I want to continue to pursue the theme I have begun in previous blogs, e.g., that the church is to be the communal expression of God’s new humanity, or the communal component of God’s new creation / God’s kingdom. It is that new creation that Jesus came to inaugurate. It is God’s tomorrow invading our today. That understanding inevitably brings us unavoidably to understanding the church missionally: “As the father has sent me, even so do I send you.” That commission is given to all who take their baptismal/conformational vows with any integrity.

It takes on an even more awesome revelation when Paul asserts: “… you also are being built together unto a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22). The clear implication of this affirmation is that the Spirit that was in Christ and his mission, his search and rescue mission, is also dynamically present in the community of God’s new humanity, dwells in all of those who compose his church. The further inescapable implication of this is that the church is in its very essence missional.

Yet, a huge distortion has invaded our understanding in all too much of the church. That distortion is that the church is, rather, a custodial community, in which passive believers are provided with a safe context to observe their faith overseen by active church professionals/clergy. To be sure, the church as the communal expression of God’s new creation does have a custodial dimension. It is the community’s responsibility to see to it that every believer within its company is continually being equipped and encouraged for their individual ministry/participation in the mission of God the 24/7 realities of their daily lives. To that end there emerged early within the church presbyters/elders who were to be models of God to the community, and those to whom the individuals were to be accountable in their new creation incarnation. There also appear episcopals/bishops whose role was to oversee that the community was faithful to its calling (these could be differing designation for the same function).

Then, there is the fascinating dimension of the community that every believer is given gifts for the benefit of the whole, and these gifts need the oversight of the bishops/elders so that they don’t get misused. There are gifts of administration, teaching, encouraging, helping, healing, etc. (This is a study in itself.) So, there is the need of a healthy custodial dimension to the community, … but only to give it integrity in its missional essence. One of the prominent gifts is that of pastor-teacher, or teaching shepherd. It is by the word of Christ that the church as a missional community is primarily equipped to carry out is mission. One is always blessed by those who are skillful in this gift. But, the other end of that is that every believer is give the task, as the word of Christ dwells in them, to “teach and encourage one another” (Colossians 3:16).

At the heart of it all is God’s search and rescue mission in which the community of God’s new humanity, and the individual participants become the dynamic missional components, become the missionary arm of the Holy Trinity in their daily context.

The sobering flip-side of this is that: according to the letters to the seven churches (Revelation 2-3) a church can actually cease to be a church when it becomes distracted or distorted or forgetful of its true essence and mission, i.e., it can have its “lamp removed from the lampstand.” To that end the church must ever be vigilant that it, with integrity, embody the passion of Christ to make visible the love and grace and forgiveness to all of those still walking in darkness, those motherless children whose lives are without meaning, or hope, or love.

The church is always to be in its totality, a missional community in which no one is passive.

[I always appreciate your feedback. RTH]


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Continuing in train of thought in these Blogs, about the church has the communal component of God’s New Creation being made flesh and blood in this present world scene, of ‘God’s tomorrow’ invading our ‘today’, … one needs to admit that this stretches our credulity a bit. To suggest that God’s new humanity finds its communal expression in the church, given the existential reality of so much that labels itself as ‘the church,’ is, indeed, a stretch. It might mean that we either misunderstand what God’s kingdom is all about, … or that we don’t understand what the true church is intended to be in the eschatological design of God.

Maybe as we look forward to the first Sunday of advent, in a couple of days, it is worth remembering how humanly impossible the whole event God’s messiah, of Jesus and all that he came to be and to do, is humanly impossible. When the angel came to Mary and greeted her as the one who would bear a son who would be the long-awaited messiah, she protested that it was not humanly possible in that she had never yet had sex with a man. Ah! but the angel explained to her that the one in her womb would be conceived by the holy spirit and would sit on the throne of his father David, and of his kingdom there would be no end. Humanly impossible, yes, but not divinely.

