i was given a strange opportunity this past christmas eve, and i am uncertain how to react to it, or process the experience. i was given the opportunity to teach at a modern church and share a postmodern message of christ. i was asked to give the christmas message as i was giving it to a postmdern/emerging group, and to be honest i did not give it much thought until a few days later.
my message was on "christ in us" and i based it on colossians 1:27 and the switchfoot song "meant to live" and called the message "more then this world has to offer." it was about seeing christ in ourselves and seeing christ in others - it centered on how when we allow christ to move in us, our lives change and we start to do thing differently. it also had a call to the fact that we are all called to share our faith in christ - if we are believers, we share our faith. as part of the message, i mentioned that we needed to be more then one hour christians, and that we needed to put our faith into action - well, as i found out this past few day (via the modern gossip mill), that did not go over very well with some of the "older" people - here is what i heard was "wrong" with my message:
1) i mentioned the word "tattoo." i guess this is the worst sin that i committed. i have been told by the pastor that one elderly women was very upset that i mentioned that a tattoo was a sign of being committed to something. she was "offended" that a pastor would ever say it was ok to get a tattoo.
2) some of the other older people had problems because one of the pictures of jesus i used during a slide show was black (african) - and this was "very offensive." they felt that showing such a picture was an insult to jesus - when i asked the person who told me a person was upset, "is the insult that jesus was black?" i was hit with the, "you know what they meant" answer. so i said, "yes, i do know what you mean. seeing jesus as black pushed them past their comfort zone and that bugged them. they are unable to process a jesus that is not blonde haired and blue eyed." i was told i did not understand the "bigger picture" and that i was one of those "liberal ministers" who wanted to change the true jesus.
3) but the jesus slide was not the only one to cause a problem. some of the other slides i had used were of homeless, poor, unkept, unclean and unwanted - some felt that by my showing the pictures of "those" people i was "making fun of jesus and insulting why jesus came to earth." i guess, for this white, old, middle-class church the idea that jesus came for the hurting and the sick was not part of the way they saw things. i guess, jesus came to save the white-middle class only.
4) a few were upset because i used a song that was not a "christmas hymn," and (as i heard one person claimed) was not even song by christians, in my message. i thought about this and felt that if they had no idea who swithcfoot was, and they did not see the message of christ in the song - i could not bring them to seeing the message.
5) a few people were upset because i suggested that when we are walking in christ we desire to put our faith into action. i was told that one elderly man said that "we are not saved by works, only by faith." when i tried to explain to the person who mentioned this little fact was that my message was not "on salvation" but one that calls us to ministry, and action - the conversation turned to why my message was not calling people to salvation. this conversation was a crazy one, and it confused me to no end - finally, i thanks them for their words and i moved on.
6) some were upset with the fact that i did not use the luke narrative and speak on how cute and cuddly the baby jesus was. i did mention that one of the traditional hymns did not register with me - because it had jesus laying in a manger with a cow in his face and it says "and no crying he did make" - what? show me a baby that would not be screaming his little head off - that was not popular because it seems jesus never cried, never pooped, never gave mom and dad a hard time, and was just the perfect little baby. the idea of a human jesus was just no in the room.
the funny thing of all this, was that out of all the people who complained only two actually were at the service; and non - none - came to me directly. the others were simply going on their words.
yet i do need to express hope in all this. out of all the people who attended the service, i received more comments from people who thought the message was great - some of the people that were there even commented on the fact that it challenged them to move in faith and move into action.
i was given a strange opportunity this past christmas eve, and i am uncertain how to react to it, or process the experience. i was given the opportunity to teach at a modern church and share a postmodern message of christ. i was asked to give the christmas message as i was giving it to a postmdern/emerging group, and to be honest i did not give it much thought until a few days later.
i got this email the other day (december 26, sunday) from a person living in southwest pa (washington area). in reading it, i was broken by the hurt and pain expressed - the expression for community, yet the non-movement of the "church" to developing that community. i think it's best if you read their words:
"I'm sick of so called churches that say they love people, that say they are reacing this generation, yet do nothing outside of the context of a program or something planned. I have attended Carpenter's Home Church for 6 months now, people would greet you and talk to you at church giving you a hug and what ever, asking how you are. They would invite me to dinner after church but not much more - I saw them calling each other on their cells and going to each others houses - I gave my cell number,to people at the church and to the "pastors". the only calls I ever got were pre-recorded messages about what is going on at the church. I shared some struggles with a pastor who told me he would be my accountability partner - he has not once asked me how I am. My job recently changed and I have missed church for 3 weeks after never missing in 6 months - no one has called and asked if I'm ok but I still get the recorded messages! I'm sick of all the BS - where are the people
who will really love you? Who express genuine community? not in South west PA thats for sure! I was off today but decided who needs it - several would come up to me with a line of BS that they missed me - even though they never tried to contact me. I hear all the stories of true community on Gink but can't find it where I live and I'm fed up! I want to be in relationship with other people but with people who are real and really care - is there such a thing?"
i am broken by all the emerging churches out there that are simply younger versions of a modern church. this idea that we "express" community but not "live" community is wrong. as an emerging community of faith we must - must (not an option) welcome all into that community - regardless of anything we can think of to limit. if we are to honestly claim community we must do more then talk the game, we need to play the game.
"servants" need to show that community is more then lip-service, more then just a "cool thing" to say - we (we are all servants) need to truly be in community - seeking out the hearts of those who are with us, and connecting to people as christ connected to people. we need to model what comunity is, how it is shared and mostly that it is open to all people.
if you know of a place in the washington/waynesburg area, just put it in the comments area.
voiced by john o'keefe on 27.12.04
i hate the term "born again" that is my opinion and it is one i stand with. For me, the term “second life” is far more expressive and meaningful. while i think others have the right to use what ever term they desire i also believe we need to start developing terms, metaphors, theologies and expressions of those in new ways. for me, a “second life” is found in believing in christ, and is not “proved” by evidence of any “gift.” the idea that “being born again” can only be “true” if certain gifts are expressed, violates scripture on many levels. i believe we need to take a new stance on many of the “doctrines” of the church and ask ourselves with all honesty and grace, “do we believe this because scripture teaches this, or because tradition teaches it?” let me explain it like this:
i stand firm on the fact that in order to truly be moving ahead and deconstructing one needs to get rid of old terms that carry baggage and form new ones without the baggage (they will, over time create their own baggage) - no matter who it offends. if we are truly to express the faith in a relevant way, simply taking the terms used by evangelicals will simply show we are evangelical and nothings changed - to take the terms used by the contemporary church, means we are simply the contemporary church and nothings changed.
i believe we need to find new words, new metaphors, new expressions - and if that is "either/or" well, i am at a lose - but as brian says, we will not truly be postmodern if we simply use modern terms to express our faith - so, the task at hand for us all is to, in my opinion, seek to find new ways of expressing our faith - and not the old ways.
i am not striving to push a button, but the idea that "either/or" should stop us from forming alternative expressions is not a valid argument - we have to not let the "either/or" debate stop us from developing terms that hold true to an emerging people. if we do, we are allowing moderns to dictate our growth and terms - if a person desire to use "born again" fine, so be it - but in a emerging expression "born again" carries too much baggage and can never be "redefined" - so, we need to find a way that expresses that idea (or one close to it) with different words. i think we have moved away from our desire to express our faith in new ways and settled on letting those outside an emerging mindset determine how we express our faith. i am sure others will think that i am “wrong” by not accepting the expression of others, and that is not the case. You can have the expression you desire, but when we are talking about certain things, remember to define your meaning. remember that your evangelical, modern expression of faith does not express my heart.
without developing a “conspiracy theory” i believe there is a movement afoot to stop us from forming new theologies, new expressions of faith, new metaphors, new terms - and, while not "collective" in any way - that movement is trying to stop us with the "both/and" debate - the "both/and" is a valid reality - but in that i believe, modern expressions of faith have no place in forming a postmodern/emerging expression of faith. they can have their theology, and that is fine (both/and) but that theology is not expressed in an emerging reality -
here is one that I am working on developing: (let me know what you think)
love is a sacrament – historically we have defined a sacrament as something either christ did, or commanded us to do. For example, baptism is a sacrament of the church because jesus “did” it – he was baptized. Communion is a sacrament because jesus commended us to do it in remembrance of him – so, since jesus commands us to love, love is a sacrament – still in process, but you get the idea.
voiced by john o'keefe on 24.12.04
jason clark writes the following, and i agree - it's a coming
"We have been told that a few high-powered conservative evangelical voices have targeted us for critique. We have expected this for some time, and have so far been impressed by how generous and restrained critique has been. That restraint may end soon. When it does, we need to be prepared to keep a sweet spirit about critiques, and not become distracted by them. In many cases, the critiques will be based on issues that are relatively unimportant to us; in other cases, they will be unfair. In some cases, they will actually help us, as they help make clear the differences between emergent and other approaches, so people can make intelligent choices about where to invest their energy. We don't want everyone to join us, and we are glad that some non-emergent leaders will succeed in steering some people away from us, as they will be happier and more productive elsewhere."
well, all i can say is bring it on. i believe all people have a place and can express their faith in ways that are meaningful to them - and i will never condemn a person for holding fast to that faith - and i would pray that those who desire to find holes in my pockets will have the same eye towards grace, love and freedom. while i am not a bridge builder, i am not a bridge burner either. i live quite happy on my side of the river, and if you want we can visit the other side - we might get a bit wet, but the camp fire at homes is warm and stoked - dry cloths are also available.
over this year i have experienced this first hand, and it has been draining - but i still stand. i have had "fundies" join the message board on ginkworld and attack me personally over some very silly issues - while i will admit to being dragged into some of the debates, i have learned not to fight with people desiring blood.
while i will support any emerging voice that speaks out (because i believe in the community), that voice must know that they do not speak for us all - ginkworld does not speak for all, the ooze does not speak for all, emerging village does not speak for all, emergent does not speak for all - no one voice speaks for us all - at best, one voice speaks for that one voice. it is not one voice, but a collection of those voices - from the radicals (like me) to the "bridge builders" that can form a voice - but a voice formed with simply the bridge builders will not speak to the more radical of the family - to truly be a voice heard, we must be willing to listen and then speak.
