"An enormous conflict between words and deeds is prevalent today: everyone talks about freedom, democracy, justice, human rights, about peace and saving the world from nuclear apocalypse; and at the same time, everyone, more or less, consciously or unconsciously, serves those values and ideals only to the extent necessary to serve himself and his "worldly" interests, personal interests, group interests, power interests, property interests, and state or great- power interests... So the power structures apparently have no other choice than to sink deeper into this vicious maelstrom, and contemporary people apparently have no other choice than to wait around until the final inhibition drops away. But who should begin? Who should break this vicious circle? Responsibility cannot be preached but only borne, and the only possible place to begin is with oneself."
Sometimes being a Canadian can be a little... embarrassing.
"Our churches, like secular associations, are concerned with fund-raising, beautiful buildings, large numbers, comforting sermons from highly qualified preachers, while they display indifference to the poor, and to the pariahs in society - drunks, whores, homosexuals, the poor, the insane, and the lonely. Jesus himself would have no place in our all-too-respectable churches, for he did not come to help the righteous but to bring sinners to repentance. Our churches are not equipped to do that sort of thing."
I'd add that there is also the small matter of what to do with folks after the repentance thing, but you've come to expect that of me.
This is not an uncommon sight here on the North Shore. I took this photo (and a few others) this morning behind our condo. There's a large wood lot between us and the post office, which was my destination. You can't really get a sense of scale from the photo, but the radius of the original stump on this one is about 8-10 feet. These beauties were huge!
My history is weak, but as I understand it the old growth stuff was logged back at the turn of the century. The last century - you know what I mean. On some of the stumps you can still see the notches that were cut to help the loggers climb (I think). Then, in the late 20's there was a huge forest fire that wiped out the remaining growth on the North Shore. (Just about everything here is less than 100 years old.)
I think this image is a great metaphor for... many things. I'll let you use your imagination.
Thomas Friedman's Op-Ed piece today is outstanding.
"I so hunger to wake up and be surprised with some really good news — by someone who totally steps out of himself or herself, imagines something different and thrusts out a hand."
Sounds a little like... well, draw your own conclusions.
(Thanks to Robert who always makes sure I see this stuff.)
"The exalted sense of the importance of the self arose from the subtle shift Kant introduced into Descartes's proposal. In the Kantian system, the Cartesian self became not just the focus of philosophical attention but the entire subject matter of philosophy. Rather than viewing the self as one of several entities in the world, Kant envisioned the thinking self in a sense "creating" the world - that is, the world of its own knowledge. The focus of philosophical reflection ever since has been this world-creating self.
The universalizing of the self readily followed. Underlying Kant's philosophy was the presumption that in all essential matters every person everywhere is the same. When Kant's self reflected on itself, it came to know not only itself, but all selves, as well as the structure of any and every possible self.
The transcendental pretense evident in Kant's philosophy helped produce "the white philosopher's burden." Kant's presumption that all selves resemble each other led some philosophers to conclude that they should be able to construct a universal human nature. Even thinkers (like Kant) who never left their hometowns should be able to make authoritative pronouncements on human nature and morality. They should be able to assess the conduct and practices of societies around the globe, determining which were "civilized" and which were "barbaric." And they should on this basis have the authority and even the duty to instruct those whom the concluded were "savages" for the sake of the advancement of true civilization." (p. 79-80, emphasis mine.)
And with that we murdered the notion of context (and created an environment that would allow for the conception of Pax Americana. I didn't intend for this to be a political statement - it's more a reflection on the modern church - but this was just to obvious a conclusion to ignore. So sue me.)
Tony Blair may be, ever so slowly, earning back a little respect from me.
I was reading Stan Grenz on the ferry again yesterday:
"The Enlightenment Anthropology
The Enlightenment had a profound and lasting effect on the development of modern Western culture. Building on the Renaissance, it signaled the victory of a fundamental change in outlook that marked a final break with the medieval mentality and paved the way for the modern era. Central to this changed outlook was the development of a paradoxical understanding of the human person.
The Age of Reason brought an enhanced status to humans and an elevated estimation of human capabilities. It replaced God with humanity on center stage in history. Medieval and Reformation theology viewed people as important largely insofar as they fit into the story of God's activity in history. Enlightenment thinkers tended to reverse the equation and gauge the importance of God according to his value for the human story. In this manner, the Age of Reason dislodged God from the lofty position in the heavens to which the gothic cathedrals had pointed and brought him into the world of human affairs." (p. 61, emphasis mine.)
And with that we murdered the notion of mystery.
Karen has some cool thoughts on the issue of safety:
Could trying to get ourselves to a safe place be one of the most dangerous things that we do for each other? While I understand that many come into The Way bruised and battered in ways that are beyond my imagination, while I agree that there is healing and there is hope, I am not sure that our greatest calling is to safety.
LOS ANGELES, California (Reuters) -- Coming back soon to a theater near you -- a controversial film about a Jewish guy from Nazareth who is worshiped as the Messiah and crucified by the Romans.
No, it's not Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ." It's Monty Python's "Life of Brian."
Another one on the list of movies to see!
I just finished Douglas Coupland's Girlfriend in a Coma and I am speechless.
Here's a reality check from Noam Chomsky, who now has a blog.
