BLOG 10/13/17. HOW TO BECOME SALT-LESS SALT: FORGET WHO YOU ARE

BLOG 10/13/17. HOW TO BECOME SALTLESS SALT: FORGET WHO YOU ARE

Do you remember the warning given by Jesus that even though his followers are to be the salt of the earth, that if and when they lose their self-consciousness of that purpose, that they become salt-less salt and not good for anything except to be thrown out? And, likewise, that they are to be the light of the world, but if they lose their conviction of this calling and purpose, then the light that is in them becomes darkness? This is one of the subtlest pathologies that continually afflict the people of God—just to become so over-familiar and comfortable with the language of faith, and the traditions of the faith, that we forget how and why we are called in the first place.

This was true of the Jewish folk in Judah in the 8th century BCE. They had become complacent in their calling to be a light to the other nations, had settled-in to the routines of temple worship, and had lost their ability to hear God or to see God or to respond to God in obedient living, . . . that there was nothing divinely unique about them anymore. Isaiah gives the poignant description of Jerusalem as an empty city laying meaningless, and with all its rejoicing having reached its eventide (Isaiah 24:10). That unique people of God had forgotten who they were, and forgotten their divine calling and mission. That description reminds on of many ostensibly ‘Christian’ communities, alas!

This is happening continuously today in so much of the Christian community. One astute observer notes that whenever a Christian community dilutes, displaces, or forgets its reason for being, . . . then it reverts to chaos, to a state of being that has no integrity as a true Christian community. This is so sad to watch, and so omnipresent in this post-Christian era. Christian communities may begin well as missional outpost, with the design to be faithful demonstrations of God’s new creation in Christ. Ah! but so soon they become distracted by their own inner life, or with the building of church sanctuaries, or with being attractive by virtue of their well-crafted worship services and outstanding preachers, . . . so much so, that they dilute, displace, and forget the very reasons that they are called by Jesus Christ, and their purpose to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Forgetfulness. They become, rather, stagnant pools of ‘religious Christianity,’ devoid of the meaning for which Christ intends his church.

As such they no longer energize or equip or encourage or hold accountable each other in their lives of obedience in their 24/7 lives, and their accountability to Jesus Christ as the living demonstrations of his new creation outside of their church gatherings.

And, tragically, once on this path they become immune to their true calling. More and more, such communities are inhabited by sincerely religious people, but people who cannot for the life of them give to anyone else a reasoned account of their hope in Christ, or of what it means to be called to be God’s new creation. Does that sound dismal and pessimistic? Yes. But God’s mission is usually accomplished by first generation communities of obedient discipleship, which throb life and excitement about their Savior, and about encouraging one another in that calling. They know that the task is humanly impossible, so they pray diligently to be refined and empowered and guided in lives of faithfulness, of being salt and light.

Once that passion fades into forgetfulness, chaos returns. The salt of the earth becomes nothing more than a comfortable escape into religion, but not a religion that is built upon the rock of Jesus’ teachings and discipleship. There! I’ve said it (again), but the battle never ceases. Stand by …

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BLOG 10/10/17. WE’RE THE PEOPLE OF AN ALTERNATIVE NARRATIVE

BLOG 10/10/17. WE’RE PEOPLE OF AN ALTERNATIVE NARRATIVE

In such frightening times as these, it helps for to remind ourselves that we, who are followers of Jesus Christ, are not primarily citizens of the land of our present sojourn, but are primarily citizens of the kingdom of our God and of his Christ. That makes us those who are to be determined by an alternative narrative. If that is not true of us, then we become those who are designated by our Lord as salt-less salt, good for nothing but to be cast out …

Here we are in a world that is bewildering (if not down-right frightening) with its challenges what with sixty-four million refugees (more than at any time in human history), with reports of massive attempted genocide in southeast Asia, with over a trillion dollars spent by this nation in the hopeless and lengthy war in Afghanistan costing countless lives. Then then there is the (previously unimaginable) phenomenon of a president who is obviously incompetent for the office, is devoid of discernable ethics, and is truth-challenged, . . . and yet who holds in his hands the power to do irreversible damage by executive order.[1] This, not to mention that the death-toll of the victims of small arms in this nation annually surpasses that of major wars.

