Archive for the ‘christianity’ Category

Angels and Demons is coming out. I haven’t read the book but some friends of mine told me that it is better than The DaVinci Code.  I got to see DaVinci Code in Florence Italy on the night it came out.  It was awesome.

I was intrigued by the trailer because it begins with the concept of the black smoke that rises from the Vatican when a Pope is elected.  It could be one of the most defining symbols in Western culture because in the Catholic world the Pope is the spokesperson for God himself.

And much like Tickle’s assertion in the The Great Emergence, we’re always intrigued by a great authority.  We’re looking for someone to validate how we think and approve of what we think.  And to lose that authority brings peril to many.

If you’ve read the book, what did you think about it.


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I was listening to a conversation on a podcast and the interviewer asked, “How do you say you know you are a Christian?” And so I want to ask the same question of this audience.  How would you answer that question?

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The One Thing

Ragamuffin Soul asked a really good question. He asked, “If I Would Only [blank], Then They’d Know I Was A Christian…”

The answers are really good and sometimes hilarious. But what caught my attention is that no one, who was being serious, said, “Know more Bible verses” or “Attend more church.” When it really comes down to it, I think we know what it really comes down to. Of the serious answers, about half came down to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and love.

I dig that.

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I had an interesting thought today about the word, “missional.”  If you type the word in Microsoft Word you’ll notice it gets underlined.  This means Microsoft thinks the word is misspelled or doesn’t exist.  Even in WordPress the word is not recognized.  This likely means the word hasn’t entered out lexicon as a general idea or thought.  It still lives on the fringes.

This really surprised me given our history of war as a human race.  It surprises me that we have never considered the word mission as a way of operating or moving.  It also means that the word can easily be misused, misread, ignored, abused, or treated unkindly.  And in a media saturated age where everything happens at light speed, the word can become passe very quickly.

I think this is because we’re still looking for and understanding what the mission is.  People want to live misisonally but they dont’ know what the mission looks like or how to engage it.  We’re still learning the story and what it means to follow Jesus into God’s mission.  We know how to talk about the right way to live, but we don’t know what it means to live the right way.  We’re good at hearing the word and even memorizing it, but we don’t know yet what it means to live it out.

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Summary: Phyllis Tickle’s, The Great Emergence is my choice for book of the year in 2008. Tickle carefully crafts the historical shifts and tipping points leading up to what she calls a rummage sale on the church.  She answers three questions: What Is It, How did it come to be, and Where is it going?  The defining question of all reformations is clear: Where is our authority?  The book takes an important look at the events leading up to Sola Scriptura and the current events leading away from it.

The value of this book cannot be understated.  It helps us understand not just what is happening but also why it is happening within our previous history and current social-religious systems.  It’s much more than a history book.  It’s a clear and concise look into the strings that moved and are moving the system.

Part 1 – What Is it?

Chapter 1 explores the idea that ever 500 or so years, the world encounters a huge rummage sale of ideas and thoughts.  Tickle’s context here is in the church suggesting that the Great Reformation, The Great Schism, and even Gregory the Great were pivotal events in this cycle.  The rummage sale is the idea that everything gets looked through and put up for sale.  What is then birthed is not just a new expression of Christianity but also a much stronger previous version that grows.

Chapter 2 explores the human constructs/systems that essentially “tether us to the shore.”  I appreciated Tickle’s use of graphics to literally illustrate her point.

“The business of winding sufficient duct tape around the casing to make it hold takes us about a century or so, as a rule.”

This line intrigued me because humanity has never had as much power to communicate as today (in a wired world). How will this speed things up?  How will it affect the transmission of ideas when we’re no longer reliant on birds or horseman to deliver letters, instead receiving them instantly in email?  How will idea viruses take root in this new Great Emergence when blogs (or any new media outlet) can easily dispense, mash up, chew on and dispense iterations of these original ideas at light speed?  How will a new generation, one born into light speed adapt to these new ideas?  Suffice it so say, I wonder if one dominating aspect of the Great Emergence will likely be how fast it emerges, as much as any new theology or ideas that change our worldview.

Section 2 – How did it come to be?

Chapter 3 explores how the Great Reformation came to be asking a fascinating question.  Where is the authority?  As people tether to the shore, we need consensus of thoughts and ideas, validated from an authoritative group.  For those in the 16th century, this was the Pope.  But what happens when there is three Popes, as in the 14th century. Chaos ensues.

“Always without fail, the thing that gets lost early in the process of a reconfiguration is any clear and general understanding of who or what is to be used as the arbitrator of correct belief, action, and control.”

People want a leader to make decisions for them.  Luther and others shifted the fundamental authority from the Papacy to Sola Scriptura, which was a massive shift in terms of system because it put the emphasis back on humanity to engage the priesthood of all believers and become literate in the process.

The cost of this was obviously divisive denominationalism, infighting (bloody at times), individualism, and eventually capitalism.  Tickle rightly asserts the cost of Sola Scriptura.

“We begin to refer to Luther’s principle of ‘Sola Scriptura, Sola Scriptura’ as having been little more than the creation of a paper pope in place of a flesh and blood one. And even as we speak, the authority that has been in place for five hundred years withers away in our hands.  ‘Where now is the authority?’ circles overhead like a dark angel goading us towards disestablishment.  Where indeed?”

This responsibility and subsequent individualism eventually became “the common illusion, our shared imagination as Westerners about how the world works and how the elements of human life are to be ordered.” Tickle then argues that the shift in the Great Emergence is a rummage sale of those Reformation practices of individualism, the nuclear family, and even capitalism.  Selling the old makes way for the new.

