Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Learning From Our Friends, and Their Friends

From the abstract and theoretical and argumentative, to the practical and lived: as we think about the "friends, and friends of friends" model/paradigm, what have you learned? How have your interactions with various folks who don't neatly/nicely fit into current christian paradigms taught you some things that you think are important for ministry in the world we actually live in? No need to be any kind of expert about this--we're more interested in learning from one another's "field notes."

31 comments:

smokin joe said...

In my own attempts at developing a wider network of friendships that includes a variety of people who would not describe themselves as Christians, I have had to make a number of major paradigm shifts. These are mostly internal, in my own thinking, and include the following:

-I have had to move away from the focus on ‘getting people saved’, to a focus on finding any measure of faith that is already in them, and nuturing and encouraging the faith they already have. I believe the scripture says that God has given every person a measure of faith. I also think of Jesus commenting on the centurian that compared with him, Jesus had not found such great faith anywhere in Israel.

-I have had to give up my inclination for leadership: that is, initiative and task orientation: and learn to follow their initiatives and to spend time with them without any agenda at all.

-I had let go of my desire to get them to ‘believe’ the right stuff, and start looking at the quality of their heart. This one is hard to explain. It probably looks a little like pluralism and I anticipate that some of you might have a problem with it.

-I had to find a context or neutral medium where I could spend extended time with this people as a history graduate student or as a regular patron at a bar.

-I have had to reprioritize my time: less time with Christians and in meetings, and maximum priority on spending time with my secular friends, in their venues, doing what they enjoy.

Sorry John that I frustrated you… I went into a funk, and I could not relate to what you and Brian were talking about.

Bruce said...

When I started back to college, I met several bonafide genius level Christians in my field of philosophy. Something that I heard, and has borne out to be true in my experience, is that the groundbreaking genius guys never have a familiar looking faith. They always bend the rules or don't fit in somehow. Of course looking at C.S. Lewis I knew that it probably worked that way. Then I studied with Peter Kreeft and William Alston, who has taught almost everyone involved in Philosophy of Religion or Epistemology working today. And Peter Van Inwagen, likewise eccentric. My mentor in my doctoral work was from the liberal POV, Tom Green, but he worked with me well, and showed me his real faith. He referred me to other intellectual men of faith that I NEVER would have gone to on my own, like Stanley Hauerwas, Alastair McIntyre and Walter Brueggemann, with whom I have spoken lately. And another one is Henri Nouwen, a Roman Catholic contemplative who was very very different than us guys, with special struggles, but a holy man. I presently have a friendship with Fr. Ron Tacelli, S.J., who co-authored a fine book on apologetics with Peter Kreeft.
(A note: if anyone would like a pdf copy of my dissertation on coming to faith and growing in faith, "Practice Makes Perfect", just ask and I'll send it.)

Bruce said...

Send me a note at:
bruce.c.meyer@gmail.com

John M. said...

Hey Joseph. No problem. Glad we could both be honest. Brian I enjoyed our argument, er, I mean discussion. Also glad we're on another thread. I'm ready to learn on this one... So speak up guys...

smokin joe said...

hey Bruce, I would like a copy. You can send it to me at josenmiami@yahoo.com. I love Henri Nouwen(and I am aware of some of his struggles) and I have started reading Walter Brueggemann. It is good for us to break out of the very narrow evangelical theological boxes....

it also helps me build relationships with our neo-pagan friends. We have our god-party tonight at 9 ... just for fun I had them all take a religious beliefs survey from jesuscreed ... we came out with 3 Quakers (me, John and Dan), two conservative protestants (Carlos and Debbie) two liberal protestants (Sarah and Justin) and three neo-pagans, one reformed jewish (raised southern pentecostal) and one secular humanist(getting a masters in religion!).

In order to share God's love with people ... we first must be friends. I'm still stuck at that point ... I'm not sure I will ever get to communion or baptism with this group ... thats in God's hands. However, we can laugh about our wildly different beliefs, talk about God and morality and still share a deep level of friendship.

it is something new for me -- a new experience of love and friendship. And that is rare at my age.

Patrick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patrick said...

