Saturday, March 22, 2008

Future-Visioning

I think most of us agree that we are experiencing a cultural tsunami that is having a profound effect on the church. Alan Hirsch in his book, “The Forgotten Ways”, says that the church is in a state of “liminality”. Liminality is an “in-between, marginal state in relation to the surrounding society, a place that could involve significant danger and disorientation…” (p. 220).
The question we face is how will we as “church leaders” respond to the place we find ourselves in? Critiquing the present state of the church comes naturally to many of us. Could I suggest that we move beyond criticism, beyond deconstruction, and attempt to voice a constructive vision for where we are headed, for where God might be leading us?
Hirsch goes on to say, that, “holding a definite sense of vision (a preferred future) and mission informs and alters how people think and how they will behave in the present. Viewed this way, the future is a means to alter behavior… One does not creep up on a big future. Rather, the future is boldly declared in a vision and serves as the catalyst for all that follows.” (p. 233)
Can we dream the future? What is God’s dream for His Bride as she hurtles toward mid-term of the “new” Century? Can we allow the Holy Spirit to breathe wisdom, discernment, vision and direction about where God wants us to go? Which way is the wind blowing? What does He desire the “church of the future” to look like? How does He want us to function, to “be” his Body in the earth? How can we concretely be the light of the world and the life of the world as we continue into the 21st Century? Be concrete. Be specific.

58 comments:

Brian Emmet said...

John Meadows is our psoter and moderator for this thread--thank you, John.

And, Brian adds to John's "Be concrete. Be specific"-- be brief! Let's try the "500 rule", as in "no posts over 500 words." Oh, and there will be fines (Brian is indulging his oddball sense of humor now, OK?) for overuse of egg-head words like "postmodern," "milieu" [Brian can't even spell it!], or "cultural refractionalization."

Brian Emmet said...

John Meadows is our "poster," i.e., the one who posts this post. "Psoter" is one of those pointy-head words I referred to above, so I have placed my $1 fine in the jar--and I will pay in an additional $1 to the first person who defines "psoter" correctly!

josenmiami said...

another nice guideline might be to try to limit ourselves to one comment (under 500 words) per day. A number of people have expressed their difficulty in keeping up with reading all of the comments.

John M. said...

You guys are taking all the fun out of this! Only one post per day under 500 words? Ouch! That may be why Brian asked me to moderate, so that I wouldn't be so verbose.

Brian "psoter" is either a dyslexic or an over-tired pastor trying to spell poster. The first dictionary definition of "poster" is, "a large picture hung up for decoration" hmmm... Since my dictionary is an up-to-date on-line, Mac dictionary, it also has the definition I believe you intended. At least you didn't say "poser"!

My main motivation for the post is selfish. I want to learn and hear what God is saying, and I know I can't do that alone. I do have some ideas, but I want to hear what you all are hearing.

My second goal is to help us try to focus our thoughts and dreams constructively toward what God wants His Church to be.

We all desperately desire to see both church and the Church to be all God has made her to be in this era of history and culture. But I think we err if we assume we already know the answer to how that will look and work.

Many of us have approached the current state of the church by criticizing and deconstructing (I being the chiefest of deconstructors).

Let's posture our thinking toward constructing God's vision and hearing His dream. That will be much more helpful for actually producing fruit for the Kingdom.

To paraphrase Joseph's words to his "mega-church wanna be" friend, what if we reach our goals and miss the target? Obviously, a tragedy to be avoided.

One way we can avoid missing God's objective is to intentionally ask Him to show us and to focus our thinking toward dreaming His dream for the future. Let's tune our ear to what the Spirit is saying. I can't wait to hear what you hear and see as we listen together.

Your post doesn't have to be a "Thus saith the Lord". He will speak through our conversation. As we pose ideas and thoughts, we can trust Him to shape them. This is a process.

"HE IS RISEN!!!!"

don woolley said...

He is risen indeed!

First, I'm a long-time, recovering, rock chunker. I also feel like God has deconstructed me - to the point there's not much left of how I used to think of "church."

Obviously, God calls all of us (individually and corporately) to deny ourselves, pick up our crosses, and follow him. I pastor a 140 year old traditional United Methodist church, as well as an extremely unconventional group called Jesus Tribe. That call means different things to each group. Jesus Tribe will never buy land or build. It will keep its budget extremely low, spending its time and resources doing ministry in the neglected places of our city, doing our best to build relationships, and organic (egg-head-word) community.

Pleasant Valley already has buildings, so (denying ourselves, picking up our cross, and following him) we're becoming a missional outpost in our community, instead of a place used once a week for worship and Sunday School. We have many inner-city type problems in our ethnically diverse neighborhood, so there is no shortage of ministry opportunities. I guess the larger change over the last 4 years has been from a bunker mentality (the whole congregation was elderly white and most drove back in for worship) to openly engaging the people of the neighborhood (a good percentage of our very mixed congregation walks to the church).

Pleasant Valley and Jesus Tribe are at the opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to most categories, but both are missional (Christ and "other" focused) and for me, that's at the heart of God's call to his church.

In the end, we can't change the past, but I think we can look at where we are, stop doing things that get in the way of mission, punt on the whole attractional/ consumer mentality, and use what we have in a God-honoring missional way.

Well, I better stop I don't have an extra dollar. :-) I do look forward to other's insights for the same reasons as John M

John M. said...

Awesome Don! I wish all pastors of 140 year old traditional churches had the same outlook and implementation that you do! I admire what you're doing. Tell us more about Jesus Tribe sometime.

steve H said...

Here's my dream for God's people -- and I trust that it His first:

And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself." And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation."

So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:38-47


When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, "Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, " 'Why did the Gentiles rage,and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed'— for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus."

And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Acts 4:23-35


Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more. Make it your ambition to live quiet lives, and to mind your own business, and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. 1 Thessalonians 4.9-12.

Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, as you hold out the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Philippians 2:14-16

John M. said...

I just made one last post on the worship blog -- "Worship in the Book of Revelation". It was enlightening for me. Check it out if you're interested.

josenmiami said...

Hi John,

The topic is good…but perhaps a tiny bit generic or abstract. I can only answer it in terms of envisioning a future for me…not for “the Church” although I liked the way Steve responded with scripture. That works.

