Book Review: A Skeptic’s Guide to Arts in the Church

I have had the pleasure of reading this new book edited by Dr. Mark Coppenger – A Skeptic’s Guide to Arts in the Church. In this book, Dr. Coppenger and friends discuss twenty major reservations in regards to the church participation with the arts. It follows (to quote Coppenger, himself) a “cranky” question/concern and response format that I think works really well with this type of book. The type of dialogue that takes place makes something that could be easily overwhelming and cumbersome into something that is enjoyable to read and digestible.

I also liked that Coppenger included many other voices in this conversation. At times, I felt as though I was sitting in on a round table discussion listening to the research and opinions of others who had spent a lot of time thinking about these issues.

One of the particular questions that I have been mulling over for some time has been that of Art and it’s relation to the Second Commandment (You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth). Coppenger (reading my mind and knowing that I’ve been struggling with this question) starts the dialogue off by answering that very question. However, he goes in depth into various topics such as the Regulative Principle of Worship, the church’s priorities, even going into the expense and what to do when funds are short.

This book was a fun and encouraging read! I thoroughly enjoyed taking the time to go deeper into this subject and learn from the expertise of Dr. Coppenger et all. It definitely does a great job opening the conversation up for people to begin the discussion of including various arts in the church.

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All Things Work Together

This phrase has been rolling around in my head for the past couple of weeks. It is taken out of Romans 8:28 when Paul said “And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose…” Often, since I am in the retail industry, I see this verse printed on greeting cards or heard it in the room at the hospital when someone is sick or injured or dying.

Too often, I think, I use these words to bring immediate peace for the current situation (as though God is going to change the circumstances) rather than bringing current peace in light of the future. When writing these words in the letter to the Romans, Paul wants to provide a level of peace for their current situation. However, he wasn’t telling them that God was going to change their circumstances.

Many of the Christians in Rome at the time were being persecuted by being dipped into hot wax and lit as candles, or put the Colosseum to be torn apart and eaten by hungry lions, or hung on crosses. Paul was not saying that God was going to take away their persecution, their pain, their suffering, and give them their “best life now.” Instead, Paul points them to their salvation when he goes on to say “… because those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified.”

Paul points them from the beginning to the end of their salvation process and reminds them of how God has been faithful. In the same way, when you’re sick, dying, lost your job, your car, your spouse, your parent, your child, God is still working these things out for your good and for His glory. He has been faithful to you in the process of your eternal salvation, He will be faithful to you in the midst of these other trials.

Count it all Joy

” Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds…”

One of the new shows that is taking the nation by storm is Marie Kondo’s Tidy Up. And one of the ideas she uses over and over again is “If the item sparks joy, keep it, but if not give it away.” In our culture, we have become so inundated with stuff that this becoming more and more of a practical approach to minimalism in our culture. I think, however, that if Christian’s aren’t careful, this kind of thinking could direct us away from the joy we are to find in Jesus and towards a joy that we find in stuff.

James tells us that we should count it all joy when we meet trials of various kinds. When James uses this word “meets” the Greek word used behind it is περιπίπτω (peripiptō)[I used blb.org to find this information out]. This word is used two other times in the New Testament. The first is when Jesus is telling the story of the “Good Samaritan” (Luke 10:30) and the second is when Paul’s ship ran aground (Acts 27:41). In both cases, this word doesn’t mean that the person came into contact with the trial and left. These trials were beating and striking the person at the center of the story.

In a perfect world, with Marie Kondo’s ideology, anyone who is facing a trial should do what they can to give it away. These trials do not spark joy. However, James tells us count it, think of it, better yet, lead our heart to joy. Why? James tells us in the following two verses “…for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Because in every trial we face we are becoming more and more like Jesus. We shouldn’t look at stuff and decide whether or not it sparks joy. Inevitably, that stuff, one day, won’t spark any joy and you’ll have to give it away.

Instead, let Jesus be the one that sparks joy in you. Even in the trials you are facing, let Him be the one to lead you to joy. In the end, we will all be holding onto something that brought us joy in this life. Be it possessions, power, relationships, or any number of things. However, in the end there is only one person that will spark any joy and that is Jesus.