Hey Bruce! I'd like a copy as well: PatrickKCurrie at gmail dot com

Sorry I've been out of pocket on this discussion. The previous one is one of my passions. (BTW, I stated that we all agreed just to stir up a little friendly divergence! ;)

I haven't been participating b/c I've been working on the NEXT LETTERS, a new publication born out of fellowship at the NEXT Conference. It can be found here www.tinyurl.com/nextletter1

Brian Emmet said...

Patrick, thanks for the Nextletter, which looks great! But you don't get off that easily--I'd really welcome your thoughts on these issues, either this post or the prior...or some other altogether!

smokin joe said...

we had a great time Tuesday night at our 'god'-party ... it was a small group and instead of having an intense discussion, we just 'chilled' (literally) around a fire pit and enjoyed tobacco and vodka and orange juice. 3 neo-pagans showed up, along with 2 or 3 orthodox quakers, and a couple of protestants (one liberal and one conservative)

One neo-pagan guy got so excited by the religious beliefs survey we all took, that he came in full regalia ... including fake vampire teeth ... he and I played a game of chess and (because I was not giving it my full atention) he won ... (he is also helping me with my diet) and then another neo-pagan soundly defeated me in a follow-up game ...

In terms of reaching new people, before we can do any of the other 'church' stuff we have talked about ... we must first learn to be friends with others who are outside of Christianity ... a 500-page book could be written on that point right there.... what is friendship? what stages does friendship formation go through ... what kinds of things warrent ending a friendship? What is the role of the initiative of the H.S. in a friendship? Do you continue a friendship with someone who decides not to follow Christ? (here I think of the rich young ruler -- scripture points out that as he walked away -- Jesus loved him)...

this friendship topic is deep and rich ... we could dig for a long time...

Bruce said...

I don't know about how complicated it is.
Except for keeping ourselves overly busy. We already know how to have friends and be friends.
My friendships with people outside of Christ runs into snags in that they want to do stuff and hang around stuff that doesn't move me, that isn't fun. So that makes it hard.
But the part about making time for people, and not being too ossified, well, that's just discipleship that outsiders can make obvious.

Patrick said...

Brian, you win. Here I post:

That's good, Jose! I'm excited that God is working in that group. Your stories give me hope for Jesus to work in some friends that I have.

What I'm learning from my friends - how to manage finances. how to trust God in the midst of lack. how to not give up or give place to arrogance. The friends I live with now teach me things by living it out. I learn by watching, crying and talking things out. I live with my pastor, his wife and their two kids. It's crazy.

Re: F&Fo'F: It's what I'm living. Our church consists of friends and friends of friends. We are a biblical "house church" right now. it's fresh and enjoyable. There are several families represented with a total of 25 people involved. We live life together. I owe some of the money. I've borrowed their cars. I eat at their houses. We watched the super bowl together, over seasonal ales and special lagers. It's nice to be small and genuine.

Btw, I took the online quiz and ended up as a Seventh Day Adventist (100%) then an Eastern Orthodox (98%). So, if you guys aren't doing anything this Saturday, come to church with me and bring your favorite icon!

Brian Emmet said...

Hey, Patrick, thanks for chiming in. I came out something like 99-100% Orthodox myself (and 98-99% Roman Catholic, go figure), and, thanks to Joseph's gentle influence, no doubt, 92% Quaker... I wasn't sure if that was ortohodox Quaker or some other kind...

smokin joe said...

"gentle," huh? that sounds like gentle irony to me ...

The survey we took includes two categories for Quakers; orthodox and liberal. I came out as an orthodox quaker.

Since we took the survey, the neo-pagans in our Tuesday group have started attending again ... I think it helps them to know that there is no agenda to "convert" them or pressure for social conformity. "Christ in us" is the hope of glory ... and as long as we can stay in proximity with our friends, we will let him take the initiative and do the work.

Patrick: I am glad that you are having the opportunity to live in community with a spiritual family.

david said...

brian and patrick, what online quiz did you take?

smokin joe said...

hi David,

you can find it at belief.net ..

http://www.beliefnet.com/Entertainment/Quizzes/BeliefOMatic.aspx

joseph

david said...

100% orthodox.

i guess i'm in the crowd that likes things more historic.

smokin joe said...

cool ... I don't know if the survey was measuring specifically for Eastern orthodox or more generically for orthodoxy ...

Does anyone know, just out of curiosity, how close the Anglican (not U.S. Espicopal) communion is to Orthodoxy?

Bruce said...

