Our Life and Witness: Local, Quiet, Pastoral

Weaver Near an Open Window, Van Gogh

But we don’t need to write to you about the importance of loving each other, for God himself has taught you to love one another. 10 Indeed, you already show your love for all the believers throughout Macedonia. Even so, dear brothers and sisters, we urge you to love them even more.

11 Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. 12 Then people who are not Christians will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others.

– 1Thessalonians 4:9-12, NLT

* * *

The end of this past week was hard for me here at IM. I’ve mentioned a few times before that I don’t like to write about contentious cultural issues like homosexuality. I always feel like I’m getting tongue-tied and not saying what I really mean. The discussion moves beyond my ability to control it quickly. It’s so easy to be misunderstood when talking about volatile issues and entire conversations can get unhinged and go haywire in a second.

I apologize if I offended anyone. I think some of the comments we received were out of order too. I have a much more lenient moderating policy than Michael used to have, and I’m sure he would have been riding the delete button this week much more strongly than I did.

I sincerely hope that the wild and woolly place this becomes sometimes hasn’t scared too many more reserved and timid readers away.

So today I thought it would be good to do a reset.

Let me share with you what I’m really all about. Allow me to open the curtains and let you see inside the window of my heart of hearts. Let’s set aside our wrangling and wrestling over issues for a moment and review a fundamental perspective that I hope will always remain at the center of who I am and what this blog tries to be.

My life and witness as a Christian is to be lived out primarily
in a way that is local, quiet, and pastoral

One of the most neglected yet sorely needed texts in the New Testament for our day is 1Thessalonians 4:9-12 (above). Note two simple observations about it:

  • The subject is how to excel in love for other Christians (v. 9-10) and how to win the respect of those outside the faith (v. 12).
  • The instruction about how to do this is clearly delineated in verse 11: “Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before.”

According to 1Thessalonians 2, this was not only the instruction that Paul and the other apostles gave their friends in Thessalonica, but also the example they set for them personally (see especially 2:7-12).

Many of us find this harder to do in the media-soaked, illusory age in which we live.

We think the great issues of our day are what we hear about from public media. Without downplaying the importance of our civic responsibilities, I want to assure you that they are not. And even if many of these issues and concerns do carry great weight (on a certain level, of course they do), they are beyond the ability of most of us to affect unless we devote ourselves to a lifetime of engagement through public service of some kind. We will all have opinions about such matters, and we may be involved in trying to bring about change in relatively small ways, but the vast majority of people will focus their lives around their families, work, communities, and personal interests.

This, therefore, is the primary context for Jesus-shaped spirituality.

Not the latest “news” from the liberals and conservatives on cable news networks.

Not the latest issues trending on social media.

Not the grave culture war issues being promoted by Christian organizations and spokespersons on the left and right.

Not what’s happening in Washington, Hollywood, the Vatican, or in any of the seats of power and influence around the world.

Not the political “world,” the entertainment “world,” the sports “world,” or any other “world” out there that fights to get our attention and our dollars.

Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen, Van Gogh
Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen, Van Gogh

Too many of us have allowed voices from these “worlds” to infiltrate our worlds and convince us that they represent realms of real life that everyone should consider immediately relevant, think about, talk about, blog about, tweet about, update our statuses about, discuss at work, check constantly on our smart phones, and watch on other flickering screens 24/7.

Friends, this is not my life. This is not your life.

My life is the one I live with my family. My life is the one in which I do my daily work. My life is the one I live among my neighbors, my friends, in my community, with the people in my congregation and at the ball field. Because I’m a writer, the context of my life includes Internet Monk and the people I meet through participating in these daily discussions.

No matter how hard it is, I have to fight every day to keep the main thing the main thing, to recognize real life for what it is, and to let Christ live in and through me in that context.

To help me, I have clear apostolic instruction. Paul’s words to me are:

Be a quiet person, a person of peace.

Don’t stick your nose in places where it doesn’t belong.

