Sunday, June 29, 2008
Say for instance you wanted someone to live a missional life--that is, a life given over to the mission of God to redeem everyone and everything (which in other words, simply means to follow Jesus); to turn from their inward curve and focus outside themselves on the things and people God loves.
Here's one story that did just that for me. Maybe it will for you too. It comes from this blog about St Aidan, the Bishop of Northumbria, a Celtic Missionary in the 600's on the northeastern coast of England and is an entry in the Missional Synchronous blog hosted by Rick Meigs.
One of the best known stories of Aidan’s focus came when King Oswald’s successor, Oswin, gave Aidan a fine mare from the royal stables as a gift. The mare was intended to ease Aidan’s travels and make him more efficient in his evangelization of Northumbria. Aidan received the horse, and promptly gave it to the first poor family that he met on the road. Oswin heard this story and enraged, confronted Aidan.
The historian Bede tells us of the encounter:
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Monday, June 23, 2008
It's a hot topic, at least in my tradition. Since that is the theological teat on which I was succored (I firmly believe you should use the words 'teat' and 'succored' whenever possible), let me start there.
There's this denominational magazine that gets sent to pastors every few months. The title of it is GROW. It's all about, as you might guess, growing churches. How to, Who is, What they are doing, What you can do to be like them, etc. I don't mean any vitriol by that, it's just what is (I intentionally left a link to the magazine out).
And here's the thing, the growth is measured--almost exclusively--in terms of the number of people who show up at a service on a Sunday morning or a Saturday night (aka, "the weekend" in North American church speak). It's existence is funded by an attractional understanding of church. The point is, if I am correctly reading the subtext, butt's in the seat. So gracing it's pages are frequently numbered lists of churches with titles like: "Highest Worship Attendance", "Largest Gain in Sunday School," etc. Secretly, I find myself scanning the list to see if we "made it" or if someone I know "made it."
Now this isn't all bad. I think we on the missional side of things throw too many stones. I am regularly re-oriented to God during those corporate worship times. My life is made sense of in terms of God and I find myself renewed, reordered and refreshed. I actually want to face my life again. Do we not want people to have this experience? Isn't this part of the purpose of corporate worship? Do we want it to be an experience people don't want to attend? Is there anything wrong with making the environment where it happens conducive to the experience of God we want people to have?
Here's a bit of the rub. The magazine features interviews of pastors "making it happen" and one frequent refrain is about how a new Sunday School program or discipleship effort is "missional." Honestly, I just scratch my head and turn the page. I don't think they get it. I think they think that because they've organized everyone and everyone knows what they are to do and they are doing it for Jesus...well, then, that's missional.
So is it? And if it isn't (I don't think it is--it seems way to focused on self-preservation to warrant that descriptor), then what is it? Many others have spent time defining it on the other blogs of this synchro-blog, so instead of a defintion, here's an example to end this way-too-long post:
We have a local ecumenical retreat center in town called Richmond Hill--very sweet place--that loves and cares for the city (they do personal retreats btw. And talk about history, they are just down the street from St John's Church where Patrick Henry taunted the Brits with giving him liberty or death). They pray for metropolitan Richmond 3 times a day...and then they go do something about it.
*They've connected virtually every elementary school in the predominantly Title 1 Richmond Public Schools with a congregation that comes in an mentors and tutors kids.
*They work tirelessly to unite the fractured political jurisdiction that is metropolitan Richmond (too long a story for this post), and they are place of hospitality and retreat for the entire city.
*They give themselves away and expect nothing in return. They focus on what's outside themselves and spend their time and money there. And here's the thing, as a result, I want to be where they are located. The warmth of the place is amazing.
*In short, they embody Jeremiah 29:7.
Ben (their outstanding pastoral director), one of the most well-connected people I know who uses those connections to love the city, said this in a newspaper interview that I think gets at the heart of what it means to be missional.
We want to make sure we're real clear that God's interest is in the health of the metro area and it's people and not simply in churches. We want God's agenda out there for all of us.
So how does the local church become this when we live in "Highest Gain in Sunday School Attendance" land? Can you get there from here?
Here's are links to the other bloggers writing about today's topic:
Cobus Van Wyngaard
Friday, June 20, 2008
This is Russ (green shirt) and Karen. They stand around in the heat and make sure kids don't eat too many cookies. They are ministers.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
- There is an insane amount of preparation for a mission. In fact, there is as much activity on ships and on base before the mission as during the mission. The Chaplain said often going out to sea is relaxing compared to the pace of life when on shore.
