Friday, April 29, 2005

An Affirmation of a denomination

A group of 23 leaders from the Church of Christ denomination have made a Christian affirmation. Although they do not consider themselves a denomination, they act like one in making a statement of this kind. They say that they do not speak for the denomination, but in making a statement of this kind, they express their creed and terms under which someone is or is not in the church - in the denomination.

I know a few of these 23 signers and have heard of several more. Of those that I know, I have a resepct for them that is real and true. So, please understand the tone of this response to be one of respect.

In sum, their non-negotiables are as follows:

1. Baptism
2. The Lord's Supper
3. Acappella Worship

First of all, I guess you could do worse than this list. Lots and lots of the obligations have been peeled away from the list of the past, so I do commend these people for their slimming down of the list. So, there's your kudos.

Second, there is a fundamental flaw in their position. It still smacks of pursuing being right as the highest Christian ethic. It's not that I want to be wrong or that anyone should aspire to being wrong, but being right is not the pinnacle of the Christian faith. Goodness trumps rightness everytime. Read about good and right here. The Pharisees tried to be right while Jesus was good. "Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up."

Third, although I highly value baptism and the Lord's Supper as among the most important Christian exercises, rich in meaning, tradition, and function, the way they are approached in this Christian affirmation is in ways overstated. "In the ancient church there were no unbaptized Christians," is one statement that stands out to me. No room is left for God's grace to cover anyone not baptized through ignorance, having been taught falsely, never having heard, or anything. Nope, no baptism; no salvation. I just can't get there from here. And as for the Lord's Supper, it's awesome and importnat, but using "necessary" as a place setting for the supper is inappropriate.

I think that people in the Church of Christ have to make something essential in order to shout loud enough for people to hear them.

Fourth, the acappella music thing is the place wher I make a dramatic departure from these signers. Yes, people need to worship from their hearts. Yes, people need to particpate in expressing their appreciation, their laments and so forth to God, but to make mandatory a specific kind of worship is blatant and obvious denomination protecting. Nothing makes the Church of Christ distinct from most of the Christian religion than their practice of acappella music. So, protecting that tradition is one of the most important things for these guys. Although they have no legitimate theological argument for mandating this practice, they include among the top three articles of the Christian faith. There may be some room for a conversation on this topic, but as a sub-sub-sub topic in worship discussions as it relates the corporate body. They elevate a very minor conversation topic to a way to divide people. For a people so bent upon unity, they have chosen a terrible thing by which to measure it. If there were ever an example of shallow ecclesiology, it is this topic.

This Christian affirmation has many blindspots, inconsistencies, and problems. It is a throwback to the old school Church of Christ, but with a sweeter flavor to it. However, I am not tricked. The deep ecclesiology it hopes to pursue is foiled badly by its own construction. Its goal (unity of all Christians) and approach (modernistic throwback collection of rules) are oil and water.

Finally, I do hope that the conversation following the issuance of this Christian Affirmation will be honest, open, and healthy. This is my first post in response to it. I may make other later.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Becoming Unchurched #7: Hopeful Deconstruction

I love the church. Did I say that yet?

The church is in need of an abundance of hopeful decontrutction. If you're scrathcing your head by the words, "hopeful" and "deconstruction" set next to each other, then you are not alone. Often times the term deconstruction is just an excuse to rail against something. People think deconstruction means demolition. Please follow me here, they are not the same. A person uses demolition when he or she wants to destroy something. A person uses deconstruction when he or she wants to change things for the better. Also, deconstruction must be followed by reconstruction.

I guess one way to ponder a hopeful deconstruction is to think about a marriage that has lost its zing. It doesn't need a divorce, it needs some life. In the hurting marriage there are some habits, patterned interactions, and negative expectations that have become, well, normal in the marriage. If it continues this way, then it will be headed for a divoce. However, it does not have to be that way.

For most people in any Christian tradtition, they do not need a divorce, they simply need a change in the way things are. However, if the dysfunctional pattern keeps up, it will result in a divorce. We need people within traditions to make great leaps into the culture, even if it means hurting the tradition for God's sake. Literally for the sake of God.