Work hard.

Focus on the people you know and excel in love toward them.

Local, quiet, pastoral.

It’s the apostolic way.

It’s Jesus-shaped.

How much healthier would I be, would you be, would the Church be if 1Thessalonians 4:9-12 defined our life and witness?

96 thoughts on “Our Life and Witness: Local, Quiet, Pastoral

  1. Oh hey, I was just taking my cues from the Van Gogh painting and letting my art history nerd side show.

    Btw, if you like Romantic mystical landscapes, you can’t beat the Hudson River School painters – and truthfully, the views up there really are a bit on the mystical side, for me, at least.

    At any rate, you’d probably like HR School paintings, since you like Melville’s writing.

    /end diversion down into the maze of a rabbit warren


  2. Slow down, Ben. You have a long road ahead of you and a lot of growing up still to do.. A little less hubris will do you well. You might be surprised what you think about these issues in thirty or forty years. I know I’ve been.


  3. Ben, thanks for hanging in there with the discussion. You wrote: “For a gentleman like yourself, who has been a pastor for some 30 years and has been married for roughly the same period of time, this shouldn’t be a difficult issue, quite frankly.”

    Well, that all depends upon what you mean by “this shouldn’t be a difficult issue.” Sure, it may not be hard to develop an intellectual position, and I have one that is conservative. What I find extremely difficult is knowing what to do with that in the current climate. I am not a “politicized” person and don’t like the public debates we have about these kinds of issues. I think they lead people to imagine that they are being faithful Christians just because they think correctly and feel strongly about something (true for all positions). As I said in Sunday’s post, I try to practice my faith and ministry in local, quiet, and pastoral fashion. And, to be honest, homosexuality has never been an issue that I have been required to deal with as a church leader. So I hesitate to talk about it a lot or with great passion because for me that would be no more than an intellectual exercise and I don’t see any benefit to that.


  4. You gentlemen are apparently unfamiliar with the rhetoric of the prophets, the apostles and Jesus. You are also especially of the rhetoric of Chaplain Mike’s favorite Reformer, Dr. Luther himself. Compared to what Brother Martin would have said to the Chaplain, I look like Mr. Rogers.


  5. “Authoritative” is not the same as “Authoritarian”. But that distinction may be too subtle for Wexel. Stick around kid. We’re glad to be the foils for your higher education. ;o)


  6. Chaplain Mike,

    It is conceivable to me that one who was untutored in the Scriptures, a recent convert or someone living under a rock would not have had adequate time to process the homosexuality issue.

    For a gentleman like yourself, who has been a pastor for some 30 years and has been married for roughly the same period of time, this shouldn’t be a difficult issue, quite frankly.

    I will grant that I may have some sour grapes. My main point is this: over the course of a year and a half or so, I actively participated in discussions on issues of gender and sexuality on this blog and on Rachel Held Evans’ blog. At the time, I guess you could say I was fairly moderate/liberal on most things and held what I considered to be moderate/conservative opinions on homosexuality/gender. In these discussions I was shown little respect and was frequently simply dismissed. It didn’t take long before I began to figure out what was up–and as a result, you could say it has “radicalized” me. I am far more conservative now than I was, simply because I realized through these discussions people were not going to tolerate any kind of middle ground.

    Absolute egalitarianism and toleration for homosexual behavior or nothing seems to be the agenda. The vile treatment and slander of Doug Wilson was the breaking point for me. I couldn’t take RHE seriously after that. Hence, I got to thinking long and hard about my presuppositions, and here I am. I encourage you and your readers to do the same.

    Feel free to delete my comments. No sour grapes.


  7. In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve tried to engage Wexel several times, in my opinion very respectfully, to do more than lob grenades and run. He/she seems be averse to it. The grenade throwing is getting tiring. My apologies for letting that get to me. Wexel, I do appreciate your presence here at iMonk; I just wish you’d tell us more about what YOU believe, rather than the continual criticism of what WE believe. Peace.