voiced by john o'keefe on 18.12.04
i am not 100% sure where i heard it, but i am kinda sure it was in my father's collection of weird music. my dad had the weirdest collection of music i ever heard; some of the songs still ring in my head - and they still whorp my reality at a core level :) if i had anything i would blame my father for, it would be my desire to hear whacked music - anyway, i digress :)
i remember the song about santa - and i think it went like this; "santa claus wears a red suit, he's a communist. santa claus has long hair and a beard, so he must be a pacifist. And what's in the pipe that he's smoking? Santa Claus comes in your house at night. He must be a dope fiend to get you up tight."
the song is funny, and eye opening. funny, because when i mentioned this to a third grade teacher, she got all up set - how dear i, or anyone, make fun of santa? the funny part of this was it was at a school board meeting where they were discussing the need to seperate "church and state" - the teacher just got done speaking on how we need to keep "christiany" out of the school room - she had just given a rant on the abuses of christianity and that jesus had no place in the lives of third graders. eye opening, because people just don't get it.
voiced by john o'keefe on 15.12.04
why is peace outside our grasp? why is it that we find it easier to kill then to forgive? what is in our hearts that darken our thoughts to the idea that taking a human life is acceptable? the hard part for me, is no that the world thinks this way - but that those of us who claim to be christian feel that way.
war is not part of our faith, or at least it should not be. it seems that we have accepted war soon after we became the official religion of the roman state. when the christian faith became "the faith" we started to gain power, and that power corrupted the teachings of christ to fit the needs of man gaining power. war is wrong, no matter how you define it, no matter how you justify it, no matter what you use as logic to defend it - all war is wrong. the idea that anyone would take the life of another seems so far beyond my reasoning, so far beyond my scope of the faith that it blinds me to ever seeing a valid point for war.
what good would come from killing? taking the life of another will not solve anything, it just keeps the cycle of hate running wild. my stomach turns when i hear of people being killed just because they were in the area - but the part that burns my spirit even more, is is that those who claim to follow christ writing off this killing as "the cost of war." instead of speaking out against the killing, they sit back and give excuses for the killing, they strive to "explain" it as just something that happens - well, i am disgusted and i refuse to say nothing. pastors fear speaking out because they do not desire to offend those in their congregations that have fought in wars - well, i do not fear such actions - war is wrong, taking a human life is wrong - christ's teaching to us is to live in love and forgiveness - learn it and live it.
voiced by john o'keefe on 10.12.04
i was speaking with a pastor from a southern baptist church the other day about some of the things i do not care for about the modern church, when it hit me that the same thing they push on us about being "confusing," is exactly how they are - they make some of the most confusing statements ever. let me give some examples:
"the priesthood of all believers" - this is so not what they believe, but it is a standard line in many of the "evangelical churches" in our world. they claim that anyone who follows jesus is a "priest." i was speaking with my friend and asked if that meant that anyone in the church could baptize another person, he said "yes, with training." ok, what about weddings? can anyone perform a wedding? he said, "no, that person needs to be ordained as an elder." ok, what about serving communion, can anyone serve communion? "no, that requires the person be an elder." ok, what about preaching, can anyone preach from the pulpit? "no, they would need to be approved by a board of elders" - so i said that what they believed was in a "limited priesthood of some believers." he did not take too kindly to what i was suggesting :)
"the church is open to all people" - this one is my fav, because it is so not what they say. what most churches in american mean is that the church is open to most people who are saved first. when i asked my friend about this, he said that the church was for those who were saved. he said that if you were not saved, you could not be part of "the church." he explained that what they mean is that anyone who is saved is welcomed into the church - so, they say one thing and mean another?
i am sure there are many others, but these are the two we hit on in our conversation.
voiced by john o'keefe on 19.11.04
can someone explain to me war? why is it needed, and what value does it have? no war in history has every produced peace; let me repeat that for those who might have missed it, no war has ever produced peace. when we look at war stats we are quick to say how many "soldiers" died, but slow to explain the civilian population that dies - in many cases the numbers of innocent civilians that die outnumber the soldiers 100 to 1 - for every soldier that dies, over 100 non-military people are killed; most of them are old men, women of all ages and children - how is that good? how is wiping out a village a good thing? how is taking the life of people who are "just there" a good and right thing?
i was recently speaking with a person who thinks that those numbers and the fact that innocent die are "acceptable." as he said, "if they would not be in the battle field they would not be killed. sometimes during a war the innocent die." WHAT? that just does not connect with me. the battle field is their home, their streets, their neighborhoods. how can "they" move? how can "they" not be in the middle of the battle, when the battle is in their homes?
i think it is easy for us to watch the war on tv and play monday morning quaterback. we then head over to starbucks for a mocha and to talk about how good we are doing, or how bad things are going. but if the war was outside our homes, and there was no starbucks to go too would we have a different point of view? as christians, i believe we must be a voice for peace, for grace, for love. we must be a voice that stand against war, for any reason, and speak for peace. i know that to stand at the pulpit in an american church and say that war is wrong, is seen as "anit-american." but that is ok, we are suppose to be "anti-american" because we are to be for christ and if we are for christ, we stand for peace, love, grace and forgiveness. i am not interested in politics, and i have no interest in the "american christian" church - my walk is with christ, with peace and with love - i operate under peace, and i stand for forgiveness.
i still have not found one scripture in the new testament that supports war, nor one word of jesus that tells us to do violence on another, nor one teaching of the early church that allowed for the taking of human life. if we are to truly see the early church as a role model of our faith, then we should be willing to die for our faith, but not kill for it - it has hurt my heart to know that many of the "christian" leaders claim this to be some kind of "holy war." i believe, and others will disagree, that a christian will not take another life - but would willing go to the lions to stand firm on the teachings of love, grace, peace and forgiveness.
voiced by john o'keefe on 13.11.04
i remember back a few years ago living, for a short time, in vermont. one day while i was out for a drive i stopped to ask for directions. i was looking to go from huntington to burlington. i pulled up to a few elderly gentlemen sitting at the front of the general store (it was norman rockwell for sure). i said, "how do i get to burlington from here?"
and then one of them said, "well, from hear you need to go back to the old oak, the one hit by lightenin' in '55 right before old man wilson died. when you see that old oak - remember the lightenin', not the one that was burnt by the warren twin boys in '63 cause that will bring you out by the wilson farm and that's going the wrong way. once you get to the old oak (lightenin') go just past it about 500 feet then turn right. there is a large stone on the corner so it will be easy to know. you want to go past the reilly farm, and past the mill's milking barn and then turn left. drive far, and keep to the right, soon you will hit the abbot's place and you will need to turn right there. from their, i am not sure but maybe one of the others will know."
just then, three others joined in to correct the old man and give me "better" directions. as i was getting more and more confused one of the kids in the general store came out with a map. on the map was a circle that said "you are here" and a circle around burlington with a note that said "this is where you want to go" - i thank the old guys and went inside. i thanked the young lady behind the counter and asked her how she knew. she told me she over heard the men talking and knew that they got five other people lost in the past three months. she said, "it's easier to give you a map then it is to try to figure out directions from guys who can't remember what they had for breakfast this morning."
where are we heading as an emerging church? where are wee seeking "directions?" will we simply be a modern church with better music, better coffee, younger people and candles? will we be a community that truly looks deep into the doctrine we proclaim or will we proclaim them without giving them a second thought? will we "stroke" the company line and strive to force feed doctrines that scripture can not support? will we stand on traditions and claim they are doctrine? will we use the modern line that "it's God's plan" when we come upon things we can not explain?
it seems to me, in my travels and in my conversations, that many "emerging" communities are not emerging from anything - they are entrenched in modern theology, modern structure, modern vision and modern purpose and this could be because they are being planted by denominations. as emerging people we need to look modernism in the eye, not shake from it, and answer the questions head on - we are not to "repackage" bad theology in cool words to "sell" it to an emerging people - let us be honest, open and direct in our desires to truly look deep into the heart of God. when we do this, we will seek our way and learn to read the map God gives us to help us on our walk - but if all we get are directions, we will get no place but lost.
voiced by john o'keefe on 6.11.04
well, i just voted. i'm not sure it really matters who i voted for, but i did it anyway. i noticed that in sacramento the democrats and the green party were listed above the republicans - i wonder if there would be screaming if it was reversed? well, i guess that does not matter - i don't live in florida, ohio or any of the other important states - i live in california - where it is assumed what our politics are, the parties think they have the "in" and people vote because they believe their voices can be heard - go figure :)
voiced by john o'keefe on 2.11.04
I have to admit, I am a total visual person, I think in picture. Image, imagination, visual, pictures are the language I speak best. For me, thinking in picture seems more natural, freer and less reactivate; I am able to connect with the world around me in image and imagination. I love sitting in the park, or mall, and watching the people; heck, I love sitting in any crowded setting and watching people. When I watch people I see so many different stories, so many different truths, and so many different realities. I love watching people, getting a “visual” of whom they may be, and when we meet to see if my “picture” meets the reality. I have often wondered why I think so clearly in picture, and in dimensions; I see things others miss, and even when I view a 2D picture, I can see it in 3D (neck, sometimes I think I am seeing things in 6D). It was hard figuring out that mess because I am dyslexic. For me, seeing something is far more important the hearing something... [more]
voiced by john o'keefe on 15.10.04
i am toying with the idea of getting rid of the "dating, marriage and parenting" resouces and adding a "social action" recources section to ginkworld.
while i will be adding the social action section, that's a given - the "toying" part come with the "getting rid" part - does it need to be a "either/or" and can it be a "both/and?" one of the things i can do is combine the "dating,marriage and parenting" sections into a "life cycle" section - humm, that might work - let me know what you think - i know, it's not earth moving, but hey it's something to blog about.
voiced by john o'keefe on 14.10.04
i got to thinking about why we seem to do what we do; why do we strive to live in a world that hates? why do we strive to "fix" a church unwilling to accept an open hand? why strive to have a deeper walk, when most modern christians would rather run? why strive to reach past who we are, and into the lives of others? why? why care? why listen? why be open? why do we strive to express an open and honest heart, only to be slapped down by those in the church that demand perfection? it seems silly that we would even try. then i am drawn to the words of agent smith and the response of neo:
Agent Smith: The purpose of life Mr. Anderson is death. . .So why, Mr. Anderson? Why do you do it? Why get up? Why keep fighting? Do you believe you're fighting for something? For more that your survival? Can you tell me what it is? Do you even know? Is it freedom? Or truth? Perhaps peace? Yes? No? Could it be for love? Illusions, Mr. Anderson. Vagaries of perception. The temporary constructs of a feeble human intellect trying desperately to justify an existence that is without meaning or purpose. And all of them as artificial as the Matrix itself, although only a human mind could invent something as insipid as love. You must be able to see it, Mr. Anderson. You must know it by now. You can't win. It's pointless to keep fighting. Why, Mr. Anderson? Why? Why do you persist?