I have lived most of my life in the future … an idealized future that never arrives. When the future does finally arrive, it almost never looks like one expected or anticipated. At this point … I can no longer live in the future… (although giving it up is a little like withdrawal for an addict) I find that I must be in the present moment. “Today, if you hear his voice… do not harden your hearts.”

I think the best we can do is prepare (rather than plan) for the future through obedience today.

On a specific, practical and personal note, if I were to have my wishes come to pass, I would hope for Debbie to miraculously recover from cancer, or failing that, at least to outlive all medical expectations, then to be able to finish my Ph.D. in 3 to 4 years (including dissertation) and find a job teaching at the college level with an income sufficient to modestly support me and Debbie… and encourage my present supporters to redirect their giving to Paul Petrie and/or Jamie Johnson.

I would then LOVE to devote my free time networking with young people, gathering them in groups of 3 to 8 around Jesus, and teaching them to follow Jesus through love and obedience. If I could find one or two kindred spirits who would join me in the same task (in Miami), I would think I had died and gone to heaven.

I am currently involved with four such groups of young people, although one of them is purely secular and transitory. That’s how would I would like to spend the rest of my life doing, and that is about the best I can do in terms of envisioning the future … when I die, I would like there to be several dozen self-reproducing circles of faith like that in Miami, including some in my grandchildren’s generation (the oldest is 9).

By-the-way, we baptized 3 of the Tuesday night WoW group in Easter Sunday (Ruth, Mike and Clare). One of the agnostic guys came to lend his moral support as a friend. I will be posting some of the photos on www.friends4thejourny.com later today. Ruth told me that about 6 or 7 of them were on-line in WoW (World of Warcraft) last night and were asking questions about the baptism. I meet with 8 or 9 of them again tonight. 2 of the new guys are preparing the discussion topic.

John: can you give us some specific envisioning for your future? Not the church in general, but what you personally would like your life to be like in 5 years?

John M. said...

Joseph, I've never been good at predicting or planning my personal future. I have lived from one open door to the next all my life. I was sure a couple of those doors were not of God, until He made it clear that they were.

Then there were others that I was sure of, like being a Medical missionary in New Guinea, that never got off the ground.

Hmmm... I never planned to speak in tongues and get left-footed out of my denominational structure -- boy am I grateful for that one!

When we moved to Lex. almost 30 years ago, I told Vicki we probably would live here about five years.

I never thought I would be a teacher -- especially in Junior High School! When I walked through that door, I thought it would be a transitional job of 2 or 3 years. That was 12 years ago!

You're right, the future you and I used to speculate about never really materialized, although God did pull some nice surprises on us, along with some hard ones as well.

There's a good chance that in five years my life will look pretty much like it does today -- and then again...

My ideal would be similar to yours. I would like to spawn small groups of Jesus' followers, and see them become self-sustaining, and self-multiplying.

The statement you made to your friend about being careful that he might reach his goal but miss the target with his church. To me that was very insightful.

What would you tell him, if he asked you what you meant by that, and how he could actually hit the target? That's what I had in mind with the post.

I'm not advocating trying to live in a fantasy future, but trying to hear what God is saying about which way we should head today, in order to be on target tomorrow and the next.

Amazing how much easier it is to deconstruct the present than it is to try to construct a wineskin that will take us forward...

OK guys, I think I'm proving once again (as I've learned repeatedly over the years) that I am a poor vision caster. I've got it in me, but have difficulty articulating it.

So, Brian, we may need to put this thread out of it's misery. It doesn't seem to be going anywhere.

Brian Emmet said...

Actually, John, I think we may be getting onto something: where do I see myself ten (or 5, or 20 or whatever)years from now? And a possible follow-up, What do I need to do today to move towards that future that I think God may have for me?

These questions do a couple of good things, to my mind: get us out of the futurology biz, "but "force" us to think about and talk about where we'd like to head, both personally and (perhpas) "organizationally" (VERY BROADLY DEFINED!)and encourage some honest conversation, prayer and support for one another... maybe not what you envisioned, but maybe not a bad idea anyway!

John M. said...

Thanks Brian. Good suggestion. Let's see where it takes us.

josenmiami said...

anyone else care to share where you hope to go in the next few years?

I leave tomorrow morning for New Orleans to attend a conference on Brazilian studies at Toulane U.

John M. said...

Bless you travels and your renewed relationships Joseph.

Hello! Anyone out there?

steve H said...

I've been checking in but have not had time to think things out and to write.

John M. said...

Thanks for checking in Steve.

josenmiami said...

good job keeping your comments short John!

If no one is interested in talking about what your wishes and hopes for the future are, perhaps we could throw out some ideas for future discussions?

We have talked quite a bit about ecclesiology, current trends in church and culture, and recently about evangelism.

Perhaps we could have some leisurely discussions of some of the other Eph. 4:11 equipping roles ... such as shepherding, teaching, the prophetic or apostolic? Steve would make a good host for a discussion about the role of teaching ... Robert for the apostolic? just a thought.

I just woke from a nap in New Orleans ... I'm off to registration.

Brian Emmet said...

In a recent article, TIME magazine noticed, as one of its "top 10 trends" or something like that, that "Christianity is rediscovering its Jewish roots." The article was not in their religion section, but in a more general/broad piece. So that's an interesting and perhaps unexpected future-oriented piece of the puzzle--what might it mean for the church to "become more Jewish"?

Another area that hasn't come up much in our discussions has to do with how the church should/needs to become counter-cultural. For example, we spend a lot of time discussing how the church should adapt/adopt new technology--are there any points at which we need to resist the encroachments of technology upon our lives? A similar discussion could proceed along the lines of consumerism: how ought we to resist the suffocating blanket of consumerism that hangs over us all like a shroud? Or does a "missional mindset" think more along these lines: we're ministering in a consumerist culture, so we have to enculturate in order to communicate"? Or does this pose the question wrongly?

These are admittedly "less personal" discussions than "where would you like to be in ten years?" but blogs may not be the best venue for the kind of vulnerability and transparency called for to respond to this question?

josenmiami said...

good comments Brian...I'm sure that Randy or Fred might have thoughts on the Jewish aspect.

Speaking of being vulnerable, I could use y'alls prayers...the spiritual warfare has been off the charts lately and I am starting to feel a little "battle weary".

josenmiami said...

hi guys, I just put up a new discussion post (sorry Brian, I didn't check with you first...it was a spur of the moment thing). You can put up the next one ...

