Wednesday, January 25, 2006

A New Kind of Christian - Chapter Seven

What if faith isn't best compared to a building, but rather to a spider web? Instead of one foundation, it has several anchor points. Those points might be spiritual
experiences, exemplary people and institutions that one has come to trust, that sort of thing.

Where does the Bible fit in? It could be seen as one of the anchor points.
Or perhaps every passage in the Bible that has affected your life could be seen as an
anchor point. Or perhaps the Bible isn't only in the anchor points. Perhaps it is part of every thread of the web.

John Wesley - he was an Anglican - understood this very well. He talked about
the church deriving its stability from a dynamic interplay of four forces: Scripture,
tradition, reason, and spiritual experience.

One thing that both modern liberals and conservatives have in common is that
they read the Bible in very modern ways. Modern conservatives read the Bible like a
modern history text, a modern encyclopedia, a modern science article or a modern legal code. But none of those categories even existed when the Bible was written. Modern liberals acknowledge that the Bible is a different kind of text from our modern texts, but then they in a sense judge it by modern standards. If something doesn't fit in with a modern Western mind-set that reveres objectivity, science, democracy, individualism, that sort of thing, it is dismissed as primitive and irrelevant. Maybe neither liberals nor conservatives take the Bible seriously enough.

Maybe we need to read the Bible less like scholars and more like humble seekers
trying to learn whatever we can from it. in the context of our sincere desire to live for God and do what he wants. Maybe postmodern is post-analytical and post-critical. What if instead of reading the Bible, you let the Bible read you?

Maybe our approach to the Bible is that we flirt with it, romance it - or maybe let
its message romance us. I wonder what would happen if we honestly listened to the
story and put ourselves under its spell, so to speak, not using it to get all of our
questions about God answered but instead trusting God to use it to pose questions to usabout us. What would happen if we just trusted ourselves to it - the way a boy opens his heart to a girl. The Benedictines practice something like this; they call it lectio divina.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Celebrate Ken's birthday

You're invited to celebrate Ken's birthday with he and Becky. The party will be at Pappasito's - Willowbrook - 7:00 P.M. Thursday.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Ken's Perspective

Recently we (Wellspring) have had some interesting dialogue about who we are and what we are about. Questions have been raised about the term; “post-modern”. Many wonder what it means and others question its value for us.
I want to offer my perspective. I believe that when we step back and look at the larger picture, things come into focus, simplify, and begin to make more sense. For me it is as simple as this. We are missionaries to a new and different culture.
Most of us have grown up in the “modern” world. It’s what we know and it shapes our beliefs and how we view the world. There is a new culture/world view emerging. The new culture/worldview is being called “post-modern”. This phrase is used because it comes after modern and no one else knows what to call it. Today both culture/worldviews are in existence at the same time. The modern worldview seems to be at its pinnacle, while the postmodern worldview seems to be growing at a rapid rate. Some people hold one of these worldviews almost exclusively. While some of us seem to flip from one to the other. The dilemma is that almost every church in America is structured and focused on reaching people with a modern worldview. For people with a modern worldview that’s great. For people with more of a postmodern worldview it creates a problem. People with a postmodern worldview don’t connect or identity with modern churches. The result is that “the Church” in America is declining even while some individual churches are growing larger.
The founders of Wellspring believe God called us to be missionaries to the people in our own country who have a postmodern worldview. For missionaries to be effective they have to do at least three things:
1. Missionaries must learn about the culture they are trying to reach. They must seek to understand the culture. The more missionaries understand and embrace a culture the more effective they will be at reaching people in that culture. We at Wellspring are trying to understand the postmodern culture by reading books like A New Kind of Christian. The most effective missionaries are the indigenous people (people from the culture) who become followers of Jesus. They embody the culture. In our journey, we have some people who are from the culture (postmodern), we have some people that have been studying the postmodern culture and like it, we have some people who are working hard to be missionaries but still like the modern culture better, and we have some people who found that being a missionary was too hard and have decided to go back to the culture they are more familiar and comfortable with.
2. Missionaries must learn the language of the new culture. Even though both moderns and postmoderns may speak English, they speak a different language. We are trying to both learn the language and to speak the language of postmodernity.
3. Missionaries translate the gospel of Jesus Christ into the language and culture of the people. Presenting the gospel in a postmodern context looks very different from the way it does in a modern context. Moderns may think this is compromise. In reality, it is an attempt to translate the gospel into a form that will be heard and received by postmoderns.
So for me – the issue is not about who’s right or who’s wrong. It’s not about which is better or what we call ourselves. It is simply about who we are called to minister to and with. At Wellspring I believe we are called to minister to and with people with a postmodern worldview. Therefore we call our “church” an emergent Missional community. I am so thankful that you are on this journey with us as we seek to learn how to fulfill our calling in the most meaningful and effective way.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Son of God Refuses to Condemn Adulteress