  8. I try to stop reading when I see Wexel’s name, simply because I have already raised (and had endless theological discussions with) adolescent boys with chips on their shoulders…..and have no desire to revisit the process.

    There is no room for discussion or dialogue with someone who runs into the room, drops his pants to “moon” the group, laughs, and runs out again to eavesdrop at the door. If and when he can take a seat at the grown-ups table and use his inside voice and manners…..THEN we can have a conversation.


  9. Like Charles, this site is important to my daily walk, and I do feel like a “member of the congregation”. [Unlike Charles, I ,do have a brick church, too, and need it for the community and Eucharist]

    And, like Charles, let me thank all of you who do the heavy lifting around here, so that the rest of us can just slide into our cyber-pew and enjoy!!


  10. Yes, but Wexel was specifically connecting the idea of “pastoralism” with the term “romantic image” as a criticism of CM’s post. But CM was not using the word “pastoral” with that meaning. I was merely trying to point out that Wexel was barking up the wrong tree….just like the Romanticists.

    A difference of Romanticism from previous idealizations of the pastoral is that Romanticism also idealized the experience of personal emotions. In fact, it connected this idealization with a kind of mystical power that it supposedly found present in the pastoral/nature, which if contemplated would return the artist to the wellsprings of their own creativity, wellsprings which has been sullied by reason and civilization, especially as represented by the increasing rationalization of life found in urbanization and industrialization and science.

    In short, Romanticism was primarily a reaction against, and rejection of, Enlightenment values. That’s why both “Tintern Abbey” and “Frankenstein” are Romantic works, and it also is what makes Romanticism’s idealization of the pastoral/nature unique when compared with earlier idealizations.

    None of this has anything to do with “pastoral” as used in CM’s post to refer to the care of souls.


  11. Pastoral settings were idealized long before the Romantics, though – you can find pastoral themes in Greek mythology, in Elizabethan poetry, and in art that predates Romanticism by a fair while.

    Keep in mind that for the aristocracy in England and France, land and farming represented wealth and their source of power. Lots of pre-Romantic portraits of the English aristocracy show them out on the grounds of their estates. There’s a similar classical pastoral d romanticism in the work of the French painter Watteau, and also in the paintings of Nicholas Poussin, who was French but whose works were collected by English aristocrats.


  12. Piper et. al. are not MEN, rather they are boys who get their rocks off by denigrating and dominating women.

    Most of us outgrow that when we hit puberty.


  13. Unfortunately for me (though maybe fortunately for you), you shut down the comments just as I was searching YouTube for a couple videos relating to the subject: a certain musical number from Meet the Feebles and Lenny Bruce’s “Thank You Mask Man”.


  14. That thought occurred to me just after I made my post, Tom. I don’t think the concept of a loving, gracious , forgiving authority figure even computes.


  15. Ah, but saying that would require a form of masculine courage, the kind that those awful complementarians like John Piper talk about. Can’t have any of that, now could we?

    Hell, that wasn’t directed at me, but even I RESENT THAT LOW-BALL. Piper et. al. are not MEN, rather they are boys who get their rocks off by denigrating and dominating women.

    Take it somewhere else, Ben.


  16. I thought it was good, too. It brought out strong feelings and I liked reading the varied comments and opinions. If all the articles written at iMonk offered only opinions that everyone agreed with, we’d never discover that there are people who think differently than we do and have strong beliefs counter to our own.


  17. Michael, we all need to rant once in awhile. I thought your post was honest, heartfelt, and considered. Whether one agrees or disagrees, we are not afraid of the occasional rant around here.


  18. Last Friday’s post by we was a rant. It was the first one I have had on InternetMonk. I supported at World Vision child for 10 years. I was furious that people acted in the way that they did, when their were real children at the other end, children who’s pictures were up on their refrigerators, and who had faithfully written them letters.

