Monday, February 26, 2007

Herbert


Name the TV series where this travesty of fashion and social commentary was foisted upon an unsuspecting public, without even the common courtesy of barf bags.

No, not Gilligan's Island. You know better than that. Maybe you ARE one!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

More on Post-Charismatic

This bouquet of flowers is offered with sincere condolences to those who apparently "lost their breakfast" over my recent metaphorical use of metallic containers and hermaphroditic lifeforms.

I recommend Tide.
The progress of publishing Post-Charismatic in book form is thus: I've been working hard at polishing and rewriting bits and pieces (where I felt things weren't clear or were awkwardly worded), and will be sending the finalized copy of this rewrite to Kingsway later this week. The Government of the UK, however, is holding things up a wee bit as they process a "double-taxation number" for me. So, we're getting closer, but governmental red tape in the tax departments of two countries is, well, governmental...

Prayer would be appreciated!

Secondly, Brother Maynard has posted some simply brilliant observations in his recent post Post-Charismatic Round-up: Who's In The Herd. Slide on over for a read, and tell 'em Robbymac sent ya.

Update: February 23

Thanks to whoever prayed. I received a letter today from the British government, and everything is a "go". I've just sent the latest version of the Post-Charismatic manuscript to Kingsway, and now the ball can really get rolling.

I'll keep y'all posted!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Meat Is In The Street

In between finishing Exiles and starting The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirch, I've been thoroughly enjoying The Way In Is The Way On by the late John Wimber, founder and leader of the Vineyard movement.

Wendy remarked that this book should be required reading for all future DTS students in YWAM.

One of the many contributions that I think the Vineyard could make to the whole concept of living missionally is Wimber's emphasis on "doin' the stuff" outside the four walls of the church. Wimber was known to at times become frustrated with local Vineyard churches that became insular and invested more time in attending or promoting conferences than in actually going out and, well... "doin' the stuff".
"To continue Jesus' ministry requires that we adopt His lifestyle. Unfortunately, Christians in the West would rather implement programs. We are blind to our mechanistic assumptions when we reduce ministry to reproducible components and try to apply them indiscriminately." (page 168)
Part of the whole charismissional impulse would include getting out of just "doing church" and being more incarnationally connected to our communities, where Wimber's original concept of "power evangelism" was meant to function. Wimber envisioned a movement of people who would be regularly engaged with their community on a relational level, and anticipating/interceding for opportunities (divine appointments) to pray for and with those they were in relationship with.

But many Vineyard people seemed more content to focus on programs and worship times, and not as many were intentional about ministry the poor and the marginalized. Perhaps when these same churches observed a perceived lessening of the Spirit's power and presence, they should have done the quick math and realized that, as Wimber repeatedly emphasized, "the meat is in the street"; when we focus on the power and presence of the Spirit in a selfish and insular manner, we lose something of virtually all of the incarnational presence that Jesus modeled throughout the Gospels.

And as people who are filled with the Spirit in order to continue partnering with Jesus in the advancement of the Kingdom, it should really come as no surprise that when we over-busy ourselves in programs and "services", that the result is LESS genuine God-stories of the Spirit's work and intervention (instead we hear increasinly bizarre "proofs" of the Spirit's presence in our meetings, like gold dust or fillings).

This quote also brought me up short:
"There are painfully few members of Christ's Body who are responding in obedience to Him by choosing to move into the realm of the miraculous." (page 185)
What? "Choosing" to move in the miraculous, coupled to "obedience"? Dang, but that's an arresting show-stopper of a statement!

At times, those of us exploring a more missional worldview need to be brought up short with these kind of questions; the danger missional types need to be aware of is the possibility of doing a lot of good works and having people think that we're really nice people, but that's it. Without the demonstration of the reality of the Kingdom of God -- good works AND the power & presence of the Spirit of God -- we'll just be a politically-correct bunch of nice people doing politically-correct nice things (I.e. why is eradicating poverty such a popular passion of emerging/missional people, yet opposing the slaughter of the defenseless called "abortion" is not?).

If Wimber is correct, and the meat is in the street, then we have a great opportunity in being missional and incarnational ("earning the right to be heard", as George Mercado used to say) if we will choose to consciously seek to be Spirit-empowered in our interactions with our surrounding communities.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Final Worm on the Subject (Exiles 6)

This is it -- I promise -- the final utilization of the can o' worms as pictorial metaphor whilst I wax expressive on Michael Frost's worthy tome Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture. This book rocks and should be in any top-ten must-read book list.

That being said, there were sections that drove me up the wall, and inspired an earlier reaction of:
"Frosty, I'm about to drag you through shards of broken glass before dumping your bruised and bleeding carcass into a swimming pool filled with iodine..."
This post would be explaining what prompted that response.

