Saturday, August 21, 2004

A Year of Blogging

The same day that I watched the moving truck disappear down our tree-lined street, filled with all of our worldly possessions, was my one-year blogging birthday.

Of course, since my computer was on that truck, I knew blogging would be put on temporary hold, as would any attempts at being reflective on a year in the blogosphere.

In retrospect, I'm glad I labelled this blog a "journey", because it's certainly turned out to be one. Len Hjalmarsson (NextReformation) should take a lot of credit (or blame) for strongly encouraging me to start a blog of my own, and Charlie Wear (Next-Wave e-zine) could be held similarly culpable for repeatedly publishing every article that I sent him.

There's been a flurry of blogs in recent weeks attempting to take the pulse of the emerging church, or postmodern mission, or "pomergent" as my buddy Mitch Tulloch labelled it. Since many of them have already said many things I would have said, although far more eloquently, I'll just add a couple of things from my own grey cells.
  • There's been a lot of talk about "quitting church so we can just BE the Church", which kinda scares me. The whole "we have no leaders but God" and the "level playing field where everyone's contribution is equal" sounds great on paper, but the only way this could be truly accomplished is by making our groups (a) small, (b) full of people just like us, and (c) off-limits to people who aren't just like us. In other words, an elitist clique.

    Don't get me wrong; I'm all for the Plymouth Brethren ideal of "every member a minister", but reality is more complex than that (chaos theory on a ecclesial level, perhaps?). Unless our groups are "invitation-only", we can expect to encounter broken, needy, time-consuming people who don't get healed in a week or two. If our goal is to have homogenous groups where we can all simply hang out and bask in our friendships/community, these needy people (the ones Jesus seemed to spend a lot of time with) will "wreck" everything.

    Which connects with my second observation...
  • Being "missional" is a lot more than creating a theological and philosophical justification for leaving a church -- it means that we've deliberately, intentionally, chosen to focus our community on a greater goal than simply being a tight little gathering of like-minded individuals.

    I'm concerned that not a lot of emerging groups are doing this -- they often seem to be little more than postmodern bless-me clubs, with Guinness and cigars.

    In order to create communities that are intentionally missional, and not merely bless-me clubs of postmodern snobs, people will have to rise to the occasion and provide (brace yourselves) leadership. A different model of leadership than many (perhaps most) churches have evolved into, but leadership nonetheless.
In the very first article I wrote on Postmodern Ministry, my first concern was that what has since become labelled the "emerging church" would become a fad -- marketed & exploited, complete with its own set of gurus and boundaries for deciding who was "in" or "out" -- and my impressions over this past year is that we are still in danger of that very trap.

Society is changing quickly around us, and the last thing we need is a pomergent sub-sub-category of Christendom that only further insulates us from the real (postmodern) world.

Such are my thoughts, after a year of blogging. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Surfacing In Toronto

Basically, we made it. We're here. One minivan filled with a family of five, two cats, a dog, and gym bags full of clothes to last us two weeks until our stuff arrives and we actually move into our new house. 2400 kilometres. Lots of coffee and Gatorade.

We made it. We're here.

Started work Tuesday morning, bright and early. Thanks be to God that coffee is no longer under Papal condemnation, and that Tim Horton's can be found every fifteen metres or so.

We made it. We're here.

Many ideas percolating. Regular posting to resume soon. Stay tuned.

Time for another Tim Horton's run...

Thursday, August 5, 2004

Wagons East!

I'll cut to the chase:
We're moving to the Toronto area in just under three weeks. I've accepted a ministry job there, but I didn't mention it here until after I got a chance to let the band know (which I did this past Sunday).
What could possibly make me give up a great band, a cool home group, and life in the beautiful city of Winnipeg?

Basically, I feel that this position will put me in a place of making a difference. I'll be part of a team of youth ministry people who share similar journeys and visions for what the church could be, and I'll be in a place where I can actually help set the culture for youth ministry for an entire denomination.
 I've always believed, ever since this blog started, that "we're far more dangerous as Reformers than we are as Protesters." This is an opportunity to put my money where my mouth is.
But DANG! I'm going to miss the band, our home group, and the many friends we have here.

Monday, August 2, 2004

The "Evangelical Put-Down" Show!

(Enthusiastic applause)
Announcer: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to another half hour edition of Evangelical Put-Down! The game of Christian one-up-man-ship where you can gain points and prizes for coming up with a creative, catchy way of putting non-Christians in their place! And now, here's the host of Evangelical Put-Down, Anne Noying!
(Wildly enthusiastic cheers)

Anne: Thanks everyone, and welcome to our show. Tonight, our contestants will once again try to come up with a catchy way of putting non-Christians in their place. But remember, not only must this catchy phrase please the Christian doctrinal content quotient, it must also leave the non-Christian confused! Ready? Here’s our Pagan, and more important, here’s our first Contestant!

Pagan: Uh, hey, man, how about doing some drugs after school?

Contestant #1: No way! Why do you think they call it ‘dope’?
(Scattered applause from Christian audience)

Anne: Oh, no, I’m sorry, Contestant #1, but that’s just not the quality we're looking for. The expression has already been done, by secular sources (murmurs of disapproval from Christian audience), and it makes too much sense to the Pagan. We have some nice consolation prizes for you. Let’s bring out Contestant #2!
(More applause)

Pagan: Uh, I really believe that we all evolved from lesser life forms. I think evolution explains man’s origins.

Contestant #2: Hey, if you want to think your grandpa was a monkey, that’s your problem! (Enthusiastic applause from Christian audience)

Anne: Wow! Snappy comeback, Contestant #2! You really answered our Pagan on the issue of evolution! He looks properly confused! And the Christians love the put-down! Uh-oh, wait a minute...

I’m sorry, Contestant #2, but our panel of judges say that you won’t gain doctrinal content points unless you throw in some Scripture or up the “J-count”. But a good effort, nonetheless! Let’s bring out Contestant #3!
(More applause)

Pagan: Wait, lemme get a good one...

Anne: Hurry up, you dumb reprobate, we haven’t got all day!
(Boos from Christian audience)

Pagan: Oh, yeah, I’ve got one! Hey, ya Jesus Freak, I think you're just a victim of brainwashing! Ya can’t be intelligent and Christian at the same time!

Contestant #3: Well, I may be a Jesus freak, but then again, who’s freak are you?

Pagan: Huh?
(Wild applause and cheers from Christian audience)

Anne: Whoa! What a great put-down! Ladies and gentlemen, did you hear it? Pithy. Direct. Spiritual! Yes, and it looks like our judges are favourably impressed. Yes, the answer has adequate spiritual content, it confused the Pagan completely, and it was a big hit with our Christian audience! We have a winner! Congratulations, Contestant #3!

Contestant #3: Aw, shucks, ‘tweren’t nothing!

Anne: I bet you have a great time relating your faith to those around you with a sharp mind like yours!

Contestant #3: Yep, witnessing is my business!

Anne: Well, that’s about all the time we have for today, folks! Make sure you join us again next week for another edition of Evangelical Put-Down!
(Wild applause and fade...)