a lesson?

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.


Form and Function

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?


The problems I have with “programs”

Ever since “The Passion of the Christ,” I have been wondering why am I so “anti-program?” I know I tend to be a bit of a rebel, but I still wonder why things “programmed” drive me crazy. When I say “crazy” I mean, they drive me crazy and I just can’t seem to get a grip on why. It seems that modern churches and modern church “leaders” gravitate to the “latest and greatest” in the church program area – flashy books, great titles, cool pics and all the eye candy one can muster. I can remember sitting at a meeting of the local Pastors and hearing them talk about how “The Passion” (the newest “latest and greatest” program) was going to flood our churches with non-believers seeking to know more about Christ. What they could not grasp in reality was when I tried to explain that most non-believers do not see the church as “the place” where those questions are asked, and honestly answered. Most non-believers are going to have that conversation in the local bar, their living room or their kitchen and many be on Thursday night at the bowling ally; places where most “good christians” would never get caught walking out of (notice I did not say they would not go in, just that they would never get caught coming out).

Let’s be honest. Christian books stores are filled with “programs” and each one is touted as the “latest and greatest” – The Passion, Purpose Driven “You Name it”, Pray of “Whoever,” Video Bible, you name it, it over flows the shelves – for youth, for children, for teens, for “tweens,” for couples, for singles, for divorced, for separated, for adults, for older adults, for younger adults, for older single adults, for older widowed adults, for an endless supply of what ever box you want to place a person in there is a program designed just for them. It is not my desire to pick on one program over another, because they are all equally silly in my eyes, let me select one that I believe is one of the “founding fathers” of church programs – the “purpose driven” programs. I know, for many I am about to become more of a heretic then I already am; for some I am stepping on the “holy of holies” the “foundation of the modern church” – but I have to do, what I have to do.

The Main Problem:
Here is the main problem I think I am having with this whole “purpose driven” thing (and in reality you can put any of the many programs in those quotes) - when I read statements that claim, “this program changed my life” or “if not for this program our church would have closed” or “I love this program because it made me see my life clearer” I get freaked, because many modern “leaders” hear those types of statements and think, "the purpose driven program will change the lives of my people and the culture of my church. We will start to grow and become a bigger church, I need that program." The problem is the program does nothing – nothing – it changes nothing as I see it. I believe the gospel message changed the people, but we give credit to the program and the author of the program, but it is the message of Christ that changes lives and church cultures. We see the program as the “change agent” and therefore we need the program to “package the gospel message. Because for some reason, we think the “program” will clean the message up and make it easier to believe. I have a feeling that the original intent of the book, “The Purpose Driven Church” was not to be a program, but was to open the hearts and minds of church “leaders” and get them stirred into action; to call their attention back to the word of God and into the lives of the church – but publishers, marketers and business minds got involved and realized they could “can a program” and sell it to church “leaders” looking for a quick fix for their churches ills. The “program” became the perfume that hid the smell of a rotting corpse, because in reality, nothing truly changed.

Over time the modern church place such a heavy load on programs, the author, and a great value on when the program was started - in this case, the purpose driven, Rick and modern times. The problem becomes, the "program" has no value at all, the author is just a man and times change – but because many of the modern church “leaders” place such energy on the program, the author and times change is virtually impossible.

Consumer Driven is more like it
The "PD" is driven by "quality" and in terms of church “quality” is a very modern, very consumer centered idea. When we think in terms of “quality” we think in terms of “getting the most for our buck” – “the biggest bang for our dollar” – but that is so not what church should be about. In a postmodern/emerging church that is not an issue. The central drive of the "PD” church is to be bigger, better, more building, more land, more money, more “shine” then the church down the road. This is not, or should not be, the heart of a postmodern/emerging church, so to try to fit a “PD” program into a postmodern/emerging church is like trying to fit a square peg into a sunspot – it will get fried.

What still fits?
I think that "the five" – fellowship, discipleship, worship, ministry, and evangelism (I would add "relational" - which I believe is far deeper then "fellowship" and “missional” which is so much deeper then “evangelism”) are still important; just not as linier as "PD" makes them out to be - they are so very connected, so very non-linier in nature and scripture. Let me take just one as an example - evangelism

Evangelism should be a natural component in all the other areas - it should be "inter-twined" because every single person who is a follower of Christ should evangelize. This is not an option, but in the “PD” modern church we have created “groups” that do this, or we write a check to fund others to do it – but we are all called to share our faith - fellowship should have an "evangelism" connection (not the purpose, and totally not the reason - but an element) - discipleship should also, jesus called his disciples - they were not "believers" when he called them, they became believers. The modern church tends to see discipleship as something that happens after you become a believer, but just as Jesus modeled, discipleship starts before one believes. Evangelism in worship, very cool and missing in many modern churches; they see worship as a “show” and not as a tool to show how believers worship the living God. Evangelism as a component in ministry, showing that what we do we do for Christ - while this may seem natural, many modern "PD" churches I have talked with, interviewed with and visited compartmentalize all the five into separate "programs" - heck, some have gone as far as hiring staff based on the five.

The connective nature of “the five” (and i still believe there are more) is important. While a “modern mind” may not be able to grasp the idea of “multi-tasking” and seeing the connections of all, the postmodern/emerging mind sees it as clear as day. Multi-tasking is a norm for us, and as such we see the connections – the networking of “the five.” I think a healthy postmodern/emerging church does not "box" the five as modern “PD” churches do. A postmodern/emerging outreach allows the five to flow and develop as the spirit leads – allowing the center to be the needs of the people and not the needs of the program. This can be and often is too “messy" for many in the modern church, and even seen as "chaos" to many - but I think it works.