Frost's final two chapters in Exiles focus on singing "dangerous songs" of the Kingdom. Frost continues to provoke us to live beyond a Sunday-go-to-meetin' kind of Christianity, and he takes on worship that is sappy, self-indulgent, and theologically insipid. Kudos to Frost on that; we're in complete agreement when it comes to ridding ourselves of "safe" little ditties that do not inspire. Frost also rejects the idea of turning our "worship services" into evangelistic events, concerned that this will water down our worship; again, I concur and applaud.

But then Frost dives into the whole "feminization of the church" pond, and I find myself quickly scrambling for my hip-waders.

I find it really curious (and disturbing) that so many in the emerging/missional stream have such a strong desire to project God as transcendent over God as imminent. I've covered this before in posts like Near/Far, Near/Far: Second Iteration, and Near/Far: Second Iteration, Subset One, so I won't go over all that ground again. But let me point out a couple of areas where I find Frost playing fast and loose with a Scriptural defense of his point of view.

For example, earlier in Exiles, Frost was making a case that much of current thought has placed Jesus as so transcendent and doctrinal, that we have lost sense of His humanity. I agree with this concern of Frost's, but then he claims that the early creeds were a way of "domesticating" Jesus, and over-emphasizing His divinity.
"Jesus isn't romanticized in the earliest creeds. He is presented in flesh and blood, very real and very dangerous. Sadly, the early church was quick to move beyond the very earthy, actional description of Jesus in the Gospels to a more ontological one in the creeds... I can't help but wonder which came first: the impulse to sanitize and tame Jesus by encasing Him in abstract theology, thereby removing our motivation for discipleship, or our natural repulsion toward discipleship that forced us to domesticate Jesus to let us off the hook."
While I agreed with Frost's point, it's absolutely absurd to suggest that the writers of the early creeds were trying to "domesticate" Jesus and downplay His humanity. Any student of church history knows that the creeds were written to AFFIRM and DEFEND the reality of the Incarnation against the heretical attacks of Gnostics and Docetists who were trying to purge Jesus of being fully human and fully divine. Why Frost tries to assert the opposite is beyond me.

In the "Dangerous Songs" chapters which close the book, Frost does similar things with Bible passages on worship. In stating his dislike of seeing heaven as a 24/7 worship time, Frost quotes Revelation 21:1-4, which speaks of the justice and societal equity found in heaven, as foretold by Isaiah 65:19-23. However, he neglects to mention that in the same book of Revelation, chapter four and chapter five detail some pretty impressive 24/7 worship that includes beings that appear to be created for no other purpose but to worship continuously. This selective use of Scripture bothers me.

In the final chapter, Frost denounces what he calls "Jesus is my boyfriend" kind of songs. I don't like sappy worship, either, but there's a difference between sugary and simplistic love songs, and songs of true intimacy with Jesus. Frost disagrees, and suggests that any song that speaks of "loving" Jesus are actually "sexually charged" and therefore inappropriate (Frost also ignores centuries of Biblical scholarship and rejects Song of Songs as a metaphor about Christ's love for the church).

Frost prefers to equate "loving Jesus" with "obeying Jesus" (John 14:15, 21, 23-24). While I don't disagree that loving Jesus certainly includes obeying Him, I wouldn't make the two synonymous. For example, a teenager may take out the garbage to "obey" his/her parents, but that doesn't mean that he/she loves them. They could simply be selfishly mindful that obedience equals getting the car keys on Friday night. Love can be the motivation for obeying Jesus; fear of retribution or a desire to manipulate to gain answered prayer could also be the heart motive in obedience. Equating obedience as love is inadequate.

The other highly selective use of Scripture which jumped out at me was Frost's repeated appeals to the exilic passages of Isaiah (41:13-14, 43:1-6, 49:25-26, 61:8-9), which speak of Yahweh's care and promised redemption of His people in Babylonian exile, while ignoring the myriad of places in the Psalms alone which speak of loving God (Psalm 13:5, 18:1-3, 25:7) and which also speak of God's love for us (Psalm 36:7, 48:9, 57:10, and of course Song of Songs).

Worship is a multi-faceted jewel, to be sure, and many times we have over-emphasized some things and neglected others. But we need to be careful about balancing these extremes of imminence and transcendence, devotion and action, intimacy and reverence. We won't get there by simply rushing from one pendulum swing to another. The same God who said "be still and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10) also declared "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice..." (Isaiah 58 -- read the whole chapter!). Separating the two is simply not a biblical option.


