Sunday, April 26, 2009

Dave Dunbar "Everything Changes"

Dave Dunbar, president of Biblical Seminary in Pennsylvania, publishes an excellent ezine called “Missional Journal.” Biblical Seminary seems to have a mission to integrate mission and theology in a way that helps to shape and engage culture. There is a great article called “Everything Changes” about the paradigm change that a ‘missional’ outlook brings to a local church or church association. It listed under 2009, vol 3, no. 2. Below are some key paragraphs from the article:

"…But in reality the church in the West has not always been concerned for missions, or for The Mission. In fact when we focus on The Mission our perspective on many things changes. Let me give some illustrations…

"…What is crucial here is that mission is not first and foremost a job description for the church, but a reference to what God is up to in the world--God is on a mission! So the Father sends the Son, and subsequently both send the Spirit to empower Jesus' disciples to join in the world-wide mission. The church is sent into a harvest that God has already initiated.

“…The critical point here is that mission is not an after-thought in the divine agenda, and so it cannot be an after-thought in the church's agenda. It is not something we try to get to once we are finished with the real business of "doing church." As someone cleverly put it, "God's church does not have a mission in the world; rather, God's mission has a church in the world!" Think about it--there are far-reaching implications to this. So we say this in our convictions statement, "...the mission of God should constitute the unifying motif of theological education."

"…A missional approach to the church reminds us that God is already at work outside the building. It emphasizes that the kingdom is larger than the church and it invites us to look outside the walls and ask: How we can join God in his mission? This question leads to others..."
(Dave Dunbar, 2009, vol. 3, n.3).

ok - if you agree with Dunbar (don't forget to read the original article) what do you think are the other questions that he refers to? If the question is "how we can join God in his mission?" what other questions do we need to ask ourselves?

Also, don't forget Brian's "Skunk works" creative project: 63 comments/ideas so far!


Friday, April 24, 2009

Bono on Easter: "It’s 2009. Do You Know Where Your Soul Is?"

hi: John Meadows sent me this article from the New York Times, written by Bono with some reflections on the significance of Easter in our current cultural context.

I AM in Midtown Manhattan, where drivers still play their car horns as if they were musical instruments and shouting in restaurants is sport.

I am a long way from the warm breeze of voices I heard a week ago on Easter Sunday.
“Glorify your name,” the island women sang, as they swayed in a cut sandstone church. I was overwhelmed by a riot of color, an emotional swell that carried me to sea.

Christianity, it turns out, has a rhythm — and it crescendos this time of year. The rumba of Carnival gives way to the slow march of Lent, then to the staccato hymnals of the Easter parade. From revelry to reverie. After 40 days in the desert, sort of ...

Carnival — rock stars are good at that.

“Carne” is flesh; “Carne-val,” its goodbye party. I’ve been to many. Brazilians say they’ve done it longest; they certainly do it best. You can’t help but contract the fever. You’ve got no choice but to join the ravers as they swell up the streets bursting like the banks of a river in a flood of fun set to rhythm. This is a Joy that cannot be conjured. This is life force. This is the heart full and spilling over with gratitude. The choice is yours ...

It’s Lent I’ve always had issues with. I gave it up ... self-denial is where I come a cropper. My idea of discipline is simple — hard work — but of course that’s another indulgence.

Then comes the dying and the living that is Easter.

It’s a transcendent moment for me — a rebirth I always seem to need. Never more so than a few years ago, when my father died. I recall the embarrassment and relief of hot tears as I knelt in a chapel in a village in France and repented my prodigal nature — repented for fighting my father for so many years and wasting so many opportunities to know him better. I remember the feeling of “a peace that passes understanding” as a load lifted. Of all the Christian festivals, it is the Easter parade that demands the most faith — pushing you past reverence for creation, through bewilderment at the idea of a virgin birth, and into the far-fetched and far-reaching idea that death is not the end. The cross as crossroads. Whatever your religious or nonreligious views, the chance to begin again is a compelling idea.

For the rest of the article, click here.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Church must stop trivialising Easter

One of my favorite theologians these days is Anglican bishop Tom Wright. I found this article that he recently wrote in the Times Online about the importance of faith in the physical resurrection of Jesus. What do you think? Do you argee with him? I am posting a paragraph from the article below ... to read the entire article, go here. JH.

Christians must keep their nerve: the Resurrection isn’t a metaphor, it’s a physical fact
Tom Wright

Private Eye ran a cartoon some years ago of St Peter standing in front of Jesus's Cross and saying to the other Disciples: “It's time to put this behind us now and move on.” It was a satire not on Christian belief, but on politicians and counsellors, and their trivialising mantras. It depended on Jesus's death being not just an odd, forgettable event - and that it was His Resurrection, rather than a shoulder- shrugging desire to “move on”, that got the early Christians going.

Easter was the pilot project. What God did for Jesus that explosive morning is what He intends to do for the whole creation. We who live in the interval between Jesus's Resurrection and the final rescue and transformation of the whole world are called to be new-creation people here and now. That is the hidden meaning of the greatest festival Christians have.

This true meaning has remained hidden because the Church has trivialised it and the world has rubbished it. The Church has turned Jesus's Resurrection into a “happy ending” after the dark and messy story of Good Friday, often scaling it down so that “resurrection” becomes a fancy way of saying “He went to Heaven”. Easter then means: “There really is life after death”. The world shrugs its shoulders. We may or may not believe in life after death, but we reach that conclusion independently of Jesus, of odd stories about risen bodies and empty tombs.

But “resurrection” to 1st-century Jews wasn't about “going to Heaven”: it was about the physically dead being physically alive again. Some Jews (not all) believed that God would do this for all people in the end. Nobody, including Jesus's followers, was expecting one person to be bodily raised from the dead in the middle of history. The stories of the Resurrection are certainly not “wish-fulfilments” or the result of what dodgy social science calls “cognitive dissonance”. First-century Jews who followed would-be messiahs knew that if your leader got killed by the authorities, it meant you had backed the wrong man. You then had a choice: give up the revolution or get yourself a new leader. Going around saying that he'd been raised from the dead wasn't an option.

To read the entire article, click here

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Decline And Fall Of Christian America... Yes... but No.

the article that we posted previously from newsweek about the decline of Christianity in America is coming out on the cover of Newsweek. Dan Kimball wrote a very positive and uplifting response on his blog:

Vintage Faith

I am posting some highlights from Dan's blog below:
[Dan Kimball]
I just read the cover story article of Newsweek which is coming out on the 13th. It is titled " The decline and fall of Christian America The cover looks gloomy almost like a horror film with an all black background and red letters.

So I think maybe there is a decline of a certain shape and sub-culture(s) of "Christian America" as the article states. But at the same time, there is a rising and surging of missional church leaders, church planters, and Christians who have already recognized that we are in a "post-Christian" America as the article states. But that recognition has simply fueled creativity, prayer and passion for mission and because God is God, people are coming to a saving faith in Jesus.

I am so optimistic for the future and have great hope. Yes, there is a "decline and fall" as the article states of certain types of "Christianity" and church perhaps. But there is also a rising and churches and Christians who are rethinking what it means to be "be the church" and to be the church on mission.
Perhaps in 5 years or 10 years we will see another article "The Rise of Rebirthing of The Church In America". A different kind of church perhaps. But oh my, what wonderful, crazy and hopeful times we are actually in.

Go here to read the entire post by Kimball

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The End of Christian America?

An interesting article was published in Newsweek about the apparent decline of Christianity in America. You can access the article at the link below:

Newsweek: The End of Christian America

Below are insightful email comments from pastors Dennis C., Michael M., and occasional troublemaker John M. regarding the significance of the demographic trends:

[Dennis C.] I found in it a lot of confirmation regarding the thrust of our conversations over the past weeks. Her understanding of the church/state separation issue and the religion/politics integration issue is important. She really has a grasp of the issue in American history since the colonial era and up through the founding and the reason for the thought that went into the first amendment. I find her analysis of the current dilemma in the evangelical world and the recent history of getting into bed with a political party to be very persuasive also. By reaching back to Augustine, Paul and Jesus she is really promoting a kingdom perspective re: the mission of the church throughout the ages.

[John M.] Below are a couple quotes that stood out to me:
"The American culture of religious liberty helped create a busy free market of faith: by disestablishing churches, the nation made religion more popular, not less."
"Let the religious take their stand in the arena of politics and ideas on their own, and fight for their views on equal footing with all other interests."

For me the fact that fewer Americans are claiming a specific religious affiliatioin and tend to identify more with "spirituality" than "religion" is actually encouraging. Ultimately, truth will stand in the "free market of faith".
Also, the survey results can be interpreted in more than one way. It may depress Dr. Mohler, but it also means that the harvest is ripe and getting riper. The last time I filled out one of those forms regarding religious preference I gripped to my wife that I could not find a category that I fit into. I was very tempted to put "no religion". Apparently, I'm not the only one...

[Michael M.] John & Dennis, Hearty “Amen” to both of your observations, I could not agree more. [This is one of the better articles I have read commenting on the Survey.] Perhaps another “need” illustrated by the study is the lack of historical understanding both within and without the church. [I know, a real surprise opinion coming from a historian.] I believe it illustrates that along with our call to develop, teach and implement an “orthodox-relational-practical-cross filled” theology, we should probably add “historical.” Doing so will produce believers who understand that his kingdom comes, his will is done regardless of the friendliness of either our culture or government. In fact, we have ample illustrations (China?) of the faith exploding even when governments attempt to stifle the market place of ideas. Michael M

ok, so what do you think? Is this troubling or encouraging? How can or should we respond?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Did You Know 3.0

Ya gotta watch this video ... this is something we need to be talking about, especially in the light of the massive generation and religious changes taking place right now and in the next 10 years.

taking this information along with the article on the collapse of the evangelical church, where do we go from here? Church planting will simply fall further and further behind (assuming we were even doing it). A friend of mine talks about the need for an explosion of some new kind of air-born "Jesus-virus". What do you think? are we sufficiently infected to be contagious?