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Archive for the ‘conflict’ Category

The Human Heart

I’ve now found an interesting graphical representation of how the journey of following Jesus feels sometimes.  But in the end my heart always feels like its coming back to wholeness. (ht)

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ES: What was the main reason they determined church was no longer an essential part of their life?

TR: Basically the issue was that most churches were low-expectation churches. The leadership did not challenge the members nor expect the members to be a vital part of the congregation. That’s why the dropout rate was so high between the ages of 18 and 22. Once young adults start making many of their own decisions, they saw the local church as an optional and, often, nonessential activity.

From Ed Stetzer’s interview with Sam and Thom Rainer who have written a new book called Essential Church.

The whole interview is fascinating. Especially when they say that people are looking for pastors to turn UP the expectations.  All I can say is, “Doooooooohh!”

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What if part of our own restoration really lies in the palm of our hands?

I had a very deep conversation with a friend of mine recently about forgiveness.  He was wrestling with the squabbles he and his wife were having.  It was nothing major, but the minor stuff was building into something major.  And I asked him if he could own his stuff first.  Instantly he retorted back, “Not until she owns her stuff first.”

And for several weeks the issues continued to build.  In fact, he wasn’t just conscious of the squabbles.  He was now fully aware that she wasn’t doing anything about them. His anger was continuing to grow as he recognized her lack of action.

You can easily see where this is going, can’t you.

We met for coffee because he was suffering some of the consequences of his own anger.  They seemed to constantly get into fights.  And I asked him, “Have you dealt with your own stuff first?”  I could see his mind twirl, consciously processing a new reality that had not crossed his mind.

“No,” he said.  “I want her to take care of her stuff first.”

“Why?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he responded.

I sat across the table from him recognizing that I knew that moment so clearly in my life.  The child in me wants others to act first.  I refuse to move even at the expense of my own restoration.  My pride wells up inside of me asking the world to bow at my feet.  I didn’t say anything after that because my friend was lost in his thoughts.  We sipped coffee and then had to go.

About two weeks later I ran into my friend and he had this big smile on his face.  He was standing with his wife and his arm was tightly wrapped around her.  Something had changed.  I walked up to him and gave him a big hug and whispered in his ear, “What happened?”

“I chose to seek her forgiveness,” came the reply.  Turns out my friend had turned a corner at the coffee shop.  He went home and sat his wife down and sought out her forgiveness, nothing more.  He owned his stuff.  And what surprised him was that the moment he opened the door for himself, he inadvertently opened it for her.  She instantly sought out his forgiveness.  The moment he gave up his own stuff, he got what he wanted.  It was for my friend a reunion of sorts for his marriage.

What is it about showing the other person the third way, the way of Jesus that is so restorative?  And why is it so hard to make the first move?  I hate that.  It never ceases to surprise me when we seek forgiveness, we almost instantly releases the other person to do the same.  We hold in our hands the capacity to bring restoration to the world around us, yet we hold on thinking it protects us. But when we let go, owning our own stuff, we seem to gain so much more than we ever imagined.

Listening to: Love Remains The Same by Gavin Rossdale

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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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God Takes Sides In War

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Brother Maynard asked a very important question.  Is there a systematic theology for the emerging church?    In other words, will there be a coherent theological framework that answers deeply important questions concerning sin, salvation, atonement, hell, resurrection, etc.  Think of a term paper or essay that outlines what those in the emerging church think.  Brad Sargent has a response.

Several have touched on issues, asking more questions that creating answers.  The flack over Brian McLaren falls into this category.  It’s the problem when one guy in the crowd raises his hand and says, “This is a problem for me.” And no one has a good answer for him.  And when one guy raises his hand it empowers others to do the same.  And thus a movement was born, fueled by the capacity to communicate in powerful ways through the Internet. The spark of any revolution always rested in the hands of those will to suffer the initial bullets.  And in light of the previous reformation, should we be surprised that it is possible that someone pulled the wool over our eyes.

Much of the tension with the emerging church has been the desire for and the subsequent lack of coherent systematic theology, AND managing the false assumption people make about the emerging church that simply don’t exist (ex: no objective truth, etc.).  The one guy who raises his hand and asks the question doesn’t speak for everyone. And yet people assume he does, because he’s asking the question A LOT of people are thinking or feeling.

And when someone asks the question, the fundamental assumption inherent in the question is that someone got something wrong, otherwise there wouldn’t be a question.  To go back and do critical analysis creates huge tension because foundations are built that would have to be torn down.  And that is hard for people.  It feels like the rug is being pulled out from under you.  But systems inevitably close in on themselves for the sake of their own survival.  Every system does this. As it settles into a rhythm enjoying the fact that it has “arrived”, it inevitably ignores inherent problems for the sake of control, perceiving questions as attacks.

The response to the guy asking the question is often, “So then what do YOU believe.”  And here has been one of the real underlying tensions for those who are asking the questions.  We know there is a problem, yet we are still formulating our answers.  We’re still in conversation about it, evaluating, listening.  This lack of response APPEARS flippant.  “Oh they’re just interested in the questions and not the answers.”  To which I would offer is much like expecting fruit from a sapling.  The truth is that it needs time and with it will produce the fruit.

Much of the movement has been in shifting from argument to conversation, in creating a context for exploration.  In order to formulate something, we need a context to discuss it without killing each other or ruining relationship.  We need generative conversations that can continue without firmly entrenched camps unwilling to move in spite of evidence.  We need as Peter Rollins would suggest, a willingness to examine our weakest points in light other stronger points and vice-versa.

And in the meantime, those in the emerging/ent movement are learning, asking questions, formulating significant questions and issues with the old theology.  Dallas Willard’s book helped present a clear question, asking has Christianity become a Gospel of “sin management?” Doug Pagitt’s book outlines the influence of Greek thinking on Western Christianity.  Tony Jone’s book outlines the birth and rise of the people asking the questions, issues with foundationalism and the rise of wiki-society.  Dan Kimball’s books outlined the significant problem in youth who love Jesus but can’t stand the church. There are now dozens of books dealing with the problem and asking really good questions.

And this brings us back to the problem with the guy who raises his hand.  He’s identifying the elephant in the room that everyone wants to avoid.  It’s just easier to avoid it, isn’t it.  Dealing with these issues means conflict and we’d rather avoid that.  But this approach fundamentally assumes that avoiding the problem isn’t also producing conflict.  And it is.

And the temptation is to simply assume its the cool kid with black rimmed glasses and a soul patch trying to show off.  Being different will do that, which makes it easy to dismiss.  But as Paulo Freire suggested, the banking system of education, which are found in oppressive societies, simply deposits info into your brain without question.  And it’s power depends on people not questioning the system.  Once a system is entrenched, questioning the system becomes unheard of.  People simply get used to the oppression.

This is what has always bothered me abou the critique fo the emerging church.  If what currently exists is completely true and sound, shouldn’t those in power be comfortable with the questions and critique?  Isn’t the mark of sound theology the ability to withstand any question from a genuine seeker?

Which brings me back Brother Maynard’s original question.  Will there by a emerging systematic theology?  I believe the answer is yes, but I would use the term “coherent” or “sound”.  With time it will likely be those asking the questions who will then seek out and find the answers.  Some will get it wrong, but others will get it right.  And like any revolution, it is only those who stand unwilling to move in the face of obvious evidence to the contrary who will suffer.

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The Hard Stuff

It is the very people that we don’t like that are the ones most likely to be our invitation to love.

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