Saturday, September 01, 2007

An Emerging Manifesto of Hope

I have just finished reading An Emerging Manifesto of Hope, which is a compilation of essays by a variety of people engaged in trying to create a new kind of church. For instance, my pastor wrote the third chapter. One of the beautiful things about the emerging church is that one truth that ties most of us together is that following God in the context of the current culture is less about everyone agreeing about what is "right" and more about having room to ask questions and to hear God's voice for ourselves. God is so big that s/he doesn't fit into anyone's box, right? So, all of these different essays create an overview of how people are thinking about church, rather than a core set of doctrines. Because of that, I found that some authors resonated with me more than others. Some topics seemed more important than others. I think it's the kind of book that everyone who reads it will come away remembering different ideas. With that in mind, I typed out the passages in the book that I underlined as particularly true. You know, those passages that - when you read them - make you think, "Damn, there is no way that I could ever say it better than that." Also, they make you think sit back in your chair with a little bit more peace in your chest because you realize that you're not the only one who has had that same experience. That, by the way, is my definition of art. Objects of creation that make us feel less alone because we know through them that some parts of human nature are universal.

So, here are the parts of the book that I consider art. I'm sure that if I read it again years from now, there would be different parts that spoke particularly to me. I'm also sure that the recurring themes in these quotes will be revealing regarding who I am and what I think is important. I'd love to get some thoughts in the comments about how these ideas affected you. Choose one quote and write a couple of sentences regarding your response. Agree? Disagree? Laugh? Cry? Why?

Mark Scandrette, "Growing Pains: The Messy and Fertile Process of Becoming"

I give you this unsolicited advice. Make your own life. Host your own emergence. Stop reading so many books and blogs. Start your own conversations, and be a caring friend. The most important conversations happen between people who have the potential to live out their story together.

Heather Kirk-Davidoff, "Meeting Jesus at the Bar: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Evangelism"

Relational evangelism is not just a change in tactic. It is a change in the reson we engage in evangelism, shifting the focus from recruitment to the cultivation of relationships that are an end in themselves, indispecsable to our spiritual journeys.

If we took these experiences seriously, we would soon realize that developing and tending to relationships are perhaps the key spiritual disciplines of many adults in their twenties and thirties (and often beyond). While we may also pray and read Scripture regularly, while we may chant with monks or do yoga or go on a silent retreat, our relationships with others give us the most insight into who God is and where God is leading us. . . And it is often through learning to love each other that we find ourselves opening to God in new and deeper ways.

Nanette Sawyer, "What Would Huckleberry Do? A Relational Ethic as the Jesus Way"

Thinking back on that pivotal interaction with my childhood minister, I believe the whole conversation missed the mark in a big way. He was defining Christian identity as assent to a list of certain beliefs, and he was defining Christian community as those people who concur with those beliefs. This didn't leave any room for questions, doubts, or growth in faith. It made community acceptance of each other completely conditional on having already arrived at a particular intellectual destination. In asking me if I was a Christian, and accepting my preteen answer, he essentially told me that I wasn't part of the community. I wasn't in; I was out. And so I found myself spiritually homeless.

I like to call it paradoxology - the glory of paradox, paradox-doxology - which takes us somewhere we wouldn't be capable of going if we thought we had everything all wrapped up, if we thought we had attained full comprehension. The commitment to embracing the paradox and resisting the impulse to categorize people (ourselves included) is one of the ways we follow Jesus into that larger mysterious reality of light and love.

If we can come together and eat and live and serve together, then we will be changed.

Carla Barnhill, "The Postmodern Parent: Shifting Paradigms for the Ultimate Act of Re-Creation"

Indeed, parenting is about more than raising children. It is about investing in our hopes for the world. It is about joining in with our Creator in the ultimate act of re-creation. It is about pointing our children toward the work God has for them and giving them the resources to do it. It is about celebrating the goodness of life with God, a life that looks more like the kingdom with every generation.

Sherry and Geoff Maddock, "An Ever-Renewed Adventured of Faith: Notes From a Community"

Paul reminds the church at Philippi that they must work out their salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12 NIV). The language he uses here is plural. In the South we might use the word "Y'all" to get the same effect - "work out y'all's salvation." It is our contention that salvation is more than personal renewal; it is at best a collective experience.

