Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Are we going to keep posting in rotation

Are we going to start the rotation again or can I continue to drone on?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Blown away by Frank Viola

I encourage anyone who is interested in learning more about the concepts discussed in Pagan christianity to check out his web page and to listen to the talks he gave to the 2007 and 2008 Dallas conferences.

He seems to have a good head on his shoulders and the narrative he gives to the story of the Samaritan woman at the Well brought me to tears.

Peace and grace

Thursday, October 16, 2008

the concept of ordination

I picked up a copy of Pagan christianity and was very fascinated by how it deals with ordination. I would like to throw out some of the questions to the group.

For those of you who have been ordained- how do you react to the ideas about ordination presented in the book.

If someone were seeking ordination what advice would you give them.

Would you ever ocnsider being part of an intentional community that shared leadership roles the way suggested in the book.

Do you think there could be a group of people like the ones assembled here who morph into something different than church as it is practiced today- what would it look like- what would its challenges be?

Peace and grace

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I blog therefore I am

Well it would appear that God is shining on me today as I have figured out how to post- I think. Since noone has posted for this week yet I may try after all.

The concept that is getting stuck in my craw this week is the whole "will of God " thing. Now bear with me here.

I was told by someone after hurrican Katrina that it was God's will that New Orleans perish because of its immorality.

I have been told that while a certain party was in office that it was a manifestation of God's will.

When the other party one the election I was told that God was turning us over to out selfish desires.

My questions is : what is it to hear God's will and how are we sure that we are not merely manifesting the desires of our own egos.

I have not heard anyone say that the floods of 2008 were the will of God in response to the direction our country has gone.

I have not heard that the stock market crashing was the will of God because people got too greedy and were forsaking relationships with each other for money.

How do we know on a personal level God's specific will for our lives? Other than to Glorify God and Praise and honor God- do we really need to know any more than that?

When we are considering a choice between two otherwise equal careers do we pray to find God's will and expect a concrete answer?

How many people explore a call to ministry for selfish reasons? ( I only ask as that is my current question of struggle.)

More later
In Peace and grace

Thursday, October 9, 2008

My Story

For those of you who don't know me here's a very short intro. I've been a Follower of Christ for 35 of my 54 years. Almost from day-one I've been a member of the Nazarene church. I have three main passions: Jesus Christ, my family, and information technology (yes, I'm a Good News Geek). Within my faith I believe in holiness living (thus my Nazarene affiliation) and a God who is HOLY, loving, merciful, and full of grace (but not a pushover).

For years I have tried to encourage the church (the organization) to find new ways to relate to our culture and keep lines of communication open to everyone. I like open dialog because I don't feel a need to defend my God. He is more than able to defend (or reveal) Himself. I love my church but I understand why people don't like or don't trust the church - I'm sorry to say that most have good reasons. I believe we need to go from being a church (organization) to being His Church (the body) but I know that the implementation of this concept is challenging.

Tom, I understand and appreciate your feelings. The book Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna confirmed a lot of "under the table" feelings I had about the modern church - just like the ones you expressed. I see some benefits to having a church organization but, to be honest, I see more disadvantages. The thought of abandoning the modern church doesn't set well with me but the current church seems to be ill equipped to effectively communicate the message of God's forgiveness and love. Why? In my opinion; it carries too much baggage. It is junk that we, as fallen humans with good intentions but limited wisdom, created. It is an organization that is only loosely (actually, very loosely) based on God's Word.

So, what is the answer to this problem? That is THE question. The answer is in God and I believe He will provide it. It is just so hard to hear Him over the roar of our life styles and western culture. But I plan to keep trying until that day when He has my full, undivided attention forever and forever.

Monday, October 6, 2008

A Confession

I guess I’ll begin with a bit of autobiography – and a brief confession. I was ordained a Lutheran pastor in 1993. I’ve since served three regular congregational calls (Sheffield/Ludlow, PA 1993-1997, Davenport, IA 1997-2000, Albia, IA 2003-2008) and two short-term interims in 2001 & 2002. I recently resigned my pastoral call in order to be a full-time student again, specifically to complete my dissertation within the next two years. However, I will also admit I’m thankful to have had a reason to disengage myself from formal ministry. Recently while at church with my family, I asked myself if I desired to be up front again – preaching and leading worship. My instantaneous and almost visceral response was, “No way! Not a chance!” You might ask, “Why do I feel this way?” I think it is because I no longer believe…

I no longer believe in the church as we currently experience and structure it. I no longer believe it works – that it accomplishes what it is supposed to do. I no longer believe that the large amounts of time and money we invest in “ministry” is really ministry at all. Lest you think I’m just grumbling about my own denomination, let me assure you that I’m not. I grew up in a sectarian, fundamentalist sort of tradition (Apostolic Christian); I attended an evangelical college (Wheaton); I received my theological education at a mainline seminary (Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN) and at a European university (Tübingen, Germany). I’ve seen and experienced a broad spectrum of Protestant Christianity, worshipping over the years in a wide variety of churches (Bible, Covenant, Episcopal, among others). The issues that disturb me about the contemporary church seem to be true across the board, i.e. in just about any and every context: congregations as we currently conceive of them invariably exist only to exist. They construct buildings, create budgets, hire paid staff, etc. supposedly to propogate the Gospel, but too often wind up only striving to perpetuate themselves. So, I find that I have become a doubter.