Wade Hodges is doing some hopeful deconstruction with his series of posts beginning here. Brian McLaren does some great hopeful deconstruction in his book, A Generous Orthodoxy.

So, becoming unchurched, so to speak, is one way to save the church from becoming completely something other than the body of Christ. Becoming unchurched is to lose everything not of God whether your tradition declares it to be or not. Yet, it is not necessary to ditch the community of faith who carries the tradition.

OK, sometimes it is necessary, but usually it is not. I am hopeful in my deconstruction because I think my tradition can take it, at least some of them can.

Next - Optimistic Reconstruction

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Becoming Unchurched #6: Losing Weight Is Making Me Grumpy

Warning: Blogs merge ahead.

My favorite post-er boy, Keith Brenton, thinks I'm getting grumpy as I lose weight. If you want to know about my weight los for charity like Keith does, goto 40 Days of Fat here. By the way, Keith is right.

I think it's a terrific metaphor. What it takes to make me healthy requires that which makes me grumpy. I jog. I do situps. I do pushups. I eat less (and I LOVE food). However, despite the fact that it is not gratifying, it is satisfying to have run, to have done situps and have done pushups.

This series of posts is meant to prompt some self-examination of the individual's relationship to church, to God, and to self.

It is my belief that the church needs to do what it takes to lose some weight. (Now, if you just interpreted that to mean "how to get rid of church members you don't like," then just log off now. It's not what I mean).

What I do mean is that we Christians have habits that are "normal" for our particular church culture, but are actually perpetuating a sickness, much like a couple candy bars a day will lead to heart disease, but not right away.

I live in the Bible Belt. Many people here are very proud of their belt. They feel safer, morally superior to people in other places, think the North is a "mission field" (While their own communities are just about as unchurched), pity "those poor people" who are not...well..not just like them.

Now understand, this is a certain merger of church culture, Southern culture and a certain strain of patriotism. However, it is not unique to the south. This kind of social bias cuts across all lines. So, without some penetrating self-examination, these biases will be invisible and therefore continue. I guess what makes me blog about this is that I am personally in the process of finding these blindspots and it is most disturbing.

So, my job is to find the habits (heart, sould, mind, & body habits) that make me churchy, but not Jesusy and find another way to live. I need better habits, and I'm not just talking about reading the Bible more or praying more. What I mean is to reconstruct what it means that I am the church. I am urging you to do the same.

When I started losing weight, White Chocolate Kit Kats had to go. It was not just a choice, it was a feat. It was ending a relationship. It was the end of a mindset. It was the end of an emotional expectation that came with the White Chocolate Kit Kat. And you know what, it bothers me. I get a little grumpy in the convenience store when I see what I cannot have, but want so much.

This is the same process we Christians needs to go through in order to get healthy in our souls and our minds and our hearts.

We must lose our spiritual fat that has come from too much churchiness and not enough Jesusness.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Becoming Unchurched #5: In the Church but not of The Church

Jesus prayed not that his disciples would be taken out of the world, but that they would be protected from it. Jesus wanted his followers to be in the world, but not be corrupted by it. So the church , it would seem, was a mechanism for his followers to be safe from the evils of the world.

However, the world is insidious in its ways. Evil does not merely look at the church in fear and say, "Blast! Foiled again!" No, Evil got tricky. Rather than a frontal assault, Evil courted the church, romanced the church and seduced the church so effectively that the church never knew the difference. The kisses of Evil felt good in the shadow of the cross.

The church became not a Jesus desired, but as Evil had corrupted. The most effective evils are the kind that seem to do things in Jesus name, but damage people in reality.

-Materialism in Jesus name (look in your church parking lot).
-Exclusion in Jesus name (think race).
-Hatred in Jesus name (Yeah, think gays).
-Intimidation in Jesus name (Every use of Hell I've ever heard).
-Nationalism in Jesus name (God bless America, but no one else).

And on and on the list goes.

