Thursday, October 28, 2004

Believers and Disciples

What if the way that we present "becoming a Christian" or "getting saved" is acutally producing people who are MORE self centered than less? What if all our focus on an event that makes it possible for you to go to Heaven (or "not Hell") when you die is producing people who embrace that fact but coundn't care less about becoming like Jesus? Is it possible that we've made mental agreement with certain propositional ideas our highest goal at the expense of the apprenticeship (discipleship) of Jesus and the mission of the Kingdom of God?

The current method for evangelsim works something like this: Bring your friends to one of our events (or if you are really brave talk to them yourself). There they will hear about an amazing propostition. They (your friends) are all sinners bound for Hell when they die. But Jesus came and died for them so that they could, instead, go to Heaven when they die...and they get an amazing bonus of blessings here on earth! Not only that, but they are shown what our church has to offer them. We have all of these great ministries designed to meet their needs...and they can even come and participate/observe even if they don't mentally agree with all of our ideas the first time they are presented with them! To be honest, the self centeredness so rampant in modern Christianity shouldn't surprise us. It is simply the natural product/result of our system. Under the false assumtion that behavior and action naturally follow belief, we've wound up with people who are simply "believers" and nothing more. To top it all off, when the world doesn't revolve around them, when bad things happen, when they aren't seeing all of the personal blessings they feel like they were promised their faith begins to fall apart. Community even appears optional because faith is presented as being all about the individual [personal Lord and Saviour, personal relationship with Jesus, "For God so loved ________ (put your name in the blank)", etc.]

I've heard/read Dallas Willard several times say something to the effect of: any system of evangelsim that does not naturally produce disciples (or apprentices) of Jesus should be abandoned immediately. He also points out that "disciple" may have become so "churchy" a word that it's meaning is lost on us. He says that "apprentice" is also an equally valid translation of the same greek word and might convey it's meaning a little better. Doug Padgitt says that maybe "spiritual formation" (another term that is being used in the place of "discipleship") works like language aquisition theory. According to this theory, the best way to learn a language is not to sit in a classroom and learn grammar. Instead, the theory asserts, the best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in a culture where the language is primarily spoken. Is it possible that we have got the cart before the horse? Have we tried to educate people into being Christians (another word that has possibly become so "churchy" that its meaning is obscured), and wound up with only "believers"? What if we focused on incorporating people into our faith communities and immersed them in the practices of a disciple of Jesus? What if they came to belief BY belonging to a community and participation in the mission of the Kingdom of God? Would it produce something different that what we are currently getting (in general)? I can see discipleship playing out that way in scripture, but admittedly I'm trying to see it there, so in some ways this is just a theory. Would it work? To be honest, I'm not sure. We've got to try something though, because what we are currently doing isn't cutting it.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Welcome My Wife To The Wonderful World of Blogging

My wonderful wife Dana has decided (after making fun of me for months), to start her own blog. She is much brighter than I am and I'm sure you will enjoy it. Check it out and leave her some comments.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

A Book?

I'm giving serious consideration to writing a book. The only concerns I have are:
1) Would anyone actually be interested in what I have to say?
2) People who are self-promoting irritate me. I don't want to be viewed that way.

The content of the as-yet untitled book would be expanded versions of ideas and concepts I've explored on this blog so far. I just don't know if there would be a market for that kind of stuff, or if it would just be limited to people who have grown up in my particular religious tradition (Churches of Christ). I also wonder if it is an arrogant idea for a youth minister for a 300 member church (that actually isn't employing most of these ideas currently) to write a book about this stuff. Anyway, I guess I would like your input on these concerns. What do you think? Would these ideas be helpful to people?
P.S. I'm also thinking about having people from various Christian backgrounds (a missionary, a preacher, a more traditional youth minister, etc.) write commentary (agreeing, expounding, and disagreeing) throughout the text in the margins. What do you think of this?

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Teaching Beliefs or Teaching to Believe?

I had an interesting interaction on a message forum that I particaipate in. I'd like to share it with you:

Do you agree or disagree with my assertation:
The earth is less than 10000 years old and God created the heavens and the earth in six 24 hour days.

I voted that I disagree, but that's not really accurate. I would prefer a "no opinion", or "I don't care", or better yet "how this question is answered doesn't affect my faith at all".

Just curious, but as I recall, you're a youth minister.
(Or am I mixing you up with someone else?)
How does your stance affect your ministry to youth?
Or more specifically, how do you deal with kids asking about evolution?

That is an excellent question (and you have a good memory, I might add). Actually, I personally don't believe in evolution and my kids know that and know my personal reasons as to why I don't buy it. But, I also don't think my faith depends on that belief. I don't believe that you neccesarily have to be converted from evolution to be a "real" Christian. I'm afraid that most Christians' belief "in" God is made up of their beliefs "about" God. Most people would probably say "Yeah! So? What's wrong with that?" The problem is that when your faith in God is structured in that way, and one of your beliefs about God comes into question or crumbles all together, your faith "in" God is at least in serious jeopardy if it is not lost all together.
Instead, I teach my kids:
1) God (the trinity) IS.
2) Now, here are some things I believe about God, but even if we learn that some things turn out to be different from what we currently believe, Fact #1 is still true.
Due to the fact that I am constantly learning new things about God through the Scriptures and my understanding changes as I learn more, I feel that it is important to teach teens fact #1 and then show them how to search for truth themselves (truth and God being able to stand for themselves and not being afraid of questions). I believe that if I can accomplish those to goals I will be much more successful as a youth minister than if I make my kids carbon copies of a crystalized set of my beliefs at any given time.


Thursday, October 07, 2004

The Post-Restorationist

My religious tradition (the churches of Christ) is a part of what has historically been known as the American Restoration Movement. It was a movement dedicated to both unity and "the restoration of 1st century Christianity." Interestingly enough, the term "Restoration Movement" was not used by either Campbell or Stone (founders/leaders of the movement) and was applied in retrospect to describe it by others. Campbell prefered to think of it as a new or continuing reformation. Campbell, however was a thoroughly modern fellow, and truly believed that if everyone would simply put aside their preconcieved ideas and approach the Bible objectivly, they would all reach the same conclusions on key issues. There is much that I admire in both Campbell and Stone, but I believe that human beings simply do not have the ability to approch things with complete objectivity, nor were the scriptures written that way.

I recently have been thumbing through a book called "The Post-Evangelical" by Dave Tomlinson. In the introduction, Dallas Willard says "To correctly appreciate this, you have to start with the realization that what Tomlinson calls post-evangelicalism is by no means ex-evangelacalism. There are, of course ex-evangelicals, and even anti-evangelicals, but post-evangelicals are evangelicals, perhaps tenaciously so. However, post-evangelicals have also been driven to the margins by some aspects of evangelical church culture with which they cannot honestly identify."

There has always existed some confusion over whether or not churches of Christ are evangelical or not. The best answer seems to be "sort of." However, this comment resonated with me as I read it. I realized that it kind of sums up my feelings about the restoration movement and restoration thought. It's like I told a friend of mine a while back when he asked me "What are you still doing here (in the churches of Christ)?" I believe in the movement. I believe in the spirit of continuing reformation that Campbell and Stone bought into instead of crystalizing their beliefs (or the agreed upon beliefs of the majority of the churches) at any given point. I disagree with the modern/Enlightenment based assumptions of the "Restoration Movement" such as unity based on total agreement of the meaning of the scriptures in matters of (arbitrarily chosen) core doctrines. I also would say that instead of the forms of the 1st century church, it is their spirit and ability to redeem and subvert the culture they existied in for the kingdom of God that needs restoration. Forms are almost always relative to context. So, here I stand as a Post-Restorationist in an awkward loving relationship with the movement that has nurtured my faith since I was born, desperatly wanting it to live up to its potential, unwilling to settle for the mediocrity, compromise, and lethargy that its founders and indeed Jesus himself would not have settled for, and unwilling to leave it to an anemic and pathetic fate.