As the story unfolds, even those who had been anticipating the arrival of the promised messiah, the anointed one of God, … did not understand that in this one, who was called Jesus, ‘God’s tomorrow world’ would be invading this present world. It was such an overwhelming concept, that even his intimates were continually seeking to conceive of it in ‘merely human’ terms. When Jesus announced that in his role as the promised messiah, he would be building his church, he would be invading human history, and the human community, with God’s tomorrow, his disciples were still trying to understand that in merely human terms. They could not conceive of the creation of a whole new humanity, the human community as God intends it to be. It was because of that that we need to look at the church’s being something of a counterpart to the virgin birth of Jesus.

Jesus would insist that his disciples must wait until the holy spirit came upon them as the creator spirit, and ‘birthed in them’ the very life of God, empowering them to live out the divine image and purpose in God’s mission to reconcile the world to himself. The holy spirit would give them all that was needed to be the communal incarnation of the life of God, and of the mission of God. At the heart of this new humanity would be the totally transformed and transformational lives of God’s kingdom people. It would actually be formed and focused on the ultimate reality of the kingdom of God.

Yes, and this is what gets forgotten as the church continually reverts to a merely human religious community, rather than “the dwelling place of God by the holy spirit.” It is not buildings, or institutions, or ecclesiastical politics, … no! rather it is the communal expression of the Kingdom of God, of God’s New Creation, which is only possible as each participant embraces Jesus and his Kingdom by a total new framework, and a new way of living. Such an understanding also gives us understanding of the apostolic word, that “…in Christ the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled with him, who is the head of all rule and authority. (Colossians 2:9). This means that the church is supernaturally empowered to think like Jesus, to behave like Jesus, to worship like Jesus, and to engage in his mission to seek and to save the lost.  It also means that such a community is always in ‘missionary confrontation” with is existential context. It is in this light that the church must always be examining itself.

Stay tuned …

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It is always more difficult to get rid of an erroneous idea than it is to introduce a new one. This is the dilemma we face culturally today, as the era of Christendom recedes, and a post-Christian culture is emerging irresistibly. The question is: how are we to conceive of the church when the dominant conception for millennia has be that of a ‘sacralized institution’ and its ‘sacralized clergy leadership’? Cathedrals and their chapels, “the church in the valley by the wildwood” (from an old gospel song), the Catholic church on the boulevard, etc. … somehow it was always “a place to go” where the rites of the Christian tradition were observed. I am not at all seeking to demean the blessing that such have been, … but rather to seek to propose the church in the mind and heart of God as something much more dynamic and transformational than that of a mere institution, in which one can easily participate and yet never see it in its true eschatological / cosmic and divine purpose.

This ongoing discipline of conceiving of the church is an essential component of that for which Jesus came, and for which he died. As the church was birthed in the context of Judaism what with its temple and priesthood, it was the challenge of Jesus’ apostles to give thanks for the heritage of the anticipatory centuries of Judaism and the revelation of God to the fathers and the prophets over all of those anticipatory generations, … but then to see the church as the  communal fulfillment of God’s new creation in Christ, it was to be a whole kingdom of priests in which every participant, every person is called by the preaching of Christ to embrace his/her place and ministry within that reconciled human community.

The letters of Paul and the other apostles are always seeking to unfold that radically new understanding: the community that is the communal expression of God’s new creation. Paul will pray for one such community that they may see all things from God’s point of view, … that they will understand themselves as God’ picked representatives of his new humanity, purified and beloved of God himself (from a paraphrase of Colossians by J. B. Phillips).

Such communities of God’s new humanity can take on any of many diverse forms, depending on the setting. They are always ‘aliens and exiles’ and always finding fresh ways to demonstrate their calling to be that new humanity, even in the most unlikely places. Such communities appear and disappear as societies and circumstances change.

In the Christendom era, the churches were given ‘perks’ by the dominant order, and so could become prestige institutions with tax deductibility and privilege. But such impressive institutions can/and do easily so conform themselves to the dominant order, and in so being conformed in their influence, that they cease to be the Spirit-anointed heralds of the good news of God’s new and transformational kingdom, they cease to be salt and light, cease to be God’s missionary arm.