I think the problem I have with modern programs is that they place importance on the wrong things - sure, a church "leader" will say "the bible is important" but then he (or she) will turn to a canned program and say, "this will help our church grow" - never once coming to the realization that what is needed is a deeper walk with Christ, in his word and in his way. Programs make church life easier. It places less responsibility of the Pastor, and more on the program. If the church does not grow after “40 days of purpose” it’s the programs fault. The purpose driven may be calling for us to have a deeper walk; the call is not loud enough, long enough and with enough conviction to let an emerging conversation believe it. What happens is that most modern church do the program and then wait for the next program to make their next move. I think the modern church likes programs because they have something to blame, or someone to blame, for the failures of the church.

Soon after The Passion hit the theaters and the group of ministers spent a ton of cash on helping Mel advertise his movie, we sat around and the funny thing is, no one spoke of how they were dealing with the massive growth in their church. No one spoke of all the non-believers who were filling their buildings asking questions that would change their lives. Funny, but wait – a new and better program is just around the corner.


Reagan Dead

i was driving when it came across the radio, "former president ronald reagan dies at 93." now, before i get to deep into this (which will not be deep at all) i have to say i was not a reagan fan - i did not vote for him, and i was not overly pleases with many of his policies - now that that has been said, i am certian many in the "christian church" will denounce me as a heretic for leaving the camp of "saint ronny."

while i am not going to blast him, or defend him, all i am going to say is that a former leader is dead, and even though he was not my fav he did some very cool things - so for that, it's a shame we will not get to know more from him first hand. history will remember him for good or bad - but only one thing is for certian, they will not remember him for the human he was - flawed, open, honest, giving - people will hide his humanity and place him high - we need to keep him, and all leaders, closer to the ground. because it is in seeing humanity of our leaders we see the humanity of ourselves.



moving past

ever wonder who your friends are? i mean, people you think you know - you think they love and care for you - but in turn, they run at the first sign of danger. do you know people like that? i do - and the funny thing about it all, is that they are willing to return when the going is good -

ever wonder who your friends are? the people who you back, and are willing to do what ever it takes to help - and the ones who refuse to give you the time of day when your running late. and the funny thing is, when you get a watch they are the first to want to know what time it is.

ever wonder who your friends are? sometimes i do. i sometimes wonder if i do to them, what they do to me - will that make me petty? if i act like they do, react like they do, ignore like they do - will that make me petty? will being like them teach them, or or just take from me? will being like them, make me less me?

ever wonder who your friends are?


being truly different

we were all sitting around one night this week talking about a ton of different stuff, and naturally as pastors our conversation turned to the church. as we discussed the future of the church in america, most of us felt good about the possibilities - if the church could stand the changes ahead and truly be what it was ment to be; here's what i mean.

many churches today - fundamental and liberal - teach a "cultural faith" - a faith based on "good old american values" like independence, democracy, being a patriotic person, faith based on the "red, white and blue" and the perceived values of the 1950's (even though most of us were not even born yet). it is a faith based on what you desire God to say, and not what God is saying - and this is on all ends, fundamentalist and liberals each procalim they have it right, and yet bot miss the point.

for example, try to start something new at a fundamentalist, or liberal, congregationalist church - it has to go before six committees and receive a vote of two-thirds the membership (regardless of if they attend church or not) before any action can be taken - where in the scripture is this model of church?

I know of people who have not set foot in a church in three years, but show-up every time there is a vote on hiring a new pastor, or giving the current pastor a raise - where is the scripture to support such an action? but denominations allow for this because by keeping membership levels up for the local church, they increase the funding to the denomination "muck-idie-mucks" - where is the scriptural support for such actions?

try to get something done in a fundamental baptist church - without the pastor's personal stamp of approval - no way - where is this a scriptural model for such an action? i know a fundamental baptist pastor who had a unwed pregnant teen kicked out of the church - while his son, the father of the child, received a church scholarship to bible college and was picked as the "youth pastor" of the church - where is the scripture to support that?

try to get something past a liberal "oldline" church (methodist, episcopal, lutheran ect) by the time it gets out of committee and by the time everyone has taken the "offensive" material out - it is so watered down it is of no use to anyone and is not recognized by the people who put the idea forward - where is this model in scripture?

over the past i have heard pastors, and other church leaders, claim that the church "is only human" and that it is "pledged with the same pains and problems found in the rest of the world" - but where is the scriptural support for such an understanding? to me, if there is no difference between the world and the church, why pick the church? if there is no difference between a follower of christ and a non-follower, why follow?

you see, i believe to claim to be a follower of christ you must change, for the better - people inside the church must be differnet, loving, open, welcoming and forgiving - but they are not. most people in church have no understanding of forgiveness - absolute forgiveness. they have replaced "forgiveness" with a concept of "good old american justice." one of my favorites is the american concept "tough love." no place in scripture are the words "tough" and "love" used together - no where. in fact, paul tells us that love is not to be tough - it is to be kind, forgiving, and open - it is always to forgive, always to accept and always to push us beyond our personal safety zone and into the danger of standing naked before the world, looking the fool - can you love like that?

you see i believe the people of the church must be different from the world around us - if not, why should anyone go to church - after all, it is not required for salvation. if the people in the church are no better then the people outside the church - why go?