    Personally, I try to be quite restrained in what I write about. I have very conservative friends who’s friendship I value, and I don’t want to upset them too much.


  19. From the 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous:

    5. Each group has but one primary purpose—to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.

    6. An A.A. group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the A.A. name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.

    10. Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the A.A. name ought never be drawn into public controversy.

    It seems the Church has a lot to learn from A.A. Or is it that A.A. has become, in many ways, what the Church is supposed to be? Either way, thank God for A.A., and for his Church. Lord have mercy.


  20. “Remember, in his lifetime, Van Gogh sold only two paintings. I personally sold even fewer. ” – Eric Idle, from his 2013 Whitman College commencement speech.


  21. And by the way, though you may not accept it, we do not write posts “to gather as much controversy, as many comments, and as many links and pageclicks as possible.”

    We write about what interests us and what we think might be helpful in some way.


  22. Thanks, Kathe. Well, Friday’s post was by Michael Bell. The World Vision situation was not on my radar to write about.

    I wrote Thursday’s post because I knew he was going to write about WV. Looking back, I would do things differently.


  23. I did not read the post as a berating. Looking back at it again, I still do not see that.


  24. It is kind of odd to put up two posts that seem fairly designed to gather as much controversy, as many comments, and as many links and pageclicks as possible, and then berate your readers for not being more peacefully and locally oriented.

    I am guessing you have some strongly mixed feelings?


  25. OK so for those of us who were not born speaking evangelicalese, wtf is IHOP if NOT pancake-related?


  26. Wexel, I’m beginning to get the impression you have some serious problems with Christianity. True?


  27. Adam,

    Yes. That’s what is meant here by “idealization’: they saw nature through the countryside, and the countryside through the prism of their own privilege.


  28. > was an idealization of nature as found in the countryside

    And an idealization of the countryside as witnessed by the entitled liesure class which employed laborers to do things like clean stalls, dig ditches, perform butchery, etc…


  29. Wexel,

    This is just obfuscation of your original confusion of two different meanings of the word “pastoral.” Can’t you just admit you made a mistake? Or are you infallible when speaking “ex cathedra”?


  30. And I meant “etymologically,” not “etiologically.” Wexel is not the only one who get confused.


  31. Just to be clear, this Romantic idealization of nature was an idealization of nature as found in the countryside, or in its “pastoral” (think of the word “pasture”) setting.

    Chaplain Mike is using “pastoral” to refer to the care of souls.


  32. > In that case, the “romantic” image becomes one of authoritarian “pastors” and obedient “sheeple.”

    I disagree that the image implies that; it cannot imply that when used by a Lutheran. Lutheranism would never condone the concept of “sheeple”.


  33. Yes, but this is a discussion, not where we live our lives. And hopefully, what we discuss here will encourage people in the settings where they live, where it really counts.


  34. No, I locked it down because it had degenerated into a bawdy exchange of crude jokes. Sometimes we close up shop and go home.

    I would remind you that there are rules of engagement here. Read the FAQs please.


  35. In that case, the “romantic” image becomes one of authoritarian “pastors” and obedient “sheeple.” Of course this is a traditional Christian metaphor,and generations of hierarchs have warred with one another over who would get to be the shepherd. Christianity is itself a relic of a more authoritarian time.

    (Should I be using the single-quote mark for non-quotes? I can never remember how that works)


  36. Wexel is referring to Romanticism, which was an intellectual, artistic and literary movement that started in the late 18th century in Europe. In England, such literary figures as Coleridge, Wordsworth, the Shelleys, Byron, etc., represented Romanticism, a key motif of which was an idealization of nature in contrast to a disillusionment with civilization and urban life, significantly as a result of the alienating experience of industrialization. Wordworth’s poem “Tintern Abbey” is a classic embodiment of the themes and language of Romanticism.

    Wexel is using the word “pastoral” in reference to Romanticism, which has nothing to do with the way Chaplain Mike is using it. The word has more than one denotation, and although the two denotations are related etiologically, they have very different meanings. I’m afraid poor Wexel has confused them.