Neo: Because I choose to
when i think of the why, i think of the response of neo - because i choose to. faith is an open and honest expression of self and a choice. one chooses to be a follower of christ, one chooses to help, one chooses to love - it is not a "magic" tradition, but one of choice. i choose to love, to help, to care, to express - and others can either choose not to accept my choices, and they have that right. what i have found most interesting in my faith walk is that many claim to choose, but few have taken the steps to truly choose.
when we think of our faith walk, we need to think in terms of choices - we can either choose to be as christ, or we can choose to be as the word - or, we can choose to be as the world desires christ to be. why? because i choose to.
voiced by john o'keefe on 9.10.04
it's a focus day for christian churches
remember, nearly 1 billion people use the web; the internet is changing the world and the way we think; God is using the Web to change lives - so you can be part of that change :)
"internet evangelism day" is here to tell you the story of, what God is doing; outreach strategies that work online; how you, your church or Christian group can use the web for outreach; how you can plan an internet evangelism focus day for your church or group.
mark the date in your palm 04.24.2005
here is a link
voiced by john o'keefe on 9.10.04
i never knew it, but it seems like the guinness world record people think war and terrist actions are "records to be broke" - have we gotten this bad in life?
the following are listed in the guinness world records:
Most Individuals Killed In A Terrorist Act
Most Costly War
Largest Death Toll From Chemical Weapons Attack
just to name a few - the sad thing is, there are people looking to break these records.
voiced by john o'keefe on 8.10.04
i am never sure who reads this stuff, though i do get a great many people telling me they do when i am "out and about." i hope, if only for this one time, i get a ton of people visiting, and reading - the reason? corporate greed, and consumer blindness -
target has disallowed the salvation army from collecting money in the front of their stores this christmas; and every christmas after this. one women saud that she was pleased that target took such action because, as she put it, "i don't want to be reminded, if i want to give i will give when i do not feel i have to" - well, sorry if a homless person ringing a bell causes you a bit of shopping worries - as you drive your suv, to your home and tuck your kids in to sleep - think of where they are sleeping!
target says that they are disallowing the army because others are organizations are asking to raise money in the same way. it seems to me that the supermarket centers are the new public squares of our days. it is the place where people gather, to shop, talk, eat, visit and "hang-out." allowing target to stop the army from asking for us to help the poor and needy is wrong - i have an idea, let's shop at local stores this year and not at the big chains - sure, it might cost us a bit more, but we keep the dollars local and who knows, there might even be a person standing in the front of the store asking for change so that the army can reachout and help s person in need.
let target know how you feel by clicking and filling in their complaint form - we need voices to make a difference - if you agree, let them know - if you think it's wrong, let them know - either way, voice your voice
voiced by john o'keefe on 7.10.04
“It’s the end of the world as we know it,
and I feel fine.”
Whether we like it or not we have moved from “Ozzie to Ozzy;” we have moved from the Nelsons to the Osbournes; from Harriet to Sharon, from Ricky to Kelly. We have moved from the modern to the postmodern/emerging; from the linier/absolute to the non-linier/subjective; from science/evidence to spirit/feelings; from intellect/truth to experience/real; from order/dictated to chaos/reality. You need to keep in mind that it is not that we are in the process of a shift; we have shifted; the changes are not coming, they are here, now, today. Because of this shift, it stands to reason that what worked in the 20C just won’t work in the 21C. Why you ask? The answer is simple, we think differently, we act differently, and we view the world differently, mainly because we are different. In a postmodern/emerging conversation we process information much differently, and because of that we respond to situations differently. This is because in much of our lives we have a different starting point; this not right or wrong, good or bad, it simply is. Please keep in mind that we are not “anti-modern” as some claim; it is that we are just not modern. So, it is not that we are “against,” we are just “not.” It truly does not matter what you call this shift in thinking, postmodern, emerging, hyper-modern, or anything else – the reality is a shift happened, and now as a church we need to learn to minister, outreach and “lead” in it.
Some could spend years telling us that this view is wrong, but it will fall upon deaf ears; we desire conversation, not dictation; do not give us directions, give us a map and let us plan the route we need to take. The heart, mind and soul of a postmodern/emerging person are just different, very different from that of a modern person. To reach us for Christ, you need to know the operating system postmodern/emerging people operate under. Keep in mind, we are emerging from the cocoon of the modern world to explore this new postmodern world with wings; we have become “the butterfly effect.”
voiced by john o'keefe on 1.10.04
funny, people try hard to "capture" the 18-24 vote, yet they have no idea how to do it - what i have found is that most people who vote the first time become so upset with the fact that the person lied that they never vote again; or it takes a long time to gain some kind of trust to vote again. i love it when modern people try to figure out why the postmodern/emerging person is so skeptical - could be because they made us this way :)
this time around is no different. i am not going to give you the "your vote counts" line because i believe it does, but that is my voice in this mess :) and i am not going to tell you that any of the people running are telling the truth, because i am a realist with life experience and i can assure you that in my past experiences they are not. so, what do we do? can we "vote for the lesser of two evils?" knowing that either way, you get what you vote for.
i know for me, when i do not like the candidates i wrote in a person i liked, but i am not sure all states allow you to write in a cadidate. the dems and the reps will tell you a vote for a third party is a waiste of a vote, but let me tell you this - not voting is a waiste of a vote, voting for who you believe is the right person for the position is never a waiste of a vote - and any dem or rep that says it is is not being truthful and simply wants you to vote their way - don't fall for that line of crap. vote, and vote your mind - not the mind of others.
over the past few weeks we have seen the voice of the news people and where they stand - giving half the story (cbs) and even out right lying (cbs) - and then expecting people to look past the lies and some how find the lost truth.
i will never tell you who to vote for, and i will never tell you who i voted for - and i will never get mad with the outcome of an election - but i will tell you to vote. but vote for the person you feel in your heart is the right person, not what ads tell you, tv news people tell you (except for the guys from the "daily show") - vote as you desire, for who you desire -
voiced by john o'keefe on 30.9.04
i was going to write a short blog on how stupid jimmy swaggart is - but then i just figured, consider the source.
while i am sure i am not the first to say this, but here goes - i am sorry, mr swaggart does not speak for us, or for God in this (or any) matter. forgive the ignornace, and know that our God is a God of love, grace, hope, joy, trust, and openness - and not the "god" jimmy seems to know.
voiced by john o'keefe on 23.9.04
it almost seemed normal - but then again, what is normal? i think i have been confused as to the nature of it all, and yet i am constantly reminded that it is driven by nature. what seemed "proactive" turned out to be reactive, and even distructive in a "growth kind of way." nothing is right, and nothing is wrong; nothing is good, and nothing is bad; nothing is right and nothing is left; nothing is black and nothing is white - welcome to my world :)
voiced by john o'keefe on 17.9.04
it is not secret, i am pro-peace.
i believe all war, no matter the reason is against the teachings of christ. i will stand on my faith and i will be willing to die for it, i am just very unwilling to kill for it. as we approach the 3rd anniversary of 9/11 i see more and more people claiming to be for peace, but in reality they simply are doing it for politics, and that is a place i can not go -
living very close to the capitol of california i was asked if i wanted to partake in the rally on the capitol steps in support of peace. when i started to ask deeper questions i got answers i was not happy with - it seems that the "rally for peace" was more "anti-war" then "pro-peace" - let me explain how i see the difference -
anti-war people seem to be a group that is more against the war because of politics, then because it is wrong to kill another human. they (mostly this group called "moving on") seem to be more against the political system, then in support of any kind of peace.
pro-peace people are people who stand against all wars, no matter who starts it, why it started or even if it seems to have a "good" end in store. i believe that no good can come of the taking of a human life.
there are those who disagree with me and stand firm on the fact that the war can be a "right and just" thing - and when i mention that i am pro-peace, they are quick to ask "then what do we do with the scripture in the old testament that speaks of war, and of just war and of going to war to protect the weak" - i say we simply ignore it - after all, it is not the first time we would ignore scripture.
what do you do with the scripture that allows the killing of infants?
what do you do with the scripture that seems to support beating a child?
what do you do with the scripture that supports the separation of the races?
what do you do with the scripture that allows for slavery?
what do you do with the scripture that supports being married and having girlfriends?
you see, we are willing to ignore some scripture because we just don't see that as a christian reality - it would be unheard of to teach that whites and blacks should not marry - it would be seen as not very christian to support slavery - it would be seen as very unchristian to think in terms of being married and having girlfriends on the side - even thought an old testament argument can be made for the killing of children, racial separation, slavery and even the "christian" understanding of infidelity. we have said that the new covenant of christ changed those and opened out heart - yet, for whatever reason, we hold on to the doctrines of war and the inhuman, unchristian idea that violence solves any issues -
just my opinion
voiced by john o'keefe on 10.9.04
I have always like the idea of p2p network (peer to peer or person to person) in a community of faith. A p2p relationship in a community of faith speaks of a decentralizing control and allows for a free flow of ideas and creativity in the structure to flow from person to person. It creates a paradigm shift in the modern/traditional evolution of the church structure from a unidirectional (television-like medium) into a bi-directional (computer-like medium), collaborative relational structure – it “removes” the idea that all information flows from one person (a pastor) to all others in the connection.