The church has done some terrible things in Jesus name. Mark that, the church does some terrible things in Jesus name. Evil has so corrupted the church in such invisible ways that we often think we got it all right. We trust the church to have it all together such that if we join the church, then we have it all together. Too many Christians practice righteousness by association rather than righteousness by becoming like Jesus, receiving grace and loving God and people. We're too interested in the short cut than we are the path that really goes somewhere.

Now, before you start thinking I hate the church, which I would not fault you for thinking, it is still the body of Christ. It is the tool of God. It is doing wonder good in the world as well. This world is a far better place than it would have been without the church. I am grateful for the church. I love the Church.

However, when I say church, I mean the people actually following Jesus, not the people who collect in this place or that on Sunday. God knows His church. Jesus is aware of his own body.

My point in this post is that we must be in God's church, which may appear to be in the form of a congregation here or there. However, what we must not do is swallow whole the way of any one congregation and think it some spiritual vitamin whereby we become something we are not. We must not neglect the personal relationship with Jesus because of our association with a "church."

To do otherwise is to be a Pharisee who followed the rules of their insiders club, but called it God's club - a club they could be in and you couldn't.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Friday, April 22, 2005

Becoming Unchurched #4: Terminal?

I am on vacation right now, so blogging will be seldom and short.

During my morning jog, I though about Tom Hanks in the movie Terminal and realized that coming from a church tradition where there are significant flaws can be like this guy stuck in the terminal.

Stuck in limbo between "home" and some place else. Can't go home because of the fighting and dysfunction, but no place else is home.

Termainl is a great title because it is the place he is in and a potential prophecy. Is churchianity terminal?

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Becoming Unchurched #3: Shallow ecclesiology and counseling

Becoming Unchurched Intro
Becoming Unchurched #1
Becoming Unchurched #2

In my last post I mentioned what many are calling a deep ecclesiology. I guess I ought to give my idea of what that means. That's what this post is all about.

I am a marriage and family therapist by trade. In my masters program I learned various ways to do therapy. Cognitive, behavioral, solution-focused, intergenerational, emotionally-focused, internal family systems, structural and on and on. Each model of therapy promised something. Each had its claims to being the most correct, effective, respectful, etc.

Each model also had its own "celebrities." For the most part, some charasmatic leader would promote or develop a model of therapy and gain a following. The model of therapy gained credibility as it gained a following. And, with the research held up when the inventor of the model or the immediate disciples of the model used it. They were the true believers.

However, after the frenzy of the new model wore off and more sophisticatred research could be done on the model, what ended up happening was amazing. No model was superior to any other model. All that could be said was therapy was usually effective, but it did not matter what model of therapy was used.

This news was a humiliating kick to the groin for the true believers. Their model was only as good as any other model. Ouch!!!

So the question then had to be raised, if the model of therapy does not matter, then what does?

Researchers found that there are 4 things that effect the most change in therapy. These things are called "Common Factors." They are:

1. The client's pre-existing resrouces. This was far and away the most important piece to the puzzle. This was not exciting news to the true believers. What it means is that the model of therapy and even the therapist is not nearly as important as they once believed.

2. The therapeutic relationship. This is second most important factor. If the relationship between the client and therapist is full of trust, confidence, and respect, there is a much higher chance of therapy working. This was a little bit of a relief for the true believers. The therapist was actually involved in this factor. However, it again had nothing to do with the model of therapy they were true believers in.

3. Hope. The next common factor again had only to do with the client. Did they believe therapy would help them? The more they believe it will help, the more it helps. Again, this has nothing to do with the model of therapy or the therapist per se.

4. Model of therapy. Finally, the model of therapy comes into play. But after a quick sigh of relief for the true believers in a certain model of therapy, it must be stated that even still, it does not matter which model is used. It's a complete wash.

So, what the true believers belive in, their model of therapy, only accounts for less than 15% of change in therapy. And that 15% does not indicate that any single model is better thanany other.

The point of this is that there was something else happening in therapy than the model used by the therapist. Although on the surface it appeared that counselors were divided because of their schools of therapy, they were actually united in the common factors and didn't even know it.

