Monthly Archives: July 2008

Missional Church…on pause

Unfortunately I am going to have to put my reading of Missional Church on pause.  Fortunately, I accepted a teaching position yesterday!  So between now and then I have to finish two other books.  One is for my internship here at Crosspoint, 11 by Leonard Sweet.  And the other will help me tremendously with my new job, Getting Things Done by productivity guru David Allen.

I still have the goal of reading all of the books I got for Christmas last year before Christmas this year though.  Which means I still need to read Missional Church, The Missional Leader by Alan Roxburgh, and The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard (big one!).

This is definitely going to be one of the toughest semesters Amber and I have gone through.  I fully expect to be stretched farther than ever and would love your prayers.  Somehow between teaching (which as everyone knows is way more than 40 hours a week), my internship at Crosspoint (doing Outreach and College ministry), and spending time with my wife and friends, God will be there teaching me things all along the way…some experiences painful and others truly joyful.

So I end with a quote from one of my new favorite artists, Andy Gullahorn:

“You may let me feel a fraction of Your suffering…but You never let me down, You never let me down.”

Praise God and Go to Peace

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Missional Church, Ch. 1

I have recently began reading Missional Church:  A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America that was written by several authors.  I decided to start blogging about write I read as a sort of journal because I feel that I read a lot of books but don’t retain very much of it, so maybe this will help.  I thought I would at least give it a try with this book.

Chapter 1 “Missional Church – From Sending to Being Sent” – gives an overview for the rest of the book but also lays down the basic assumptions, bias, and perspectives that the authors are coming from.  They don’t pretend to offer an objective study of how to fix the church and the church’s relationship with American culture.  Rather, they start from a profound belief in Missio Dei (mission of God) and influenced by British missionary/theologian Leslie Newbigin (p.3).  Missio Dei means that from the start mission is God’s mission, it is His activity in the world.  That from the beginning God has been restoring and healing creation.  It began with His call of Israel and reached a climax in the incarnation and ensuing life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  It continues today through the work of the church and the Holy Spirit.

They argue that this simple shift in thinking creates an enormous shift in our theology and ecclesiology because we now see God as a “missionary God” and the church as a “sent people” (p.4).  Darrell Guder, the author of this chapter, quotes David Bosch:  “Mission (is)understood as being derived from the very nature of God.  It (is) thus put in the context of the doctrine of the Trinity, not of ecclesiology or soteriology.  The classical doctrine of the missio Dei as God the Father sending the Son, and God the Father and the Son sending the Spirit (is) expanded to include yet another “movement”:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit sending the church into the world.”

Guder argues that the church in America today is not missional and must be transformed to become missional.  Today’s churches are based in Christendom, a time period where the church was shaped because of its dominant role in a society that considered itself officially Christian.  This is no longer the case as the church now exists in a postmodern, multicultural context.  So the basic question no becomes:  “What would an understanding of the church (an ecclesiology) look like if it were truly missional in design and definition.”  Thus the basic question of the book.

They also lay out five characteristics of a faithfully missional ecclesiology (11-12):

  • A missional ecclesiology is biblical…
  • A missional ecclesiology is historical…
  • A missional ecclesiology is contextual…
  • A missional ecclesiology is eschatological…
  • A missional ecclesiology can be practiced, that is, it can be translated into practice…

The rest of the chapter is a sort of overview of the rest of the book, chapter by chapter.  I am excited after the first chapter because I agree with Guder when he states that we need to read the Scriptures through a missional hermeneutic.  Which means to read and interpret scripture from the position that God deeply loves all of creation and wants to heal and restore that creation.  From this basic understanding we must agree that mission can no longer be just a program of the church, in the form of outreach or foreign missions.  Instead, mission “defines the church as God’s sent people” and “either we are defined by mission, or we reduce the scope of the gospel and the mandate of the church” (6).  “Thus our challenge today is to move from church with mission to missional church” (6).

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July 4th

I hope everyone had a great 4th of July!  Amber and I really wish we could have spent the holiday back in Mountain Home with our families (even though there were some pretty bigs storms over the weekend), but we had a lot of fun here.  First, Amber had to work in the morning but it wasn’t bad because she was in a local parade.  She works as a marketing assistant at Chick-fil-a, so she handles most of the community events that Chick-fil-a is involved in, including parades.  I drove the truck while she assisted another employee in the back that was dressed up as the cow.  It was a lot of fun and a great start to the morning. 

Later in the afternoon we decided to take our scooter to the beach.  We didn’t think that we would get in because it was a holiday but there was plenty of parking, and the tide was up!  Once we got down to the water we were warned that there were jellyfish in the water and several kids were coming out saying they were stung.  But we went in anyway because the lifeguard and others were telling us that we would easily see them before we get stung.  We didn’t see anything for awhile but then some others found one and we went over to see it.  The guy picked it up from the top so the tentacles were in the air and he didn’t get stung.  Later Amber and I saw another one and this time I picked it up!  The other guy made it look easy and I wasn’t really worried about being stung anyway because everyone else who was stung looked fine after about 30 minutes.  The thing was actually heavier than I imagined and slimy like a fish!  But don’t worry, I wasn’t stung.  Amber didn’t want to hold it but she was brave enough to touch the top!

We did shoot any fireworks off that evening because we live in an apartment complex.  Instead, we hopped on our scooter and rode around the neighborhood and watched everyone else’s show!  Finally, we settled in and watched a movie with a couple friends.

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What’s Going On

Here is a short list of cool things/posts I have found this week:

  • David Fitch on Five Reasons He Would Claim to Leave a Church – June 19th post.
  • Missional has been a buzz word lately and some people are worried that it is being used too loosely.  So in response Rick Meigs organized a Missional Synchroblog to try to define what it means to be missional.  There are roughly 50 contributions to the synchroblog and the links can be found below Rick’s post.
  • Rays took a 3.5 game lead in the AL East after a big sweep of the Red Sox!  (Hey, my Pads are doing terrible this year, so I had to find someone to cheer for.)

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Questions and Faith

Over the weekend I received a call from a friend of mine back in Arkansas.  I hadn’t talked to him in awhile so it was great to hear from him and we talked for over an hour.  We have always had an interesting relationship because while I have always “had” faith, he hasn’t.  In high school and into our early twenties he was an agnostic and would tell me about his desire for faith, he just had a lot of questions.  After a lot of prayer and a lot of conversations over a couple of years and his girlfriend’s persistence, he finally started attending church.  It is amazing and beautiful to see how far he has come in his journey.  He is at a point where he believes in God and enjoys going to church.  The problem is he is afraid that many at his church resent him.  You see, there is something special about him…he asks questions!  He doesn’t take churchy answers for granted and won’t accept the easy answers and I pray that never changes.  What is sad is that the church (most modern churches) is not a place where he is welcomed to explore his questions, and that is tragic.  What safer place should there be?  Especially when it comes to questions about God.  Anyways the conversation made me think of a paper I wrote in college about interpretation (hermeneutics) and discipleship, so here are a couple paragraphs of it:

(Jacques) Derrida also warns about the dangers of exhausting a text.  In his interview with Evelyne Grossman he states “Imagine that someone claimed to have said everything that needed to be said on the subject of this poem or that line of Celan, that someone claimed to have exhausted the subject.  That would be terrifying; it would be the destruction of the poem.”  Does this not ring true of the state of Christianity today?  Has the text not in some way been exhausted?  Is this why (G.K.) Chesterton complains that Christianity has some how lost its wonder?  Take for instance a child growing up in Sunday School.  The modern church structure is one of “yes, but” discipleship that stifles creativity and individuality.  Rather than empowering people in a way that will allow them to grow spiritually on their own or from each other, the current system makes them look only to a pastor, priest, or Sunday school teacher for guidance (or answers).  Such a system seems to work to cultivate a spiritual life in a child or an adolescent; however, this becomes problematic when they become young adults and enter the university.  On the one hand the student has professors that encourage critical thinking, something that the Church never encouraged when it came to faith, while at the same time the student no longer has the spiritual guidance of their former pastor or priest.  This more than anything else is the reason why many conservatives fear the so called “liberal” agenda of American universities.  It is not because the student is being force fed liberal values, but the students are learning ways of becoming independent and begin to question these former institutions that in a sense suppressed their intellectual faculty.

This circles back to Chesterton’s need for both a feeling of security and wonder.  On page 166 Derrida simplifies the way in which he reads a poem, “Here is what I believe on can reconstitute, what that could mean, why it is captivating and beautiful and strong, while leaving the unsaid intact, inaudible.  That will, moreover, authorize other readings.”  If the Church would instead teach the Bible in just such a way then they will have the opportunity to still guide participants in a “sound” or “good” theology, but at the same time empower them and give them the freedom to figure out for themselves what the “unsaid intact, inaudible” is.  This, I think, will create a faith or spirituality that can survive and contribute to the life of an individual because it is his/her own personal faith, rather than something that was fed to them in a building with a steeple.  So in this sense Derrida’s form of postmodern hermeneutics offers religion, specifically Christianity, a way to rekindle wonder back into the tradition and empower the people which it serves.

All of this is to say that Church should be a safe place.  A place where people can come with questions and find a warm, loving environment in which to explore faith and Jesus.  We should never be afraid of questions and never offer shallow answers to deep questions.  Rather than love that conveys a level of disrespect both ways.

My prayer is that my friend will never stop asking questions and never accept the easy answers.  I hope he wrestles with faith and in doing so fall ever deeper in love with God.  I believe that God is pursuing him and that he is much closer than he thinks to finding Him.

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