True communities of God’s new humanity are those whose participants are intentionally and dynamically recreated into the image of Christ, their lord, in their thinking, in their behavior, and in their intimacy with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit They become the dwelling place of God by the Holy Spirit. Such communities are the salt and light that God uses to effectively accomplish his purpose in new creation as it demonstrates in its communal love and good works God’s passion for his lost and benighted humanity. Such self-understanding is somewhat eclipsed by too many church institutions and denominational rivalries.

So, drive down a stake here: the church is essentially the communal demonstration of God’s new creation. … to be continued…


[ cf. ]

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The starting place for our sojourn into embracing an adequate understanding of the church begins with having an adequate understanding of the huge, awesome, and all-encompassing understanding of what it was that Jesus came to be and to do. That may sound obvious, but it is right here that the so often minimalistic, inadequate, and misunderstood concepts of the church begin. What Jesus came to be and to do is (again) huge, awesome, and totally transformational. The apostle put it this way: God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself and entrusting to us he ministry of reconciliation.

Jesus did not come to initiate a new religion, or to tamper with Judaism, or anything humanly imaginable, or so narrowly spiritual, or to be the religious component added to the fringe of our lives. He did not come to create a religious institution with sacred places, and sacralized church professionals in leadership. Such a common misunderstanding is a subversion of Christianity.

No! Rather, he came to make all things new. He came to initiate the invasion of this present age with the age to come. He came to unveil God’s ultimate intent for his creation, and to make that possible by his reconciling death, and the empowering of the Holy Spirit. He came to create a new humanity as the communal dimension of that new creation (i.e., the kingdom of God) that is being continually recreated into the image of the Son of God.

The church is about God’s new creation in Christ, and the church is that community called to be the missionary arm of God in making that new creation visible. The church, and every disciple of Christ, becomes, in its very nature, an integral part of God’s great seek and rescue mission in this lost and confused scene. In the invasion of God’s new creation, the church and its individual participants renounce this age of darkness and the powers thereof, and to embrace all that Jesus came to be and do as they are conformed to his image, and to live out their human lives as radiant displays of that divine image in the warp and woof, in the existential realities of their daily lives.

The church, as that communal expression of God’s new humanity in Christ, is continually being tempted, or subverted, albeit, into a ‘religious christianity’ that is immunized against the radical mission of that new creation, so that one can become a passive participant, or an appreciative observer of religious rites in that community, and avoid the demands of discipleship. God’s new creation is transformational in its very essence. The church, as the community of God’s new humanity, becomes right here and right now: the dwelling-place of God by the Holy Spirit.

The church is, individually and communally, the radiant display of the divine nature in a context that is seldom congenial. Even in the most sordid of circumstances, it’s calling is to spread the fragrance of the knowledge of God, the ‘sweet aroma of Christ,’ everywhere (II Corinthians 2:14-15). The church, as the community of God’s new humanity, is always in process, always provisional, … but it is always intentional in its understanding of its purpose in God’s ultimate design of new creation.  … Something like that.

It is critical, in our quest to understand the church, then, to understand the nature of God’s design in sending his son, and the awesome part the church is to play in that design.

Stay tuned …

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I want to explain to my viewers, that for a few months I want to become much more thematic in these blogs, and for a reason. Let me explain: I identify myself as a missional ecclesiologist on my calling cards. That confuses most people, but it defines my identity. Ecclesiology is the study of the nature of the church, while missiology is the study of the mission of the church. So, a missional ecclesiologist would be one who seeks to engage in a study, and in the integrity and praxis, of the church and its missional nature.

