Sunday, January 31, 2010

More "Church" and "Pastor" Nouns

"Doing" versus "being" continues to be God's method of "ecclesiastical recalibration." The following is the conclusion of chapter 8 of "Church Turned Inside Out" by Linda Berquist and Allan Karr. It serves as a clarification of the internal churning I experienced when I would hear someone in a hierarchical context refer to themselves as "your pastor." "Not so with you" (Mt. 20:25-27) and " are not to be called... (Mt. 23:8-11) would always pop in my head.
In times of great change, such as the days we live in now, new kinds of leaders surface. They have a different kind of relationship with their culture. In their book Understanding Folk Religion, Hiebert, Shaw and Tienow claim that stable eras of history are characterized by formal religious institutions led by priestly types. Unstable times breed anti-institutionalism, during which more prophetic types surface and lead.

Priests are leaders in the religious establishment. They represent the people to God and sustain the life of their religious community by exercising ritual and symbolic authority. They get their authority and power from their office, which they acquire through institutional processes such as appointment, election, and inheritance. They are often trained in schools and have mastered the performance of religious rituals. They focus on proper procedures, doing things in an orderly manner, keeping the laws, and following the rules. They are keepers of tradition and corporate memory.

This has been the modern era’s leadership paradigm, but the times are changing and we see a shift occurring. Prophets are found “when old structures are inadequate for new situations; times of social turbulence, political turmoil, and spiritual crisis.” Prophets of old lived simple and frugal lives, and in the anti-institutional climate of today people are looking for leaders who live more simply. Rather than appointment to an office, prophets gain their authority through their charisma and spiritual credibility, from character and a message of foretelling the truth and exhorting people to focus on God. They tend to self-identify and live in relationship to society and its institutions as outsiders (priests are insiders). In relation to the church, they act as reformers and critics and are detached, with no territorial ties and no place in hierarchy. They are dynamic change agents. And consequently they are looked at as dangerous opponents of the institutions. The shift of power to leaders of this kind is usually quite threatening to the priestly leaders of modern institutions, but we are nevertheless anticipating the change and the design implications it suggests.

"If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone." -Bob Dylan

Monday, January 25, 2010

Espresso Shots No. 1

Hoping the audio doesn't drag like it did when I reviewed. If it does, have a laugh and enjoy it.


Espresso Shots

I'm trying something new for me. I want to periodically podcast thoughts that I have. This first one is in low resolution and a bit blurry. I'll tweak that for the next one. Any feedback will probably be taken personally - but that's good for me so "fire away."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Grand Opening

Our official Grand Opening will take place on Friday and Saturday - January 22 & 23. We'll be open 6 am to 10 pm on Friday and 7 am to 10 pm on Saturday.

There will be some fun give-aways and free sample beverages given out on both days. We'll offer a 10% discount to all students who present an official school ID.

On Friday evening at 7 pm "Sinai Vessel" (a local group) will preform in concert.

Come and check out the warmest and most inviting Coffee Shop in town!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

"I Do Believe in Spooks...I Do I Do I Do..."

Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. -Romans 14:1-3

When I first started gleaning from the thoughts and hearts of those who were considered as "emerging" among followers of Christ, I was fascinated with the gift of a refreshed hermeneutical approach to scripture - especially the depth of the teachings of Jesus. "Refreshed" only in that it seemed to be more accurately a rekindling.

It didn't take too long for naysayers to arise who communicated misunderstanding and fear aimed at the simultaneous voices as if they were all part of a diabolical conspiracy. All of the sudden, some in the church were espousing an unlimited number of additional shooters in Dealy Plaza.

My greatest disappointment came from one whom I considered a pioneer in taking risks (in the late 60s and early 70s) to reach people whom conventional thinkers neglected. My own spiritual pilgrimage is linked to this break-through. He took it upon himself and his ministry to decry these voices as "heretical" (an accusation he himself endured). Those who followed this Apollos, epidemically contracted this fear and without really researching and listening to those whom were being labeled as apostate. I remember, in my last context, a few of them asking me my take hoping I would decry the "emerging" voices as being adversarial.

The fear and misunderstanding continue.

Linda Berquist and Allan Karr - in their book Church Turned Inside Out - describe this fear very accurately likening it to God's chosen people's reluctant transitioning from Egypt to the Promised Land.

Thousands of years ago, the rebellious people of Israel sent spies to probe the new territory God had prepared for them. When those secondhand sources came back with stories about giants, the Israelites kept wandering around where they had already been and eventually died without ever entering the Promised Land. Most people today live in a wilderness story, unaware of the new and different land and uncomfortable with where it my lead. We focus on giants and ignore God's promises. Why do some people believe that the emerging age mean the demise of Christianity and the rise of Eastern religions? We believe, by contrast, that the emerging era is more compatible with biblical Christianity than most people imagine.

For many years George Barna has probed and published objective data with the Western cultural expression of Christianity. Pulpiteers and Conference speakers were comfortable utilizing his data in order to sustain their paradigms. When Barna began to make conclusions and urge followers to consider the voices of those who were willing to abandon convention for the sake of successful mission, giants in the land emerged.

Barna stated the following concern in his blog from yesterday.

On a recent blog post I read (not linked intentionally), an internationally known church leader quoted a statistic (actually, misquoted it) from the Barna Group and followed it up with an inaccurate and inappropriate claim: “According to George Barna, at least 20,000 Evangelicals won’t attend an organized church, but are meeting in homes. This is a dangerous trend as these groups can become isolationist and cult-like.”