Randy R. said...

Sorry to take so long to respond to John's question. Thanx, John! My circumstances in one way are different then many of the contributors to this site (Joseph, Brian, John M., John L., Steve H.,etc.) in that I still have children living at home (4 of our 5). The youngest, Kyle, is a senior in high school. Therefore, as far as I am concerned my primary goal over the next five years is to see Joy graduated from college (she is a freshman this year), see Kyle complete college, help Amy find her nitch in life, see that Eric and Andrea are finally married and settled. THEN, I feel like I can look ahead! Most of this past 7.5 years has been consumed trying to make this church merge work! We seem to have finally gotten over the hump and are beginning to make forward progress! Yeah! PTL!

John M. said...

Since this post seemed to never live and is now pretty much out of it's misery, very few will probably read this, but here's my present and incomplete response to my own post...

Someone has phrased the question, "Will the future have a Church?" Absolutely. But what form will it take...? Hmmmm... Here's my read today:

The vestiges of Christendom will remain -- and in some isolated and local instances will even thrive.

But in terms of relevance to most people's lives, especially those under 30 -- and that upper age will continue to increase -- it will continue the present trend of decline and for the most part become merely one more surviving shell of a past institution.

The mega churches will go the way of Europe's great cathedrals and the urban, ecclessial building in the U.S. -- monuments to past glory inhabited by a grayed and whitened faithful few. Imagine, "seeker sensitive" with no seekers.

The probable exceptions are those historic fellowships that have maintained a consistent and pretty much unchanged-for-centuries liturgy. Anglicans (who remain true to the faith once delivered), Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox churches may make a comeback, or at least have a clear influence on worship forms and understanding of the centrality of the Eucharist -- although participation in the corporate, traditional liturgy may be infrequent by individuals, and the Eucharist may become a full meal around a table with a small circle of friends and no "offical" clergy present -- same for baptism and possibly other sacramental happenings.

So, what form will the future Church take; actually the already emerging church (not as in the Emerging church movement necessarily)?

Here are my bullet points off the top of my head, meaning that there will be redundancy!

*Friendship networks, not grounded in geography but in organic relationship. Some will function locally with face-to-face contact (many will begin that way, or be face to face periodically when possible), but there will be...

*More reliance on the internet, with live streaming video, blogs, you tube type posts, and social networking sites and texting. Yes, cyber-church and cyber-"fellowsip" and accountability.

*Missional Bands, focused for a purpose, with interchangeable membership revolving around a core purpose. The "Fellowship of the Ring" model.

*Third-place focused gatherings, both intentional and spontaneous. "Third-places" are pubs, sports bars, coffee shops, gyms, etc where people hang out and spend quantities of time outside home and work.

*Concern with authenticity not appearance and image.

*Focused on inner reality and authentic and biblical lifestyle, not outward forms.

*Understanding of God begins with His immanence and leads to an idea of his transcendence rather than vice-a-versa.

*Many diverse and free-flowing fellowship circles, united by common friendships, mission, and special event gatherings that bring together large numbers for a single or a brief series of gatherings, not usually in a eccleiastical structure, but in a public place.

*Few, if any, gurus, just Jesus-followers. Jesus becomes the one "super-hero", who everyone follows regardless of their gifts and callings.

*Few labels, less religion, a blurring of boundaries.

*Jesus is the foundation; not static doctrine; making past battles of inerrancy, intelligent design, culture wars over politicized moral-ethical issues passe, if not obsolete.

*Inclusive, not exclusive

*Emphasis on growth, journey, development of character and understanding and biblical life-style rather than mental, verbal assent to doctrinal statements.

*"Conversion" seen as a progressive journey. When the "line" is crossed, and whether a "line" (baptism?) even exists, not really important issues. Being a sincere seeker or at least questioner becoming the important issue.

*The Bible understood in terms of story, and journey, rather than a book of doctrinal principles.

OK Enough!

Brian Emmet said...

Thanks, John. Couple other angles: as the center of global Christianity continues to shift south-poorer, I wonder if we might not see (even more of) a bifurcation: churches in the modernized West developing along the lines you've mentioned, churches in the South/East developing... differently, perhaps along far more "traditional/historic" lines. I wonder if the Anglican crisis might not be more of a model for what's ahead than we might have thought. I don't mean that the vision you've outlined is "sinful" in a way that parallels the current sins of the Episcopal Church... but I wonder if our brethren in the developing world might view "church" differently.

I continue to wonder at what points the church will need to challenge the culture--you've presented a pretty "rosy scenario."

But as Joseph will likely say, "Brian, there you are again, responding as a pastor-teacher!"

josenmiami said...

(no Brian, actually I agree with you, as I point out further down, John's take is a bit idealistic...almost all the good and little of the bad that will surely come from human nature and the corruption of technology...nevertheless, may it be so oh Lord ...oh, and he forgot to mention the anti-Christ,tsk,tsk)

Hi John,

Actually, I think that evangelical Christianity will be thriving and growing in buildings with sound systems, positive preaching and awesome musical bands with multimedia … the only probably is, the services will be in Spanish, Nigerian .. or Korean!

I think you are basically right … although I think the picture you paint is a bit to “ideal” … there will be crap and manipulation and inauthenticity in the church of the future just as there is now … it is human nature. And I am continually amazed at the ability of guru leaders to “hustle” the flock … was it P.T. Barnum who said a “sucker is born every minute?”

Most of what you described already exists in hidden ways alongside of the historic liturgical church, and serious missional evangelicals and the huckster entertainment church … it is only a matter of shifting proportions. What we will look like in 50 years? Like Europe most likely, including the vibrant immigrant communities of faith.

That’s why it is so important to learn how to engage secular pluralism with a message of divine faith and love.

By the way, have you thought about my suggestion about taking some classes? Reading through your post, I think sociology would be a good fit for you. There is a branch called Sociology of Religion and you can give it a futurist twist …look up Rodney Stark and Roger Finke on Amazon… I have a couple of their books that I have not had time to read (I’ll loan them to you if you will take notes and send them back to me). They are sociologists of religion, as is David Martin and Phillip Jenkins. They are the ones with the best shot at understanding where things are headed….

John M. said...