Then there is the spectacle of those other government officials who are apparently totally captive to greed and ambition, victims of the power of wealth to influence their decisions in the legislature and in the judiciary. Meanwhile there are all those who are the helpless poor, the un-employed, those desperate for health-care which they can’t afford, or education which is necessary to achieve ambitions but whose cost is forbidding. Everything seems tilted toward the wealthy and the powerful.

Yet, we who are the followers of Jesus Christ are the followers of him who said: “Blessed are you poor . . . woe to you wealthy.” We are the followers of him who made plain his passion for the homeless, the sick, the naked, the strangers in our midst, and those captives to debts. We are those who have embraced him who gave us the Beatitudes, which include such as: mercy, a passion for justice and peacemaking, and such humanitarian causes, even if it costs us suffering and persecution.

This is not a new phenomenon. The people of Judah, in the 8th century BCE had forsaken their own moral calling, and embraced wicked leadership, the greed of the wealthy, and were oppressing the poor. It was Micah who wrote: “… what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

Perhaps even more apropos to our calling to follow an alternative narrative is the parable that Jesus gave of the rich man, Dives, and the poor beggar who lay, in his hunger and with his sores, at his gate hoping for some succor from the wealthy man. Dives, it records was wealthy and fared sumptuously every day and wore fine clothes, but didn’t even seem to see Lazarus. And we? So much of our public policy in government is determined by, and profitable to, those of wealth and power, while the needs of the ‘Lazaruses’ of our society go un-noticed because not serve the advantage of those in power who profit from the lobbyist and the political action funds of the principalities and powers of the dominant order.

It will not do to seek retreat into some emasculated version of the church, some (forgive me) ‘Thomas Kincaid version’ of the church where there is no conflict and where the light is soft and spiritual. Or maybe a ‘Norman Rockwell version of the church’ where everything is positive and warm and humorous. No, we are called to be servants of righteousness, and that is always costly. That is also how we become salt and light. We are those formed by the alternative narrative of God’s new creation in Christ. Stay tuned . . .

[1] This has even provoked the venerable missionary publishing house, Orbis Press, to release a volume of essays entitled Faith and Resistance in the Age of Trump.

 

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BLOG 10/6/17. I’M A GUY WHO READS BUMPER-STICKERS

BLOG 10/6/17. I’M A GUY WHO READS BUMPER-STICKERS

O.K., so I’m one of those guys who, actually reads bumper-stickers while waiting at stoplights. One that is memorable at this post Las Vegas moment in our history was: “Thou shalt not kill” is not a suggestion. Written into the heart of God’s moral design for humankind is that of the sacredness of human life. That commandment is about manslaughter. To be sure there are those arguable ‘situational ethics’ gray areas such as issues over abortion, or the death penalty which are worthy of serious study and discussion. But the crass taking of another human life is unequivocally condemned by God in the moral law.

But we become so callous to this killing. It becomes almost normative and expected in our country where there are mass killings every day, and where the annual toll of such victims is staggering.  There was a time when the Geneva Accords condemned the taking of the lives of innocent civilians in warfare, but even that got lost when we began to bomb cities un-conscionably. It was boasted in the brief Desert Storm War that we lost none of our troops, yet the massive bombing that made it so took the lives of an estimated 100,000 civilians in Iraq. According to the Geneva Accords, that would have made us a nation of war-criminals. But we have become insensitive, or hardened to such killings.

And now it comes much closer to home, and it is not a time when God’s people can stay silent with impugnity. There was the Sandy Hook elementary school, and we were appalled but un-willing as a nation to take costly action to prevent such. We offered, rather, our prayers for the poor people in Sandy Hook. Then there was the deranged kid who shot up the Mother Immanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina, which briefly called for our shock and pity. Then the nightclub in Orlando with its huge toll of life, and we were shocked, but not enough to say: enough is enough. And, then the horrendous killing at the musical festival in Las Vegas . . . .