...What bothers me most is the statement that people meeting in house churches “can become isolationist and cult-like.” The critical word in this accusation is “can.” Alternatively, is it possible that house churches can become places of genuine worship and loving outreach? Is it possible that house churches can represent the kingdom of God more effectively than conventional churches? What about the possibility of a conventional church becoming “isolationist and cult-like” –- can that happen? Can the preacher in a conventional church teach heresy? Can a conventional church become so lost in its programs and routines that not a single person gets saved through that church over the course of a year (or more)?

I dread the day – which may be here – when church leaders, with good intentions, are comfortable imitating the insufferable journalistic practices of lazy or ignorant reporters who convert a single instance into a “trend.” We unjustly disparage good people by making such broad and unsupported claims. If we are supposed to be people of integrity and righteousness, our words should reflect truth and love.

I sincerely believe that it is fear that creates this paralysis. It's like the fourth watch of the night when Jesus walked out to the disciples on the Sea of Galilee. They did not recognize God's Anointed moving toward them thinking he was a "spook." The gospel account states that they "cried out in fear." Jesus assured them that he was the same Lord they knew and trusted on the safe shore and commanded them not to be paralyzed with fear. But they stayed in the boat. All but one.

The incident continues with Peter's early transformation. He's the only one who is willing to try. And even though he cried out for help, he was beyond the buoyant security the others clung to. That is why he becomes our poster boy of incrementally overcoming fear and blazing a trail for subsequent followers.

Monday, January 11, 2010

No - We Really Kant

The end of John 15:5 stings with the words χωρὶς ἐμοῦ οὐ δύνασθε ποιεῖν οὐδέν. English does not contain the double negative of the original language since our conventional created "standard" and mind-set does not allow it, but if it did, it would look like: "Without me, you can do no - nothing."

Linda Bergquist and Allan Karr have done a great job of surmising what has historically lead to the current need of ecclesiastical recalibration. This is an excellent excerpt from their combined work in chapter 4 of Church Turned Inside Out.

First, in modernism the world is seen as a collection of things that may be dominated, ordered, counted, and possessed by people. This view of the world leads to an understanding of the universe that is mechanistic, deterministic, compartmentalized, and organized foundationally (hierarchically). More is better than less, and large is better than small. This is the world that invented mass production and franchises. It has also been the “era of organization.” Business and organizational theory, efficiency flow charts, and multi-national corporations organize and manage people, things and information in an increasingly global economy.

This aspect of modernity is not necessarily negative, but it is something that was culturally inherited, and not inherent to the nature of the church. It is not the existence of these ideas that is troublesome to our ecclesiology; it is that they are so readily embraced without questioning the extent to which they serve the meaning of the gospel and the mission of the church. Unwittingly we confuse entrepreneurial business leaders (people who control, count, order, and expand organizations) with apostolically gifted servants of God. We err by substituting our own goals for God’s clear direction, and we miss the mark when we measure success by solely quantitative means. More than fifty years ago, some of the greatest lovers of the church were already starting to react to the church’s conformity to culture. C.S. Lewis wrote: “I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of ‘Admin.’ The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid ‘dens of crime’ that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice.”

…We must pay attention to the reality that some other aspect of Scripture may help new generations of Christians more fully embrace their faith. This would not be the first time that the focal point from which God spoke into culture changed. The Bible tells us that the cultural heresy God called Moses to speak into was idol worship. And the cultural problem Paul most effectively addressed was legalism. The church after modernism is already birthing its own reformers who will speak new meaning into the worldview of a new age. Instead of trusting imperfect humankind, as in the Enlightenment era, the church before us will need to relearn how to recenter its hope in the person of Christ.

I have been saturated with 8 years of "professional training." There are portions of it that have proven to be helpful, if done in the right context. Like a Retriever ascending to a dry shore, it has been a personal challenge for me to shake off the water that mandates me to be the "leader" and allow Christ to lead his people - I mean really lead. I have made the amazing discovery, that Jesus does a pretty descent job taking precedence while working through a network of gifted followers to accomplish Kingdom advances in a lost and hungry culture.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Sophisticated Horoscopes?

I've recently been challenged from a friend about a caveat of sharing elements of personal transformation. All I can say is that this is the only way I can communicate the internal work that is occurring in my life. My hope is to share the rigorous challenge and not to disrupt one's own progress.

Chapter 3 of Church Turned Inside Out is about "Cultivating Community." I find myself seeing the contrast of what I've experienced in the recent past and what I'm learning presently. "Community" like "Church" can be treated either in noun form or verb form. Noun is information; verb is implementation. One is based on expectation; the other requires exploration. In short, I'm discovering that the exploration is more potent than the expectation.
We could ask that each participant of the ministry team be assessed. Then, on the basis of experiences, spiritual gift inventories, strength-finding processes, and personality profiles, each person would typically be assigned a task in line with the apparent needs of the church. This way of working, however, says nothing about the interaction between the individuals who fulfill their assigned roles, according to their gifting and passions. In this structural model, teamship is assumed but may never be realized, mainly because structural assignments are often made presuming the church is an organization, rather than a true team. Studies prove that this way of organizing does not tend to produce the same quality of work or the same level of satisfaction as a group of people who negotiate real networks, meaning teams who recognize the group as an extension of the concepts of self…Breakthrough ways of thinking, designing, and producing happen best when people recognize the genius of connecting with one another. We know of several churches and networks that are now thinking of the leadership structure as a connected team rather than a hierarchical organization.

By the way, one of the authors of CTIO (Linda Bergquist) sent me an e-mail of encouragement and support of what we're doing with our present situation. My thanks to her for that and for the insight I'm receiving from this new book.