WHAT’S ALL THE HOOPLA ABOUT THE SHACK?

Recently Amy Deardon, an acquaintance of mine, emailed me and asked my opinion about the book The Shack. Every now and then a book will create a buying frenzy and catapult to the best seller list for reasons we can’t always pinpoint.

Cases in point would include the Left Behind Series, the Prayer of Jabez, and the Davinci Code. This seems to indicate that people are spiritually hungry and may gravitate toward books that scratch their itch, even when some might seem a bit bent in their theology. (I won’t name which of this list fall into that grouping.) There’s nothing new under the sun, just a new way of putting a spin on it.

Whatever the case, the Shack ,which is a fiction work and, unless I mistaken an allegory, hit this quirky niche and the rest is history. Not having read the book (I usually tend to steer clear of books that create buying frenzies because I am naturally suspicious of them.) I could not give my friend much feedback.

One person on one of my writers’ lists couldn’t stomach the book because she felt it was wrong to depict God with feminine charactersistics and it was disrespectful to him. I did tell Amy that I took issue with at least the feminine characteristic argument, having read the scripture passages in Genesis which talk about “Let us create man in our own image,” didn’t feel we could rule out God having a feminine side.

We try to disect him with our finite brains, but he still defies description. Therefore, it is very possible that he does have feminine characteristics, especially since he created both male and female in his image.

That said, Amy wrote back and gave several sources that have looked at the Shack and reached their own conclusions. She also posted her own thoughts regarding the book on her blog.

http://amydeardon.blogspot.com/2008/07/shack.html

Two that give a negative/cautionary tone are:

http://www.mynameisrush.com/blog

http://www.challies.com/archives/book-reviews/the-shack-by-william-p-young.php

More balanced views can be found here

http://www.breakpoint.org/listingarticle.asp?ID=7830

http://lifestream.org/blog/?p=530

Teena Stewart, Editor DreamBuilders Ministry in Motion Blog

Author, Successful Small Groups from Concept to Practice

http://www.ministryinmotion.net/teena_stewart.html

DISCIPLESHIP IN A DIGITAL WORLD


This week we welcome guest blogger Timothy Burns, author of Forged in the Fire – Shaped by the Master. Below Timothy gives his insight on Discipleship in a Digital World.

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Discipleship in a Digital World

You and I are called to communicate unchanging truth to a continually evolving world. This dynamic tension often strains our ability to connect, and relevantly influence our cultural toward Christ. Yet Jesus’ final desires were for his followers to create disciples, and change the culture. Mark’s gospel says “Go into the world and preach to every creature, baptizing them. . .” (Mark 16.15) John recalls Jesus said “as the Father sent me, now I send you.” (John 20.21) Matthew, writing to the Jewish community directly responsible to expand the gospel’s influence, grabs Jesus words. “Go ye therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing and teaching them” (Matt 28.19-20)

If we are called to make disciples, what does that mean? What is disciple building? What is discipleship’s place in today’s digital, live-streaming, instant world? Can a modern church reach the digital generation and fulfill the great commission with these modern, plugged in, wired, but personally disconnected tools? Well, as Dr. Phil would ask, “How is that working for you?” How much lasting, life changing impact is the church having with respect to the increasing commitment to technology and multi-media resources dedicated to preaching to the masses?

Has our nation taken on more or less of the image of Christ in the past 30 years? Are our children more, or less transformed by the power of Love incarnate? Just how is this working for us, the Church?

Discipleship is the means to transform a person into the image of Christ. Discipleship takes time, effort, love, prayer, and a commitment to walk with another person until you see Christ formed in them. Without discipleship, a new convert is likely to remain culturally connected the world outside of Christ. Old habits remain unchanged – former personal identity untransformed. The new life that started out with great hope and expectation tragically fades, like a seed planted in shallow soil, withered and dry.

Discipleship isn’t simple. But If we are to be the church, be the salt that keeps the world from decaying, be a light set on a hill for all to see, we have make a personal investment, and change our approach from building a church to building the Kingdom. Here are 5 points to ponder.

Win: The process starts when one person wins another to Christ. Paul was willing to become all things to all men so that by all means some might be saved. When Jesus called Peter, James and John to leave their boats, their journey was just beginning. Salvation, getting saved, praying a sinner’s prayer, coming forward to an altar call, making a profession of faith, is just a beginning. (1 Cor. 9.19-22, Jude 22-23)

Build: Like any newly born child, a newly born Christ follower must learn how to follow. Babies are fed, with milk, mush and then meat. Our task is to walk alongside these new believers, for 6 months, a year or longer, and teach them to walk with Christ. They will fall, and disappoint you. But without your example of faith and friendship, a new believer will likely return to what they knew, when what is new isn’t working out so well. (Philippians 4.6-9, 1 Thess. 5.11ff)

Equip: “You give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish . . .” You know the rest. Each and every Christian can, and should feed themselves daily. Then we learn the power, and reach toward our potential in god’s kingdom. We are called to share what Christ has given to us with others. (2 Tim. 2.2, 2 Peter 1.3-8, Eph 4.8, 11-15)

Release: The Discipleship cycle completes when the new Christ follower engages, giving of his life, gifts, resources and time to the life of the church and others. Jesus spent 2 years with his disciples, and then sent them out 2 x 2, preaching and demonstrating with miraculous signs that the kingdom of God was come. Today’s disciples are called to the same work. (Luke 10.1-18)

Duplicate: Start the process again, this time two people work to build the kingdom.

If the Church is to look like the Church, and be the bride of our Bridegroom, the body of Christ . . . we must take on the work of the church, which is the work of making disciples and transforming the world. Then we will be changed. Then we will be like Him. Then we will be ready for his return.

2 Cor. 5.17-20

Win: Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation,
Build: Old things have passed away, behold, all things are become new
Equip: And all things are of God, who has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.
Release: To know, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself . . . and has committed unto us the world of reconciliation.
Duplicate: Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ.


Timothy Burns lives in West Michigan, and has written professionally for over 8 years. Timothy writes with a deep connection to cultural influences, and how these unwritten patterns often influence behaviors and beliefs. While personalities and cultures differ by continent and decade, human nature does not. Often the ability to identify the human element or organizational culture sets Timothy’s work apart from what can be otherwise commonplace copy. His writing spans topics of Christian living, apologetics, and the hidden benefits that often surface through personal trials. In the professional fields, Timothy’s insight into human dynamics is also evident in many sociology, psychology, management, and educational white papers to which he has contributed.

You are welcome to visit Tim’s website at www.inkwellcommunication.comOr his Myspace blog at www.myspace.com/timothy_burns

CHILDREN’S MINISTRY: ENTERTAINING OR MAKING DISCIPLES

We welcome Tamara Kraft as our guest blogger this week…

Paul is prepared for children’s church every week. The children are excited and can’t wait to see what he has planned. They have fun playing the elaborate games. They ooh and ahh over the gospel illusions and creative object lessons. They love the motions to the activity songs. It’s even fun listening to the illustrated Bible stories.

However, Paul is frustrated because the children in his children’s ministry don’t really grow spiritually. Week after week they come and enjoy themselves. Paul doesn’t seem to be making a lasting impact upon their lives, and he doesn’t know what to do about it.

Jim also uses games, gospel illusions, and creative teaching techniques, but the children in his ministry are growing spiritually. Brittany’s mom came to him last week to thank him. Brittany went to her mom after being convicted in children’s church for being disrespectful and asked her mother’s forgiveness.

Tommy led four of his classmates to the Lord and brings visitors almost every week. Kyle asked Jim last week if there was anything he could pray with him about. He told Jim that he felt led by God to be a prayer support for him. When an altar call is given, children swarm to the altar to pray for other children who go to the altar.
What makes the difference between Paul’s and Jim’s ministries? They both do pretty much the same thing in children’s church. They spend the same amount of time preparing and praying. But there’s a major difference in the children. The reason is that Paul entertains the children; Jim disciples the children.

You might wonder how Jim manages to do this. It’s not difficult if you understand that we are called to be a part of the body of Christ, not only as adults but also as children. Here are some of the steps you can take to disciple the children in your ministry:

Disciple children in prayer. Teach your children to pray. Then let them have opportunities to pray. Too often we let children pray, and we comment on how cute their prayers are. When we do that, we reduce their prayers to entertainment. We should be teaching children how to reach heaven with their prayers. We should be encouraging them to pray every day, and we should give them something to pray about.

When I need healing, I ask children to lay hands on me and pray for my body. I teach them scriptures to pray over me. When I need encouragement, I ask children to pray for me. When I need wisdom, you guessed it, I ask children to pray for me. I teach them how to pray, what scriptures to use, and then I ask them to pray. I don’t ask them to pray because it’s cute. I ask them to reach heaven for me.

One resource I’ve found very helpful in teaching children to pray is the magazine, Pray Kids. This magazine is published by Prayer Magazine and every issue is written to disciple children to pray. These magazines come in bulk, so you can order enough to place in the children’s hands.

Disciple children in evangelism. Teach your children to witness. Teach them to share the message. Teach them the scriptures to use. Give them illustrations to use when they witness. Then take them places where they can have the opportunity to share their faith.

One easy tool to help children learn to witness is the witness bracelet. You can purchase these or have the children make them. Just like the wordless book, they use colors convey salvation. Yellow represents heaven where God lives and wants us to someday live. Black represents the sin that stops us from living with God in heaven. Red is the blood of Jesus that was shed for our sins. White means that, if we ask Jesus to forgive us, He will cleanse us as white as snow. Green means we need to grow in our faith.

There are many places you can go to give children an opportunity to share their faith. You can have them help with a benevolence ministry, or take them to a nursing home, or you can take them to the park for a day, instructing them to look for opportunities to witness.

Disciple children in service. Many in the church have the habit of telling children over and over to sit and be quiet until they’re eighteen years old. Then when they reach adulthood, the same people will complain that all they do is sit in the pews and listen. If we are to disciple a generation to serve God, we need to start when they are young.

Think about the things that need to be done in your children’s ministry. Do you need someone to run the sound? Train a group of children to do it. Do you need people who are gifted in helps to take attendance, check children in, set up chairs, and tear down after church? Again, train children to do it.

The opportunities for children to serve in the church are only limited by your understanding of how much a child is capable of doing. I have used children for sound, Power Point, registration, praise and worship leaders, altar workers, skits, object lessons, puppets, monitors, and many other things. I’ve even had eleven and twelve year olds preach for me in children’s church. You heard me right. They preached. Those children are now adults who are in full time ministry.

There are other areas that children can be discipled in also. The only limitations are the ones we choose to place on our children. When they are discipled in ministry, something amazing happens. Children grow closer to God. They learn to listen for His voice. They learn that God can use them. He has a plan for their lives. So which are you doing? Are you entertaining children or are you discipling them?

Brief Bio:
Tamera Kraft has been a children’s pastor for over 20 years. She is the leader of a ministry called Revival Fire For Kids where she mentors other children’s leaders, teaches workshops, and is a children’s ministry consultant and children’s evangelist. She is also a writer and has curriculum published including Kid Konnection 5: Kids Entering the Presence of God published by Pathway Press. She is a recipient of the 2007 National Children’s Leaders Association Shepherd’s Cup for lifetime achievement in children’s ministry.

Her website and blog are located at www.tamerakraft.net.