How to Ruin Your Life

In our culture, we are seeing a significant amount of men who have had incredible amounts of influence, lose it all because of hundreds and thousands of compromises in their lives. Eric Geiger does a great job walking the reader through the story of David, Uriah, and Bathsheba and how the implosion of David can be related to the implosion going on within the church.

Geiger lays out that there are three things to look out for in your life to keep from imploding:

  • Isolating Yourself
  • Being Bored
  • Having No Accountability

If you see all of these characteristics in yourself, chances are you are on the verge on an implosion. Geiger doesn’t just leave it there, however, he talks about how to get out of an imploding lifestyle and what to do when your life implodes.

This book is a super easy read and I would highly recommend it for everyone to read!

Handling Miscommunication With Grace

It’s happened again, you were initially given some information that affected one person or your whole team.  You spoke with the individuals and promised them the moon, only to find out that things aren’t changing.  How do you handle that?  This happened to me recently, and I can tell you how best to (and not to) handle this.

Two Not Tos

Ignore/Overlook

This is the most common way of handling these types of situations I come into contact with.  Whether the original information you were given wasn’t correct, or you misunderstood, a lot of people just gloss over their mistake and act like it doesn’t happen.  This is detrimental to your team in many ways, but two stand out.  First, it deteriorates trust within your team.  As leaders, our teams have to know that they can trust us when a decision is made.   They also have to know they can trust us when that decision is reversed and why.  Glossing over it makes the answers to their questions sound trivial.  Second, it undermines your leadership.  Ignoring something like this makes you look like you didn’t do your research ahead of time before giving them the information and it puts the blame on them that they heard you incorrectly.

Toss Someone Under the Bus

The second thing you don’t want to do is to toss your leadership under the bus.  This is so easy to do.  Blame the miscommunication on someone else.  However, this doesn’t help matters.  To start, as in above, it will deteriorate trust in your team’s view of upper-level management.  They can’t trust what your boss says or does.  So when a new initiative comes out, they will not be as likely to catch on.  Second, if word got out, it would make you, as the leader, look foolish.

What to do?

The best thing to do in this situation is to say “I’m Sorry.”  Apologizing is so difficult because our pride wants us to be right.  However, our team doesn’t need us to be right 100% of the time.  They just need to know that they can count on us being real.  So the next time you’re faced with an error in communication, take a deep breath and apologize for the miscommunication.  You will grow as a leader and your team will grow in their respect for you.

 

Open

OpenOpen is a wonderfully written book by David Gregory. His writing style and his ability to tell such a deep story in such a small book is a gift.  However, there was one downside to this book that didn’t sit quite so well with me.

To start, I enjoyed his book Dinner with a Perfect Stranger and while this book had hints of the same Jesus, the story flowed a little differently.  In Dinner with a Perfect Stranger, the main character, Nick, has an encounter with Jesus (spoiler alert) and he is hesitant to accept the man he is eating with to be Jesus.  In Open, Emma very quickly accepts the man as Jesus, though she’s not very overwhelmed at the fact that she has met her Savior.  I know I’m comparing myself and my relationship of Jesus to hers, but it would shock me if anyone who claims to be a Christian had the chance to meet Jesus would be so laid back about the encounter.

This aside, I loved how Gregory put Jesus in the light of a somewhat normal human being.  In as much as he laughs.  I could almost hear Jesus laughing at Peter’s question about how many times he should forgive his brother.  This book was a relatively easy read and would be great for anyone just looking to see a Jesus in a different light.  I would give this book a 4 out of 5 stars.

The Knot Little Books of Big Wedding Ideas

KnotThis set of little books was good, but not great.  When I received these books, I was on the verge of getting married.  I was hoping that these books would help my wife and I make some inexpensive adjustments to our wedding planning to allow us some breathing room in our budget.  However, what I was met with were ordinate ideas for a wedding that would have put us well over our budgetary constraints.  Now, to be fair, it does not say that it would help with your budget, so that’s on me.  For someone looking for practical wedding ideas, this probably is not the set of books for you.  However, if you’re looking for some fun ideas for your wedding, or if you are a wedding planner and you want to help couples as they are planning their weddings, this set of books is definitely for you.  There is enough content in each of the books to help you get some ideas on how to plan your wedding without overwhelming you in the process.  Overall, I’d give this a 3 out of five stars.