- Everyone knows what they are to do. Everyone's role is specific and very clearly outlined.
- There is a constant flow of communication. They meet every day to coordinate who is doing what when and why. Interestingly, the officers each had two computers. One for regular email and the other for "secret" email. I wonder what the secrets are? Recipes for Navy Beans? Directions to the nearest Old Navy?
- No duty is too small. We walked by several sailors doing dumpster duty. An aircraft carrier had just come into port and the sailors were disembarking and getting rid of their trash. With 5,000 souls on board, making sure the trash got into the right dumpster was pretty important.
- Not sure if they were sorting it to recycle it, but it looked that way. Not a very fun duty though...
- Taking care of what you've got. Whether it was a 25 year old ship being cleaned, shined, buffed and or the bodies of the sailors (people were running everywhere on base), they took care of their resources. While there, the Chaplain and I lifted weights (@ 0630) and went for a run (@ 1300), all of it "on the clock." Pastors could learn a lot from that.
Chaps from behind and here (on the right) with the Quartermaster (the guy in charge of the maps). What you don't see just to the left is a screen with a little red sticker indicating that whatever is on the monitor is "SECRET." I tried to take a picture of it (it only had directions to the nearest Old Navy), but they both threatened to shoot me.
Cooler heads prevailed and I lived to blog another day.
The first picture is one of the ships my friend serves as a Chaplain, the USS Mason
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
We either shape the future, or the future will shape us.
That's true of any endeavor, and because my "endeavor" is the world and life of the church, I want to pause and think about what that might mean...on Monday, June 23.
Rick Meigs is hosting a synchronized blog on the topic, "What is Missional?" on that day. So far, almost 50 people in the blog-osphere have signed up to post their thoughts.
The topic, if you aren't in church world, is a hot one and gets at how and why the church does what it is that the church does. Hope you can make it back then.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
While this certainly isn't fun for any of us, imagine being in the thirld world and having your food prices (that you already can't afford) go up. That's what's happening globally.
As my one of my seminary profs used to say in talking about the Lord's prayer, our example is Jesus, who prayed it so that his praying and living were the same thing.
"Give us this day our daily bread..."
If we pray that, then we'll ultimately realize we have to do something about it and become one of the means God uses to answer that prayer. It's a dangerous prayer.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
A picture of his big brother and their beautiful mom too.
Friday, June 13, 2008
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Tonight Gail was asking about someone that came over and was trying to figure out who Olivia was talking about. Gail asked if the person had black skin or white skin. Olivia said, “black skin” but Gail didn’t know if Olivia really knew. So then Gail asked, “Olivia, do you have black skin or white skin?” Olivia looked down and said, “white” but then Gail said, “where is it white?” She pointed to her pajamas (which were yellow).
Wouldn’t it be nice to have to really think about what color your skin was or what other peoples skin was without really caring either way?
Monday, June 09, 2008
To the Church...the work of the Spirit will be "to declare the things that are
to come," to interpret coming events, to be the hermeneutic of the world's
- The word derives from the greek god Hermes, the messenger of the god's. He sent the message the god's wanted the people to hear (aka, the little naked guy on the FTD florist logo).
- It refers to the message that is being sent and how we understand that same message.
- And now means "the art and science of biblical interpretation," i.e., the lens through which we see and experience and then live the message of the Bible.
Saturday, June 07, 2008
Friday, June 06, 2008
Why Christianity is Fundamentally Ennobling of Persons and Why My Life Makes Sense and Actually Means Something
"God, you make everything glorious. And I am yours. What does that make me?"
- Visited a guy in the Neurological ICU unit, there because in an attempt to commit suicide, he shot off the left side of his face. His life is forever changed and so are the lives of his wife and two boys. Not fair.
- My close friends have already been through a lot. Tracy had thyroid cancer as a teenager. Their first son has a congenital thyroid condition that requires constant medication and their daughter has SMA, which means she will always need 24 hour care and likely won't live into her twenties. Tracy was diagnosed 2 days ago with breast cancer at 35. Not fair.
Thursday, June 05, 2008
Reading his post yesterday on advice to a new blogger, I was stopped by number 8. Here it is.