People in the more civilized sectors of the world (what we call "the third world," or the "developing countries") often burst out laughing when they witness an election in which the choices are two men from very wealthy families with plenty of clout in the very narrow political system, who went to the same elite university and even joined the same secret society to be socialized into the manners and attitudes of the rulers, and who are able to participate in the election because they have massive funding from highly concentrated sectors of unaccountable power that cast over society the shadow called "politics," as John Dewey put it.
(Thanks to Jonny Baker for the heads-up.)
Man Dancin' is a gangster movie with a difference. After nine years in a Northern Ireland jail Jimmy Kerrigan (Alex Ferns) returns to his family home in a tough Glaswegian estate. It's only been a few years but the Glasgow that he knew has changed and more importantly to those who knew him, so has Jimmy Kerrigan. Some think he's gone soft, others suspect he's found religion, but they don't ask and he doesn't say.
Here's a couple of lines I pulled from the trailer:
"He was due a slappin'."
"I'll take it for him."
"It's pure shite, isn't it. The guy's a troublemaker. In the space of, what, 10 pages he manages to seriously piss off half a dozen people. Important people!"
"What's your point?"
"He's Gary Cooper - High Noon. And you've turned Him into Mary Poppins."
Sound like anyone we know? Wow - There's a passion play I can't wait to see...
On a lighter note (no pun intended) my nephew Coreigh is doing the 30 Hour Famine this weekend through his church. So as of tomorrow morning, no grub for Coreigh. He's a lot like his uncle was at 14 - this guy can eat, so it'll be a test of his mettle.
Anyone who feels so inclined can throw Coreigh a bone (again with the puns) and sponsor him online here. Keep in mind - this is in Canadian dollars, so for you Americans... it's practically free! (And having worked briefly at World Vision I can tell you this program is a gem.)
You may or may not have noticed, but I've been trying to cut down on the politics a little. It's not where my heart is, and it just gets me angry... which is something else I'm trying to reduce in my diet. And as I've always said, any interest I now have in the subject (despite a degree in Political Science) pertains only to how it intersects with my faith. Given that the current US administration would hold itself out as "Christian", I guess I have to deal with that.
A couple of issues:
+ By now you've probably seen the clip of Donald Rumsfeld trying to do a 3-point turn on a one-way street. I'm embarrassed for the guy.
+ Recently I was introduced to the writing of Sister Joan Chittister, and she's been a regular read ever since. In this week's column Sister Joan writes about the phenomenon of being an American traveling internationally, and being constantly questioned on her voting intentions this fall. Once you've read the column you may want to swing by allvote.org as she suggests.
I think my final heartache in writing this is knowing that there will be Christians (who would call themselves Republicans, mostly) who will be upset when they read this. Personally, I've come to the conclusion that anytime I commit myself and my energies to any ideology that is not Christ, then I have created an idol. Want to know what "my politics" are? Give me an issue and I'll tell you how I feel about it. Here's my outrageous goal: Rather than view an issue through the lens of a particular political affiliation, I'm trying to view it through the eyes of Christ. Yes, I know that sounds grandiose, but that's my goal.
I can expand on that last thought, but I think I'll leave it for now.
Geez. First I want to actually follow Christ (as opposed to just believe in Him), and now I want us to vote like Him too...
UPDATE: Check out this piece from the New York Times.
PS. We've talked about using the pond for baptisms, but I'm thinking those frogs have got to go first...
This is weird. I think I just found the twin they separated me from at birth. Three days after writing this, and one day after this... I found Nobody Follows Jesus (So Why Should You?) from Keith Giles.
Here's a sample:
"No wonder no one follows Jesus anymore.
Now, I'm not suggesting people don't believe in Jesus anymore. There are millions and millions of people out there who really do believe a guy named Jesus actually lived 2,000 years ago. They believe that He was the Son of God, and God the Son, and that He lead a sinless life, died on the cross for their sins and rose bodily from the grave three days later. Yep. They all believe that. But, those people don't really follow Jesus, not the way He expected them to.
Maybe that's why Jesus wondered out loud, "When the Son of Man returns, will he find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8). Maybe He knew after 2,000 years of Christianity, we'd just have given up on following His specific example of how to live."
Keith then picks up the theme in Part Two:
"What we have in modern American Christianity is a brand of religion that says to its founder, "I'd like a little of your blood to cover my sins, but I don't care to follow you or take your teachings seriously. If you would please excuse me, I'll get on with my life. See you in heaven." Dallas Willard calls those kinds of people "Vampire Christians" because all they want is some of Jesus' blood, but none of His leadership."
Wow. Preach it, Keith...
Speaking of living as Jesus taught...
This is from today's SojoMail:
"The absolute desire of 'having more' encourages the selfishness that destroys communal bonds among the children of God. It does so because the idolatry of riches prevents the majority from sharing the goods that the Creator has made for all, and in the all-possessing minority it produces an exaggerated pleasure in these goods."
- Archbishop Oscar Romero, "The Church's Mission Amid the National Crisis," August 6, 1979. Twenty-four years ago today, Monsenor Romero was assassinated as he celebrated Mass in San Salvador.
And a line from David Batstone's column from the same eMail (which I don't seem to be able to link to right now):
"Who among us has not fallen into the trap of blind allegiance to a political or economic ideology?"
It's well past time I respond to the comments generated by Mike's Heresy of the Day... although I have no doubt that some of the comments have said what I wanted to say, and much more articulately too. And thanks to those who realized it was an extreme statement meant to provoke thought and conversation. (Although, by my definition an extreme is the far-end of what I believe to be true, so I'm not giving in on this one.)
I spent yesterday working up at our ministry house. Sitting on the ferry I had some thoughts that I scribbled in my journal, and I also did some reading that helped me clarify my thinking on the subject.
First of all, I'm just coming off 8 hours of teaching from Dallas Willard at the pre-Emergent Critical Concerns Course The Great Omission From the Great Commission and What to do About it.
"Jesus' eleven disciples went to a mountain in Galilee, where Jesus had told them to meet him. They saw him and worshiped him, but some of them doubted. Jesus came to them and said: I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth! Go to the people of all nations and make them my disciples. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to do everything I have told you. I will be with you always, even until the end of the world." Matthew 28: 16-20 (CEV)
We (the church) do not do what Jesus taught us to do.
We (the church) do not do what Jesus commanded us to do.
Don't get me wrong - we do all sorts of stuff, and a lot of it is good. But it's not what he commanded us to do. We are to teach people to do what Jesus told us to do (and yes, I realize that is found in the Bible!). How can we teach others to do what we are not doing ourselves?
For example: Love your neighbour. That's pretty clear, and Jesus seemed to think it was important. Dallas stated that he wasn't aware of a single church that was intentionally teaching that. (I'm not talking about telling people to do it, I'm talking about teaching them how.) He knows of a lot more churches than I do, so I'm going to go with his opinion on this one. Here's the irony - you can't teach people to keep the law (you'll fall into legalism), but you can teach them to become the kinds of people who would choose to keep the law.
So that's my starting point on this one. The church pumps out "bible-believing Christians" who have absolutely no intention of becoming disciples... of living out Christ's teachings. Instead, we pride ourselves on the knowing the rules.
Also at Emergent I heard for the first time the idea of reversal and replacement. That is, instead of simply righting a wrong, we may need to swing the pendulum to the other extreme for a while (reversal) in order to right the wrongs created by the original error. In a way Rachelle and Dave in their comments come at this idea from two different directions. In a comment on somebody's blog a couple of weeks ago someone (I wish I could remember who) observed that we had relegated Jesus to the position of Saviour, and elevated Paul to the role of Great Teacher. (I know I'm drifting here - stay with me). I wonder what would happen if we went back to learn at Christ's feet? Put aside the atonement for a moment and look at what He told us to do, how He told us to live. (OK, so it's not a perfect example of reversal and replacement, but you get my drift...)
In short, I'm not advocating the abandonment of the Bible, but rather I'm suggesting we need to concentrate more on actually doing what it says.
Because we aren't doing that much now.
Here's another thought: As I sat in the ferry line up to come back over to "this side" yesterday afternoon, I started to read A Primer on Postmodernism, by Stan Grenz. (I know, I know... I can't believe I haven't read it yet either.) With this subject on my mind I laughed as I read this:
"Scholars disagree among themselves as to what postmodernism involves, but they have reached a consensus on one point: this phenomenon marks the end of a single, universal worldview. The postmodern ethos resists unified, all-encompassing, and universally valid explanations. It replaces these with a respect for difference and a celebration of the local and particular at the expense of the universal." (page 11-12)
Like many others I wonder how this will (continue to) impact Christianity. One the one hand you could say that the church has reflected this notion through denominationalism. We are all definitely not cut from the same cloth when it comes to matters of theology.
In the modern church, however, we have combined this need for a single worldview with our comfort with absolutism to arrive at the obvious conclusion that those other denominations (that is, all others but ours) have got it wrong. I wonder if, as postmodernism continues to mature and evolve, the church will find a way to cling to this ego-centric approach, or if well find a way to truly celebrate diversity...
... and not just in practice, but in theology too?!
That's it for now. More tomorrow, maybe.
Perhaps what the church needs is a few less "Bible-believing" Christians and a few more Jesus-believing ones.
Tozer hits the nail on the head this morning (except for the out-dated gender-specific references, which I've taken the liberty of editing out)...
"If Christianity is to receive a rejuvenation, it must be by other means than any now being used. If the Church in the second half of this century is to recover from the injuries she suffered in the first half, there must appear a new type of preacher. The proper, ruler-of-the-synagogue type will never do. Neither will the priestly type of person who carries out their duties, takes their pay and asks no questions, nor the smooth-talking pastoral type who knows how to make the Christian religion acceptable to everyone. All these have been tried and found wanting.
Another kind of religious leader must arise among us. They must be of the old prophet type, a person who has seen visions of God and has heard a voice from the Throne. When they come (and I pray God there will be not one but many), they will stand in flat contradiction to everything our smirking, smooth civilization holds dear. They will contradict, denounce and protest in the name
of God and will earn the hatred and opposition of a large segment of Christendom. Such a person is likely to be lean, rugged, blunt- spoken and a little bit angry with the world. They will love Christ and the souls of people to the point of willingness to die for the glory of the One and the salvation of the other. But they will fear nothing that breathes with mortal breath."
The Size of the Soul, 128-129.
"Lord, in the first half of this current century this need is even greater. Send to Your church today many who have 'seen visions of God and...heard a voice from the Throne.' Amen."
Oh man... I can't WAIT to see this one. I can hardly type this I'm laughing so hard... "I crashed my van into JESUS!!"
OK, this one is funny for personal reasons... you know who you are.
God to Intercessors: Just Stop Saying "Just"
Linguistic grace no longer applicable to mutually exclusive prayer requests
For decades, God has lavished his followers with linguistic grace regarding what could be considered an epidemic in the prayer world – the use of the word "just." Usually found in a pattern similar to "God, please just [insert petition] and just [insert another petition]," the word "just" has made answering prayers a confusing and tedious process for the Almighty. In response, God declared earlier this month that Christians everywhere may no longer use the word "just" during intercessory prayer, effective immediately.
This may or may not help.
I'm thinking not.
"Music that's rock-concert loud. Rap that recites Scripture, verse by verse. Art stations for people to express their spirituality in the midst of the service. Flashing videos and wafting incense. Celtic crosses and coffeehouse poetry. Interaction and contemplation.
In the future, look for church worship services to be multisensory and multitasking. For sermons to include audience response. For ancient rituals to be revived and high-tech visual effects to be unleashed.
And, by the way, the future is already here."
For my friends...
(Stolen from Lily's Pad.)
I just finished chatting with Cleave, and in the course of our conversation I told him I was going "anti-movement".
Here's a comment I left on Jason's blog this morning:
I think they are out there too, and others have already cited examples.
"Where are the gatherings of people, not telling us about the need to change, but who have changed, who can tell stories of how new communities have grown, with new disciples and followers of christ?"
Based on recent experience, I'd say the thing is (I almost said "the problem is", but changed my mind) when you "gather" people to talk about it, those who are doing it are outnumbered by those who are thinking about it, those who would like to do it, those who are worried about those doing it, those who think its cool to talk about doing it, and those who have no intention of doing it but want to hang out with the rest.
I'm not sure you can prevent that. I think the key is individual relationships. They're more work to find and cultivate than a web site, a conference and a mailing list, but well worth it.
That afternoon (Jacob has a great imagination and is very creative) Jacob decided to beat some hangers on a cardboard box as he sang out the lyrics of his new song that included the line "God doesn't always say yes to our prayers and that's a true song." This was a rebuttal to a silly song heard earlier in our van that "You can't get to Heaven on roller skates." Jacob then proceeded to ask me how people get to Heaven. I responded by saying that "We become Jesus' friend & He takes us there." He asked, "How does He take us there?" I responded, "Usually when we die." Jacob asked, "Well, what are we supposed to do here?" I responded that "We just let people know that they can be Jesus friend too."
"Well, what are we supposed to do here?"
I wish I'd thought to ask that question at 6. It took me another 25 years or so to come up with that one.
There's nothing like a good day of working construction in the rain to realign your perspective. Of course, I'm too exhausted to write about it, and I'm working again tomorrow. So more later.
I've been stewing a little today. Based on my own feelings coming back from emergent, and on the comments of others, I've been trying desperately to articulate something I've been thinking about, and failing miserably.
Then, in a couple of comments to a post by Maggi (Monday, March 15, 2004
What does Emergent want? Thinkers or celebrities?), Rachelle has cut through and said what I wish I could have said. Here they are... typos and all!
"This is a very interesting thread to me. It seems to me that people are getting confused by the two things. The first is conservative evangelical with new packaging (kill the lights, light the candles, bring on the multimedia). But the second is what I would consider the really "meat" of this organic thing we are loosely referring to "emerging church." These misional/incarnational communities are not just wrapping evangelical theology in newfangled worship trimmings and offering them at more appealing times of day. The kind of emerging churches I am choosing to spend my time with are post-evangelical, post-modern creatures that are engaged in nothing less than a new reformation. (But not on purpose. We just accidentally got here.) Certain types of groups keep trying to hijack that bit, or they see something appealing in it and mistakenly misapply just the shiney flashy bits. But at it's heart, it's radical. Most people don't "get" that yet.
...argh, the typos! the typos!
Anyway, I forgot to add that I went to a postmodern seminary -- Regent College, Vancouver BC. I'm so grateful for it because in it's transdenominational setting I was exposed to such wonderful theologians -- including Newbinggen, Norris, and Begbie, as well the amazing Eugene and Jan Peterson and the unheard of but wonderful Bob Eckblat and Charles Ringma (practioners and theologians!) But I'm also reading Brian McClaren and Anne Lamott and Donald Miller, and I'm ever so grateful that theology comes in multiple languages."
Thanks Rachelle for cutting through the noises in my head and getting to the point.
Consider the Turtles of the Field
by Brian McLaren
Many evangelicals find themselves in an emerging theological habitat, where care of creation is central to mission.
Here's a taste:
"The surface causes of environmental carelessness among conservative Protestants are legion, including subcontracting the evangelical mind out to right-wing politicians and greedy business interests... putting the gospel of Jesus through the strainer of consumerist-capitalism and retaining only the thin broth that this modern-day Caesar lets pass through...a tendency to be against whatever "liberals" are for. Even more important, though, are the deeper theological roots of environmental disinterest - and the emerging theological values that many of us are embracing instead."
Apparently this article will be expanded in Brian's forthcoming book, A Generous Orthodoxy. A couple of weeks ago in Seattle Brian read us Chapter 0 (yes, Chapter 0) from this book. Should be good.
On the trip home last night I read the first five or six chapters of Reclaiming God's Original Intent for the Church, by Wes Roberts and Glenn Marshall. (The book was one of the many freebies that were given out at emergent. Heading into each general session in anticipation, straining to see what new surprises awaited us on our seats, became a bit of a ritual - but I digress).
If you've read any of my emergent posts you'll know there was a message I kept hearing loud and clear. You'll understand then when I tell you that as I sat in seat 16C of Air Canada Flight 789 from Los Angeles to Vancouver and read the opening lines of Larry Crabb's forward to the book, I laughed out loud.
"In graduate school I gave up on Christianity. At least what I thought was Christianity. It was a good move.
Till then, Christianity for me had been more of an imposed culture, a "here's what we believe and here's how we behave" religion, than a thought-through and personally embraced set of convictions. It had more to do with responsibilities and expectations than with anything vital going on in me or between me and others. Ideas such as freedom and authenticity weren't part of the package. A throbbingly real relationship with Christ wasn't even in sight."
Man, I am slow, but I'm not that slow. OK God - I get the point!
Roberts and Marshall contend that its the smaller church that should play a lead role in serving communities and individuals as Christ did. Substitute the word "community" for "church", and I'm there.
I can't begin to tell you how excited I am by this! Sure, the methodology of church needs to change in order to speak to current culture. And as some have pointed out, its the "cool new stuff we do" that will attract some. So be it. It's so much more than that - it's a shifting of our theology. Or, more to the point, it's a return to the teaching of Christ.
It's time to do what He told us to do. It's time to get real.
Robert has been contemplating life while I've been away...
I am not sure how accurate it is but I like to think of myself as a level-headed person. I am passionate at times but all in all, not the sort of guy who will chuck it all and move to the West Coast. Last month I told you about My Precious. I am feeling much better now.
Looking back, it amazes me that life can be so hectic, so turbulent that even the most fortunate (blessed, if you will) among us can forget to be thankful for every single moment.
I recently started a year-long program designed to help participants understand and appreciate the real treasures in their lives. I was attracted by one of the basic premises of the program that Thankfulness & Gratitude are critical to maintaining your focus on what matters. You may be asking to what or whom an atheist can be thankful? In my case, I am thankful to the people in my life.
It all starts with Denise. All the Good has come from having her in my life. She has believed in me more than I have believed in myself. She is more than I deserve. Together with Emily & Adam, she has taught me the answer to the question is Yes.
Life is hectic but my challenge remains appreciating every wacky moment of it.
(Although I was in the room, the link is from Jordon!)
The music was appropriately dramatic: bass strings, heavy and resonant, with a mezzo-forte attack and building to fortissimo from there. Then, against a stark black background, a promotional slogan appeared in bold white capitals. It grew, filling the screen's full width: PERHAPS THE BEST OUTREACH OPPORTUNITY IN 2,000 YEARS.
I was watching a video to promote the release of Mel Gibson's film, The Passion of The Christ. One expects hype at such moments, but this slogan made me wince. It defines, I think, a frontier between two worlds...
Thanks to Cleave for the link.
(I wrote this earlier today... er, yesterday. Whatever. Trust me, I had the time.)
Well, so far the stand-by gods are not smiling favourably on me. Steve and I got to the airport at about 10:30 am and split up, as we're flying out of 2 different terminals. The 12:15 went without me, as did the 1:15. And the 2:15 is doing the same, even as I write this. Come on, 3:00! (Although at this point I don't think there's any stand-by options for me from LA to Vancouver). Hopefully Steve made out better.
I just saw someone wander through the terminal reading Making Sense of Church. So Spencer - if you're reading this - it looks like the pimping paid off! I tried to pick one up Saturday afternoon but the book store was already packed up.
My flight to LA leaves from the commuter terminal, which means there's not much to do here, so I've been flipping through my notes a little more. I'm excited about what Spencer had to say during his seminar the other night. Do we want to teach people, or do we want them to learn? If it's the latter, then teaching is part of it... but only part. Spencer contends that in an information age teachers are a dime a dozen. We need to deconstruct past the idea of teaching to get to a place where we are helping people learn. What we really need is someone to facilitate learning. Someone to help us to sort through the choking heaps of information out there.
Obviously with this thinking the concept of the "teaching pastor" takes a bit of a beating. The notion that some man with all the answers (and I use the word "man" intentionally...) can stand up in front of us and tell us what to think doesn't work with this kind of thinking. More importantly, the idea that someone can "impersonally" direct me on my journey... and my directions are the same as for the other 500 people in the room, just doesn't cut it for me anymore.
What's encouraging for me is the idea that the facilitator doesn't replace the teacher. There are plenty of teachers out there. Find one. More to the point, Spencer suggested finding one for each subject. He went on to say that some of the best teachers out there are dead people, and in the age of the internet their teaching is readily available to us. This struck a chord for me in relation to our little tribe. Right now we're finishing up a teaching series on Forgiveness, taught by Bruxy Cavey from The Meeting House, which I've got on DVD. Next up is a two-parter on Practicing the Presence of God, from Brian McLaren, also on DVD. Neither of these guys are dead, of course - far from it! - but I think they're both oblivious to the fact that they're "teaching" our faith community. I don't want to teach, and I don't think I'm particularly gifted in that area, but I'm much more comfortable with the idea of "facilitating" our way on this journey. I feel vindicated!
Spencer had a couple of great metaphors to describe this change from "teacher" to "facilitator". First we talked about being a fellow traveler as opposed to a tour guide.
The tour guide has done it before, knows where we're going, and has it all down. Gather round while I 'splain it to you. Please, save your questions to the end, and for crying out loud stay with the group. A company of travelers, or companions, feels a lot better to me. Think Lord of the Rings. Someone may take the point for a while, but we are fellow travelers. We also talked about being a fellow sheep as opposed to trying to be a shepherd. We already have one shepherd, the Great Shepherd. When did we graduate from sheep to shepherd... and who wants the job anyway?
Epilogue 1: I got on the 4:37 pm to LAX
Epilogue 2: They lost my bag at LAX
Epilogue 3: I'm home, my luggage isn't. I wonder where Steve is...
Well, emergent 04 is over and most of the crowd seems to have left. Unfortunately Steve and I are both flying out tomorrow, so we have some time to kill. The sacrifices you make when the flights are free... My flight leaves San Diego at 5:18 pm, then it's through LA to arrive home in Vancouver at a little past 10:30. Steve takes off at 6 pm, but he has a longer flight and a 3 hour time change to deal with. He goes through San Francisco to land back in Toronto at 6 am!
It's been good to spend time together this week. We did the same last year, but then we were both flying home to Toronto. This week is actually a significant milestone because after emergent 03 I had about 1 more week in Toronto to pack up, and then Sue and I headed to Vancouver on March 12. One year ago yesterday... I'll spare us both the "year in review" - that thinking is much to "linear" for me now anyway. A year ago it would have been the natural thing to do, but not anymore. Suffice to say it's been an incredible year, God is good, and we will never be the same.
The highlight of the day today was finally meeting Iphy at the general session! Her writing is so honest and raw - it almost seems wrong to express it that way, to try and label what she shares. Regardless, it was a privilege to chat for a couple of minutes. Iphy to me embodies authenticity and transparency; characteristics which are in short supply these days, and yet are absolute requirements if we are to travel together on this road to and through the Kingdom. I see from TammyJo's blog (I'm sorry didn't meet you, TammyJo) that Iphy was at the Women's Initiative breakfast too, but I didn't clue into that.
At that general session Charlie Peacock talked to us about being a different kind of human. Unintentionally, I believe, this has been the theme of the week... at least through my lenses. Dallas Willard started it all off talking about the fact that we need to get back to actually doing what Jesus told us to do. Church may teach us a lot of things, but it's not teaching us that. To be a disciple, or apprentice of Jesus Christ! We've lost sight of that, and all that it entails. This morning Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones shared with us A New Theology for a New World. They articulated very clearly something that has been nagging at me all week. This new thing, this emerging church, post modern turn, whatever you want to call it, is not about a new methodology. It is nothing less that rethinking our theology, our view of the gospel, the nature of God and how we relate to Him. Or Her. Whatever.
That's what I find so liberating. I think some others found it a little frightening, but that's OK. I got the sense that there were more "observers" her this year than last. Maybe it has something to do with the lower number this year. I think there were about 800 at emergent compared to 1100 last year. No doubt holding two of them has had an impact, although I'll bet the total will be much higher than 1100. About half of the people at most of the seminars I attended were from the National Pastors Conference "side". Many of the questions asked belied the preconceived notion that we were simply talking about a different way to do church, as opposed to rethinking church completely.
We are living in interesting times...
PS. We can pass along our "alumni" rate to anyone heading to Nashville in May. So if you're planning on going and want to save $50, leave a comment and it's yours. First come, first served.
PPS. That's me blogging away to the strains of my new Something Like Silas CD. They were fantastic.
The ultimate, though, was the Emerging Women's Leadership Initiative breakfast. Incredible. I was moved beyond words to listen to so many stories of so many incredible women. It was strange to be a man in that room... I don't think I can describe the feeling, other than to say it was a privilege, and it felt like I was on holy ground. Any of you out there who don't understand what the "big deal" is, or still have issues... you need to sit in a room like that for a while.
OK - I'm giving up on feeling guilty about not keeping you up to date on what's going on at emergent! I can't do it. Besides, there are others doing a better job... Bob Carlton is here, Anna Aven is here (even thought I haven't seen either yet).
Apparently Jen Lemen and Christy Lambertson are here too. I hope to finally catch up with some of these folks tomorrow morning at the Emerging Women's Leadership Initiative breakfast. Yes, you heard right. Actually, when I asked for the ticket I got laughed at by both the male and the female behind the counter. How's that for equal opportunity ridicule?!
+ I want to be part of a community of missional theologians. (Dan Kimball)
+ Bob Webber is sick of "innovation" in the evangelical church.
+ Phyllis Tickle tells us it's time to think in terms of "cultural Christians" and practicing Christians, much like the Jewish tradition has done for years. (That fits in with the whole Christian/Disciple argument from Dallas Willard yesterday.
+ Putting our physical bodies into "postures of prayer" is a very powerful exercise.
+ Kathleen Norris reminded us that you have to be silent to hear. (Note to self: read some of her stuff.)