Close enough to strive with the Episcopal Church in the USA. Striving with heretics is a sign of orthodoxy, see I John.

smokin joe said...

Striving? hmmmm....

what about "cease striving and know that I am God"?

david said...

joe, i've read that many years ago there were discussions that the anglicans had with the orthodox about a unification with the orthodox church. but i haven't read anything that looks like that continues today.

smokin joe said...

It would seem to me to be a good match...but I'm guessing that a sticking point would be the E.O. claim to be THE "true" church ... which the Anglicans do not claim exclusivity.

by-the-way, as per Brian's encouragement, Dr. Sam and I are taking our sons (and one son-in-law, carlitos) to see Gran Torino at 4:30 pm today.

Bruce said...

Cease striving WITH GOD. But strive to enter into His rest; and contend earnestly for the faith.

smokin joe said...

the words for strive and content (epagnizomai) probably both are similar to jihad, which classically meant to 'struggle against one's own sin in order to submit to God' but the meansings and associations have changed in recent years.

To 'contend' or 'strive' in modern connotations makes me think of angry Christians attacking non-Christians in the recent culture wars...

Bruce said...

Y'know, I don't personally know any of these folk you're talking about. I do believe that people on the, ahem, innovative side of the culture wars say all kinds of nasty things about us, call us full of hatred and stuff. But except for an extreme wing, I think they are making it all up.

Just like when Lot was in Sodom, he was all peace and light, and then when they tried to beat down his door, he pleaded with them. They responded by saying Who is this outsider, now he's judging us.

That's what they say about us.

Brian Emmet said...

I assumed the quiz designation "Orthodox" meant "the Orthodox Church" as opposed to "theologically correct/right/orthosdox." That was just my take on it.

Scripture does enjoin us to contend for the faith, but there are all kinds of ways to be irenic whilst we do so.

Brian Emmet said...

But let's stay on point: what does/can/might it look like to "contend for the faith" in the setting of seeking to build and sustain genuine friendships within and especially without the household of faith? Any other worthwhile models of folks who do this? Tim Keller of Redeemer Prez in NYC comes to my mind.... Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle also. Both Keller and Driscoll appear to be having great success with the kinds of folks Joseph has been directing our attention towards--young, highly secularized, little-interest-in-organized-religion. I do not mean to suggest that only those, like Keller or Driscoll, who now have "national name recognition" are the only, or even the best, models of what we're talking about here... just trying to steer us back to topic at hand. Keller and Driscoll both "contend for the faith," i.e., they are passionately and relentlessly orthodox theologically, but are wonderfully winsome and effectively friend-making.

Brian Emmet said...

Gee, I guess I have this real gift for stopping a conversation dead in its tracks...

Bruce said...

I guess that contending for the faith is something that doesn't work too well in emergent style approaches. It is something that involves drawing a hard line and advocating it, sometimes forcefully, maybe causing bad feelings. I'm talking about inside the group here. With people outside the group, we just love them, beat around the bush, tease with little insights and invited them in to where they can get the whole deal. I think that's what the Lord did. Spoke in parables and called people to "come unto me all who are weary and heavy laden" and when they got inside he told them to pick up their crosses, go fishing for coins in fish mouths, take the last place at the table and multiplied onerous things.
I think this question about contending for the faith is simply something you can't do well in the emerging friendship model of church. You can't do it.

smokin joe said...

I know the feeling Brian, I have had that experience more than once.

I am aware of Marc Driscoll but I do not know the other fellow.

I have been thinking about your question concerning 'contending for the faith' but really don't have anything to say. I think 'contending' can be expressed in vary different ways and in a different spirit ... did Jerry Falwell contend for the faith? I'm sure that he felt he did, but some of it was not wise and may have caused more damage than good.

Does Rick Warren contend for the faith? I think he does ... and I would say that he comes much closer to the intent of scripture.

Brian Emmet said...

No problems, it just seemed like everything stopped abrubtly! I'm not hung up on the "contending" discussion. I know John M is tied up following the death of mis mom-in-law.

John M. said...

Yah, I've been reading, but no time or energy to write. Leave early in the morning for a 10-hour round trip to Northern OH for the burial and graveside, which I'll be doing. At school today and back there on Wed. Just getting through each day. House full of family. Wonderful, but tiring.
Thanks for your prayers.