Monday, September 24, 2007

They Shall Take Up Serpents

A couple of friends have asked me about a statement on my Facebook profile. I had never listed my religious views until recently. I avoided stating my religious views because I find it difficult to condense my religious views into a single word or two. I could fill in the blank with "Christian." That would probably be enough, but Christian is quite a broad category and others might want to ask what particular sub-set of Christianity I adhere to. Even that is hard to answer as it all depends on which way one chooses to slice the "Christian pie."

I could have simplified things even further by stating that I am a member of the Church of Christ. Yet my heritage in the Church of Christ compels me to resist such a "denominational" identification. One of the more inspiring slogans of the Churches of Christ has been "Christians Only." In the earliest years of the Stone-Campbell movement, Rice Haggard and Barton Stone advocated that the name Christian was enough. I appreciate that sentiment.

Nevertheless, I did not want to leave the "religious views" entry on Facebook empty. So with my frustration building over my inability to define my faith and practice as a follower of Christ in a single word, I began to wonder if anyone could truly reduce their spirituality to one term. Then it struck me that the most honestly and simply labelled of any faith groups are those backwoods literalists the snake-handlers. They take the whole Bible quite literally - including Mark 16:18 which encourages the truly faithful to take up poisonous snakes without harm. No wiggle room here. This bunch truly believes that if God said it that settles it. I don't know if these churches accept the label "snake-handler" or if they find it derogatory, but somehow I don't think a person who regularly carries a live copperhead around in worship really gets offended by too much at all.

My Facebook entry is a sort of nod to the snake-handlers. I suggest that snake-handling has been overlooked for too long and more congregations should consider the practice. Forget the worship wars and the endless debates on contemporary versus traditional worship; just bring in the box of angry rattlers. I doubt that there would be too much concern about praise teams or clapping during hymns if we opened a box of cobras in the assembly. Preaching takes on new vistas when one considers snake handling. Who cares about the proper execution of homiletical moves when you are holding a cottonmouth above your head! Of course the greatest potential for snake handling is in the area of church discipline. Church members might strive to be more charitable and sober-minded when given the option of personal accountability or a dance with a diamondback rattler.

So, my sarcastic, self-imposed religious tag on my Facebook profile is simply a jab at any attempt to reduce one's Christian faith to a few words. No, I am not really snake handler. I couldn't do it. I am just not a good enough biblical literalist.

Monday, September 10, 2007

A Teachable Moment

The following article is taken from the Granbury Church of Christ website. John Knox is a good friend who survived the Doctor of Ministry program with me. His wife Jan is a gifted writer and teacher. Her article inspires us to think about the people who taught us and the people we teach.

A Teachable Moment
Jan Knox

The miles seemed to fly beneath the wheels of the small, white car as mother and son traveled down the interstate. The Lord had granted us one last opportunity for an extended time of dialogue before I was to entrust my firstborn to the care of the college officials waiting at the end of this journey. What do a middle-aged mother and her 18-year-old son talk about for two hours while confined inside a vehicle stuffed with all his earthly possessions?

To my surprise, conversation flowed easily. We started off with the typical topics of movies, games and music. Then the discussion took a nostalgic turn as we reminisced about the various places we had lived and the people we had grown to love in those places. Somehow the subject of teachers came up, and my now “adult” son proceeded to reflect aloud about three Christian ladies he considered to be the best Bible class teachers he had been privileged to learn from as a young child.

I was struck by a couple of thoughts as he shared this revelation. One was the fact that a knuckle-headed, elementary schoolboy had not only taken notice of his Bible class teachers, but even remembered specific lessons they had taught. As a teacher attempts to impart Scriptural wisdom week after week, she sometimes wonders if it is ever sinking in. This conversation renewed my faith that all of the preparation and hard work is not in vain.

Second, as I pondered these godly women who comprised my son’s “Bible Teacher Hall of Fame,” I marveled at how diverse they were. Their teaching styles were very different. One focused on telling the stories of the Bible; another emphasized memorization and the accumulation of background information and Biblical facts, while the third utilized a hands-on, experiential approach. Yet each of them, in her own unique way, had left a tremendous and lasting imprint on my child. These teachers also differed significantly in other areas, such as age and level of formal education. In spite of their divergence, however, they all had one thing in common – they loved the Bible and had a strong desire to instill that love for God’s Word in the children they taught.

As I look now toward my own future as a teacher of the Lord, I am rejuvenated and inspired to put greater thought and effort into my task. May the Lord use me as His special instrument, “…as one speaking the very words of God” (1 Peter 4:11), to make a meaningful and eternal impact for Him on the lives of those I teach.