This identity has become more compelling in me because of sixty-plus years of engagement in church leadership. When I was thrust (somewhat against my will) into a role in church leadership as our denomination’s staff person in the field of evangelism, and thus into engagement with the larger church in multiple conferences, retreats, study courses, etc., I discovered that so many of the persons I was conversing with had no adequate understanding of the gospel itself. It was that discovery that prompted me to engage in writing on the essence of the gospel. The church was, in many ways, un-evangelized itself.

But, then, along the way I became increasingly aware that, in addition to this blank spot in their understanding, was the even more disturbing realization that they also did not understand what the divine purpose and design of the church was either. So, then, if one does not comprehend what the dynamic reality of the gospel is, nor understands the dynamic purpose of the church in God’s eternal design, … then, what you get is an ostensible church that is far removed from whatever it was that Jesus told his disciples he was going to build and against which the gates of hell would not be able to prevail.

Along the way, I was influenced by a couple of significant scholars. One was the South African missiologist David Bosch, who wrote Transforming Mission. In that seminal work, he traces the history of the church’s mission from the apostolic period right down into our present post-Christian era. He notes, toward the end of the book, that missiologists are always “gadflies” in the arena of ecclesiology. So, that in these forthcoming blogs, be forewarned, I am engaging in my gadfly role. The other work was: The Subversion of Christianity by sociologist-theologian Jacques Ellul, in which he spends time speaking of the huge shift of understanding that defined the church (and it leadership) as something quite different from what it was designed to be in the purpose of God.

For the last ten years of my public role in church leadership I was engaged in a ministry of mentoring, or encouragement, to students and faculty in about fifteen different theological seminaries. I found the same blank spots there among those engaged, ostensibly, in equipping for church leadership. In many of these institutions, there were almost no courses in ecclesiology, and missiology was only beginning to emerge as a required discipline. Many of the faculty shared in this blank spot. They were good academicians, but often had been practitioners in church leadership, or pastoral ministry. The notion of a missional ecclesiology was hardly formative in their thinking (confirming Ellul’s charge of the subversion of Christianity).

So, stand by and let me chip away at this concept, and attempt to give you some insights that will, hopefully, be provocative in your own formation and your engagement with the church and its mission. And, be it known that your feedback will help me to accomplish my purpose.

Have a thankful Thanksgiving.

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Notwithstanding that there appear to be church institutions in abundance, and glamorous ‘mega-churches’ that are colorful and attractive, … there is the lurking question of what makes a Christian community genuinely and spontaneously contagious? What makes its participants irrepressible in their fervor to be engaged in the mission of God and the message of God in Christ, … to declare God’s love for all humankind his passion to have them reconciled to himself, and to one another, through his son, Jesus Christ?

When something is contagious, it knows no boundaries. Something causes it to spread infectiously. This certainly was the case with the first century church, and again and again in episodes through its history. But then also, it goes into those periods when it retreats into institutional passivity, becomes self-satisfied and non-reproductive—not at all contagious. Comfortable and non-demanding church communities easily become the home of religious ‘fellow-travelers’ who are evidently not at all converted to the life of obedient discipleship.

I have always been fascinated by (what is easily passed over in casual reading) the account of Paul’s missionary work in Ephesus. It tells of Paul doing what was his typical pattern, as a Jew, of going first to the synagogue, and when he got a hearing he would tell the participants of Jesus who was the promised messiah, whom the Jews had been anticipating over the centuries. He was convincing to some, while other rejected, even resented, his message. In Ephesus (a major commercial center) he first found some disciples of John the Baptist who were responsive to the message of the fulfillment of John’s prophecy in the coming of Jesus Christ and the sending of the Holy Spirit. These dozen persons were to become the first Christian community in Ephesus.

He, then, went to the synagogue with the same message of Jesus and the kingdom of God, and for a brief period, evidently got a hearing, but ultimately that message was rejected by the leaders of the synagogue, and he took those who believed to a public meeting place. There, it records, that for two years he equipped them with the whole message, the ‘whole counsel of God,’i.e., he became their disciple-maker, their teacher and mentor as well as their model. And in that process these disciples became contagious. How do we know that they became contagious?

