BLOG 5/14/19.

BLOG 5.14.19. WHY DO I THINK WHAT I THINK?  OR DO WHAT I DO?

Occasionally, it is profitable to stop and take stock of our lives, … to ask the ultimate questions—which might well be a frightening experience for some of us. When I was much younger I had, what was probably the most haunting and frightening dream I think I ever had. It was so realistic and traumatic that it is graphic in my mind to this day. It seems that a friend of mine and I were (for some reason) alone on a vast barren and frozen tundra, under grey skies, with no sense of hope or direction, … then to make it all the more traumatic, he died and I was totally alone. I was completely helpless and directionless. Then I awoke … Where do such dreams/nightmares come from?

The poet, (I think it was T.S. Eliot) explored this reality in his classic poem: The Wasteland. He concluded that the wasteland was sitting next to us on the train. But it may be closer than that. Jesus looked at the multitudes in his day and saw them as sheep without a shepherd, helpless, directionless, dependent, and vulnerable to a fault. They were incapable of seeing landmarks or milestones. Without a shepherd, they were lost.

It behooves all of us to regularly, often, to stop and ask the questions: Who am I? What is my future? My hope? What is the purpose or center of my life? Why do I do what I do? Or think what I think? Why do I make the choices that I do? Or do I simply escape into entertainment? Or my cell phone? Or my daily work? … or am I living on that barren tundra without future or horizons? Surviving and waiting for an unknown future.

We also live in a context of clashing ideologies, of ethical challenges, of political platforms that arise from diverse ideologies, self-interests, prejudices, and varying philosophies of what is for the common good. These often clash with the teachings of Jesus. After all, Jesus came, not bringing another religion, but announcing a new creation, which in himself was invading this present creation. In himself God’s future was invading our present. In his life, death and resurrection, God’s tomorrow was invading our today. His message was one in which he named as his disciples those who had his word and practiced it. His teachings were ethical teachings, teachings which gives life meaning … abundant life. Jesus came to renew us in knowledge, and in behavior, and in an intimate relationship with himself (the Triune God).

At a crucial moment in the civil rights movement, when the local authorities accused Martin Luther King, Jr. of violating the local laws, he responded that he appealed to a higher law. In our daily lives, locally, and in a nation torn by many ideologies, we who know our calling, and have the life of Jesus living in and through us, … also appeal to Jesus, our Way and Truth and Life, God in us by the Spirit.

So, Jesus calls us to “abide in him”, to form our thinking and behavior according to his life and his ethical teachings, to enter his future, his new creation. It is that “truth” that sets us free, so that even in the often ‘frozen tundra’ of daily life, we have a future and a hope. Ask yourself: 1) What is my center? 2)What is my authority? 3)What is my creative source? 4) What is my guiding line? And, 5) what is my final goal?

You will find the answer to all of these in the teachings of Jesus, the Great Shepherd.

And may grace and peace be yours.

___________

[If you find these ramblings helpful and provocative, pass the word along. Thanks!]

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BLOG 4/9/19. MOTHER’S DAY IN A DIFFERENT CULTURE

BLOG 4/9/19. MOTHER’S DAY IN A DIFFERENT CULTURE

Next Sunday is Mother’s Day, which honors those who gave us birth, and, ostensibly nurtured us into some degree of maturity. Then, last Sunday at or church, a young couple brought their infant for infant baptism, which is always a tender observance. They took vows to raise their child in the nurture and admonition of the Christian faith, and to set before him an example of that faith. Sounds good so far. But … what happens when that child gets a cellphone, and access to the internet, and introduction to a vast range from good stuff all the way to pornography?

