Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Rise of the Missional Church

I just reread a book called, The Shaping of Things to Come. This book is probably the most influential book I've read on the missional church. If you want to understand what the missional church is aiming for...go get this book. Whenever I get discouraged about attempting something new, different and experimental, I can pick up this book and it reminds me that what we're doing at The Well is important work. Let me share a quote from the book with you that is one of many convincing arguments for shifting away from the traditional / Christendom model of church and embracing mission:

"We are living in an ephoch-shifting period in the West (and globally) as we shift from the modern to the postmodern. There is every indication that this cultural shift will be even more profound and radical than was the shift precipitated by the Renaissance, which took place within the auspices of Christendom. What is happening now is entirely outside of any discernible Christian influence."

"We propose that what will emerge from the chaos of the current social-historical shift to the postmodern is likely to be a second reformation as the church rediscovers itself as an apostolic movement. In fact, we suggest that if the church in the West does not embrace such a radical recalibration, it will find itself increasingly imperiled. The standard Christendom model will simply not engage [a new] generation. To reach them and all other postmodern subcultures, the church should abandon its role as a static institution and embrace its initial calling to be a missionary movement. What is the nature of this apostolic movement? Whereas Christendom has unraveled because of its seduction by Western culture, the emerging missional church must see itself as being able to interact meaningfully with culture without ever being beguiled by it. This is the classic task of the cross-cultural missionary: to engage culture without compromising the gospel. We cannot emphasize this enough. In fact, the whole tenor of this book will be to call post-Christendom to see itself again as a missionary movement rather than as an institution."(Frost, Michael and Hirsch, Alan. The Shaping of Things to Come . Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006.)

What I realize when I read this book is that we still have a long way to go before we're truly missional. Then again, we're moving in the right direction, and that's unbelievably important. More thoughts on this soon.

Bless somebody today out of the abundance of blessings with which God has blessed you.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Economic Stimulus Check

Did you get your economic stimulus check yet? We haven’t. But Shannon and I are dreaming about the ways we could spend it.

Just a few years ago, our conversations about using this money would have been turned toward vacations or for a home improvement project. We’ve never been car, TV or stereo people. We don’t need gadgets (I still don’t understand how iPhones or Blackberry’s work!) or the newest fashionable clothes. Fortunately, we don’t really have any great debts to pay down either. We are blessed.
Yes, we are so incredibly blessed. We have material comforts that the vast majority of the world only dream about. We keep a picture book called, “Material World: A Global Family Portrait” on our coffee table and it reminds us just how much we have compared to the rest of the world. Trust me…I’m blessed, and so are you! If you don’t believe me, I’ll loan you the book.

Did you know that no other topic, besides the kingdom of God reappears more frequently in the Gospels than the warnings about wealth? If you set out to find out what God thinks about wealthy people (you and me) who hoard their stuff instead of engaging in radical generosity, you’re in for a shock. When Jesus calls for followers, He expects them to lay every financial decision at His feet. Your money is not your money. It belongs to God. The decisions we make about the money God entrusts to our care should be made always with others in mind. A good question to ask is, “How do I love my neighbor as myself with this money?”

I guess that’s really the point of this post: to challenge you to think about how you are spending the money that God trusts you to steward. Yes, it’s given to you to provide the essentials for your family, but God never intended for 50% of His children to starve while 10% of us live in luxury. Just remember, it’s not your money…at least it’s not if you call yourself a Christ follower. And you and I will have to answer to God someday for the way we managed it. Did we spend it on ourselves, or did we bless others with it? Where is that economic stimulus check better spent: Myanmar or a flat screen? China or a new wardrobe? Treasure in heaven or treasure on earth? God, give us courage to do the right thing.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Followers, Not Admirers

I'm becoming more and more a fan of the late scholar Soren Kierkegaard, who seemed to act in a prophetic role to the Church in his own generation. His words still have application to us today, particularly, to those of in America who claim to follow Christ. Are we really following? Or perhaps we just admire Him as we sit comfortably in our affluence. I don't type these words as judgment on anyone other than myself. But, I'll invite you to listen closely to Kierkegaard through the following thoughts, and, more importantly, listen to the Holy Spirit speaking through Him to you. What will it be for you: follow or admire?

(Soren Kierkegaard, Excerpted from Provocations, available FREE in e-book format)

"It is well known that Christ consistently used the expression 'follower.' He never asks for admirers, worshippers, or adherents. No, he calls disciples. It is not adherents of a teaching but followers of a life Christ is looking for.

Christ understood that being a 'disciple' was in innermost and deepest harmony with what he said about himself. Christ claimed to be the way and the truth and the life (Jn. 14:6). For this reason, he could never be satisfied with adherents who accepted his teaching - especially with those who in their lives ignored it or let things take their usual course. His whole life on earth, from beginning to end, was destined solely to have followers and to make admirers impossible.

Christ came into the world with the purpose of saving, not instructing it. At the same time - as is implied in his saving work - he came to be the pattern, to leave footprints for the person who would join him, who would become a follower. This is why Christ was born and lived and died in lowliness. It is absolutely impossible for anyone to sneak away from the Pattern with excuse and evasion on the basis that It, after all, possessed earthly and worldly advantages that he did not have. In that sense, to admire Christ is the false invention of a later age, aided by the presumption of 'loftiness.' No, there is absolutely nothing to admire in Jesus, unless you want to admire poverty, misery, and contempt.

What then, is the difference between an admirer and a follower? A follower is or strives to be what he admires. An admirer, however, keeps himself personally detached. He fails to see that what is admired involves a claim upon him, and thus he fails to be or strive to be what he admires.

To want to admire instead of to follow Christ is not necessarily an invention by bad people. No, it is more an invention by those who spinelessly keep themselves detached, who keep themselves at a safe distance. Admirers are related to the admired only through the excitement of the imagination. To them he is like an actor on the stage except that, this being real life, the effect he produces is somewhat stronger. But for their part, admirers make the same demands that are made in the theater: to sit safe and calm. Admirers are only all too willing to serve Christ as long as proper caution is exercised, lest one personally come in contact with danger. As such, they refuse to accept that Christ's life is a demand. In actual fact, they are offended at him. His radical, bizarre character so offends them that when they honestly see Christ for who he is, they are no longer able to experience the tranquillity they so much seek after. They know full well that to associate with him too closely amounts to being up for examination. Even though he 'says nothing' against them personally, they know that his life tacitly judges theirs.

And Christ's life indeed makes it manifest, terrifyingly manifest, what dreadful untruth it is to admire the truth instead of following it. When there is no danger, when there is a dead calm, when everything is favorable to our Christianity, it is all too easy to confuse an admirer with a follower. And this can happen very quietly. The admirer can be in the delusion that the position he takes is the true one, when all he is doing is playing it safe. Give heed, therefore, to the call of discipleship!

If you have any knowledge at all of human nature, who can doubt that Judas was an admirer of Christ!"

Thursday, May 1, 2008

3 Degrees of Separation

Two people who have had a powerful influence on me over the last 2 years are Shane Claiborne and Greg Boyd. I love their writing, I love their teaching and I love that they are laying it all on the line to get their message (the gospel of the kingdom) across. Two months ago, on Greg Boyd's blog, he shared that he had been a panelist at the National Pastor's Convention, alongside Chuck Colson and Shane Claiborne. That interview / debate was finally released and I highly recommend that you set aside an hour or so and watch the video of this discussion.

Personally, I thought Boyd and Claiborne were brilliant! I really hope you'll take some time to watch this video.