We can only extrapolate the answer to that question in understanding that Ephesus was a commercial center, and the city which had communication with the other cities in Asia Minor (modern Turkey). That would mean that those early disciples undoubtedly were part of that commercial enterprise and would be travelling all over Asia Minor on a regular basis.

So, then, let me make just two points here: 1) those disciples were not passive about the message of Jesus, but we convinced of it, converted passionately to it, and contagious with it. And, 2) the account says (Acts 19: 8-10) that in those two years “all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.” How did they hear it? Not from Paul, or the other apostles. No! All the residents of Asia undoubtedly heard it from the contagious disciples from Ephesus, who in their regular business travels into those cities, could not keep the message to themselves.

Christian discipleship can never be passive about the mission of God, or the message of God in Christ. True discipleship is, by its very nature, spontaneous and contagious. It incarnates itself in each disciple’s unique personality, and in his daily context. It is the responsibility of the overseers and teachers of the Christian communities to be constantly equipping the participants for such daily contagious lives in both their behavior and in their capacity to communicate the message convincingly. That’s how and why some communities are contagious, … and some are not!

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The omnipresence of Wi-Fi is a current fact of life, what with, seemingly, iPhones, and iPads obvious wherever there are people, whether sitting in coffee shops, walking their dogs, or at almost any gathering of friends. The access to information is a huge blessing in so many ways. Nearly all of us have become dependent on it. But, … lurking just beyond the Wi-Fi world there are haunting questions: What does my life mean? Does my life have any real significance beyond my current project? Does anyone care that I am here? Or care for me as a person? And: Is there anything beyond this life? Any ultimate destination? Or Is the grave the end of it all?

Meaning, acceptance, and life beyond this life—these are the issues. These have occupied poets, psychiatrists, song writers, and philosophers over the span of human history. It would seem that the emerging post-Christian culture finds these all archaic, or irrelevant to their lives, since so many eschew any attachment to religion, or any dependence on philosophical thinking, … or at least brush the questions out of sight since they make them uncomfortable. But they don’t go away. Tragedies occur, lives are snuffed out, fire destroys all you’ve lived for, terminal illnesses come unexpectedly. … What does my life mean?

After the holocaust during those nightmarish years of the 20th century, the Austrian psychiatrist, Victor Frankl, noted that those prisoners who had a sense of meaning in their lives survived more often than those who did not. He developed what he termed logo-therapy, or the therapy of meaning. He saw it as a universal need for one’s healthy psyche.

To me it is interesting that Jesus, and the apostles of the early church, saw these human needs as significant components of their message of God’s New Creation. Jesus’ teachings offer to us a whole new abundant life that is part of God’s design and loving intent of a new creation suffused with God’s acceptance and love, of Jesus as the explanation, the word of meaning, made flesh. He had a message of hope for life beyond life, and of a life that was marked by love and caring.

Then, the apostle Paul, makes reference to three elements that make up the Christian life: faith, hope, and love. These point directly to the three haunting questions mentioned above:  Does my life have meaning? Does anyone care about me? Is there life/hope beyond this life?

To say, then, that our embrace of these components of Christ’s life and teaching should be radically formative in our engagement with the human community in the specific expressions it takes for us. Peter even noted that in a hostile context that we should be ready with a thoughtful answer when anyone asks a reason for the hope that is in us. Jesus made plain that our love for all humankind, our caring for each individual, is a sine qua non component of our new creation lives. And the very fact that Jesus came to destroy the power of death and to give us such great hope. And, the apostle makes very specific that in Jesus, the mystery hidden for the ages, is made unveiled.

When there is no access to Wi-Fi, we can fruitfully reflect of the wonder of God’s new creation where these are no longer mysteries, but rather, components of our lives in Christ, which we are to incarnate before the watching world. “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.” (I Corinthians 2:9).

In Christ, the questions are no longer haunting, but rather sources of our rejoicing, of the new song in our hearts.


