Wednesday, September 28, 2005

11. Women's Role. What an explosive topic right? Women's role is certainly not an isolated topic. It is interwoven with our emotions, cultural norms and.......our egos. This discussion is emotionally charged because it goes down to the very heart of the way we view the world and find order in our social systems. I am sure that you are aware of the feminist movement and all of the agendas it has pushed and is pushing in our culture. I instantly think of the show Commander in Chief which I am suspicious of being propaganda for Hillary Clintons intentions of running for office.

I myself was very apprehensive when I becam eaware of the ideas about women's role emerging in our culture and the church. When it came to the church, my first thought was, "Come on now, how are you going to get around this one?" My skepticism was based upon my interpretation of the text and my cultural bias to the topic. Turns out, I have completely changed my mind on the subject. It is not that I do not respect Biblical authority, or am oblivious to the issues at hand. I have a deep respect for scripture and its authoritative voice for the church. The critical factor is: interpretation.

So, where do we start on a topic like this? Well, it must begin with hermeneutics. To save time and space, the pivotal hermeneutical question is "What is cultural and what is eternal?" These texts on women's role must be confronted with this question. To engage this topic without discernment of the texts historical and cultural context is to do grave injustice to the hermeneutical task. As one of my mentors, Dallas Burdett, says to me, the three rules of Bible Study are 1. Context. The second one is ........Context. The third one is........Context. This of course alludes to the surrounding verses, chapters and themes in the book. But it also encompasses the "real time" context of the passage. The "real time" context has to do with the historical, cultural and political context of the original audience. These documents are "on target" forms of literature adressed to a specific people, in a specific place and a specific time with a specific purpose and agenda. We have to admit that we are reading other peoples mail.

This necessitates asking questions like, "Who is the audience he is writing to?", "What is the local situation he is dealing with?", "Who are the opponents in the passage and what is the substance of their contentions with the author", "What is the cultural situation of their day and how does that shape their worldview?." All of these questions must be taken into account when interpretting documents that are 2000 years old.

These texts that we read were born within a particular time and place. The carry with them particular cultural, social and even political "baggage" if you will, that is characteristic of documents from previous eras. We must respect their context if we are to faithfully interpret their content.

There will be more posts on this topic, but for now, let me point out a paradigm shifting theme in the text. The first is Joel 2:28-32. This passage is quoted by Peter on the day of Pentecost as he alludes to the Holy Spirit descending upon the 120. He clearly states that the outpouring of the Spirit is the fulfillment of the prophecy in Joel 2:28-32.

So lets take a look at the passage. 2:28 And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. 29 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. 30 I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 31 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. 32 And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.

The question I want to ask is this: Does God want women to prophesy? This is an important question because it focuses the discussion on the will of God. Does God WANT women to prophesy? From looking at the text, it appears that he does. God is the one who sent the Spirit. He is the one who wrote the prophecy. He is the one who directs where the Spirit will go and what he will do when he abides in someone. The reason why this is a crucial point is because often in entering into this discussion about women's role, we approach it in the framework of what I call "last resort" theology. We feel as though God really did not WANT the women to prophesy, but that he sort of put up with it because of special circumstances. This is soooo not what the text reveals. God desires women to prophecy. It was his idea. It is his initiative. It originates with him!

This is amazing to me. It is in the heart of God for women to prophesy. What a powerful concept to begin this discussion with. Now, if you are not open to women prophesying, I am sure your mind is being flooded with reasons why God does not want it today, or even, why the text is not saying this. This is understandable. We all resist new ideas and concepts when they have the potential to bring about major change in our lives. But we must be vulnerable to the text and allow it to shape our theology. This is a difficult task, but possible none the less.

So what is the point? Well, I think the foundational thing here is that God is not against it and has no reservations about women prophesying. He is actually for it! This passage needs to serve as one of the filters when engaging other texts. It is not that I am trying to sneak in the back door or even break in through the window of God's church by promoting women should prophesy. God has already built a front door for this to come in. The question is, will we lock the door and board it up, shutting the women out of opportunities to use their God given gifts.

