Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘emergent’

Change is hard today and I doubt it was any easier at the height of the Roman domination over Judea. After all, codified Judaism had been around for 1250 years since the time of Moses. And Jesus wanted to do what? Build a new structure? A new type of temple? No way.

I Peter 2:5
[Come] and, like living stones, be yourselves built [into] a spiritual house, for a holy (dedicated, consecrated) priesthood, to offer up [those] spiritual sacrifices [that are] acceptable and pleasing to God through Jesus Christ.
[Amplified]

I have written about this before, but it keeps coming up in the epistles. When it finally dawned on the disciples what Jesus was offering, what he was asking of them, it was hugely shattering to their world. One of the reasons the priests and scholars were in an uproar sooner than later was probably due to the fact that they understood exactly what Jesus was proposing. And they would have none of it: blasphemy!

The temple structure would be torn down under the new way. Animal sacrifices would no longer be necessary (the entire commerce that was wrapped around this procedure would fail). The authority of priests would be diminished, their extended families and tribe would be undermined. The temple was a huge operation; it kept a lot of people working and fed.

Jesus, as the cornerstone of a new and “living” way, was rejected for a lot of reasons. It was not about “dullness” of mind or a hard heart.

So, now, it’s been 2000 years plus, and all this time, those who have followed Jesus and spread his message of a new structure, a new way, were supposed to be getting people into the building of spiritual houses where spiritual sacrifices were being made daily. Is this happening? Did we get off the road somewhere?

I look around and it appears to me that we’re building a lot of brick and mortar, just as expansive as the temple of old. Huge budgets, salaries, and programming. People in these settings would be equally reticent to “change.” I’m pretty sure these structures are not particularly necessary to building a spiritual house.

Here’s a list of the types of spiritual sacrifices that are mentioned in scripture (copied from a sermon outline website):

TYPES OF SACRIFICES TO BE OFFERED BY CHRISTIANS…
1. Our bodies, as “living sacrifices” – Ro 12:1-2
2. A lifestyle characterized by sacrificial love – Ep 5:1-2
3. Praise and thanksgiving, which we do in prayer and song – He
13:15
4. Doing good and sharing with others – He 13:16; Php 4:15-18
5. Even in the way we die for the Lord! – Php 1:20; 2:17; 2Ti 4:6

There’s nothing in here about building buildings or huge organizational structures. It’s about our personal behavior, our commitment, our giving of time and energy to God. Now, I know, some people consider their contributions to a local church as the expression of these sacrifices and may be it is.

But I think that’s a bit of a cop-out. So much is put on the leaders of these organizations while the “body” merely pays for it. We are losing our real roles as priests and builders of the structure within.

There are a lot of young and exuberant believers (see tags) who are calling for the same revolution that Peter espoused: to rebuild our spiritual houses on the cornerstone of the Christ.

Read Full Post »

It’s one of my struggles in the church as I go through this period of change in viewpoint. I’m in process. So I edit what I say around certain people who I assume will be offended. I don’t want a confrontation, or the backing away, or the widened eyes. And yet, how else does the “conversation” begin?

Galatians 2:12
Before certain men came from James, he [Peter] used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group.

Actually, the key problem may be my assumptions about the “other.” Isn’t it these presumptions that keep me quiet? How can I really know what others think unless we talk about it.

But then, I hear my inner voice remind me that I’m not quite sure where I’m going with all this new information about Emergents and Missional Churches and Hipster Christianity. There is so much excitement in these frameworks as believers become more inclusive, more committed to the needs of others, more relational. A part of me enjoys confronting the “sacred cows” of the institutional church but I also don’t want to “throw the baby out with the bath water.”

Peter got a taste of the “new way” when Cornelius [Acts 10] called Peter to his house just after the Lord had given Peter those three visions of the sheet coming down from heaven filled with foods that Jewish law had always prevented him from eating. He was shocked. And yet, when Cornelius’s men appeared, he understood the vision and he went to the house, entered and even ate there. But that was before the gentile explosion. It was one thing to “let in” a few gentiles here and there but Paul was starting to bring them in my hundred and thousands. Maybe it was all happening too fast. I don’t really know.

Perhaps we all suffer from these fears now. The new stuff sounds good, but what about the traditions and the old ways? Haven’t those ways always worked before? Hasn’t the church always survived?

I’m not so sure. Has the church survived or has it merely continued to splinter off into a variety of cells (denominations) because of disagreements and revelations. The proliferation of denominations got so bad at one point that people thought they could solve the problem by having “non-denominational” churches. But soon, even those groups splintered and they created churches by affiliation (Vineyard, Calvary Chapel, Community Churches) and then a single church would develop “campuses” with closed circuit video of the pastor. Big was better, Megabig was best.

But that trend is now being confronted with smaller is better and may tiny (like house churches) is best.

Who knows? What is the church? What is the Body of Christ?