I think it's interesting that you all see my post as "positive. I'm not sure that everyone would necessarily see these trends as positive, but I'm glad you do. I was trying to be constructive rather than resorting to "deconstruction" and criticism, which we've already done plenty of.

Joseph, last week you thought I should be studying Church History and the history of Byzantium!

When I'm not teaching, like last week when I had Friday and Monday off, and this coming week with spring break, the idea of being a formal student agaiin can appear attractive.

But then I hit the tidal wave of school, with barely a spare second to breathe all day, and a couple hours of work at the end after students leave -- arriving home in a semi-zombe state with nothing left in me but a long nap, I quickly arrive at the reality that I don't have the capacity to stand up and teach six hours a day, relate to 110 students, do all my prep, and grading, and then add a class load to it -- not to mention relating to a Mom with increasingly severe dementia, and the dynamics that she creates for us and my physically fragile mother-in-law...

I'll need to take a bye for now, continue to self-educate by reading along my lines of interest, and wait until I enter the next era/season that God has for me to start on a different path -- assuming there is one...

It's always possible that God is perfectly happy with me finishing the Jr. Hi course (however long that is), retiring, enjoying my wife, my kids and grandkids, my hobbies -- all the while continuing as an "arm-chair quarterback" on church structure, culture, missional-wanna-beism, futurology, and sociology -- who has a lot of opinions and ideas; and who really knows very little about what he's actually talking about!

don woolley said...

I generally agree with John M about the future structures of the church. I think its going to be very varied as you suggest. I also think we might be increasingly comfortable with all that variety / ambiguity / chaos.

I also agree with your thoughts about our priorities. A lot of the arguments we've been having will fade as Christendom breathes its last breaths.

And finally, I think the shift to understanding the Bible as a story instead of the source material for our boiled down propositional truths is huge....It sure was for me!

Thanks for your insights John.

John M. said...

Thanks Don. I hope we can meet in person sometime on this side. May you be encouraged and strengthened in your journey.

josenmiami said...

After giving John a hard time about painting a rosy picture of the future ‘digital’ church, I felt that I should take a stab at outlining what I anticipate will be some of the ‘dark side’ of the digital force. Brian, feel free to chime in with some puzzling irony! By-the-way, I agree with john in terms of most of the trends he outlines, but I think it is important to keep in mind human sin and the ability to twist and pervert any form of technology.

Here are a few negatives I see in the future: (I am loosely following John’s bullet points)

Most friendships and fellowship will become more shallow and transitory as well as less local. If my friends in this blog piss me off, I can move on to the next one. Digital fellowship will require intentionality in finding “face-to-face” time.

More reliance on the internet will allow accountability to slip. There will be more “fake” spiritual identities assuming faith like a RPG (role playing game).

Missional bands: I fervently pray and hope so, but I seriously doubt it. I have never in my short life seen one that really worked yet. In fact, I have come to the conclusion that such missional bands CAN ONLY work locally. They might network translocally, but “real community” and “teamwork” can only happen in geographic proximity, digitization not withstanding (caveat: young people might prove me wrong—but many of our peers in our generation don’t even know how to navigate to this blog--or they are so uncomfortable with it that they choose not to).

Third-place gathering and ‘hanging out” will facilitate people becoming even more optional consumers. It will be all-too-easy to just not go.

I’m not sure I agree with authenticity … what I see with young people is a lot of role-playing and shifting identities.

Focused inner reality may lead to greater squishy subjectivity. “Truth is whatever you think it is” … I can’t see why the future would automatically guarantee ‘authentic and biblical lifestyle” … it seems to me we will still need the cross, and martyr apostles to lay down their lives to bring people to authentic biblical lifestyles, won’t we?

I agree about “understanding God’s immanence” … I find that looking for the spark of divinity and truth ‘within me’ makes more sense lately … “Christ in you, the hope of glory” … but it will be all too easy to overshoot the mark into new age subjectivity … and lose touch with objective truth and historic Christianity.

I agree with the “many diverse and free-flowing fellowship circles” …but the downside will be isolation and stagnation. Again, martyr-apostles will be needed to suffer in the process of trying network these groups in meaningful ways.

...Warning: nearing word limit! to be continued....

Brian Emmet said...

I think it's a both/and situation: we can paint a bright picture of the future, or a dystopic one, cyber-optimism or cyber-despair. I suspect the truth will end up somewhere in the muddled middle.

But the technology is happening, and will continue to, so what kinds of spiritual disciplines will help us, and especially help the rising generation, not become tools of our technologies? That is, I think the key question... and perhaps a good one for another blog post? How might we reconfigure/redefine the "classical spiritual disciplines" and what kinds of "new" disciplines might be essential in a digital age?

Last comment: so many of John's observations seemed to lack a clear sense of outreach, evangleism, mission--lots of material about how "fellowshipping" might change--third place settings, multiple groupings, etc.--but I didn't see how these might break beyond their own borders. This is not a criticism of John--I know your heart and commitment. But still: Will we reinvent a church that shows the same problems as the churches we are so desperate to escape?

John M. said...

I guess this thread did have some life in it!

Joseph and Brian, thanks for your comments. Let me respond a bit, but I still want to hear from others if you're reading.

When I threw out my bullet points I was thinking of North America specifically, and "The West" generally. I don't feel qualified to try to make sweeping observations about the world scene, but I tend to agree with what Joseph and Brian have said. It will be both/and. There will be some of what I mentioned, and a lot of the more traditional North American church model, because, unfortunately, that is what we have exported through our missionary activities in other nations.

I read an article the other day about the coming economic dominance of China which stated that Mandrin Chinese will be the new universal trade language in the next 10-20 years, rivaling English. Given what has happened in the church in China, there must be some God connection there -- although I don't profess to being able to articulate it.

Joseph, I think your "dark side" comments are very realistic. Obviously, whatever forms the church takes, there will be sin, carnality and Satan at work. Of course, the Holy Spirit is there working too.

Absolutely there will be a huge need for apostolic leaders, teaching/pastoral gifts, and all the other ministry and spiritual gifts. The more open atmosphere should actually give more "room" for apostolic gifts to function.

There will be a huge need for mentoring, "fathering and mothering", and wisdom. We should call to the Lord of the Harvest to raise up those who can create a rock solid center for the chaotic circles to revolve around and be drawn into.