More to come on this topic. However, let me suggest a few websites:

Christians for Biblical Equality International
Egalitarian Christian Alliance

Sunday, September 25, 2005

10. Community. "There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community." This quote from M. Scott Peck is one of the many nuggets of wisdom from him about community. I can remember the day I first made the connection with the root word of community. "Commune." This led me to think of "Communism." This launched me on all kinds of rabbit trails about community. Then there was the connection between "community" and "communion." Like, communion on Sunday morning. You know, the Lords Supper.

We all crave community. A place to be vulnerable and accepted at the same time. An environment where our transparency will will not be trampled on. The beautiful thing about community is that it is one of the closest things to the nature of God. The tri-unity. The sweet fellowship between the Father, Son, Holy Spirit is the model of community for us.

Communities exist all around us. The paintball community, the Jazz Festival community, the work community, the remote control car community. People gravitate towards it. Granted, some forms of community we are coerced into through forced interaction.

So what makes the community of God different? Well, that is a real sermon starter. Here are two thoughts.

The birth and shape of our identity finds its origins in the work of Christ. The Master Story, as Michael Gorman would put it, is the community creating event, festival, attraction, commonality and core experience that brings us into community with eachother. I think this may be what Paul was getting at in Galatians 3:26-29. Baptism is the foundational, common experience in this Master Story that places us into community with each other. We all went through a con-formity to the Christ Event. This is the center of gravity for us. The Good News is what draws us to eachother.

The nature of our community makes us different. Because it is tethered and rooted in the Cross and Resurrection of Christ, our norms, boundaries, purpose and standards of interaction spring from a deeper value system than our latest personal interest or hobby. The community of God is not borne out of our fleshly desires. It does not originate from our idiosyncratic preferences of entertainment. We are called to emulate and model the character and nature of a crucified Messiah with in a community. This is where the American, individualistic culture has surfaced in our midst. Our discipleship is not to be lived out strictly within the confines of our "quiet time" or personal good works. Our "private" approach to God is merely a reflection of our current cultural norms. The biblical context for discipleship is the community of God.

True community comes at a cost. Jesus had to die to create community between the ethnic barriers of Jew and Gentile, between the social stratas of rich and poor, between the traditional roles of men and women. Colossians 2 Ephesians 2.

It is no less with us. No quick solutions. No easy pathways to authentic community.

Community is fashioned through many variables, but none would disagree that the gateway to community is ............ vulnerability.

A high risk. But a beautiful reward.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

9. Movements. Numerology does not dominate my thinking, but is a very interesting topic in the scriptures. The number 9 has to do with fruitfulness. There are nine fruits of the spirit, there are 9 months for the fruit of the womb. Nine is also a number of judgment. This is an interesting combination of associations with the number nine.

Movements are born out of a deep dissatisfaction with the status qou. Christian Smith, author of The Emergence of Liberation Theology: Radical Religion and Social Movement Theory, labels this deep dissatisfaction as "insurgent consciousness." It is a mentality that results from a redefinition of reality, resulting in frustration from things not being the way they can and should be.

We are often confronted with the way things are, and something deep with in us says, "This is not how it is supposed to be." How we respond to our assessment of things is what separates us from others. Some people resign themselves to the status qou and give up on any hope of things changing. Others bravely attempt to bring about change through the system. They think to themselves, "if we could only change a few rules, tweak a few positions, or start a new program, this will solve our problems." This would be the managing option. Staying within the confines of the system, manipulating and rearranging the current situation, slavishly preserving the original design and structure, hoping to achieve better results. They "manage" the current configuration and somehow try to squeeze a little bit more productivity or effectiveness out of an existing situation.

A visionary leader, on the other hand, takes a radical approach. A visionary leader questions the very foundations of the organization. They critique the structure, values and very existence of the
company. A visionary leader, fueled by their vision of what can and should be, resists the temptation to just make minor adjustments to the present system. They will not stand for anything less than a new birth. This means starting over with new values, new goals, new paradigms. The very nature of the present situation requires it. To attempt anything short of this, would be to short change the future and cave in to mediocrity.

Movements are born when a visionary leader, compelled by their vision of a new reality, are forced to lay siege on the future, and, through intentional planning and resourcefulness, partner with God in making their vision a reality. In their mind, this new reality must come to full expression.

