Teddy Ray

Author's details

Name: Teddy Ray
Date registered: May 30, 2012
URL: http://teddyray.com

Latest posts

  1. teddy ray: Blog moving — December 28, 2013
  2. teddy ray: Do you believe in prayer? Weekly Challenge #1 — September 28, 2013
  3. teddy ray: City Churches — September 25, 2013
  4. teddy ray: Drink the blood! — September 23, 2013
  5. teddy ray: No more teaching pastors! — September 19, 2013

Most commented posts

  1. teddy ray: Prophets and Pragmatism — 4 comments
  2. teddy ray: The Pastor Salary Fallacy — 2 comments
  3. teddy ray: Crying out to save ourselves — 1 comment
  4. teddy ray: Why Weekly Eucharist? — 1 comment
  5. teddy ray: Christians and Pornography — 1 comment

Author's posts listings

Dec 28 2013

teddy ray: Blog moving

Original post at http://teddyray.com/2013/12/28/blog-moving/

Hi friends -

I’ve just moved this blog. Same domain (teddyray.com) but new web host.

I’ve tried to move all subscribers with the change, but you may not receive future posts — especially if you use wordpress.com. To be sure you receive all future updates, click here and enter your e-mail.

And when you get a chance, take a look at the new site design and give me your thoughts: www.teddyray.com

Merry Christmas,


Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2013/12/blog-moving/

Sep 28 2013

teddy ray: Do you believe in prayer? Weekly Challenge #1

Original post at http://teddyray.com/2013/09/28/do-you-believe-in-prayer-weekly-challenge-1/

blessingI’m a believer in prayer, but I also clearly don’t believe in prayer.

There are several types of prayer. Praise, confession, thanksgiving… But I’m going to focus on intercessory prayer here. That’s when we pray on behalf of another person — when we intercede for them.

I’m a believer in prayer.

I’ve prayed about things before and seen miraculous responses. Several years ago, I was on a bus with a group and decided to spend some time in prayer. I felt compelled to pray for a friend who was at the back of the bus. Specifically, I started thinking about something he had done several years earlier and was still carrying a lot of shame from. We hadn’t talked about it in months, but I knew it was still lingering for him. So I prayed about it.

He and I were driving home together later that night, and he said, “Hey, remember [that thing I did that I was really ashamed about (details omitted here)]? While we were on the bus tonight, I got this sense that it was okay to let it go. I feel like I can finally get past that now.”

It’s times like that when I’m reminded that prayer actually has power.

Or there was the time I took a camp group on a prayer walk in the middle of the night. We walked to about eight sites — some typical, some a bit unusual — and prayed over them. Then we walked back and went back to sleep. It was wholly unspectacular. To be honest, I was tired and would have preferred to sleep.

But the next day, another camper — one who had no idea that our group had done this — shared that the night before, he had seen angels. This camper wasn’t the kind to make up things like this, or the kind who regularly had these sorts of “visions.” But he said that he had last night. And the places where he had seen the angels were precisely the same places we had prayed. Some typical, major sites at the camp, but some a bit unusual… He’d seen all of these a couple hours before we went on our prayer walk.

And yes, this introduces a whole new element — whether you believe in angels, people seeing them, etc. I don’t want to sidetrack this too much, so I’ll leave that where it is here. The short message is that again in this situation, I saw a direct response to prayer. And the response came in advance of the prayers, for that matter.

I could share several more stories, but I’ll stop here. To be sure, there have also been a number of people and things I’ve prayed about where I could point to no direct response. It’s not as though I see miraculous direct responses every time I pray.

I don’t believe in prayer

When I talk theoretically about prayer, I absolutely believe in its power. I believe God hears our prayers, and moreover, I believe there are times that he responds to them in a very direct, tangible way.

But I also end up being a skeptic. When I hear about answered prayer, I’m all too quick to chalk it up to nice coincidence or to someone stretching things a bit to believe that their prayers were answered.

Perhaps most telling, if I really believed in prayer, I would pray more. After seeing and experiencing some of the things that I have, it would make sense for me to pray seriously and to pray often. Yet I find that my prayers are commonly half-hearted and sporadic.

The time we’re taking on sabbatical in Spain — and especially the people we’re working with here — has compelled me to again take prayer more seriously. Part of that is intercessory. I’ve been trying to spend more time praying for people.