There cannot be only one affiliation or denomination or cell group that has the inside track of what it means to be the Body of Christ. There is but one litmus test: Christ crucified and risen, accepted by the believer as the propitiation of sin. The rest is interpretation.

I think it’s time for me to stop worrying about what people will think and just talk to them. The conversation must trust that Christ is the glue that holds us all together. The conversation opens the doors to our hearts and minds. It doesn’t have to be about “changing” someone’s mind, just connecting.

I have written before about the “sacred other;” if we entered every conversation with this in mind, our differences of opinion would not separate us. We would be free to enjoy the many colors of Christ.

Read Full Post »

Acts 13:9-10a
Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, “You are a child of the devil…”

This incident happened on the initial leg of Paul’s first missionary journey in Cyprus. Apparently, it is on this journey that Saul changes his name to Paul, which historians surmise he did to be more accessible to the Greeks. And it is here that he and Barnabas encounter a sorcerer named Elymas who opposed them when they sought to speak to the proconsul that Elymas had been serving up until then.

But what is of greater interest to me is this phrase about Paul being “filled with the Holy Spirit.” As far as I can tell, this particular phrase, or ones similar to it, are only mentioned a dozen times in the New Testament. And yet, this is a phrase that many contemporary Christians (particularly Charismatics and Pentecostals) bandy about as a frequent experience marked with outward expressions like tongues, laughing, shaking, and the like. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying these expressions of the Spirit are not authentic, I’m just not sure they represent being “filled” as in filled to overflowing.

I think that true fullness would, by its very nature, pour out on others. Most of the “filled” examples in scripture are followed with a time of emptying by speaking and prophesying, literally speaking for God. Anything else is probably less than full. I just think we have diminished the impact of what it means to experience the Holy Spirit in this way.

I have used the phrase myself. But now, I think I have been merely touched by Holy Spirit. Whatever experience I had was just a breath of the Spirit compared to being filled. There is so much more. If a person is actually filled to overflowing, something happens… something changes. Power is exercised and by its very nature, it is according to the direction of God for the sake of another. Someone else is changed, not so much the person who is filled.

I am ashamed to say but I believe I have sought these “infillings” for myself and not for others at all. Oh, it sounds so pious, to seek the Holy Spirit and to go deeper into the things of God. But really, isn’t the whole point of my faith supposed to be to touch others?

So many traditional church folks are afraid of the “postmodern” movement because it is so inclusive and yet, there is one thing the emergents and postmoderns have over a lot of the other Christians… they “get” the “relationship” message. They are loving and serving others as a natural outpouring of their faith and their walk “in the way of Jesus.” They are living with and serving the poor and the unlovely. They are not trying to get more filled… they are trying to empty. They are pouring themselves out for others.

Clearly, I am still holding on too tightly to what I have. I am afraid to empty myself because I don’t really trust God to keep me filled. Forgive me.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Read Full Post »

Acts 10:17, 20
While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate….”So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I [God] have sent them.”

The servants of the centurion, Cornelius, were the last people that Peter would expect to see at the door of the house where he was staying in Joppa. He hadn’t even processed the meaning of the vision he had with the great sheet coming down out of heaven filled with “unclean” foods for a Jew. In the vision, he heard plainly from the Holy Spirit, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” [vs 15] And not just once did he see and hear, but three times. And right on the heels of the vision, the gentiles come a-calling.

So, who is at my door? Who is the most unexpected guest? Certainly, if a Muslim terrorist came to my door and asked to hear about Jesus, I would be shocked. How could this be? Or what about a primitive from some tribe in a third world country or a homeless man or woman? A gay man or woman? A transvestite? How did they even know to come to me? How did they even hear about Jesus at all? And who am I to do anything else but invite them in?

God touches who God touches and it may surprise us along the way. I don’t think we should assume anything. It is God who changes a heart and it is only after the heart becomes soft that a person’s choices can change.

I think we need to stop creating cookie-cutter Christians and stop looking through the peephole before we open the door. Our job is simple: open the door and tell our story.

Read Full Post »

Acts 7:33
Then the Lord said to him [Moses], ‘Take off your sandals; the place where you are standing is holy ground…’ [Stephen to the Sanhedrin]

I have always thought Moses was told to remove his sandals because they defiled the ground. But today, as I read this passage, I see something new: it was important for Moses to actually feel that holy place with his feet. There was strength and truth and power that would touch him through the ground, that holy earth spot.

I don’t have much experience, background or tradition of holy places outside the church or in various para-church settings. But I think there would be more experiences if I would open myself to them. I too often cocoon myself away from seeking out holy places.

In the same way that Moses stepped onto holy ground initially in sandals, I clothe myself in tradition and limiting expectations. It’s time to take off my shoes…. again.

Some years ago, I was on the cutting edge of worship. I was listening to the Vineyard and Hillsong and even Maranatha before that. I was standing on the charismatic bandwagon and riding up front. I was dancing and praising and jumping and shaking and laughing. I was speaking in tongues and singing in the spirit. I was prophesying and interpreting. I was on fire.

But I don’t think I was standing in bare feet on holy ground. Not really. I was going through the motions (and emotions) of what it might mean to touch holy ground. Actually, all I did was put on a different pair of shoes than the more traditional churches were passing out to their congregants.

Today, there is another generation of believers who is trying to take off their shoes and experience God’s holiness. For some of us, it’s too different. They are getting their feet very dirty. They are slopping through some weird stuff, but they are persisting through the swamp and on to higher ground. They are loving God and loving Christ Jesus and loving their neighbors. They are emergents like the Emergent Village, they are Christianity 21, they are Catalyst, they are in “conversation.” They are connected virtually and face to face. They are Solomon’s Porch, Apex, House of Mercy, Ooze, Axxess, Sublime Remix, Boaz, Headspace, Cedar Ridge, Water’s Edge, Tribe, Resonance, Three Nails, Mars Hill, and ReIMAGINE, to name just a few. They are embracing Christ in our culture and sharing His relevance with those who have long since worn boots in all the holy and unholy places.

For the naysayers against this new brand of followership, I remind them of Gamaliel, “So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.” [Acts 5:38-39]

Lord, take my shoes this day and help me touch holy ground. Give me insight and transforming power. Give me courage to walk in this new place. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll dance again.

Read Full Post »

Acts 5:38-39
“Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men [the apostles] alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” [Gamaliel speaking]

There are really two messages here. One is for the believers, to trust that projects and plans, if truly within the will and anointing of our God, will remain. They will survive and even thrive. But if not, then it’s important to let go. There are plenty of good things to do. There are plenty of ideas. Move on.

Years ago, I had developed two shows that I toured to churches and para-church organizations. They were a labor of love but somehow, not of the right time. In that era, churches were not set up well for theatrical performances. Both of my pieces had to be adapted constantly in order to make them work in a traditional sanctuary setting. Just the idea of having theater lights was foreign to most church goers or to ask that everything be stripped from the altar area. Those who saw the shows, were moved by them, but it was an uphill battle to find churches willing to open their doors. In today’s more modern settings, my shows would have fit in perfectly. It was simply not the right fit and in the end, I retired them.

When I let go, it was hard. I felt I had failed and totally missed God. But, now, in hindsight, I think they achieved what they were meant to achieve. I learned so much from that process and my immersion in the scriptures during the research and preparation time has served me continually.

The second message of this story about Gamaliel and the Sanhedrin is critical for everyone. An anointed person or group cannot be stopped by “human” pressures or verbal attacks. An authentic faith and presence of God in a life is a bulwark and will prevail. Faith of this magnitude sustained people like Mother Teresa among India’s poor, Elie Wiesel in the concentration camps, Hudson Taylor in China, David Livingstone in Africa, and Martin Luther King, Jr. and Billy Graham in the U.S., to name a few.

But this is also true for well-meaning Christians who try to silence the voices of others in the name of “protecting” the faith. The Sanhedrin also felt they were protecting Israel from heresy.

Currently, there is a movement rising up called Emergent Worship and post-modern thought … some are flaying against these trends. Most of the people who are involved with these movements are under the age of 45… they are of a generation that needs and wants to ask questions, to have their faith be an intrinsic part of their culture and their lives. Personally, I think it’s a good thing. This same kind of ground swell happened when the charismatics and Pentecostals started up 20 and 30 years ago in the face of great consternation. And yet, those movements have been integrated into many churches and church traditions.

My message is simple: be wise and remember Gamaliel’s advice: “…if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”

Read Full Post »

Act 4:32
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.

This line makes a lot of people uncomfortable. They go to a lot of trouble to explain it away (that was then, this is now). Others go off and start communes and do their best to live in community. In some cases, these communities are successful, but most are not. There has been a resurgence of interest in communal living through the growth of the emergent movement and the next generation of believers.

In any event, it is clear that in New Testament time, that time after Jesus’ resurrection, living and sharing and being of one heart and mind was the norm. This is what people wanted to do. I don’t believe it was mandated, it just happened. It evolved from that moment in their lives. The message of the time was simple: Jesus Christ, the son of God, died on the cross and was raised up. They expected him to return soon as well.

But, in the same way that Jesus was not the Messiah everyone expected, he didn’t return within anyone’s timeline either. At this point in the story, there were upwards to 5,000 believers. What did that look like? How did they really operate in one heart and mind? How did they really live “in community?”

Being in one heart and mind is not easy. There must be trust, sacrifice, compromise, flexibility, cooperation, and love. There must be a rallying point… something everyone can agree upon.

I think it’s our first priority in any relationship: find the parallel. Look for the sphere of agreement, the commonality before addressing any of the differences. With every relationship, there will always be at least one congruence. Let’s start there.

Shakespeare’s Shylock said it most ably:

I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die?

Perhaps the person is saying: I am a Muslim. I am an African. I am poor. I am gay. I am physically challenged. I am old. I am alone.

Today, I seek oneness in heart and mind.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: