Church is not a classroom where subjects are cut and dried, black and white, and true or not true. Everybody's living a life that contains ambiguity and complexity. My task is to enter that world, find a language, and preserve the ambiguity without giving up the truth. -Eugene Peterson, Catalyst Leadership, Sept-Oct 2011
If superficiality is the curse of the modern age, what's the curse of the postmodern age? Distraction. People today are distracted and cannot focus. With the Internet and entertainment, so many different ways to keep people's minds constantly shifting, they don't have to think. And, of course, churches sometimes play right into that-with fast paced services that keep people jumping all over the place. That's why solitude and silence are among the most important spiritual disciplines for today.
What other spiritual challenges are unique to our age? We have taught a gospel for some decades now that has cut people off from a life of holiness and discipleship with Jesus. We have preached, "Assent to certain truths and you'll get into heaven when you die." the main focus has been getting into heaven. The gospel of Jesus-"repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand"-is about entering into a life with Jesus now. And that includes heaven, of course, when we die. But life formation beings right now.
William Penn said, "Religion doesn't take us out of the world. But it pushes us into the world and excites our endeavors to mend the world."
-Richard Foster Q & A, Catalyst Leadership, Sept-Oct 2011
Christian bubble...the subculture Christians create that allows us to conduct our entire life having minimal contact with anything "secular"...Taking a missionary posture with our church plant, we began employing strategies to build relationships with non-Christians. We hung out in coffee shops, invited people to our house, and talked to our neighbors. That doesn't sound like a big deal, but it was a challenge. We had spent our entire lives doing Christian things with Christian people, and engaging people who did not share our faith. This felt as awkward as a first date....The bubble is comfortable. There are unwritten rules about how to be nice to each other, what you can say and what you can't, and the correct answers to life's difficult questions...not a short-term missionary on a day trip out of the bubble...an ambassador of Christ to this outpost of God's kingdom. -Trevor Lee, Catalyst Leadership, Sept-Oct 2011
Sadly, as our culture's capacity to engage and maintain meaningful relationships has deteriorated, we have seen a rise in celebrity-based rather than proximity-based authority. And the same trend is evident within the church. Just because someone has a large ministry or has sold millions of books doesn't mean we should automatically grant him authority over our life, faith, or congregation. As many entertainers, politicians, and church leaders have proven, it is possible to build a large platform and yet lack the character, intelligence, and competency to faithfully wield it. - Skye Jethani, Catalyst Leadership, Sept-Oct 2011
For Millennials, just attending church does not equal faithfulness. The only way they'll attend is if they see the church as being a meaningful part of their lives...Most Millennials...prefer heterogeneous groups. Perhaps this is being driven by the diversification of our culture. For example, preschools are projected to become minority white in 2021. Diversity is normative for Millennials, and they will gravitate toward churches that look like their diverse schools and workplaces.
Appeals to positional authority don't carry weight with younger people. They want pastors, elders, and leaders who equip them without constantly reminding them of who is in charge. For Millennials, authority doesn't exist to prop up leaders. Rather, the leader must assume the responsibility to enhance the lives of followers. The debt of authority is the responsibility to sacrifice for followers.
Millennials refuse to sit on the sidelines. They want to be part of the action, or they'll be gone. A church without opportunities for the next generation is boring at best and disobedient at worst. Contrary to the stereotype, most Millennials are not scared off by hard work. In fact, one of the best ways to keep them engaged is communicate a large vision, worthy of their devotion, and set high expectations.
This next generation desires to be led. They are willing to follow if given a change to make a difference. Unify them with other generations. And them them meaningful opportunities to participate in God's work in the world. -Sam S. Rainer, Catalyst Leadership, Sept-Oct 2011
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Friday, September 16, 2011
“The Kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people. O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever have been spared?” (Luther) p17-18, quoted in Life Together by Bonhoeffer
Thursday, September 15, 2011
A church which pitches its tents without constantly looking out for new horizons, which does not continually strike camp, is being untrue to its calling…We must play down our longing for certainty, accept what is risky, and live by improvisation and experiment. –Has Kung, The Church as the People of God
We can't seem to make disciples based on a consumerist approach to the faith. We plainly cannot consume our way into discipleship. All of us must become much more active in the equation of becoming lifelong followers of Jesus. Consumption is detrimental to discipleship. P45
Strictly speaking one ought to say that the Church is always in a state of crisis and that its greatest shortcoming is that it is only occasionally aware of it… This ought to be the case because the abiding centuries of crisis-free existence for the Church was therefore an abnormality…And if the atmosphere of crisislessness still lingers on in many parts of the West, this is simply the result of a dangerous delusion. Let us also know that to encounter crisis is to encounter the possibility of truly being the Church. –David Bosch, Transforming Mission p49
Theologically, we are right to say that the church is not the kingdom. It is but a sign, a symbol, and a foretaste of the kingdom of God. And while the kingdom expresses itself in and through the church in powerful ways, it is never the sole expression of it. The church is part of the kingdom, but the kingdom extends to God's rule everywhere. P51
We must not abandon Christendom, for in it we are God's people, but it needs a fundamental change, a conversion if you like, if it is to become genuinely missional. This change is possible, but not without major realignment of our current thinking and resources. And because Christendom is so deeply entrenched in our imaginations and practices, this shift will certainly not happen without significant political will to change. It will be resisted by those with the most significant vested interests in the current system. P67
The truly liberating thing to realize is that Christendom was not the original mode of the church, and hopefully it will not be the final one. It is high time for us to dethrone Constantine; as far as matters of church go, it seems he is still the emperor of our imaginations. The church now faces the challenge of discovering mission in a new paradigm while struggling to free itself from the Christendom mindset. P66
The major threat to the viability of our faith is that of consumerism. This is a far more heinous and insidious challenge to the gospel, because in so many ways it infects each and every one of us. P106-107
I simply do not believe that we can continue to try and think our way into a new way of thinking, but rather, we need to act our way into a new way of thinking. P122
"I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings." 1 Corinthians 9:22-23
We can identify at least four dimensions that frame our understanding of the Incarnation of God in Jesus the Messiah. They are Presence: In Jesus the eternal God is fully present to us…God in the flesh (John 1:1-15, Col 2:9); Proximity: God in Christ approached us not only in a way we can understand, but in a way we can access. He not only called people to repentance and proclaimed the direct presence of God (Mark 1:15), but befriended outcast people and lived life in proximity with the broken and "the lost" (Luke 19:10); Powerlessness: in becoming "one of us," God takes the form of a servant and not that of someone who rules over us (Phil 2:6ff, Luke 22:25-27)…; and Proclamation: Not only did the Presence of God directly dignify all that is human, but he heralded the reign of God and called people to respond in repentance and faith…. P132
The Incarnation not only qualifies God's acts in the world, but must also qualify ours. If God's central way of reaching his world was to incarnate himself in Jesus, then our way of reaching the world should be likewise be incarnational. To act incarnationally therefore will mean in part that in our mission to those outside of the faith we will need to exercise a genuine identification and affinity with those we are attempting to reach. At the very least, it will probably mean moving into common geography/space and so set up a real and abiding presence among the group. But the basic motive of incarnational ministry is also revelatory—that they may come to know God through Jesus. P133
If we are to follow in his footsteps, his people will need to be directly and actively involved in the lives of the people we are seeking to reach. This assumes not only presence but also genuine availability, which will involve spontaneity as well as regularity in friendships and communities we inhabit. P134
