Archive for April, 2005

Christ: Stained-glass or Subversive?


Pasolini’s Jesus
Originally uploaded by smh00a.

Here are a few amazing excerpts from our conversation with Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch Friday night. Prior to this excerpt, they had spent about 30 minutes illustrating the fact that the church has focused so narrowly on its 15% of the population to the complete detriment of the un-reached 85%. Now they are beginning to focus on why that is, and offer a solution:

Hirsch: American Evangelicalism, but focusing narrowly on a very small segment of Jesus’ life, it diminishes all the rest of his life, which actually adds substance to his death and gives it meaning, so that you’ve got the humanity of Christ, which means more.

Frost: The incarnation is absolutely central, and I would suggest, the most disturbing of all doctrines. Really, in abandoning the genuine nature of the incarnation, you’ve got a God-like person who isn’t really that human at all. The reason why I think it disturbs us this much is that it challenges us to be Christlike, and to be Christlike is to be completely faithful to Yahweh, while at the same time thriving in the host empire. Fully human, fully holy. A lot of times we like the fully holy Jesus, but we don’t like the fully human Jesus.

Jesus has basically become the picture book Jesus – the alabaster Jesus, the stain-glass Jesus. But the Jesus of the Bible is actually a radical, Middle-eastern subversive, actually calling us to the same kind of lifestyle. That is a very, very distressing thought to many Americans.

[Recommends Pasolini’s The Gospel According to St. Matthew — says Jesus wears a hood and is always lurking in the shadows, worried someone would find out about him]

I don’t want to follow the Jesus from the Jesus movies. He doesn’t excite me at all. The real man Jesus gathered together a band of disciples and radically changed the world. Who could do that, looking like he just stepped out of a shampoo commercial?

So the solution to the church’s woes is a more orthodox Christology, eh? What do you think about the Frost/Hirsch diagnosis and their image of Jesus Christ? Is it accurate? As Christ-followers, what does this mean for us?

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More on the Church and Postmodernism

If discussions about postmodernism and the church’s response/role therein gets your juices a flowin’, you’ll want to read a paper I recently wrote for a world religions class. The paper is called “Postmodernity and Faith: A Critical Moment for the Church.” You can read it here.

Here’s a teaser:

Few contemporary “buzz words” are used more often than “postmodernism.” The term is used to describe music, clothing, art, literature, philosophy, and a position of mind, but its implications and challenges for Christianity are staggering. In fact, if the church as a whole refuses to respond to the departure of the rationalistic, “just-the-facts-ma’am” Modern Era, it will die. The catch, however, is that it is going to have to die to its current paradigm and be resurrected in new and fresh forms if it will ever spiritually nurture the average American postmodernist. This paper will introduce some ways that this paradigm shift can take place, but a brief history and definition of postmodernism is necessary before advancing to the church’s answer….

Click here to continue.

Blessings!

Aussies With Attitude: Frost and Hirsch


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Originally uploaded by smh00a.

If you haven’t read the book The Shaping of Things To Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st Century Church, please do so. If you are a church leader of any kind and/or desire to see people come to Christ (I sure do hope I caught everybody in that qualifier), this book is for you. Is it startling at times? Absolutely. Will it challenge your “comfortable” paradigm? You bet. Will it cause your imagination to run wild? No doubt (if you read it with an open mind, keeping in mind that these guys are putting this stuff into practice in Australia, an even more un-churched country than the U.S.). I hope that was enough to whet your appetite for the real meat of this book.

I got a chance to attend a discussion with the authors, Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch, on Friday night. It was amazing. I recorded it on my Mac (another reason why Apple is the best), and you can find it here. The link seems to work best on Internet Explorer, and you will have to turn your computer’s volume all the way up or use headphones to hear it clearly, as there were some outside noises and the mic wasn’t picking up everything. At any rate, block off a couple hours and take in this recording. You’ll want to read the book afterwards (or before).

I apologize to my Internet Explorer readers who seem to be having problems with the sidebar on their platform. It is showing up down at the bottom of the page instead of below the profile. I’m working on a solution, but if any of you know off-hand how to fix this, drop me a note.

Have a blessed week, fellow missionaries of the Word!

Food for Thought

Whether you post a comment every day or are just a faithful reader, take a minute and click on the GuestMap icon at the bottom of the list of links, and leave your name and location on the map. Then read the quote below.

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My wonderful dad passed this along to me. Let’s think on this profound quote as we enter the marketplace today and this week:

“I simply argue that the cross be raised again at the center of the marketplace as well as on the steeple of the church. I am recovering the claim that Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles, but on a cross between two thieves; on a town garbage heap; at a crossroad so cosmopolitan that they had to write His title in Hebrew and in Latin and in Greek…at the kind of place where cynics talk smut, and thieves curse, and soldiers gamble. Because that is where He died, and that is what He died about. And that is where churchmen ought to be, and what churchmen should be about.”

— Ian Thomas, 20th century theologian and author (who was way ahead of his time)

Birds in the Church Lot

True Story: At a seeker-driven, trendy, 3,500-member megachurch in the Dallas area, the pastor’s wife decided to take her turn directing traffic after the Sunday service. In the course of the 30-minute “commute” off the church’s land, the pastor’s wife was flipped off three times by angry drivers for various reasons. The experience shook the sheltered pastor’s wife, who got the idea from her church involvement that the church was full of God-fearing, loving, completely transformed Christians. Apparently she was wrong. She told her husband about the experience, and he also was hurt and surprised. What kind of “community” had he helped build here? Sure, there were warm bodies in almost every one of the 1,000 seats for three services in the plush sanctuary, but were lives really being changed? “What have I created?” he asked, with his head hanging.

Is this the case in many of the seeker-driven, crowd-drawing churches in North America? What are we helping to form if not transformed disciples of Jesus Christ? I pray that the church will wake up to its failure to make disciples in North America, instead making “church” a place and time on Sundays rather than a way of life.

Am I right? Thoughts?

Life Transformation Groups

You know when you hear about some new spiritual formation exercise, and you think, “If every Christian just did that, we could really change the world!”

Well, that’s how I feel about Life Transformation Groups.

The LTG is sort of like the “missing link” for Christians who are discipling their not-yet-Christian friends, and get to the point where most people say, “Do you want to go to church with me?” Well, I rarely ask that question anymore, for many reasons. But I do ask people if they’d like to start meeting once a week (assuming we have cultivated a relationship of trust and authenticity to this point) for prayer and accountability.

The LTG isn’t your ordinary “sin management” accountability group, however. It also adds a scriptural component to the relationship, where each person in the 2- or 3-person group is responsible for reading up to 30 chapters of the Bible per week. If someone doesn’t finish his reading, then everyone does it again (obviously, this can be tweaked for each situation — legalism definitely is NOT the idea here). The other component I like is the missional component built in from the very beginning. Each person writes down up to six names of not-yet-Christians they’d like to see come to Christ, and the group prays through a list of 10 scripture-based petitions on behalf of the lost people in your life. Talk about training a leader from the very beginning! (when one of your friend’s friends is brought into the group, and one of your not-yet-Christian friends is added, you split into two groups…novel idea!)

Interestingly enough, the LTG also is the basic structure of the church, according to the Bible (“where two or three…”). What if we viewed discipleship in this way? Not in a domineering, information-giving way, but in a loving, walking-beside-each other way, where mission was being emphasized from the very beginning. If you’d like to know more about LTGs, visit CMA Resources. Neil Cole has written a book about the LTG idea, so pick it up. Also, you can download a modified version of the LTG card here (the original card asks 11 pretty probing accountability questions, but this card simplifies the questions down to three lighter ones).

It’s going to take this emphasis on making disciples (who then go and make disciples) to break the spiritual drought that is sweeping the West. We have made comfortable converts too long, and haven’t given enough attention to Jesus’ commandment to “make disciples.”

Community Transformation


IMG_0127
Originally uploaded by smh00a.

I recently read an article about how just a few people, led by the Holy Spirit, began a church-planting movement in a run-down housing complex in Austin. The community was transformed. Read this amazing story here.

This story is a reminder that only the Holy Spirit can begin a great spiritual transformation. As humans, we’re often so conceited to think that we actually do anything besides make ourselves available. Could the Holts and Fields be a part of a similar movement in the Boston housing complex shown below or another one?

We’re available.