Theology


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).

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!

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.

I have been thinking a lot about community lately and also about what is beneficial about being in a well connected larger type church (I’m still speaking of church as our particular faith gathering community, even though the church is all believers, the body of Christ).

There are a lot of followers of Jesus out there who have opted out of the whole institutional church idea. And then, many more who are finding creative ways to experience living in a community of faith while attempting to be faithful to the gospel message.  At times, I am very frustrated with the large church “campus” and how much time and energy go into maintaining its perpetuation; very much like government in that way. It seems to just keep growing and getting more and more top heavy. Plus, programming people to death is another problem.

It’s too late and I am too tired to go into this beyond scratching the surface right now.

I am extremely grateful for the community that we have in our lives that has come specifically from our church connections. Without that we wouldn’t have been stretched with friendships and relationships. We wouldn’t have such close friends without my last two church involvements over the past 20 years. These are people that come along side us through the worst and the best.  They are amazing gifts from God to us. It was within the larger community that we were able to find each other to form this smaller more intimate community. And yes, it was intentional on everyone’s part and has taken time, energy, commitment and effort. But we do it and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Even if we do leave our church eventually for something more organic, or smaller, or whatever (and we aren’t planning on doing this at the moment), I would still make the effort to keep the relationships with the body of believers there.

Just a few personal thought. More on this topic later.

Recently I was listening to Internet Monk in an interview with Steve Brown Etcetera and he commented that his particular “spiritual temperament” was more in line with so-and-so. His comment really struck me. I love that idea of spiritual temperament. I have always wondered about the grouping of denominations and sects in relation to personality types. It would be so cool to see if there were any correlation between the two. But since personality types are limited (as all categories are) by the complexity of human nature, I’m digging adding in to my theory the spiritual temperament idea.

Think about it. If we understood our spiritual temperaments we could avoid a lot of self-righteous posturing by realizing that many things aren’t inherently wrong or right, they are just what we PREFER due to our natural disposition. For example, all those style issues like HOW to pray, How to worship, How to cast out demons, How to evangelize (or not), How to love…you get the idea.

I know I am dreaming, because many people don’t want to know themselves. They would rather stay in ignorance and think that their preferences are law–specifically God’s law. Oh well. It was a nice idea anyway.

Those of you who know your temperament, stay with me and keep reading. Let me know your thoughts and spur me on to think in different ways. I appreciate you!

The more I think about it, the more annoyed I am getting at aspects of pentecostal theology that seems to be influencing people with the desire to serve God through prayer and healing ministries. It seems that people with more “charismatic” gifts are leaving the traditional church setting and the alternatives they find themselves around are of pentecostal origin. And in the last 30 years, but especially the past 5-10, the whole demonology thing has gotten out of control. As Darin Hufford comments in this post,

I marvel at 90% of the things I hear Christians say in reference to spiritual warfare because I find it nowhere in Scripture. It seems that it’s the result of an interpretation of an interpretation of an interpretation of something someone said about an interpretation of a verse that was wrongfully interpreted. Before we know it, we are walking and talking about stuff that has absolutely nothing to do with anything real and true. I think perhaps this happens because for the most part, we have become truly bored with the simplicity of the Gospel. We’re not happy living our lives in this world, so we create excitement and adventure in our theology in an effort to spice things up.

I have heard so many erroneous interpretations of scripture in relation to spiritual warfare that it is hard to keep track.  When I was listening to the Free Believers Network’s podcast on this topic, I was struck by an analogy that one of the speakers made about cars. It’s the idea that you never notice something until you notice it everywhere. You never notice white cars until you buy one. Then they are EVERYWHERE. From another perspective, in coaching the idea that what you focus on expands, also fits. If you focus on the spiritual realm, in detail that fits those deeply embedded in the occult, then you will end up seeing a demon under every rock, or in every bar…

I have read books that fit what Hufford talks about in his post regarding the hierarchy of the whole demonic realm. No where in scripture are we instructed to engage demons in dialogue, to live in a state of alert paranoia, worn down by spiritual battle fatigue.  One time I mentioned to a friend who was influenced by this theology that we shouldn’t be talking to demons or believe what they say if we do. She replied that because we have all authority (of Jesus) we can command them not to lie and then they can’t. Sigh. There are so many problems with that line of thinking, I don’t think I have the energy to go there right now.

It is true that we all need to take heed, lest we fall…we can all be deceived, especially by a lying demon. Anyway, I thought at first, well maybe these friends are onto something. Am I missing something in my walk with God? Is there some knowledge that needs to be passed down? I don’t “see” things in the spiritual realm, I don’t operate in the so-called prophetic realm (well, maybe I do in the “forth-telling” aspect of it, but not the psychic side), so am I in bondage and I don’t even know it? (gasp)

Ahhhh, do you hear the seductive idea of Genesis and the tree of knowledge? The pull of gnosticism, that if we only had “the” right information, whether it be demonic hierarchies to battle correctly, or whatever then we would be living the true faith…

Currently, I am stepping back. I can’t swallow the theological rationale I keep hearing even if I love these people and respect their individual gifts. I’m hanging onto the love idea. The “greatest of these is love”.

If we loved people, all people, like Jesus did…wow, wouldn’t life be radically different? I would rather love–and I have a long way to go–then talk to a demon in a bar any day.

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