A genuine incarnational approach will require that we be always willing to share the gospel story with those within our world. We simply cannot take this aspect out of the equation of mission and remain faithful to our calling in the world. We are essentially a "message tribe," and that means we must ensure the faithful transmission of the message we carry through proclamation. P134
…Ecclesiology is the most fluid of the doctrines. The church is a dynamic cultural expression of the people of God in any given place. Worship style, social dynamics, liturgical expressions must result from the process of contextualizing the gospel in any given culture. Church must follow mission. P143
We need to move from evangelistic-attractional to missional-incarnational. This transition can best be recovered by seeing mission as an activity of God and not primarily an activity of the church. We participate in God's mission and not the other way around. If this is conceded, then it follows that we must engage in ways that mirror God's engagement with the world…p147
…Religious institutionalism happens when in the name of some convenience we set up a system to do what we must do ourselves so that over time the structures we create take on a life of their own. A classic example is churches outsourcing education to external organizations. Initially, these training organizations exist to fully serve the grass roots. However, over time they increase in authority, eventually becoming ordaining bodies whose imprimatur is needed to minister. As the provider of degrees, they become increasingly more accountable to the government bodies than they do to the mission of the church. But the net result for the local community is that not only do they become dependent on an increasingly powerful and cloistered institution, they also lose the ancient art of discipling and educating for life in the local setting. The local church as a learning and theologizing community is degraded as a result. P186
(Summary) of Howard Snyder's book Signs of the Spirit, where he identifies the following as characteristics of movements: thirst for renewal (holy discontent), a new stress on the work of the Spirit, an institutional-charismatic tension (tensions within existing structures, i.e. wineskins), a concern for being a countercultural community, non traditional or nonordainded leadership, ministry to the poor, and an energy and dynamism. P193
…We too quickly identify the concrete-historical expressions of the church as the body of Christ. And while there is a truth to this, for the church is the body of Christ, perhaps the greater truth is that the body of Christ is the church. When we say that the church is the body of Christ, it claims a certain authority for a particular expression of church. To say that the body of Christ is the church is to open up possibilities as to how it might physically and organizationally express itself. This doesn't just localize it to one particular expression of church….To restate in these terms enables us to escape the monopolizing grip that the institutional image of church holds over our theological imaginations, and allows us to undertake a journey of reimagining what it means to be God's people in our own day and in our own situations. P198-199
There is something about middle-class culture that seems to be contrary to authentic gospel values…what goes by "middle-class" involves a preoccupation with safety and security, developed mostly in pursuit of what seems to be best for our children. And this is understandable as long as it doesn't become obsessive. But when these impulses of middle-class culture fuse with consumerism, as they most often do, we can add the obsession with comfort and convenience to the list. And this is not a good mix—at least as far as the gospel and missional church are concerned. P219
No groups that came together around a non-missional purpose (e.g., prayer, worship, study, etc.) ever ended up becoming missional. It was only those groups that set out to be missional (while embracing prayer, worship study, etc., in the process) that actually got to doing it. p235
A genuine missional church is therefore a genuine learning organization. P260
Brian McLaren, a key voice for what is called the emerging voice in the United States, recommends that the churches adopt a core value of valuing adaptability itself. He says, "Change your church's attitude toward change and everything else will change as it should." P260
Adaptive (versus operational) leadership moves the system to the edge of chaos, not over it, but to the edge of it. As was said before, the leader's role is to ensure that the system is directly facing up to the issues that confront it, issues that if left unattended will eventually destroy it. P261
Theological liberalism is an indicator of institutional decline not only because it tries to minimize the necessary tension between gospel and culture by eliminating the culturally offending bits, but because it is basically parasitical ideology…theological liberalism rarely creates new forms of church or extends Christianity in any significant way, but rather exists and "feeds off" what the more orthodox missional movements started. P262
Most established denominations, including the more evangelical ones, are also built squarely on Christendom assumptions of church and therefore, like all institutions, are facing significant threat and need to be led to the edge of chaos. It is there, by living in the tension that it brings, they will find more authentic and missional ways of being God's people. So leaders, turn up the heat, but manage it. P262