Now, I will admit that it scares the heck out of those who live in, or understand, a more modern/traditional view or the church structure and the way modern/traditional relationships are created. P2p is a “communications model” a “relationship model” where each “peer” (person) has the same capabilities and each person has equal access to the basic structure; no one person is more important then another. Older modern/traditional models of a church structure/relationships are more in tune with a client/server relationship (a master/slave, pastor/pastored, boss/employee relationship structure model) were one person dictates the actions of others, and “leadership” is found in a central location (mainframe).
The modern/traditional model of structure and relationships is less natural and more cultural in its development; being based on a hieratical structure and military model. The modern/traditional structure does not allow for, nor can it encourage, a free flow of information, ideas, relationships and connections. In all cases, giving each person in the relationship the capability to connect in open, honest and transparent ways starts a p2p structure. In a community of faith a p2p structure is a type of free flowing structure that allows people, or a group of people with the same interests, to connect with each other without central approval; ministries form, deform and reform based on the needs perceived by the people in the structure and not by the central “leaderships” desire to create and develop a program. This allows for direct develop in structure and relationship outside of the modern/traditional models of structure within the community of faith. The advantages of using p2p structure, as a way for people to share lives without the energy involved in maintaining a centralized mandated structure, is that people connect with people and lives are shared, information given and bonds are developed. Let me share some differences between the modern/traditional structure in the church and the way p2p is redesigning then in a postmodern community of faith.
Traditional vs. P2P
Traditional church structure tends to have a static, standalone and self-contained in structure. Everything is centralized and controlled by a body of “leaders” who oversee all aspects of the church. This creates a hierarchy where a select few govern and allow others into that process only upon approval of the other “leaders.” For example, in most modern/traditional churches a “working class guy” would never be selected as a Board Member. Not because they do not have the ability, but because they do not have the pedigree. So, with few exceptions, most Boards are made up of a rotating selection of a certain group of people, usually those who hold executive positions, own their won business, or have an independent source of income. Because of this, the “Leadership” becomes self-serving and self-centered. While in a p2p structure a more dynamic relationship is encouraged. In fact, without that dynamic component a true p2p can never happen. It is networked and people based. It is designed more for service then for application.
Traditional churches tend to let information flow in one direction, from the top down. “Leaders” make the decisions and pass that information on to those “under their control.” While in a p2p relationship communication happens in two directions; because of its connective nature a p2p relationship allows information to flow equally in both directions. This relationship empowers everyone equally. A more traditional minded church finds this relationship unacceptable, because they believe that certain people “MUST” be a boss, and others must follow that boss’s directions. P2p assumes that knowledge flows in both directions and that all people have value and have information worth sharing. The ability to share knowledge is not based on traditional education, position in the community, income, age or anything else. It is assumed that all people have information that can be useful to others in the p2p structure. Which brings us to the next point.
Traditional churches tend to see the role of some as better then others. The “Leadership” see’ themselves as “better” then the others. They believe that the buck stops with them, and that they have the ear of God in all they do. They do not see those outside the leadership circle as anything but “information pods.” Even in a congregational church setting, “Leaders” believe they are to gather information from a select group of members and then to take that information and create a “plan” based on their understanding of the people. While in a p2p all people are seen as completely equal. It is believed that all ideas are equal, and that while the process seems chaotic it is not 100% chaos, ideas come out and the best will naturally float to the top. It is amazing, but given the power of the Holy Spirit (and trusting in that power) people find common ground, and God’s work gets done.
Traditional churches view people as consumers, and only consumers. In a p2p structure relationship people are seen as both a consumer and a producer. P2p allows people to be creative and allows that creativity to be seen, they can create. It is not assumed that only a select few can be creative, and have that creativity show – some people can sing, while others draw, write, paint, weld, carve, and more – a p2p relationship allows this creativity to occur and encourages its development. Why not show the creative work of those in the church? Because in a traditional church “singing” and “preaching” are seen as the only valid ways of worshiping God; while in a p2p, any creative art is seen as a way of worshiping God.
Traditional churches tend to create false relationships for long periods of time. P2p allows for short-term relationships based on need. Some relationships can lasts a short time and this relationship can occur among a group or individuals, but it is always based on the fact that each side is equal. In most modern/traditional structures to create a ministry involves a vast amount of approvals; deforming a ministry is virtually impossible. But because a p2p structure is relational it centers on the ability to create and form based on needs.
How to change to a p2p setting:
Change needs to take place in a healthy and supportive environment for a church to move from a modern/traditional structure to a p2p structure. In a modern/traditional church structure model, knowledge flows in one directions, providing a context that lacks any relationships between people. In this directional flow, a p2p is hard to develop because it requires that the top let go of their “perceived power” base and allow for a new way of connecting to form. I believe that there are several characteristics of the modern/traditional church structure that needs to be changed before a p2p relationship structure can develop and work at its fullest potential. While these can be “forced” changed, when it happens spontaneously, that it is transparent and honest, it flows better and allows for a deeper root of the new structure. Here are just a few things I believe the traditional church needs to change before a true p2p can be developed.
Develop a comfortable place for change: all “leaders” need to be on board with the desire to change. A “change environment” must be developed for this change to truly happen. To have a “spontaneous” development of a p2p structure one must develop an atmosphere that allows for change; a fertile ground for the birth of new ideas and creations.
A willingness to truly share: people need to be willing to hook up and develop. P2p is connective, by nature and by definition. The environment must allow for people to hook in and see the connections, and develop other connections themselves. This is the hardest part because it removes a “central” command structure and replaces it with a “connective” self-structure.
Allow the spontaneous to happen: don’t fight change let it happen. Sure, some may “lose power” but the true power in the church belongs to Christ, not man. I am amazed at how many times churches claim to “allow” change only to find they truly do not allow it at all, in any level. Remember, change is not moving from red curtains to blue curtains – change is removing the curtains altogether and not replacing them at all – not even with blinds.
Convert from “control” to “connect:” connections cannot be forced, they simply must happen, and for them to happen control needs to be removed. Some churches like to “place” people into “cell groups” based on zip code, and that is doomed for failure – they should be allowed to freely form and freely develop as the people see fit – not as the “leaders” see fit.
Involve as many people as possible: do not limit the involvement in a p2p structure, encourage people from all over to hook in – even new people. By getting as many people involved as possible in a p2p structure people will feel free to connect and create new connections. This will allow the p2p to develop freely and completely and all the time bringing in new connections and new ideas – encouraging growth and creativity.
Occur among peers (all sides are "equal"): a true p2p structure must start and develop among equals. Meaning that no one person or group in the church is above another person or group – equals means equal. People who think they belong to “one class” of people and cannot connect with “another class” need to review scripture to see their place in the kingdom.
P2p is not the “cure all” for the churches ills. It is a way of thinking in the church that will allow people to connect and grow in Christ. Structure based on connections and not on a military/cultural understanding of leadership is central for the church to reach a new generation, in the communing centuries. If we think we can simply redress the old form and give new names and new titles to “leaders” we truly need to get our heads examined. “A rose is a rose is a rose” Shakespeare wrote; we paraphrase it as “a rose by any other name is still a rose.” Leadership, by any other name is still control.
voiced by john o'keefe on 8.9.04
can anymore tell me what is this thing we want so much, yet refuse to accept? what makes being honest so "right" and so "wrong" at the same time? why does the church demand that we be honest, yet they have a hard time dealing with the honesty they desire? why does the church ask for honesty, and yet condemn the person when they are honest? mostly, i would like to know why the church can not connected honesty with grace and forgiveness, why is the church so hurtful of peoples past?
over time, these questions have burned a deep hole in my spirit; and to be "honest" with you a even deeper disgust for the church and people who claim to be "christian." i have seen churches use the "honesty" card as a way of "cleaning house." i have seen "christians" use the honesty card to "trap" others and treat them as if they were human garbage. i have seen churches use honesty as a weapon against those who are being honest. i have seen churches use honesty to hold people back from positions of leadership - and to be honest, it sicken' me greatly. yet, i know that in my heart i must be honest and open. one "church leader" once told me to "not be so honest" with my history, with my life story. his suggestion was that i "make-up" a story and stand with it, so that i can "get in the door" of some churches as the pastor. but that is just not my style, and if being honest means i am never allowed into the modern evangelical church, so be it. let me share with you on a "more" personal note (being that i am known for being very open and honest this topic is very dear to me) of what i am speaking about.
it is not secret that i am looking for a new position. the church i currently serve as the "pastor of family ministries" is going to a "solo pastor" way of doing ministry - which is cool, and very community building for the people in this church - they truly need that way of doing church - it will help them grow and count on each other. so, while i am leaving, i am prayerful that this ministry will develop into the ministry God desires of it - and i love each and every person. it is also no secret that i was not "raised" in a christian home - and there, in fact, lies the problem for most of the "holier then thou" churches i seem to be directed to :) it seems that they are focused more on my past (one church search team said that even though i was forgiven by God, it still was something they could not get past) then on who i am in today.
here is the problem. when i am asked about my past, i am very willing to share my walk - my pains, my life, my hurts, my blood with those who i believe will be in service with me - i am open, honest and not afraid of past hurts. i see my past life as a way of building my faith, and helping others see that pains do not always destroy, but can be used to rebuild. my thinking has always been that if christ takes me and calls me to ministry, then all others are more then welcome. but i have found that while many churches are proclaiming that they desire an honest and open pastor - they are truly not wanting that to happen at all. they fear the "what-others-will-say-about-them-and-their-church" gossip.