  37. “Pastoral” in this post refers to working personally to care for people. It doesn’t necessarily refer to the role of a pastor. If you read the list of four instructions at the end of the post, you will see the main point. “Excelling in love for others” is really the point I’m trying to make — caring for the people in my life.


  38. The author of the post did not use the words “purer” or “simpler”.

    He did use the word “pastoral”. You seem to be taking that word in the poetic/literary sense – as in pastoral poetry about the beauty and purity of the country side and agricultural life – the simple life I’ve lived there – yes, “pastoralism” in that sense is complete bull [pun intended].

    I took the author’s meaning to be in-the-role-of-a-pastor, a shepherd, or care-taker. I believe the author is spot-on, if this is the definition of the term intended.

    Or he could have meant both, but it was at least both by my reading; I’ll concede the both as the Chaplain has expressed some Dave Barnhouse-ian leanings in the past.


  39. And lament, or anger, … what does it accomplish? Other than possibly ruining your day.


  40. I feel this is rather a graceless reply here. No matter what our own convictions regarding homosexuality we all need to recognise the fact that those who are Christians who identify as LGBTQ have been a group without a voice, until very recently.They have been spoken at & not listened to. It is blogs like IM that allow people to have their say, finally, & to be heard out rather than their words just being waited out so someone can leap in & correct them. If they are allowed more of the floor right now it’s because that’s how we eventually reach balance. In many many places traditional views are still monolithic, so other places provide space & grace for differences.


  41. Hmm…interesting point, Wexel. I hadn’t thought of it as being “romanticized,” but perhaps there’s some truth in that. Maybe the concept of “pastoral” has become like a Thomas Kinkade painting, pretty to look at and think about, but not anywhere close to what living “pastorally” would actually be. I’ll mull on that a bit.


  42. Pastoralism amounts to a romantic image which can only have arisen as a result of urbanization, and hardly reflects the real-world experience of pastoralists. It is not a “purer” or “simpler” life.


  43. Chaplain Mike,

    This is your blog, and those who assist you may also claim ownership over it. You are free to write what you will and exclude any opinions you dislike. I don’t dispute that. Any intelligent reader can look at the articles you have linked in your response and see how the discussion was indeed moderated. I won’t bother to rebut you there.

    In the meantime, those who do not like what the Church has said traditionally (from Scripture) about this issue have been relatively free to say whatever they want in comment threads about the Church’s hatefulness and ugliness, as well as impugning the worst of motives to those of us who expressed more conservative opinions. Only when more conservative views like my own were expressed were various arbitrary standards about “relevance” imposed. Again, anyone who reads the threads can see that. Wanna hate on the Church, the Bible, evangelicals, traditional views of sexuality? Open season. Wanna defend the traditional position? Not so fast, buddy. We got standards around here.

    One doesn’t need to be very smart to see why certain statements are allowed and others not. Some statements are more acceptable to the broader public (Christians hate gays–period. No middle ground.) Conceding to what the culture finds acceptable in our discourse means that you have accepted their standards of discourse, with the accompanying moral code.

    The first step to dealing with a problem is admitting that you have one. Good day.


  44. You totally locked down the other post because you didn’t like the direction the comments were taking. This shows contempt for your audience. We were “off-message.”


  45. RE: “Local, quiet, pastoral.”

    Don’t blogs tend rather to be global in their reach, attention-getting, and provocative?


  46. On the Sabbath God rested. He stopped speaking (things into existence). Sabbath is the silence at the heart of things.


  47. Good word, Mike. I think we disagree from time to time on how this applies to specific situations, but by and large I think churches across the spectrum tend to be too noisy. This is one fault of which we evangelicals are particularly prone.

    At my congregation, I feel like we have cultivated a quieter approach by keeping our focus on the gospel. And I don’t say this to give myself credit as one of the pastors. It was the culture of my church before I got there, one that I have been blessed to inherit from the faithful labors of others.