We believe that when we live in missional ways, we discover God most intimately where we encounter other kinds of intimacy.

Many of us had to weed out the desire to wear exhaustion and busyness as badges of honor; somehow we imagined that these proved our commitment.

Thomas Malcolm Olson, "Jailhouse Faith: A Community of Jesus in an Unlikely Place"

Each time I attend, I'm struck by the posture of humility and vulnerability people willingly adopt with one another. It's contagious. There's an attitude of "I don't have it all figured out and I need your help," which seems like good theology to me. Recovery groups are the easiest, most natural way people can "bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ" (Gal. 6:2 NASB). The dynamic of the group becomes the catalyst for living faithful lives.

Every person needs one safe place where he or she is able to stop pretending, a place of ruthless honesty and unconditional love where no one is allowed to fly underneath the radar.

Adam Walker Cleveland, "Presbymergent: The Story of One Mainliner's Quest to Be a Loyal Radical"

One of the things I appreciate most about these friendships is the unspoken understanding that it is acceptable to question, critique and deconstruct much of what we think and believe.

Brian D. McLaren, "Church Emerging: Or Why I Still Use the Word Postmodern but with Mixed Feelings"

We are rich in resources gained at the expense of the colonized (money, technology, time, freedom) that can be used to serve them and to foster a more equitable and collaborative future.

Will Samson, "The End of Reinvention: Mission Beyond Market Adoption Cycles"

Even when explaining a very real event, such as a car crash, each person interprets the phenomenon through his or her own lens. How much more do we interpret God, a deeply metaphysical entity, through our own lenses?

It is helpful to have a common understanding of belief to which all who claim to be Christians can subscribe. But it also may be true that councils like that of Nicea set a precendent for the notion that people can be a part of the story of God through their belief in Jesus, regardless of how they act.

Individual conversion is vital and small-group involvement and church attendance are good things, but perhaps these metrics tend to be emphasized as measurements of the health of the church because they are easier to evaluate than the hard work of asking if the people who are following God in the way of Jesus are, in fact, becoming more and more conformed to the way of Jesus.

Barry Taylor, "Converting Christianity: The End and Beginning of Faith"

One thing that it does signify, almost universally, is the rejection of traditional faiths as a primary source of connection to the divine. I would argue that traditional faiths are no longer the first resource that people go to for developing and nurturing their spiritual lives. Instead, traditional faiths function more as secondary archives from which new spiritual permutations are created.

The future of faith does not lie in the declaration of certainties, but in the living out of uncertainty.

This is not a slide into relativism but a commitment to nondogmatic specificity. We can tell the gospel story without resorting to competition, exclusivism or elitism.

The concerns of religion are different from those of faith. Religion is concerned with right belief, faith with believing in the right way. This was somethng that Jesus confronted continually in his encounters with the Pharisees.

For too long we have gone out into the world to tell people what we think they ought to know rather than seeking to discover what they are interested in and where they are looking for answers.

Sally Morgenthaler, "Leadership in a Flattened World: Grassroots Culture and the Demise of the CEO Model"

. . . There is no irony here. Machine parts don't have minds or muscles to flex. They don't contribute to the process or innovate improvements. Machine parts simply do their job, which is, of course, to keep the machine functioning.
The mechanical paradigm or organization largely explains why modern church leaders are trained as CEOs, not shepherds. Sheep have their own ideas of what, where, and when they want to eat. They may not want to lie down by quiet water and go to sleep at eight. They just might want to check out the watercress down by the streambed. Or they might want to head out over the next ridge and see if there are any other flocks out there. Conveniently, machine parts don't get ideas. The just get to work, and they work according to specification.
Church members who don't comprehend this three-decade shift in leadership paradigms are frustrated that their CEO pastor is so self-absorbed. They were loking for a shepherd - albeit one with a big name and a big flock. Instead, they ended up with a "my-way-or-the-highway" autocrat - a top-down aficionado whose ecclesiastical machine whirs only to the sound of his own voice and functions tightly tightly within the parameters of his own limited vision.

Samir Selmanovic, "The Sweet Problem of Inclusiveness: Finding Our God in the Other"

This choice between accepting the name of Christ and being Christlike has been placed before millions of people in human history and today.

It is worth being reminded that Christ never proclaimed, "Christianity is here. Join it." But Christ did insist, "The kingdom of God is here. Enter it."

