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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.”   


Tulsa Worshop Podcasts August 31, 2006

Posted by fajita in Christianity, Podcasts, Post-restoration/Restoration Movement.

Wade Hodges just announced that the Tulsa Workshop sessions will be released one at a time on itunes in the form of podcasts.

He also gives us a looky-loo into the 2007 Tulsa Workshop.

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.
1 comment so far

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.

Psalm 11 Reloaded July 19, 2006

Posted by fajita in Bible/Meditations, emerging church/emergent, Post-restoration/Restoration Movement, Psalms Reloaded.
1 comment so far

Look, you can have all your stupid clichés and quote your pithy philosophical garbage all you want, I’ve got one place and one place only that I go when I am in trouble. That place is to God.  Here is may favorite one of your lame songs; this one makes me laugh.

We’re sittin’ ducks;

We’re sittin’ ducks;

The flock must fly, or we’re gonna die, 

We’re sittin’ ducks;

We’re sittin’ ducks;

Hunter’s gotta gun, so we gotta run, 

We’re sitting ducks;

We’re sitting ducks;

Let’s fly the coop or we’re duck soup.  

Go ahead, sing your depressing songs. I have confidence that God is going to make things right. He sees everything going on here. This current mess we’re in is no surprise to the God I know. The god you know, well, I’m not so sure.

The God I know is looking at us all, and not just on the outside. He’s zeroed in on what I think and feel, not just what I do. He’s doing the same thing with you. When he finds good things going on on the inside, he saves it all up, but when he finds a bad apple, he pitches it into the burn heap.

Look, this might sound harsh, but think about it, rotten always spreads to make more rotten, not the other way around. It is for the sake of the good that he chunks the bad.

All you need to do is to get goodness into your heart and then you’ve got nothing to worry about. Then you’ll be able to look God in the eye and not be afraid of anything.  

A Little Something July 18, 2006

Posted by fajita in A Little Something, Christianity, Civil Rights, emerging church/emergent, Philosophy/Religion, Post-restoration/Restoration Movement.

Psychotherapy As Religion might prove to be an informative read.

Dr. King not right model for Black clergy? Postmodern Negro talks about it.

A little something on emergent.

Argenteen and I move on the same day. Weird.

Sivin Kit blogs about another tsunami.

Funny emerging church comic.

Depressed? Anxiety ridden? Going freakin’ nuts? Sing.

Here are some post-emergent rumblings.

Language Less|ens 2: Linguistic Constipation July 17, 2006

Posted by fajita in Bible/Meditations, Christianity, emerging church/emergent, Philosophy/Religion, Post-restoration/Restoration Movement.
1 comment so far

Using art (visual, performing, literary etc) as a means by which to convey the story of God is not merely a neat way to reach out to people who are traditionally marginalized in the church, it is essential to Christianity. Although there is some good sentiment in the idea of reaching out and broadening the tent, the value of art goes a lot deeper and is much more necessary for the survival of Christianity. Art as outreach only is like serving coffee at your church because there are people in the world who drink coffee, but no one in your church really likes coffee. They tolerate coffee because they heard about a coffee ministry at a conference in California. Art is far more essential and critical to the survival of the church.

It is essential for the survival of Christianity for the story to be told. However, when the same old ways of telling the story (which is ripe with hope) with the same old language no longer flows, but rather gets backed up in communication process, a sort of constipation occurs in which there is still a lot of input, but there is no real positive result. As with severe constipation, when the system is backed up for too long, there is real danger for damage.

Art, in its various forms, offers something to the Christian community that it desperately needs for its own survival: a laxative.

Art (good art) has a way of bypassing preloaded objections that have been programmed into the sender and receiver. Art freshens the stale packaging that the meaning has been wrapped in too long. Art provides a newer and more efficient cart to carry the message and allows the old and rusted cart to rest. Art can get the conversation going again and flush out the unnecessary clog.

Art is not just a good idea. An artless church will die – period. It may be a slow and grueling death, but it will die.

The poets, painters, singers, dancers, graphics artists etc are necessary for the story to continue to be told. Creativity is the healthy diet that the church has been skimping on for decades, maybe even centuries. It’s like the church has been on a spiritual Atkin’s diet of the beef of propositional truth for so long it forgot what the breads, rolls, and even pastries of art even taste like and have labeled them as bad. You know, steak is good, but after steak for 15 straight decades, some nice warm rolls would taste pretty good right now. And might even do the body good.