Archive for September, 2005

Reflections From Festivalling With My PoMo Peers

Originally uploaded by smh00a.

Like I mentioned Monday, I spent Sunday at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Austin, TX, one of this country’s great emerging cities. This year’s festival had all the makings of greatness: 108-degree temperature Sunday, some of the best bands in the world, and thousands of sweaty people kicking up egregious amounts of dust.

It rocked.

My brother (this was his birthday present) and I watched Tristan Prettyman, Rilo Kiley, The Decembrists, Wilco, Jason Mraz, Franz Ferdinand, and, in the best show imaginable, Coldplay. The Brit band’s appearance was hands-down the biggest event in ACL history — and they made every moment count. From sing-along renditions of “Yellow” and “The Scientist” to a tribute song for Johnny Cash called “Till Kingdom Come” (which they followed with their own rendition of “Ring of Fire”!) to the show-stopping finale song off of X & Y, “Fix You.” It was so worth the heat, the dust, the sweat.

It hit me, however, people-watching during the Wilco show. The pungent smell of marijuana desensitizing my nostrils, my peers lost in the music, lost in their communities of friends and festival-goers, lost in the whole atmosphere. You see, ACL (and Bonnaroo, and Burning Man, and many other festivals nowadays) is a safe place to be yourself, to express yourself, to enjoy the community of others, to enjoy the beauty of art. The Burning Man project claims one of its purposes is “radical self-reliance”, but I don’t believe it — these festivals are all about leaning on others. They are about community.

You see, I couldn’t help but think about how in the world my fellow ACL-goers would ever hear the good news about a different way of life, a kingdom that has come on earth (as it is in heaven), a hope for eternity with a loving savior. To them, Christianity is a joke. It’s a big-haired woman on channel 51, a hypocritical (yet judgmental) co-worker, a finger wagging in their faces, a hand behind their heads rubbing their noses in sins they didn’t even know they were committing.

You see, if I thought we couldn’t afford to keep doing the same, old “Christian thing” before Sunday, I am shouting it now. We’ve got to wake up and see an entire generation that will never darken one of our churches (as they currently are) or call themselves a Christian (as it currently is perceived). We need a paradigm shift. We need words that will be gospel to this entire generation, my peers. “Jesus is the Son of God” or “Jesus Died on the Cross for My Sins” just won’t cut it — they’ve heard it. We need to advertise (and begin living out, for crying out loud) a new way of life, the new order Christ ushered in with his coming. We need to begin living out life together with a community of believers into which we would actually want to invite others. As I mentioned Monday, this community has to look and live differently than it has — no more games, masks, separation, division, bickering, nominalism, sideline spectatorship, or idols.

We need to strip all that mess away and gather around Jesus Christ, who modeled the kingdom life for us. If we pray for God to transform us into this, I believe he may send us a few sweaty, pierced, searching festival-goers, and maybe — just maybe — they will see something a little different in us.

And like it.


Optimist Column

I spent yesterday with about 60,000 folks who wouldn’t be caught dead in most of our churches. I was at the Austin City Limits Music Festival listening to bands like Coldplay, Franz Ferdinand, Jason Mraz, The Decembrists, Wilco, and more. (Coldplay brought the sweaty, smelly, body-to-body crowd to its knees, by the way…). I’ll talk later more about this experience and its potential for evangelism, but first, I want to share a column that was in Friday’s Optimist here at ACU. Tell me what you think:

Mega changes to mega churches

By Steve Holt
September 23, 2005

Most ACU students won’t be attending churches that look anything like the ones they grew up in, according to two new books by respected Christian authors.

A growing number of people, especially young people, are rejecting their parents’ churches for non-traditional, participatory churches, writes George Barna in his upcoming book release, Revolution. Barna, founder and president of the Barna Group and pollster of thought and practice in American Christianity for more than 20 years, says 70 percent of Christian church-goers in America currently attend a “traditional” church, but that this figure will fall to 30-35 percent in 20 years. Moving in are emerging church models such as house churches, cyber-churches, family churches, and postmodern churches (which meet primarily in homes, coffee shops, online, in businesses, and in the marketplace) which are beginning to grow in appeal.

James Rutz reported some of the same conclusions as Barna in his recent book, Mega Shift, in which he claims we are seeing a worldwide movement of the “open church”–a church “with no vertical hierarchies which will change the future.” If Barna and Rutz are correct, many current ACU students will eventually find their place within this “open church” movement.

Many in the “church world” already are asking the obvious question in response to the research presented in these books: Is this a good thing? Should we celebrate or oppose the apparent decline of a church model present since Emperor Constantine nationalized Christianity in Rome in AD 325? Many undoubtedly become unsettled at the idea that a comfortable, predictable church experience might be on its way out, but millions are finding that the more outreach-oriented, participatory forms of Christian community are exactly what they’ve been missing all along. What’s more, the church has grown at its most alarming rates through similar movements in the first three centuries after Pentecost, and more recently under government opposition in China.

Here in the West, we haven’t seen anything yet.

This news should come as a breath of fresh air for those involved in the expansion of the kingdom of God in North America. After all, one of the tasks of the church amid Christ’s kingdom is to selflessly give its life up for the world.

Many will claim the recent trends are merely the latest fads within the church community, similar to the Jesus Movement in the 1960s, the worship revolution in the 1990s, and the emergent movement today. But this couldn’t be farther from the truth, as the “open church” movement seeks to re-define what “being the church” means in a way that is consistent with scripture and our context, not simply do the same thing a different way.

Barna correctly calls this movement a revolution that will “change not only the recruiting strategies of seminaries and Bible schools, but also radically question church building projects.” Rutz declares that the church is transforming itself from an organization to an organism, and “people are rediscovering the original forms and functions in an open, participatory system mostly consisting of house churches.”

A revolution is taking place in the kingdom of God.

You in?


Just an update to the above post…I just took a quiz on church structure. Are these results regarding my preferences a surprise to anyone??

You scored as Mystical Communion Model. Your model of the church is Mystical Communion, which includes both People of God and Body of Christ. The church is essentially people in union with Christ and the Father through the Holy Spirit. Both lay people and clergy are drawn together in a family of faith. This model can exalt the church beyond what is appropriate, but can be supplemented with other models.

Mystical Communion Model


Sacrament model


Servant Model


Herald Model


Institutional Model


What is your model of the church? [Dulles]
created with

Another Reformation?

Blogger Richard Passmore has given us this list of criteria for reforming “church”. What do you think?

A Manifesto Calling for a New Way of Being and Defining Church.

1. The first reformation gave the bible back to the people and we need to give church back to the people (not just christian people).

2. This will take a redefinition of church NOT just a change in style.

3. The churches sub cultural weakness is a leaning towards evolution over revolution, hence style over definition.

4. Theologically there are many examples of revolutionary steps or leaps in thinking, eg Peters vision, Jesus new covenant and so redefinition is plausible.

5. Any redefinition that is put forward needs to collapse the old ways of being that distinguish between church/worship/prayer and the whole of life, BUT hold the tension that whole of life may not be church. (which is where intentionality comes in)

6. The redefinition we are offering of Church in the post- Christendom west is a way of being and living that is a series of chaotic but intentional encounters with God, one another, and the world, founded on the holistic teaching of Christ, and encompassing the whole of life.

7. This encompasses the critical outcome of the imagery of church used in the bible, this being that all the bibles images of church include “attitude and course of action”.

8. This whole of life process is not about walls, rules or fences but about wells, mutuality and redemptive processes.

9. The theological processes and reflections offered so far are consistent with the biblical tradition and can be seen to offer an authentic and consistent redefinition of church.

10. DO-BE-DO, offers one practical way of putting this redefinition into action.

Salvation: Trading Stories vs. Substitutionary Atonement

How would discipleship in North America be affected if more people viewed salvation as the process of “trading my story for God’s story” as opposed to “a substutionary atonement that saves me from my sins”?

I think the latter is an element of salvation, but it might be selling salvation a little short. It makes salvation about “me and God.” It puts the emphasis on “my personal relationship with God”, a concept foreign to scripture. It de-emphasizes the VITAL role community plays in salvation.

Trading stories, however, emphasizes repentance and obedience. Not simply because an “angry judge will condemn us to eternity in Hell if we don’t get right,” but because there is a better life to be lived in God’s story. What’s more, the concept of trading stories equates salvation with initiation into a community of believers. We cannot do it alone. Like the Israelites, we move together as a chosen people, a royal priesthood, declaring to those we meet that “the kingdom has come near” (Mark 1:15). We are a part of a marginal, subversive community that is involved in a Frodo-esque adventure. We trade the old, pointless life for a new one wrapped up in kingdom business.

Those are just my opinions, though. Your thoughts on salvation>

(I’m taking Narrative Evangelism with Dr. Mark Love, which is all about this stuff. Amazing class so far. Thanks to Mark for igniting many fires in my brain already this semester!)

Barna Predicts Less Interest in “Tradchurch”

Below is an excerpt from Wolfgang Simson’s weekly Friday Fax that relates to our discussion over the last few days. Tell me what you think:

Good news for church builders: you only need half the budget! The financial challenges facing traditional Christian churches are often linked to building projects. Many undergo great tensions when considering the massive investments required, which are a burden for the members for many years. But many church building projects are not even necessary, according to a recent study in the USA. “Revolution”, George Barna’s new book, will be published in September. Barna leads a church research institute, and is currently the most-quoted person in the Christian church in the USA because of his statistical work. To summarize the book’s most important conclusions:

* The number of Christians attending local church in the USA is declining rapidly. Today, 70% of Christians attend traditional churches, but this will sink to 30-35% in 20 years;

* The number of followers of Jesus who do not attend a local church will grow from 30% to 70% in the next 20 years;

* Alternative fellowship forms (house church/simple church, post-modern churches etc.), currently home for 5% of USA Christians, will grow to make up 30-35%; another 30-35% will live out their faith in the fields of media, arts and culture; the remaining 5% of Christians attending non-traditional forms of church will have a family-based spiritual life;

* Conclusion: a minority group presently not even noticed by many will become the mainstream of North American Christianity in only two decades.

“This is a revolution, and will change not only the recruiting strategies of seminaries and Bible schools, but also radically question church building projects,” says Barna. If only half as many people will be visiting traditional congregational services in 20 years, a smaller building will suffice.
Source: George Barna in “Revolution”

The Friday Fax is originally published in German by Wolfgang Simson, and translated into English by Steven Bufton. This version © 2005 Steven Bufton. Permission is granted, however, to publish stories from the Friday Fax, provided these are correctly attributed to “The Friday Fax,”.

Subscribe to Friday Fax here

Mike Cope’s blog posting today has relevance to our discussion over the last couple days. Take a look if you haven’t already. Based on that quote, I gotta get me that book. Keep commenting if you have further thoughts on this subject, by the way!

Mike Cope’s blog posting today has relevance to our discussion over the last couple days. Take a look if you haven’t already. Based on that quote, I gotta get me that book. Keep commenting if you have further thoughts on this subject, by the way!