to me, honesty is a great part of the christian faith and a very needed thing in a community of faith - i have been hurt in my life - as a senior pastor i desire to let you know that pain - and in turn, i want to know your pain - if we only share the good stuff, we never build a closeness that is required of us in our faith walk - if my pass mess-ups make you uncomfortable, for whatever reason, good, i am glad. you need to be in that zone - you need to feel uncomfortable - life is uncomfortable - and in that life we need to be honest with each other - but being honest means that we love each other, help each other and walk in the light of christ - then that is what we do. too many churches us past hurts to exclude people, judge people and most of all - cause people to feel the pains even deeper, because they now know that the people who are called to love them don't.
i know that the modern evangelical community uses the "fall of humanity" as an excuse for this, and to be honest, to me, that is a lame excuse. as a follower of christ i have been redeemed by the blood he spilt for me - by his love for me (the same love we are told we must have for each other) and by that blood i have been lifted above and called to be different then "the fallen humanity." as a follower i am told that i am to rid myself of all that is wrong and judgmental - and that i am to walk in the light of christ and to be christ-like in all i do, say and act upon. i am called to be honest, and i am called to hold the honesty of others deep in my spirit - i am not called to judge others for their hurts, i am not called to exclude others because of their hurts - but i am called to welcome them, love them and hold them deep in my arms. if being a pastor in a church means i can never do that, then i desire never to be a pastor in a church. if because i am that, i am excluded from ever talking to a pastor search committee - then i never desire to speak to a pastor search committee. if a person comes to me and expresses pain, and with an honest heart, expresses there sin it is not my place to judge that, extort that, or pass any consequences upon that - it is my place to love them, accept them and hold them in my arms.
if this is something hard for you to understand, may i suggest that you search deep in your spirit, your past and see the pains you have - then try to find a place in your church where you can express those hurts, sins and expressions in an honest way - without being judged by others. if you can not think of such a place in your church community - then you will find that healing is impossible and the pain of life is unforgivable in your church.
voiced by john o'keefe on 30.8.04
what is grace? i mean, i hear churches all the time speak of grace, yet when i see their actions i think, "my god, is that grace? and if it is, i don't want anything to do with it."
when i look up grace in the dictionary i find that it means "favor, good will, kindness, a special dispensation or privilege, mercy or pardon." yet in many churches today it means "judging, pointing fingers, and holding people down." too many churches see grace as something only God gives out, and not something we should give out - but they are so wrong - we live in a world where grace is needed - a world where grace is needed to show that we truly are different from the rest of the world -
the old argument that "we live in a fallen world" and we should not expect the church to be much different from the rest of the world is just so not scriptural - in fact, i find it to be a church cop-out. we are called to be above the world, to love others, to show grace and mercy - and yet as we get closer to 9-11 i find many christians and churches speaking of the war as if it was a holy war and that God was on our side - i wonder where is the grace.
as i speak to pastors all over the usa i hear the cry for "justice" but no cries fro grace - i do not seek justice, i seek grace - because if i am to be judged with justice, i fail and i fall - but i thank God for the grace of christ that lifted me to a new place - a place where i am to love (and it is hard) a place where i am to give (even if i think they are going to buy drugs) and i am to express grace to all - if we call ourselves christians (little christs) let us be that - so that others can see that we truly are different from the world and they can come to christ for love, healing, peace and grace - and that we give the same.
remember that when people are asked "what do you think of jesus" they automatically start speaking about his followers, and not him.
voiced by john o'keefe on 27.8.04
is faith an action? i mean, when we speak of faith we speak in terms of it being a noun. in fact, the dictionary defines faith as a noun., making it a "thing." but interestingly enough, it does also describe it as a "transitive verb." but i think "faith" is a simple verb - and action - to have faith is nothing without action. faith requires we do something, far more then just "believe something" it requires that we move forward in a way that changes lives - our and others. it is easy for us to sit and watch while others "do" - act out their faith in ways that change lives. in james we are informed that faith without action is a dead faith - and for me, i do not desire a dead faith. i see faith as a moving, breathing, living force in our lives that needs, no cries, to be expressed - so, how? how do we move from a dead faith to a living faith? simple, we do -
we build houses, we feed the homeless, we move from the pews into the streets - we step out of the comfort zone and into the un-comfort zone; we do. this weeks blog is not designed to do anything but to get you to think - not of what you do, but of what you do not do - don't read this and say, "we help" - read this and ask, "how can we help more" - not a check, not a contribution of money - but of time, or you, or action, of faith .
voiced by john o'keefe on 13.8.04
In my dreams: We all dream. What we dream of may say something about who we are inside – well, here are some things I dream about – care to share?
I fly – I am more then just “superman” – I fly to other parts of the world and see all that is happening. I fly well above the world and I dive, spin and move as freely as I desire in and out of space.
I help – I use my powers to help the “underdog” and stand-up for the abused and used. Because I have super human powers I help those who are in need of my help – or who the authorities cannot help. I override the system, to be there for those in need.
I stop time – I can stop time and I move in and out of situations with this ability. I need no machine to do it, it is all in my mind and I have total control over the ability.
I am from another world – I am a “police” officer from another world here to help the police catch a killer from my world – and I look like I am from another world; I do not look human.
What does this say about me? Weird? Whacked? Off-tilt? Does it say I am crazy or obsessed with helping people? Does it say that I am trying to escape reality and live in a world I can control? What does it say about you, who strive to make a determination of me from just a few lines?
What do you dream of, and are you willing to share?
voiced by john o'keefe on 6.8.04
what does it mean to be a "missional community of faith?" i hear the word tossed around all the time and in every possible direction; every "church" or gathering is claiming that they are missional, so what's the big deal? it seems to me to be the "new buzz word" that identifies a community of faith as a postmodern/emerging community of faith. but using the word to describe who you are, and actually being it are two very different things. one church i know insisted that it was missional because it supported "missions" in countries of the two-thirds world; it does nothing on a local level and has zero from the church doing anything except writing checks. now, before i go on i need to say this; this is where most people say something like "there is nothing wrong with giving money" - well, i am not going to say that because i believe a great many churches and christians use that as a cop-out to actually being missional. if everyone stopped giving money to organizations, and started to actually do something i think we would be a whole lot better off - i am not looking for people to "fund" a mission trip, i am looking for people to have fun on a mission trip; we are a datebook faith, not a checkbook faith. in my heart of hearts i truly believe we make it easy for people to "write a check" for missions and not move off the pews to actually serve. while, to them, their definition may be valid, to me it is limiting at best. it seems to me that they do not fully catch the possibilities of being a "missional community of faith" and they ignore the nuances of those possibilities.
let me share with you what i think it means to be "missional;" a missional community of faith is a living breathing transparent community of faith willing to get messy while reach out to, and bringing in, those outside the current community. now, what i would like to do is explore some of the nuances of that "definition" and go a bit deeper.
a missional community of faith is messy, and is even willing to get messier. if a community of faith is truly open to the needs of others it is going to get dirty in the process - if you are reach out out the wounded, the hurt, the cut, the bleeding you will get messy. i have likened it to an emergency room; where people are running around striving to help others reach the place where God wants them to be.
seeing real people, with real issues, lead by real people is breathtaking and life-giving. to see that others are real and have over come their hurts is refreshing for those who are hurting. if real life is hidden from those seeking healing, they will not stay and be connected. to truly be transparent one must be willing to be messy, it's all connected. because without that willingness one can never truly be open and real with others.
it's alive (changing)
all things change. let me say this again so that you get the idea, all things change. it just depends on certain factor how one changes. you see, if you are dead the change is called "decay" but if you are alive the change is called "growth." the idea is not that "nothing changes" but to what extent are you willing to change? to be alive means growth, a "living breathing" community if faith is essential to reaching out and being a missional community of faith.
community (united) of faith (in Christ)
community is best formed in christ. if we see christ as the center, the core and as a viable part of our dna we are ready and willing to move past the self, and to the hearts of others. when we are in christ, we have a desire of the heart to be in service - we want to help, we want to care, we want to serve.
welcoming and accepting (reaching out to others and bringing them in)
too many churches today are "welcoming and excluding." i think many churches are groupings of "clicks." small groups of people who seem friendly, and welcoming but in actuality are not welcoming. a missional community is willing to go beyond themselves and accept those God is moving into their path. it is willing to truly reach out and bring in the hurting.
i think if a community is truly missional, they know it. i think those that use the word as a "cool" word that makes them seem "cooler" are wrong. to truly be missions be ready to welcome the hurting, to be who you are, to be alive in faith and united in christ. know that what God wants from us is to be off butts, and on the streets.
voiced by john o'keefe on 30.7.04
How do you define family? How does your church define family? Does the way church define family match the way you define family? Does the way the church defines family match the expression of family in your life? In the 21st century, the idea of family has expanded well beyond the traditional view, and you would think churches would understand that simply reality. The old ideas, based on 1950’s culture of “The Nelsons” do not work. If the old ideas of family do anything, they exclude and belittle; and to a world rich and diverse in culture and life it is not healthy to exclude and belittle family structure. Most churches today still see “family” as “a mom, a dad and kids.” I recently received an email from a friend, who knew I was interested in this subject, about a church that considers itself to be a rather “cutting edge church” and yet defines “family” as “mom, dad and kids” – recently The River Church Community (http://www.the-river.org) was looking for a “Family Ministries Pastor” and here is how they described the “requirements of the position”
“Family ministries at the River consists of the following ministries: marriage, parenting, family life, Kids Community, and student ministries. The ideal candidate will be a wife or husband of a healthy 15+ year marriage with children, at least one in their teen years. He/she should also possess both experience in and a passion for developing healthy Biblically based marriages and families.” (This ad is copied from “the exchange at Willow Creek – “other pastor” section)
In and of itself, The River can have it’s pastors meet what ever requirements they desire – and in reality they need not explain that decision to anyone – it is their call – but the problem I have is not so much with The River, but with modern evangelical churches (The River is a modern evangelical church) in general when it comes to defining family they leave out most of the people in the community.
While I do not desire to single-out The River, I will use them as an example. But The River is not alone; we need to keep in mind that with the exception of very few, most modern churches see family in the same way and they exclude any structure that is “outside” the traditional “nuclear family.” While every church has the right to view “family” as they see fit, we need to keep in mind to exclude some is not Christian and can cause one of two problems. Either they do not care about those who do not meet the modern evangelical definition of “a biblical family” or they do not understand how to minister to “other family types” so they are being exclusive. Either way they are causing the deepest hurt the church can bring upon another person; telling them that their family structure is not valid, and not biblical and, in turn, that they are not wanted.
While most modern churches would say, “we welcome all kinds of people here” they need to realize that their actions do not meet with their words. To say, “All kinds of families are welcome at our church” and yet, no one in a leadership role is “out side” what the traditional church defines as a “biblical family” shows that words and actions do not match. It shows that the church is working with antiquated theology and has no understanding of how the culture is forming around them. As with The River, requiring that the staff person who over sees what they define as “family ministries” meet a certain set of standards is not in anyway, shape or form “biblical” is showing that they define “family” in one certain way. It is one thing to say, “we support women leadership” but if you have no women leaders, they are empty words; it is one thing to say, “we support all family structures” but if you do not have a single parent, a blended family, a foster family or other structure of family in leadership you again are speaking empty words.
I tend to think that the modern church is so use to looking inside on itself for the “feel good reality” that it forgets to look outside at those who are wanting to come in, but do not feel welcomed. They limit the idea of family and place it into a very modern, out dated box – if a single parent desires to attend a “family ministry” function on “Raising Your Teenager,” they might be “welcomed” but not encouraged. They would get the feeling that the “singles ministry” would be the best place for them – and in reality, in many churches the singles ministry is designed to simply be a place where you find your mate. Because I believe truth is in the narrative, let me share with you a little story:
Let me share with you a story:
Kelly was a young woman (actually, it could be said that she was more like a young girl) who, through no fault of her own, found herself pregnant, poor, scared and hurting. But she knew she had faith. When all else failed, she had her faith and she knew God did not want her to end the life that was growing inside her. Her prayer was that the child be born healthy and that life would be good for her child. Over time, the child was born; and like many of lower economic status, soon another was born, and another, and another – soon her house filled with screaming kids and messy cloths, but there was always love. They might not have had the best food, the latest fashions, the latest in technologies, or the fastest transportation they did have a deep abiding love for each other.
Kelly saw hard time, the “father” of her fist child was not the father of her other children. Like so many other stories in this world, no one knows what happened to the father of the babies – some say he died, some say he left, other said he never was – but thought it all, Kelly had her faith. The pains of life did draw on her soul, and to make matters worse, her eldest son did not always get along with his brothers and sisters. It seems, he grew to be a non-conformist and a rebel.
Kelly did what it took to raise her children with a solid home life – she saw herself and her children as a solid family, filled with love, hope and faith. She did all she could to keep her children in the faith. She took them to church, read scriptures to them, encouraged them to ask questions and explore the deeper side of their walk with God. Some of the kids followed, some did not; some grew in faith, some did not – but she loved them all, each and everyone.
It is a hard fact, but in today’s modern evangelical churches Kelly and her kids are not seen as a “nuclear family” – and at best, if she married again, they would be seem as a “blended family.” People would speak behind her back and question her motives and her abilities. But you see, Kelly cannot marry again – Kelly is long dead; her children are long dead – and one of them died so that we could live. You see Kelly is Mary.
Living in the “post-nuclear” age
In a postmodern reality “family” extends far beyond the limited idea of “mom, dad and the kids” – even when modern evangelicals claim that “other family” designs are “all right” they always “qualify that with the “but God’s plan is still mom, dad and the kids” – as to say, “yes, all are family – but then there is a ‘better’ family idea, and we have it.” The problem with that way of thinking is that it does not truly define family. In a postmodern world “family” is so much more then just the limited nuclear family structure.
In a “traditional” reality, the “family” (“the nuclear family”) is defined as the basic unit in society consisting of two parents (one male and one female) rearing their own children. But today, the seems so limited when we have single moms, single dads, grandparents raising grandchildren, aunts and uncles, friends, foster children, adoptive homes, group homes, and it seems the list is endless. It is not that anyone of these is right or wrong; it is that they simply are – and as the church we must learn to accept that, minister to them, love them and learn to grow with them. He center of a “postmodern family” is love – and it can, and often does, include friends, blood relatives and more. In a postmodern/emerging church if we simply follow the lead of the modern church and reject those who are different, those we think we cannot reach, we are missing a great wave God is sending our way. Our role is not to judge the style structure of a family, but to love, honor and help in anyway possible the family structure that has formed. The idea of family in a postmodern/emerging conversation needs to go well beyond “blood” to the realization that water is thinker then blood – as Christians we are a family, adopted and approved by God. We should extend that fellowship to others, we should go beyond our gates and love those who are “hard” to love – to see others as family is to extend the nuclear family to the point of being “post-nuclear.”
Groupings, blood, lininage, last names, fathers, mothers, or any other thing we can limit our love by does not define family. In a post-nuclear world, family is as Christ defined it in Matthew.
While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, "Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”
He replied to him, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" Pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." (Matthew 12:46-50
Family, or the “perfect biblical family” is so much deeper then we can think – it is all who follow Christ, and his teachings. In fact, we should accept any of various social units differing from the “traditional family unit” as equivalent a “biblical family.” One thing is very clear; Christ saw the role of the family as very different from the rather narrow perception we have of it today - and I believe we still have much to learn.
This churches definition of “family” did not include single parents, divorced parents, blended families or adoptive families. So the question is this, “how do you define family?” Even to a larger extent, how should we as a church define family?
voiced by john o'keefe on 22.7.04
I recently read an article by John MacArthur (JM) on “CrossWalk.com.” Now, as you can guess I never read this site, but for some reason I got connected to it while surfing. The article was entitled “Should Fallen Pastors Be Restored?” In asking the question, JM (I was going to use "JM", because I know so many Johns) assumes that the answer is no, or that the question is a rhetorical question with an obvious answer, that is "his answer." According to JM, there is no amount of forgiveness, grace or love that can cover the “Gross sin” (his words, and not scriptural I might add) committed by some Pastors, “There are some sins that irreparably shatter a man's reputation and disqualify him from a ministry of leadership forever.” For JM those “some sins” are never explored, explained or revealed – with the exception of “sexual sin.” Personally, I think other “sins” ruin a persons reputation – lying, gossiping, money hording, making war, fighting, negativity, seeking revenge, my list is bigger then his – but my list is also forgivable. In his argument, JM makes several theological mistakes, the first of which is a compete misunderstanding of the idea and wondrous gift from God of forgiveness.
JM is working under a massive misconnection concerning the gift of forgiveness and sin – for him, and most in his camp, forgiveness is given in degrees dependant upon the level of sin one commits; it is neither free, abounding or abundant and in some cases can never be enough for "true" frogiveness. For most conservative the sin/forgiveness paradox works one of two ways:
First, It seems that sin/forgiveness work in a “opposite” relationship with each other, “The greater the sin, the lesser the forgiveness.” just for this example i need to “grade” sin on a scale 1-100 (100 bring as JM calls a "Gross sin) and forgiveness is graded on an inverse scale of 100-1 (1 being the level of forgiveness given for a "Gross sin") then the relationship between sin and forgiveness is "opposite" – if you sin at 75, your forgiveness can only be 25 – so you are still a 50 sinner. in addition to the "simple scale" there is no "collective" of forgiveness, only of sin, so you can never "truely" be forgiven.
Second, Forgiveness is limited and cannot cover all sins. No matter the sin, forgiveness is, let's say, only a 50. if you sin over a 50, you can never be fully forgiven. If a person gossips (25), little sin/covered – if a person lies (45), medium sin/still covered – if a person has sex (100), huge ("Gross sin") sin/never enough forgiveness.
Either way, forgiveness is limited (and limites the power of God to work in our lives) and in direct relationship to the sin committed. For JM, forgiveness is based on the cultural morals he accepts or rejects based on American history, or his 21C historical view of Scriptures. He defines both of them on the basis of being a “Conservative Christian[s]” and explains that they have the keys to all “pure” doctrine and “pure” morals. As JM explains it, “Conservative Christians have for most of the previous century focused on the battle for doctrinal purity. And that is good. But we are losing the battle for moral purity.” But the funny this is this, the “purity” of doctrine that they speak of is not very pure, because it is filled with traditions, personal views, historical mishaps and even some desires for church “leaders” to be in control. For example his understanding of forgiveness completely misses the heart of forgiveness found in God through Christ and Scriptures.
In Matthew (6:13-15) Jesus himself tells us that if we do not forgive, we will not be forgiven – so, our forgiveness is conditional – the condition placed on it by Christ is that we must forgive others. This is not an option, it is a must – Christ said it, i believe it, so i live it. But JM sees this idea of forgiveness as a fruitless act that is not “scriptural” or sound. Another aspect of forgiveness that JM forgets about is the one Paul shares with us, over and over again and is echoed in his second letter to the Corinthians (2:5-11) that we are to forgive, love, support, comfort and embrace the fallen – not judge and shun them. In that, a main part of forgiveness that JM seems to reject, or ignore, is that to truly forgive one must also forget. In his letter to the Hebrews (8:12) Paul echoes the words of the Prophet Jeremiah (31:31-34) when he say that once we are forgiven our sins are forgotten, “remembered no more.” Paul also explains that once we are forgiven we can not be punished (Hebrews 10:18) – keep in mind, if you punish a person for a sin, then you have never truly forgiven them – God forgive us, and forgets our sins and does not punish us – why does JM think he is above God in demanding a punishment be extracted? When JM calls us to be “Christ-like” does he forget that we to follow that command – to forgive and forget?