My statements about authenticity and biblical lifestyle may just be my own hopefulness, but I do believe that deep inside the emerging generation is a heart cry for authenticity and a desire to be deeply committed to something real. The roles they try on and then shed may be a defense against being hurt, and they may also be an attempt to keep trying on identities until they find something that fits or works for them.

Missional bands will have to function in a local or regional geography, but they can be assembled with incredible diversity of culture and geography.
YWAM has been doing this for years, and Frontiers assembles diverse teams who begin their relationships in prior field training, but who forge those relationships in the stress of the missional trench. Are there sometimes casualties? Yes, but there are incredible successes also, as teams are assembled, disassembled and reassembled in diverse configurations and localities.

Brian, I was seeing all of my bullet points as assuming relational, life-style, friendship evangelism similar to what Joseph is doing.

I would hope that the groupings and circles would not be bounded sets, but centered sets with a core of disciples, that also contained people who were on their way into a commitment to Jesus, as well as spiritual seekers, critics and agnostics.

Obviously all of this has downsides and there will be abuses, heresies etc. Remember the parable of the dragnet that brought up all kinds of garbage and weirdness along with the good fish? But God's Kingdom exists in the midst of the junk, the weeds, the thorns and the thistles.

josenmiami said...

hi all:

I hope I didn't give the impression that I was approaching this either/or ... I agree with the both/and. if you look back through history, every technological change has brought both blessing and a downside. Usually the downside is more apparent after the fact. I agree with most of what John said.

here is PART 2
"Few if any gurus" … I disagree with this one. Human flesh has always wanted a king, jefe or a paternal sugar daddy since big and tall and good-looking Saul. Always, has, always will.. only now the guru will have a blog, a discussion group and a web site and may be licensed "life-coach."

"Jesus is the foundation" … yes, he always has been, whether people acknowledged it or not. So.. what will the new battles be over? Sexual predators posing as spiritual teachers in Facebook? I don't know, but I can guarantee that the war is not yet over.

Inclusive not exclusive? Maybe. Maybe more fluid ... and yet people will still be able to pick and choose their friends and companions…maybe even more easily than before digitization. C.S. Lewis liked the Anglican communion and the parish concept because you could not pick and choose…you worshipped side-by-side with your neighbors whether you like them or not.

"Conversion" may become so progressive that it may disappear entirely as a concept, and be replaced with long-term therapy … I'm kind of on that track already.

The bible understood as a story rather than doctrinal principles … I agree but I think we are headed into a very confusing ethical situation … where there will often be no "true north" and it will be exceedingly difficult to teach people to make moral judgments. Almost ALL the people I am ministering to see absolutely no problem with singles living together … even the MOST Christian or spiritual people I am relating with. It is only going to increase. What do you do with that? Adjust your theology? Or withdraw into a ghetto?

John M. said...

Thanks Joseph. Anyone else want to weigh in?

John M. said...

Joseph raises a big issue in his last post: Singles living together.

This has become almost a universally accepted practice in today's under 30 culture, including Christians. What do we do with it in terms of evangelism, discipleship and Christian formation? I would like to hear from some of you young folks on this one?

Here are some potential discussion starters:

How does God view marriage? Has Christendom added unnecessary baggage to the "one flesh" union? Should the church begin "blessing" one-flesh unions that are already established, making the covenant come after the union, rather than before? Or is that akin to blessing same sex unions in terms of orthodoxy?

Or does my last question add another issue that is "debatable"? My question makes the assumption that blessing same-sex unions is not biblically orthodox. Some might disagree.

If you do disagree, lets save that discussion for another thread. It's fine to discuss each issue, let's just not try to do them both at the same time.

josenmiami said...

basically, John, I think it depends on what mode you are in or what paradigm you are operating on. If you are a pastor, and they are a couple within your church, obviously it poses problems.

However, if they are your fellow students and you have no authority or responsability for them....then your goal must be to accept them and try to introduce them to Jesus ... without really worrying about such nicities as a marriage license.

Barring some unforeseen great awakening happening in our culture...living together is already the norm... get used to it.

Eagleman said...

Brian, I have to assume a "psoter" is one who, in some way, can be compared or connected with Saint Psote, an early church leader in Egypt. I believe he was martyred under Diocletian, but I don't know the particulars so I still can't accurately define "psoter." I probably owe someone $1.

With regard to "Future-Visioning," Brian's request that we "move beyond criticism, beyond deconstruction, and attempt to voice a constructive vision for where we are headed" is excellent, and should shape our thinking and dialogue.

Difficult however, as we all tend to see "God's dream" through our own brand of binoculars. Certainly, I have been guilty of that. I will also admit that an insufficient percentage of my life has been spent DOing what I here propose. If that nullifies my comments, stop reading here. For anyone else, I want to make two statements.

1. Since it is HIS church, I think we have to assume that He will bring it back around to that which He desires, though not necessarily within our lifetimes. In various degrees, He seems to have done this periodically throughout history. However, since we have difficulty identifying which historical pereiod or position best represents the church as He prefers it, perhaps we can go back to His own stated preferences for it; "Whever you go, teach learners to do what I have told you to do." This brings me to statement #2.

2. While we can and do trust the Holy Spirit to ultimately fulfill the Master's wishes, it will be to our benefit if we can accurately identify His goal for His church on earth so we can be found to be working WITH Him. Stephen Covey calls that "Seeing the end from the beginning" in order to help insure the proper trajectory for one's actions.

If His life, as well as His commission to us, had principally to do with teaching disciples to DO what He taught us to DO, it will serve us best if we don't "future-think" a great many theories which do not prioritize, and attempt to accomplish, that goal. Such efforts might classify under "vain imagninations."

With regard to our OWN efforts to work WITH the Holy Spirit in bringing forth the church of the future which will best please our Lord, I suggest that we each carefully evaluate all present and known structures and religious processes with the questions, "Do I know of any which consistently produce people who DO what He taught us to DO? With the help of the Holy Spirit, can I envision any approach, method, form or liturgy which will accomplish that objective?" This could be followed with, "Does my own present effort and process contribute meaningfully and convincingly to that objective, and what might I adjust to better make it do so?"

At that point, it really doesn't matter if my conclusion tallies with Hirsch or McLaren or any of the church-future gurus. What matters is that I have done, and am doing, everything within my power to so please Jesus with my own life and the lives of those I influence, and that I have been willing to change anything in my life or thinking which obstructs that end! THEN, I submit to you, we will not only be envisioning our way out of liminality, we will also be producing fruit that lasts, fruit that brings glory to the Father, fruit which shows we ARE His disciples.