What happens to family conversations? What access to significant input on crucial issues confronting them? What happens to family devotions when the cellphone rings, or a significant conversation is interrupted? Or members of the family are called away by such calls? Children have profound questions growing up. Young children of Christian parents are confronted with a myriad of other philosophies and religions. What happens when parents are displaced as the primary resources and replaced by the opinions of immature peers? Mothers replaced by cell phone and internet? May it not be so

Plus, what happens to the capacity to observe what is around them, to enjoy nature, to sit silently and contemplate life and its vicissitudes? Pascal observed that all of humanities problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone. Being captive to the internet is different from being thankful for the access to information it gives us. I’m a late-comer to cell phones and internet, but I first observed their liability when I drove down a lovely residential street when the homes were in full spring flower, and there were walking along six persons, each consumed with their cell phones, seeming not to appreciate the beauty all around them.

Before I ever got a cell phone, I was invited to be part of a significant discussion with group of bright young minds in local pub. The first thing the leader said was that all were to turn off their cell phones and put them in the center of the table. I also know of home owners, who when they invite friends to their home, have a basket by the door in which to deposit their cell phones, so that they can focus on their time with each other.

Mothers and fathers need to establish cell-free rules for their families, so that family discussion and nurture is not displaced by all that cell phones and the internet make available. To raise children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord takes focused time, and consistent modeling of that faith, and that takes intentional family discipline. Mothers and fathers must model lives not captive to the internet—especially when the family is together (like at mealtimes).

In the sense of being models and mentors of the Christian faith, fathers and mothers are the children’s primary evangelists. This presents us Christian parents with a huge cultural challenge. Pray for wisdom, and may the Lord give it to you in abundance so that others see in you something beautiful and desirable, approachable and caring.

And may the Lord be with you.

_________

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BLOG 4/7/19. HOW DO YOU DISCERN A CHURCH’S AUTHENTICITY?

BLOG. 4/7/19. HOW DO YOU DISCERN A CHURCH’S AUTHENTICITY?

In our culture, in our government, and, yes, in our churches, we are living in, what is called, a cultural diastrophism—a diastrophism being one of those periods when the subterranean tectonic plates shift, and everything on the surface is disrupted. That stability we have counted on in the past can no longer be depended upon. Yesterday will never return, and tomorrow is all unknown. We are watching this diastrophism display itself in the inability of our government to deal with the colossal problems looming on the horizon, the inefficiency of the governing powers to cooperate for the common good.

Ah! but the church of yesterday and its denominations, its institutions, and so many of its traditions are also victims of the post-Christian culture/diastrophism, and yet there are those Christian communities that show viability, integrity, fruitfulness, and Biblical authenticity. How are we to discern that authenticity? The dominant image of the church of yesterday was that of religious institutions with handsome sanctuaries, dominant clergy, more passive laity, and weekly activities, worship services, and the rest. But church institutions, clergy, and the rest are not the essence of the church. Denominations are of fading importance. Thoughtful Christian laity are asking for signs of authenticity.

Let me propose two things to discern for yourself: 1) What is the form of the church in God’s new world / kingdom of God design? And, 2) What is its function? What is it to be about in faithfully fulfilling that design, that good news that is to permeate every nation? The answers to these questions are the substance of the New Testament.

In short, the form of the church is that the church is to be that community which is to be the very c0mmunal demonstration of God’s new humanity in Christ, it is to be the human community as God intends it to be, … which lives out our need for one another in love and good works. It is to be the dwelling-place of God by the Holy Spirit. As the contemporary culture seems to prefer smaller and more interactive groups, new church communities have emerged in just such mutually ministering form that meets in all kinds of informal venues. But there are much larger traditional church communities that have also acknowledged this preference and encouraged participation in smaller caring and mutually ministering groups.[1]

Yet, if these communities are indwelt by the Spirit of the Father and the Son, then the passion of God will be for the participants to have God’s passion to seek and to save the lost, to make disciples who bear time image of the Son, to move toward those still in the darkness, as bearers of God’s light. This means that one of the main functions of these communities is precisely that, i.e. seeing its participants conformed to the image of Christ in his radical new knowledge, behavior and lifestyle, and intimacy with the holy God.