  48. Ben, first of all, no comments have been deleted simply because of point of view. Rarely do I delete any comments, but when I do it is only because of inappropriate behavior. If you think you’ve been moderated, you are mistaken.

    Secondly, I have written about my own position in Chaplain Mike’s Agenda and found a lot to agree with David Fitch about in a post called, “David Fitch Recommends Taking ‘No Position’ on LGBTQ Relations”. I did an overview of the Bible verses dealing with homosexuality in “What Does the Bible Actually Teach about Homosexuality?”, but did so more to look at what they said and prompt discussion rather than to state any hard and fast conclusions.

    To be honest, I don’t really know what all the iMonk writers think about homosexuality or how it should be handled in churches or in whatever culture they’re in. They are free to express their own convictions and it doesn’t require my agreement.

    My hesitancy about writing or talking about this on an internet forum has to do mostly with the fact that it is a poor medium for nuanced discussion about an issue like this in our day, when passions are so inflamed about it. I actually find it unfortunate that so much attention is being paid to an issue that only affects 2% of people. You are right: the culture has been pushing for this strongly. But it also takes two to tango, and those who oppose things like “gay marriage” have taken the bait and continue to inflame the debate as well. Frankly, my hesitancy to talk about it has more to do with my extreme dislike of drama more than anything else.

    I admire my own denomination for trying to take a nuanced position, but I know that many conservatives consider it a liberal one. However the ELCA tried to do the “Lutheran” thing, which is typically neither conservative or liberal or perhaps it is both. In their social statement they recognized the uniqueness of heterosexual marriage from the Bible and upheld a strong ethic of chastity and faithfulness with regard to sexual relations. However, they also acknowledged that other Christians within the denomination accept the validity of lifelong same-sex partnerships and that there is not unity among us on this matter. So they left it up to local congregations and synods to make decisions on the matter and encouraged believers to respect the bound consciences of others. I wrote about this in “How the ELCA Dealt with the Issue of Homosexuality.”

    Ben, Internet Monk is a discussion blog where a variety of perspectives are welcome and need to be heard. Your opinions are welcome, snide innuendos like questioning my “masculine courage” aside.


  49. IHOP references always throw me off, because even though I know the writer isn’t talking about International House of Pancakes, all I can think about is that happy mixture of flour, leavening, salt, and oil on griddle.

    And them I’m all like, “Umm, sorry did you say something? My brain was eating.”


  50. Chaplain Mike,

    May I submit that the reason something within you doesn’t feel quite right about getting involved in these discussions is that you, like most of us (myself included) are not comfortable with what Scripture teaches on sexuality and its deep, sacramental and Trinitarian meaning. The culture is clearly going in the opposite direction, urging us to abandon biblical teaching in these areas, go along to get along, and the easiest thing in the world to do is to throw up our hands and do nothing.

    In the past when I and others have made rather frank and (I will grant) imperfectly worded statements about homosexuality’s wrongness and sinfulness, your immediate instinct has been to delete them. This indicates to me that, in spite of what you say, you have taken a side. You do not want to affirm what Scripture says on this topic because you consider it hateful. You want to move on from that. Yet, as a conservative Midwestern sort of fellow, you retain much of your learned conservatism in this area and don’t want to go all the way with others in the mainline.

    Why not simply admit this to your readers up front? If you believe what the Bible teaches on homosexuality, if you find it to be disordered and inherently sinful, you are not welcome on this blog. Go elsewhere. We aren’t interested in that here. You are ‘hateful’ and bring “shame” to the gospel, as Michael Bell so clearly put it. I came to that conclusion already myself.

    Ah, but saying that would require a form of masculine courage, the kind that those awful complementarians like John Piper talk about. Can’t have any of that, now could we?


  51. I believe you did a whole post on those verses a while back – it was one of my favorites. I printed a copy and posted it to a cork board I keep in my house. It encouraged me tremendously. Made me feel like it was possible for me to be a Christ follower with the life I actually have, not the life I thought I would.


  52. sometimes there comes a confluence between our quiet daily labors and our way of praying, and that can bring a quiet respite to our ‘inner noise’ . . . .
    CHAPLAIN MIKE, this post reminds me of an exquisite little video (The Coffin Maker) that Patheos showed last year . . .

    ‘ . . . He leadeth me beside the still waters . . . He restoreth my soul . . . ‘


  53. But when it comes right down to it, the way I live my life each day, the actual-to-face interactions I have with people, the daily and mundane “do unto others” tasks that God sets before me…when I’m paying attention…is what I need to focus on.

    i.e. “The Little Way” of St Therese of Lisieux, echoing the Jewish emphasis on “just living your life”.


  54. Actually, the analogy goes the other way round. I have a copy of the 1943 OSS psych profile of a certain A.Hitler, and several foreign eyewitnesses to the Nuremberg Rallies describe them as “revival meetings”. Amway and Pyramid Scheme rallies (and High School Pep Rallies) also use the same whip-em-into-a-frenzy tactics.


  55. Well said. There’s a fine line I walk between being informed and educated…and wasting too much precious time on the opinions of people I don’t agree with, or do agree with – for that matter. I certainly believe that there are people out there whose voices need to be heard – whose well thought out and researched arguments are important for Christians to hear and engage with. But when it comes right down to it, the way I live my life each day, the actual-to-face interactions I have with people, the daily and mundane “do unto others” tasks that God sets before me…when I’m paying attention…is what I need to focus on. My opinions or what side of the controversy I come down on are not as important as how I love my neighbor as myself.


  56. Thanks mike, great verse and beautifully framed by you. The premise of a good book, God of the Mundane.


  57. CM, I have mentioned this before but will repeat myself. This site is my church, my favorite Christian gathering spot, assembly, congregation, parish. Doesn’t mean God won’t show me a different one tomorrow. In the meantime I look forward to coming here every day to slip in the back row and check things out. If nothing else I get practice in loving irritating people, something I’m not very good at yet. More than made up for by those here I would hang out with if they lived in my neighborhood. This place is next best. For those who would say I need to find a brick and mortar, one of our operators will assist you as soon as possible. You are currently number 153 in line.

    CM, I can well imagine how much work this place is. I couldn’t do it if this was all I had to do, not day after day. Please don’t play with burning out.To do this with all else you do is remarkable. Hats off! Many thanks!!!


  58. We Catholics go to IHOP almost every week after the early Mass…while our separated brethren are still at Sunday School and then eleven 0’clock worship…..less crowded, and they can keep your coffee warm.


  59. Inclusion on the blogroll simply means that these sites contain material worth reading and considering. It does not imply full agreement. Many of these folks are friends. Many are readers and commenters on iMonk. iMonk is a site that welcomes discussion from different perspectives and, though I think our links and blogroll indicate a general agreement in outlook, that may not always be the case.


  60. Yes, the Nuremberg analogy has occurred to me many times. Especially when they all stick their arms out.


  61. Our instinct is always to do more or to find a new ‘way’; to add more busyness and church work.


    But I’ve long thought that these verses (and others) give us permission to set aside the mechanics and guilt of evangelism so that the beauty of life and grace can simply be our loudest witness.

    Judaism places a lot of emphasis on “just living your life”.


  62. That’s why we have big prayer rallies– excuse me, I meant to say solemn assemblies. We need to cry out to God– yeah, individually is OK, but you know, it’s so much more effective if we do it en masse– and we can’t be lame about it; we have to be on fire, sold out, passionate, intensely passionate (fire all of your guns at once and explode into space).

    What’s next? Rent out a stadium in Nuremberg?
    (Now THOSE rallies were On Fire, Sold Out, Passionate, Intensely Passionate…)


  63. Ramp it up. Bigger, louder, higher.

    No dying there.

    That’s what happens in places that believe in “free-will” decisions for Jesus. The project just never ends.

    Pump up those spiritual muscles for Jesus.


  64. Thank you for the reminder, Chaplain Mike. It’s so easy to get wound up in things you can’t control, and to forget the things that you can. Living quietly, doing good where you are able to, is harder than it looks.


  65. Great message, Mike, but I have to say that much of your blogroll listed on this same page runs counter to that approach.


  66. Thanks Mike. The past week can be taken as a troubling one every easily. It certainly reflects the never-ending contention and fighting within the church, which is sad thing. A divided church with Christians shaking fists at each other is a poor witness to the world.

    Two people come to mind when I read verses 11 and 12. One is my father-in-law, who was a living example of this advice. He was a quiet man, loved his family, worked with his hands, and was a witness to Christ all through his life. The other is my own mother, who in some ways did not have an easy life. But through some turmoil, she also lived quietly, and trusted in God for his abundance and mercy.


  67. Our instinct is always to do more or to find a new ‘way’; to add more busyness and church work. But I’ve long thought that these verses (and others) give us permission to set aside the mechanics and guilt of evangelism so that the beauty of life and grace can simply be our loudest witness.


  68. I’m getting ready to attend Sunday-morning services with a congregation that’s gone done a somewhat different path than the one that’s described here. Strong IHOP influence over the last decade. Emphasis on “turning up the spiritual temperature” in worship because, you know, God moves if we get pumped up enough. People get hectored to show more zeal, more excitement during worship. Growing fixation on revival– excuse me, “awakening”– and making it happen. The bride of Christ has been asleep, she needs to wake up. That’s why things are so bad in our nation nowadays– because the bride has been asleep. We get treated to visions of dramatic transformation in the community, the region, the state, the nation as a result of awakening– but you know, we’ve got to do our part. We need to wake up. That’s why we have big prayer rallies– excuse me, I meant to say solemn assemblies. We need to cry out to God– yeah, individually is OK, but you know, it’s so much more effective if we do it en masse– and we can’t be lame about it; we have to be on fire, sold out, passionate, intensely passionate (fire all of your guns at once and explode into space). So, we’re going to have yet another assembly– a regional assembly– in a couple of weeks. “The Call” (no, not affiliated with Lou Engle– at least not I can tell). Let’s get pumped, people! It’s time to release the kraken– oops, I meant to say, it’s time to open the floodgates of heaven…. It’s all so– exhausting. What did Michael call it? “Wretched urgency.” …. Hesychia now!


  69. Mike, thank you for the reminder “to fight every day to keep the main thing the main thing, to recognize real life for what it is, and to let Christ live in and through me in that context” and especially “to recognize real life for what it is, and to let Christ live in and through me in that context.” I will meditate and take comfort in those thoughts this week.


  70. I used to lament when headlines in the culture, heresies or controversies in the church didn’t line up with my ideology. Ive needed many reminders I don’t have control which direction churches or cultures take. And while I do still lament, I no longer feed on these controversies. But try and stay focused on family and those closest to me, as well as my work and play. Too easy to get caught up in things that distract. Ecclesiastes has much to say to this as well. Good word,


  71. Amen. Great way to begin this week.

    I often lament that the front page dictates more of our thinking than the Word.


  72. I would love to take a quiet walk through the spring woods with you, and thank you for sharing your insights and doing the scut work of helping manage this, my favorite site.

    It is inevitable that when we put ourselves out on the world wide web, reactions will include everything from mild disagreement to heaped tons of vitrol and hate, along with misunderstandings and confusion.

    Please don’t let this stop you…..pray and keep us going here, my friend and Brother in Christ.


  73. The ordinary, everyday world is the way of bearing my cross, and the shape of dying into my Baptism. The ordinary, everyday world is the one in which God comes to me in my neighbor, and in the stranger, and I may receive him, and them, in thanksgiving, in Eucharist.


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