Friday, March 31, 2006

17. The Fantastic Five

I just recently finished watching "The Fantastic Four" -at the theaters. It brung back a lot of memories. I used to collect this comic when I was "younger." My mother would send me to the 7-11 for a slurpee and as a motivation to go, she would give me .50 to buy a comic while I was there. I always thought they were the coolest (along with wolverine and the X-Men). Upon reflecting about the roles of the characters, I realized that the fantastic four is a contemporary version of the building blocks of the universe. (Stoichea if you are a new testament junky). The old school building block were earth, air, fire and water. In the Fantastic Four, water is considered a little bit our of date (we are no longer an agricultural society) and is replaced with Mr. Fantastic, who, for all practical purposes, liquidizes his body to either stretch or conform his body to the needs at hand. Sort of like water, but not really.
Besides this variation, the Fantastic Four are a recapitulation of the original, fundamental elements of the universe.
As such, they are the perfect postmodern story line for heroes. If you have not noticed, the one man, got it all together super hero is sort of not so popular in these post-modern days. Specifically, Superman. Superman is a super-hero construct from modernity. He relies on no one, has only one flaw, and can do anything and everything well. You might be thinking in the back of your mind, hold on, what about Batman and Spider man. They are "one man super heroes", but they were block buster hits. Well, good point. But there is a subtle, yet distinct difference between these two and Superman. Batman is a pull yourself up from your own bootstraps type of hero. He is not endowed from on high with supernatural gifts, perfect from day one. He also has Robin at his side. Spiderman, while being a lone ranger per so, has to struggle with his identity. His accidental infection causes him to search for his place in this world, dealing with the uncertainty of his new existence. OK, I digressed.
What does this have to do with anything? The Fantastic Four is a model for our approach to ministry. Too often, we take the Superman approach to the Kingdom Agenda. We either assume the Superman role ourselves or expect other people to be Superman to us. (This is especially true in the institutional church where the clergy are placed in that Superman role, sometimes all too eagerly on their part. Carl Jung called this the Christ Archetype.) Really, God has not designed any of us to be the total package. We are each individually gifted by God to play a unique role in the Kingdom.
I want to suggest that the Fantastic Four are paradigmatic of the five gifts in Ephesians 4.

Apostle - The Human Torch
Prophet - The Thing
Evangelist - Mr. Fantastic
Pastor - Invisible Woman
Teacher - Dr. Reed Richards - (later transformed into Mr. Fantastic)

Each one of these characters illuminates and illustrates the functions of the five gifts in Ephesians 4. The following 5 blogs will be an exploration into their similarities.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

16. Jehovah-jireh. When God moves, or we move, or any movement takes place, it is always within the world of God. I was let go from my position as campus minister last night. I was originally going to resign from the church in May, but after making them aware of my decision to resign, plant a church, and my theological differences with the traditional COC, they decided to let me go immediately. It was untimely in that I wanted to finish the school year well, and provide a good ending of the semester to the students in our ministry. But.....This will not take place. Andy Stanley says that vision attracts criticism. Those of you who are visionaries can attest to the truth of this statement. Vision has a way of getting under the skin of some, inspiring others, and indicting us all. Our vision to start a church planting movement has met its first official criticism and opposition.

10 years ago I would have been devastated after being fired by a church. I am actually thankful. Being released from this context of ministry will enable me to pursue wholeheartedly my passion to facilitate this movement. What the enemy intended for harm, has actually turned out to be a catalyst for the spreading of the message. God is GOOD! Please pray for our team to be prayerful and loving to God and eachother. We want to be a missional community empowered by the Holy Spirit. Walking with God is never safe. But it is exciting. Yes! We are on the journey. God will provide for our family and the church plant.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

15. Name Change.

As we surveyed the church landscape of Clarksville, we noticed that there were at least 5 other churches that either start with the name Grace or have this word in their title. As a church planting movement, we want to fill a distinct niche in Clarksville, and reach out to the unchristian population in the city. We do not want to be just another church that has a new fad of worship or ministry, attracting a large group of either disgruntled church members or people with too much traditional church baggage. We are targeting the unchristian and the seeker first, and then, if a Christian comes among us who likes our values and mission, we will praise God for sending workers into the harvest.

It is basically a matter of values and vision. We want to start a movement of planting culturally relevant churches, and to do that, we need to lay new foundations and practice new methods. Our vision does not revolve around (to use one of Gailyn Van Rheenen's phrases) massaging the already existing church culture in Clarksville. We are going to be a missional community that is on journey with God to engage the world around us.

Having said all of that, we have chosen to leave the word "church" out of our name. Several people on our team have made notice of people they know in their relational network that would not come to a "church" because of all the negative baggage associated with "church." i.e. dressing up, putting on a facade, judgmentalism, clicks, etc. (All the stuff we try so desparately to avoid, but somehow periodically drift into). I guess what I am saying is that our decisions in this plant will revolve around building community and engaging unchristians, not marketing ourselves to the Christian community so we can have a "Big Church". We do not want to be a mega-church. We want to be a church planting movement that plants missional, culturally relevant churches. At the same time, if GOd blesses us with that kind of growth, we will continue to plant churches and continue to follow God with the growth. We are not militantly anti-mega church, we are just not seeking it or nurturing that philosophy for our Kingdom efforts..

Well, here it is. Our "name" will be IKON. We chose this name for several reasons. First, an ikon is the Greek word in the new testament for image. As such, it will communicate that we are seeking to reflect the image of Jesus Christ. Second, an "ikon" point to something greater than itself. It is only a representation of a greater reality. This is all we are. We are not the attraction, we only stimulate and point people into another realm where they experience Him. Third, it will be a great conversation starter. I have already had several good conversations with people about this name that led to some interesting insights into God and "church." Fourthly, if I am honest, I think it sounds cool. Lastly, it will set us apart, for the time being, from the church culture here in Clarksville.

But let's keep things in perspective here. A community will not thrive and reflect the reign of God because it has a cool name. It will thrive because of the faith hope and love of the people in the community. It will thrive because the Spirit is allowed to work in us as an individual and community.