And that is my final worm on the subject.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Invasion of the Leader-Snatchers

In the early days of this blog, whenever I dared to mention the word leadership, many bloggers responded like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, as they pointed bony fingers of accusation and emitted that signature high-pitched howling whine. Then they fired off nasty emails and/or comments (which Haloscan mercifully failed to archive).

Leadership, it seemed, was the original "L-word".

But a new day is apparently and finally dawning! This past week or so has seen a sudden proliferation of blog posts all referencing missional leadership. Emerging Grace leads the way with a four part series (here, here, here, and here) before Getting Personal Finally, while Jamie Arpin-Ricci chimes in with Missional Leadership: My Inspiration [link no longer works], as Brother Maynard puts some of his cards on the table with Missional Leadership, Perhaps?, and Leslie blogs her notes and reactions on a seminar she had just attended about -- wait for it -- Missional Leadership [blog since deleted].

There's a lot of good thoughts on each of these blogs, but mostly I'm just relieved and excited that finally we can talk about leadership again. A different model, metaphor, and understanding of leadership than many have suffered under experienced, to be sure, but at least now it's finally becoming OKAY to talk about it again.

And it's nice to not hear that howling whine anymore.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Semi-Worms (Exiles 5)

I didn't really anticipate writing a Series of Worms out of my reading of Frost's Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture. This certainly doesn't qualify as a proper book review, which may be why nobody ever asks me to review books! It was more of a series of ponderings provoked by Frost's tome.

I'd probably advocate this book as being near the top of any list of books to read about the emerging/missional church. I found this book, at times, to provoke the following reactions:
  • deep thought
  • hearty agreement
  • "you're reading my mail" resonance
  • I'll have to think more about that, and
  • Frosty, I'm about to drag you through shards of broken glass before dumping your bruised and bleeding carcass into a swimming pool filled with iodine...
I think any book that can evoke such a range of reactions would qualify as a good read. I'll get to the reason behind my last reaction in a later post, but this one will just comment briefly on Frost's chapters on justice, the poor, and the persecuted, and also on ecology and environmentalism as part of our stewardship of Creation. Frost cranks out such a long list of human rights abuses around the world, horrendous recountings of torture and murder of Christians, observations and predictions of the ecological rape of Planet Earth... well, at the end of these two profoundly disturbing chapters, I felt overwhelmed and useless.

I had not a clue as to how I could possibly even begin to delve into these issues. The implications of each of these areas was mind-numbing and soul-sucking in its enormity. I mean, I do have a link to Operation World at the top of this blog, as well as a link to Voice of the Martyrs in the sidebar, but that suddenly seemed woefully inadequate -- almost juvenile in its naive assumption that somehow having two simple little HTML links on a blog could actually make a difference. I mean, I guess I could add more links to justice-oriented sites, like One: the Campaign to Make Poverty History, but would providing more links help, or just serve to blind and deafen people through a heavy-handed brow-beating?

What I finally came around to was simply this:

Pick one.

Poverty. The persecuted church. Justice for the unborn (remember abortion? is it an issue of justice, or is it too embarrassingly "Christian Right" for uber-cool emerging missional types?). Ecological responsibility (which may or may not include some kind of political activism).

Just pick one. Do something. Anything. Don't get overwhelmed by the enormity of it all.

Pick one.

No Worms Please, We're Canadian

Cindy requested a "worm free" post, and to show that I am not completely obsessed with finding pictures of metal containers filled with earth-regurgitating hermaphroditic life-forms, here's an entry that is 100% worm-free.

I just spent the last week on a Frostbite Quest across the Canadian Prairies, along with an assortment of beloved crazies from YWAM bases in Victoria, Vancouver, Medicine Hat, and ending up camped out on Winnipeg's Furby Street (also known as "Homicide Alley") with Jamie Arpin-Ricci and the rest of the YWAM Winnipeg crew.

Along the way, I got the chance to drive through the beauty of the Canadian Rockies (always breath-taking), the suburban maze of Calgary, twelve straight hours of white-out conditions across Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, before depositing everyone into the depth of a Winnipeg deep freeze: -50C (-58F) which lasted all week and continues even as I write.

Still, it was a great time with some new-found friends, and despite the (literally) killer cold, one observed major accident right beside us, then getting rammed from behind by another car, it was time well-invested. And to get a chance to enjoy some home-made verenika topped off with schmotefat, and served up with formaworst... mmm, mmm, mennonite cooking.

I also enjoyed about five hours discussing "missional leadership, perhaps" with Brother Maynard in another kind of traditional Winnipeg feast which included beer, just before getting on a plane to return to Kelowna, where the temperature is +3C (36F) -- a difference of only 53C.

So there you are, Cindy, a completely worm-free post -- although any worms that I may have encountered in my travels were most likely shivering shards of frost-bitten ex-lifeforms.