12.24.2005

The Republicans Have Lost My Vote

Why?

Searching without a warrant
Torture
Incarceration without a trial
Spending
Arrogance

Of course the Democrats never had my vote.
Why?

Abortion
Spending
Left wing radicalism
Arrogance

So if any one has any ideas on a good third party, let me know.

If you want the long version of why I have shifted, keep reading.


Five years ago I was a complete Bush apologist. I was so gung-ho about him that even before I knew about blogs, I would e-mail editorials to my friends, (which I doubt they read ; ) )

Why did I support Bush? I thought he was a real Christian. (I still think he is sincere) He is pro life. He talked about keeping the military home prior to 9.11. And he talked about "compassionate conservatism" and faith based initiatives.

I completely supported him after 9.11, and on Iraq, because I believed that Iraq could develop weapons of mass destruction. And I didn’t really think it mattered that Saddam wasen’t tied to 9.11. He was a terrorist of his own peple and paid the families of Palastinean suicide bombers thousands of dollers. The guy was evil and I thought he should go.

Today, I am officially saying I am no longer a Bush supporter, nor a Republican supporter. In the past I would always say I was independent, but in reality, I always voted Republican.

Why have I shifted? A couple of things. I have libertarian sympathies that Republicans have completely not lived up to. My view of morality in politics has shifted, which is to say, I have a greater concern for the environment and the poor. Though I’m not really convinced that government can solve these problems, as long as were going to run a deficit budget, I would rather spend it on the poor than the military and corporate welfare. As far as the military is concerned, I want a top-notch military, just smaller, and with less un-necessary weapons.

The thing that provoked this post though is the spying on Americans. That is the last straw. I no longer trust Bush, and if he broke the law, I say impeach him. I don’t care if every time it occured it was warranted, and didn’t really hurt anyone. It is a horrible precedent, and completely inexcusable! What is protection from terrorists if we give up what they are trying to take away? When you add this to torture and incarceration without a trial, we are looking remarkably similar to a police state.

I would love to see a third party emerge, so in the future, that is almost certainly who I will be voting for, someone other than a Republican or a Democrat.

12.21.2005

Happy Anniversary


We spent the weekend in San Diego celebrating our 2nd wedding anniversary. (Dec 20th) Have I ever mentioned I have a great wife? I do, I have a GREAT wife, a beautiful wife, a sporting wife, a great cooking wife, (I cook too though not nearly as well) a wife who loves and respects me, and most importantly, a wife who puts God first.

Joey, I don’t know what I would do without you. Thank you so much for marrying me, I am truly a blest man because of it.

Being Church

So in my last post I promised to share what I think it “really means to be the church”. The following is by no means exhaustive either on the subject or my own perspective. Please read the two previous post’s to put this one in perspective. Doing so will help you know where I’m coming from.

With the problems of consumerism and individualism as givens, the idea of “going to church” (a flawed thought to begin with, but you know what I mean) needs to be transferred to the home/cell/small, whatever you call it, group. This is because the traditional worship service/sermon format only aids and abets the evils of consumerism and individualism. (yes, small groups can do this too) However, that doesn’t mean that we need to do away with the weekend service, though I think this may be wise in many cases. What I really want to advocate is not so much a shift in actions, though that is inevitable, but more a shift in definitions, and focus.

The leadership of a given body of Christians should focus their efforts, time, energy, etc, on the small groups and their leaders. The primary teaching and worship time should be in the small group. If people can only make one event on a given week it should be their small group. When people say “I’m going to church” they should mean their small group. Ideally this phrase would fall out of use. Instead people should talk about being the church, and spending time with their extended family, their small group. It wouldn’t be about going to get something, but about being there for your extended family.

What happens at a given small group needs to be indigenous to the local area, so I can hardly speak for everyone, but this is one snapshot. On Sunday mourning 6-15 people meet in a home for brunch, say 9ish. Fellowship and eating last an hour. This is a time for people to be real with each other, to be honest, sharing their joys and pains, being a family. Then people gather for worship through art. (i.e. music, reflective painting, poem or scripture readings, etc…) This would last 45 minutes give or take. Then there is a short 15 minute monologue lesson on a given topic. Think imaginatively here. It could be the small group leader, a Hollywood movie scene, the “head pastor” or another person via a recording, or a news snippet. Are you worried about all the small groups being on the same page? With the right set-up, the head pastor could digitally tape a short lesson and e-mail it to the small group leaders along with a lesson plan each week. The purpose of this 15 minutes of teaching is to frame a conversation in which the real learning takes place, a typical small group discussion lasting for an additional 15-45 minutes. (how often have pastors bemoned the fact that little "sticks" through mere audio learning?)

