Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Fantastic Quote!

I'm pasting a brilliant observation by a friend of Frank Viola's - Hal Miller. BTW I googled his name and only found the actor from Sesame Street and a square dance caller in the D.C. area.

This comes from FV's review of Michael Spencer's recent article: "The Coming Evangelical Collapse" published in The Drudge Report, The Christian Science Monitor and CTI.

The last three paragraphs are 1st, 2nd & 3rd base of the homer hit by HM.

Christianity is culturally relevant when it offers a qualitatively different society. Jesus called it “the kingdom of God.” Paul saw its first outlines in the gathered disciples of Jesus, and so he called them ekklesia - we translate it “church”- a Greek word denoting citizens assembled to attend to their common project, their city.

The evangelicals missed this. Evangelicalism sought to transform people and so transform the world. They did not see that something might be missing from this vision, something their assumption of American individualism would hide from them. The true Christian vision is to transform people, transforming them into a people, and so transform the world. The evangelicals missed that middle term. They could not see the church as a foretaste of the new society; it was a club for the new individuals. The evangelicals simply dressed American individualism in Christian clothing. They ended up with new isolated individuals, but in the old society. Since their expression of Christianity did not take form as a new society, it quickly became culturally irrelevant, even though it was admirably culturally open.

To be culturally relevant, Christianity must offer an alternative. God has indeed chosen to deal with persons as individuals- in this the evangelicals were right. Yet they are not simply individuals; they become members of a social reality called ekklesia, which is the entering wedge of the new society of God’s making.

Too often, for example, we assume that evangelism involves the simple aggregation of more and more new individuals. If enough people are “born again,” the world’s problems will diminish. But the experience of the last twenty years- in which we had more and more people “born again” as well as more and more marital tragedies, more and more international tension, and more and more bondage to the demons of our age- seems a perfectly contrived counter-example to this theory.

The Christian calling requires being reconciled with God, to be sure. But it also requires being a new, reconciling society characterized by forgiveness, acceptance, and responsibility in a common task- a society qualitatively different from its culture, yet engaged with it. Little gatherings of Christians for worship and mutual help in being disciples become the seeds of God’s coming new society.

Such a new society will be culturally relevant because it springs from God’s movement among God’s people. The persons who make up this new society live their faith in the face of day-to-day problems that they share with the world around them. They face the same questions as unbelievers: finding joy and meaning in work, living at peace both personally and globally, raising responsible and compassionate children. And in facing those questions, Christian faith becomes relevant even for unbelievers.

Imagine a group of people gathering to help each other in the common task of seeing God’s kingdom incarnated in their work, in their families, in their towns, in their world, in their midst, and (rather than only) in their individual lives. This gathering is ekklesia. It will be relevant to its world because it lives the life of the kingdom in the world, not apart from it.

I have to fight off that temptation of anonymously sending these words to a few people who need to hear them - those who are blindly "caught up." But I realize that pride and lack of humility that drives such proneness. I believe God is at work among those who desire to follow him and they will eventually "get it."

Suffice it to say that it is a widespread blindness in the institutional church to (my soapbox) perpetuate the sad stewardship of sitting in a "study" or an office away from the day-to-day rigor of the world - to prepare for one event that lasts an hour or so on one day of the week at one location - in hopes that a passive mass will carry out the mission beyond the walls. This pandemic malady does not require naming names.

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