole lot more biblical basis, which would be easy since the concept of small groups meeting together to study the Word and inviting pre-believers in is biblical.

Bored with prayer

“I’ve heard Mark Dever say that we should pray so much in our church gatherings that the nonbelievers get bored. We talk too much to a God they don’t believe in” (Prayer: How Praying Together Shapes the Church, 15).

I think what I find so convicting about this quote is that I have felt awkward for the opposite reason. I have wanted others to not feel bored because of prayer. How backward of me.

But I think we could extend the quote to the personal level as well. What if every time I had coffee with a friend I let them know that I am praying for them? Would it hurt our relationship if they knew I was speaking to a God they didn’t believe in on their behalf? I don’t think so, at least it hasn’t yet.

If I believe God to be who he says he is, then one of the most loving things I could ever do for my friend or neighbor is pray for them, and to let them know that I am praying. Anything less than that should inform my friend about what I truly think about them, or my God.

What if the COVID reality could strengthen our churches?

What if it could? That is a big question. I am sure that you have seen some strengthening of your church, maybe through your online engagement, maybe through more people “watching services”, maybe through other means. But I am thinking of something different. What if people were actually more engaged in evangelism and discipleship during the COVID reality than then were before it? Could it happen?

In thinking about this question I remembered a book I read back in 2012. While I had disagreements with the author and some of his ideas, it was the book which got me thinking along these lines. I am posting my review from the first time I read it, and then will be posting quotes, notes, and summaries of each chapter over the coming weeks. Would you be willing to pick it up and read along? Maybe some of the quotes will get you thinking or enable you to share some of what you think about the issue.

The Church In Many Houses: Reaching your Community through Cell-Based Ministry

by Steve Cordle

Point: The cell-based understanding of the church facilitates and stimulates personal growth and community outreach.

Path:The book is divided into three sections: 1) The emerging cell movement (background and general principles) 2) Laying the foundations (what it looks like) 3) Strategic Issues (moving forward and answers for difficulties).

Sources: Cordle relies on personal experience, statistical data, Methodist methodology, and Biblical principles.

Agreement:

The overarching principle is right on – we are not a church “with” cells (or small groups), we are a church “of” cells. Whether we admit it or not, the local church functions at a relational base. If there is no relationship going on, what are we considering the “church”?

He uses the terminology “pre-Christian friend” instead of “unbeliever.” I loved that!

Everyone is involved.

There is a focus on prayer.

Multiplication is the purpose.

This is not a program.

Disagreement:

His view of the worship service, or celebration, is geared toward unbelievers.

He uses numbers all the time to prove points, but numbers are not what Jesus focused on.

I have questions about his view of woman in leadership. I don’t think that woman should be relegated to the back seat, but he has them in pastoral roles.

He sees spiritual gifts as things to be discovered and stressed.

Personal App: Am I seeking to reach outward and multiply disciples? If so, how am I implementing that?

Favorite Quote: “Meeting in homes also locates ministry in the midst of multiple neighborhoods, spreading the gospel across an area instead of stockpiling believers in a central building” (34).

Stars: 4 out of 5

The concept gets a 5, but I had to let a lot of terminology, specific application, etc. slide through.

It would be worth another read and I would recommend it.

Hail

Who ever thought this was a good idea, ice being hurled from the sky? There is a sense of awe, a godly dread, which I feel in my stomach when I look out at a cloud that sits enthroned miles about the earth. There is within this mass of moisture a power which I could never fathom. There are gusts of winds sweeping up inside of its own super system, pulling water into itself, freezing it, and then flinging it to the earth at speeds faster than I can drive a car. What kind of a planet is this? Isn’t there someone who can control this?

Wind and water
Power and fury
Gusting
Smashing
Hurling
Crashing
Strength and taunting
Power and ice

“Where is the way to the dwelling of light, and where is the place of darkness,
that you may take it to its territory
and that you may discern the paths to its home?
You know, for you were born then,
and the number of your days is great!
“Have you entered the storehouses of the snow,
or have you seen the storehouses of the hail,
which I have reserved for the time of trouble,
for the day of battle and war?
What is the way to the place where the light is distributed,
or where the east wind is scattered upon the earth?
“Who has cleft a channel for the torrents of rain
and a way for the thunderbolt,
to bring rain on a land where no man is,
on the desert in which there is no man,
to satisfy the waste and desolate land,
and to make the ground sprout with grass?
“Has the rain a father,
or who has begotten the drops of dew?
From whose womb did the ice come forth,
and who has given birth to the frost of heaven?
The waters become hard like stone,
and the face of the deep is frozen.
Job 38:19–30 (ESV) 

Moisture sucked in, spun, and spit to the ground. Heat and cold clash. Molecules bind. Vapor condenses. Hail descends in a rage.

As seen from under the sun, this is merely the product of the heating and cooling of the earth’s surface. To the one with eyes to see, this is the hand of the LORD.

Mountain hike

We try to visit different places in our valley for our own enjoyment and also to make connections with our friends and soon-to-be friends. There is a bond that is formed as soon as we hear someone say, “I’m from the village ___________.” And we can say, “We have been there! We really liked the __________.”

This past week we took a hike to an abandoned village in the Tabaida Berciana which is a section of mountains we can see from our city. Here are some photos from the hike.

