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The Sin of the Believers September 24, 2006

Posted by fajita in Bible/Meditations, Christianity, emerging church/emergent, Philosophy/Religion.
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In Joshua 22, we find Israel having completed the task of occupying the Promised Land. They were one people, following God’s plans, hearing god’s voice, and consulting God at every turn. Here we have Israel at he height of its power and obedience up to this point.

Three Israellite tribes, Gad, Reuben, and half of Manasseh decide to settle east of Jordan and erect a monument to show that they are faithful to God and with the rest of Israel. The rest of Israel doesn’t like it and instantly decides to kill the 3 tribes. They cite book chapter and verse why they should kill the 3 tribes. They want to keep Israel pure.

Fortunately, they had a talk and didn’t go to war.

Here’s the sin of the believer, the people who have been closest to God, the people who have lived most in god’s blessing and protection: bypassing God.

The 10 tribes bypassed God in assuming they knew what would please God. Only people so close to God can commit this kind of sin. When people get too comfy cozy with God such that they can make decision for God without consulting God, there is bound to be trouble.

Ever seen this sin?


Church Upsidedown September 6, 2006

Posted by fajita in emerging church/emergent, Philosophy/Religion, Post-restoration/Restoration Movement, Solomon's Porch.

Tonight was the Solomon’s Porch “membership class.” It was more of a conversation. A group of about a dozen of us listened and talked about what life was like at Solomon’s Porch.

It was all good, but here is the best part: When a person decides to become a part of Solomon’s Porch, that person changes the church.

OK, think about that. If you are not looking into it you might miss it. Most churches are established, so when someone enters into the church, the goal is to get that person plugged in – am I right here? These people are assimilated. Assimilation is the stated goal. Some churches have ministers of assimilation. When a person enters the church, they are changed to fit into the system of that church. The system is set, some a re so closed that change is impossible.

What would happen if the church was required to change as much or more than the new person? What if the church was excited about the idea that they would need to change because a new person entered in? What would it be like if the church was an open system rather than a closed system?

Think about this: the old way gives power and privilege to make things happen to the people who have been there longest. When that happens, the older a church becomes the harder it is to fit in and matter – unless of course you are assimilated. The new way is different. The power and privilege is given or at least offered to the new people. change is dependent upon new people coming in changing the system. This way, the older the church becomes, the newer it becomes.

Doug Pagitt, the pastor, was pretty open about how it is difficult this is when a churhc grows in numbers and years. However, he made it clear that new people entering the system matter. The evidence for this is (will be) in the change that actually occurs.

The second best thing was the decentralized power structure – or unstructure as the case may be.

So, we are now “members.”   

Unchurched/Postchurched Christians August 27, 2006

Posted by fajita in Christianity, emerging church/emergent, Philosophy/Religion.

It used to be that Christians went to chuch and non-religious people didn’t. Now that clear cut distinction cannot be made. There is a growing group of unchurched, or should I say post-churched, Christians. They haven’t lost their faith in Jesus, but they have lost their faith in church as we know it. Or maybe they have seen so little utility and mission that they no longer find it meaningful.

People are making a difference by exiting the church that they cannot change from within. This is a statistical fact.

What I want to do here in this post is to get some feedback about the postchurched Christian movement. Is this a problem? Is it a statement to the organizaed church? What does the organized church need to learn from this phenomenon?

Your thoughts?

Christians, Not Consumers II August 25, 2006

Posted by fajita in Christianity, emerging church/emergent, Philosophy/Religion.

I don’t put all of my religious eggs into the restoration movement, emerging church or any other basket. Anyone who does is a consumer or something worse. For any Christian, the eggs go into the Jesus basket. If it is not about following God in the way Jesus did (does), then it isn’t worth it.

Dwiggy was wondering in the comments section of my last post on this topic why changing churches means being a consumer. I thought that the question was really good and helps to deeper approach the topic of Chrisatian consumerism.

The central notion here cannot be the local congregation, but rather a person’s role in the larger story of God. That may or maynot mean sticking with the current local congregation or denomination for that matter.

This is a question of motives, not behavior. A person heading off to a new, relevant, postmodern engaging, hip church might be a consumer while someone sticking with his or her stuck in the mud denominational church might be very much in the center of what God has in mind. Behavior does not determine motive.

Certainly each context is highly influential upon individuals and families. Whatever context a person places himself or herself into also has  a set ot expectations and options that go along with it. So, choose your context and you choose the parameters of your available options. Choose your church and you chose your parameters – for the most part.

My point in all of the is that Christian people must not get infected with consumerism such that we make spiritual  and religious choices with a consumeristic mentality. Breaking free from consumerism as it relates to church, God, faith and so on is crucial. Consumerism must be the servant, not the master.

Shop for a car to get the best deal? Sure. Shop for a church to get the best services that make you feel happy? Better think about it. Buying the car might be about you (although I could argue that the other way as well), but church isn’t.

We must acknowledge the influence of consumerism upon us and how it affects our decision making processes and then we must be diligent to notice when these processes are out of place with the topic of decision making. We must find better reasons for making the decision we make than the base and mere “better mousetrap” mentality that consumerism reduces us to.

Porch Report August 20, 2006

Posted by fajita in Christianity, emerging church/emergent, Solomon's Porch.

hugeallofme.jpgTonight at Solomon’s Porch, the gathering was devoted mostly to music and worship. This is great for two reasons:

1. They do not do enough of it during the regular gatherings.

2. My friend Josh Cleveland got to share a song he wrote.

Apparently, here is how it works at this church. There is weekly musicians’ meeting open to anyone with a gift or love for music. Josh, who has been the SP only a few times, shared a song at this weekly meeting of musicians. He was then, to his surprise, invited to share the song with the gathering.

This was a tret all the way around. For one, his song was good and he gave it to everyone there. josh had a venue to share his gifts with music. And he is a good singer with his Hootie and the Blowfish vocals and heartfelt lyrics.

Afterwards, I talked with my friend Luke Hawley, who was in town from Nebraska, and he said that being at Solomon’s Porch was like having been adopted since birth and the being reunited with your birth parents. All of the weirdness you felt with your adoptive parents finally made sense when you met your birth parents. Pretty cool analogy. Other comments from fitrst timers:

“This church makes me want to move to Minnesota.” Sarah

“I’m so glad their gathering is in the evening.” Tausha

We are slowly getting tom know a few people here and there and are enjoying it. I am seeking God for guidance as it all feels so insecure right now. But i can safely say, it was another good night at the Porch.

Knowing God’s Will August 16, 2006

Posted by fajita in Christianity, emerging church/emergent, Philosophy/Religion, Post-restoration/Restoration Movement.

How do you know what God’s will is?

Does God micromanage every choice people make only allowing the illusion of choice?

Is there unbounded free will?

Is there limited free will?

How close is God and how far away is God?

How much of God is revealed in the Bible and how much is revealed in other ways?

What are those other ways?

Does God’s will work the same for everyone? (Moses got a burning bush with clear instruction)

If God did have a plan for your life, how would you (or have you) come to believe you know what it is?

How would you advise someone struggling with coming to know God’s desires or plans?

Where is God’s will when evil or sickness or disease wreak havoc in people’s live?

When Jesus and the church come together August 8, 2006

Posted by fajita in Christianity, emerging church/emergent, Philosophy/Religion, Post-restoration/Restoration Movement.
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The rant in the previous post was a little over the top and deserves some balance – probably more than I am going to give it here.

The American church is not lost. There is hope. The hope, however, is not so much found in the denominational structure of church organizations, but rather in the hearts and minds of the people making up those churches and denominations and using those structures for accomplishing the mission of God.

Katrina relief is a terrific example. When churches and denominations gave of their time and money and other resources, they gave along denominational lines in large measure, but then again, there was a huge willingness to cross those lines and serve together. Had there been no organizational structures in place, then the aid would not have moved nearly as fast or efficiently. One year later, churches are still teaming up to house clean up crews and weekend mission relief teams and keep help moving.

I guess my point with all of that is not that the structure is bad, but that it is a bad master. When it is used to serve the mission, then it is good, but when it becomes the mission, then it is bad.

THw size of the group or organization has a lot to do with it. When groups become large, more organization is required. However, there is a consuming seduction that comes with size which draws attention from being used for the mission of God to maintaining the organization itself. Then there is the seduction of being important. Big starts to mean important and important is worth protecting and what’s worth protecting must be the mission.

When horses push carts, the whole thing gets messed up, direction is lost, and people get hurt.

It should not take Hurricane Katrina, 9-11, or a tsunami for the church to find its mission. And thankfully, many are not waiting. Yes, repsond to disaster and the destruction of terror, but don’t wait around for it to happen. Get active locally, in the flow of everyday life. Rick Warren once said that when a church gets bigger it must get smaller. That’s the place where Jesus and the church come together.

When Jesus and the church part ways August 7, 2006

Posted by fajita in Christianity, emerging church/emergent, Philosophy/Religion, Post-restoration/Restoration Movement.

I am quite confident that Jesus would not forsake the church, but it is the inverse of this relational formula that I am not so certain of. Would the church ever forsake Jesus? Has the church forsaken Jesus?

What I have experienced in fundamental (and much of evangelical) Christianity is a complete reboot of the group of religious leaders most criticized by Jesus – the Pharisees. At the same time, what I have observed from afar in mainline and liberal Christianity is a reboot of another highly criticized group by Jesus – the Saducees. The Pharisees built rules to govern their externals and thought it did them good. The Sadducees shacked up with their culture a little too much and thought that it did them some good. Neither were regarded with much favor in the eyes of Jesus. 

Instead, Jesus intentionally did good that made the conservatives’ and liberals’ good look bad. He found a way to break the spell so may people in that day knew they were under, but didn’t know what else to do. Either ravaged with guilt in their sin (of self-righteousness in their keeping of the rules) or intimately dancing a tango with culture, there only seemed like two alternatives. This might sound familir religiously or even politically.

Has the church left Jesus? Is the church (in America) so many points removed from Jesus that the name is all that remains? If all things American (customs, social interactions, rituals, expectations, entertainment requirements, comfort requirements, consumer mentality etc)were removed from the American church, would anything remain?

Maybe I am on some kind of cynical roll tonight, but that does not make the question irrelevant.

OK, let me push it a little farther: I am not asking if the church is straying a little bit. I am asking if it is so far gone that there needs to be a complete redo. Is the thing Jesus had in mind remotely similar to what we have on our hands today in the American church? If Jesus entered into any church in America today, in whatever its most recognizable form is, would he even know it to be a church? Would he say, “Ah, yes, church as it was meant to be.” I’m not so sure about that one.

I think sometimes that the church is like the husband who really likes what his wife does for him at home, but at the same time really likes how his girlfriend gets him off at the hotel. How long can that arrangement really last? Frankly, from what I have witnessed in my therapy practice, girlfriends are often a lot more jealous of the wife than the other way around. There will be a point of choosing one or the other.

I do not hold out hold for a perfect church – the odds of such a thing are so small I don’t have even one egg for that basket. At the same time, a church willing to be perfected, cleansed, humbled, shaped, educated, exdperienced into something useful is going to make great strides in making Jesus look like someone attractive and meaningful rather than a political opportunist or a cultural pansy.

I want to the see the American church become more concerned with goodness than denominational integrity, ready to team up to deliver food and medicine rather than turf wars and doctrinal squabbles, to explore theology as a community rather than serve up theology for consumption, to model marriage, family, and friendship in attractive ways rather than dogmatic ways or ways inditinguishable from the worst of culture. I want a church that won’t settle for politics and won’t avoid it at the same time.

In short, I want to be part of a church that has not left Jesus.

Report from the Porch August 7, 2006

Posted by fajita in Christianity, emerging church/emergent, Philosophy/Religion, Post-restoration/Restoration Movement, Solomon's Porch.

I attended Solomon’s Porch once again this Sunday. My children joined, but my wife did not (not feeling well). It was very good and inviting once again. How strange it is that all of the familiar elements are present, but the atmosphere is almost reverse of “normal” church.

What I love most is the interactive nature of the gathering. I get to talk and listen. I get to talk to more than one person and listen to more than one person. There are actual conversations going on. You get the sense that something is being created while you’re there and you have a little something to do with the creation. It’s not all sealed up Friday evening in the pastor’s office and unpackaged neatly Sunday morning.

Yes, there is obviously intentionality and purposefulness, but there is room for input, even if no one agrees with it.

This Sunday began a series on the book of Joshua. Pretty gutsy topic considering the war between Israel and Hezbollah taking place in Lebanon right now. Think about it – the book of Joshua chronicles how the Israellites slaughtered every man, woman, and child in many towns on the very same patch of land where war is breaking out right now. 

Joshua is probably the most difficult book in the Bible for me, so I am very pleased that we are taking this direction. Today’s approach gave a sort of promise that nothing is off limits for conversation during the “sermon” over the next few weeks. 

On another note, when we left, my kids begged for more. They didn’t want to leave. That is a good sign. 

On another other note, thusfar no one from my former Minnesota church where I served as a youth minister has contacted me. They may not know that I have hit ground yet, but as the time draws near I am sure I wil hear from a few. For most of them, it’s not a big deal since they probably believe I am merely going to another Church of Christ in town. However, there will be calls and curiosity will emerge at some point. Those will be good and challenging conversations. I don’t expect any rudeness or anger. Rather, I suspect there will be a few who feel sorry for me that I am straying, but at the same time will take assurance that I was baptized correctly. Curious, but probably pretty accurate.   

Baptism At Solomon’s Porch August 1, 2006

Posted by fajita in Christianity, emerging church/emergent, family, Post-restoration/Restoration Movement, Solomon's Porch.

Me and my family attended the baptism service at Solomon’s Porch Sunday. At beautiful Minnehaha Falla, we witnessed 9 people commit their lives to Jesus Christ. One couple getting married next month did a simulataneous baptism. There was one infant baptism (interesting) by sprinkling and the rest by immersion.  

I’ve got my views on baptism and I was a little uncomfortable with some of what went on, but what I did like was the lack of regimented and required language hoops to jump through. It forced me to stretch and affirm these people’s baptisms. It was a beautiful thing.

If you are in the “baptism is essential to salvation because it is the exact point in time when a person goes from Hellbound to Heavenbound” crowd, you would have had major issues with this baptism service. However, if baptism is more like joining Christ in the life of the Kingdom of God and identifying with Jeuss in his death, buriel and resuirrention, then this was a good thing.

I liked the full immersion (except of course for the baby) because I think the symbolism really gets lost in sprinkling.

I liked just how public these baptisms were. It was in a very popular and crowded park with a river flowing through it. Half of the people within viewing distance of the baptisms were just people out at the park. It might have been weird to them, but at the same time, it didn’t take some kind of cult’like ritual effect either. It was just plain good.

Don’t know for sure if we’ll end up joining the community at Solomon’s Porch, but I will say that they gave my wife and I (both introverts) a very good impression.