Tuesday, February 26, 2008


We are discussing generational walls and barriers. There was a huge divide between the baby boomer generation and our parents in the late 1960s ... and corresponding cultural change as well as massive ecclesial change. The "Jesus" movement reshaped the face of the Evangelical church, the style of worship and the music.

S.S. sent me a statistic by email from Barna research which indicates that 36% of Americans today are Evangelical, but within the next generation, should current trends continue, that number will drop to 4%. It is routine for most churches to lose their graduating high schoolers as they go off to college (It would be interesting here to discuss the temptation for Evangelicals to go "instransitive" to use Mumford's phrase).

The question to be considered in this discussion is two-fold: 1) how can we be more effective in handing off our baton of faith to our own kids in our churches? (evangelical or otherwise).

2) How can we effectively engage millennial young people (secular) with a serious communication of the good news of Jesus?

Both questions lead to a third question that most be considered in order to answer #1 and #2: what are the generational and cultural differences that require a change in missiological methodology to reach these kids? Some say, there is no difference, others say we need to go back to historic Christianity, and yet a third group wants to throw out everything and start completely fresh. Which is it?


josenmiami said...

just kidding ...

Brian Emmet said...

No, a great way to frame the question!

"Hi, my name is Brian and I'm a (formerly and now hopefully in recovery) youthful terrorist."

"Hi, Brian!"

josenmiami said...

here is an email note from Jamie Johnson


I hope you guys are doing well and seeing good fruit all around.

I am sure you guys have seen this as it is being reported all over the net but I wanted to get it to you nonetheless for those who may not have seen this Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life report which "details the religious affiliation of the American public and explores the shifts taking place in the U.S. religious landscape."

The most widely trumpeted segment includes the following line:

"The survey finds that the number of people who say they are unaffiliated with any particular faith today (16.1%) is more than double the number who say they were not affiliated with any particular religion as children. Among Americans ages 18-29, one-in-four say they are not currently affiliated with any particular religion."

Here is the link: http://religions.pewforum.org/reports


Brian Emmet said...

Is this really new news to/for us? I mean, if you had been asked to fill in the blanks for the percentage and number figures(16.1%double, one-in-four)in the info Jamie provided, would you have guessed radically different values?

I'm not saying that this info is good news or bad news, or true as opposed to false, just wondering if it's all that surprising. Maybe I'm just reacting to the hype--"Pew Study Reveals Surprising Shifts in America's religious Landscape!!!!" and then find the body copy doesn't quite supoprt the multi-exclamation-point headline.

josenmiami said...

good point Brian. In our city (great Miami-Dade county), according to another poll that I will look for, the number of those claiming no religious affiliation is much higher ... 60%. Thats the general figure...my guess is that it is even higher for the 18 to 29 crowd... we live in a very secular area, as I know you do in Boston.

I think the larger question here, the one that probably interests Steve, is "how do we pass on the knowledge and love of God to a new generation while giving them the freedom to adapt and innovate our faith into their experience?" .

A related question: "are we succeeding or failing in this endeavor?"

josenmiami said...

I mentioned in the last thread a book called “Generations” by sociologists William Strauss and Neil Howe. John Meadows said that they have a more recent book called “Millennials” that I have not read.

In Generations, they trace out a historical pattern in the United States of alternating cycles of secular crisis, followed by spiritual awakening, going all the way back to the founding of the United States. The pattern is initiated by an “Idealist” generation, followed by a “Quiet” generation. A secular crisis emerges which is then resolved by the rise of a “Civic” Generation.

In their theory, the Baby Boomers were the Idealist generation, followed by a Quiet generation (GenX) which were skeptical and ironic. They predicted in their book (1991) that the millennial generation, those born in 1982 or after, would arise as Civic generation and would form the basis of another social movement, similar but different in key respects from the 60s generation.

I have been watching this millennial generation (my two younger kids and their friends) since I read the book. Politics totally aside, I wonder if some of the huge groundswell of support for Obama (and on a smaller scale on the Republican side, Ron Paul) is the tip of the iceberg of this young generation coming of age socially and politically.

If Stauss and Howe are right (perhaps I should say "correct" in this politically charged atmosphere) … what do we need to do to tap into this youthful desire to serve, this desire to contribute to resolving problems?

For me, this is probably the crux of the most important issue facing us ... the youthful harvest. Will the harvest be lost? How do we get more laborers?

Phillip said...

Hey There friends, yes there is a God!! I truly am on the blog.
I think there are several ways to look at how the “church” should relate to the younger generation. In some ways I can understand why some leaders might want to build walls to keep young “terrorists” out. Many people in my age group have a purely reactionary approach to church. If a person’s goal is merely to make the church more conducive to our own personalities and preferences, we are not relating to each other out of Love, but selfishness (the inward spiral that Bob speaks about). In the same way if established leaders want us to fit into the old wineskin, it won’t work. What I see developing with ACM is what I believe to be the start of a church body that will draw and keep the future generations. We want to be lead, taught, and committed to. Although we are a generation that tends to not like to commit to others, we need leadership that is willing to stand with us despite our problems. The fact that you are all engaging in this blog and faithfully communicating with us is proof that you are on the right track and leading us in the right direction.

William said...

I think Phillip has answered the first question...the conferences, ACM and NeXt, are effectively intertwining our generations because it is building relationships of iron sharpening iron. I dont think the conferences are the glorious solution for your generation passing on the baton of faith, but it is a gateway and a start.

The second question is:
How can we effectively engage millennial young people (secular) with a serious communication of the good news of Jesus?

I know, from what I am seeing right now in my life, that living and sharing life with people is a serious communication. Psalm 97:11 "Light is sown like seed..."

The time we take to be with, either peers or young people (depending on the reader), has to be intentional, and we have to be alert to the nudgings of the Spirit, but much of the time we dont talk about "spritual" things, we act and walk a life in the Light and this communicates probably more than words. When we are with people, they can sense something different. This opens up opportunities to further communicate the Gospel, but the Light is being sown and the Spirit will show us how to water.

Also...It will be completely fresh. He is doing something totally new. But maybe without throwing everything out?

boy with a ball said...

What is always interesting to me is that we are talking about how to draw a new generation into the body, soul, spirit journey toward following Jesus.

We realize that there is room for movement as far as how this happens...that God allows and even orchestrates transition in how this looks generation to generation, culture to culture.

At the same time we realize that there are some absolute elements of who He is. The things that can't change: faith in Jesus, repentance, receiving and learning to live by the Holy Spirit, living a life of love, discipleship, community, spiritual authority, His Kingdom influence into every facet of our life, communion, evangelism and more.

So what's fun about all of this is that there is a sort of Spirit-led surfing that is required of all of us in this life of faith that we are called to. When we don't do it, we end up building soulishly...building churches, meetings, movements, whatever that are built around preferences, personality, conscience-driven perspectives, emotional experiences. We build easy and get nothing.

Culture...whether generational or geographic...is made up largely of soulishness. So when we build soulishly, it doesn't transcend.

This has been the trap for many who have "become all things" soulishly, built big meetings and then just faded away.

There is another way.

When we build by faith...out of a daily brokenness and listening to Him, walking by faith...we build in a way that transcends culture so much so that it can then enter culture and even manifest itself within culture. It is in this way that we attract a doubting Thomas who needs tangential within-culture manifestation in order to come along.

So I find myself constantly struggling to walk by faith...and then being willing to become what I need to become to draw people in...only never to stay there. I can not become something that is culturally relevant and then stay there to appease someone. We walk in, connect to their hearts and then find a way for them to see Jesus before them with His hand extended, saying, "Follow me." Then we all get up and move together.

In a wierd way, we have to get deep enough that we are secure enough in being led by the Spirit to be able to go down into the valley of culture, make contact with hearts and then to all walk together in following Him. After that, culture doesn't matter. We are all transported back to the Gospels...following Him together...hopefully on our way to a living experience of Acts.

