Sunday, October 23, 2005

Purpose-Driven Areogapus. Coffee, Anyone?

The emerging church and its critics have finally found common ground where they can all agree: none of them are fans of Rick Warren or Purpose-Driven™ anything.

Emergents facepalm over “shallow mega-church sell-outs,” while anti-emergents foam at the mouth at Rick Warren’s obvious, 100% confirmed status as the propagator of a False Gospel (and if you don’t agree, they’ll lump you into the same category).

Starbucks has recently printed a series of “As I See It” quotes on their grande- and venti-sized cups. No one seemed concerned at first, until an internet sleuth leaked the news that the series would include a quote from Rick Warren.

Here’s what Rick wrote:

“You are not an accident. Your parents may not have planned you, but God did. He wanted you alive and created you for a purpose.

“Focusing on yourself will never reveal your real purpose. You were made by God and for God, and until you understand that, life will never make sense.

“Only in God do we discover our origin, our identity, our meaning, our purpose, our significance and our destiny.”

Anti-emergents immediately applied the logical fallacy known as “false equivalence” to link Rick’s quote with all things emerging/missional, and worked themselves into an apoplectic frenzy because the gospel wasn’t “clear enough.” Which, in their minds, reconfirms Rick’s status as a heretic.

I can’t help but have a few thoughts on that (smiles to self while typing).

Real-world Logistics

The printable area on a grande or venti cup is deceptively restrictive. Squeezing a coherent gospel message into the available space would be daunting, if not impossible. “Turn or burn” might fit, but says zilch about Jesus. Favorite proof-texts (e.g., Romans 6:23), without context, are incomplete.

St. Paul at the Areopagus

Skeptical Epicurean and Stoic philosophers offered the Apostle Paul a similar opportunity in Athens (Acts 17:16–34). Paul accepted their invitation, and referenced the Athenians’ “To An Unknown God” altar in his introduction. In other words, he found a cultural touchstone they’d recognize, and used it as a springboard to his gospel message. Some of his listeners wanted to hear more; others sneered.

I can anticipate the “yeah-buts.” Critics will point out that Paul may have begun with the Unknown God analogy, but went on to preach a “clear gospel message.” The quote from Rick Warren, of course, does not.

I couldn’t agree more, which leads me to a burning question …

Are we lazy, small-minded, or both?

Starbucks sells coffee. To that end, they’re also promoters of “third space” café culture: neither workplace nor home, but miniature public squares where people gather and conversations abound.

The gospel of Jesus can’t be reduced to a sound bite, bumper sticker, or venti coffee cup. But instead of shrugging our shoulders or getting all nit-picky critical, we need to open our eyes. Think outside the box.

Like Paul’s “To An Unknown God” reference, Rick Warren’s “As I See It” is a door-opening opportunity.

 But only if we get off our sofas and take advantage of it.

I challenge everyone – emerging, anti-emerging, or undecided – to drop by your local Starbucks with a few of your not-yet-Jesus-following friends, relatives, or coworkers. “As I See It” is the opener.

You get to fill in the rest.

Tuesday, October 4, 2005

Think Again (and again)

Dann Spader, the brains behind Sonlife Youth Strategies, has this to say about building a youth ministry foundation:

“Jesus spent the first year of His ministry teaching His followers who He was. They had a wrong concept of the coming Messiah. They thought He’d come as a conquering King – instead Jesus came as a suffering servant. Jesus knew that only as people understood who He was and why He came, only then would they begin to have the right motivation for following Him. Christ’s disciples slowly began to see that He was different than their perception of the coming Messiah.

“Those we minister to are no different. People have wrong concepts of who Christ is, what He has done for us, and what He asks of us. It is very difficult to yield your life to someone you do not know properly. Proper motivation to serve and minister stems from a proper understanding of Jesus Christ.”

When I first read that, years ago, I immediately thought of the most common problem – based on an inaccurate view of God – that I saw affecting 1980s youth. And, just like the “safe place to take risks,” the same problem is equally rampant among 21st century adults:

Neurotic performance orientation, based on an erroneous (and usually unconscious) assumption that God’s perpetually disappointed with us.

For example, in several different churches over the years, I’ve led the following group discussion:

  1. If you could ask God any ONE question, what would it be? Answers varied to a degree, but roughly 90% were some form of, “If God is good, why is there so much evil and injustice in the world?”
  2. If God could ask YOU any one question, what do you it would be? Answers varied, but not much. “Why aren’t you doing more?” or “Why don’t you trust Me?” or “Will you ever get serious about your faith?”

Their guiding perception was that whenever God looked at them, His gut reaction was disappointment (if not impatience).

That’s heart-breaking. It wasn’t uncommon to see tears welling or hastily wiped away during the discussion.

We need to clearly communicate – over and over, as often as it takes – both sides of the discipleship coin:

Nothing I say or do will make Jesus love me more.
Nothing I say or do will make Jesus love me less.

In other words, despite our Romans 7:15–24 struggles, Romans 8:1 is still the final answer: “There is no condemnation.”

We love because He first loved us. We serve because He served us. We give our lives to Him because He gave His life for us. A key Scripture to emphasize is Hebrew 10:14: “For by one sacrifice, He has made (past tense) perfect forever those who are being (present tense) made holy.”

Generation to generation ... there will always be a need to revisit and re-emphasize even our most basic foundation: “Jesus loves me.”