Working or living with a visionary leader is most often annoying and pestering. They are never satisfied with how things are. They are always questioning, critiquing, forcing the issue. They always want to try something new. They are skeptical of tradition. They abhor phrases like "Thats just the way things are," or "that's how we've always done it," or "You can't change the world." Words like"Never," "Can't," "Impossible," and "Safe," cause them to break out with allergic reactions. They refuse to believe that the way things are is they way they have to stay.

Every movement is birthed through a visionary leader. Someone who refused to accept their circumstances. Someone who had an insurgent consciousness. Someone who was willing to move on their impulse and believe God for the impossible.

Now back to the number thing. It is interesting to me that fruitfulness and judgment are interrelated in scripture. This is just a thought. When God brings judgment, it is an indictment on the current situation. God is basically saying, "This is not how it is supposed to be." Until judgment comes, we are not moved to change. Judgment is actually a catalyst to fruitfulness. When God turns on the light and shows us how far removed our current experience is from what it should be, we can answer God's call to enter the process of birthing a movement. Judgment Births Movements. This may take the form of God moving within the framework of a current structure or system, bringing about renewal or revival. Or, it may take the form of birthing an entirely new structure or system for God to move in. We avoid judgment like the plague because it is painful and it has a way of questioning our prior efforts and successes. But the judgment of God is multidimensional. It does not just expose, it empowers.

I personally believe God is calling me to birth a new movement for him to move in. Will this movement be faultless and exempt from the judgment of God? No. Will it be immuned to some of the same temptations other movements fell into? Certainly not. But, it will be a fresh, new movement. A church planting movement.

Oh God, move among us. Help us to burn with dissatisfaction of our current situation. Ignite in us a movement of your Spirit to holiness and obedience. Move in us and through us.

Are you satisfied?

Monday, September 19, 2005

8. New Creation. I chose this topic because of the number 8. In the first century, Sunday was referred to by some in the community of faith as the 8th day. By designating it this way, they aligned their movement with the creation narrative in genesis. The overall idea was that God had rested on the seventh day from his glorious act of creating the cosmos, but, through the Christ Event, had entered into another phase of fresh creative power. This time, it was not the cosmos, but people. He set his hands to restore his image in humans.

God had begun creating again. He had risen up off his throne, looked over the banister of heaven and explosively spoke into humanity a new existence. This new art work of God is displayed first to the powers and then to the world. Because of this, Paul says: "If any person is in Christ, they are a new CREATION. Old things have passed away. BEHOLD! All things have become new."

Being the art work of God throws us into an entirely new framework for the activity of God among us. It parallels our story with the creation narrative. It allows us to imagine ourselves within the creation event. The image of God is being shaped with in us by the master sculptor. His character and nature is steadily being pressed into us. His hand carves out our pride, and vanity, the Spirit of God moves upon us as in the beginning, perfecting the work of "separation" and finishing the process of forming and filling. We are the New Creation.

This concept of new creation emerges in an interesting place in one of Paul's letters . In Galatians: "Neither circumcision, nor uncircumcision is anything. But a NEW CREATION." It is interesting that this concept surfaces in a discussion of legalism. Legalism has a way of attracting your attention to boundaries, rules and regulations. It fixes our affections on powerless rituals and systems, thereby diverting our focus from the creative power of the Good News. Legalism eclipses the brightness of Gods glory, overshadows the work of Christ, and replaces it with guilt, pride, shame, and fear. All of these negative products of legalism are antagonistic to Gods work in us. They frustrate the process of transformation. Legalism, because it is antithetical to New Creation, is rejected by Paul. If you are familiar with the fruits of legalism, this does not suprise you.

What is even more interesting is when Paul says that uncircumcision is not to be placed on a pedestal either. Paul is guiding us away from a dualistic position towards legalism and law keeping. When confronted with heresy, we are tempted to define ourselves by what we are not. Taking a stand against something brings with it the tendency to "stand still" on that very conviction, making "it" our defining charachteristic. Our identity in Christ is not rooted in an after thought from religious controversy. Paul would say, "So your circumcised? This is of no benefit to you. This is not what the Good News is pointing us to." He would also say "So you have refused circumcision based on your freedom in Christ? .........And? This is not where the Good News takes us. Uncircumcision should not function as another form of "circumcision", vainly placing you in a a so-called superior position to the legalist. This is not the symbol of your identity."