I truly believe our best contribution to the future will be to do so, and to deal mercilessly with anything in or around us which prevents or impedes it. "Form follows function." The function is to live as He lived and to produce people who habitually do the same; the form will follow that prioritization, and the Holy Spirit will help us.

There are a number of descriptions in Scripture of that which He told us to do. Just a few of them taken together can form an excellent mirror for the evaluation of our present effectiveness, and as a guide to our future priorities.

josenmiami said...

eagleman, I very agree with everything in your post. You very accurately touch on something that helps me understand my own journey.

When I was pastoring a spa-eng church in Miami in the 1990s, after giving up on seeker sensitive-purpose driven methods, I felt the Lord re-directing me to emphasize biblical discipleship. I spent 6 months preaching on what it means to be a committed follower.

I also gradually became aware of the huge limitations I was encountering in helping people to implement the teachings of Christ. I found myself so inevitably consumed with admin, organizational meetings, Sunday School and youth ministry, adjudicating interpersonal conflicts and large doses of counseling and hand-holding. Not to mention the weekly task of putting together sermons that would give people an emotional injection each week and keep them coming back for more.

I eventually came to the place that I would see the blank faces looking back at me in the pulpit, and I just “knew” that there was very little true effective formation of disciples going on. Very little. The thing that was closest to my heart, the one thing Jesus told us to do, was not happening in the church context. I came to that realization after almost ten years of trying.

You said in your comment that we must deal mercilessly with anything that is not contributing to the creation of disciples. For me, that was church-based pastoral ministry. Now, outside of my academic endeavors, I spend all my time doing 2 things: sharing the love of God with people who don’t know Jesus, or meeting with young believers and helping them learn how to study the life and teachings of Jesus and incorporate his commands into their lives. Evangelism and discipleship. The very two things I was never able to find time to do as a church pastor. I’m not saying other pastors cannot do it, or that they should leave their churches – I am only reporting my own experience and journey.

I have reflected long and hard on the first point you made. Not only is it his church, out of few references he ever made to the church, he tells us very clearly that HE WILL BUILD HIS Congregation. Never once does he tell us that we should plant churches, nor much less that we should “build” churches … as if we actually could! I have come to the view that it is our own modern arrogance that makes us think that we can actually dare to build the church or plant it. The only thing we are commissioned to do is to make disciples and teach them to keep his commands and love one another. The rest is up to him. The problem is, there are so many people out there building stuff that looks like the church, but often it is no more than a Gen. 11 Tower meant to make someone a name or to keep people from scattering.

Good points, thanks!

don woolley said...

I really identify with the two posts above.

There is a similar conversation happening here:

http://www.shapevine.com/lancevine/weblog/1315.html#cmt232

josenmiami said...

hey Don, joe here... I went to the url you gave and it looks pretty interesting... I might read through the comments and weigh in later tonight.

I also met a guy at McKight's jesuscreed.org blog named Kinny Maybre who has a blog called "Preacherman" ...the current discussion is very similar to this one:

http://kinneymabry.blogspot.com/

They are discussing "What does the church need to do in order to thrive in the 21st Century?"

Brian Emmet said...

Chris, so very good to hear from you. Chime in any time and at any point!

Gary, nice try on the correct definition of "psoter," but no cigar. The buck stays clutched in my greedy little paw...

John M. said...

I too resonate with Eagleman and Joseph's posts. Joseph's experience with the traditional local church and my personal experience are very similar.

When Brian, Randy, Steve H. and others comment about the issues of tending their flocks, I hear pastoral hearts and see pastoral gifts. My problem is that my pastoral heart gave out or shut down or something. I felt trapped and like I was on a treadmill that was going nowhere.

I have come away with a deep respect for what pastors do and the long-term stress and toll that it takes on many. At the same time I have become disillusioned with the system and the expectations that create the dynamics above.

It seems that the "local church" in the way it has come to be defined and expressed has become a closed system that consumes all the time energy and attention of it's members, just to sustain it's "life".

I know so many saints and pastors/leaders who have a heart for the Kingdom and for the larger Church in their locality, but who are locked into their "own" "local church" so tightly that they never get outside that system in any practical or meaningful way.

To further complicate things, there, many times,is a vertical structure (either an extra-local "fellowship" or a denominational hierarchy) that saps any energy that might be left over to sow into the larger context of their locality and region.

Of course there are high-functioning exceptions who seem to be able to break out, but most of the time their larger sphere of leadership is short-lived because they need to give themselves back to a greater focus on their local congregation or they end up moving on to something else.

It seems that local, congregational church life as we now have it has become an impediment to the Kingdom rather than an embodiment and extension of the Kingdom.

I there a way out of this? Is there a fundamental problem with how we define, view, and structure the local congregation? Am I just becoming a Monday morning quarterback? Or...?

don woolley said...

Personally, I think the key issue facing the local church is dying to self that we might live for Christ, and letting the chips fall where they may..... even if that leads to closing the doors and either dissolving or re-organizing in some less institutional way.

Once we equate our attendance growth with Kingdom growth, and what's good for us with what is good for God, then it seems we are an impediment to the Kingdom (at least to some degree). Maybe it's the whole "can't serve two Masters" thing.

Eagleman said...

I may be mistaken, but it seems to me that the responses to my post are still continuing to reflect on church structures as the problem or solution. I didn't intend to propose that discussion at all.

My question was, "Do I know of any which consistently produce people who DO what He taught us to DO?"

The answer to that question must be PRO-active, not RE-active.

Do my own efforts, regardless of context, consistently produce people who DO what He taught us to DO?

Have I effectively taught someone to handle anger or lust or enemies or worry about money in a manner which correlates with Jesus' instructions? I don't think a particular structure is necessarily an answer OR a road block in this pursuit.

Brian was asking us to future-think in a pro-active manner, and to discuss positive suggestions about "How does He want us to function, to “be” his Body in the earth? How can we concretely be the light of the world and the life of the world as we continue into the 21st Century? "

Can we try to seek an answer to that without using comparisons between various modes of ecclesiatical forms? Being the light of the world, and helping others to do so, must take place in a variety of environments, some of which are not apparently conducive (Paul in prison, Jesus on the cross, etc.)

