Earlier I listed a couple of books that I had received for Christmas. Following are the rest of the books that I received and hope to read in the coming year:
- How (Not) to Speak of God by Peter Rollins – already read this one since I got it! It was excellent and my friend Chris and I plan on creating a discussion group at Starbucks to read through it together and discuss it.
- The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky – A book that has been highly recommended from several friends.
- Simply Christian by N.T. Wright – Brad, a friend of mine, has always been a fan of Wright’s so I have wanted to get into his writing. This may have not been the best book in which to accomplish that goal, but it’ll do.
- What Would Jesus Deconstruct by John Caputo – Caputo is one of the premier continental philosophers in the U.S. and has always been recommended by one of my former professors. Speaking of which…
- Interstices of the Sublime by Clayton Crockett – Dr. Crockett was one of my Religion professors at University of Central Arkansas. In this text he brings together three modes of thought: psychoanalytic theory (Lacan & Freud), continental philosphy (Zizek), and theology.
- The Tangible Kingdom by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay – As I think I have said somewhere on this blog before, I find missional ecclesiology and theology to be very refreshing and challenging. I am also interested in it because Hugh Halter is involved with Church Resource Ministries, an organization that I have a lot of respect for and would enjoy being a part of (Nieucommunities, who Amber and I went to Vancouver with, is one branch of CRM).
- Creating a Poverty Free World by Muhammad Yunus – As wierd as this sounds, I have become fascinated by the world of economics. I still absolutely hate math and numbers, buy when I listen to men like Yunus and Jeffrey Sachs I genuinely believe we have the ability to end poverty if we can get over our greed and move beyond consumer capitalism (I emphasize consumer because I still believe that capitalism is a good system, but can be very destructive in its current form). Yunus is the founder of Grameen Bank and is one of the men responsible for the micro-lending revolution in third world countries.
- Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw – My wife and I had the privelege of hearing Shane and Chris speak in Orlando. When you read this book or hear these men speak you must call into question the role of Christians in politics. What role do we play? Why do we constantly seek political power? And a myriad of other questions. Perhaps the most challenging book on Church and Politics out there!
So these are the books I will be reading over the next year along with the other two that my wife bought me that I mentioned before Christmas and some other that I have not finished yet (The Divine Conspiracy – hopefully I will make it through that over the summer). Hopefully I will blog through a few of them because I would love to get some input from others on some of the ideas I will be engaging.
I decided to try and pick up where I left off with Missional Church. So I am on chapter 2 which starts with this very rich and thought provoking paragraph:
“The gospel is always conveyed through the medium of culture. It becomes good news to the lost and broken humanity as it is incarnated in the world through God’s sent people, the church. To be faithful to its calling, the church must be contextual, that is, it must be culturally relevant within a specific setting. The church relates constantly and dynamically both to the gospel and to its contextual reality.” (Guder, 18)
Today, when we think of the church being relevant we imagine the megachurch with the incredible graphic arts program and the best band in town. However, I do not believe that is what the author is referring too (although I do not believe that can be completely ruled out either). I believe this goes much deeper than just finding new methodologies. The author goes on to say, “In order to contextualize responsibly, the church must assess its culture critically, discerning and unmasking (deconstructing – my addition) its philosophical foundations and values.” So this issue is much deeper than just using new technology and a great speaker to reach our culture. It requires a very deep understanding of the world around us (and especially within our own Christian culture).
So Chapter 2 is a study of how North American (US and Canada) culture has evolved into its current state. It begins going all the way back to the Enlightenment and analyzing the birth of modern culture. Critically assessing how those ideas have established who we have become, both negatively and positively. The author reminds us at the beginning that this is not something Christians can simply choose to do if we want to truly live out the Gospel in the US, it is something we must do for our own sake as much as for the people we are called to love and reach.
“…because culture is not neutral, this discipline will assist the church to discern how it might be compromising gospel truth as it lives out its obedience to Christ the Lord.”
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).
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.)
About a week ago I read an excellent post by David Fitch on his blog. It was titled “The Emerging/Missional Church – ‘They don’t have converts’ Why Mark Driscoll misses the point”.
He was responding to the criticism of Driscoll that emerging and missional churches do not have converts, or they have very few. As many people know, emerging/Emergent/missional are all buzz words floating around the blogosphere, books, conferences and many other places. So if his critique is correct then there needs to be some serious reflections about the effectiveness of these movements/conversations.
David Fitch takes this up, along with Brother Maynard, and analyzes and compares the missional church movement, Emergent, and the “Drisconian megachurch.” He does an excellent job pointing out the differences between the three and where Driscoll “misses the point.” Here is a short synopsis:
1. Emergent is not looking for converts. That is not to say there aren’t any, but he points out that Emergent is more of a reform movement.
2. Missional churches are incarnational. Meaning it takes a long time living among people before there are converts, much like a missionary in a foreign country. Many of these converts have no church background and did not grow up in church. They also tend to be small. Driscoll’s church, however, is a mega church and attracts many people who grew up in church and fell away or former Catholics. Fitch argues that converts in terms of percentages, rather than numbers, is a much more accurate measurement (if it must be measured). Therefore, neither approach is necessarily wrong, they are just reaching different people.
I highly recommend checking out Fitch’s post and the ensuing conversation in the comments, especially if anything I said was unclear.
Since I began my internship at Crosspoint Church I have learned a lot about loving those outside of the church. Wayne has taught Amber and I so much about the church existing for those outside of its walls. For instance, a couple weeks ago when time changed our college small group went out into the community to hand out free coffee packets. We told them it was for some extra caffeine in the morning! We also gave them a card that read “We hope this small act of kindness brings some light into your day. Its our way of saying God loves you, no strings attached. Let us know if we can be of more assistance.” People really enjoyed it! Many of them laughed and were surprised.
Over Christmas I received Transforming Mission by David Bosch. The book is enormous so I skipped to the good parts that I wanted to read! One section is about churches becoming more missional, in their actions and theology (missional is certainly a buzz word today, but this book was written in the early 90s by a guy from South Africa, so that makes it even more interesting!). Bosch notes the there is an emerging shift in the way the church approaches mission. Instead of missions being something that the church sends people to do, it is becoming what the church is. He claims that today the “church is not the sender but the one sent.” We are being sent not to comfort ourselves and better ourselves, but be a light in our own communities. One that is the source of love, justice, and forgiveness. A humble entity where community is authentic and always accepting. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote from prison, “The church is the church only when it exists for others.” That means we must find creative, loving ways to be a light in our community. Many times we have the attitude that people should come to us instead of us going to/finding them. The church should not be so arrogant but rather imitate Jesus, who when a sheep went missing went out to find it at all costs.