Paul is saying that the agenda of the Good News is purely about New Creation. It's purpose is not to promote groups or cliques based on decisions that are reactionary towards legalism or traditionalism. This is too short sighted. It is too fleshly. The big picture is NEW CREATION. The Good News is about God's ability to break into our lives, overpower our darkness and shine the glory of the light of Christ into our deflated existence. To form and fill us with his presence and nature. How does he do this? Through the creative power of the cross and resurrection of Christ. This is what the Good News is about. God has begun creating again through a crucified and raised messiah. He is forming and filing....again. And the question is not, "Are you circumcised?" or "Are you uncircumcised?" As if this is what the universe revolves around. The real question that we must ask ourselves is this: Am I resisting the creative power of the cross?

Friday, September 16, 2005

7. Risk. We are heading down to Jackson MS today to partner with the Meadowbrook Church of Christ in the relief effort. We possibly will be going to the coast on Saturday to do some chainsawing and some brush clearing. As I planned this trip, I had images of us being robbed at gun point for gas, running out of gas on the highway, and even being killed by an angry victim of the hurricane. No.....I am not paranoid. I have just heard quite a few stories since the relief effort has started.


I could not help but make the analogy to the mission of God. Taking risks is part of what walking with Jesus is all about. The parable of the talents in Matthew 25 is all about risk. In fact, it seems to me that Jesus wants us to take risks. This is why he could not stomach the 1 talent man who safely hid the talent in a sheltered environment. Could the Kingdom of God be about risk? Could it be that God is looking for some people to make wise, faith-filled endeavors whose success is not clearly guaranteed?

this church plant is going to be a risk. I can not tell you how many times the enemy has approached me with thoughts of inadequacy, fear of failure, worries of financial support. Church planting is not safe. As one of mentors, David Noles says, God is Good, but He is definitely not Safe. To walk with God is to be on the edge. Vulnerable.

The irony of it all is, if I trade in my security for his calling, I find new a freedom. Not freedom from risk, but freedom to enjoy the adventure of living a life sold out for God. No more of that "little living." It is time for us to take a risk.

"Whoever puts their trust in him, will never be put to shame." Peter

Monday, September 12, 2005

6. Trust. I must trust him even if I can not trace him. He alludes my calendar, he out performs my expectations, he leads me through uncharted paths, he makes me wait......He tests my passion for him, he refines my motives, he takes me through the winepress of suffering, up the hill of crucifixion, on the slab of inaction, and finally, yes finally, into the glory of resurrection. This pathway actually authenticates my spirituality. If I share in his death and suffering, I will most definitely share in his resurrection. To be conformed to the story is to be on journey with Jesus. It is only through the trial that we can learn the power of his resurrection.

On thing I have learned about God, is that he refuses to be held to our timelines or expectations. He is sovereign. He has this thing called a Kingdom Agenda. I would like to see myself on this Island with "my agenda" being the only factor in God's mind. My goals and passions at the forefront of is activity in the world. But this would not be his Kingdom. It would be mine. God's Kingdom is larger than my plans, than my activity for him. It crosses our boundaries of denominations and doctrines. The Lord does not Reign in a condominium of religious preference. The Lord Reigns over all the earth.

God is orchestrating Kingdom Activity all around me. I am merely a team player with other Kingdom People. Like a master chess player, God is maneuvering and manipulating circumstances in the presence of both the enemy and peoples decisions. Whether I know it or not, I am cooperating with the community of God. He is synergizing my efforts with other people to bring about the greatest amount of glory.

Why is it taking so long, why is this person not emerging, why did he say no, why now? I must trust him, even if I can't trace him. When the son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?

Friday, September 09, 2005

5. The Gospel. I really don't like using this word. Number one, it sounds so churchy. Number two, it requires a translation when talking to people who are not in the "church circle." It has become one of those codified words that can even have a prejorative connotation to some people because of the way it has been abused or polluted. The Good News is what it is all about. The death of Christ for sins, his Burial, and his Resurrection. There is so much packed into the Christ Event that it is hard to imagine anyone truly comprehending all of the first level truths, much less the second level applicational truths.

I believe the Good News is enough. That is just bottom line with me. It is enough to bring us to God. It is enough to create in us a heart of worship. It is enough to nurture us spiritually into reflecting the image of God. It is enough to form a social ethic. It is enough to create community. It is enough to construct a world view. It is enough to convict us of our sin, yet draw us intimately into his presence. It is enough to heal our brokenness. Simply, it is enough.