Are we successfully producing that kind of person (regardless of numbers) or not? If we are, how? If not, what can we do to change? That seems to me to be the most central issue, yet one difficult to address. However, address it we must lest all our other preferences still fall short.

While pondering that weighty question, I also continue to muse on "psoter." I understand "poster" and "Psote" and even "poser", but this one yet eludes me.

josenmiami said...

I disagree eagleman. I was responding to your comment: You said, “…carefully evaluate all present and known structures and religious processes with the questions…I truly believe our best contribution to the future will be to do so, and to deal mercilessly with anything in or around us which prevents or impedes it.”

I don’t think anyone in here is engaging in criticism for the sake of criticism. However, there is a necessary “evaluation” of our existing context and historical efforts because we are old dogs. A football team will take time for post-game evaluation to see what needs to change. None of us is starting fresh (perhaps except for Patrick and William). In my case, I was trying to illustrate the fact that I have indeed, been dealing mercilessly with those things around me that were preventing me from producing disciples. However, I agree with your basic point that we have to move beyond evaluation to actually doing something constructive. I believe I have.

I suspect it has a lot to do with each one of our grace gifts and callings. Those that are called more to evangelism will be frustrated in the church context. Those that are called more to pastoral teaching might find more grace working in existing contexts. All of us are called to make disciples in some fashion.

What is working for me is one-to-one relationships in secular contexts. It is a long and painfully slow process. With the WoW group in Homestead, we moved in about a year from the initial contact to gathering to discuss the commands of Christ. Of course, I had some help from my daughter and her boyfriend.

With the graduate students and professors, I am four years into it and we have still not been able to gather for discussion of the teachings of Jesus. All of my formative influence with them has been one-on-one, partly due to the transitory nature of academic studies, and party due to the fact that they healthier people and not desperate for help as the WoW kids.

Brian Emmet said...

I'm going to throw in the idea that the sole purpose of the church may not be discipleship. Discipling, and making (new) disciples is vital and essential, but I think there is a way in which a unitary focus on discipling can also be a distortion of what Jesus intends for his body.

I'm agreeing with Joseph, and I think all of us, that we each come at the conversation through our unique personalities, giftings and callings, and that discipling has been a real weakness in the Western church and even our own "discipling" movement.

The NT gives us several pictures of "church", in addition to the Commission of Matthew 28. There is the "colony" of heaven, the "embassy" of the kingdom, the Bride, the Body, the Vine (I mistyped that as "Vibe"...hmmm, that's an interesting idea, the church as the vibe of the kingdom), witnesses, the marriage of earth and heaven, the ministry of reconciliation...and many others that you are already thinking of.

Part of our debate about structure may have its roots in misunderstanding where some of the structures came from, and why they were developed, and developed by spiritual siblings who were at least as committed to Jesus as we are. When we, for example, dismiss "liturgy" (of the "higher" sort)because it is not helpful in making disciples (and I use this only as example; I am not accuasing anyone here of arguing for this position, I think we're making several errors. My point is not that we must absolutely maintain historical forms of liturgy, but that we cannot discard the idea as "unessential to the DNA of a true expression of faithfulness." Instead, we need to ask (a) how worship forms a people as the people of God and (b) how ought this to be expressed within a local culture that is beginning to receive the Good News.

But I am not meaning to drape a yoke around anyone's neck. My "prediction" uis that much of what the emerging church is discarding with enthusiasm will, in another generation, be "rediscovered" as lost treasure. There is a difference between seeing the Gospel contextualized within a culture, and reducing the Gospel to culturally acceptable norms and expectations.

Finally, y'all realize that if I have to give the correct definition of "psoter," you'll each owe ME a dollar? (He he he, which I intend as an expression of friendly laughter.)

josenmiami said...

Admit it Brian...you just misspelled "poster" ... even English majors have a slip of the computer key board now and then...

Brian Emmet said...

So you're wanting to risk a dollar on this, eh, Joseph? Along with everyone else's dollar?

Eagleman said...

I dont mean to argue for church in which the "the sole purpose of the church may . . . be discipleship" Rather, I intend to say that EFFECTIVE discipleship must be included in some form. That's why I said I don't think the context is as critical as we may believe - liturgical, friendship networks, cross-cutural missional groups, etc. And, Brian, I also don't mean to say that discipleship should be the "unitary focus." I have been there, and done that. It was unhealthy, especially in the sense that the intended outcome was often other than following the teachings of Jesus.

(Actually, if I am not mistaken, some of the clssical liturgy was developed to "disciple" people who may have been illiterate or did not have personal access to Scriptures. Common confession can be a useful vehicle for that.)

Liturgy has other purposes as well, of course -- I am simply saying that the structural container may not necessarily determine the degree of discipleship, and that chasing forms of church rather than spiritual purpose may be misleading.

I think much of John's post on 4/30 was probably accurate as he forecast some trends. Probably all of those changes will take place, along with some we don't prefer or anticipate.

However, I am saying that unless there is an intentional and effective process included for teaching people to DO what Jesus taught, we have come short. I believe the church of the future will need to return to that again and again if it is to be true to the Head of the Church. Singing together, eating together, or drinking together without that intentional and planned component will almost certainly not achieve that objective.

I would add one other ingredient; opportunity for participation by all. This is vitally in keeping with the priesthood of believers, and the distribution of spiritual gifts to all, and has often been overlooked in various church forms.

In fact, the most effective training I have seen includes the participation of all IN the process of forming lives as we stimulate one another to love and good works. Mutual accountability in a suitably small group is a great context for APPLIED learning. In twelve-step groups, often a more effective agent than the teacher is the person who has personally processed through the current lesson to a degree, and who can lovingly call the efforts of another participant to excuse or rationalize his/her failure to "follow through" as "bullshit."

I believe the most effective churches of the future will need to include intentional training to DO, in a context of participation and accountability. The liturgy (and everyone has a liturgy)can take many forms, as can the leadership (clergy or "laity") and the location (cathedral, home, Internet or tavern). Some of these, of course, will contain some advantages, but none is critical to the process.

I do believe it is critical to understand that if our future church does not intentionally and effectively teach people how to "be" like Christ and to implement His teachings in real-world living, that future church will lack the strong central core it must have, that of producing the kind of people who represent Him in every setting of life.

I apologize for not stating more clearly my intent not to set this ingredient in juxtaposition. It is simply my feeble effort to include this training as basic to our purpose of allowing " . . . the Holy Spirit to breathe wisdom, discernment, vision and direction about where God wants us to go? Which way is the wind blowing? What does He desire the “church of the future” to look like? How does He want us to function, to “be” his Body in the earth? How can we concretely be the light of the world and the life of the world as we continue into the 21st Century?" as per Brian in the original "psot."

Sooo, tell us what you are doing, or have done, to effectively lead people in the discipline of becoming like Christ? Let's actually learn from one another. Joseph has been quite candid in his past frustrations and present efforts. I hope to do so also when it will fit within the numerical rules of engagment.

Gary said...

BTW, the name "Eagleman" in which I formerly posted, was chosen for security reasons on certain blogs, and was not intended to create some image on this blog. Therefore, I have changed my blogging identity. The new one should appear above.

smokin joe said...

I think the first thing one must do to make disciples, is to first make sure that one's own self is truly implementing the commands of Christ... surprisingly, after years of assuming I had it down, I found it to be more challenging than I realized, especially when you study them specifically. I have been working on his instuction to "judge not" for about 4 years now...still working on it...I have not even started on "love your enemies".

John M. said...

Joseph, you have enemies?!

I agree with you about the discipler's own life. A couple decades ago I think would have said with a straight face that I believed I was following the commands of Christ in my life.

Now, with each passing year, I am more acutely aware of how far I am from attaining most of them.

Should we say that the first qualification for making disciples it to recognize that you yourself are a disciple wanna-be -- a work in progress.

Should we simply invite our prospective disciples to walk with us as we continue on the journey of becoming His devoted followers (disciples).

Thanks for your comments and encouragement toward spiritual reproduction, Gary. It's good to have you back in cyber-space with us. Your wisdom and seasoned perspective is always welcome and desired.

Brian Emmet said...

Joseph, thanks for the Matt blog info--verrrry intereating! Gary, thank you for your comments--my conclusion is that we should thrash about for a while on a topic, and then have you come in and make all things clear! John, I agree with the importance of letting people into our lives--"join me in the process of learning to follow Jesus"--but would not want to abandon the reality that God has in fact worked in our lives and taught us some things that really are of value and help to others. This does not require us to be didactic or dictatorial, but neither need we pretend that we don't know some things. As long as our confidence is in Jesus, let's not throw it away!

John M. said...

True Brian. I agree.

smokin joe said...

John: I used to have 'political' enemies ... but the funny thing about the command to love your enemies is that as soon as you start to love them and pray for them, they cease to be your enemies!

One of the things I am studying in 20th century Catholicism is the ideological rhetoric that most of the Bishops and Popes Pius XI, and XII used when talking about communism, democracy, liberalism (in the classic sense) and the modern world. They often talked about the "enemies" of the church or the "enemies" of Christ ...

When John XXIII came on the seen, the first thing he said is that the "Church has no enemies" ... and he began to initiate back-door communication with Khruschev... and eventually established cordial communication, and mutual respect with the Sovient leader...something that was scandalous for more traditional Catholics.

All of this came in very handy during the Cuban Missle Crisis when Kennedy secretly contacted Pope John and asked for help in resolving the crisis. The Pope already had the ear of Khruschev...and got the green light from both Kennedy and Khruschev to isuse an appeal for peace ...when in turn gave Khurscheve the means to back down without a loss of face.

As one cleaning lady in the Vatican said, Pope John was a true Christian.

He loved his enemies...and turned them into frieends.

John M. said...

Thanks for the "behind the scenes" look at modern history Joseph. Very interesting.

Gary said...

Thank you, Brian, for your kind comments.

Regarding the remarks by you and John re: discipling "join me in the process of learning to follow Jesus" vs we "would not want to abandon the reality that God has in fact worked in our lives and taught us some things that really are of value and help to others."
We need to strike a balance.

Anything you have learned to actually DO well, you can teach another without either false humility nor pride. Peter is an example of a man who was influencing many for good, but still had some loose ends (Cornelius, etc).

Here, we have learned that bridge-building means taking a man at his word (So you are a Muslim, i.e. surrendered to God?) and responding humbly, but with confidence in your person and position (I am also surrendered to God - why don't we have coffee and talk about our pilgimages?) I am not suggesting we are at the same place in our understanding of God, but neither am I saying that his efforts to be surrendered are insincere just because I disagree with his theology.

Perhaps John is saying, "Let's not let pride or perfectionism keep us from a place of beginning with people."

I am not yet like Jesus, but I do know Him better than the majority of people on this planet.

As Brian says, I can offer some things that "are of value and help to others."

John M. said...

Here are some findings from a recent poll of Roman Catholics that reinforce some of the "trends" we have been discussing. The article also speaks of the vigor of the faith of younger practitioners who were born after 1980 in terms of "spiritual interest" and "observing Lent".

But it is interesting that so many miss the point of the Mass. If that is where the "real presence" is, isn't that the heart of the Roman Catholic faith? Are they disregarding this single teaching of the R.C. Church, or are they simply eschewing the institutionalism of the Church?

"American Catholics said in a new survey they were pleased with the leadership of Pope Benedict XVI, ahead of his first visit to the U.S. since he was elected. The study also found intense interest in faith among some young people.

Yet, few parishioners overall said they go to confession, and most believed they could be good Roman Catholics without going to Mass.

However, the study found that only 36 percent of the younger Catholics attend Mass at least once a month, compared with 64 percent of the older generation.

Sixty-eight percent of all Catholics surveyed said they agreed that they believed they could be in good standing with the church without going to weekly Mass.

Thirty percent of the respondents said they go to confession less than once a year and 45 percent said they never go.

Regarding the church's social justice teaching, two-thirds of Catholics said helping those in need is a moral duty for Catholics."

Here's the link to the AP article where I got these quotes:
http://www.insightbb.com/story.aspx?doc=ONLINE/D900V8Q80.xml&top=NEWS

smokin joe said...

I think people often have an intuitive grasp for truth ... they know that Real Presence is not in the liturgical forms ... the Real Presence is in the believer... "Christ within you, the hpoe of glory"

Brian Emmet said...

New post up, if you're interested.