Thursday, June 24, 2010

Aircraft Carrier Turn?

Sometimes when I quote writers, it results in some directing their frustration right at me. "I'm just the messenger" and I'm just passing on insightful thoughts that resonate with my passion.

Perhaps a recent quote I saw on FB from an author "friend" - attributed to Arthur Schopenhauer - is appropriate to pass on? "All truth passes through 3 stages. 1. It is ridiculed. 2. It is violently opposed. 3. It is accepted as being self-evident."

Several quotes from Leonard Sweet's 1999 book *SoulTsumani" in chapter 7 ("Get Dechurched") are none other than suggestions to readers - especially those involved with church leadership. Written 11 years ago and considering the lingering MO of the organized church, I'm prompted to assess out loud: "Ain't gonna happen anytime soon." I hope I am soon proven mistaken. If it does happen, it will be like the proverbial aircraft carrier turning.

These are paragraphs I have highlighted in the chapter that convey the essence of Sweet's challenges. I really believe that the dependency to cling to an increasingly ineffective paradigm is stunting the vital growth of God's Kingdom in this fragmented culture we live in. One of the problems that causes an overwhelming reluctancy (as I have observed) is the anger and frustration of those who draw resources from the the platform/pew format. Frankly, I believe there is a fear to "let go and let God."
Step out! And then look around and you may find a few who are indeed following "whole-heartedly."

One criticism I have heard from those involved in "professional" ministry is that the insights shared by the more intense Christ-Following authors, are not to be given heavy consideration since they are not equal in potency as God's revealed Word. Would it be fair for me to reverse such logic and tell one that oracle presentation should bear the same scrutiny?

Whether I receive insight from a book or a delivered message does not matter. It is still proclamation by those gifted to probe God's truth and present it in ways that instill ecclesiastical obedience.

I hope these quotations are beneficial to those who read and motivational to seek out the challenge of fulfilling Christ's commission in today's fluid culture.

One of our greatest killers is the notion that what we don't know isn't worth anything. One of our greatest challenges is how to come to terms with what we don't know and the too many things we know that aren't true. Because the church has failed to be both a learning organism and an unlearning organism, our intellectual capital is steadily depreciating. (p. 146)

Before there can be a Postmodern Reformation, however, there must first be a Postmodern Deformation. Structural deformation leads to spiritual formation, which leads to ecclesial reformation. (p. 147)

What irony that in the midst of a spiritual heat wave in the culture, in the church it's a deep freeze. Establishment religion now looks back nostalgically at a wonderful past and looks forward anxiously at a frightening future. The problem is even deeper than the statistics of 25 years of mainstream membership loss reveal. (p. 149)

The default assumption of the modern church was a material theology that said "Got a problem, get a program." For the church to minister in postmodern culture, it must dematerialize its thinking. (p. 152)

Prayer moves things in another world, an unseen world - a world more read, more powerful, and more lasting that this one. (p. 152)

Every organism must learn how to devolve - to "let go at the top," to lose control, to cell out, to reverse oneself and become less optimal, less efficient, less fit, less ordered and organized. (p. 152)

...decentralization is the push of power downward from the center to the margins, from vertical to horizontal. from "command-and-control" organizations to "cultivate and coordinate" empowered organisms. (p.153) [JS: This is one dynamic that creates fear for those dependent on the former - as I have personally observed].

Deconversion will take place through ther development of "a folk apologetic" (George Hunter's phrase) - a folk theology that is built on narratives, not concepts or categories. People are not prone to move away from one home unless they see a good alternative available. A "folk apologetic" is not a "for-all-time" wywtematic theology but a "for-now" peity that is built on "as-they-should-be" beliefs.(p. 155)

In this Digital Age, the monolithic mass markets of the mid- and high-modern era have broken up and diversified. We have gone in my lifetime from a mass market to a micromarket to new mass customized market. [JS: My example - Just Budweiser worked until Fat Tire came along. Now Aneheiser Busch is marketing Amber Bock] (p. 158)

The key to ministry in this next reformation is intellectual capital in general, and innovation and creativity in particular. In the new world one thing is certain: What works today won't work tomorrow...The need to prepare for ongoing adaptive change makes innovation and creativity the key survival skills in navigating the chaotic world of the 21st century. How embarrassing that the institution that worships the Creator is so often bankrupt of creativity! (p. 159)

Lose Focus. If you try to see it, you'll never see it. You first must loosen up and let things get cloudy. Deconstruct your world. Give up preconceived notions of how to do ministry...Deconstruct you old way of seeing and hearing and doing. Give up preconceived notions of how to do ministry. "Fuzzy" is good. (p. 160)

Be a "middle-of-the-roader," and you will get run over by both sets of oncoming traffic. (p. 161)

The essence of complexity is the ability to look at many things at once to think more than one thought at a time, to abandon old fixations and make new connections, following you intuitions and trusting the Spirit. (163)

But in the same way the G.P. in medicine became extinct, only to come back as a speciality in Family Medicine, so the church must give up congregational, mass thinking and learn to niche the "generals" it took for granted...
One of the great challenges for the church, therefore, is to niche multigenerational worship. mulitgenerational missions, multigenerational education. (p. 164)

How small a niche? In a culture that has shifted from mass to micro cultures, you can't establish too small a niche...
This is a culture that revels in quality coffee; There were 200 coffee houses in the US in 1989, almost 10,000 just 10 years later (p. 165) [JS: Keep in mind that this was written in 1999. I'm certain that the number is far beyond the one printed.]

Demassification and decentralization are polarizing churches over such things as abortion, homosexuality, economics, lifestyles, and the allocation of resources between the young and the old. Church warfare in the postmodern era is less over theological issues than social and stylistic issues. Each side boasts a politically correct and theologically correct position.
We need churches and leaders willing to take experimental antibiotics against the "them" versus "us" virus that is plaguing society. We need communities of faith and faith leaders who will not discover an Enlightenment-style via media between the competing pro-choice/pro-life ideologies, for example, but will pioneer a modus vivendi through irreconcilable and intractable forms of belief that cannot be harmonized or balanced, only bridged. (p. 166)

In fact, part of the problem with too much "contemporary worship" is that there is insufficient complexity rich enough to express the involution of Christian doctrine.
Postmodern ministry is the parting of the commonplace to reveal the complex.
The wonder of Jesus is not either-or. The wonder of Jesus is and/also. He was the most complex person who ever lived, which enabled him to live the most simple life that's ever been lived. (p. 167)

Can the church help people slow down, even shut down? Can the church help people "simplify" their lives?
You can find it in the grassroots campaigns to "simplify government" and "simplify preaching" (both of which often confuse complexity with verbosity). (p. 169)

The simple life of faith can be lived only by passing through immense complexities. Simplicity is not the starting point, but the ending point.
Faith is not simple. Faith can only become simple.
Christianity is the first religion that was not temple based.
To determine to what degree your church is tample based, look at your budget and figure out what percentage of your money is spent on maintaining you temple.
Nor was Christianity priest based. The decentralization of ministry in the glocal church means a decentralization of leadership and responsibility. (p. 170) [JS: I'm wondering why Sweet did not ask the question again in regards to budget as it related to the "priest."]

The dedifferentiating phenomenon is breaking down the walls between highbrow and lowbrow, between public and private, performer and audience...
Dedifferentiation is blurring the delineations between the sacred and profane, the worldly and the godly, church and state, politics and entertainment, the serious and the trivial, the quality and the tabloid, the real and the imaginary - all boundary-defined categories that are legacies of the past.
It (postmodernism) plunders and parodies with abandon until "nothing is inappropriate, excorporated; the exclusive is included, distinctions and categories dissolved into coequal fragments. (p. 171)

In a boundary world, life is predictable, controllable, familiar, and well-delineated. In a border world, life is ill-defined, diffuse, anxiety-ridden, riddled with uncertainty - and often violent. Jesus ministered on the borders; he dissolved and crossed boundaries.
Postmodern leaders need not be afraid of fuzzy ministry or mixed ministry, Fuzzy is good, as "fuzzy logic" has now instructed us...In a culture of mix masters, leadership requires paradox making, the ability to put things together in odd, original ways. (p. 172)

You want your church to be beautiful? Give people the power. Let them choose. The church for too long has lived by the one-size-fits all "Panty Hose Principle." It is time to move to "the Platinum Rule." It's a gift to us from Jesus. (p. 173)

Every generation has different cultural experiences, knowledge bases, and aesthetic sensibilities. Each generation operates in a different linguistic, satorial, and myth system from the preceding generations. In religious terms this means that every generation must be reached for Christ differently. (p. 175)

Jesus was masterfully adaptable and flexible - yet all the while the central core of his message remained unchanged. Jesus communicated a gospel that was always the same and always changing. He sent us out into the world instructing us what to do. He never told us how to do it. The what remains the same. The how is always changing. (p. 176)

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