In the Old Testament, God repeatedly rebuked his followers for treating him as a manageable idol, someone they could actually avoid through the means of religion. Christians can conceive of things like money, sex, and power being idols. But the Christian religion itself being an idol? Certainly, if we proclaim that Chritianity itself is immune from idolatry, then we have come to believe that, finally, God has become "contained" by Christianity.

The question begs to be asked: would God who gives enough revelation for people to be judged but not enough revelation to be saved be a God worth worshipping? Never!

Dwight J. Friesen, "Orthoparadoxy: Emerging Hope for Embracing Difference"

Jesus did not announce ideas or call people to certain beliefs as much as he invited people to follow him into a way of being in the world.

The hope is not to defeat, debate, condemn, or even convert the other; rather the hope is to live reconciled with the other, not avoiding differences but seeing them as an expression of the largeness and diverse beauty of God.

Anyone with access to the internet, television, radio, and newspapers encounters more information than has been availalbe at any other time in human history, but we risk ignorance because we tend to receive information passively, relying more on experts than on our own experiences to make sense of what we take in. Talking with others is a way out of this bind.

Conversations matter because the people with whom we converse matter; thus, conversations offer a human face - created in the image of God - to what otherwise might be reduced to a abstract idea. This kind of engagement is less about knowledge and more about wisdom.

Orthoparadox theologians seek not to defend their claims as much as present the fullness of their convictions and beliefs as an act of service.

Developing a life of orthoparadoxy, which fosters relationships by allowing strong conviction to remain in dialogue and surrenders the will to exclude on the basis of those same convictions, may sound impossible. Let there beno doubt, seeing connections where we once saw difference will require nothing less than divine intervention; may it be so.

Dan Kimball, "Humble Theology: Re-exploring Doctrine While Holding On to Truth"

Yes, we have the Spirit to guide us, but even so, there are many godly, wonderful, Spirit-filled people who sincerely study and pray and ask the Spirit to guide them, yet they come to different conclusions.

Chris Erdman, "Digging up the Past: Karl Barth (the Reformed Giant) as Friend to the Emerging Church"

I wonder if that's not what many of us sense and hope for - the freedom of God and the church from the ideological captivities that make God a commodity to be bought and sold, and the church an institution that gobbles up resources, panders to cultural whims, and resists the renewing, emerging winds that feel like life to us.

Rodolpho Carrasco, "A Pund of Social Justice: Beyond Fightig for a Just Cause"

Perhaps justice, in the end, is giving a person everything that God wants for him or her to have, not just material or social goods but the quiet assurance that, "Before you were born, I knew you - and loved you. I still do."

Deborah and Ken Loyd, "Our Report Card in the Year 2057: A Reflection on Women's Rights, Poverty and Oppression"

We would like to suggest that homogeneity is the curse, rather than the poverty.

Randy Woodley, "Restoring Honor in the Land: Why the Emerging Church Can't Dodge the Issue"

An understanding of shalom has been one of the most neglected concepts in the modern church. The rendering of this word as "peace" in most translations of the Scriptures is anemic and inadequate. One should not underestimate the importance of shalom, for without this base of understanding, it is impossible to understand God or humanity.

Doug Pagitt, "This is Just the Beginning: Living Our Great-Grandchildren's History"

If our grandchildren speak of our time as characterized by a cultural niche expression of faith specially formulated for Gen-whatever, we will have left them very little. No one is 2140 will need examples of trendy cultural tricks masquerading as missional innovation.

If our grandchildren are forced to speak of our day as a time filled with those who saw faith as the prized possession of the insider with member benefits, we will have failed. If we leave a version of the gospel that is ultimately for the benefit of the faithful and not the whole world, we have missed something. Our grandchildren must be able to say about us: "They did not see themselves as end users of the gospel. Faith was not value-added living, but life-giving to all the earth."

Well, there you have it. If you made it this far, I'd definitely love to hear what your response to my abridged version of the book is. What do these writers communicate about the emerging movement that I haven't written about yet? What was new to you or reinforced to you? Or like I said above, choose one quote, copy/paste it into the comment section and write a couple of sentences summarizing your response. Agree? Disagree? Laugh? Cry? Why?

Let's build a little community, shall we?

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