There are never absolute solutions to those determined to do violence to others, or those deranged or mentally disturbed persons, but there are solutions that take costly political courage and popular support. The nation of Australia demonstrated this after a similar mass-shooting some six, or so, years ago and they have never had a repeat. They let us know that there are legal solutions that move in the right direction. There are those principalities and powers embodied in the gun lobby which seek to control the agenda, and they must be called out and held accountable. The making illegal of automatic weapons is a good start. No one needs an AK-47 to go deer hunting. It was automatic weapons that made all those mass shootings mentioned above possible.

It is not a time that God’s people can, in good conscience, stay silent. It reminds one of the prominent German pastor, Martin Niemoller, who was taken prisoner late in Hitler’s Germany. His post-war lament was about his silence as he saw what was happening. First, said, the Nazis came for the socialists, but he wasn’t socialist, so he kept silence. Then followed the trade-unionists of which he was not one, so he kept silence. Then they came for the Jews but he was not a Jew so he kept silence. Then, finally, they came for him, and there was nobody left to come to his aid.

Christian obedience is costly, but the ethical demands of our New Creation calling cannot find escape in personal piety, or expected prayers for the victims. It’s time to speak out—even if with a bumper-sticker, or to find those other agents of righteousness who are organized to bring about solutions and to call to account the vast economic principalities that protect the gun industry. Human life is too sacred for us to retreat into ethical cowardice. To be continued …

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BLOG 10/3/17. TRIBALISM: THE LEGACY OF BABEL

BLOG 10/3/17. TRIBALISM: THE LEGACY OF BABEL

There has been a whole spate of studies of late on the very disturbing increase in what is variously designated as tribalism, or in creating safe spaces in which one is able to avoid all voices and influences and voices that disturb one. An article in New York magazine, by Andrew Sullivan, is especially well researched in this phenomenon. Also disturbing is how this tendency, especially among the younger generation, which seek to create safe spaces, resists even the interchange of controversial ideas on college campuses, and protests against professors who insist on bringing them up in class.

In this country, it has become almost normative (and not unusually mixed with violence) in racial protests, ethnic discrimination, gun-lovers, political sub-cultures, etc. This is not new, but it has become distressingly present in what was always was assumed to be a nation where freedom of expression/speech was assumed a right.

I guess this should not be all that surprising to those of us with something of a Biblical orientation. In those fascinating early documents of scripture, which record the (call it what you will) folk history, or that history handed down by oral tradition, . . . we have that account of the tower of Babel, where the human community tried to achieve divine prerogatives, and were judged by having their tongues confused so that they could not communicate with one another. It all ‘went south’ from there. People speaking different tongues became different tribal units, and the human community was fractured, and tribes became suspicious, if not hostile, to one another.  So, the tribalism we are observing among us today should not be all that surprising. We don’t speak one tongue in many dimensions.

But sweep over to that moment in human history when God invaded his fractured, rebellious creation in the coming of the Son, Jesus Christ, to initiate his New Creation, (salvation, eternal life, kingdom, new humanity, etc.) and you come to that moment when the Holy Spirit descended on the believing multitude at the Jewish celebration of Pentecost, and where they all heard the message in their own language. The emerging community of God’s New Creation was inaugurated to be a community of both God reconciliation of the world to himself by the blood of Jesus, but also to be a community of reconcilers. It was to become a community that loved humankind as God loved humankind, and loved one another with that love. It was to become a community that loved strangers, and enemies, helpless, and those of other tongues redemptively.

That’s the norm for God’s people—that, not tribalism. But we keep failing and recreating competing tribes even with the Christian church, and failing in our ministries as re-concilers. We are to wear on our feet “the readiness of the gospel of peace,” but all too often we wear the shoes of suspicion and mutual antagonism because of differences in the interpretation of scripture.

But I will not despair. We are called to be a people of hope. What may seem like a human impossibility, or some kind of Utopianism, is not impossible with God by his empowering. I’m with Mother Mary in her response: “How can these things be (humanly)?” And the angel replied that they would become reality as the Holy Spirit came upon her. So, with us. Our ministries of love and good works, of being ministers of reconciliation, of resisting tribalism, . . . begin next door. We literally invade the world of Babel as children of Light in order to demonstrate God’s design for reconciled community. We’re to be healers, not divisive tribalists. Stay tuned . . .