8. Don't Criticize. This is a life lesson, not just a blog lesson. So many people have to validate what they think by cutting down someone else. Just don't do it. You can elevate what works, what you believe, what you think--without criticizing the opposing view.
Which made me, er...ahem...uhhhhhhh...gulp, realize I'd done just that. Not in a huge way, but I'd done it against Perry Noble. So here is my personal vow. No more criticism of a person. Ideas, concepts, approaches--all fair game, but no labeling/name calling/pejorativizing (I just made that word up) of people.
I think Tim is right. More is gained by putting an opinion out without also having to bring someone else down. It's a fine line, but I'll do my best.
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
In his searching work (widely considered the greatest devotional writing of the last 500 years), The Imitiation of Christ, Thomas a Kempis said that we must learn to love the truth, no matter where it comes from. Easier said than done, because who actually likes to hear the truth about themselves?? We dodge, avoid, pull evasive maneuvers, defend, and justify all because we don't like to hear the truth.
John Wesley (heavily influenced by a Kempis' book) said that when we are with each we ought "to speak as plainly as possible" to each other. He encouraged a ruthless honesty buoyed by deep community.
Jared's son Jake (3 1/2 years old) apparently gets this better than the rest of us. An excerpt from Jared's post is below and you can read the whole post here.
Scholars have bantered about numerous ideas concerning what it means to become like a little child; I'm sure there's more than one possible answer. But
I was reminded the other day of one aspect of being child-like. We were out with a friend who was holding Jake's hand walking through a store. One of the women who worked there struck up a conversation with him and he politely answered all her questions. She said to him, "wow, are you always this good?" My friend started making some kind remarks about how nice he was and Jake interrupted with a vigorous head shake and a very clear, "No."
He was telling the truth. Even though it didn't put him in the best possible light, he just came right out with it. He didn't have the sophistication to think about how to answer the question in a way that would make him look as good as possible. He didn't think for a moment that his answer might cause him to be loved less. He just said what he knew to be true.
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
- God created the world--the physical world we walk on every day--and said it was good.
- God gave us the earth and told us to fill the earth and care for it. Some translations say, "subdue it", which has lent itself to all kinds of "let's do whatever we want with the earth" kinds of readings and actions. But the original word means something like "to tend and care for in order to make it even more productive." It's basic stewardship.
- In the biblical story, this was all before sin enters the world. Again, this isn't a minor point. No sin=a good material creation + caring for the earth God made for us to care for.
- In the end, God doesn't junk this "test model" for a "better" disembodied existence somewhere else. He recreates it: A new heaven and a new earth. How you think everything will end up someday determines how you act today.
And here's the irony. Part of Perry's point is that he want to keep the main thing, the main thing. And I agree. The environment is not our God. It's not the whole gospel. But it certainly is an implication of living out the Gospel.
Because if we are really "preaching Jesus" won't that result in people who take the Bible seriously; who then care for the poor, visit the sick, speak up for the oppressed, and take care of the environment? And isn't that a really attractive way to live in the first place, thus making Jesus more appealing and "preaching" Jesus without having to drag people into a church service to hear about God? Aren't we living the Kingdom of God?
Plus anyway you look at it, I'm saving $.05 with every bag of groceries I take home in my new (and much roomier than a paper bag) recycled bag. And that means that in about a year, I'll have saved enough to stop at Starbucks for a skim venti, light caramel, Caramel Macchiato. :-)
Monday, June 02, 2008
And that's usually because the average person thinks of the "requirement" to evangelize as something like an Amway sales pitch for Jesus. It's a bad formula that just doesn't work. It goes something like this:
Perfect life + Perfect Jesus-pick-up-line + Perfect sales pitch + Perfect smile = A conversion every time.
Evangelism literally means "good message," and what person in their right mind doesn't want a bit of good news sent their way? So the question is, why is the way it's usually seen come across as such bad news?? And if it's good news, why don't more people respond to it?
As has been famously said: The medium is the message. In other words, people don't hear good news when it's delivered in a bad way. And it seems very much that in trying to deliver good news as a sales pitch, we've become bad news.
These guys are working against that. Trying to re-vision it as something that flows out of life instead of something forced onto people.
From a great article on their website, "The Lost Art of Being Normal":
In the movie, The Big Kahuna, Danny DeVito’s character gives great advice on what I’ve been calling “The Lost Art of Being Normal”: