Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Disciples or Apostles?

So a question has been running through my head a bunch lately at it is this question:  Should the church be "making" disciples or apostles?

I put making in quotation marks because really I question the whole "making" language as truly (as many have said in the past and present) it is God who "makes" disciples and the church just helps in the process.

Okay, but seriously I am wondering if our language of discipleship basically gives us a bunch of passive learners/consumers.  I mean if I am supposed to be a disciple doesn't that mean I am a learner or "pupil." The images that come to my head when I explore that is a student at a desk just furiously taking notes and learning from the one who has the knowledge.  Sound a little familiar?  Many of my acquaintances and friends who are Christians often approach church in the same way:  they go to worship but also mainly to "learn" from someone who has a knowledge.  They want to know what they are to believe.

Our language doesn't exactly challenge that notion even though most pastors I know cry about the lack of "ministry of all believers" being actively done.  Well what do we expect?  We say we are "making" disciples.... and what we are "making" is learners who need us (pastors, you know, who have the knowledge...even if that isn't what we want).

I have been reading Jim Walker's book Dirty Word, and a quote stuck out to me that connected with this thought running through my head.  He writes:
Koinonia isn't something we talk about, read about, or sit and watch.  Koinonia is action; it's what we do.  When I was learning to drive, I was told and I was shown.  I even got to use one of those driving-simulation machines in high school.  But it wasn't until I actually got behind the wheel and hit the gas that I learned how to drive.  Does the church teach people to drive by putting them behind the wheel?  Do we help people experience the kingdom of God?  Or is church a big tour bus where everyone piles in, and there is one driver who points out the window at the kingdom of God, but no one actually gets to get out and experience it? (emphasis mine)
What a great picture that I feel captures some of my frustration.  To me it feels like our language of making disciples creates nothing more than tourists on the journey of life, hearing about the kingdom of God and believing it is there but not actually going out into the world and stepping off the bus to experience it.

But what if we were about "making" (loosely used) apostles.  You know apostles (definition: one sent on a mission), those people Jesus gathered and gave the command to in Matthew 28.  Maybe instead of living the command of the story we should enter into the story.  What if we were about intentionally saying that we are going to send people out?  You are here and we will help equip you and then we are sending you out:  you are an apostle!  Currently, we have the language of apostles but in most circles it is the "clergy" who are in the category of apostle.  What greater way to reinforce the sense that clergy are the ones who do the work of the kingdom and the rest just sit and learn.

Personally, I would love to see an image of the church as a bus where the bus stops and the driver opens the door and says don't just look at it, GO EXPERIENCE IT!  Don't just learn it, GO DO IT!  YOU ARE SENT!

P.S.  Thanks for taking the time to read my rambling.  It is not polished.  It is not finished.  I just had to let it out.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Zondervan Blog Tour: "Exponential" Review

This is the third book I have reviewed for a Zondervan Blog Tour and I was thankful to be a part of this one because I truly enjoyed this book.  I found in this book everything that I felt was lacking from the first book I read for the Zondervan Blog Tour:  Multi-Site Church Road Trip.

Some background:  I am working on starting a missional community within the life of Central United Methodist Church where I serve.  This book was one of those God-convergence moments where I was thankful that it was given to me because the Ferguson brothers have some very good practical and motivational advice that will help me frame the strategic steps forward. 

Let me start by saying that this book is a great read for any leader within the church (I think an argument could be made for it being a good read for any leader of a movement, but if you don't like Christ-centered philosophy then it might not be a good read if one is outside the church).  It is one of those often hard to come by books that is both practically and theologically grounded at the same time (it is sad that often books are either very "theologically grounded" but lacking some practical advice or the inverse).  Many of the theology behind their "practices" of leadership development, church development, and network development are based on stories from Scripture (see Acts is a favorite reference of Dave).

One of the best parts about this book is that their advice and thoughts are not only theologically grounded, they also are grounded within the narrative of their own experiences at Community Christian Church and the NewThing Network.  I often find it valuable if I can join a narrative journey with someone to see how their practices took root (both struggles and victories).

So what can you expect to find inside the pages that will help you?  A very strong guide to leadership development which helps make a vision given by God into an incarnate reality.  What it isn't is actually what is the best about it:  it isn't a carbon-copy formula.  The principles, in my opinion, lend themselves to the context one might find themselves in and can be adapted as such.  It really isn't communicated as do X then X and get Y.  Rather it is more:  here are some principles to guide your decisions and to help you turn the vision into a movement.  I particularly enjoyed their chapter "Reproducing Artists" because it took seriously the importance of the artistic and creative community in the life of the overall church and took seriously giving advice on how to connect with this community which in places has disconnected with the church.

One of the other benefits is that while the book progresses towards reproduction all the way from leaders to movements, those who may be parts of denominations still can benefit from the parts leading up to the "networks" and "movements" (for instance as a Methodist there might be ways to follow the network creation reproduction but I am not sure how and the movement part could be a movement of renewal within Methodism but the philosophies of the networks and movements by the Ferguson brothers would definitely push against the denomination in many ways).  The strong principles of how to take seriously reproducing leaders is one thing that I think the Methodist denomination could benefit from.

Now one thing some people might find annoying is the * within the text that links to a comment box that has a comment from Jon Ferguson.  Now, I say "some" people because some might find it distracting and others might be put off by Jon's sarcasm.  I, however, am not one of those people.  I found the addition of Jon's sarcasm and the break it brought into the reading helped transform the reading of a book into the feel of a conversation.  It kept the mood of the reading light and for me added some great laughs in the midst of the reading.

Overall, I think this is a great book that will be a great asset to God's movement in the world.  Thanks to both of them for sharing their insights.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Importance of Christian Truth-telling!

So today I was browsing my Facebook feed when a friend had a status update with a link to an article about a pastor getting arrested in D.C.  See it here.

Yes, the title of the blog post is:  "Prayer Made Illegal in Washington D.C."

Now I understand the whole idea of making a title "catchy" so that it attracts readers, but blatant falsehood statements like this should not be coming from us as Christians.  If we are called by God to bring the Good News to the world and to show the truth of God in our lives, it is my belief that we just end up discrediting ourselves if we "slant" the truth or just blatantly "lie" about a situation.  If I were a non-Christian and read that title, I would be intrigued to read it, but then when I discovered the entire situation I don't know if I would ever trust that persons assertions or arguments in the same way (and probably would be suspect of other Christians because of it).

Why am I making a big deal of this and taking the time to write this?  Because, the agenda of some to make a persecution story out of anytime a Christian has a run in with the state ends up making true items of persecution lose some of their impact.  (see the great story of the Little Boy who Cried Wolf).

In the story the pastor who is arrested is trying to make a point.  He objects to the fact that Planned Parenthood facility was trying to keep him from interacting with people who were going into their establishment and so they got permission to build a fence and then hung a "No Trespassing" sign to try and keep people off of the sidewalk.  According to the story the pastor knows that the designation of the sidewalk has not changed from public to private (according to him, I don't know personally) and so he was asserting his right to be on public property and pray and read scripture.  That is fine.  But the issue of his arrest (which he consented to and was very congenial and non-violent and told the crowd to do the same....all the while saying that the issue would be addressed via public statement and a desire to get a national outcry....a method I commend) was not about him praying.  The police arrested him because of the questions over trespassing.  (whether it was really trespassing or not).

For the blogger to then go and title the post dealing with this subject as he did, he ends up detracting from the actual issue (which is the pro-life debate and how people deal with trying to witness to the importance of life) and tries to make it seem like a persecution of Christians issue.

I believe that as Christian's we have an obligation to speak the truth, there is no flirting the ambiguities of situations, etc.  We know that situations aren't black and white and that in every context there is a myriad of viewpoints and reasons and if we want to speak to injustices and speak to the truth of God and the Good News, then we need to communicate in a way that does not lead to false belief.  (I say this because I have now seen links and comments that talk about the government attacking prayer and outlawing it and then a whole debate about how if it was a person of Islamic faith this wouldn't have happened...all which is not true and comes from the beginning falsehood title).