 

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BLOG 9/30/17. LIVING THE TRUTH IN A CULTURE OF LIARS

BLOG 9/30/17: LIVING THE TRUTH IN A CULTURE OF LIARS

The tiny letter of Paul to Titus is both rich and candid. It is replete with exhortations to adorn the gospel with good works, . . . or maybe to authenticate the gospel with good works. I found at least six instructions to live out lives of good works, along with that to live one’s life above reproach. But it is the context of the presence of the gospel in Crete that makes this letter so fascinating for us in our culture. He reminds Titus that even one of their own prophets defined all the Cretan as liars. Hey! That’s pretty-heavy stuff. How does one live the gospel with integrity in a culture of deception?

The answer to that question is that one has to be alert to the fact that in such a society the truth is very fluid. We live in just such a society. One becomes immunized to the deceptions that go on all around us, in politics, in the media, in advertising—you name it. All of those seeking to influence us engage in what might be called hyperbole, or equivocation, or double-speak in order to persuade us to accept their propositions, or to buy their products, or to obtain their votes, or to cloak unpleasant realities. Dissembling voices surround us.

I was blessed with two parents who instilled in my brothers and me the ethical mandate of this letter every day. When I would be a bit loose with the facts, one of my parents would say: “Careful with the truth, Bobby. Careful with the truth.” And there was the continual reminder (also included in Paul’s word to Titus) that we live our lives above reproach. I’m thankful for that. My very practical grandmother would regularly say that we should do or say anything that we didn’t want printed on the front page of the newspaper. I’m not certain that I have always live up to that standard, but I have it always in my mind.

Titus was a missionary on the island of Crete, and it was renowned for its shady communications. What was the resolution to that? How was the gospel of Jesus Christ to be authenticated? The answer was that it was by good works, by lives of unimpeachable character: “ . . . hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.” He denounces those who deny God by their detestable works.

In a very real sense, the Cretans were no different from those in any culture. Jesus told his followers that men would come to know him by their love and good works. The dominant order of any society has the proclivity to shade the truth to make itself acceptable. We see this in this country’s politics, we see it in the advertising industry, we see it in the Wall Street power structures, we see it in so much of the denial of the presence of ethnic prejudice. Deception (polite and slippery) becomes the air we breathe. (Alas! sometimes even inside the Christian community).

Paul tells Titus to remind the believers in Crete to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and show perfect courtesy toward all people. That’s a tough one to swallow when we are being ‘conned’ and lied-to by major public figures. But whatever the context, God’s new creation people are to be the radiant display of the image of God, and so to adorn the gospel visibly and practically, and not to be conformed to the dominant order around us.

You can tell that I am totally impressed with the contextual practicality of this letter for those of us living in the so-often confusing ethical climate of this country.

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BLOG 9/26/17. ‘CHURCH-I-FIED’ COCOONS

BLOG 9/26/17. ‘CHURCH-I-FIED’ COCOONS

What would one make of a cocoon hanging on a bush perennially but which never produced a butterfly? I have thought of that often in observing those good folks who are always ‘in church’ and always are listening for good sermons, and engaged in endless in-house church activities, and yet . . . never seem to get involved in the mission of God in their daily lives, in the church’s apostolate, in Jesus’ “As the Father has sent me, even so am I sending you” mandate. This is not new, of course. It goes all the way back to those references in the New Testament to those who are “ever learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.” Or those, who “when you ought to be teachers of others, are still in need of being taught.”

Church-i-fied cocoons. It runs deep. It is almost the norm in all too many churches. Reminds me of the personable, effusive member who assured me: “O, Bob, I’m a good church member. I always attend worship and pay my dues.”

This is a complex pathology that has been noted by insightful people for many years . It all began with the clerical-ization of the church, in which the church (how to say it?) sacralized both a class of persons to be the dominant voices in the church, and also specific places and institutions as the church. This dates at least from the 4th or 5th centuries, and was pretty much in place after Emperor Constantine made the church the official religion of the Roman Empire, and endowed it with all of the accoutrements of the pagan religions, i.e., sanctuaries and priests, etc.