As a side note: Tickle asks about the origins of the Renaissance, suggesting that the fall of the Byzantine Empire is that point.  I would offer that the rise of the Medici family in world banking was THE very reason for the Renaissance.  Their huge investment in art, science and architecture was deeply important. From Lorenzo , who gave us DaVinci, Michelangelo, Brunelleschi Dome and even Savanarola’s the Bonfire of the Vanities to Pope Leo, whose widespread use of indulgences were pivotal in Luther’s 95 Theses, no family had more influence on affairs of the world during the 14th to the 17th century.  No worries though.

Tickle also explores the impact of people like Copernicus and Columbus, who very actions challenged and later shattered long help teachings of the church.  But more importantly, these events created questions of authority.

“Could the church be wrong?  Yes.  It was that simple and devastating.”

These realizations produced not only bloodshed but also reform in both the Protestant expressions and the Roman Catholic Church. Tickle offers a caution that if we don’t learn our history we are destined to repeat it.


Tomorrow I will post the second half of this book review.  It will include chapter 5 which is by far the best chapter in the book, from my perspective, and explores the events that led up to the Great Emergence.

You can also continue the conversation with Tickle and many others at The Great Emergence conference.

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I am going to The Great Emergence conference. I think this is going to be one of the most important conferences around one of the most important books this year.  The conference centers around Phyllis Tickle’s new book of the same name but also includes many important breakouts.  If you want to get a taste for why Tickle’s book is so important go here and watch the video.

I will be getting in to Memphis on December 4th around 2:00 PM.  If anyone wants to see Graceland, hang out for dinner, or see downtown Memphis that day, let me know.  Would love to hang out. I will have a car if anyone needs a ride.

The event is billed as:

“The Great Emergence National Event is a unique and freshly designed event built on innovative adult learning techniques including interaction, participation, and inspiring content on the current state of and future possibilities for Christianity.”

Speakers include:

Tony Jones, national coordinator of Emergent Village and author of The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier

Doug Pagitt, founder and pastor of Solomon’s Porch (Minneapolis, Minnesota) and author of A Christianity Worth Believing: Hope-Filled, Open-Armed, Alive-and-Well Faith for the Left Out, Left Behind, and Let Down in Us All

Peter Rollins, founder of ikon (Belfast, Ireland) and author of The Fidelity of Betrayal: Towards a Church Beyond Belief

J. Brent Bill, executive vice president of the Indianapolis Center for Congregations and the author of Sacred Compass: The Art of Spiritual Discernment

Lisa & Will Samson, members of Communality (Lexington, Kentucky) and co-authors of Justice in the Burbs: Being the Hands of Jesus Wherever You Live

Joseph Myers, author of Organic Community: Creating a Place Where People Naturally Connect

Tim Keel, founder and pastor of Jacob’s Well (Kansas City, Missouri) and author of Intuitive Leadership: Embracing a Paradigm of Narrative, Metaphor, and Chaos

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, co-founder of Rutba House (Durham, North Carolina) and author of New Monasticism: What It Has to Say to Today’s Church

Karen Ward, is Abbess of Church of the Apostles, Seattle, an intentional, sacramental community in the way of Jesus Christ.

Sybil MacBeth, is a mathematics instructor, a dancer, and a doodler. Her 2007 book Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God introduces a prayer practice that is meditative, visual, active and playful. She lives in Memphis, Tennessee with her husband, Andy, who is an Episcopal priest.

Nanette Sawyer is founding pastor or Wicker Park Grace and author of Hospitality—The Sacred Art: Discovering the Hidden Spiritual Power of Invitation and Welcome.

Cost is $145 before November 5th.  You can register here.

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Are you a Christian refugee?

Mark Sayers offers an interesting video about planting a missional church, which is intriguing.  But his distinction of a “refugee” caught my attention. His comment was essentially that there is this group of people who will attend a new plant who are not converts, but are not part of a local body of believers in the traditional sense. They have essentially left the traditional “church” institution and are seeking something else.

The dictionary’s definition of refugee is:

“a person who flees for refuge or safety, esp. to a foreign country, as in time of political upheaval, war, etc.”

Add the word “Christian” and its easy to begin to ask what people are running from or seeking safety from? Is it abuse, as so many in the CLB crowd have experienced?  Is it theology, or boredom, or even persecution for asking questions?

I also found the timing of the word almost ironic.  We are in the midst of what Phyllis Tickle would call the Great Emergence.  Everything “seems” to be up for grabs.  Politically Christianity feels like it is in a state of unrest.  Is the old guard being forced out or simply reformed?  Is the new guard creating revolution or upheaval?  Is a hybrid of sorts emerging that will usher in a new expression of Christianity that looks 2,000 years old.  Only time will tell.

It is hard to argue with Mark when people like George Barna suggest that there are twelve million people essentially in this category.  And when someone like Bill Easum admits that there is a problem with the church, it becomes hard to ignore the bright pink elephant standing in the middle of the room.

What is interesting about the concept of refugees is that it suggest displacement from the homeland.  Refugees are forced to wander, and disconnected from community they have no roots to plant. Forces have appeared to work against them leaving them with no place to settle.  Their heart is with their homeland, yet where is that?  Is it back where they left?  Is it somewhere right next to them?

I think the value of this distinction is important because it will give language to what people are feeling.  It will give them a way of communicating an experience.  And hopefully that conversation will lead to healing.

What do you think?  And do you consider yourself a refugee?

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