Weekly Challenge #1

I’ve wanted to invite you to join me in some weekly challenges. These will be small practices. Probably no shocking or revolutionary ideas here. But they’re small practices that have made big changes in me. If you’re not a believer — in the practice itself, or even in Christ — I hope you might take me up on these challenges anyway. What’s the worst that could happen?

This week’s challenge: choose one person to pray for every day this week. Pray a blessing over him or her for these five things, according to the acronym BLESS:

  1. Body — health, physical needs, energy
  2. Labor — work, income, job satisfaction
  3. Emotional — inner life, joy, peace
  4. Social — family relationships, friends
  5. Spiritual — awareness of God’s presence and love, repentance, faith, holiness

[This acronym isn't mine. I've seen it several other places. I don't have an original source to cite.]

If you want to, and if it’s appropriate, tell them you’re praying for them and ask for any specific requests.

In addition to praying for a blessing, do something to bless them. A word, a gift, or a favor. Perhaps it’s sending a note (hand-written is best, e-mail is better than nothing) of appreciation. Perhaps it’s sending them a gift card to their favorite restaurant.

Oh, and please don’t choose someone that you want something from right now. No one you want to date, no one you’re hoping to get a business favor from. Let’s avoid ulterior motives here…

A bit deeper

I wanted to do something a bit more challenging, but I’d rather you do something than be overwhelmed by what I’m asking and do nothing. If you’re up for a bigger challenge, though, let me suggest a bit more: choose two people to do this for. And make one of those two people someone that you’ve had some negative feelings toward.

Tell me about it

I’d love to hear about your experience. Was there anything good or unexpected that came from it? Let me know at the end of the week with a quick e-mail: teddy.ray@gmail.com.

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2013/09/do-you-believe-in-prayer-weekly-challenge-1/

Sep 25 2013

teddy ray: City Churches

Original post at http://teddyray.com/2013/09/25/city-churches/

Reblogged from A Peculiar Prophet:

The Bishop has appointed me to Duke Memorial United Methodist Church.  This 128 year old congregation in the heart of Durham was once one of Methodism’s great flag ship churches. And yet, in the past three decades Duke Memorial has experienced steady decline as well as a rising average age of membership.  For the past five years, two talented pastors have led somewhat of a turnaround for us. 

Read more… 555 more words

While Bishop Willimon's blatant consumerist view of the Church is tiresome, he still manages to make some very good points about (once)-large downtown United Methodist churches.

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2013/09/city-churches/

Sep 23 2013

teddy ray: Drink the blood!

Original post at http://teddyray.com/2013/09/23/drink-the-blood/

rublev trinity

Andrei Rublev’s “Trinity”

Here’s a quick Bible study that has shown me something important about the invitation Christ gives us. It begins with things that may seem less than exciting. Stay with me. I think they end up helping us see something important in Jesus’ words.

Don’t eat the blood!

Beginning in Genesis 9, just after Noah and his family have gotten off the ark, God gives humans permission to eat meat. “Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything” (Gen 9:3, NIV). And the meat-eaters rejoiced!

Then God gives this stipulation: “But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it” (Gen 9:4, NIV).

Don’t eat the blood! You may eat meat, but not the blood.

The passage that gives most explanation to this comes in Leviticus 17. Let’s look at a few verses:

I will set my face against any Israelite or any foreigner residing among them who eats blood, and I will cut them off from the people. For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life. Therefore I say to the Israelites, “None of you may eat blood, nor may any foreigner residing among you eat blood” (Lev 17:10-12, NIV).

Why can’t the Israelites eat the blood?

1 - The life of a creature is in the blood.
2 - God has given it (the blood) to the Israelites to make atonement for themselves on the altar.
3 - It is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.

A brief commentary on these…

1 - Though the Israelites may sacrifice these animals, they don’t have a right to ingest their blood – their very life. We might equate the Israelites’ right to sacrifice the animals with the right to the animals’ lives, but God locates the life of the creatures in the blood. To be clear, verse 14 reiterates: “You must not eat the blood of any creature, because the life of every creature is its blood; anyone who eats it must be cut off.”

By the way, that word for cut off is the same word used to denote all the people who were cut off by the water of the flood (Gen 9:11). Not something to trifle with.

You don’t eat the blood because the blood is the life. And you don’t have a right to the life!

