Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Lifeway Hides the Women (Pastors)

I found this news about Lifeway's "hiding" of the magazine 'Gospel Today' under the sales counter (by request only) interesting on several fronts. The magazine's cover and feature article is apparently about women who are pastors, with five women on the cover who fill the role of pastor.

While the discussion over women in ministry is and will continue to be a hot-button issue in evangelical churches, Lifeway's choice is interesting to me in a much broader light.

Lifeway is notorious for its slick marketing and sales of a wide range of products ("Christian bookstore" is only a part of what these stores should be known as). A typical Lifeway store carries so many items on its shelves which are arguably antithetical to what the Bible calls the church and Christians to be that one must be in shock that Lifeway is actually "hiding" anything at all.

As a minister who is baptist, I would only recommend a fraction of the books on the shelves in Lifeway to begin with, and I would strongly caution most people about reading a percentage of the books there. Most people place too much trust in the title "Christian" on the sign of any Christian bookstore, and then they go in expecting everything on the shelves to be sound. (If you're looking for something good to read, ask your pastor or check one of these lists for starters - and btw, most of the books on this list will probably not be on the shelf of a typical Lifeway store - try ordering them from CBD - - or, Amazon, if the price is better.)

The problem is not with Lifeway drawing a line as to what they will put on the shelves. The problem is that Lifeway has been all things to all people for so long that when Lifeway decides to draw a line many of its customers are going to cry "foul."

Friday, September 05, 2008

The Idolatry "Gospel"

D. A. Carson writes a very stirring and sobering conclusion to some thoughts concerning the vision of God's glory returning to dwell among his people in Ezekiel 43 (from Carson's Oct. 10 writing in Vol. 2 of For the Love of God):

“The Gospel is not admired in Scripture primarily because of the social transformation it effects, but because it reconciles men and women to a holy God. Its purpose is not that we might feel fulfilled, but that we might be reconciled to the living and holy God. The consummation is delightful to the transformed people of God, not simply because the environment of the new heaven and the new earth is pleasing, but because we forever live and work and worship in the unshielded radiance of the presence of our holy Maker and Redeemer. That prospect must shape how the church lives and serves, and determine the pulse of its ministry. The only alternative is high-sounding but self-serving idolatry.”

At least for American Evangelical Christianity, this truth is sorely missing in the gospel being presented by the usual suspects. The man-centered "gospel" of personal happiness and self-improvement is in stark and horrible contrast to the main purposes of this God-centered and God-initiated reconciliation presented on the pages of Scripture.