This has been called a subversion by major sociological and missiological figures within the past 75 years, (David Bosch, Jacques Ellul, Bill Burrows, etc.) but has been muted again and again by the dominant clergy class who seem to like the passive laity (the cocoons), and who like their exalted positions as the authorities, and the dominant persons in the church. They appreciate those who are always “in church” and who support the activities in house, but which don’t challenge their dominance (who call them “reverend”). Even though Martin Luther espoused the priesthood of all believers in the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, the Protestant church never got free from the concept of the dominance of the clergy.

Pope John XXIII seemed to sense the need to reclaim the apostolate of the laity, and at Vatican II in the early 1960’s established a Council on the Laity within the Vatican establishment, but it disappeared under the tight control of the clergy. Also within the Roman Catholic world, there emerged small, spontaneous, communities in Latin America when there were not enough priests to serve rural communities, but the dominant clergy didn’t know how to handle that phenomenon, or how to control them, so both commended and ignored them.

Cocoons are intended to give the larvae of butterflies a place to gestate, so that they can emerge and produce more butterflies. Cocoons are not to be static and permanent. Every believer is to be a dynamic factor in the apostolate of the church, and the church gathered together is always to be equipping those gathered toward that end, and refining and encouraging their role in the mission which Christ gave to all of the church.

You can count on me to ‘ding’ this theme continually. Christ’s sons and daughters are all to be mutually encouraging one another in their role to be the sons and daughter of light, to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, i.e., butterflies, not cocoons, contagious with the faith. This applies to those who are the teaching-pastors also. They/we much challenge all that passivity that ignores the apostolate of all of God’s people in the 24/7 world.

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BLOG 9/23/17. PROGRESS REPORT TO MY SUBSCRIBERS

BLOG 9/23/17. PROGRESS REPORT TO MY SUBSCRIBERS

In July, I reported to you that I was going to, of necessity, take a leave of absence from these Blogs because I was in the throes of writing a book and so needed to keep a singular focus on that writing project. This is to report that I have completed that project and have submitted my manuscript to my publisher (who has indicated serious willingness to publish it) along with the required accompanying documents. The book is entitled Homebrew Churches: Re-conceiving the Church for Tomorrow’s Children. The process is that if my publisher (who has published all of my recent books) finds all of this in order, we will then sign a contract and it will go into the process of copy-editing, cover design, and the details of publication.

I do appreciate their willingness to publish it since it has a lot of controversial point that will not be easily received by ecclesiastical traditionalist. But behind this have been the recurring articles in several journals, and in the press, of the reality that the emerging generation, the iGens (those who have come to maturity after the event of the iPhone in 2011) are not at all attracted to institutional churches. That leads to the emergence of a culture that is formed by in internet era and has produced all kinds of dynamics that have been totally unknown by former generations.

On my part, it was a good reason to step back, take a deep breath, and then a fresh look at what and how the New Testament portrays that new phenomenon of the church, and then to contrast it with what was the dominant ecclesiastical order of the last millennium and a half of the Christendom era. Fun! It was something of an exercise in the Jeremiah 1:10 mandate to “root up, pull down, overthrow and destroy, then to build and to plant.” Or, maybe an exercise in that venerable motto held by those of us in the Reformed tradition: “The church reformed and ever being reformed according to the word of God.”

My conclusion was that the first-century churches had, of necessity, to be small, and those relationships in which God could display the communal expression of his New Creation / Kingdom of God. What we observe is that they were primarily communities of faith that met in homes, and where the participants all knew each other and had a sense of responsibility to one another and accountability to one another. They could not have fulfilled all of the one another mandates which honeycomb the New Testament documents if they were larger assemblies in which one could be anonymous. . ..  That’s the drift of the book.

I hijacked the title from the phenomenon of six early wizards who were captivated by the potential of the new phenomenon of the microprocessor back in 1975, and began meeting in a garage every couple of weeks in Menlo Park, California to share finds and to interact with each other. It was known as the homebrew computer club, and out of it came several of the present internet giants. But they and their successors in the industry still hold to the principle that really productive working groups must not be more than twelve. Does that sound like Jesus, or what?