I have a great concern right now for me, Phillip and the rest of the young guys within ACM. We are not really relating. We are just "conferencing." None of us are sacrificing anything more than a once a year plane ticket for time together. Conferences are great as a manner of celebrating "Life Together." I don't think we can stand, however, on our substance being conferences alone.

Talk and intentions, emotions and nostalgia will have to give way to action and obedience. Will we follow Jesus together?

I don't want to build easy and end up with nothing with you guys.

josenmiami said...

really good comments Jamie ... I agree with you on the dangers of building soulishly ... I have a master's degree in building soulishly ..

however, I am not sure I agree with you that culture = soulishness or that we can transcend culture. I'll give it some more thought ... I think are on to something but maybe you are overstating it a bit. Paul related to Greek gentiles differently than he did Jews ...but that difference was not soulish. We are to love God with all our minds, heart's and souls ... soulish is not necessarily bad -- only when it overpowers the spirit.

Regarding conferences, I really agree with you. I am personally tired of going to meetings, and in my opinion, very little real relating goes on in meetings ... but... what is the alternative?

blogs can help, as can email and telephones. What else? What realistic alternatives do we have to conferencing?

boy with a ball said...

I agree that it is slightly overstated and, to be honest, getting past culture doesn't pull us out of culture but simply makes culture pale in comparison to the Kingdom experience happening alongside, beyond, within, around the cultural walls we are walking in.

I think the issue of transcending culture is just to transcend it being a limiting factor or to be what we are obeying at the cost of the vivid, real experience of following Jesus.

Does that make any sense?

As far as conferences....I just sense it is a primer. It must go deeper. The truth is that life together is built on relationships...choosing each other. I think it will require emails, phone calls, travel, choosing to live in the same cities, choosing to work together.

steve H said...

out of context but copied from the previous string since several responded to me:

I've been in Ohio the last couple days for Mom's birthday -- and to encourage Dad. It was a worthwhile time.

Thanks for the offers of material. I will look into these -- some of which I have already.

My task this weekend is to show that God's plan for the kingdom is growth and overcoming from generation to generation. I have thought much about the overall topic but I have not thought it through as a significant part of God's strategy "in the war." But its a no-brainer on one level that it is; I just have never considered how to present it in that light.

Some of things in the mindset of younger people (younger than me, but not perhaps the current youth)are to be seen in Kid Rock's youtube video "Amen"

josenmiami said...

my apologies to Phillip and William for passing over their posts without a response in my eagerness to respond to Jamie.

Phillip: way to go dude! Now... come back again later this week and respond again.

William: I enjoyed our chat today ... what you are saying about intentionality in spending tiem with unchurched, secular young people, is similar to what Jamie is saying about intentionality in communication among the ACM/CSM/NeXt circles of Christian young people.

Jamie: thanks for the clarification, when put that way, I find it easier to agree with you. We keep coming back to this issue of culture.

What do you think about calling for an "unconference" sometime where we get a bunch of people together without a schedule, or speakers or meetings? I think I would enjoy that.

As far as your alternatives, I really like the idea of choosing to live in the same city...but I have never been able to persuade any apostolic-evangelist types to move to Miami, and frankly, I have never seen the potential for an "apostolic community" in another city that would motivate me to move. So where do we begin with this? I think is worth considering ... but here is where the sodality/modality issue becomes significant.

Steve: I will be praying for your time this weekend ... send our way any of the materials you come up with.

John M. said...

Joseph, Could you summarize the conversations you had with Patrick and Jamie, so the rest of us could be up to speed and have context for your last post commenting on the comments we didn't see?

Great to hear from you Phillip! Ditto to Joseph's encouragement to let us hear from you again. Willam thanks for your comments.

Jamie, good stuff. I've desired to be a "surfer for Jesus" (my words in 1970) for a big part of my life. I like what you're saying.

A lot can be gained from annual conferences when combined over a life-time, and coupled with a circle of "peers" (friends) who maintain closer contact in between.

But I think you are carrying something that will take this idea of "fellowship" to another level -- one of co-working and involvement corporately and practically to engage the mission of extending the Kingdom.

I say, "Go for it." If you younger guys grab hold of what God is saying to you and follow through on it, then not only has the baton been passed it has been enriched and expanded, which is a fulfillment of my vision and prayers over the years.

josenmiami said...

John, my responses to Phillip, Jamie and William in the last post were to their comments further up ... they are there for you to read. If you count down from the first post, they are the 7, 8 and 9th comments.

boy with a ball said...


I reread what I wrote. I would ammend the post to say that much of our understanding and interaction with culture resides within the soul. That doesn't make it of any less value but it is just a truth. I agree very much Joseph that body, soul and spirit are all good with the correct order being spirit, soul, body.

I also really believe that Jesus was not against culture but walked into culture. He seems to enjoy this "pitching His tent among us" element as He paints the Kingdom in flavors and tints that are culturally relevant. I don't think the idea is to get past culture or to dispose of it...only that we can transcend it in following Him even as we are still living out lives within it.

This to say, the following of Him happens clearly, vividly and dramatically regardless of where it clashes with culture in the midst of lives lived beautifully within their culture. Perhaps that is a great description of what evangelism looks like.

I do think it is very interesting that reaching the next generation and reaching the "lost" require the exact same toolsets. As a result, if you are bad at doing one of those, you are usually troubled in the two areas.

About moving to live together...I don't think we can all do it or should. But I see it happening regularly. We just got a new batch of young leaders last week...James Williams (Atlanta) and Melody Strom (San Antonio) plus Jill Horning (Ontario, Canada). I think Phillip actually just moved, right? So it is happening.

We build apostolic communities and then...much like the League of Superheroes with their Hall of Justice...the call goes out for a specific situation and several of the heroes unite in responding (Aquaman was always in on any emergency having to do with the ocean!) I think the truth is that you can only build that type of community if there is a bigger purpose together than meetings.

josenmiami said...

Jamie refers to the "tools" for reaching the lost and young people. Can we discuss these tools specifically? What are the tools that are needed to reach secular young people and bring them into a relationship with Jesus?

Brian Emmet said...

One of the advantages of meetings/conferences is seeing each other's faces, hearing each other's voices... I find that as I read these comments, I find myself saying, "Yes, that's what Jamie sounds like. Yes, that's the cadence of Joseph's voice. Yes, I can hear Philip's voice and see his face." It isn't everything, but it is important. We've got a bunch of do-ers amongst us, and every so often we need to be reminded of the importance of being: a "human doing" is neither equal to nor greater than a "human being"!

I like the "unconference" idea, and am willing to help fund it. That means I am willing to help with travel costs--can't promise to pay everyone's airfare, but do promise to reduce everyone's airfare! What form/s might an "unconference" take? And I know that conferneces/meetings are not the be-all/end-all of anything, so if we don't want to do this, I'm opening to funding something else!

josenmiami said...

yes...good points Brian.

Jamie really got me thinking on that one ... I'm still processing, but I think there some merit to pursuing some thoughts.

It is actually fairly inexpensive to go camping in the Everglades around this time of year.

I hope we can talk some more about what Jamie referred to as "tools" ... or I might call missiological methods that will serve us in reaching out to unchurched, secular young people. Thats a topic that is vitally interesting to me right now.

I think William mentioned one, being 'intentional' about spending time with secular young people.

boy with a ball said...

I believe that the capacity of people to walk by faith, to perceive one another in faith (from God's perspective and with God's insight) and to have faith for one another (a sense of God-given vision for how we fit and fight together) are the greatest draws for the lost or for the next generation.

I find that faith, hope and love are so intrinsic to the human experience that every human is constantly grasping for them. Our capacity to walk in a way that "tastes of them" and "smells of them" makes us extremely attractive. They are drawn to the level that they have not gotten deeply satisfied with enemy-inspired substitutes...deception, lust and false intimacy.

So these toolsets come down to our capacity to walk by the Spirit (a great conversation to be had when we start to talk about how to really know what depth you are at...Owen's book from hundreds of years ago called, "The Holy Spirit: His Gifts and Power" still is the best I have) which comes in direct proportion to our capacity to live by faith.

