Saturday, February 11, 2006
The Lord's message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia -yourfaith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it ... 1 Thessalonians 1:8
A missionary church will have its focus continually on a whole-life approach, weeping with those who weep, lamenting - as did Jesus - over those who see no need to weep, and rejoicing with those who rejoice. It is a church that sees the engagements of its members in the wholeness of human existence as the focus of its mission and the direction of its resources. It will worry more about, and work more for, the doctor or mother functioning in those roles, than about tasks they may have within the church. pp45
The marks of a missionary congregation
The following is a list of the marks of a missionary congregation. However, it is important to note that this is based largely on theoretical work. Another list needs urgently to be constructed out of observation of what actually happens on the ground. The two need then to be in dialogue. Either list has the potential to 'convert' the other list; both stand to gain and be enriched.
1. Celebration. This is taken in its widest sense and refers to th e ability and desire to enjoy life and the gifts that God has given, and to participate in celebrating the new humanity modelled for us in Christ, opened up to humanity by his death and resurrection.
2. Whole life Christianity. Expressing faith in God in the whole of life. The focus of church life would shift from 'church organisations', to daily life - to the home, work place, and community life. The emphasis would be on personal growth, relational growth, and obedience to God 'in the market place' - with all its ambiguities. The church needs what has been called a 'hippopotamus spirituality - a spirituality suitable for surviving in the mud!'
3. Simplicity. Both in lifestyle ('enough is enough'), and in church structure. The institutional aspect will need to be significantly trimmed, as the church's life becomes outer-directed. Familiar landmarks will go. There will be no room for resources without vigorous pruning.
4. Community. Only a community living by a different set of values has the strength to witness prophetically to modern society. It cannot be done by lone rangers. Such 'community' involves building loving, honest relationships which stand out against the 'fragmented relatedness' of consumer culture.
5. Empowering. A missionary congregation is one that has broken out of the provider/client relationship into collaborative ministry and equipping individuals to make their contribution.
6. Doing things differently. The pastoral and maintenance church tends to be marked by doing different things (church groups and activities). A missionary church will be marked more by doing the ordinary things (work, leisure, family life) differently.
7. Engaged. A missionary church will be strongly engaged in the local community, and deliberately working with 'all people of good will' (see Raymond Fung, The Isaiah Vision).
8. Distinctive. Such a church multiplies the number of points of contact with the surrounding culture as its members live Christianly. This happens as effective initiation evangelises the whole person, including their world view, value system, personal identity, and lifestyle.
9. Dimensional. Enlightenment Christianity functions in separate compartments, spirituality and mission rarely connect. A missionary (and ,post-modern') congregation thinks of the depths of whole-life issues, and of the spiritual dimension within every issue.
10. Still. A missionary church will be an oasis of peace and quiet, in a frantic world, able not to be driven by doing but reflecting on experience before moving on.
Saturday, February 04, 2006
As a Christian, 1 am simply trying to orient myself around living a particular kind of way, the kind of way that Jesus taught is possible. And 1 think that the way of Jesus is the best possible way to live.
This isn't irrational or primitive or blind faith. It is merely being honest that we all are living a "way".
I'm convinced being generous is a better way to live.
I'm convinced forgiving people and not carrying around bitterness is a better way to live.
I'm convinced having compassion is a better way to live.
I'm convinced pursuing peace in every situation is a better way to live.
I'm convinced listening to the wisdom of others is a better way to live.
I'm convinced being honest with people is a better way to live. Pp 20
What if tomorrow someone digs up definitive proof that Jesus had a real, cartel biological father named Larry, and archaeotogists find Larry's tomb and do D' samp~es and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the virgin birth was reattv just a bit of mythotogizing the Gospel writers threw in to appeal to the follow. of the Mithra and Dionysian reLigious cults that were hugely popular at the time of Jesus, whose gods had virgin births? But what if as you study the origin of the word virgin, you discover that the word virgin in the gospel of Matthew actualtY comes from the book of Isaiah and then you find out that in the Hebrew language at that time, the word virgin could mean several things. And what if you discover that in the first century being "born of a virgin" also referred to a child whose mother became pregnant the first time she had intercourse?
Is the way of Jesus still the best possible way to live? Pp26
here's an example: The word hell is found fourteen times in the Bible, twelve hose occurrences being found in the teachings of Jesus. The word hell in English is the word gehenna in Greek. Gehenna is a reference to the Valley of Hinnom, a ravine on the south side of the city of 3erusalem. This valley was the over the years of many violent and horrible deaths, and it came to be viewed as cursed. By Jesus day it had become the town dump. Garbage, trash, wild animals fighting over scraps of food, a fire burning - a place of waste and destruction . Some referred to it as the place with the gnashing of teeth where fire never dies. So when Jesus uses gehenno, it is loaded with meaning and power - everybody knew what he was talking about. The translator is ---d with a decision about how to translate the word. If he or she uses the -- hell, later readers might miss the fact that Jesus is talking about a present reality If the word gehenna is used, readers might understand the present, geographical meaning of the word but miss the bigger implications. Every translation every version, every paraphrase of the Bible requires thousands of decisions about how to interpret what these words are saying to us today. 57
To say that salvation is holistic is to acknowledge that there are many dimensions to Living in harmony with God. In one sense, salvation is a legal transactions on. Humans are guilty because of our sin, and God is the judge who has to deal with our sin because he is holy and any act of sin goes against his core -ature. He has to deal with it. Enter Jesus, who dies on the cross in our place. Jesus gets what we deserve; we get what Jesus deserved.
!or Jesus, however, salvation is far more. It includes this understanding, but it is far more comprehensive - it is a way of life. To be saved or redeemed or set free is to enter into a totally new way of living in harmony with God. The rabbis -alled harmony with God olam hobo, which translates "life in the world to come". Salvation is living more and more in harmony with God, a process that will go on forever. Pp 107If teh gospel isn't good news for everyone it isn't good news for anybody.
And this is because the most powerful things happen when the church surrenders its desire to convert people and convince them to join. It is when the church gives itself away in radical acts of service and compassion, expecting nothing in return, that the way of Jesus is most vividly put on display. To do this, the church must stop thinking about everybody primarily in categories of in or out, saved or not, believer or nonbeliever. Besides the fact that these terms are offensive to those who are the "un" and "non", they work against Jesus' teachings about how we are to treat each other. Jesus commanded us to love our neighbor, and our neighbor can be anybody.115 We are all created in the image of God, and we are all sacred, valuable creations of God." Everybody matters. To treat people differently based on who believes what is to fail to respect the image of God in everyone. As the book of James says, "God shows no favoritism." So we don't either.
Oftentimes the Christian community has sent the message that we love people and build relationships in order to convert them to the Christian faith. So there is an agenda. And when there is an agenda, it isn't realty love, is it? It's something else. We have to rediscover love, period. Love that loves because it is what Jesus teaches us to do. We have to surrender our agendas. Because some people aren't going to become Christians like us no matter how hard we push. They just aren't. And at some point we have to commit them to God, trusting that God loves them more than we ever could. I obviously love to talk to people about Jesus and my faith. I'll take every opportunity 1 can get. But 1 have learned that when 1 toss out my agenda and simply love as Jesus teaches me to, 1 often end up learning more about God than 1 could have imagined.