So, stand by. If all goes well, by the grace of God, the book should be a fact by the end of the year (hopefully). Your prayers for its usefulness will certainly be appreciated. Peace.

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BLOG 9/8/17. THE CHURCH AS TROUBLEMAKER?

BLOG 9/8/17. THE CHURCH AS TROUBLEMAKER?

The church as a trouble-maker? … but, you may protest: Isn’t the church supposed to be a peace-maker? How about both? Given our current cultural climate in this nation, especially obvious since the Charlottesville incident, one wonders where Christ’s people should be in all of this. Christ’s Sermon on the Mount might be a good place to start. Right up front it says that the peacemakers are blessed, but then it tells us that those who are persecuted and reviled and spoken evil of for righteousness’ sake (for being righteous troublemakers) are, likewise blessed.

Or, maybe Paul’s contrast of the Christian’s life, before and after his/her embrace of Christ (Romans 6:12 ff.), which is that they were formerly servants of unrighteousness but now are to be instruments of righteousness. What’s that all about? It means that as God’s people, we are always in what might be called a missionary confrontation with the world. We are aliens, and instruments of light, in a culture of unrighteousness and spiritual darkness. Troublemakers.

I learned this through the backdoor of my experience. When I was in my ecclesiastical-pastoral puberty-stage in the city of Durham, North Carolina decades ago, Durham was still a grimy textile-tobacco town and seething with racism, all of which was new to me. Not much that I had learned in theological school equipped me for anything I was beginning to experience. Two influences that had equipped me were, first of all, that I had been taught that Christ’s Great Commission was that we were to make disciples, and that involved in teaching disciples to obey all that Christ had taught. So, I made disciple-making a basic principle in whatever pastoral ministry was to be. Then another mentor had been most persuasive in insisting that the consecutive exposition of the Biblical scriptures was the purpose and focus of our preaching in our reformed-Presbyterian heritage.

With those two operational principles theoretically in place I launched my role as a disciple-making pastor and teacher in a small industrial church with a very insecure history. I was to be begin trying to figure out my new role. Two factors became obvious very soon. There were those in its membership who were hungry to be taught from scriptures, and responsive to my Biblical preaching, . . . but certainly not all of them. There were also those who only agreed with scriptures when scriptures were in agreement with their view.

Then the light began to dawn on me as to our Christian calling to be troublemakers. That was the period just after the U. S. Supreme Court had required the de-segregation of public schools, which deliverance did not go down well in such a city as ours. And it was in my innocence that I was seeking to be faithful in teaching scripture, and was preaching my way through the Epistle to the Romans. It was in that teaching that I got to Romans 12, and its teaching that we were not to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds so as to prove what was the will of God. Ka-ching! The lights went on. There was a world that was not in conformity with the will of God, and we were to be so equipped in our thinking that we were not dominated by it.

It happened to be the Sunday in which we celebrated the Eucharist/Lord’s Supper, and I innocently made the application of the scripture that it applied to racial justice, and that I was not there talking about the Durham city schools, but to that particular Christian community, and that at the Lord’s table before them there was no place for racial exclusion. It was to be open to all. For those who had ears to hear it only made sense.

But for those captive to the darkness I was an unwanted voice and a trouble-maker. It was there also that I learned that I had to be exegeting the culture, and so equipping God’s people to operate in that culture with transformed minds and lives, to demonstrate what the will of God looks like in real flesh and blood disciples, as both peacemakers and troublemakers. Stay tuned.

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BLOG: 9/5/17. Ecclesiastical Rip Van Winkles

Hello subscribers! After taking leave from posting these Blogs over these past couple of months in order to finish writing a book, and with that task essentially accomplished, I am looking forward to getting back into this communication with you. For your information, I am co-authoring this book with a cherished and very gifted colleague. The two of us have been aware that there has been much confusion on the purpose and form of the church for a long time, but the issue has surfaced with a vengeance as a much younger generation is emerging that has, not only little awareness of the church, but is essentially not interested in institutional religion. To that end, we have been writing on the theme of: re-conceiving the church for tomorrow’s children. If all goes well, it should be published toward the end of the year.

