Thursday, October 04, 2007


Sunday, September 30, 2007

Faith Works 10-6-07
Jeff Gill

Worldview Matters

Rick Warren, whose “The Purpose-Driven Life” has sat on many bedside tables and even been read before falling asleep, wants you to think about “world view.”

This Southern Baptist pastor whose influence crosses all sorts of denominational boundaries is speaking largely to pastors, and to anyone interested in helping their faith community impact the community around them.

Yes, he’s a Christian – you can say that’s his worldview, and you’d be right. His point on those wanting to offer their worldviews to others is that you can’t go at ‘em as if they have no worldview at all, and you’re offering one to fill the gap.

Pastor Warren reminds us that everyone has a worldview, and in the American mission field, there are about six that cover the vast majority of the 60 to 80% of most regions that are unchurched.

His analysis comes down to these six statements: “I’ve got to think of me and mine first,” “the one who dies with the most toys wins” (they even have a bumper sticker), “do what feels good,” “whatever works for you,” “you are your own God,” and “God doesn’t exist.” Most people, Warren argues, live basically out of one or two of those viewpoints on how the world works.

If you want to offer an alternative to those approaches, or philosophies, or whatever you want to call them, you have to first present why those viewpoints aren’t going to get you through life, let alone into the next.

Call them self-interest, materialism, hedonism, pragmatism, solipsism, and atheism, and they line up well down the side of a page, but how you write the definition shapes the response of an evangelist. And Warren is right to remind us of this fairly obvious point, because we do forget that folks don’t pick their worldview out of a philosophy text or mail order catalog, but we live into them, step by step. We adopt them because, in one context or another, they work for us, so we keep them – often long after they no longer make sense, even to ourselves.

What Warren doesn’t get into, being much less long-winded and wordy than your host in this column, is how these worldviews often persist right into the life of faith.

We hold out our faith in God’s guidance and provision, but we hold onto our belief in “whatever works” when it comes to program and planning for church life; our hearts are firmly fixed on Heaven as our true home, and still pursue our own comfort and safe surroundings for fellowship and study.

I haven’t sold 35 million books recently, but I’d step in front of Brother Rick and suggest that we need to have an honest encounter with our own worldview issues within the church, in order to have a saving impact on the fallen worldviews of others.

Are we pursuing growth for a sense of success and security in our own frame of reference, or because we sincerely need to reach out to people we see heading towards their own ultimate sadness with grim intensity?

Can we as believers build up the body, for the purpose of equipping the saints for the work of ministry, without falling into the desire for easy fellowship and cheap grace around a Buckeye game on the big screen?

Most crucially for the Christian faith in this country, and right here in our corner of it, do we want to point fingers at the family arrangements of others just to give ourselves a sense of solidarity among me and mine, when our homes and marriages and children are not being strengthened and built up for a lifetime? We need to put solid foundations under the homes of the faithful before we can out offering ourselves as consulting engineers for everyone else’s contractor business.

What worldview are you living? If a visitor to your church were asked on the way out, “What do you perceive to be the governing philosophy of living in this place?” – what would they say?

In fact, you could try that sometime. Don’t do it unless you’re willing to listen to what they say.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him your world view at
Notes From My Knapsack 10-7-07
Jeff Gill

Free Speech Works Oddly, But Works

President Ahmadinejad of Iran managed to show off one of free speech’s best features at Columbia University.

Some voices argued with great passion and pretty decent debating points that he shouldn’t be given a public platform, given his use of “free speech” to argue against the Holocaust (all just a misunderstanding), for the obliteration of a country (Israel has no right to exist), and that Iran only wants nuclear plants so he can make that cool glow-in-the-dark paint for watch hands (OK, not quite).

But when he was in New York City for the opening of the United Nations’ General Assembly, he dropped by Columbia for a little meet ‘n greet with the students and faculty.

Turns out Columbia has a president, too, and Lee Bollinger took the podium first to tee off on the human rights record of Iran under the ayatollah-ite regime, and their lack of political freedom, such as restricting the right to breath for some dissidents, hanging a number of peaceful Bahá'ís, along with a quite a few Jews accused of spying on flimsy pretexts. Pres. Bollinger covered it all, with citations.

Pres. Ahmadinejad countered by saying, loudly, clearly, in unambiguous Farsi with a very skilled translator removing all doubt, “There are no homosexuals in Iran.”

Don’t know about you, but that one statement justified Columbia giving him a platform more than any excoriation by the school’s executive officer. Knowing that this fellow thinks he can say something like that with a straight face (sorry, I know) puts us all on the same page about the viewpoint of the current regime.

The great thing about free speech is that if it really is as free as possible, we all learn where one another are coming from, and what we intend. Press releases and sound bites can’t quite deliver that sense of who and what a person’s about.

You could call it the “give ‘em enough rope” philosophy, but that assumes this only works as a negative check and balance. I like thinking of it as more of a “Glass cleaner” approach, with more than a little circle rubbed through the dirty window, but a wide field of view showing as much as possible.

If a candidate for school board says at an election forum, “We have no kids with special needs in our district,” or a municipal candidate says “We don’t need more economic development around here,” or a township trustee race evokes the comment “We don’t have any roads or bridges that need upkeep,” I’d wonder if that was possibly what they meant as a one-line quote in an election guide.

When they keep talking after the room breaks out in laughter, as if everyone were nodding their heads up and down, I’ve learned something useful.

We’re a month away from what I think of as the “real elections,” when school boards and local councils and trustee panels go before the voters. Millions of dollars worth of TV ads during presidential campaigns can cloud men’s minds more surely than The Shadow, but in a local election, not so much.

There are irrational people running for local positions, though, and they often have one rational line they’ve ridden on the road to Election Day. You need to hear the whole statement sometimes, or hear their tagline in a broader, conversational context, to realize “this person is nuttier than grandma’s banana bread.”

If your area has a candidates’ night or election forum, make the effort to drop by and spend an hour listening. What you hear is free speech at its best, and the best solution to the problems people claim come from the wrong kind of speech is more free speech, not less.

Speak out, too, but make sure to listen to some of that free speech first; there’s a price for not doing so.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; he’s met politicians who are unhinged and tightly buttoned down, sometimes in the same person (different days). Tell him your Election Day story at