The other biggy is our capacity to love. How good are we at walking with people? I find that whoever I am willing to walk with will find Him.

boy with a ball said...

Sorry...interesting to look at our capacity to extend mutuality, empathy and trust as a measure of how well we love/walk with people.

boy with a ball said...

Oh yeah...again, I am not against conferences and never against seeing you all. I just think that relationships built on that will pale in comparison to me walking through Arlington or you walking through the precario. We get what we pay for.

boy with a ball said...

Interesting article excerpt from Eric Chester, president of Generation Why, a consulting organization that speaks about generational differences.

"Learn all you can about "Generation Why." After all, how can you lead them if you don't understand them? Immerse yourself in Gen Why culture and seek to understand how successful companies are engaging them as employees—and consumers. There are a lot of forward-thinking companies doing it right—and reaping the rewards. The day you commit to understanding how they see the world is the day you begin to truly connect with them.

Most importantly, create and build a relationship through face time. They may not have received enough of this from their parents and teachers, and they may, at first, be suspicious of your wanting to get to know them as more than employees. Nonetheless, vigilantly search for connecting points. Don't be satisfied teaching them your organization's legacy and indoctrinating them with your story and expectations. Get to know what rocks their world, what music is on their iPod, what they say about themselves on MySpace, who their heroes are—and why, etc.

These are the simple yet essential strategies that will enable you to bond at a level that will pay huge dividends in the future. You don't have to be their buddy; in fact, don't be. They want you to be a boss, a leader, and most importantly, a mentor. But they'll only give you their all if they know that you truly care about them, and are committed to their personal and professional development. So "whys up" and go all in."

josenmiami said...

the "face time" issue is huge... at least that is what I am finding out at the bar in Homestead and even with my young academic friends.

I think there are some converging "paradigm changes" in both the conference level as well as the local level ... to sum up: less "meeting time" and more "face time."

anyone else want to join this discussion?

mbrennan said...

Great discussion from guys that are certainly embodying/incarnating/personifying Kingdom in tough situations while remaining true to, as Jamie stated, "absolute elements of who He is."

I don't have much time to comment, but just thank God for the continuity of the discussion paired with action, brokenness and fruit. I think God is "doing it to us" as we try to figure out what "it" is.

Randy R. said...

Wonderful dialog. I have enjoyed "listening." Sometimes, I feel like in trying to comment that I am runninging to jump aboard a fast moving train! However, as per Jamie's most recent comments and Joseph's exhoration, here goes . . . oops! I think I missed the ladder!

josenmiami said...

good comments guys... I hope you finish your thought Randy. I know many of you have both idea and experiences on this topic. anyone else? Jeff, Michael? Patrick? (does anyone know what happened to Sean?)

Randy R. said...

I love teaching my Psychology class at a Christian High School . . . 11 juniors and 11 seniors. The day before yesterday, our discussion was premarital sex. On a scale of 1 - 10 (1 = purity and 10 = promisquity), they rated teenage sexual morals at a 7.5. However, although that have entered the doorway, yet; they said that they believed on college campuses it is a 9! Current statistics seem to support this. I shared with them that their decision to remain pure has to be made before they are caught in the passion of the momen. If they haven't drawn the line ahead of time, college is too late.

Today, we discussed marriage, and I shared openly with them that EVERYONE of the young couples whom I have married OUTSIDE our church were living together. Once again, they will be facing that choice one day. Do I live with my fiance' before we are married, or do I wait?

Needless to say, we have had some deep dialog, and Jamie's words are ringing in my ears: "We must enter their world."

Yesterday, I asked them if anyone of them had been arrested. None had. I said, "Really! No one has been arrested! I have (once) and almost a second time." They were shocked! Fun!

josenmiami said...

“we must enter their world” … that is a phrase worth continuing to ponder. That is not the way that Christians would have thought in 1950 in the United States.

I want to try to summarize something that I think is very important to this conversation. I’ll try to be as brief as possible. We agree with Jamie that there are a number of universals that are unchanging from generation to generation in terms of communicating the gospel. However, it is my contention that there are substantive world-changing shifts in history, not only at the cultural level, but even in terms of the administration of God’s grace. “In the fullness of time (kairos), God sent his son.” Both Charles Simpson, in the early 90s, and Bob Mumford recently have pointed to epochal changes that are upon us.

Do any of you remember attending evangelical church in 1950? I do. Wooden pews, a pulpit and altar, a song leader and a piano. Church meetings Wednesday night, and twice on Sunday. Things have changed.

josenmiami said...

A number of years ago I read a book called “Future Worship” by LaMar Boshman, tracing how technological changes has influenced not only structures of church worship over the millennia, but also the operation of the presence of God. He begins with early Christianity and the oral tradition, in which the presence of God was located, theologically, in the Eucharist. In the early 16th century, there was a shift with the Reformation, the printing press and the rise of a literate, print culture. The locus of the active presence of God (in Boshman’s thesis) moved to the pulpit, and the most important part of the worship service became the preaching, or biblical exposition.

Around World War II, there was another technology shift to electronic media; the television and radio. A few pioneers such as Rex Humbard and Oral Roberts took their services to the air waves and soon we had the electronic church. The locus of the active presence of God moved from the pulpit to the platform. The center of the worship service was no longer the biblical exposition alone, but the whole worship service, usually accompanied by a instrumental band, and reaching its logical culmination in the highly scripted seeker services, using all sorts of drama, music and multimedia… but also turning the congregation into an audience.

Keep in mind that with each technological change, and corresponding shift in structures of worship, the earlier forms do not disappear. We still have the Eucharist, and high church services (Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican) and we still have pulpit ministry and biblical exposition (Chuck Smith, John MacAurther and Hagee come to mind) and we certainly now have the electronic church in many forms. Most churches now, even very small ones, cannot imagine trying to have a worship service without a PowerPoint projector. On the other hand, my parents still worship in the small, community-based 1950s-style church with pews and songbooks that I grew up in. It is however, a graying congregation.

Last point: Boshman asked how the digital revolution would affect worship in the church. He was grasping for something difficult to describe because it was still developing, but he theorized that worship, community and fellowship would become “digitized” and that the locus of the presence of God would move off of the platform into the “middle of the congregation.” (did you get that? OFF OF THE PLATFORM) Christ would rule from the midst of his people. I feel that I am seeing this in all kinds of ways: it relates to Jamie’s reticence about building our relationships around “conferencing” rather than real life experience.

What does it mean for the presence of God to be Immanuel, “God among us”? This, in my humble opinion, is a major, epochal shift of God’s activity that we have not fully processed. I have some more thoughts about this that I will save until after some others have commented.

I'm not taking about being "relevant" or about cultural fads...I am talking about epochal changes that set new directions for a century or even more and fundamentally alter how we view the world, and we go about our mission.

Brenna said...

Try the book Generation Me. It tells characteristics of this generation of people and how they think and act.

John M. said...

I've been following the conversation with interest. We're touching a very important topic both in regard to passing the baton to our own, and reaching those who don't know there is a baton.

Joseph, I think Sean has "fallen into" his course work at Vanderbilt. Hey Sean, give us a sign if you're reading, even if you don't have time to comment.

Are you here Stephen Simpson? I know you're processing a lot right now, just wondered if you're reading.

Regarding the "tools", I think that authenticity, face time, and "knowing that we care" are the universal, indispensable tools for the emerging generation. Interestingly, aren't those what every generation is hungry for? It's just that past generations were responsive to other methods too, and the present generations are turned off by staged events, theater-style ministry, lectures, etc.

I think "keeping up" with all the current trends, groups, technology etc. is less important than most of us perhaps have made it. We don't want to be total dinosaurs, and we want to be as current as possible, but, in my opinion, it will be impossible to "keep up". Our "relevancy" will come not by being "hip" (archaic word) to the latest bands, buzz words, and technology, but by admitting that we don't know, asking them what their interests are, learning from them about technology, and caring deeply by making them the important focus of time and attention, not just a side issue that we do in our spare-time.