For JM, forgiveness is seen as a hard gift to obtain; it seems to me that JM places forgiveness in the realm of something one needs to earn. In that he views leadership as something higher then forgiveness, “We must recognize that leadership in the church cannot be regarded lightly.” The problem with JM’s direction is that it forces leadership above forgiveness and places “leaders” (in a very modern reality) outside of the forgiveness God offers all people – When Aaron fell, did God remove him from the priesthood? When Moses fell, did God reject him and say he could no longer lead his people? When Peter fell, was he informed that the “ordination committee” was not going to allow him to ever lead a church? When David fell, was he removed by God from his position as King of Israel and told he could never lead his people? When Samson fell, God lifted him up to a great end; God did not tell Samson he could never be great again.
While JM may say that the person is forgiven in God's eyes, they can never be forgiven in the eyes of the church - But I am under the assumption that God is the one in control, not the church and never JM - so, if God says "forgive and forget" who are we to say "no?" If God express love, forgiveness and grace in one way, who are we to change thgat? JM's limited understanding (a very evangelical/conservative/fundamental view of forgiveness) is not scriptural, and is limited at best (it seems that it is based more on the American justice system then on God grace) his view of sin must be just as twisted.
The poor understanding of sin:
In JM’s view, once a “Gross sin” is committed it cannot be forgiven, forgotten and it completely removes anyone from leadership of the church, “But that does not include restoring the mantle of leadership to a man who has disqualified himself and forfeited the right to lead. Doing so is unbiblical and lowers the standard God has set.” But what I have found interesting in his entire article is that for him the “gross sins” are all sexual in nature (evangelicals/conservatives/funamentals seem to have a hard time with sex - everything they see is sexual) – which limits God’s power in our lives to exclude “sexual sin.” His logic, and by the way it is not God’s logic at all, is that if a man falls he is not “pure” anymore. The interesting thing about that is, that is not what God’s word teaches. In John’s first letter he explains that when we are forgiven, our sins are forgiven and forgotten and we are “made pure and righteous before God.” But in JM's mind, we might be able to stand before God pure and righteous but we can never satnd before the church that way.
JM’s assumptions mean if we did no sin, we would be pure – and if that is the case, sin is what we do – so, if we stop doing it we do not sin – so, all we need do is not “sin” and we are pure – so, Christ died for no reason, because all I have to do is not do a “sin act” and all is cool – which is very poor theology, and it is not scriptural at all – sin is not what we do, it is who we are. That is why we must seek forgiveness and walk in grace. All have sinned, all fall short of the glory of God and all need to be forgiving of sin – and we need it all the time, because we sin all the time. I remember once talking with a very conservative/fundamentalist pastor who had the same mindset as JM. I mentioned that even thinking of another women has the same effect as an act of adultery – to which he answered, “That is not true. God would never be that unfair. I can think about it, I just can’t do it” – funny, Jesus teaches just the opposite in Matthew. Even thinking of it is an equal sin in God’s eyes and if we say we have never even thought of it, we are lying to ourselves, others and God, so forgiveness and forgetting is so very important
The idea that sin is “graded” is not very theologically sound. When JM writes, “What about forgiveness? Shouldn't we be eager to restore our fallen brethren? To fellowship, yes. But not to leadership. It is not an act of love to return a disqualified man to public ministry; it is an act of disobedience” he forgets the relationship between sin, forgiveness, forgetting and grace and he places upon others an unfair view of how sin is seen thought the eyes of God. He places a double standard that is not found in any of the scripture he uses to “make his point” (even though he does misuse Paul a great deal)
Leadership in the church:
JM states the following, “The foremost requirement of a church leader is that he be above reproach (1 Timothy 3:2, 10; Titus 1:7). That is a difficult prerequisite, and not everyone can meet it.” And, I would agree that those are the requirements to “lead” the church – so, let’s look at them:
“Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. 5(If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?) 6He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap.”
Nothing in that Scripture says anything about holding a “pastor” to a higher standard then any other person who claims to follow Christ. What it does, is tell most of us viewing the church that all the people leading the church fall way short of the standard – I wonder, when was the last time JM invited a person over his house for dinner? Not a “leader,” but a regular Joe, or a total stranger – a “you and me” kind of guy? Did his kids ever get in trouble or lie to him? Interesting how we pick and choose those things we desire to follow, and make-up things that are not part of it at all –
Many of the more conservative/fundamentalist groups see the line of “husband of one wife” to mean so much – they expand the meaning to include those who have been divorced, and some have even used it to exclude pastors who are single. Yet, they limit the other one so that they can “get by” it all – I know conservative/fundamentalist pastors who are mean spirited, inhospitable, very closed and whose kids run wild, but those are “human flaws” we over look because we have a huge obsession with sex in the conservative/fundamental church.
Remember JM, it is easy to point fingers at those who have fallen, but we are told to use our hands not to point but to lift up – forgive and forget – maybe that is what you need to teach and learn from the walk of those fallen pastors who know the heart of a sinner and can show the love of Christ to the world around.
Remember, as Paul explained to the Galatians in his letter to them (5:3-5), “Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.” If you desire to live via the law, you will be judged via the law – I for one seek grace.
voiced by john o'keefe on 9.7.04
"faster then a speeding bullet, more powerful then a locomotive. able to leap tall buildings in a single bound - look, up in the sky, it's a bird, it's a plain - no it's superman - a strange visitor from another planet who came to earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men..." and for some, you could continue. I remember as a kid sitting in front of the "babysitter" (the tv) mesmerized by the cartoons for spiderman and batman - but superman never impressed me. no matter how hard I tried, I just could not get into superman.
when we were kids, I found playing superman stupid - after all, nothing could kill him or harm in in any way (except kryptonite, but that was in such small supply it had no matter).....every time we played, and someone got to be superman - they would never die, or give in - they were superman.
I liked being spiderman, he was cool - a human who was transformed into something different, but still a human and struggling with those human desires and needs. he had major problems, and major phobias. he was struggling with his powers and his abilities striving to find the person inside - he would have conflict in life between all that was happening in his world - family, friends, school, loves, people, police, newspapers, you name it - his life was more like mine - chaotic and filled with being pulled in many directions.
wester's defines a hero as "one that displays great courage." keeping that in mind, superman can never "display great courage;" and the reason is simple - he can't die! spidie on the other hand could do noting else, even when he did not want to.
if running into a building that is engulfed in flames can not harm him, what courage has he displayed? if standing in front of a hail of bullets can not harm him, what courage has he displayed? knowing, nothing can harm him - how much courage does it take? he is, in all intents and purposes - perfect. he is the perfect "person" - no personality faults, no "personal baggage," no dysfunctional family gatherings, no job pressures, no relationship issues. he does not have to worry about body fat, or spend hours in the gym - and "he don't need no stinkin' ragaine." - he is what most moderns want in a pastor.
the perfect pastor
for a modern generation (superman):
*perfect in appearance. the pastor needs to be a handsome guy, with chiseled features and a wonderful head of hair
*perfect in life - no mistakes at all - must have lead the perfect life - from the outside
*perfect in personality - superman was a great guy, and everyone loves him.
*perfect in deeds - to have lived a virtuous life with no mistakes and no problems.
a friend of mine was pastoring a small church in a small town in upstate new york. the average age of the church was about 65 and the people liked him - he fit all the criteria for a "super pastor." all but one that is. you see, some years back he had a divorce - and it was messy. he had an affair and his wife found out and the ending was not pretty - but it was over 10 years ago. he was young and stupid and allowed his hormones to take hold, not a wise thing to do.
soon after he starting pastoring the church his ex-wife found out, and called the "board" to let them know he had a divorce - his down fall was quick and painful. the response of the board was like this - "while we understand divorce (some of us are divorced), we do not want our pastor to be divorced - we expect better of our pastor."
for a postmodern generation (spiderman):
*looking like a normal person. postmodern pastors are not a pretty lot - we look like the people we serve.
*we have life issues - we all make mistakes, the secret is can we all learn from those mistakes and move on in christ?
*not the best - I know of one postmodern pastor who is very shy - very shy, and dealing with it everyday.
*lived life - people live in pain, and they are looking for people who understand that pain, and know of ways through the pain.
a good example of this can be found in a friend who pastors a postmodern church and deals with depression. when he made it known to the people that he was on meds for depression, the people gathered around him and prayed for him. others who were dealing with the same issue came forward and felt relieved knowing he understood them. people in the community saw that his heart was for Christ, even though he was not perfect.
to see the humanity in a pastor is the greatest gift of all - because we seek to see the humanity in christ. no pastor should claim perfection, or living a perfect life. all we should claim is that we are striving to live a gospel life, and live that life in community. I am not perfect, but what I am is transparent.
I deal with the same issues all males deal with, and any male who claims he does not deal with those issues is not being truthful; to either themselves or to others. paul, in his letter to the corinthians, tells of his faults - and that impresses me greatly. paul could share his heart, tell his faults and then let them see how God is working in paul's life to help him on his way. the best thing a pastor can be is honest - and let the community help.
I remember when the issue of "the death of superman" came out - I got email from friends who were "upset," to say the least. To see their "hero" fall caused great pain; they were crushed. this is what happens when you place a pastor on the same level as a superman - when they fall - people lose faith, because they put that faith in the wrong person - do not place faith in the person of the pastor, but in the person of jesus christ.
for a postmodern generation superman makes a bad pastoral image - let me be a spiderman, and any "x-men" you can think of - imperfect, and driven to make myself better.
voiced by john o'keefe on 6.7.04
one day jesus took his disciples up the mountain and gathered them around him. as they gathered he looked at each and everyone of them with a smile on his face. he then turned to them and started to teach them by saying:
"blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. blessed are the meek. blessed are those who mourn. blessed are the merciful. blessed are those who thirst for justice. blessed are you when you are persecuted. blessed are you when you suffer. be glad and rejoice for your reward is great in heaven."
as jesus was speaking the disciples started to talk among themselves;
peter looked around and asked, "are we supposed to know this?"
andrew, looking puzzled, said, "do we have to write this down?"
james, franticly looking for something to write with whined, "will we have this on a test?"
philip, pushing james aside said, "i have no paper."
bartholomew, with a tear in his eye said, "do we have to turn this in?"
while john complained, "the other disciples didn't have to learn this."
matthew, looking up at jesus said, "could you go over this again?
judas, shaking his head said, "what does this have to do with real life?"
just then one of the local pharisees asked to see jesus' lesson plan. he wanted to know the scripture used, and quoted and he also desired to know the hermeneutics used to structure the lesson. he inquired of Jesus, "where is your anticipatory set and your objectives in the cognitive domain?"
Then, Jesus wept.
voiced by john o'keefe on 23.6.04
Ever visit a “postmodern/emerging” community of faith and the experience was anything but postmodern? If anything, one could call it a “hyper-evangelical experience” – you know, a standard “saddlecreek” church with louder music and cool haircuts. I have been there, done that and even have the t-shirts. Over time I have received many emails from people who have asked me what I think a “postmodern/emerging” community of faith would look like? To be honest, I am not sure – that would totally depend on the community, the people, the vision, the heart, the art, the joy and the grace of the people connected to the community – but i think there are certain “cores” that a postmodern/emerging community of faith has that are important (in my opinion) to the nature of the community. When I share them (those that I see as “core”), some get very defensive in replies. It seems that they saw their community of faith as “postmodern/emerging” but they did not see any of the cores in their communities.
Still, many seemed to want to know what I thought the “form” of a postmodern/emerging community of faith would be. It seems that they needed answers – but I like it better when things are designed for people to develop questions, not for me to give my answers. My understanding of a “postmodern/emerging” community of faith is, as all things, based on two very important ideas “form and function.”
The Assumptions of Form:
Form is the visible, the seen structure and the tangible. It is what we can touch, and touch can be defined as something felt and seen. Its texture can be described and its “feel” can be expressed. If your form is identical to the general form of all others you are saying you are no different, or at least show no creativity, from any other. When the church made the move from the traditional to the contemporary, form was changed. Creativity took hold and a new texture was designed to meet the changing tastes of the people. So, it goes, a move from the contemporary to the postmodern/emerging demands a form change, a new texture based on new views, patterns and structure.
In the postmodern/emerging community of faith I believe form takes on two different, and very important, “forms.” The first of these forms is general structure and the second is governance. Let me start with the idea of general structure.
I see general structure of a community of faith falling at two ends of a spectrum. On one end the “stand-alone” and on the other end, what I call, the “corded.”
The form of structure
The stand-alone, is a community of faith that may, or may, not be connected to a denomination; they may, or may, not be receiving funds from other church. For all intents and purposes they are on their own. Their staffs are not being paid by another church, nor are they part of another churches staff, and they are not under the control of another ministry. The key to a stand-alone is that it can express the theology it finds central to scripture and the way they see the scripture in the life of the people they desire to minister too.
On the other end of the spectrum is the corded community of faith. These communities of faith are ones that are directly tied to a “mother church.” The pastor is one of the pastors of the larger church and is usually under the direct control of the senior pastor, and the board of the “mother church.” They count on the mother church for money, man power, meeting place and equipment – they are connected via an “umbilical-cord” to the mother church – hence the idea that they are a “corded” church. Now, on the surface, there is nothing wrong with this structure, to truly be birthed a process of maturation needs to take place where the mother feeds the child for a period of time – but then a birth needs to take place, for it to truly be able to express itself as a postmodern/emerging community of faith
While these may be the two extremes of a spectrum I do recognize that many churches fall somewhere between the two ends. Generally speaking, corded communities of faith (corded at any level) can never be “fully postmodern/emerging” because of their relationship with, and to, the modern mother church. Over the past few years I have spoken with many “associate pastors” who serve in a hyper-modern corded communities of faith and they have expressed their concern about not being able to fully express what they believe needs to be expressed. With few exceptions, these corded communities of faith seem to be designed to keep the “college age” members of the church happy and to let their parents think they are doing something cool for their kids. In short, the modern mother church sees a “postmodern/emerging outreach” as simply another program.
Another aspect of the “structure” form of a postmodern/emerging community of faith is that it tends to be far less program driven and more people driven. While project, short-term ideas abound, “major programs” are not embedded in the postmodern/emerging community of faith. Postmodern/emerging communities of faith are not program driven. In fact, they are not programming anything. Programs are a modern design and work well with modern people, but no so with a postmodern community of faith. If a group of people gathers for “home churches” and they have children and youth – a youth group is naturally formed. If, a youth gathering is needed for the larger community of faith it can grow out of that gathering, it is naturally organic and develops from the heart of God’s call.
On a personal level, I tend to the stand-alone community of faith; because a true postmodern/emerging structure needs to be creative and less central then in modern church. Postmodern/emerging structure allows for people to get involved and not sit on the sidelines. If the structure is not designed to allow for creative expressions, then a postmodern/emerging structure is not in place. Which brings me to the second point of form, governance.
The form of governance
Governance, in general terms, is control. In a modern church this control is rigid, central, authoritative, business minded, controlling and very unidirectional. While this structure may vary in its intensity all these parts are present in a modern community of faith. For example, some modern churches may be less rigid, but that does not change the fact that they are a modern church. While governance in a postmodern/emerging community of faith is divested, empowering, encouraging and interactive.
Governance of many churches in USAmerica is not based on scripture – sorry, but that is just fact. I know, as you are reading this you are saying, “not my church.” But it’s true. All churches in USAmerica have governance based in either state laws or IRS code; all churches – plan simple fact. Generally speaking, this is not “wrong” its just fact. Look around; every modern church that claims to have a “biblical model of leadership” is actually governed based on the cultural laws of the individual state they are in. In fact, most modern churches I know of have simply taken the “constitution” (which is not a biblical concept) of other “larger, successful” churches and changed the name to fit its needs. What I find interesting is the fact that while state law tells you want you need in the way of “corporate offices” most do not define the way those offices are defined in a church. The modern church has taken the historical corporate and military view of leadership and defined the roles of leaders in the modern church on those models.
In a postmodern/emerging community of faith “leadership” is truly discipleship, a teaching relationship between people where Christ is the center. People in a postmodern/emerging community of faith that govern are seen in terms of a mentor, one who helps people along a path. A postmodern “leader” is less leader and more artist, less CEO and more friend – this idea of a system that is freeing and trusting is hard for a controlling modern mind to grasp. They, modern Christians, believe for a true church to form, someone must be in control – and a postmodern/emerging Christian sees God as in control and trusts that the person is following God’s call on their lives. Trust is an essential part of a postmodern/emerging structure of governance. True postmodern/emerging “leadership” is seen as a team, where the roles interact and change as needed; again, trust is central to a postmodern structure. Trust is an “unseen” quality – if you trust me, I will know even though I cannot touch it, and that leads us to the second part of this article “function.”
The Assumptions of Function:
Function is the unseen, the unspoken, that which is felt and not physically touched. While form may show a certain quality, function can be seen as an expression of that quality. So, the question begs to be asked – what is a “postmodern/emerging community of faith function?” What are the “unseen” qualities of a postmodern/emerging community of faith?
I find that function falls into two qualities, theology and attitude. Let me start by saying that I do not believe a postmodern/emerging community of faith is defined by music or age. While these may be part of a postmodern/emerging community of faith, they do not define the community.
While it may seem silly to say that a postmodern/emerging community of faith needs to have a postmodern theology function, I am surprised how many just don’t. Rewrapped evangelism, or fundamentalism, will not work. Before I go further I need to explain that there is a difference between a postmodern theology and a modern theology. But “liberal” is not necessarily a postmodern theology. Postmodern theology is not conservative nor is it liberal. Both those concepts are modern and linear and make one select “a side.” Modern theology is centered on evangelistic systematic theology, and in the great formation of the cosmos a postmodern theology can never be systemized – there can be no such nothing as a “postmodern systematic theology” (even though some have tried, and are still trying). While a debate can be made for what is and what is not part of a postmodern theology, and we debate that regularly on the egroup “postmodern theology,” I think certain parts of a postmodern theology are, a willingness to be open and allow for an honest exchange of ideas, a willingness to examine all aspects of theology and see what has a direct tie to scripture, a desire to not be “hard lined” in a particular theological tradition, a desire not to be tied to tradition at all, a knowledge that skeptics are welcomed and healthy and a desires to go beyond what others say we must. If all that is happening in a church is a rewrapping of evangelical theology, then no matter the form the function defines it as a contemporary modern church.
The next function is that of attitude or “environment.” This is the ultimate of the unseen, yet it is so very important. When I walk into a modern contemporary church I “just know” because of the way I am treated. Usually, the only people to even acknowledge I am alive are those handing out bulletins. People walk by without even the simplest of exchanges, and if I make the first move I am ignored. Yet, when I enter a postmodern/emerging community of faith I am made to feel welcomed, because people want to know me – they want to make a new friend and experience a new way of seeing things. Last year (before i went into hiding – but I am out now) I had the opportunity to speak at the Upstairs Leadership Conference in Phoenix Arizona. While I was there I was invited to attend The Bridge, a postmodern/emerging community of faith. When I walked in, I knew it – it was not the music (though that was great) but it was the people, people came to me and talked with me (and they had no idea who I was). People actually sat by me and opened conversation with me – something that would never happen in a modern contemporary church. I knew that I was in a place where people wanted to know me, and no for any other reason but for myself.
This is very important to a postmodern/emerging community of faith’s function – why do you want to know the people who attend the community of faith? Is it to share Christ? Is it to make sure I return? What is the reason? If you want to know me because you want me to join your church, then you want to know me for false reasons – and not for me. Your motives are not pure. If the reason you want to know me is because you want to share with me Jesus Christ, then you do not want to get to know me – you have an altered-motive, no matter how altruistic that move is, it is not because you want to know me.
I usually try to end what i am writing by trying to tie all together, but not today. What I desire to do is close with a question; one that I believe is very important and needs to have an honest answer. If the form and function of a community of faith shows no real difference from a modern contemporary church how can that community of faith claim to be postmodern/emerging?
voiced by john o'keefe on 14.6.04