I do not want to substitute a system, a curriculum, a set of rules, a trend or a name for it. It is the power, the wisdom and the weakness of God.

You know, something I never saw before until I read one of those books written by someone in the scholarly community, was the way Paul interacted with the Good News. I had one of those paradigm shifting moments. When Paul writes, he does not just give us a telegraph from God. It is not a fax from heaven as some would put it. He does not pull out a list of rules he wants us to follow. Like a skilled surgeon, he cuts into the Christ Event, and dissects it, and analyzes it from every angle. He basically unpacks the Good News, displays it for us in a clear way, and then turns around and says, "Since this is what Jesus did, we should live in this way." Sure, he goes on some tangents every now and then, he addresses some local issues in his letters. But to boil it all down, he looks at the Christ Event and uses it as a model and paradigm for faithfulness to God. And don't be fooled, the Good News it not just about salvation or discipleship. It not just a private matter. The Christ Event is cosmic. It deals with the Powers, the Law, Death, the Flesh, Sin, the Future, the Past, Community, New Creation. Wow, it is the total package. How could we neglect such a creative power? How could we switch the spotlight from the Good News on to our well manicured system of doctrines? How can we allow our own passion for glory and control eclipse the unfathomable act of God in Christ?

Could it be that our wisdom has crowded out the wisdom of God? Is it possible that we have allowed our affection for "fixing" people, numerical growth and "results" to blind us from the total package that is able to change both us and other people? We are not the first to stumble over the message, or to be turned off by such a "backwards" approach to God or people.

Wouldn't it be great to be a part of a movement that allowed the Good News to not only Shape it, but Fuel it as well? Can the Good News really do that? Just ask Paul.

The Good News is enough.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

4. Hermeneutics. Herman Who? That is exactly what I thought when I saw that word for the first time. The art of interpreting scripture was, for me, not an art at all. In a nutshell, it was getting out the transparency and turning on the overhead projector, and beginning to meticulously copy some one else's way of interpetting the text. This worked for a while. But, as all things handed down, discrepancies and inconsistencies began to surface.
I am deeply indebted to Leonard Allens writings, specifically the Cruciform Church for broadening my horizons in this area. He is a master at dissecting our movement and highlighting the cultural influences that shaped the COC hermeneutic.
Briefly, here is a concept that has a lot of mileage to it. Mainly, this applies to narratives, but can equally apply to all forms of literature. It is a critical question to ask when interpreting the text.

Is it a Prototype or Archetype?

What do I mean by that? Let me explain. To use another example from cars, when Ford made a Mustang back in 75, it had certain identifiable characteristics that distinguished it from all other Fords. It was unique. However, the 2004 Mustang looks very different from the 75 Mustang. It is identifiable as a Mustang, but it is not identical to the 75 Mustang. The Mustang Model is called a prototype. It has certain identifiable characteristics that remain consistent through out time, but the shape, look, size and color changes. It is still a Mustang, but it is different from other Mustangs.

An Archetype, would be like a blue print for a house. It never changes and no matter what year or place you build, the house will always look the same. And to change anything in the blueprints is to distort or violate the architect's design and intentions. A prototype is fluid, an archetype is concrete and static.

When reading the text of scripture, it is imperative that we distinguish between prototype and archetype. In our movement, the book of Acts has served as an Archetype, laying out eternal patterns to be mimicked right down to the details in how we do church. (Part of this tendency in our movement is tied to legalism which makes one read the text hypercritically, looking for commands in every passage so as to not miss one, which would of course leave you in a state of uncertainty about your salvation.) In an effort to "crack the code" and uncover all the "hidden commands" (we call these examples and necessary inferences) we created a hermeneutic to help us figure out what parts of the pattern are binding, and which ones are not. We get very selective in this process by the way. Acts 20:7 has long served as a "pattern" for us in the Lords Supper. But what about the other details of this so called archetypal example: the upper room, the night time preaching, the guy falling out the window. (Not to mention the fact that what we do on Sunday morning comes no where close to the first century practice of "breaking bread") This is a good example of how the "pattern theology" breaks down and is unable to supply a full proof method of interpretation. As a result of this Archetype approach to scripture we have read into the examples and patterns of scripture commands that were never there.