Jesus of Nazareth – the so-called “son of God” -- was in the middle of controversy again yesterday. As he taught a group of curious onlookers in the court of the Gentiles, Jesus was confronted by a group of Jewish religious leaders. The religious leaders brought a woman they had caught in the act of adultery to the teacher from Nazareth.
According to the Torah, a person caught in adultery is to receive the death penalty by stoning. Roman law prohibits such action by unauthorized individuals.
The religious leaders asked Jesus what should be done to the woman. While they were waiting for his answer, Jesus wrote something in the dirt. None of the witnesses could say exactly what he wrote.
After several moments of anxious anticipation by the leaders and the crowd, Jesus stood and simply said, “He who is without sin cast the first stone.”
Soon the religious leaders began to disappear starting with the oldest. After all the leaders had left, Jesus asked the woman, “Where are they? Does no one condemn you?”
Jesus then said, “Neither do I. Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.”
One eyewitness, Martha Levy said, “It was amazing. I’ve never seen the religious leaders back down to anyone. Jesus was so compassionate and so courageous. I wonder if he could really be the Messiah?”
A second witness, Eli Abrams said, “This is unbelievable. The woman was caught in the act, and nobody does anything about it. And where was the guy, the fellow she got caught with? Why wasn’t he here? I think this Jesus character needs to be stopped.”
According to several of Jesus’ disciples, the religious leaders were hoping to discredit Jesus because of his growing popularity and because of the controversy surrounding his teachings. This teacher from Nazareth is definitely a divisive figure in the community. Some think he is the expected Messiah while others think he is a heretical troublemaker.
Jesus and his followers continue their stay in the city despite threats and accusations against them.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Why Postmodern?

I have been thinking about our talks recently. We have spent a little bit of time talking about ourselves as post-modern or emergent. I think emergent is a good word, and I know I don’t get to choose the vocabulary for a movement, but I think we need to change the term “post-modern”. I think it is divisive. I understand that those who coined the term were just trying to express that we are after-modern, but to modernists I think it comes across as better-than-modern. Like an advancement from what they are. And really, I can’t blame anyone, I mean whoever coined the term of the “modern world” kind of led us to this. But we shouldn’t drown in that mistake. We have seen the iron age, the industrial age, let’s brainstorm on some new terms…

Emergent – I keep this on the list because I think it expresses our becoming.

We had the “Age of Reason” already and today we are moving to questioning, so maybe we are the “Age of Investigation” or the “Age of Curiosity” or the “Age of Inquiry”.

And then I think, maybe we are over-analyzing ourselves a bit too much. I mean, I could see us as the “Analytical Age” because we spend time not only questioning our faith, but goodness how much time do we spend even trying to figure out what to call ourselves? And it is just a reactionary device on my part to keep from having myself confused with what seems the stereotypical American Christian. It’s like we have this need to explain everything down to the bone and justify our right to question.

Funny, but I don’t think Jesus spent any time at all talking about what to call himself or his movement. He just was. Call him what you will – prophet, savior, rabi, no name changes who he was.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Discussion Group Thursday

I posted Chapter six of A New Kind of Christian below. We will meet to discuss this chapter tomorrow night at 7:00. If you can't join us in person, join us in the discussion on this blog.

A New Kind of Christian - Chapter Six

A New Kind of Christian - Chapter Six

1. I don’t want to divide “New Christians” from “Traditional Christians” or “Postmodern Christians” from “Modern Christians”. Please help me try to avoid any “us-and-them” kind of thinking, and if you see me going in that direction, by all means tell me, OK? We’re talking about a new kind of Christian, not the new kind or a better kind or the superior kind, just a new kind.

2. One of my mottoes in life is that people are often against something worth being against but in the process find themselves for some things that aren’t worth being for. I think that’s the case with both sides of the battle about the Bible. The conservatives are against reinterpreting ancient wisdom in light of contemporary fads or moods, and they’re against in any way weakening the strong, unchanging backbone of the faith, fearing that we’ll be left with a kind of jellyfish spirituality if the liberals have their way. Meanwhile, the liberals are against pitting faith against honest scientific investigation and turning faith into an anti-intellectual enterprise. They’re against the obscurantism – the resistance to free inquiry – that is so common in conservative circles. And they’re against the privatization of faith. They feel that conservatives have retreated to the private sphere, worrying only about their own personal salvation, leaving the world at large to go to hell ecologically, culturally, in terms of social justice, that sort of thing. So I think we have to begin by saying that both sides are against something worth being against. They both have a point.

3. When evangelicals say they’re arguing about the Bible’s absolute authority, too often they are arguing about the superiority of the traditional grid through which they read and interpret the Bible.

4. How can you be sure that some of your ironclad interpretations today aren’t similarly fueling injustice? I’m wondering, if you have an infallible text, but all your interpretations of it are admittedly fallible, then you at least have to always be open to being corrected about your interpretations, right? So the authoritative text is never what I say about the text or even what I understand the text to say but rather what God means the text to say right? In other word, the authority is not in what I say the text says but in what God says the text says. Our interpretations reveal less about God or the Bible than they do about us. Our interpretations reveal our hearts.

5. I’m amazed by how much fear the label “liberal” elicited in me. Wouldn’t I rather be a “liberal” who really cared about God’s will than a good conservative evangelical who was smug in my understanding, who had perhaps stopped “hungering & thirsting after righteousness”?

6. I think that when you let go of the Bible as God’s answer book, you get it back as something so much better. It becomes the family story. When we let it go as a modern answer book, we get to rediscover it for what it really is: an ancient book of incredible spiritual value for us, a kind of universal and cosmic history, a book that tells us who we are and what story we find ourselves in so that we know what to do and how to live. It’s a book that calls together and helps create a community, a community that is a catalyst for God’s work in our world.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

A New Kind of Christian - chapter five

A New Kind of Christian
Chapter Five

 All generations are generations of change but not all are generations of transition. In transitions you must use new tools. Using old tools will make a mess of things.

 What would you say to someone making the transition in 1507?
• Don’t put your confidence in the institution of the church; put your confidence in God.
• Be open to new ideas and new interpretations of the faith.
• Don’t be too quick to criticize.
• Expect things to be messy.
• Don’t resist the change. Go with it.
• Keep going back to the Bible, but not with the standard interpretations blinding you to new interpretations.
• Try to sort out tradition from the real essentials of the gospel.
• Get with it, get out of the way, or get counseling!

 Am I scared? Sometimes I’m terrified. The lowest available risk that I see is the risk of journeying in faith. You see, I believe in the Holy Spirit. I believe Jesus meant it when he said the Spirit of God would be with us, guiding us, to the very end. He has a purpose he is working toward, and I want to keep up with him. I suppose that’s my greatest fear, not that I’ll go too fast or too far but that I’ll lag behind.

 I find it hard to believe that modern evangelical Christianity, of which I am glad to be part, is dying, as you suggest.

 We should expect that the best modern churches in history would exist today, right at the time when the modern world is passing, much like the world of the horse and buggy in 1910.

 If you are a missionary going to any educated culture on earth today, I think you need to learn to think and speak postmodern.

 Everywhere in my life except at church, I think I am postmodern. But I think when I go any place religious or Christian, I just sort of switch. It’s like I click into my parents’ way thinking for an hour, and then I switch back.

Hook 'Em Horns!

One of the great things about Wellspring is our diversity. And in Texas, I have learned that the biggest divide is not between Democrats and Republicans - it is Longhorns and Aggies. Last night, I think I can speak for the die hard Aggies in saying - Whoop!

Even when I went to UT, I wasn't into the football - it really just meant I couldn't find a parking spot on campus and the place would be trashed and full of people wearing beer goggles. But last night, for the first time in a long time, I enjoyed a game of college ball. Not only was it a great game, but I got to see someone I have met, shook hands with, and even hugged out there on the field. That was so cool! And everytime I saw number 40 or heard about him making another tackle, I couldn't help but give a cheer. It was so fun to watch, to know that my family was in the stands cheering him on, to know that when he comes back home for his next visit I can give him a hug and tell him how proud I am.

I have to admit, I don't know Robert well, but I know that I prayed for his health during the season, I prayed for his success and for him to keep his head on straight. It may not have been a perfect game, but I am perfectly proud.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Discussion group

We will be meeting for our discussion group this week - Shuman's - 7:00 P.M. We will be discussing chapter five from the book A New Kind of Christian. I hope you can join us.