These observations come from my experience in the classroom. The kids I'm teaching now were just being born or in their first year of life when I began teaching twelve years ago. There was a cultural lag between me and my students 12 years ago, and it's still there. I want to think that it has not widened, but it probably has. (It took me awhile to realize that these are not Gen-X'rs I'm dealing with!)

When I started teaching there were no social-networking sites (Face-book, My Space etc.), no ipods, no itunes ... you get the picture.

When I ask my students (individually) their favorite bands, I usually have not heard of them. (Hannah Montanna, was barely born when I entered the classroom.) I can connect with some of them (usually guys) by relating around "old" music (60's, 70's, 80's) but that only goes so far.

So, the way to connect is to admit I don't have a clue when they mention things about which I have no clue, show them that I care, and give them "face-time" when they bounce into my room during my planning period, and after school, or show up at my desk between classes.

Brian Emmet said...

Thanks, John, and everyone else, for this conversation. A small addition to the mix: I think one of the "tools" we might have is wisdom. Wisdom, as you know, isn't so much about how much yo know, but in knowing how to live life well and truly. Wisdom doesn't mean that we already know all the answers, but more that we have learned soemthing about how to find the right answers. I think when we're in our 20s and even early 30s, the things that excite and occupy us, and which tend to sever our connections with our parents (and that generation) don't have much wisdom in them. But we muck around with them for a decade or two, because they're new and exciting and cool, and because they do mark us off from our parents, but eventually we find that the answers these things offer don't really apply very much to the questions we're asking.

John's approach is a very wise one--wisdom does not mean that we must wait for them to humbly seek our counsel, so that we can say "I told you so!" It means going to them, coming alonside them, listening, and co-learning with them. After all, the first sign of wisdom is the recognition that I do not know everything!

Brian Emmet said...

BTW, and appropos of nothing in particular: if you're looking for a great humor site, in addition to Joseph's kickbutthumor, may I recommend larknews.com? For those of you old enough to remember The Wittenburg Door, these are their offspring! If you check it out and don't have at least one good, solid laugh, I'll gladly refund your money!

John M. said...

Thanks Brian for your kind comments.

Everybody else: no one seemed to pick up on the idea of the "non-conference" and Brian's offer to give financial assistance to make it happen. This is not the first time he's offered money...! Maybe it's not money, but time that's the problem?

If we could pull off some hang time/face time without a schedule (which I would love to do with you guys -- especially with you younger guys, some of whom I have not met), I have a suggestion:

Which is that each of us who have someone we're reaching out to bring them with us -- Joseph some of your crew from Homestead and/or some of the grad students -- and others who are involved with seekers. I think something really special could happen with that kind of synergy in an unstructured, conversational environment.

josenmiami said...

hi all, I know that my last posts were rather long...but I hope someone will weigh on the "digitization" of worship issue. I have been pondering it for a while.

Brian: I checked out the LarkNews http://www.larknews.com/march_2008/secondary.php?page=1 ... it is ironic, right? (Dare I say sarcastic?). Otherwise, I am a bit flumoxed by the front page article on divine healings happening at Obama rallys.

John: I have been chatting by email with Jamie and Brian about the unconference idea. I proposed hosting a campout in the Everglades on in the keys next Jan. or Feb. on a three day weekend. Jan. has Martin Luther King b-day, and Feb. has President's day. Could you get free on one of those dates? Do you think Sean could come? Camping in the keys is relatively inexpensive...there are also cabins near by. Get back to me with dates that you can travel.

Matt: thanks for the book recommendation. Here is the link:


also the link to the millennials book JOhn mentioned by Stauss and Howe:


Brian again: I like what you are suggesting about wisdom.

All: Robert G. is in Vancouver at an Anglican Awakening event... I hope he will be able to post something on what he is hearing along the missional lines there.

also, John L. wrote me that he just read an excellent article by Scot McKnight in the current Christianity Today that has to do with 8 marks of a Robust Gospel. He said it is well worth reading. You can access the article at this link:



josenmiami said...

I just realized that the links I inserted are not working...you will have to copy and paste.

John M. said...

I can travel on either of those three-day weekends if I plan in advance. Can't speak for Sean. His classes began this year in late Jan. Don't know whether it was before or after Marin Luther King day.

The "Me Generation" book is good. I read it this summer. It gives voice to the younger end of Gen-X blending into the older end of Gen-Y or the Millennials .

I have some thoughts on "digital worship" or "digital church", but they haven't jelled yet. I read the book "Liquid Church" a couple years ago (Recommended), and wanted to skim back through it before commenting, but when I went to my shelf it's not there. I think I loaned it to my principal at school.

I agree with you that we are in an huge cultural and ecclesial shift.

steve H said...

I am wondering if the Obama healing thing is a sick joke or even a stupid strategy to make him into a messiah in order to turn off Bible believers. Here's another link:

Brian Emmet said...

Uh, Obama "healings" is a joke from LarkNews, the Christian humor site I recommended a few comments back. I find them quite funny and insightful in the ways they skewer contemporary church culture, and culture at large...but maybe not everyone's cup o' tea. There is a certain messianism about the Obama campaign, and they were playing off of that.

josenmiami said...

no, I found it funny... but it was subtle enough, I was not sure whether to laugh... or to fly to Texas with Debbie and get in line ... sometimes subtle irony goes over my head...I'll definitely revisit the LarkNews

josenmiami said...

thanks Steve, I went and looked at it...pretty funny.

However, this whole vision-hope thing, and the messiah dynamic, in my mind points back to my earlier comments about generational change. These millennials are ready for a movement... almost any movement that provides hope and vision.

That means, that there is the real possibilty of a divine move ... doesn't it?

Jastclark said...

Josenmiami - reading your comments about the technological is very interesting to me
1. that is my field of work
2. i feel the church universal is always playing catch up in regards to technology and what can be done.

Worship, technology and the the shifting tide of millenials to a more secular lifestyle is an ongoing thought process for me. I would be considered an x'er for anyone who hasn't met me and as an x'er most of us know that once we are hooked on something we have a tendency to follow it and seems that most of my generation will follow it by gaining knowledge about it, look at vegetarians and vegans lifestyles growing in my generation. Now the knowledge gained has little to do with truth in these cases but doesn't seem to matter to most x'ers. Millenials seem to follow that path as well but without the dedication for knowledge they will follow paths and ideas to try it and bounce around, this is a generation of people whose attention spans are about 12 minutes. (sorry to say but that is the timeframe between commercials) Media has formed an A.D.D. society in many cases. so how do we a people of more focus and attention grasp people that are looking for fleeting glimpses.

The answer i have heard came out years ago from a church worship movement called worshiptogether that began in England. They had a worship leader named Andy Hunter, and his solution is Immersion. they story on him is he was a DJ in the club circuit in England, long story short he gets saved and begins spinning records in clubs that draw people to the Lord. He withdrew the line between Sunday morning and friday night and drew people through the music he mixed. I saw him in a conference i attended and he flat out saif that anyone over their 20's wouldn't like his worship session because you have to get past the sound and get to the spirit. I was blown away by the level of worship I experienced with him at the tables. i continue to this day to listen to some of his albums he has put together and am amazed at how he not only got offf the platform but got out of the church building and walked unapologetically into the clubs and said HEY THIS IS JESUS! he doesn't make altar calls or stop people to witness to them, he waits for the Lord to seize their hearts and they come to him for prayer etc.
Sorry for a long winded post but this is something i have found interesting for awhile.

Randy R. said...

Fascinating! Who is jastclark? Do you have web-site you would recommend?

Jastclark said...

www.andyhunter.com is his site.
www.worshiptogether.com is the movement.