2 & 3 - The Israelites don’t eat the blood because it wasn’t given to them to eat. It was given to them to make atonement. And the blood is what makes atonement.

To whom does the blood belong? To God! The atoning sacrifice is to God, and of all the sacrifice, it’s the blood that makes atonement. That part, then, belongs to God.

To connect the dots, wouldn’t we say that the life of the creature belongs to God, even in its death? This is no surprise.

Jesus and blood

Now look at what Jesus says to a crowd of observant Jews — a crowd that surely knew and observed those passages from Leviticus:

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (John 6:51-52, NIV)

[When Jesus sees the people confused and appalled, he rushes to make things better, as every good pastor knows to do. Or not quite…]

Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven” (John 6:53-57).

Do you see that? It’s one thing to be told to eat his flesh. But then Jesus goes a step further and tells them they must drink his blood. Without it they have no life in them!

Why did God tell his people not to eat the blood of the animals? Because the blood is the life. And now Jesus says that without drinking his blood, they have no life in them.

To whom does this blood belong? To God! And especially so. This is the blood of Christ himself. God in the flesh. By no means do we have any right to his life.

And yet the miracle of all miracles is that this is what he offers us: his very life.

The gift of Christ is not just his blood given to God as atonement for our lives, though it certainly includes that. The gift of Christ runs far deeper — to something that was never on offer before. Christ offers himself to us. He offers us participation in the life of God.

Participation in the life of God

You may have heard these phrases before — “participation in the life of God,” or “participation in God” — and been confused. What does it even mean? I think this is what Christ offers here: participation in the divine life.

In comprehending this, perhaps the most helpful image for me is Rublev’s Trinity icon, shown at the top of the page. In it, you see the three angels who visited Abraham (but often interpreted as the three members of the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit) all seated at a table, looking out. The table is complete with the three of them, but there appears to be room. It’s as if you could go up and take a seat with them. No one knows exactly what Rublev intended to symbolize in the work, but whether he intended this or not, I find the image helpful.

Christ’s invitation is the very participation in his life — in the life of God. In fact, short of that participation, we have no life in us. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit figuratively sit at table – complete on their own, and claiming full right to all of life on their own. And yet they bid us come and join. What an awesome invitation! What amazing grace!

To eat his flesh and drink his blood

Many disciples turned back and stopped following Jesus that day. (And pastors take note: he didn’t run after them, watering the message down to try to get them back!) They enjoyed the miracles, the free bread, the fellowship. But at these words, they said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” (John 6:60, NIV)

We may follow Jesus today because there’s some excitement to it, as there surely was then. We may follow simply because we want the rewards that come with it — be they assurance of eternal life, or social status, or good fellowship, or free bread.

But that teaching to eat his flesh and drink his blood — to participate in the very life of Christ — may still be paradoxically the hardest and the greatest of all of Jesus’ teachings for us. Do we want to participate in the life of God? It will surely mean leaving many things behind. But it also means life. Real life. Eternal life.

Did you find this interesting or helpful? Would you click here to subscribe for updates?

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2013/09/drink-the-blood/

Sep 19 2013

teddy ray: No more teaching pastors!

Original post at http://teddyray.com/2013/09/19/no-more-teaching-pastors/

preach or teach?I’ve written a few times about the language we use for things. Most recently in a post about giving. You may think I’m making too much out of language. Our language shapes how we think about things, though, and it reflects what we already think about them. The group of people I want to talk to here knows just how important language is.

Why I loved teaching pastors

I have old business cards that show my title as teaching pastor. I chose that title after seeing it a number of other places. One of my real-life heroes then, Rob Bell, was a teaching pastor. In fact, it seemed that most of the pastors whose podcasts I would ever listen to were called teaching pastors.

One of the things I loved about Rob Bell and others like him was that when I listened to them, I felt like they opened my eyes to something new about the Bible and theology. Honestly, several sermons I had heard from “preachers” up to that point seemed as though they chose something they wanted to talk about and then found a Scripture that said something similar so that they could have a Scripture passage for their message. There wasn’t much evidence they had spent any time in real Bible study before they got up to preach.

Listening to some of these teaching pastors was a huge influence on me. Their devotion to serious study of the Scriptures has inspired me to do the same before I should dare to preach. They taught me that seeing Scripture more deeply can be a most spiritually enriching experience.

And so I remember a time when my primary goal for preaching (I called it “teaching” then) in worship services was for people to learn something new — for them to see the Bible with a greater sense of depth. Maybe this would include showing them a map so they could see just why Laodicea might be called lukewarm. Maybe it would involve showing people how the same Greek word is used over and over in the New Testament for both “simplicity” and “generosity.”

Making those teaching points wasn’t bad. Actually, they made for some of the sermons I still look back on as most impactful.

The problem

The problem is that my primary goal for the message in worship services was for people to learn something new. The standard of success I had set for myself was whether I tickled people’s brains, whether they walked away with new thoughts and new understandings.

By calling myself a teaching pastor and by calling what I did teaching, I taught my people that this was the standard.

The problem is that a proclamation of the gospel was a secondary goal. Now I think I usually met that goal, but it’s hard for me to look back now and think that it was only secondary. And it’s disappointing to realize that I gave more energy to making sure people learned something than I gave to making sure that people heard the gospel.

In Evangelism in the Early Church (affiliate link), Michael Green says three things characterized preaching in the early church:

  1. They preached a person. The message was plainly Christocentric, with the stress on “his cross and resurrection and his present power and significance.”
  2. They proclaimed a gift. “The gift of forgiveness, the gift of the Spirit, the gift of adoption, of reconciliation. The gift that made ‘no people’ part of the ‘people of God’, the gift that brought those who were far off near.” Two prominent aspects of that proclamation were pardon for the past and power for the future.
  3. They looked for a response. Specifically, they called for repentance, faith, and baptism. Though baptism is a one-time calling (in most traditions), repentance and faith are ongoing responses — responses that include our thoughts, our words, and our actions.

What great standards for our primary goals in preaching! [Use the comments to tell me whether you agree.]

In my humble opinion — which coincides with the humble opinions of most great theologians through history — a proclamation of the gospel is essential to a worship service. A Bible teaching is nice. It can often be a great aid to that proclamation. But it’s not essential.

And lest you think I’m saying that each service needs to be about an altar call for non-Christians… I’m not. I believe the strongest Christian in your congregation needs to hear a message about Christ, a proclamation of a gift from God, and a call to response. We all continually need to share in proclaiming and celebrating God’s love and grace and continually need to respond.

The “teaching pastor” title and the transition from “preaching” to “teaching” in worship services seems to have confused what’s essential and what’s helpful. In our pastors’ and congregations’ minds alike, we’ve formed the impression that the chief goal of the spoken word in worship is learning. We’ve created a frame of mind that doesn’t see a problem with a message that never mentions Christ, so long as it gives people a better understanding of the culture of the Ancient Near East.

The place of teaching

To be clear here, I love learning, and I love teaching. I think they have an important place. More often than not, I hope that my sermons will continue to teach. I think the gospel comes more alive as we learn more. I like the Jewish understanding of Torah study as worship.

I also think there are plenty of places where it’s fine to teach without preaching — Sunday School classes, Bible studies, seminary classes. (I didn’t take certain classes in seminary because they were so light on teaching and so heavy on “devotional” material. That’s not what I went to seminary for.)

And finally, if your “teaching pastor” is in charge of teaching classes, not speaking in worship services, then it’s a great designation. Let them teach!

But in our worship, a proclamation of the gospel is essential. Teaching is just one useful tool for that proclamation.

So let’s quit putting “teaching pastors” in front of the congregation in worship, and let’s start putting preachers back up there. If those preachers teach some along the way, that’s great. But if they’re not preaching, it’s not worship.

[A note: we've tended to misunderstand another role in worship, too. See a brilliant piece by Jonathan Powers, "Desperately Seeking Worship Pastors," here. If he and I are right, a lot of churches are misunderstanding the two primary leadership roles in their worship services. That's no small problem.]

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2013/09/no-more-teaching-pastors/

Sep 17 2013

teddy ray: Evangelism: approaching relationships with, or without, an agenda?

Original post at http://teddyray.com/2013/09/17/evangelism-approaching-relationships-with-or-without-an-agenda/

The relationship just isn't the same when it's all about the sale.

The relationship just isn’t the same when it’s all about the sale.

This is a reflection I originally posted on my family’s Sabbatical Year site. I’m posting a modified version here because I think it applies generally to conversations about relationships and evangelism. [To those who are on both mailing lists -- sorry for the duplication. It will be rare.]

My family came to Spain seven weeks ago. We’ve met more new people in the past seven weeks than we had met in the past several years. I’m sure that’s usually true for anyone who moves to a new place. And the people have been wonderful. Kind, quick to welcome, quick to offer help.

We’ve already been semi-welcomed into what appears to be a fairly closed and tight-knit group of families in our neighborhood. They’ve invited us to one of their cookouts in a few weeks and have already told us to plan on being with them for their El día de Reyes celebration (that’s Three Kings day on January 6 — bigger than Christmas here).

On not having an agenda

When it comes to sharing faith and meeting people, there’s a lot of talk in church and missionary circles about not having an agenda. You don’t develop a relationship just so you can get someone to come to your church or get them to make a profession of faith. That’s not “relational evangelism.” It’s relational manipulation to achieve a result. It’s phony, and it devalues the person. The door-to-door salesperson is just off-putting when he acts like he wants to become my friend then tries to sell me a magazine.

[To be sure, I'm not totally knocking things like door-to-door evangelism here. Just don't pretend like you're interested in developing a relationship if your real interest is achieving an outcome. See "How to become an evangelist" for more.]

From our early experience in Spain, I can honestly say that we don’t have that kind of agenda with people. If we never expected to share about our faith with the people we met, and if we never expected any of them to follow Christ, we would still be forming the relationships that we are.

We would do that selfishly — because these are great, kind, hospitable people who have been a joy to meet. And they have been a blessing to us when we’ve needed help, while we may not yet have done more than provide some comedy for them.

We would do that altruistically, too, I hope — because these are people created in the image of God and loved by God. And so even if they weren’t great and kind and hospitable, I hope that we’d still be showing an interest in them and trying to develop relationships with them.

Our number one agenda is to meet and know and enjoy and bless the people God puts in our path during our short stay here. No relationship hinges on anything more than that.

On having an agenda

And yet I’d be lying if I said there were no further agenda — perhaps hope would be the better word — in these relationships.

Nothing has changed and enriched my life more than knowing God’s love, following Christ, and receiving the Holy Spirit. Neither marriage nor kids nor accomplishments nor other relationships has been as important – great as those all have been.

And so if I’ve truly found such treasure in this faith — and if I believe that treasure is available to everyone — wouldn’t it be uncaring for me to say that I don’t care if others ever receive it?

Moreover, I believe a final judgment awaits, and then a new heaven and a new earth. I don’t presume to know exactly who’s “in,” or who’s “out.” I think those things are a part of the judgment we’re to leave to Christ. But this I know: we can have assurance of God’s love and our redemption through Christ. Would it be anything less than cruel not to offer these to people?

So in that respect, we do have an agenda for those we meet. We want them to know Christ.

Would we be developing and nurturing these new relationships if we didn’t have that agenda? Absolutely! But we certainly hope and pray that the latter comes, too.

People in missions have called Spain a “missionary graveyard.” People have come with huge aspirations, then felt like failures when they had few, if any, conversions to report. In several parts of the globe, they measure numbers of people coming to Christ and numbers of new church plants by the week, the day, or even the hour. In Spain, these are more commonly measured in years and decades. This is why we’ve said before that they call Spain a “hard-soil” area. That’s actually one of the reasons we wanted to be here, though.

Could a revival break out in Spain? We certainly hope and pray so. And if there’s a part for us to play in that, we want to play it. But we’re not concerned to measure our “success” by any of these numbers. We have nothing to prove.

So we hope to share our faith and an invitation into the Church with many people here. We’ll do that out of a sense of gratitude, a sense of responsibility, and a sense of concern. The rest we’ll leave to God. And regardless of the rest, we’ll enjoy and hope to bless these beautiful people.

And a final note — This is no different in Spain than it should have been for us in the U. S. You may have had some of the same feelings wherever you are. These reflections are just highlighted because of all the new relationships we’re developing and the fact that we’re helping to start a new church here. I hope our attitude toward these things will always be the same: developing relationships out of our own desire to know and enjoy and bless people, but also sharing our faith out of a sincere hope that people might know our Lord and Savior.

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2013/09/evangelism-approaching-relationships-with-or-without-an-agenda/

Older posts «