Now, replace models of therapy with denominations. Replace theory of therapy with theology. Now replace common factors with deep ecclessiology. If you can make these connections in your brain, then you get deepe ecclesiology.

What divides Christians is almost always shallow ecclesiology that we treat as deep, just like the therapists treated their beloved models of therapy that made no difference whatsoever.

Christians are united in a deep ecclesiology and don't even know it.

More to come.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Becoming Unchurched #2: Running Bare Naked Through The Ecclesial Jungle

If this series of posts interests you, then you really need to be reading Wade Hodges recent series as well.

Becoming Unchurched Intro
Becoming Unchurched #1

I've been a memebr of a certain Christian denomination for my whole life. For the latter half of my life my theology has drifted farther and farther from the mainstream of my tribe.

In fact, if my theology were to be thrown out on the table for everyone to examine I would likely be asked not to teach classes, serve communion, lead ministries, pray publicly, lead a small group, provide spiritual counseling, serve as a deacon or elder, or preach. In some churches in my tribe, I would be denied memerbship of any kind. I would never be asked to lead worship, but that has nothing to do with my theology :-)

However, I do not make my theology known to very many people. And they make it easy on me because they do not ask. They assume. I have been in this denomination my whole life, so I must have acceptable beliefs. The assumption is that the longer you are in my denomination the more you adhere to its precepts. So, as long as I keep quiet and attend a church with a certain name on the building, I'm good to go.

However, if I changed 1 single thing, everything changes. If I were to begin attending another church which did not have my denomination's name on it, I would face consequences. Even though not one single molecule of my theology changed, the mere change in location of my Sunday morning worship would send ripples throuh many of my relationships.

1. Questions: I would face questions about my faith, what's "really" happening, and on and on. Most people would have sincere hearts abnout it. However, what this would expose is that our only connection is Sunday morning, which means we're not exactly being church, we're just worshipping in the same location. A few people would have more imposing questions. I'll get to that later.

2. Exclusion: I would not be allowed to teach at any of the denomination's colleges or universities. Again, my theology is not the issue, but rather where I show up Sunday. There is a camp I love dearly that would not allow me to teach for the same reason. Many of this denomination's institutions would not allow me to minister in them because of the name on the builder wher I would worship if it were different from theirs.

3. Eternal Concern: This goes beyond questions. There are some who would think I'd lost my soul to the Devil if I were to worshp anywhre but their place. Sure they are sincere, but because this concern is revealed only when I "leave the church," it only means that they never really knew me in the first place.

What this talk reveals is the extent to which denominational allegiance supercedes theological underpinnings.

Now, I do understand that theology drives denominational structure, but the truth is that, at least in my denomination, the goal is for the theology to be invisible, just believed as the truth, no, THE TRUTH.

Keep with me, I'm almost done.

So, what makes me a member of my denomination?
A) My theology?
B) The building where I show up on Sundays?
C) The assumptions I allow people to believe about me?
D) What I say I am no matter what I believe.

The fact that this question can even be asked indicates an ecclesialogical problem inherent within the splintered, frayed, and combative denominational mess we find ourselves in.

I am all for deep ecclesiology as Brian McLaren and other emergent church types suggest. I want that. However, if there is not wide acceptance of deep ecclesiology, then what good is it?

More to come.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Becoming Unchurched #1: Coming Out of the Dark

If you are a Christian, the title of this series should be at least uncomfortable, but is more likely, alarming. It should be a problem for you in at least three ways.

1. If you apply this title to "the world" or "America," then Becoming Unchurched is an expression of your despair as the culture erodes further and further into darkness.

2. If you apply this title to your own church or denomination, the it becomes an expression of how "the world" or "culture" has infiltrated your congregation or denomination and stained it in some way. Your family of faith will have been contaminated.

3. If you apply this title to yourself, then it feels like and expression that you might be losing your faith.

Well, if any of the above three ideas causes you some trepidation about the title, "Becoming Unchurched," then it will come as a relief to you that this article is not taking that direction. So, take a sigh of relief and wipe your brow.