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The national elections of this past week have revealed how pervasive is the ignorance of so many ostensible church institutions, and their inhabitants, about the essence of both the demands of discipleship, and of the essence and purpose of the Christian church/community. It’s enough to make one weep. Those whom Jesus calls into his new creation community, calls them, by virtue of that, into a community that is always in missionary confrontation with this present age, this immediate cultural, social, and political context and its realities. It is a calling to be the people of the Light in a culture and context of darkness, of rebellion against its creator.

This is another way of saying and demonstrating that the church is always counter-cultural. But, take note: that culture of darkness is incessantly and forever seeking to co-opt the church, to seduce it into a comfortable conformity with its darkness, … but in an ever so sophisticated seduction. The root of that seduction is the drift from absolute obedience to the ethic, the teachings, and the lifestyle of Jesus, … to “religious Christianity,” which embraces the external religious language, but seems not to understand that only those who hear Jesus’ teachings and practice them are truly his disciples.

So that when the political principalities and powers, the political candidates, the political parties, and the power structures of our local and national environment espouse policies that are alien to those of Jesus and his new creation/kingdom, Christ’s disciples quite intentionally seek those policies and candidates that most closely conform to Christ’s agenda of righteousness, of peace, of order, of care for the helpless, … and rejects the arrogance of those that are agents of wealth and power and indifference to those who are weak, or are victims of that very wealth and power. This defies traditional political loyalties, even while, of necessity, participating in them.

This misunderstanding has been palpable in these recent weeks of campaigning. Those who claim for themselves their identity as Christians, but become ardent supporters of candidates and policies of the darkness, … in so doing, forsake their calling to be salt and light. Labels don’t matter. It is the platforms and policies and character that come closer to Christ’s ethical teachings that matter (and these are often set forth by those who don’t profess to being Christian).

When Jesus came near the end of his earthly ministry, he laid out his own agenda, and it was built on his ultimate sovereignty as God’s anointed servant, God’s messiah, to initiate God’s new creation: Note his prophetic word, after Peter declared that Jesus was messiah: “This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.” (Peterson: The Message, Matthew 16:18).

Ah, but then the battle was engaged. The darkness was not long in ferocious resistance, and efforts to domesticate that message. Within the first century God’s people found themselves up against humanly hopeless odds. And yet it is recorded that “they overcame by the blood of the Lamb, by the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives even unto death.” Satan’s assaults, the gates of hell, were ultimately defeated by such lives given in joyous obedience.

The darkness is relentless, which means that those who are intentional in being Christ’s disciples must continually be rehearsing what are the demands of discipleship, and what is the essence of the church, and of its faithfulness in its missionary confrontation with its immediate environment. … The battle is not done!

[I value your comments, and your recommending this blog to your friends. Thanks.]

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“O where are kings and empires now

Of old that went and came?

But, Lord, Thy Church is praying yet,

A thousand years the same.”

                                                     (Arthur Cleveland Cox. 1839)

On this election day, in this confusing cultural and national context, for those of us who are the people of God in Jesus Christ, … it is also an appropriate  time for us to remember that Caesar is not God! … to remember that we have one Lord in Jesus Christ, who alone is the one who ultimately rules over all! Yes, and along with that, also to remember that the empire is not sovereign. We do indeed serve as salt and light in its midst, … we can be co-belligerents with all of those who are instruments of peace and order and righteousness, … but never captive, collaborators as they pursue the ethic of God’s new creation, but always answerable to our one Lord. We can seek to influence the policies of a political party, but never selling our soul to the principalities and powers that espouse prejudice, greed, unrighteousness, inhumane policies, and who demean “the least of these” who are the objects of God’s love.

And, yes, the privilege of voting is a stewardship, but it must not be mindless, but rather articulate. Referenda on environmental issues, and racial equality, and on the stewardship of resources should be part of our ‘salt and light’ calling. We should not be passive or indifferent to the implications in holy obedience to Christ our Lord.