Having said all that, the church is quite diverse in it forms. But still, any participant needs to know and ingest its form and function. These communities produce their own leadership and oversight as those more mature in knowledge and behavior emerge among them as models of God and disciple-makers. Authenticity is a community which is always selfconsciously monitoring itself to realize its calling—ultimately to be a beautiful bride for the Lamb of God, made in his likeness. Peace

[1] My own: Homebrew Churches: Reconceiving the Church for Tomorrow’s Children, explores this.

 

 

 

 

 

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BLOG 5/2/19. POLITICS IN A DIFFERENT DIMENSIION

BLOG 5/2/19. POLITICS AND CHRISTIAN FAITH IN A DIFFERENT DIMENSION

For the next eighteen months, it is going to be impossible to avoid having to confront the political process as we approach a presidential election, … and we shouldn’t try to avoid it. We are the polis after all. According to our Christian faith, human governments are there to see to the welfare of all of their)) citizens. Yes, it can get confusing and difficult to discern where and how to understand both the candidates and all the political hype that is so much part of the process.

Allow me to offer my readers something of a different metaphor (that was given to me several years ago by a gifted pastor). It comes from the Biblical prophet Daniel. It was the practice of conquering empires to bring home from conquered lands those gifted persons who could be of use to the emperor. Such were Daniel and his three young friends. They were fair in appearance and gifted of mind, and so were made part of the royal court of Nebuchadnezzar. They were to eat at the king’s table, and enjoy the perks of the court.

Only, … there was a problem: their primary loyalty was still to Israel and to Israel’s God, and to obedience to its laws and traditions ,… and not to Nebuchadnezzar. First off, they refused the emperor’s non-kosher diet and requested a diet of simple vegetables. The emperor objected but succumbed to their request with their assurance that they would prosper on such a diet, and so they did. But their gifts of knowledge and wisdom also emerged quickly, and jealously soon became the response to these four among their Babylonian counterpart who gave unquestioned loyalty to the emperor’s whims. Daniel emerged as a favorite of the emperor by virtue of his ability to interpret a strange dream of the emperor—even to retrieve it when the emperor couldn’t remember it.

That being so, the jealous Babylonian counterparts began to contrive ways to make Daniel look disloyal, like building a huge image of Nebuchadnezzar and requiring all Babylonians to bow down and worship it. Daniel quietly continued to bow in prayer toward Jerusalem three times a day, and so refused to bow down to the idol. Result? Being thrown into a den of lions (only to be delivered by God shutting the mouths of the lions, to the emperor’s astonishment.  This is followed by other stories of Daniel and his friends remaining faithful and being delivered by God into even greater prominence.

For us, here’s the insight. We also live in a fallen world, but as those who are part of God’s new creation. We are part of the kingdom of our God and of his Christ. We are indwelt by his Spirit and being conformed to his image. … But this is happening while we are still inhabiting the kingdoms of this world. For us this has several consequences in this political context of our lives:

  • We must be conscious of who we are, … and that this present context (the American empire) is not my ultimate home country, though it is the place of my incarnation, i.e., I don’t belong to this Babylon. (To any political party or other ultimate loyalty)
  • To so live my life, and the stewardship of each day (and political decisions) so that it is only explainable by God and God’s power (the teachings of Jesus and the holy scriptures).
  • To discern the cultural idols that would demand our loyalty, … and refuse to bow down.

Ponder these as you test the political platforms and the character of the candidates. “Thy kingdom come” is a powerful prayer for that which is God’s design in this present age. Refuse to bow down to those forces of greed, prejudice, injustice, indifference to the poor and helpless, and which kowtow to wealth and greed … to the political agendas which are at odds with the ethical agenda of the Kingdom of our God and of His Christ. Amen!