Unless you are an inhabitant of the Hudson Valley, or an aficionado of American literature, you might not have an appreciation for Washington Irving’s writings. Irving is one of this country’s very prominent and colorful writers from the Revolutionary War period. He had a lot of humor, and took great sport in poking fun at the foibles of the Dutch inhabitants so prominent in the Hudson valley. One of his most prominent stories is that of a Dutchman who, through a series of events, slept through the American Revolution. He dozed off under British government and only woke up after the revolution with the new American government.

The church has nearly always had a difficulty coping with changing cultures. It has tried to transport the forms and traditions of one fruitful time and place into some other totally different time and place. For its first four centuries of existence, the dynamic apostolic church moved in power and was inventing and re-inventing its forms and communication to the huge variety of cultures into which it moved. But somewhere along into the 5th century it was lured into religious institutionalism, and ecclesiastic hierarchical-ism, and so became much more rigid and impervious to change for the most part. Yet you get, along the way, those figures such as Martin Luther, who put his life on the line by publicly challenging the dominant Church of Rome by saying, in essence: this is not the way it’s supposed to be.

Now, here we are, in a whole new cultural setting that is inescapably post-Christian, dominated by something akin to a secular and self-satisfied humanism, and ignorant of, and indifferent to the Christendom culture of the past millennium and a half. The emerging generation is formed by the internet culture, by social media, by artificial intelligence, and a plethora of totally new phenomena. This is the generation that emerges after 1995, and is obviously so captive to their iPhones that it has been dubbed: the iPhone generation. It cultural context has little knowledge or interest is so much that was essential to previous generations.

And the church? Alas! the church too often prone to sleep through the ecclesiastical revolution as surely as did Rip Van Winkle political revolution in the mid-18th century. That being so, I’ll be working on that in future blogs.

 

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BLOG 7/11/17. A WORD OF EXPLANATION TO MY SUBSCRIBERS

BLOG 7/11/17. A WORD OF EXPLANATION TO MY SUBSCRIBERS

To the readers and the subscribers of these Blogs, you need to know that I will be taking something of a leave of absence for these next several months. For these past several years I have attempted to post a couple of blogs a week because that is what I was advised to do when we launched this Blog. For the next two or three months, however, I will post them only spasmodically.

Here’s the reason. A dear friend and colleague of mine, and I, are in the process of writing a book together, and I find that it takes my full and undivided concentration to do such creative writing (particularly at my age). He and I are aware that the research agencies (Pew and others) are indicating that the emerging generation, Generation Z, is really not into institutions, and that includes church institutions. They are more into friendships and relationships. They are also the iPhone generation.  This is all so different from the Christendom culture with its venerable institutions, hierarchies, clergy, and other ecclesiastical accoutrements that have prevailed for these past generations.

What we’re attempting to do is to take a step back, look with fresh eyes at what it is that God intends for the church to be, and what form it takes, and to do some creative re-conceiving of the church with a focus on that emerging adult generation. We’re collaborating on this because even though I have written a number of books on the church and its mission, I am also now at least sixty-plus years away from that emerging generation and its culture. My colleague, however, is a very gifted young educator, who is engaged with this emerging culture as a high school teacher in a very creative high school, and who also has two very precocious daughters to keep him honest. We make a good team and we inter-animate each other.

This re-conceiving the church for this emerging culture, while also appreciating the treasures of our heritage, is probably an audacious project, but we’re really into it, and it is all-consuming to be looking at scripture with this focusin mind. At the same time, when a writer gets ‘on a roll’ to be interrupted and have to stop and engage in another creative writing project (this Blog) hinders that ‘roll’. Because of that I am putting the Blog on the back-burner for a while, until we get this book in some draft form to submit to our publisher, hopefully by early fall.

We would also be grateful for your prayers so that this work of our will be hugely helpful to those who choose to read it. Thank you.

Bob Henderson

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