As the hymn (above) states, Christ’s church has weathered and transcended the demise of many kingdoms and empires, and has often been a formative influence in the emergence of new temporal nations. So, yes, we can and should be co-belligerents with all the forces of good, but never conformed or captive to those which espouse policies of darkness.

It was Martin Luther King, Jr., who when charged with violating the local laws (on segregation), responded: “I appeal to a higher law!” He, along with many others became forces of change, and of the repeal of the laws that were contrary to God’s design for humankind.

This battle is never done.

We have watched, in recent time, acts of violence and rage which took many innocent lives. We have seen the power of lobbies that protect the possibility of such violence (like, gun control). It is at such moments as this that we need to remember that God’s design for human governments is peace and order and justice, … and that’s where our focus as God’s new creation people, i.e. kingdom people, needs to be, and where our participation is essential if we are to truly be salt and light.

“Unshaken as eternal hills,

Immovable she stands,

A mountain that shall fill the earth,

                    A house not made with hands”         -ibid-


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For some reason, there seems to be a nostalgia, a longing for ‘the good old days’ (which never really existed for all too many). We tend to mythologize the past. Of course, there were many blessings for which to be grateful. Even so, to seek to reclaim yesterday is a vain pursuit. The future emerges irresistibly, like it or not. For the church, it is even more critical to look at the shifting culture, and at the emerging generation. This past week many churches celebrated both Reformation Day, and All Saints /All Souls Day which look back at persons and events that have been models of faith and obedience. This is all very appropriate. There are treasures from the past that need to be owned, to be sure. …

But, … the cultural landscape has gone through a radical change in the past generation, or so. Some have described it as a cultural diastrophism—that phenomenon which takes place when the subterranean tectonic plates shift, and everything on the surface is altered. For two millennia, since soon after the emergence of the Christian faith into human history, western civilization has been considered as a Christian-influenced (dominated?) culture, and designated as Christendom. Take note: this has all eroded and ceased to be a reality in very recent history. Post-Christendom has quietly but (again) ineluctably emerged. The church’s influence as a culture-creating force, and as a respected institution has begun to dissolve before our eyes.

Yet, those seeking to reclaim the past in the church have refused to open their eyes to that reality, have continued to seek to create the church institutions, and denominational expressions of Christendom without opening their eyes to the fact that the younger generations, produced by this post-Christian culture, have become more and more immune to its influence, or even cognizant of Christian faith and Christian church.

Missionary-theologian Lesslie Newbigin sought to alert the church to this a generation ago, when he returned from a distinguished missionary career in India, to his native United Kingdom, only to find that it was more difficult to communicate the Christian faith in England than it was in India. He became a prophet and his works were heralded and studied by church leaders widely—but even they found it difficult to translate into church structures formed by Christendom assumptions. I was part of one of the ‘think-tanks’ that grappled with this reality, where it was obvious that most of the participants could nod approvingly at Newbigin’s thesis, but were, albeit, still captive to the patterns and structures of Christendom.

Ah! but the younger generation, now on the scene, Generation Z, has come on to the scene, and the moment of truth has emerged that, overall, the Christian faith and church are not even on their scope. I first became graphically aware of this in my practice of hanging out in a coffee shop near a major university, and inhabited by young urban professionals, and university students. In conversation after conversation, while sharing current involvements, when I was asked what had been my career, my answer that I had been a teaching-pastor to the church (now get this), they respond: “What is the church?” or “What is a teaching-pastor?” These were not dummies; they were bright successful students and professionals.

In response, I wrote a book: What on Earth is the Church? in an attempt to explain to the utterly ‘out of it’ and secularized younger generation something of the reality.

More recently I have been made to realize that we are dealing with the first truly post-Christian generation. In coming blogs, I will be pursuing this theme. Meanwhile I commend a brilliant study: Meet Generation Z, by scholar and pastor James Emery White, and I will be piggy-backing on his consciousness-raising insights. “Forgetting those things that are past, and pressing forward …” Stay tuned.

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