One thing i have been thinking to is in the example of andy hunter the church their didn't go out and teach a pastor to spin records in clubs, i.e. learn the technology. They let the Lord grab the heart of a man already firmly entrenched in the clubs and let him infect that scene with the virus he caught.

Randy my name is Jason Clark, i found this site through Jeremiah Cole, I attend LifeGate Church (previously known as Covenant Christian Church) Dennis Cole is my pastor and accountability.

josenmiami said...

thanks Jastclark for the intro and the fascinating commentary. I have more info at home on the generational changes, and I highly recommend Boshman's book on Future Worship, although it is a little outdated now.

Wayne Gretsky said that the secret of his success was that he did not skate to where the puck is, but to where it was going to be. My guestion is where is the cloud going to be in 10 years? (2018) The cloud is moving... we can build three tabernacles and camp here--or we can grab our backpack and follow.

That being said, all the elements of previous eras are still with us and still serve a good purpose. God does not normally throw out the baby with the bathwater...he likes old wine better even as he is in the process of creating new wine.

Good examples Jason...I would like to hear more of those.

by-the-way, not everyone got around to introducing themselves in the last thread. Don, are you out there? Don pastors a methodist church in Mobile.

There are a lot of people reading along with us quietly. I hope everyone will feel comfortable jumping in with a comment even if we have never met before.

Jastclark said...

the wayne gretsky quote is a good one, one i ahve liked a little more being a sports guy is from Dennis Rodman, He said great rebounding came from knowledge, the knowledge he had was every shooter he came up against regularly, he claims to have know their form down to the rotation of the ball and knew based of percentages which way the ball would come off the backboard and rim.

I agree with what you say that God doesn't throw the baby out with the bathwater, Being an ever unchanging God we could study His "shot form and rotation" and always know ahead of time where the ball/puck is likely to be.


Brian Emmet said...

It's a relief that I don't have to learn to spin records, since I thought records had gone away, but never mind!

Jason, any sense for what happens to folks following the worship services/events/parties you referenced? I may be repeating myself, but I realized long ago that it is fairly easy to have a good worship event: God loves worship, and seems to freely bless most anything where people are trying to respond to his presence. So I'm OK with there be a wide diversity of worship expressions, from high church liturgical to digitized plattering.

I think a good qurestion is, what kind of life develops from these different worship styles? What are the connections between the ways in which we worship and how we live out our discipleshiop to Jesus? God works with whatever culture presents him, but that does not mean that every change represents true progress: we do need to face the reality that we all secretely think that our cutting edge really represents a great leap forward. I think that's pretty much the way we all think in our 20s and early 30s!

How might an ADD-shaped generation respond to the idea that following Jesus is "a long obedience in the same direction"? How do boomers respond to the idea that God is alive, active, on the move like a constantly shifting wind?

Jastclark said...

Brian -
I don't know that i see how it would be different, your question of what kinf of life develops from these different worship styles, maybe i am missing the context or root of the question but it seems like you are implying that the life gained from these styles can be different, if that is your question, my initial response is that Father is faithful to meet us where we are. I have "met/seen/felt" Father many times over my first years of walking with Father in Dance clubs in downtown Cincinnati surrounded by hundreds of people looking for the next high and next hookup. I remember clearly bouncing in a club to the latest dance club trance song and suddenly being lifted out of my surroundings by the presence of my Father and knwoing His prescence with me trumps my surroundings. That time in the space time continuum is the same time space and life I saw and was lifted out of my surroundings in this past Sunday when I shared an offering message from the pulpit. having traveled about for lifegate i have been to navajo services where the navajo tongue is so complicated I cannot sing a single word but am constantly ravaged by the passion for God those people carry, not understnading a word, the life i have gained from all these places in many different worship seetings seems to be the same.
That being said, I doubt that true progress would be made by a club setting of worship but the origin of the question was how do we go from the pulpit to amongst the people at least that is how i interpretted it. Once we can move outside the church and amongst people whereever they are they will deal with Truth and Life and find their Way to a church where they are planted. Since the present tense church has to keep going where it is, otherwise we will orphan our existing disciples, instead of just bringing in the new orphans.
The quesiton on Jesus is a long obedience in the same direction is interesting to me, one thing about Jesus is although obedience and journey are the same it changes over the years enough to constantly keep the shifting wind and making it always an adventure. I am not true about a whole response but that is my initial overview thoughts.


steve H said...

Good to hear from you, Jason.

Brothers, Jason is a young man, husband, and father who not only has a sharp mind (as you can tell by what he has written) but also a servant's heart and lives out "long obedience."

Brian Emmet said...

Jason, you've had many experiences I've never had! Thanks fo ropening your life up a bit for us.

Help me understand. You gave two examples (among others) of experiencing God's presence in powerful ways in a Navajo and dance club context. Were these already worship gatherings--in other words, were these Navajo and club believers at worship? Or did God's Spirit break in upon you "despite" what was going on around you?

I am more than implying that worship shapes and forms our lives of discipleship, which is why I'm interested in exploring these issues with all of us. Some guys my age might say, "I feel God's presence most powerfully on the golf course/while fishing/etc." Does this represent the church at worship? Does a digitized approach to worship necessarily ential an increasingly individualized approach to discipleship?

John M. said...

Try teaching those "12 minute attention spans" for a 50 minute class period everyday, with a curriculum based on a lecture style... I think education is in need of an over haul as much as the Church -- but that's a different subject.

Thanks Justin for your posts. Good thought provokers and a help in getting us to thinking in broader catagories.

Some of the "regulars" will remember a post I did this summer when I related a "transcendent" worship experience similar to what Justin is describing at a rock concert I attended with my son this summer in CO.

I mention that not to make any particular point but to affirm what Justin is sharing about encountering God and His presence outside the "box" we call "church".

John M. said...

Brian, didn't mean to ignore you. Your post popped in when mine went on.

My particular experience was not in an intentional worship gathering. It was at Red Rocks Ampitheater. The group playing was "My Morning Jacket", the opener for Bob Dylan. They crowd was a diverse mix of old hippies, old guys (and gals) like me, young counter-culture people, and others from their teens to their 40's. Plenty of beer was being sold...a couple just down our row was toking a joint... you get the picture.

But unless my discernment was totally messed up by second-hand smoke, I was acutely aware of God's presence at one point. It wasn't sustained, but it was real to me -- and it was individual and corporate at the same time. Like those folks were involved in worshiping their creator even if they weren't consciously aware of it/Him (or maybe they were?) You would have had to have been there.

Brian Emmet said...

John and Jason, I am not questioning that God is present outside the church, and that his people can experience his presence outside the church, and that even unbelievers can know something of him outside the church. I'm just not sure what we might want to conclude from this observation, about creating communities of worship and service, about the nature and processes of disciple-making.

josenmiami said...

I'm not sure that worship was that central for the life of the early church. it seems to me that from Acts 2:42, that teaching, fellowship, prayer and breaking of bread were the key elements. I suppose you might include worship under prayer and breaking of bread.

Also, if those elements are present, the passage does not specify where, or how many must be present. It could be anywhere from 2 or 3 all the way to Temple worship.

This goes back to my post on Lamar Boshman's book. Worship has changed drastically over the millennial, basically tracking along with culture and technology.

For me, even if the presence of God is in the process of moving off the platform, there is still an essential element of mutual commitment (love one another) and intentionality (do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together).

I think encountering God's spirit in the world is a slightly different issue. just my two cents....

Jastclark said...

Brian to answer your question from my two experiences i listed your question is the answer basically "God's Spirit break in upon you "despite" what was going on around you" to expand on that just a little the Navajo meeting was a church meeting where brothers and sisters were worshipping all in Navajo, the dance club was a worship of sex, drugs, and trance music.

Brian i was not trying to dispute the place of the prescence of God in the community, outside the church, the part i was focusing on and got a little sidetracked myself was the digitization of worship, to me my understanding of what was implied here is moving away from pipe organs and choirs to various "modern" styles....

josenmiami - you mention the early church and role of worship you bring some good points from Acts. However early church to me would include David, who took streaking to a whole new level, and defines a wreckless abandon when it comes to worship (I know that takes this in another direction) but bear with me.
One thing i saw in my club experiences and in the sessions i was present for with Andy Hunter and the worship together seminars is a wreckless abandon that older generations seem to reserved and engaged mentally to approach. There seems to be a rise of soul and lower of the mind when it comes to whatever a young person is worshipping that can engage them into a whole new realm, while it can be eastern in influences, like a transcendental meditation, pointed to proper path and Truth this can be HUGE for hooking fish...

josenmiami said...

I think that Jason, John and Brian bring up two excellent points. We need to continue this important conversation and attempt to clarify some conceptual categories. My class is starting so I am going to attempt to type fast and briefly about the first point.

There is a distinction in the scriptures between two aspects of the people of God: the “church” and the “work.” This is seen clearly in Acts 13. The Holy Spirit directs the give teachers and prophets to “separate out Barnabas and Saul unto the work unto which I have called them.” The Holy Spirit separated these two from the church and sent them into the work.

We use lots of words for the “work” such as “harvest,” “secular,” “unchurched” and the “world.” The thrust of the apostolic is from the church into the work. In Jason and John’s example above, if I understood correctly without going back to read them again, is that the Navajo worship was within the church, contextualized in a Navajo culture. The other example, of the DJ was not in the church, it was in the “work.”

The work is where the expanding edges, the pioneering frontier of the kingdom of God meets the rule of darkness… where the church meets the world (by saying that, I am not making the church equivalent to the kingdom, or the world equivalent to the rule of darkness).

When I am talking about cultural and generational trends, and issues like digitization of worship, I am mostly talking about the “work” and groups of people that are in the world currently, but may be drawn into the kingdom in the near future and may need to learn how to gather for worship. My guess is that those in our blog that are currently pastor-teachers, enter this same conversation thinking more about the “church” than the “work.” Therefore, we have some ambiguity or confusion of terms when we start talking about these terms and trends.

I have been blowing this trumpet about the distinction between the church and the work for a long time, but not many (actually almost no one) have been willing to consider my point. Nevertheless, it is fundamental and ignoring leads to confusion and ambiguity in our efforts. I could give examples but I will pause here to make room for comments. Second point to come later. I will just add that the move off the platform and the trend toward digitization will effect both the church and the work, but somewhat differently.

Brian Emmet said...

If worship is not central to the life of the church, I don't see how you can really have a healthy expression of Christian community--"you shall worship the Lord your God and serve him only": worship precedes, undergirds, fashions and shapes both the work of service and the servants who do the work. Are we equating (and thereby confusing) "worship" with "singing"? Acts 2:42 seems to be to be a pretty good summary of the elements of "worship".

Joseph, I'd like to think and hear more about the distinction between "church" and "work"--my first thought is that Paul and Barnabas were set apart by the church for the work, they reported back to the church concerning their work... but I also take your point that the majority of the church, in any age, is generally not suited to the kind of pioneer, frontier-extending work that is so much a part of you.

And could I get a clearer picture of what you mean by the digitization of worship? Or do I need to go back to class and do the homework you've already assigned me? I don't have time just now to read Boschman's book, so if that's the pre-req, I'll shut up!

Jason, I know it may be hard to believe, but we really thought we were pretty reckless in worship 25 years ago! Have we grown older, or wiser, or just tired, or were we just not that hot to start with? Opinions differ...!

Brian Emmet said...

And hey, all ye lurkers out there? We're having a good time here, and will probably continue to use up all the space, unless you de-lurk and let us know that you're there and what you are thinking--it's gotta be at least as good as what I'm offering, if not significantly better, so please weigh in and help dispel all the fog and mist I tend to generate!

josenmiami said...

Ditto Brian!

let me just briefly respond to your comment (or question) on worship and come back to digitization later tonight after everyone else comments (hint, hint).

I think in all of these areas "church", "work", "Worship" it is important to define our words. There is very little, almost nothing in the book of Acts about "worship" per se... if you use "singing", then you have Paul and Silas singing in jail. If you define worship as "prayer" and "breaking of bread" then there is a heck of a lot...but why not just call it "prayer" and "breaking of bread"? I also like "love" and "obedience" as parts of worship..."love the Lord your God" and Romans 12: "living sacrifice"

more later on digitization and the work....

josenmiami said...

Oh... I forgot to add Peter fasting on the housetop, and the five teachers and prophets of Antioch "ministering" to the Lord, whatever that might mean. My guess is that they were talking, praying, and listening to the voice of the Spirit, possibly with some fasting.

John M. said...

Speaking of "worship" and "singing", it is pretty well established that a number of passages in the N.T. are the lyrics of hymns and/or liturgical recitations that had developed by the time the N.T. books are written. I am not equipped off the top of my head to list them, and, I'm sure scholars disagree on some, but the fact is that they are there. So, if we're defining worship in the N.T., those should be taken into consideration. How were they used? In what context? etc. Steve, you should be able to shed some light on this from your reading and research.

josenmiami said...

ok... I am on my way out the door to go have a discussion with the vampire-tribal group.

Brian: perhaps our next discussion thread could be on worship? That is a topic unto itself.

digitization: This blog is the perfect example of the process of digitization.

Basically digitization breaks things down into the most basic unit...a byte ...or in nature, a cell, which then permits fluidity, transport and recombination in surprising and flexible ways. I am still pondering what the spiritual equivalent of a "byte" is for the body of Christ ... I have some ideas. I am inclined to think that it is where two or three committed followers are gathered around Jesus...

however, think about our blog and our friendship. We were both around in the late 80s and early 90's ... but we only became friends recently. 20 years ago, our relationships went from "conference" to "conference" ... with occasional phone calls or letters.

Now, we can build relationship through a blog, reply-to-all emails, txt messaging, or Instant Messenger with video cams. If we wanted to we could do even more with podcasts and Youtube. Basically, in this context... we don't need to travel to a conference to spend time communicating. We have moved off of the conference platform...

the same is true with some of the younger men, such as Patrick, William or Jimmy. You or me would probably never have had a relationship with them without the digitization effect of technology.

It also has an equalizing and democratizing effect. In this blog, a 23-year-old nearly has an equal voice to a 60-year-old apostle/elder/pastor, and they communicate with one another directly in ways that would never have happened before. I get txt messages from young guys in Atlanta, Ohio and Alabama.

Another analogy for me is Barnes & Noble and Amazon. Barnes & Nobles came along (like megachurches) and put out of business all of the small neighborhood bookstores (like small community churches under 100).

I no longer have time to go to Barnes & Noble, it takes too long to park, go find what I want, or to stand in the information line waiting for someone to help me. I always order from Amazon. Most of them time I order second hand from small bookstores (who knows? Some may only be a one-person operation) that sell used books through Amazon.

I told my friend who pastors a Vineyard church of 2000, that if they make their goal to grow to 10,000, they will miss the puck. What they need to do, is to develop on-line internet access, so that 10,000 people can directly access the weekly message, bible studies, chat rooms, find a listing of small groups and events around the city, do instant messaging with pastoral counsel, without ever having to get in their car and drive to the facilities on Sunday.

That’s just the technical side of digitization … I think there is a whole spiritual side that I don’t fully understand yet, about making disciples….equipping them like “bytes” and allowing the Holy Spirit to direct them into the digital flow of the Spirit and to send them into whatever context he chooses into all kinds of surprising and spontaneous ways.

Last summer, Deb and I spent 6 weeks in Brazil. A lot of people followed along on our blog, our daily activities and updates with photos from the same day. They didn’t only read, they commented, and Deb and I responded. In a sense, a lot of people went with us to Brazil! We met up with our grandkids almost every day on Instant Messenger through a web cam.

This is just scratching the surface of what Boshman was referring to as the ‘digitization’ of the church.

ok...this went too long.

John M. said...