A group like this can better embody what it means to “be the church”, being family, carrying and loving one another. A second weekly church event could center around serving others, missional fellowship, or a time of large group teaching and worship (what we usually consider going to church today)

Obviously this is not original with me, many churches are already doing this, and I simply know about it from discussions in class. But I am very quickly beginning to “own” the perspective. What may make me different than many is that I don’t think it is the end all be all of being the church in the 21st century. Rather I want churches to consider what it looks like to “be church” in their zip code, confronting the bad and affirming the good.

Starting a new church along these lines would be relatively easy compared to transitioning a church with the old paradigm. Therein lies the challenge I have really been thinking about. Obviously, in that setting one would need to move slowly and cautiously. In the beginning I think you would try to simply change the definitions. You may do very little differently in either the cell group or the weekend church service, but slowly, in conversations and teaching, you would move the locus of the church from the weekend service to the small group. Then, when people really began to own their small group, and consider it an extension of their family, you could begin to phase out the weekend service; if that was the appropriate thing for your setting. This is just a guess, but I think a transition of this nature may take 5 years, give or take.

Having said all this, remember I’m just a 24 year-old seminarian who has no experience yet thinks he knows everything. ; )

God bless, and please leave some feedback, good or bad. Your comments will help me think about this critically.

12.16.2005

The Medium is Not Condusive to the Message

A couple days ago I pointed out that “seeker sensitive: may be more “missional” than some would like to imagine. But today I’ll give you the critique of the “seeker sensitive” model. This post and the previous post come out of a 10 page paper I turned in this past quarter entitled Seeker Sensitive and Missional? In it I offered not only the critiques but the responses as well. If you want a copy of my ramblings, just e-mail me.

So what are those things that are said to be sinful about the “seeker sensitive” approach? Below are two of them. (and here, here, here, and here are a whole bunch more)

The first is that it does not present the “whole” gospel, a critique levied by both conservatives and progressives. A conservative perspective would point out that many of the sermons preached in the Bible were hardly of a seeker sensitive nature. Instead, we have Peter forcefully telling the people of Jerusalem that it is they who are responsible for crucifying Jesus. Whatever part of the Gospel is shared in a seeker sensitive way, it is usually not the part about judgment, and sin. The more progressive in the Church would like to point out that most suburban churches are likely to have a reduced view of what the gospel or “good news” is. “What about the serving the poor and the sick?” they would say. “What about justice, and systemic evil?”

A second critique has its genesis in the person of Marshall McLuhan, who said, concerning communication, "the medium is the message" (This is a huge concept that I’m not going to go into here. Click the link to find out more.) With this in mind, pastors have some serious thinking to do. If it is true that two of the most potent, anti-gospel aspects of our society are consumerism and individualism, what does that say about the mediums we use to communicate the good news of Jesus Christ?

In a seeker sensitive service, nothing is done to confront them. Even if the words of the sermon address it, the medium encourages it. In most mega churches, individuals come with a great deal of anonymity, and effectively consume the worship. They get an emotional high from the professionals up front, without ever participating in a real community. Even for the serious Christian, the format of the mega church worship service is highly individualistic. It is one way, from the professional to the customer; and at best, returned one way, from individuals to God, irrespective of what is happening around them.

How is my neighbor this morning? Do I know their name? Could they tell me if there was a crisis in their life? Would I tell them if there was one in mine? The seeker sensitive worship service is not conducive to what it really means to be the Church.

So what does it “really mean to be church”, I don’t know. But that won’t stop me from telling you what I think in my next post. But before I do, what do you think?

12.14.2005

Every theology has a context...

To understand many of the methods in this book, you need to understand the context in which they were developed. Otherwise, you might be tempted to copy things we did without considering the context. Please do not do this! Instead look beneath the methods to see the transferable principles on which they are based.

I decided we would make no effort to attract Christians from other churches to _______. We would not even borrow workers from other area churches. Since I felt called to reach unbelievers, I determined to begin with unbelievers.

You won’t be able to transfer our context. Every church operates in a unique cultural setting. To artificially plant a _______ clone in a different environment is a formula for failure.

So which cutting edge, emerging church, missional guru said all this?

None. They are the teachings of non other than the routinely disparaged, Rick Warren, in his much maligned book, The Purpose Driven Church. (at least here at Fuller.)

It’s not even him so much, at least not him as a person, rather it’s his way of doing church, a way that is said to be, on it’s best day, not sufficiently cognisant of its culture, and on it’s worst…down-right evil. More on that tomorrow.

What I’m getting at with these quotes is that while there may be some valid critiques of the “seeker sensitive” approach, I think what happens at many “seeker sensitive” churches may be more missional than some might like to imagine.

Think about it. If your trying to reach culturally Christian suburbanites, many of whom work in a corporate environment, is it any surprise that CEO models of pastoring, combined with a “professional” service flourish?

I like much of what I hear in the “emerging” conversation at Fuller and in blog land, and I’ll probably end up being involved in some of it. But I think that all too often there is a bad case of group think going on. What is being suggested is good, but it’s not gospel, and I believe that many that don’t speak emergingese or missionese are doing it none-the-less.

The emerging church does not have a corner on being missional in the west.

12.12.2005

Ten on Three

This past quarter I took three classes: Christian Ethics, Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament) and Forming the People of God. Here they are in ten words or less.

Christian Ethics: Euthanasia...Pacificism...Kingdom of God...Systemic Evil.

Pentateuch: Exegeses...Higher Criticism...Judgment & Mercy...God’s Narrative

Forming the People of God: Missional...Discipleship...Culture...Forms of Church...Practical Helps...Legal FYI’s

The best part of each though were the prof’s. A professor makes or breaks a class. Fortunately I had three really good one’s this past quarter, Mark Lau Branson, Erin Dufault-Hunter, and James Butler

12.11.2005

Missionaries Get the Emerging Church

Ryan had this to say about his conversations with missionaries on the emerging church.

"...What resonated with him? A focus on Jesus stories, yep. All of life sacred, no split -- yep. Church service replaced by hospitality as the primary connecting point, check. Dialog in humility, acknowledging errors, yes. Recognizing truths in the host culture and religion, yes. Holy Spirit was there before the missionary, yes. Indigenous local, almost pagan looking worship, yes. Leadership in teams, yes. Lots of prayer and spiritual activities outside the service, yes, yes, yes..."

Read the whole post here.

12.10.2005

"He's not a tame lion ya know, but he is a good lion."
Mr. Tumnus

New Job

Finished up my second day on a new job yesterday. I’m working as a “recycling specialist” for a company called Tomrah Recycling. Basically I help you sort your recyclables, weed out the stuff we don’t pay for, weigh it, and print your cash voucher. I think its going to be great cause I don’t have to do much thinking, and I get to rub shoulders with some great people.

At our site, people can turn in their cans one of two ways. They can use a “reverse vending machine”, or if you have a lot of stuff (or not) I can weigh it.

12.09.2005

Done!

Yahoo!!! I'm finally done with my finals. I just printed my last paper, so for the next 25 days, I have nothing to worry about in conjunction with school. Meaning I can get back to a normal routine, which coincidentally includes blogging. I look forward to telling y'all about what they been learning me in this hear school, so stay tuned for more wild tales from the crypt (i.e. cemetery, i.e. seminary)

12.01.2005

Missional Small Groups

There is a church in Las Vegas in which only 14 of their 25 small groups are listed in the church service directory. Why? Because the other 11 don’t have a start/stop time.

Instead they function as a family, 2’s and 3’s getting together several times a week, most of the group getting together once or twice a week for whatever, celebrating birthdays and anniversaries, just generally being a family, being the people of God. Not that they are totally insular, plenty of new people come; the friends of the people that are already a part of it, in fact at any given time, as many as 50% of the people might not identify themselves as Christians.

Got any thoughts, what might the pros and cons be?