What if the book of Acts is a prototype and not an archetype? What if it is descriptive (just describing what they did) and not prescriptive (prescribing to us every detail of church practice to copy and mimic.) In fact, what if we are not to mimic the pattern per se, but creatively come up with ways to exercise the underlying principles of the text, developing ways to live so that we too experience "all things in common" and " many people added to the Lord." To think that we can copy some form or structure, thereby making us arrive at the same results is ridiculous. What if we are not supposed to copy the form, but copy the spirit and function of what they did?
I am at the point now that I do not look to the New Testament for ancient forms and practices in order to crack some sort of code so that I can discover the hidden formula of how to do church successfully. Those texts describe people, circumstances and practices that are inbedded in another culture and context. Not only that, they are tied to a culture and context that is 2000 years old!

God knows how to communicate. Reading the Bible is not like looking at one of those pictures in the back of that kid magazine "Highlights"that has 17 objects hidden in the landscape, and it is your job to try and find all those missing pieces. The things that matter most to God are clear. As some would say, the Plain thing is the Main thing, and the Main thing is the Plain thing. If it was important for us to take the Lords Supper on Sundays only, God would communicate this to us in no uncertain terms, just like he communicated to the Israelites about the special days and feasts in Leviticus 23. We do not have to guess or piece together some elaborate stream of texts to decipher what God wants. He will tell us what he wants.

This is not to say that we do not need to engage in careful exegesis or thoughtful reflection about what the word is actually teaching. Narrative, Poetry, Letter and all the other forms of literature in the Bible deserve to be engaged with their proper interpretive tools. I also do not want to leave the impression that the only way God teaches us is through clear commandments. Narrative is a powerful event which instructs, forms identity, inspires, subverts, challenges and critiques our "world". I am merely implying that we need to realize that God knows how to make a big deal about something. And we do not need to make a big deal about something that God does not.

We all come to the text with baggage and culturally conditioned lenses. There will always be bias and prejudice when we read scripture. But I believe, the nature of God can be discerned. I believe the Cross and Resurrection are packed with principles for spiritual formation. I belief the Life of Jesus is a powerful mentoring tool in living a life faithful to God. I believe God is more concerned about forming us into the image of Christ than he is about things that he has not explicitly told us are important to him or that he has not explicitly commanded us to do.

This topic has a plethora of directions and topics, I should stop before I start rambling. And, I need to take a shower and go to work too!

If you are digging what I am saying, let me suggest a few books. Cruciformity: Pauls Narrative Spirituality of the Cross The Moral Vision of the New Testament:Community, Cross and new Creation The Sermon as Symphony: Preaching the Literary Forms of the New Testament Preaching and the Literary Forms of the Bible

