A Really Smart Guy’s take on McLaren’s Praying during Ramadan

Howard Diehl, one of the smartest guys I know who serves as a missionary in France that our church supports, commented on McLaren’s praying during Ramadan. I thought his comments to be very insightful.

Hi Charles:

Here is an article by McLaren on why he was doing it.


There were quite a few Christians here who did the Ramadan fast and used it as a time to pray for the salvation of Muslim friends and acquaintances. There was a prayer guide that circulated for those who were interested in joining the prayer fast. I had thought about joining, but I missed the beginning of it, and ended up not doing it. I think I will join in next year.

I think part of the problem is that McLaren has come down as somewhat slippery on some issues, and that has tarnished a lot of what he’s said lately. Talking with a few friends who know him and at one time followed some of McLaren’s teaching, they all say that he is skating along the edge on some stuff. One friend, who actually was a member of McLaren’s church in the US, believes that he has lost his voice on a lot of issues.

One thing McLaren likes to do is go for shock value. I do agree with his approach to people, going without an agenda, i.e., “I’m here to get you saved or straighten you out”. I think that is his view of doing Ramadan (i.e. not as part of some agenda). If he is doing it for the reasons listed in the article above, I have no problem with it.

One aspect of Muslim evangelism is that you need to be up front with your faith and religion. If a Muslim knows you for a few weeks or months, and the issue of your faith is never mentioned by you, their assumption is that it must not be important. So from that standpoint he is correct in being up front about why he is doing this, that he is a Christian and wants to affirm certain values and ideas that both faiths have in common.

So I guess what I think is, that if he is being authentic in why he is doing the Ramadan fast (based on his article above), then I applaud him. But I have learned that I have to look at each item that pertains to McLaren, because some of his stuff can be a bit dicey. I won’t turn McLaren away out of hand, but I do want to dialogue with him when he makes a point or declaration. I can learn from the conversation, even if I don’t go away agreeing with him.

One last thought, McLaren has been vilified and demonized by a lot of Christians who should know better. But on the other hand there are also many emerging types who will do something like this because of some misshapen idea that this is how emerging church is done, with little thought or knowledge of what the gospel is really about. They stand for nothing so they have nothing to stand for.

I am also beginning to take a new tack in my thinking about evangelism. I am always struck by the impression that I get about evangelism when I hear it mentioned. It always sounds like a job description. I focus now on the reality of witness and testimony. Tertullian once said that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” The idea is that a martyr is one who is faithful to their witness for Jesus Christ until the end, even death. I also notice that he didn’t say evangelism. So what are the implications for this?

Howard Diehl

Here is Howard’s blog site.


Leadership Paradox #2: Spontaneity or Planned

A couple days ago I suggested a leadership paradox leaders face: trust God or trust others? Although both Ezra and Nehemiah were both men who trusted God, each took a different route in a leadership decision.

Similarly, leaders face another paradox. Do I act upon the Spirit’s promptings to make a decision or should I use my brainpower and plan before I make a such a decision?

Scripture seems to indicate that both these paths can be correct.

When Jesus spoke about the cost to follow him he said these words. Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? (Luke 14.28)

Yet, Jesus also counseled those who faced persecution with these words, But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say,  for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. (Matt. 10.19-20)

So, which is it. Do I plan for the future or do I walk into it by simply trusting the Holy Spirit?

I believe we must include both paths to most effectively lead.

Just as God gives each of us unique personalities, I believe he gives each of us a particular bent, or groove we tend to more easily fall into. I tend to over-plan, probably because I have an engineering degree. My wife, on the other hand, tends to receive promptings from the Holy Spirit much more often than I do.

I’ve discovered that being married to someone opposite to me helps me maintain a healthier balance. Every leader should welcome those unlike him or her into the decision making process.

What I Learned from a Sour Leadership Meeting about Planning

Every year our staff takes an overnite retreat in September to map out plans for the next year. Our process is relatively simple. The elders determine the 2-3 broad objectives for the coming year. Then we translate these into strategies and then involve our ministry teams in developing the tactics. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?

Well, the past two years we’ve run into a glitch. We invite the elders to join us for dinner the night of the retreat. We bring them up to speed on our progress that day and welcome questions and insights. But, after that dinner in two years straight, both groups have gone away discouraged and deflated rather than encouraged. We all have good hearts and want what’s best for the church, but we seem to lose traction in our dinner meeting.

Here’s what we discovered. It’s impossible to bring one group up to speed in one hour what another group has accomplished in eight, especially in these crucial big-picture areas. So, we are planning next year to involve these elders in that planning day for two reasons. They need to experience the relational dynamic the staff experiences in the planning process. Secondly, they need to be involved more deeply in that process to gain greater ownership.

As an interim step this year, we are suspending acting upon our plans for 2010 until we can bring the elders into that planning process. We’ve scheduled an extended meeting soon to hopefully bring our elders up to speed.

So, if you are planning your next year now, consider how you can include your key stakeholders.

Incredible Quote From Ravi Zacharias

Heard this on a recent Ravi podcast. Incredible.

“Jesus Christ continually contradicts us in the way we experience ourselves as alive…. and compels us to radically redefine what we mean by life. He encountered us the way we encountered the disciples on easter sunday. They were the ones marked out for death. Those who survived were really the dead. He the dead one was really the living.”

5 Tips for a Personal Planning Retreat

My undergrad degree is industrial engineering. So, planning is second nature for me. As a busy pastor, I’ve found that I can never get adequate long-term planning done unless I carve out regular extended times away, by myself, away from the office. Here are a few tips I suggest.

  • Schedule 3-4 personal planning times each year, preferable overnight in a place with no TV. I go to a local Christian encampment and I’m usually the only one there.Schedule those times well in advance of ministry seasons (ie Aug/Sept for the coming year plans)
  • Keep a list of items you want to think about on your retreats. I have a list app on my iphone where I jot down ideas and thoughts I want to pursue later but don’t have time at the moment to think about.
  • On the retreat, prioritize what you want to plan, starting with the most important. I’ve discovered I never get to everything, but I do get to the priorities.
  • The first thing I do when I arrive (after prayer) is schedule my next retreat 3 months later. That way I know I have a block of time to work on the items I don’t get to in this one.
  • Go expecting that God will guide this process.

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