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BLOG 4.30.19. THE CHURCH’S TWO FORMS: GATHERED AND SCATTERED

BLOG 4.30.19. THE CHURCH’S TWO FORMS: GATHERED AND SCATTERED

Did you ever stop to contemplate the reality that the church is just as much the church on Thursday afternoon when it is scattered as it is on Sunday morning when it is gathered? We are called to be the community of God’s new humanity engaged in our high and holy calling to be the communal expression of his love for the world, and of his love and good works wherever and whenever. Both forms are essential in his mission for us. God calls us to a whole radical new way of living, thinking, behaving, relating to others, hoping, conceiving, and rejoicing in both of these forms.

We need our engagement with the community gathered—we need each other’s love, mutual confession, mutual ministry of encouragement of each other in the word of God, sharing each other’s laughter and tears, yes. We need to regularly be reminded of the teachings of Christ and the apostles, to be re-evangelized and challenged to new obedience as we are also called to engage in Christ’s ‘seek and rescue’ mission among all of those lost sheep wandering in the fog and wondering which way is home. These seldom find their way into assemblies of the church-gathered. Our times gathered are a gift, but they should cause to enter the week salivating over our calling to live those lives of love and good works for which we are called, … and which lives make those outside curious as to the hope that is in us.

As a pastor, when I was teaching the community on Sunday mornings, I looked at that diverse community sitting out there in front of me and being staggered with the vast number of engagements and inter-personal connections they would have before we met again. I wanted, so profoundly, to equip them for whatever and whomever they might be engaged, and how they would faithfully carry out their missionary calling. It was staggering to contemplate (and made me want to spend more time interacting with them to get fine-tuned to their lives and engagements.

I was in a break-out group at a conference dealing with the ministry of the laity a few years back, and one of the outspoken participants was Bill Diehl, who at the time was vice-president for marketing for one of the major steel companies in the United States. He was quite critical of his congregation in Pittsburgh, which was very impressed with who he was, and wanted him on all of the local and regional church councils, but in all the years of his membership never asked him what he did during the week. All the while his passion was to be a faithful steward of his role and influence with the company and his sales personnel. He, ultimately, wrote this up in a book entitled: Thank God, It’s Monday! Which, book, gets to the heart of the missionary calling of all of God’s people, and the awesome potential of their faithfulness.

We become God’s missioners in our particular ‘Monday-morning world’ in encounters which no one else would ever have. How we express the love and good works to which we are called? How we are to be able to give a thoughtful answer when others (over coffee or beer) ask of us reason for the hope that dwells in us.

Consider the impact of our new creation knowledge, behavior, and relationship with the Trinitarian community. It’s staggering. Gathered then scattered. Two essential forms of the missionary arm of the Holy Trinity.

_______

 

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BLOG 4.26.19. THE CHURCH: THE RECREATION OF THE HUMAN COMMUNITY

BLOG 4.26.19. THE CHURCH: THE RECREATION OF THE HUMAN COMMUNITY

One of the first tragic results of humankind’s rebellion agaist the Creator-God was that they immediately knew they were naked and so made aprons of leaves with which to hides from each other, … and it went downhill from there. This brief episode that inhabits the early pages of scripture tells us worlds about the deterioration of the human community, of man’s inhumanity to man, and of our continued attempts to hide our true selves from others. So, that when Jesus announces that he is going to build his church (Matthew 16), what he is saying is that as he fulfills his God-given mission to reconcile us to God by his blood, and to inaugurate the age to come right here in this age, he is also going to recreate the human community and so demonstrate the communal expression of that new creation … to restore human relationships as they were intended, i.e., his followers were to love one another with the same self-giving love with which he loved them.

That said, the quest for privacy and to hide our true selves from one another runs deep. Yet, as the story of his new creation unfolds after his ascension, we find believers together from house around the message of the apostles, in intimate fellowship with one another, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers, and no one considered his possession as his/her own. In short, they abandoned their hiding places and began the emergence of the communal expressions of God’s new creation in Christ.