Tonight I'll try to write a little more about what Dallas Willard has had to say over the last 2 days, but I don't think it's going to be easy.
I went to Dallas' critical concerns course last year. I can't remember what he called it then, but it was some of the same stuff. Last year the idea that stuck out for me was the notion that we as Christians simply do not believe what we say we believe. This year he has called it The Great Omission from the Great Commission - and How to Fix It. Here's what the outline said:
"The Great Omission from the Great Commission is the phrase, "teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you" (Matt. 28:20). The fact is, teaching people to obey all that Jesus commanded does not even appear on the mental horizon of contemporary Christianity. This course concentrates on the historical, practical, and theological sources of this amazing fact."
This tied right in with my recent struggles and rants regarding the differences between a believer and a disciple. He used the word "Christian" instead of "believer", which drives the point home even more forcefully. Our faith community, inspired greatly by Dallas' writings, has been looking at exactly this issue.
Here are some of my unedited notes:
+ We are talking about graduate from a weak Gospel of Sin Management to one of Discipleship.
+ We're not talking about legalism - If we take the teachings of Jesus and try to make laws out of them, we will make Him look like a fool. Legalism is a demonic form of spirituality. When it gets going there's no end to what it can do.
Don't teach people to keep the law, teach them to be the type of person who would keep the law.
+ We need to get to the point where we know its right not because Jesus said so, but because we can see the goodness in it.
+ The teachings of Jesus make it possible for every heart to become what it knows it should be.
+ We are never ceasing spiritual beings with an eternal destiny in God's great universe. Our lives as spiritual beings are completed only by living in and from the Kingdom/the government of the Heavens (Matt 4:17). If we have all this in mind, then learning to do as He taught becomes very different. It's when we come to understand who we are in God.
That's enough for now. I'm sorry I haven't processed it more.
And I haven't even talked about Jim Wallis' presentation this afternoon!
Man, 5 hours with Dallas Willard this afternoon, and another 3 tomorrow. What a great experience! It'll take me a while to digest this stuff enough to blog coherently, but here's something that resonated.
Dallas is talking about how it's possible to be a Christian but not a disciple... about this poor excuse of a gospel - sin management, versus the gospel that Jesus actually proclaimed, manifested and taught - the kingdom of Heaven is at hand, and available, here and now. "Christians" adhere to the first, while "disciples" pursue the second.
And while he figures the "Christians" are going to Heaven too, he thinks they may have to sit in the corner with a dunce cap on for the first 10 million years or so.
I suppose I'm taking a chance posting this... and I still haven't seen the movie. This is from the Bruderhof Daily Dig...
Johann Christoph Arnold
There is the Christ portrayed in The Passion, which has caused an international stir with its brutality and controversy. But there is also the Christ of the four Gospels, who works in quiet humility and does not make headlines. This Jesus doesn't persuade or manipulate: he wants voluntary servants. He does not draw us to him with images of agony. He says, "Come, all you who are burdened, and I will give you rest," and "Whoever drinks the water I give shall never thirst." His good news is free and belongs to every person who is willing to accept it. It is a gift to all, and it cannot be paid for with a ticket.
Check out the rest here.
PS. I'm also paying $5 for 15 minutes on this box! Unless the emergent crew sets up some wireless stuff, don't expect to hear from me too much this week.
Hopefully we'll be blogging - it all depends on what kind of connection we have in the hotel. Worse case: Have a good week and I'll tell you all about it when I get back.
I woke up yesterday with these thoughts banging around in my head. I haven't had the chance to make much sense out of them yet, but for the sake of my own sanity I need to get them out. Quite frankly I'm not trying to restart this conversation. I just need to articulate what I'm thinking. With that disclaimer in mind, read on... if you dare.
Last week I had lunch with a friend who I hadn't seen in a little over a year. I first met Bruce two years ago during my brief World Vision stint. He came to us as a consultant to work with our departmental management team. Bruce and his wife Denise administer the Birkman Report, which is a phenomenal career preference/personality type tool. Its output is similar to the Meyers-Brigg, only better in my opinion (and after a dozen years in the investment industry prior to this gig I have been psychologically poked and prodded with every test out there. The Birkman indicated things about me that I knew to be true, but no other test had ever uncovered). Bruce and I connected immediately. I think he could sense that God was up to something with us, and he was a great help as Sue and I worked through some of the major decisions we faced. Simply put, Bruce was Heaven-sent.
We both are such different people than we were the last time we spoke, and it was exciting to "catch each other up." My postmodern transition continues, and Bruce has taken on much more responsibility with a major Christian outreach organization. We look at issues from different directions, which I think is beneficial for both of us.
Bruce attends what he describes as a fairly traditional church where he lives. It's part of the same denomination as a church in my area where I am close with a couple of people on staff. Their denomination is fairly hands-off when it comes to policy, and right now both churches are "grappling" with the issue of women elders. Currently they have none. Bruce knows our ministry and our position on the subject. It's not complicated - we believe there is no scriptural basis for a restricted role for women in the church. Any references suggesting otherwise must be viewed within their cultural context. No difference. Period.
That's easy for me to say, though, because I don't have the added responsibility of trying to "change a church." In both congregations, we agreed, there are probably people who attend because of the policy of no women elders, and others who would leave if they found out there was such a policy. Talk about pressure. We spoke of a couple of examples where churches had recently included women on their elders boards, and things were not going well at all. Apparently the men, for whatever reason, were backing off from leadership, and that wasn't working either.
Here's what I think: I believe that we, men and women, are created in God's image. As such, men can represent the masculine characteristics of God, and women the feminine. Now, these are generalizations, and generalizations, generally speaking, are generally wrong. So take it with a grain of salt. When we eliminate either sex from the conversation we eliminate those characteristics of God from our thinking, and our acting. That's not good. Are we different? Absolutely! Mars and Venus, and all that. That's why we need both voices.
I find myself thinking visually more and more these days, so here's a very weak analogy that works for me. Think of one of those mosaics (if I can use that term without violating some copyright somewhere) made of broken pieces of tile. Do you know the ones I mean? OK. Now, a male-dominated model is made up of 4 or 5 colours. It's a complete image. Now, let's add the 4 or 5 new colours that women bring to the picture. Where will we put them? There's no room for new tiles in this picture. We could stick them on anyway, but that won't really work. It'll make a mess of the image.
What do we do?
We need to start over again with a new image, including all the colours.
In our conversation I suggested to Bruce that this was a much bigger issue than simply adding women elders to existing boards in existing churches. Maybe the model we've designed only works in a male-dominated hierarchical system, and it's time to start over again. In saying that I don't want to simply add another brick to the wall going up between the modern and postmodern constructs. Maybe, though, this is yet another reason why we are where we are at the moment with "church".
In the emerging church we don't talk a lot about right and wrong ways to do ministry. Let me go out on a limb... excluding women from ministry and leadership is WRONG. It wasn't right for the times, demographic, or culture. It was WRONG. Moving forward we have the opportunity to right this wrong. So far, the jury is out on how we are doing. As our friend Rachelle put it so eloquently recently, "Even though we are theologically on board with all people being involved in leadership and ministry, our praxis has not significantly changed."
Our praxis has not significantly changed.
It has to change. Before we get too excited about "our way" of doing church, let's stop and make sure we aren't replicating the thing that was the most WRONG with the "old way".
My friend Idelette is up and blogging! A transplanted South African, she is a valued member of the great west coast tribe. Idelette is a gifted writer with a heart for mission, and has a strong voice that will bring a lot to the discussion. (She and Scott are also the proud parents of the most beautiful baby I've seen in a long time!)
Drop by, say hello and encourage her.
UPDATE: Ooops, almost forgot. Idelette co-authored this!
From this morning's reading...
In the desire to make the church safe, Christians have eliminated the critic and the prophet. As a consequence, the church is bland and irrelevant.
"A person engaged in no dialogue... A church without heretics, a sole party with no rivals, is enclosed within the permanent repetition of it's own image."
We had so much success inviting others to educate us on the history of Lent that I thought I'd go to the well one more time.
I'm looking for on line resources on the making of the sign of the cross. Our community is looking at Spiritual Transformation through the Practice of Spiritual Disciplines, and we'd like to look more into the act. The history, different denominational treatments, contemporary approaches... you name it. I did a quick Google and didn't really find anything extensive.
Does anyone else out there have any suggestions?
The sun is shining today, but last Friday was a different story. After running some errands downtown I swung through Stanley Park with my camera on the way home. I've put a few images over on the fotopage.
Well, I finished devouring Life After God this morning, and found it a disturbing and significant work. I love Coupland's writing. I put it up there with Anne Lamott as far as putting sentences together that really make you think, and that blow your mind. More to the point it's been fascinating to read someone who recognizes a need for God, yet because of the culture he was raised in doesn't really know what to do with that need.
"Some facts about me: I think I am a broken person. I seriously question the road my life has taken and I endlessly rehash the compromises I have made in my life. I have an unsecure and vaguely crappy job with an amoral corporation so that I don't have to worry about money. I put up with halfway relationships so as not to have to worry about loneliness. I have lost the ability to recapture the purer feelings of my younger years in exchange for a streamlined narrow-mindedness that I assumed would propel me to "the top." What a joke.
Compromise is said to be the way of the world and yet I find myself feeling sick trying to accept what it has done to me: the little yellow pills, the lost sleep. But I don't think this is anything new in the world.
This is not to say my life is bad. I know it isn't... but my life is not what I expected it might have been when I was younger. Maybe you yourself deal with this issue better than me. Maybe you have been lucky enough to never have inner voices question you about your own path - or maybe you answered the questioning and came out on the other side. I don't feel sorry for myself in any way. I am merely coming to grips with what I know the world is truly like." p. 310
Wow. Coupland brilliantly and painfully articulates what I believe so many are feeling. Fiction or non-fiction? I don't care. I want to have something to say to these voices. Not because I have any hidden agenda, or even because I want to "save them", but because I want so much more for them. Because this is how we will help build the Kingdom. We are all broken people in one way or another, and as we reach out to each other and journey together we are living the Gospel.
Here's the penultimate thought from the book:
"Now - here is my secret:
I tell it to you with an openness of heart that I doubt I shall ever achieve again, so I pray that you are in a quiet room as you hear these words. My secret is that I need God - that I am sick and can no longer make it alone. I need God to help me give, because I no longer seem to be capable of giving; to help me be kind, as I no longer seem capable of kindness; to help me love, as I seem beyond being able to love." p. 359