OK, now the bad news. what I am going to addressin this post is something that I think is an ever greater risk to the work of God on Earth than the above three. Ready for this? If so, keep reading.

The problem with so many of our most dedicated, motivated, and energized Christians is that they are overchurched. Church culture has gotten hold of them and shaped them into its image. I wish I could say that means that these Christians shaped like the church are also shaped liek Christ, but I can't.

Wait a minute there buster, the church is the body of Christ, so going to church is being Christ. Yes, I see your point, but you do not see mine. The church is supposed to be the body of Christ, but that does not mean what or who calls itself church is the body of Christ. It just means it calls itself the church and does religious things. The body of Christ is a mystery. Who can know for sure who is the body and who is not?

The problem is that many of us are overchurched. Overchurched? How can someone be overchurched? I thought that the whole point was to get people churched. Well, actually, it isn't. The problem comes when people just equate churchness and Christ-likeness. Christlikeness requires humility, compassion, hope, peace, justice, sacrifice, and whole lot of other ideals. Chruchness requires memerbship, attendacne and adeherence to a moral code. In short, churchness is a shortcut to the benefits of Christlikeness. And sadly, a really bad, misdirected, and gonna-get-lost-in-the-woods short cut.

Here are just a few more of the differences between Jesus and churchiness:

1. Jesus promotes love first while churchiness promotes brand names (Cathloic, Baptist, Church of Christ etc) first.

2. Jesus makes social justice prominent while churchiness makes select moral correctness prominent.

3. Jesus makes love the mark of the true believer, while churchiness makes knowledge the mark of the true believer.

4. Jesus seeks to befriend non-believers while churchness seeks to convert non-believers.

5. Jesus seeks to convert the overly churched while churchiness seeks to become overly churched.

6. Jesus says, "I became one of you." Churchiness says, "you could be one of us."

7. Jesus releases authority while churchiness accumulates authority.

8. Jesus is impressed that Bono has compassion for AIDS orphans while churchiness is offended that he used the F word.

There are many more differences, but I think you are beginning to perhaps see the difference. When people become Christians or are raised Christian, one of the greatest temptation is to progress as fast as possible in the faith. Great. However, church provides so many apparent short cuts, rewards these short cuts and affirms them that actual growth in faith is hampered. They get churched, but do they love more?

Coming out of the dark means becoming aware of all of the faith shortcuts provided to us and utilized by us, letting them go and getting back to a Jesus like way of life - or getting to that life for the very first time.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Becoming Unchurched: An Intro

When I read Wade Hodges blog post called, Emergent Church of Christ, it was a lit match that has set flame to some fuel gathering in me for a while. This new series called, "Becoming Unchurched" starts now with an introduction, which was my comment on his blog - comment number 10 I believe.

Wade commented on his tribe, the Church of Christ (my tribe as well), and how we will fare as the postmodern turn turns. We're a modern tribe, born of modern parents. How can we live in postmodernity? You might want to read his post here to get the gist.

Here is what I said in comment #10. THis will also serve as the intro to the series:

I’m going off, so beware.

If our tribe is going to have a snowball’s chance, then we are not merely going to have to make lingustic changes, which frankly will be intolerable for many, but we are going to have to flat get unchurched.

Our disease is that we are so churched up that we cannot see dead people. Heck, we can’t even see ourselves. We have no idea whatsoever how embedded we are into our church culture.

For our tribe to think, even for a minute, that we are going to be able to continue to elevate trival and nonsense “issues” like instrumental music and communion correntness and be relevant to people who would love Jesus if they ever saw Him, we are out of our minds.

Practically everything that distinguishes a Church of Christ from any other church denominations is a back burner issue compared to what Jesus did and hoped that we would do. Furthermore, what makes us the same as any other church tribe is even more disturbing than what makes us different. We are unified (whether we like it or not) with conservative evangelicals with a severe, chronic, and probably fatal case of churchitis.

Without acting now and relatively decisively to change our direction, approach to scripture and people, if we do not expand our hermeneutics as it relates to interpretting the scritpure and interpretting people, we are doomed. They’ll put us in the church museum with the Amish.

Monday, April 11, 2005

The Courage To Blog

I am a marriage and family therapist by trade. It is my great joy to walk with people through their struggles. Our conversations are hopeful, redemptive, and healing. That is my goal, and much of the time that is what happens. I get to be an eyewitness to the healing of hearts, souls, and minds. What a joy.

I am a blogger by addiction. I continue to be amazed at the connections made via blogs. I love blogging and making these connections.

I just learned of a blog of a woman who has decided to make part of her healing public over the blogosphere. What a courageous woman!!!

Read Walking the Walk here.

What The Hell?

Brian McLaren's new book, "The Last Word, And the Word After That," is his third in the "A New Kind of Christian" trilogy. I just started reading it. It's a deconstruction of Hell. Huh? Well, not necessarily deconstructing Hell itself, but the ideas of Hell, the construct of Hell, the use of Hell in theology, sermons, and evangelism. In short, McLaren thinks we Christians have a screwed up view of Hell by either overemphasis or Hell neglect.

So far so good. It's challenging and promises to be more so as the plot unfolds. I think I am going to feel a little bit naked while reading this because some of my assumptions he nudged in the first two books are going to be taken head on in this one.

Messy Chrisitian is blogging some about McLaren's book here. Check it out.

And now, for something totally different, 40 Days of Fat is moving right along with more people joining with weight loss, contributions to World Vision and words of encouragement. I even think Cookie Monster might be joinging. Click here to find out more about 40 Days of Fat.

Friday, April 08, 2005

The Pulp

Pope John Paul II first put on his Pope garb when I was in 4th grade. I attended Parkview Elementary School in Apple Valley, Minnesota. In case you don't know, Minnesota is 50% Cathloic, 49% Lutheran and 1% other. Raised in a Church of Christ, I helped comprise the "other" categroy.

Now, in a general sense, Catholics and Lutherans know each other. History is pretty clear about their relationship over the years. Lutherans, though they would not call the Pope "Holy Father," or anything like that, they at least have some knowledge of the Pope.

I had never heard of the Pope until 4th grade. Certainly the death of one Pope and the assassination of another brought it to my awareness, but only a little. Catholics, you see, were "minnow muchers," referring to fish on Friday traditions. Catholics were to be mocks for their obvious Biblical violations, faulty church structure, and intentional efforts to go against Jesus. At least that it what I understood.

Anyway, it was in the 4th grade that I learned about the Pope the hard way. Ms. Caris' current events challenge was done on a weekly basis. If you answered the question Monday, you got 5 points. If Tuesday, then 4 points, etc. I was in the lead, Pete Futak was in second place. Then came the question about the Pope. This time it was a picture with the question, "Who is this?" It was a picture of John Paul becoming Pope. I had no idea. Ms. Caris made it even worse by announcing to the class tht this was an easy one.

Pete Futak was Catholic. He scribbled out his answer and put it in the box. I panicked. I started asking other students who it was. No one taold. Why would they tell the guy in first place? Pete told me he Monday he would tell me who it was, but not until Tuesday. Then he said, "You really don't know this one? Don't you go to church?"

That's not the kind of thing you say to a Church of Christ boy.

Tuesday rolled around, and I was already down to 4 points possible, knowing Pete had already gotten his 5 points. I asked Pete who the guy was (why I didn't ask my parents I do not know). He told me. Pete got next to me and whispered in my ear, "He's the pulp."

"The pulp?" I said out loud.

"Shhh, you don't want anyone to hear, do you? He's the pulp."

So I wrote down that he was The Pulp.

At the end of the year, I came in second place to Pete Futak. Funny thing is, that was the 2nd time he did me that way. The other time was when he told me current event person was Janet Fonda.

Good-bye John Paul.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Lofty Ideas

My wife and I are building something again. Our current project is a loft bed for our son who just turned 5 years old. His older sister, who turns 7 tomorrow, just had her fairy castle loft build last month. Our son's loft will be a train. We're still working out the kinks. So far, zero marital crises on this project. It's a record.

You really need to understand what's happening here. I don't build. From my father I inherited tool allergies. Growing up I heard questions from my dad like this: "Where's the screwdriver?"

The screwdriver - the only one.

You can see how I didn't have a chance.

My wife, on the other hand, grew up with a father who, when their church built a new church building, he dismantled the old church building and built a house from the materials. No lie! My wife tells stories of chipping mortar from bricks to see if they could be saved for their house.

Can you see where this is headed? She thought all men were like her dad. I was a home improvement moron. We hooked up.

After nearly 9 years of projects (every single one of them her idea), we are learning how to build together. It's still hard, but I am learning from her every single time. I'm self-conscious, tentative, and have positively no sense in structural soundness, but I don't need any of that. All I need to do if listen, cut, and lift.

You know, I really like my wife.

Now, go check out what's happening at 40 Days of Fat.

Monday, April 04, 2005

40 Days of Fat

Dear Friends around the US and the world,

Click here to go to my new blog called 40 Days of Fat. Yes, it's a funny name, but here is the short of it. I am going to lose some weight and you are going to help me.

More importantly, I am raising funds to benefit World Vision.

Go to 40 Days of Fat and find out how to help.

Chris Gonzalez is FAT and he's not taking it anymore!!!

The Flow of Power

Power flows. It flows from person to person, from system to system, from this to that. Power changes hands. Power cannot be controlled. In some sense, pwoer an be controlled, but in another sense it is completely unpredictable.

Leaders recognize the flow of power and make steps toward channeling that power in a specific direction. Good leaders find ways to contstantly resdistribute that power. Bad leaders accumulate power. Good leaders use power as an exchange with the followers - a practice which actually creates more leaders. Bad leaders use power to keep followers following.

The emergent church is a terrific example of a power challenge. Church history is filled with people and church structures grasping power and using it to define something, cement something, and control something. The hope for emergent is to recognize that there is a relatively new flow of power (Un-churching oneself without un-Jesusing oneself), but while recognizing it, not controlling.

Brian McLaren just came out with a new book. He is widely seen as the leader of Emergent, but refuses to take that title. His new book will draw critics and it will draw followers. What will he do with his power? His track record says he will mock it and redistribute it at the same time. I hope he keeps that up.

He has to keep it up. If McLaren accepts the title of Emergent Pope or whatever, he will then cease to be emergent and will only be duplicating the faults of the past.

It must be challenging to be considered the leader of something that you cannot lead. By leading it, you lose it. He must let the flow of power flow back to the people who give him that power. There is no better way to accmoplish the goals emergent seems to ahve than to allow its inertia to be shared deeply and widely.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Doughnut Theory of Theological Centeredness

Renewing the Center by the late Stanley Grenz and Reclaiming the Center are recent books that have been blogged about quite a bit. I have not read either of them, so I will not comment on either of them. Rather, I use them to make a point since both are making refernce to the center.

It seems like the center is to theologians what the undecided voter is to politicians. "How can we appear to be their kind of people?"

I grew up in a conservative (I mean very conservative) church. We were so conservative that Baptists were liberal. Get my drift? Yet, even though we were so conservative, we were in the center. "Cults to the right and commies to the left - here I am stuck in the middle..."

Anyway, we were right and we had a justified claim of being in the middle - fair and balanced. ;-)

Now as an older person (age 35, not really that old) and reflecting upon the church of my youth, I see that we were no where near the middle. These people, these good people who loved God the best way they knew how, were far from the middle. They still are, which presents a problem for me - but that's for another blog.

My point is this: how many other groups are just like mine in that they have some claim to the center, but are light years from it? Or better yet, how many groups like mine feel compelled to say where the center is, once was, or now should be.

I think if we panned back at all of these Christian groups, what we would find is a doughnut, with a big fat nothing in the center. If you think about that for a minute, you get to feeling pretty naked pretty quick.

I have hope that many movements are centering, only from their many different locations. If that is true, then here is the irony: Two different groups doing the opposite thing (moving in the opposite direction) actually come closer to each other, depending on which part of the doughnut they are located. Now think about hundreds of groups located on hundreds of locations on the doughnut all moving toward the center, but having to do very different things to go to the same place. If you look at the movement too closely, it looks like chaos. But look from farthering away and it's some pretty fascinating choreography.

I think this apparently unorganized, disjointed, opposing, uncontrolled movment toward is the Kingdom of Heaven moving in awesome ways - toward the center.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Post Restoration Hope #15: She Blinded Me With Science

I just watched a movie called, "What The Bleep Do We Know?" It was the topic of discussion for a book club I am in (which has turned into a movie club).

In short, it is movie/documentary/agenda-drive work seeking to blend science and spirituality. There are many PhD's and MD's (and Ramtha the wacko New Age something or other) talking about quantam physics and the fascinating possibilities it proposes for understanding our reality, God, and the spiritual life.

Now, the science, at least from what I can understand, much of the science was legit (some was crap), but the conclusions were clearly a flying leap into New Age spirituality.

I swallowed the science, but came to very different conclusions on the spiritual aspect of the movie. The mysteries quantum physics offers lead me deeper into the hope realm of seeking to understand how humans are made in God's image. "The breathe of life" means something a little different to me now than it did before watching the movie.

Here's what I want to know: Where are the Christian scientists? All I ever hear from Christian scientists is some kind of proof that the earth is 10,000 or fewer years old. What's to be gained from this arguement which is now in its 6th decade (obviously longer than that, but, you know)?

I want to hear intelligent Christian people speak intelligently about quantam physics. Maybe I am not swimming in the right stream, but this stuff is fascintating and I think the Christian world is missing out something huge by focussing on stupid creation tricks and fighting evolution when they could be helping to inform cutting edge science.

I have hope for Christian scientists to speak a word about God's wonders. I want to hear Christian scientists enter the mystery instead of extinguishing it. I want to hear the thought-provoking questions of Christian scientists, not the boring and contrived answers.

I wonder, if Christian scientists and Christian poets were to talk, what would that conversation be like? If Christian scientists were to voice their questions, would they sound like poets?

Worldwide Emergent, Pagittvision, & the nature of emergent

Messy Christian, my favorite Malaysian blogger, blogs about Emergent Malaysia here. Yeah, that's right, it's global. Some good cultural stuff here as well.

Doug Pagitt blogs on the emertgent blog about some future directions for emergent here. It's some good stuff.

If you are wonderingwhat emergent is, then click here for some good links.

So, in this blog I have shown how emergent is global and local. Pagitt is an emergent leader, but he is not THE emrgent leader. No one is the emergent leader. Emergent has no Pope. Furthermore, emergent has no offical anything. There are a bunch of unoffical people networked together. Messy Christian says emergent is in Malaysia. Great! How many emergent leaders been to Malaysia? Some yes, but few I am sure. How many emergent leaders are from Malaysia? Aha! Malaysia has and will have its own leadership, networked with other international leaders, groups, and cohorts.

This is really cool. Various pieces of emergent are mutually influential, but not dependent upon each other. If emergent suddenly vanished everywhere in the world except in Malaysia, could Malaysian emrgent live? YES! Certainly it would suffer from lack of cross-pollinization, but it would not wither and die either.

So, how does a movement appear in Malaysia, UK, and US and in literally hundreds of places all over the world? How could it be the same movement? Would Malaysian emergents and UK emergents sit well at a table with US emergents? I do not know any of this, but what I do know is that emergent is not appearing in one place and then being exported so much as it is showing up everywhere and people are finding out about each other.

This is a fundamental change is movements, at least in my limited knowledge.

From linear to ecological.
From hierarchy to friendship.
From one source to open source.
From centralized to diffuse.
From harnessed power to unharnessed power.
From uniform agreement to unified hope.
From one right thing to a really good way.

You see, emergent is different than past movements. It is really the first wave of postmodern Christian movements. More waves will come - and more quickly. Emergent (or whatever it will be called) will obsolete itself as it evolves, like really good software.