Monday, September 05, 2005

3. The Missional Church. Well, so far I have been some what critical about the present order of things. Definitely do not want to give the impression that my motivations are purely reactionary to the state of things in the Church of Christ and the evangelical scene as a whole. Although these factors are a part of the package. But, like I have said before, they are not primary. They are more secondary to a more foundational issue. I want to be a part of a movement that influences people for God. A movement that majors on the majors, and minors on the minors. I want to participate in the Kingdom agenda, a missional community, a culturally relevant expression of the mission of God. In processing what this means and what it would look like, I can't help but think about the obstacles I have faced in the Church of Christ. Legalism, Institutionalism, Attractional, Dualistic and Ethnocentric orientations. I feel like an Indy 500 driver shackled to a golf cart. It would be silly to get angry at the golf cart. It would also be silly to stay in the golf cart! The system is the system. That is all. You can not demand more out of a system than it is designed to give. So this leaves me at a point of decision. Settle for the golf cart and pretend as if this is what God had in mind all along. Or, reach for the keys of faith and vision, unlock the shackles and high tale it to the race track!
Planting a missional church is no easy task. Just planting a church period is no easy task. In fact, it is easier to criticize a church than it is to plant one. When a problem arises in a plant, you can not start pointing fingers and blame the "system". Why not? Because we reproduce what we are, not what we say. A problem in a plant means that it was born right in your own backyard. This is a sobering thought. It is a humbling thought. Right now, most of these thoughts are.....just that....thoughts. It becomes real when the plant begins. What an adventure ahead. YES!
Well, I need some training. I need greater faith. I need more vision. These will all come in God's time. But one thing is for sure. I am headed for the track!
2. The Institutional church. This is one of those topics that I can not fully flesh out on paper. It is more of a pregnant idea, yet to be fully formed and developed. There are three movements called the missional, the organic and the emerging church. These movements are unique each in their own way, and even share common characteristics. After minimal exposure to the writtings of all three, I am attracted to all three because of their passion for reaching people and their critique of the dominant role of tradition in most churches. I find myself jaded with the current options of the church. Right now, the institutional church is the default model for doing or planting churches. This will soon change. Movements will spring up that are not tied to the classic 3 B's. Buildings, Bodies and Budgets. Is it possible to be the church without orienting your identity, energy and structure around the B's? Can the church grow without having to be so "corporate and market driven?" Isn't there really more than one model for church? I am with that growing minority that says a resounding yes to this. In fact, I believe, if the church is to survive the future, it must explore different models of working out the mission of God. Will the institutional church eventually become extinct? Maybe. I think that it will go through a death and be rebirthed as a contextual model. It will no longer be the default model, but a way of working out the mission of God when the context requires it. The institutional church has achieved great influence for God. There are millions who have found Jesus Christ through the institutional church. Yet, like any other model, it is tied to a specific culture and context. There are some places where the institutional church is the wisest way to engage culture. While there are other models that are more efficient in others. The key here is to be contextual. The winds of PostModernity and what lies beyond its boundaries, are blowing us into an ever increasing state of irrelevance. There needs to be more pioneers in planting churches that are not afraid to break the mold and venture into non-traditional models of doing church. Not just to be different or rebellious. But to start a revolution. A revolution of mission, worship and discipleship. It is time for a more healthy model of of engaging the mission of God.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

I must admit from the beginning, this plant is being birthed and forced from many resevoirs of emotions and convictions. A move like this does not come after reading a book, or hearing an inspiring sermon. Although I can not deny the influence that these may have had on my decision. I must thank my lovely wife Tiffany for all the nights she has listened to me struggle, explain, search and try to discover what God was doing in our lives.
trying to reduce this kind of thing to several, simple ideas is crazy, but here it goes.

1. Grace. I experienced a grace awakening my senior year in college. This was approximately 10 years ago. Since that time, I have ministered in a context where legalism was rarely recognized, much less exposed or confronted. This, of course, is with the exception of the time I spent at the Landmark Church of Christ and the Montomgery Inner City Ministry. (My present ministry location is on the journey. It is painful, but it is on the pathway.) Although the leadership of these two communities were firmly rooted in the gospel of grace, my affiliation with the churches of Christ still kept me in close contact with those who were either promoting and nurturing legalism or unfortunately, found themselves wounded by it.
In an effort to be faithful to my context, one of the major emphasis of my ministry for the past ten years has been in the area of deconstructing legalism and reconstructing a grace oriented approach to relationship with God. A sort of grass roots reformer in the Church of Christ you could say. ( I unduly flatter myself by saying this.)
I am thankful for the victories I have seen and the lives I have witnessed that have been touched and transformed by the grace of God. This has brought me great joy and satisfaction. I feel that I have been faithful to the message regardless of what the consequences were. God has been faithful to me throughout my entire journey. At the same time, I would be dishonest if I did not mention the frustration and the fatigue that I harbor within me because of these battles. They say frustration is the passion of learning. Through my frustration, I have learned that it is better to build a new foundation than to deconstruct and build upon someone else's. Romans 15:20
I am entering into a new season of ministry. One of laying foundations, and not deconstruction. This translates into planting churches for me. I love my heritage and all the great things it has built within me. I am not rejecting our heritage. But I will not idolize, guard or promote a heritage. I realize that every movement is conditioned by its cultural context, and that to blind myself to this would make me vulnerable to the same faults that our heritage adopted. But this does not disqualify efforts to begin a movement that will seek to dethrone tradition, critique culture, and passionatley engage the mission of God. I want to be a part of a church planting movement that seeks to be culturally relevant while holding to the core truths of scripture. For me, this can only be done by pouring new wine into new wineskins.
While the above statements do not take center stage, they are supporting roles in this decision. They do not make up the entire foundation of my decision, but they do function as under currents, gently guiding and reaffirming God's call on my life to plant churches.