Sunday, November 29, 2009

Voice for Sanity

Interesting perspective on the 'meltdown' of pentecostal-charismatic Christianity ...

'A Voice for Sanity'

This article gets the fire going in my bones ... we are presently in the early stages of a huge housecleaning of religous nonsense and 'Christian' narcisism ... was it Stokley Carmichael who said "burn baby burn" ?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

StrengthsFinders 2.0

While we are pondering what to say about God’s presence and anxiety (see below), let me mention a new tool for discovering the strengths of our personalities.

Deb and I are part of a couples group that include two former church planters, one current church planter/pastor, a prison chaplain and a retired pastor who is the regional overseer for the Dutch Reformed Church (eclectic group!). The group also includes a model, a former airline stewardess, a children’s book author, a psychoanalyst, a jazz pianist and a PhD student (that last would be me--it is a fun group).

The interesting thing about this group is that it was not started by the men but by our wives, with Dr. Sam’s wife Jane taking the lead. This means that rather than being task or agenda oriented, the group is much more relational with a focus on community.

Anyway, someone recently suggested that we take a personality profile test and mentioned “Strengthsfinders 2.0” by Tom Rath.

There is a web site associated with the book, and each new book contains a sealed access code which allows you to go to the web site and take a strengths profile to find what your five top “themes” are out of a total of 34 themes. Such things as Achiever, Activator, Adaptability, Analytical, Arranger, Belief, Command, Communication, Connectedness, Consistency, Context, Deliberative, Developer, Discipline, Empathy, Focus, Futuristic, Harmony, Ideation, Includer, Individualization, Input, Intellection, Learner, Maximizer, Positivity, Relator, Responsibility, Restorative, Self-Assurance, Significance, Strategic, etc.

It took me about 30 minutes to take the profile and I was amazed how accurately it nailed my personality.

Here is the home page:

Anyone who knows us care to take a wild guess at which characteristics were in my top five, or Debbie’s top five?

Monday, November 23, 2009

On becoming a God-defined, non-anxious presence

Robert Grant shared this phrase with us during his recent visit here. The phrase is not original with Robert; I believe it comes from his work with coaching/mentoring and leadership development, but perhaps he can speak to that more specifically. In any event, I have found it packed with layers of meaning. What would I be like if I were becoming increasingly a God-defined, non-anxious presence? What would the life and work of the church look like? How do I move from my "current reality" towards the kind of future reality that is God-defined, non-anxious, and fully present, to God and to the people I happen to be with?

So please weigh in on this. What does "God-defined" do for you, or where does it take you? Any connections to make between anxiety levels and what is defining you? We're not hunting for some kind of "right answer," but want to see what kinds of conversations this phrase kicks up for us.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Deep Church IV: Worship

Belcher writes that, when it comes to their understanding and practice of worship:

"... the emerging and traditional churches have the same Achilles heel--a faulty view of tradition. Both are committed to the same low-church view of church tradition ["no book but the Bible, no creed but Christ"]. This has locked them into a model of worship that is dated and severely influenced by the Enlightenment. They are handcuffed by a style of worship contextualized during the Reformation that no longer connects with postmodern people. The goal is not to simply contextualize or become more like the surrounding culture, but to first adopt church tradition that would give them the resources to connect with the culture without becoming syncretistic.

"Even though the emerging church's views allows them to adopt some ancient practices, this is done in a way that is cut off from the Great Tradition that birthed them. It is as if the emerging churches want the fruit but not the roots from which it came. So in their attempt to be culturally relevant (which they are doing very well), their traditions are not strong enough, I fear, to resist being absorbed by the surrounding culture" (p. 133).

Remember that, in the above quote, Belcher is critiquing both traditional and emerging worship. What do you think of his analysis, and, more broadly... what do you think about the "art and science" of worship?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Deep Church III: Belonging and Believing

Traditionalist churches tend to emphasize believing before belonging, and use doctrinal agreement as a gatekeeper to identify who's "in" and who is "not yet in" (also known in some circles as "out"). Emerging churches tend to emphasize "belonging before believing," partly for missional reasons (postmodern folk need to experience the reality of a community before they can embrace membership in it) and partly because they feel that this approach tracks more closely with what we see in the NT. Belcher describes an interesting situation in his own church. In the following quote, he refers to Joe, an openly gay man who has been attending Belcher's church regularly for two or three years:

So simply declaring that belonging precedes belief is not always helpful. What should I say to Joe tomorrow when he asks about membership? Can he officially join the church even if he can't subscribe to our four basic requirements for membership? What about the Lord's Supper? If he can't become a member because of his lifestyle, should he be able to participate in the Lord's Supper? How do I communicate our views? I want him to be increasingly drawn to the Well [i.e., to Jesus himself]. But I want to follow my conscience on biblical matters. I struggle with what to say. [Belcher, p. 97]

Belcher never makes clear how his subsequent conversations with Joe went. How would you have responded--or how have you in fact responded--to folks like Joe (not necessarily around the issue of homosexuality, but more broadly with a 'community member' whose life is either significantly heterodox or heteroprax [wrong belief and/or wrong living])?