Learning for the sake of wonder

We live in a golden age of learning. The access we have to ideas, cultures, and religions is unprecedented. At no other time in history has it been easier to be a student. Yet, so much of this is scrolled past. Along with this deluge of information comes a recoil. We instinctively back away and hide in what is familiar. If given the choice between sitting through a dense defense of a particular idea or scrolling through a personalized stream of pretty faces or funny quips, not many people will choose the former.

The reason why we shy away from these fountains of knowledge is not the point of this post. Rather, I would like to highlight a few platforms where those who are interested can find many choices to hear a different point of view, learn a new skill or subject, or broaden their knowledge base.

  1. Youtube – the largest and most comprehensive video collection in the universe. There are some great channels out there which have genuinely helped me to see the world in a different way. Some of my favorites:

Smarter Every Day

Bible Project

CS Lewis Doodle

  1. Great Courses – This company has gathered some of the best teachers in the world to teach some of the most interesting topics. Their catalogue is extensive, and the cost can be steep, however we get the Audible courses which are in audio only but come with PDF materials. The cost of each course then is never more than the cost of one credit which can be as low as $12. I also buy them whenever they are on sale (as low as $2-$3). A couple of my favorites have been:

Anything by Elizabeth Vandiver (mostly classics and myths)

Espionage and Covert Operations: A Global History

Customs of the World: Using Cultural Intelligence to Adapt, Wherever You Are

  1. Udemy – People are able to upload their own courses, so not the level of professionalism as the Great Courses, but still some great content. They regularly have sales on the courses so you can try them out and see if you like the format. A benefit of this approach over the Great Courses and Youtube is that there are forums and other ways to interact with the teachers and fellow students.

  2. Logos – I use Logos every singe day, and firmly believe that any believer who has a phone, tablet, or computer should have Logos. They give away free books or courses every month, and I have a pretty good catalogue of courses that I work through in 15 minute segments every day. I like the ability to be able to do so much with my other Logos resources right with the course. The videos are simple and professional, and they have some excellent teachers.

  • Their Logos Training – Study the Bible with Logos is a great help to figure out basic Bible study with modern tools

  • I really enjoyed Pennington’s NT301 The Gospels as Ancient Biography course

We live in an incredible universe. Everywhere we look we can see bits of creation that should really take our breathe away, if we only had the eyes to see. I keep learning because I want to be amazed again. Some of these teachers have helped me see something I had regularly overlooked. I hope one or two of these options open your eyes too.

He died…

“He died, and no one cried.” (2 Chron 21:20)

I cannot think of many epitaphs which bring more sadness than the ones revealing the stark reality that no one was sad. There is a real horror to contemplate dying and not being missed.

From one perspective, it seems to be no big deal. If this life is all there is; if all is nothing but an accident; if life and death are only two sides of the same insignificant coin; then it should not matter. I should not be sad when I think that one day I will die and no one will care. I should not feel an uneasiness in my conscience for living a live worthy of others hating me, or worse yet, ignoring me. It is what it is. There is life, and there is death, blessed be the name of materialistic nihilism.

But who can live that out consistently? Who among the angry horseman could close their mouth and stop their pen? Who could systematically begin to wipe of the face of the earth every remembrance of themselves? Who could find peace in the face of indifference? There is something that cries out within us. Is it only an evolutionary incentive for the further reproduction of genes? A wishful thinking of a false meaning so as to make a more stable society for my offspring? I think not.

But from another perspective, it is fearful. If life has meaning; if death is a door; if there really is a purpose behind all that I see and a Being over all there is; then living a life where no other divine image bearers take notice when I am gone is a serious business. For if I was created to reflect the love of the eternal Triune God, but no one ever saw that love, what was the point? If a watch cannot tell time or a pitcher hold water, what worth does it hold?

There is more to life and death than the fading memory in the mind of humanity, regardless of what the secular humanists may preach. They grip a vapor. They grasp at the wind. There is life and there is death, and then the Judgment. And perhaps one small step toward living a life in light of that judgement is considering those who ought to cry when I die.

Sleep – a new fad?

Who would have ever come up with the idea of sleep? If it were not part of the very fabric of our existence from the absolute beginning, would it ever have caught on?

I can imagine the first brainstorming session. “Hey! I have an idea. Let’s all take about one third of our day and shut down completely. We won’t be able to hear anything, see anything, do anything. We will be completely unreachable, unless someone in the apartment above us decides to play marbles at 2 am. We won’t eat, or read, or work, or play. It will be like we are dead, except sometimes we will have these thoughts that are extremely realistic in the moment but nearly impossible to remember once we are awake again. Oh, yes. And then if we go for a few nights without doing this, it will drive us mad. What a great idea!”

Would that really have ever been a fad? Would it have been the younger or older generations who had adapted to it first, with all the others mocking it until they figured it out? Who would have thought of this?

And then, who would have ever come up with the plan of taking this third of our day, and therefore a third of our life, and use it to allow our bodies to process everything that has happened. Our cells use it to clean themselves, multiply into more, or eliminate others. Our brain uses it to process information stored in the various parts of our consciousness. Even our organs, muscles, and tissues use it to relax, repair, and prepare for the upcoming day. Who would have built it into the solar system by covering parts of this rotating earth in darkness for hours every day? And then on top of that, built it into the very circuit of the year, where the fields, animals, trees, and the very land itself sleeps in the winter season? Who would have ever come up with this?

I suppose one could say it was an unfortunate accident and all of life just adapted to it. That is possible. But it seems to take a leap of faith I’m not ready to make. The evidence points to a God who has a plan and knows how to build an element of trust and dependence into every day.