Joseph and all, great examples and illustrations of digitalization (dig). Ditto all you said about the way our blog functions. Brian, I think it's safe to catagorize our relationship in a very similar way to what Joseph described in his post, not to mention all the others that I would have no knowledge of without this digital space to communicate.

My son-in-law to be (wedding this fall to Sarah my youngest), Phil, was just hired by a mega church in AL to be their "digital pastor". That's his title! He is currently revamping their website (From Wilmore, KY where he is still a student at Asbury College until May). Since he bagan working on it in Jan. the church has had four new families contact them who attributed their only contact with the church as the website!

The premise of the "liquid church" book is very close to what Joseph is noting. The author sees the liquid church as being a network of believers who are in constant communication through the various digital media and who, therefore, are enabled to "meet" daily, and then to actually assemble or gather in groups of two or three (or any combination) as needed.

josenmiami said...

hi John,

looks like I killed this thread by talking to much. Look's like your up, Brian.

I'll just add another great example of digitization from our discussion group in Homestead last night.

My son John joined us in the study last night for the first time. He has been living in Ohio for a year, and just decided to come home last weekend, and arrived on Sunday.

Last night, I was surprised to see the easy familiarity with which he was greeting everyone by name and kidding with them. I didn't even know them myself a year ago, when John left for Ohio.

Turns out that all but one or two of the group play an on-line rpg game called World of Warcraft. John knows all of them from the on-line game and has been developing relationships with them while living in Ohio.

I also sent them a list of the teachings of Christ by email for them to choose from ... one of them responding back by sending me his Myspace where he has a lot of music, written and performed by himself.

We all sit in a circle on a patio ... the leadership of the group rotates around despite their tendency to want to defer (sp?) to me. there is no platform, nor is there a fixed "leader", nor is there a fixed starting or ending time, nor is there a monologic teaching, rather a conversation through which the Spirit teaches using the insights and comments of all of the group as he resides "in their midst"

They all text one another on Tuesday nights starting around 8 p.m. to confirm if they are coming ...and if they are bringing anyone.

pretty cool! Of course, this is clearly the "work" so far, and not yet in any sense "the church." However, whenever they become a church...if they do, I doubt that they would ever want to use powerpoint or a sound system, or listen to one person talk for 30 minutes.

ok.... since this thread has died down under the weight of my vociferous proliferation of loguaciousness ... Brian, you want to start another discussion? Perhaps about "worship" or something?

Jastclark said...

john - i had to smile when you mentioend your son in law becuase inthe last couple of years i was asked to be deacon of technology for LifeGate church and have been serving in that forum since then.

Josenmiami -it is interesting to me about your "meeting" you held aside form all the discussion of moving off the platform, another component to this could be removing of protocols as i have seen our young people have little protocol in their approach to church, this is obviously another thread but another example of what i mean by protocal is go to a shopping mall in the US and invariably you will see a millenial youth wearing what would best be described as pajamas, they have abandoned a protocol of what is acceptable to be seen out in, your meeting is another example of this, millenials need no or have abandoned any protocol when it comes to a climate of a church meeting, i.e. they could careless about powerpoint or who the said leader is etc.

Ok i'll stop this for now since i seem to have an uncany ability to turn these discussions in different directions than they were intended, which also seems to limit posters and encourage lurking.

John M. said...

Joseph, thanks for sharing about the Homestead group and how it works.

Our small couples group usually arranges our time and place by email (I know that's a bit old-school for many, but it is digital technology.)

We gathered Monday evening for the first time in several weeks because of new babies and schedules.

Going in I was wishing that we had some continuity to pick up on and hoping that we would not "miss" what God might want to do. (My typical anxiety; I'm learning to relax, but the ability seems to come and go.)

These are all committed believers, so the dynamic is slightly different than the Homestead group, but the actual flow and "unstructure" of the meeting is similar. Conversation and people were "all over" for a while, and even eating was a bit chaotic because of the babies' needing to eat, be changed etc. After an hour or so we found ourselves gathered at the kitchen table having one conversation.

Without detailing it all, because one individual in the circle opened up a personal issue, we ended up talking about generational sins and curses and later we prayed for two people in the group around those issues.

God knew what needed to be addressed Monday night, and he gently and patiently brought us around to it. Mine and Vicki's role was to show up, enjoy our friends (and their babies!), watch, listen, interject comments here and there, and be sensitive during the prayer time. Pretty simple. Nothing to stress out about. Both the issue needing addressed and the ministry needed for individuals emerged from our conversation. That's the beauty of simple, small and "liquid".

John M. said...

I just re-read you last post. You describe the group and how the Holy Spirit is present in their midst to teach. Then you said, "Of course, this is clearly the "work" so far, and not yet in any sense "the church." However, whenever they become a church...if they do...".

When will they become a church? How will you know/evaluate that? Is it possible that what you're defining as "the work" (because of your orientation and gifting, you're seeing an embryo that needs much growth and development), God would call "church"? i.e., Him present where two or three are gathered in His name.

josenmiami said...

Jastclark: please don't worry about posting here or getting us off track. I have really enjoyed your contributions and I am sure the others have as well. I had not thought about "protocols" ... thanks for suggesting that. They pretty clearly are social rebels in terms of "church" protocols.

I would strongly say that it is the "work" and not the "church" for a a couple reasons. Yes, there are two or three gathered ... but they (or at least most of them) are inquirers ... not yet committed disciples. Some of them don't even believe in God, or at least in Jesus yet... some do...some are in-between.

I would see this group is in a "gathering" stage.

Scoggins outlines three stages in a new church plant:

1) Gathering
2) Covenanting (mutual commitment)
3) Reproducing.

he does not consider a group to be a viable "church" until they reproduce and have their own indigenous leadership. This group is far from that. I am focused right now on creating an atmosphere where they can all one-by-one eventually experience God and come to a clear place of faith, and commitment to follow Jesus. Until that happens, and they commit not only to the Lord, but to one another, I cannot consider them a local "church."

that only leaves the "work" as a category to put them in. Thats why I see it as a useful distinction. The "rules of engagement" are very different in the "work" than in the "church."

John M. said...

jastclsrk, ditto what Joseph said. All your posts have been interesting and offered a helpful perspective. Just post your thoughts. If they take us a different direction, we're good rabbit chasers.

Joseph, thanks for your response. It definitely helps clarify, and shows that you're not just "flying by the seat of your pants", but functioning in a clearly defined paradigm. You're giving us a window into the apostolic mind-set and focus.

Could you elaborate on your last sentence about the "rules of engagement"?

P.S. I don't want my questions to derail our "digital worship" thread. Joseph's insights are very interesting and important to me, but if it's better for the rest of you, I can pursue this privately with Joseph.

josenmiami said...

there are a lot of things that are different. Just one example is church discipline. check out 1 Cor. 5:9-13. There is a measure of mutual accountability within the local church that is not the same when you are dealing with people who have not yet signed on the dotted line and committed themselves to Christ or to other followers.

don woolley said...

Wow, there's been a lot of posting since I last checked in! Great discussions.

As a general response, I think the desire today (for many) is to live an integrated life as oppossed to living a compartmentalized life. (Matt Brennan would use the word dualistic).

It just seems that being a Christian in the first century wasn't as philosophically or organizationally complex as it is for us. Obviously they had major issues of their own to deal with, but they were just a bunch of people who loved Jesus, struggling together to live lives that showed it. Church was just who they were as a group. I know that is significantly oversimplifying things, but they didn't seem to be overly concerned with worship formats, meeting schedules, evangelism strategies, programs, etc. The faith spread naturally from one person and group to another. Generally, the apostles heard about conversions after the fact, and sent a team to check it out. The point is, every day people were naturally sharing their faith in winsome ways without any training, or brow beating. As others said above, they just "lived it".