But, back to us, … that’s easier said than done. Our quest for autonomy, or for privacy is deep rooted, even at times pathological. We can take public baptismal vows and state that we are sinners, but working that out in communal/social relationships is a huge learning-curve. First, enter the huge number of one another passages in the New Testament writings (59 by count). We are to love one another as Christ’ loves us (selflessly), we are to confess our sins to one another, we are to bear one another’s burdens, we are to offer hospitality to one another, we are to be patient with one another, we are to stop passing judgement on one another, … and so much more.

But back to my last blog of the necessity of disciple-making: It’s one thing to say these things and to teach them, but we need mentors who are also practitioners, or who are models of these expressions of our ministry to one another, who show us what that new creation community in all of its local communal expressions look like. This is where the role of pastor-teachers becomes crucial, in which every individual is called by name and equipped to live and to minister according to this one another lifestyle.

In church history, when the very gifted John Calvin, at a very early age, was constrained to become the leader of the new reformation community in Geneva, Switzerland, he began by teaching scriptures every day from the pulpit of St. Peter’s Church, and as people began to respond and be baptized, Calvin knew that they needed teaching-shepherds to both instruct and to model these new reconciling relationships, and so he created what he called a College of Pastors to fulfill this need, and (as oral tradition has it) he wrote his classic Calvin’s Institutes as instructions for these pastors/elders/shepherds. The result, as history shows, was that the church in Geneva became a huge transformation force in the western world as it  modelled God’s new humanity.

But we must never forget that the church is the flesh and blood communal expression of our New Creation message, … and we learn as we attempt to be faithful to such a calling. Stay tuned.

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BLOG 4.23.19. EVERY BELIEVER’S MANDATE IS TO BE A DISCIPLEMAKER

BLOG 4.23.19. EVERY BELIEVER’S MANDATE IS TO BE A DISCIPLE-MAKER

Jesus’ final mandate, or commission was the goal was to declare God’s new creation to every corner of the human community, and that they were to be the agents of that search-and-rescue mission as each of them did exactly what Jesus himself did: ‘make disciples’. That’s the mandate to every follower of Jesus Christ, … and that’s what took place in the generations that immediately followed his ascension. It was produced the spontaneous growth of the church, so that within a couple of centuries is was a major force in the Roman world.

Look, for-instance, at a profound statement written by the apostle Peter to a group of churches in Asia Minor:

May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge

of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us

all things that pertain to life and godliness,

through the knowledge of him who has called us

to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us

his precious and very great promises,

so, that through them you may become partakers

of his divine nature, having escaped the

corruption that is in the world

because of sinful desire.  (II Peter 1:2-4)

Marinate your mind in that awesome passage for a few minutes. That is an incredible description of a disciple, a combination of both the knowledge of God-in-Christ, and the divine power incarnating it in people like you and me. But then stop and reflect that such disciples don’t spring up spontaneously and in isolation—they are the product of faithful disciples becoming the vessels of that disciple-making mandate. The church existed primarily in small house gatherings, or in small clandestine communities which were very intimate and all ministered to one another in the often-dangerous context of unfriendly religions, or the hostility of the Roman empire. But everyone was highly self-conscious of the missional essence of their faith, and that faith was contagious. Disciples made other disciples spontaneously by their knowledge and by their incarnating the radical new life-style of God’s new humanity.

Within those small colonies there emerged a natural leadership by those who were the most mature in knowledge and in example. They were the product of faithful disciple-makers. They were, as Peter would say, models of the message to the others. But note: they emerged from within the communities and among people who looked to them for leadership. In the Greek language, they were called presbuteroi (elders), or episcopoi (overseers). But, note: they were home grown where they were in intimate relationship with the disciples for whom they were accountable to Christ, the Chief Shepherd. They had teachers and models of the message, i.e., disciple-makers.

But several centuries down the road, and when the church had become a dominant force in the empire, the emperor Constantine declared himself a convert, and then wanted to bestow on the church all of the accoutrements exhibited in pagan religions, such as sacred meeting places, and vested priests. That was a huge tragedy, and was a major subversion of Christianity. A sacralized priesthood, and sacralized places of worship became a sine qua non of the faith and the wholesome model of leadership emerging from the faithful and knowledgeable practitioners within the community, became a class called clergy (learned ones) who performed the rites, but too often became strangers to the laity. As the church now is in an often-malicious post-Christian culture, I want to be a voice to reclaim the mandate of disciple-maker and dispatch the dominant (and subversive) role of clergy, and reclaim the New Testament role of leadership that emerges within the community, and of disciple-makers..

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BLOG 4.19.19. BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU HECKLE

BLOG 4.19.19. BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU HECKLE

People who toss out heckles at political events might need to be careful, especially when using scripture as part their heckles, as happened at a Pete Buttigieg rally the other day. Hecklers  were on his case because he is openly gay, and were chanting: “Sodom and Gomorrah, Sodom and Gomorrah …” While it is true that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of the violent homosexual behavior in the Genesis account (and from which, I assume, the designation sodomy derives), that is evidently only one dimension of their wickedness.

Skip over the centuries to the prophecy of Ezekiel (16:49-50) and you will find this interesting for the reason Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed: “Behold, this was the sin of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.” Economic sins loom very large in the teachings, especially in the Old Testament prophets, but also in the teachings of Jesus, … like: “Blessed are you poor. Woe to you rich.” The significant Biblical studies on homosexuality seem to come down to the conclusion that it is promiscuous homosexuality that is being condemned, not loving permanent commitment. (You can pursue that is you will, but it’s a complex bit of scholarship).

But economic sins, most especially neglect of the helpless poor are omnipresent and unequivocal. Take that them into the current presidential race and where it goes. There seems to be little doubt that control of political policy is in the hands of the wealthy powers, the PACs, the lobbies, and other influences at the disposal of the 1% who control the wealth. If one is inclined to be a heckler at a political rally, and choose to use scripture as a weapon, you will probably not get much traction heckling the rich.

People who tout themselves as ‘evangelical Christians’ seem to be pretty ignorant of huge Biblical themes such as economic justice, or the care of the environment, or racial prejudice, or the proper role of government in establishing peace and order and justice for all of its citizens. In a sense, the Occupy Wall Street movement a few years ago was much more of a prophetic movement that all too many religious gatherings. Scriptures don’t dodge controversial issues, and such prophetic issues need to be taught as part of discipleship.

The care of the poor, naked, homeless, unjustly imprisoned are the criteria with which Jesus taught that he would separate the sheep from the goats at his return. Candidate Buttigieg is openly gay, but is also a devout Episcopalian for whom scriptures form his ethics, and his platform. Check out the several candidate’s platforms and see how they reflect these Biblical priorities. It’s an interesting study.

 

__________

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BLOG 4/15/19. FROM POLITICS TO THE MISSION OF GOD

After a hiatus of three months, first due to work on a manuscript on disciple-making, but more so because of an unexpected accident that took me off the scene, … I am returning to my twice a week blogs, to share with my subscribers and readers some of my thoughts about the mission of God, or of the mission that God has given to the church. I define myself as a missional-ecclesiologist. Precisely what it is that Jesus is creating his church to be and to do. Certainly not to be a pleasant gathering of religiously inclined who gather to passively enjoy the liturgy week by week.

So, I was fascinated yesterday (as the presidential campagn heats us) to listen to the announcement by Mayor Pete Buttigeig that he is entering the 2020 race. He is remarkably well-informed and articulate, but there were a couple of points that translate easily into understanding the mission of God. First of all, everyone who knows him comments on how carefully he listens to whomever he is talking. He tunes-in to people very thoughtfully. Having just finished my thoughts on disciple-making I am keenly aware of essential that we listen to the persons to whom we are talking, taking time to clearly understand some of the pieces of their lives and engagements that are part of their formation as disciples. There is no one-size-fits-all model for disciples. All being to the calling all the factors that make them who they are, and are the influences in which they seek to obey Christ’s calling.

For Mayor Pete, this is one of the factors that has made him so popular as mayor, and has been taken note of by so many others. As we are called to be engaged as those who are called to be the missionary arm of the Holy Trinity, to be listeners is an essential. Jesus asked his first inquirers: “What are you seeking?”

The second thing that caught my attention (as a missiologist ) was his vision for the nation’s future with all of the cultural, generational, ethnic, and other inescapable challenges. His insistence that we can’t go back, we must create a whole new generational culture that looks at the realities and problems that have no easy answer. It does not suffice to want to make the nation great again. We can never go back.

So, with the church. Patterns that have been present for centuries of church institutions formed in the Christendom era do not accomplish the mission of God in a post-Christian culture of self-satisfied humanism. (Which is why I wrote Homebrew Churches: Reconceiving the Church for Tomrrow’s Children). There is an unquestionable need for those communities of faith in which God’s people “teach and admonish one another” but it will take many forms to meet hugely diverse needs in various contexts. Like tomorrow’s politics, tomorrow’s church will require a new generation of creative leaders.

I’ll be coming back to this, now, in these blogs. I’m thankful for being able to hear from you and to share with you. Peace.

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BLOG 4/15/19. FROM POLITICS TO THE MISSION OF GOD

BLOG 4/15/19. FROM POLITICS TO THE MISSION OF GOD

After a hiatus of three months, first due to work on a manuscript on disciple-making, but more so because of an unexpected accident that took me off the scene, … I am returning to my twice a week blogs, to share with my subscribers and readers some of my thoughts about the mission of God, or of the mission that God has given to the church. I define myself as a missional-ecclesiologist. Precisely what it is that Jesus is creating his church to be and to do. Certainly not to be a pleasant gathering of religiously inclined who gather to passively enjoy the liturgy week by week.

So, I was fascinated yesterday (as the presidential campagn heats us) to listen to the announcement by Mayor Pete Buttigeig that he is entering the 2020 race. He is remarkably well-informed and articulate, but there were a couple of points that translate easily into understanding the mission of God. First of all, everyone who knows him comments on how carefully he listens to whomever he is talking. He tunes-in to people very thoughtfully. Having just finished my thoughts on disciple-making I am keenly aware of essential that we listen to the persons to whom we are talking, taking time to clearly understand some of the pieces of their lives and engagements that are part of their formation as disciples. There is no one-size-fits-all model for disciples. All being to the calling all the factors that make them who they are, and are the influences in which they seek to obey Christ’s calling.

For Mayor Pete, this is one of the factors that has made him so popular as mayor, and has been taken note of by so many others. As we are called to be engaged as those who are called to be the missionary arm of the Holy Trinity, to be listeners is an essential. Jesus asked his first inquirers: “What are you seeking?”

The second thing that caught my attention (as a missiologist ) was his vision for the nation’s future with all of the cultural, generational, ethnic, and other inescapable challenges. His insistence that we can’t go back, we must create a whole new generational culture that looks at the realities and problems that have no easy answer. It does not suffice to want to make the nation great again. We can never go back.

So, with the church. Patterns that have been present for centuries of church institutions formed in the Christendom era do not accomplish the mission of God in a post-Christian culture of self-satisfied humanism. (Which is why I wrote Homebrew Churches: Reconceiving the Church for Tomrrow’s Children). There is an unquestionable need for those communities of faith in which God’s people “teach and admonish one another” but it will take many forms to meet hugely diverse needs in various contexts. Like tomorrow’s politics, tomorrow’s church will require a new generation of creative leaders.

I’ll be coming back to this, now, in these blogs. I’m thankful for being able to hear from you and to share with you. Peace.

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