I doubt whether or not Jesus ever intended for buildings to be built, maintained, cooled, and heated for the purpose of being used 1/168 or 2/168 of the week. I doubt whether Jesus ever intended for his followers to be defined by the consistency of their church attendance or the amount of their giving. I doubt that Jesus ever intended for pastors to be paid a fulltime salary (complete with full benefits & a free house) or the minstry of the laity to be reduced to filling slots like ushers, greeters, and lawn mowers. I doubt that Jesus ever intended his followers to reduce all the complexities and mysteries of the Godhead into a set of three or four talking points that must be memorized, recited, and repeated verbatim. I doubt that Jesus ever intended for an entire for-profit industry to develop around selling “Christian” books, clothing, chocolates, diet plans, etc. I doubt all of these things because…I’ve read through the Gospels, and that’s just not what I see Jesus doing there.

Sure, I know that doing church in these assorted manners is easier than attempting to creatively and uniquely face each day as it presents itself to us. Besides, it fits with our way of doing business in this day and age. Yet, perhaps the time has come to question this “business-as-usual” approach, instead of uncritically modeling our religious enterprises after business plans. Maybe it’s time to question the institutional approach to faith, instead of quarreling about which form, or name, or size budget our institutions should take.

You might ask, “What are the alternatives?” I don’t know for sure, but I’ve got a couple of ideas to throw out for the cohort’s consideration. What if instead of believing that the main function of a congregation is to stage an entertaining, edifying, and aesthetically pleasing performance each week in the hopes that more and more people will attend it and get goosebumps during it, we were to gather weekly with family and friends and neighbors and even complete strangers in small groups/conventicles/house churches (choose the name of your choice) in order to be communities of forgiveness – concrete incarnations of God’s love in Christ? What if we gathered not primarily (and selfishlessly) to fill up our spiritual tanks, but rather to creatively give away whatever we’ve found in Jesus (knowing that this will vary from person to person and group to group)? What if each of these small groups/conventicles/house churches pooled their money locally (as they were able and led) and mutually decided to help end world hunger, eliminate poverty, heal addictions, and/or reduce greenhouse gas emissions however they could? What if we gathered together with other small groups/conventicles/house churches every once in awhile (say on major church holidays like Christmas, Epiphany, Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension and Pentecost, to name a few) to have a big party (worship & fellowship) to which anyone could come? I wonder if living out our faith in this manner together with our children and friends would prove a more “effective” approach to Christian education and nurture than most pre-packaged Sunday School lessons. What if we were known not as the people who declare that they believe this or that about God, Jesus, faith, etc., but as the people who simply practice kindness, compassion, and justice on account of God, Jesus, faith, etc.? What if?

So, what draws me to the emergent conversation? It’s the only conversation I’ve encountered to date that seems to be asking these kinds of questions. It’s the only broad-based commmunity I’ve found to date that’s willing to take a critical look at what’s right AND wrong with contemporary assumptions about the church in all of its current forms. It’s the only community I’m currently aware of that’s willing to take an honest look at the burning issues of 21st century existence and to begin its conversation and ministry there.

Returning to my original confession: why am I relieved to be out of traditional ministry? Because I’ve chosen to opt out of a system I no longer believe in. The questsion facing me now is: what will I opt into? Does an alternative currently exist or is a new one waiting to be created? What do you think?


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Let's Get It Started... Again!

We are going to try to get this started again. For those that wish to post on this blog, please introduce yourself in the comments for this post. Jim asked in an email if we could share some about ourselves. Allen replied to that email and he may copy that to this post, but I will jump in too.

I have been a Christ follower since childhood. I grew up in the Church of the Nazarene and have been ordained in that tradition. I have spent time as a pastor early in my career, but always planned on being a family therapist. I now own and operate a small group private practice in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.

I have been happily married for 19 years and am the proud father of three daughters; a freshman in high school, fifth grader, and kindergartner.

I am a mystic at heart. I love the deep mystery of the eucharist, silence, solitude and contemplative prayer. I long for a deeper, more meaningful spirituality than I have experienced in the traditional protestant church. I am searching. I am drawn to the ideas and dialogue of the emergent movement.

I am looking forward to this conversation and all each participant has to offer.