Maybe these are my own issues, but I get really frustrated with formulas and the level of complexity that characterizes our individual and corporate lives as Jesus followers. Of course, I am a United Methodist pastor, so there is quite a bit of all that to be frustrated with. :-)

Ummm, to try and salvage this as a connection to the previous 70 posts, I think we reach younger folks by holding loosely (and/or destroying as needed) all the stuff we've added to "just following Jesus" over the last 2000 years.

my 2 cents,
Don Woolley, (Jesus Tribe / Pleasant Valley Methodist, Proud friend of Matt Brennan, Patrick and Will Curry, and Michael McCarty II.)

Brian Emmet said...

Don, I think I know what you mean--"destroy all the things that we have added to simply following Jesus," and I wish it were that clear-cut. We have an entire New Testament that represents a struggle to understand who Jesus is and what it means to follow him: divorce? Food sacrificed to idols? Sexual ethics? Worship (1 Coritnahins 12-14)? Men and women? Authority in both the church and the world?

I take your point: let's not fight about pipe organs as a required element of worship, let's resist legalism and moralism in all the ways they rear their snaky heads, and let's not neglect the weightier matters of justice and mercy without abandoning lower-level expressions of justice and mercy like tithing/giving generously (I'm not trying to reopen the tithing discussion!)

Borrowing Joseph's terminology, as a "work" becomes a "church", we'd be fools to insist that it take on exactly the forms we know and love...and they would be foolish not to learn from their older siblings in the faith (Tradition)...and we would be fools not to learn from the new ways the Spirit gives them to incarnate faithful lives. Let's work to not make it so adversarial a process.

josenmiami said...

hi guys,

Don, I generally agree with you about simplicity and integrated. Perhaps you felt that my distinction (borrowed from W.Nee) between the 'church' and the 'work' was overly compartmentalized?

Brian, do you feel that our conversation was adversarial? I was actually expected more opposition to my ideas about digitization and the work, and when I didn't encounter any...I got too mouthy and just kept running on.... a little bit of dynamic tension is not bad.

Brian Emmet said...

No, I didn't feel anyone was being adversarial. I'm all for "keeping it simple," but feel we sometimes underestimate the work involved in keeping it simple. And I think our blog does a pretty good job of not forcing us into either/or dead-ends... I do think we occasionally tend to equate "simple" with "better, more spiritual, more faithful" in a manner that I think can get us into trouble: one man's "simplicity" can be another man's "simple-mindedness"!

Brian Emmet said...

On digitization: I think it vital that we not be uncritical users of technology. (Neil Postman's work has been real helpful to me in thinking about this, and I recommend him highly; Wendell Berry is another alternative voice). Technologies always reduce life to what the tecnology is good at--it quickly becomes a question of whether we are using the technology, or the technology is using us; it's more the latter than we think. I'm not arguing for a "no technology!" approach--that's impossible and unwise. At the same time, I think we need to be very thoughtful and prayerful about technology--after all, it is one of the principalities/powers!

Randy R. said...

May I please remind us, again, that when we look at the beginnings of the church, in the early chapters of Acts, what we often fail to remember is that they were all Jews! Therefore, the reason that they met the first day of the week (in homes) was because on Saturday (the Sabbath) they were attending services either in the Temple or their local synagogues. They would have celebrated all the feast days: Passover, Pentecost, Feast of Tabernacles, etc.

Although we, as a congregation, have come to value our Jewish roots and put a more than average emphasis upon it, I am not trying to "convert" everyone (or anyone) else to that point of view. What I feel that must be continually emphasized, is that if we don't take that context into consideration, then we are missing a big part of their "Christian" practice, and we can be lead to believe that their life was lived differently than it in fact really was.

Thus, when we use their practice as a justification for what we do OR don't do in the 21st Century, our argument is weakened, because, we are only telling 1/2 the story.

josenmiami said...

good points Randy and Brian.

Randy, have you read "The Jesus Creed" by Scot McKnight? He traces Jesus's teachings, such as "love God, love neighbor" back to their Hebrew roots. I think you would ike it.

Brian, I totally agree with you. If you accept Boshman's thesis about how technology influences structures of worship, you can not only find changes in how the presence of God is perceived, you can also find the downside. For example, with the electronic church, despite the many good things, the people have tended to turn into passive audiences, or spectators.

I would encourage us to engage this issue of digitization, not only to anticipate what kind of changes will come and how to effectively use new approaches, but also to anticipate the negative downsides.

for example, my guess is that digitization will re-inforce the tendency toward individuality and a lack of appreciation for spiritual authority and wisdom. It will also tend to re-inforce the reluctance to commit. I think can already see it at work now with young people ... they want community but they want commitment.

and yet, forewarned is forearmed.

don woolley said...

Josenmiami, I hadn't thought about it, but I don't think the "work" "church" language is dualistic. As I understand you, the work describes ministry in the context of nonbelievers and the church describes the community of believers.

My issue (one of them anyway) is when God and His work are forced into our categories, or defined by our terms. The old saying, "God made us in His image, and we've been trying to return the favor ever since" comes to mind.

It just seems to me that being the church, as we've come to define and practice it in some circles, is an unnecessary chore sometimes. It just doesn't seem so laborious in the NT. For instance, I can't see the NT church investing so much time and energy and resources into producing the Sunday morning "worship" experience. I can't imagine them attending useless committee meetings, or fretting over maintenance expenses...the list goes on and on.

As for the adversarial comment, I think you Covenant folks have one of the healthiest communities around, especially across generations. I have repeatedly tried and failed to create this kind of dialog with fellow UM pastors. I have great rapport with younger pastors, but very few positive relationships with older pastors. There is a real disconnect between generations and our understanding of ministry, calling, success, "The Church," etc. And for the sake of getting along, the disconnect isn't being dealt with, by any of us, at least not in healthy ways.

josenmiami said...

I kind of butchered my comments above... I should have said "individualism" and I see among young people that they want community but do NOT want commitment.

Don, I get the distincton between "local church" and the "work" from a book by Watchman Nee and a 1971 article by Ralph Winter called "The Two Structures of Redemptive Mission." The Catholic Church has always understood this distinction better than Protestants. Protestants did away with monastic orders such as the Jesuits, Dominicans, etc. that served in the "work" ...and we have struggled with it ever since. In my opinion, the early Methodist movement started out as "the work" while it was still connected to the Anglican "church."

Steve said...

Wow - that's a lifetime or 5 of great experience to respond to...

1. I think everyone worships something or someone. We might learn more about worship by studying other kinds of worship--even idolatry--instead of "God-worship," where many of us have settled/rooted in personal preferences that cause bias-blindness/deafness.

2. "Off the platform" is a great relational image/attitude Jesus modeled and worthy of its own post.

3. Could a spiritual "byte" be commitment? More important, are spiritual bytes limited to those who publicly repent and confess Jesus as Lord? (Are there spiritual bytes outside of traditional spiritual contexts? If so, can we find and study them?)

4. I find "work" and "church" a helpful distinction, too, but as far as terms, I've dropped church, community, and other "traditional" references entirely from regular use. I'm not sure what's most appropriate now or if there is one term that fits every context, but I like "network" the best. What better fits the Digital Age (which overtook the Information Age while most of us slept)? It's no longer about what information you can access but who/what you are connected to. And "network" applies equally well to "church" and "work," to communities of faith and to secular gatherings (politics, social action groups, etc.), I think. You? Seen any mobile phone commercials lately about "the network"?

-LA Steve, fruit from the sowings of Steve H, John M, and josenmiami, to name only a few.

josenmiami said...

good thoughts Steve... I tend to agree with you about the word 'church' although some in here will challenge you. I've been pondering the spiritual 'byte' and 'off the platform' concepts for a while. thanks for your contributions.

josenmiami said...

a friend sent me a link to an article about future trends in the internet by one of the "inventors" of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee:


Mr Berners-Lee, who invented the World Wide Web in 1989 while a fellow at CERN, the European Organsation for Nuclear Research in Switzerland, would not be drawn on the type of application that the "Google of the future" would develop, but said it would likely be a type of "mega-mash-up", where information is taken from one place and made useful in another context using the web.

josenmiami said...

Let me try that again: