As I am reading through Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch’s book, The Shaping of Things to Come, I’m struck by one idea. This book is a bit academic and I actually like that! Also, the theory and theology isn’t new. I think what is really helpful is taking that biblical theology of what it means to follow Jesus and applying it to the current post-modern context, giving it a cohesive language that we can all use in discussing these ideas, dealing with leadership structures and missiology (especially contextualism–I love it when missiology is brought to the masses!). This is all good stuff. But within that context, something that has been bothering me my whole life lit up for me.

We are all called to share the good news of the gospel, but some are more gifted at it than others. I’m not talking about Billy Graham or anything; just ordinary regular people. I’m fairly decent at making and keeping friends. I enjoy people. I delight in relating with people. But I have never “closed” the deal in sharing the gospel. I know that isn’t a great choice of words, “closed”, but I don’t mean it in a small sense. I don’t mean someone saying the “sinner” prayer and going on their merry way. I mean the light of recognition going off in someone when they realize that the gospel story is true and that they must join in continuing that story. They are compelled by the love of God for them so that they desire to know God and partake in the redemption of the whole cosmos!

I’ve never had that happen to me.

And I’ve been semi-ok with that.

But now, I have completely new vision. Now I know what has been missing in my story of sharing the good news of Jesus. I need to know who the closers are in my circles! Once relationships are formed we include the closers into the mix and let them do there work. As I’m writing this, I’m regretting my choice of the word closer, because I think people will read that and think of marketing or the show with Kyra Sedgewick! It sounds crass and I don’t mean it that way. I mean it in a wonderful way. Maybe I should call them Openers! They open the door to the kingdom like no one else can. Yes that is better. Alan Hirsh just calls them evangelists–like the Bible does. Maybe I shouldn’t mess with a good thing.

So by evangelists I’m not talking about people who PUSH and DON’T LISTEN. We all need to listen and understand and dialog and respect people! These are people who are sensitive, loving, empathetic, non-pushy and that can share the story of God with us in such a way that others want to join in living life with Jesus.

Think of it: you live in community and form relationships. You then connect those in your community that are pre-believers with the Openers (!) and watch the magic happen! I love it. No pressure. God does the work using those God has gifted.

This is the other idea that really stood out for me from the book: Person of Peace article.  More comments later (maybe).

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Platforms are not where ministry happens.

Ministry happens in the neighborhood;

With life rubbing up against life,

With the sharing of the miseo dei,

participating in Christ,

seeing the imago dei in others.

You can’t phone it in.

–Michael Frost, PGF 2007 closing talk

What does this mean for us? Living as Jesus did, being incarnational as He was, “dressed in his cloak” takes on many different faces. How do we do it in our lives? Does this mean we all move to marginal areas of society? Do we abandon our comfortable, banal, middle-class, consumer driven lives?

How will you embody Jesus in your community? Imagine for a moment that you are staying in your particular corner of suburbia (or urbanhood). Imagine living your life counter-culturally with in that context. What does that look like? Do you have the courage for that? Do I? I know that I want to.  I want to start where I am and be faithful countering all the ridiculous cultural baggage that has been attached to the idea of following Jesus. I want to identify it all and burn it up.

Most of the time.

Sometimes, I’m lazy and give in the numbing ready-made society I live in. Looking around, I see my response is not the minority.

My prayer is that I will not close my eyes. I will follow Jesus in the midst of suburbia, taking the necessary risks of letting go…of the institution, of the baggage, of materialism, consumerism, of the creature comforts, of my sin of omission, of not caring for those suffering around me, of the fear of being rejected, ridiculed, ignored…

Will you join me? Can we take in God’s love for us and then live it out?

Amen!!!

I couldn’t wait on the missional topic although I do need to get some sleep! I just went to the PGF in Long Beach and to start going back in the history of this “movement” here are two selections by Michael Frost from last year’s PGF. And while it is not an add-on, it is not NEW either! This is the old message of 2000 years ago put into our current context. So this is the language we are using to discuss this issue in our post-modern context. As the death of Christiandom becomes accepted as reality by the traditional and institutional churches we can re-learn how to live as “sent-out” disciples of Jesus. Learn or die.

I love the in your face honesty.

Here is part two:

So let’s start talking!

In certain circles, I can’t seem to get away from this freak show. Today I heard some friends of mine referencing the “revival” in Florida and Todd Bentley (as if this was something real and of God). Personally, I wouldn’t even want to have ever been associated with anyone who was gullible enough to buy into this in the first place. God amazes me in his willingness to put up with us and even touch people in the craziest of situations. Even among the charletons, God can show up, upset the apple cart and provide AUTHENTIC healing and relationship. It really is astounding. Think of how God does all these things IN SPITE of us!

It is sad, but not at all surprising that this blew up on way or another. I think this post from a sympathetic charismatic focuses on the salient points that bothered me the most. These are thoughtful questions and no one is bashing anyone. In my self-righteous moments I want to say “I told you so!” But that isn’t very often, luckily. Usually it just is plain sad to think about the human wreckage in the wake of the “BAM!” Show. But I would actually rather talk about other things, like being missional and how do we do that in a big ol’ institutional church…guess that will be next time!

Life After Lakeland: Sorting Out the Confusion

Todd Bentley’s announcement that his marriage is ending has thrown our movement into a tailspin—and questions need to be answered.

It was not supposed to end like this. (more…)

I am astounded at how oblivious some people are to the hearts and souls of others, while simultaneously being perfectly “in tune” to each jot and tittle of their religion. When you find yourself fighting for your doctrine at the expense of people, you have crossed the line from loving to heartlessness.

–Darin Hufford, The Free Believers Network

I’ve been enjoying this podcast and blog that focuses on getting away from all the gross parts of the religion of Christianity.  The podcastors come from some mega-church charismatic/pentecostal experiences. I didn’t grow up with the guilt, emotional excess and manipulation that they talk about, but I have seen bits and pieces of it and find it infuriating all the same.  Previously, I have mentioned doctrinal differences I have with certain branches of Christianity, but that isn’t what motivates me.  I can resonate with the call to Love that is presented by Jesus in the Bible.  God is Love. We are to Love. So that is why I get a bit peeved at all the crap in religion, the excess, the thrashing of people in so many ways. It is not the way of Jesus.

This guy raises the very interesting question without all sorts of inflammatory end-times doom rhetoric–could Bentley go the way of Jim Jones? I didn’t remember the background on Jones (other than the sad kool-aid mass suicide) and was surprised to find out he was involved with the pentecostal heretical latter rain movement (from whence comes Bentley’s mentors’ beliefs). Time will tell if it is just showmanship or if the personality cult is developing. Food for thought. Eat it without the kool-aid though…

Excerpt:

In 1955, Jones attended a Latter Rain Pentecostal Conference where Rev. O.L. Jaggers laid hands on him and pronounced over him that he had a very special prophetic calling on his life. It was at that conference that Jones saw Pentecostalism as a perfect opportunity to draw the masses in. He would go on to hold many faith healing services where there were dramatic resurrections from the dead, people would come up out of their wheelchairs, and others would have tumors pulled from their bodies. We know from history Jones used sleight of hand to trick his followers into believing that these miracles and resurrections from the dead were actually taking place.

Much like Todd Bentley, he had no details and no clear documentation of any healings. All people saw were the dramatic enactments taking place on stage. Jones was clever in the enactments. For example, he had chicken gizzards that he pulled out from up his sleeve to make it look as if he was pulling tumors from people’s bodies. I have no doubt that even in the meetings of Jones some probably did get healed, as I’m sure there are some in Bentley’s that have as well but it has everything to do with Jesus and nothing to with Bentley or Jones or the atmosphere around them. The Holy Spirit works in accordance with his own will, in his own time, and he doesn’t need any man to touch you in order for you to be healed. Though I believe in the gift of healing as described in I Corinthians 12- I don’t believe you need to be touched by any person in order to be healed.

Click on above link for more of article.

Oh Lordy, I am bad! Remember those videos from psych class on the maharishi movements where people are dancing wildly and hypnotically to music (the guru leading it all)? I think it was in the late 60s or early 70s. Well, here is the new “guru” for the new millenium! Whirling dervish craziness. LOOK at those people!

I’m probably gonna have to put all this Bentley stuff on a page later and get it out of the posts; especially when I stop rubbernecking and start developing thoughtful posts dealing with issues that aren’t so pop-culture related! Eegads!