Archive for August 2008
Tim Chester recently used a phrase that is becoming commonplace among our leaders to describe what we are trying to cultivate—steady state community. We are trying to cultivate communities that share life and truth throughout the week, not just on Sundays and City Group days. We are kidding ourselves if we really think that showing up to two meetings a week and engaging in a missional partnership once a month is really living in Christian community. So, we are trying to cultivate steady state community, which requires much more than preaching on it. We envision shared meals, leisure, mission throughout the week. How?
In order to cultivate steady-state, gospel-centered missional community, just about everything in a church has to be reconfigured. Traditional paradigms and practices wont work; they are bent around a different ecclesiology. So, in order to think things through, I recently sat down with my friend Mark Moore at Total Church conference in San Diego and fired away with a list of questions. Here are a few of the insights (framed by the Q&A, not verbatim):
The Crowded House advocates a non-membership, community-centered, consensus decision making governance. You still have membership. Why and how do you develop members?
Man, we’ve got to take what Crowded House (CH) is doing and contextualize it. In America, well at least down South, especially in the Bible-belt, there is still a paradigm for church membership. It’s jacked up and needs to be tweaked, but people still come to church expecting some kind of membership, no matter how bad it is. So, we can work with that. What we (Providence Community) do is hold a six week class that goes through Gospel, Community, and end with a session on Church Planting. Then, what we tell them at the end of the class that your participation in this class doesn’t make you a member. What makes you a member is being in a missional communty.
How do you reinforce that the church is not a Sunday morning service?
One of the things we do is spotlight a missional community every week. For about five minutes someone comes up and shares something, typically about mission, from their missional community. That way, everyone coming to the service gets to hear what they are missing, to hear from the church about the church. [I asked, "Do you script this or go over it with them beforehand?"] No, and, man, sometimes people say something that doesn’t really make sense, but that is just an opportunity for us to be a real community, and if it’s really bad I can transition making some editorial comments.
How do you view yourself, as a pastor/elder, in steady state community?
My role is a shepherd, my identity is a sheep. So I try to relate to them as a fellow sheep not just as some inaccessible professional pastor. I also make sure that when I meet a dude or someone on Sunday morning that I get them connected to their missional community leader that morning, if possible. They need to know that the pastor of their missional community is the best person for them to relate to.
Austin City Life has incorporated all of this at various levels of participation and church life. Mark’s comments spurred me to spotlight our City Groups every week and not just on occassion. Our leadership has soaked up the steady state community idea, and we are working on implementing it. What a privilege!
What does it mean to be a Kingdom-minded family? Is yours?
By the Cline Family
Learning to Multiply
The Bible promises that children are a “blessing.” Why don’t evangelicals take this promise more seriously?
By Tim Cantrell
Favorite Children’s Bibles
Here’s the lowdown on three commendable children’s story Bibles.
By Justin Taylor
Check it out here.
Boundless is running my new article: Fight Club (technically doesn’t release until tomorrow).
Over the past two weeks, the 2008 Olympics have evoked a myriad of responses-awe, arrogance,joy, sadness, disappointment, anger, consternation, humility, and relief. In the throws of global athletic competition, Olympians have experienced victory and defeat, demonstrating a variety of responses. Consider the polarized responses to Usain Bolt’s effusive celebration upon breaking the 100 M world record and winning the gold. Olympic Boss, Jacques Rogge, rebuked Bolt’s celebration calling it “disrespectful.” He commented: “That’s not the way we perceive being a champion.” However, other athletes didn’t seem to be bothered by his joy-filled celebration. American silver medalist Shawn Crawford told reporters: “I love watching him when he does his thing.” Some see pride where others see childlike joy.
Opinions aside, it is interesting that Rogge’s comment implies there is more than gold to being a champion. Commenting on Lolo Jones’ loss in the 100 M hurdles, Philip Hersh of the LA Times said: “A champion is the class of the field. No one in these Olympics has shown any more class than Lolo Jones.” Put Ara Abrahamain’s de-medaling behavior next to Lolo and we get quite a contrast of competitors. Then consider the high percentage of Olympians who go on to struggle with drug addiction and vocational stability because their identity was so grounded in being an Olympian. Who are the real champions? What gives?
Elsewhere I have posted on some of the emerging scholarly debates regarding a counterimperial impulse in Paul’s writing. Of late, I have been reflecting on this theological trend. Why such a preoccupation with counterimperial theology? Is this a product of anti-American sentiment? Perhaps a resurgence in Greco-Roman backgrounds for NT scholarship? Or maybe a political hermeneutic? I suspect all three are at play and that there is no consensus explanation for the spate of literature on counterimperialism in Paul.
However, I am more concerned about hermeneutics than motive. Did Paul intend to convey counterimperial ideas when writing his epistles? Was his word selection based on Greek or Jewish lexicography? Is it an either/or, after all Paul was both missionary and theologian. I engaged some of these issues in my Th.M thesis, Creation in Colossians, and was struck at the time by the hyper-counterimperialism of Walsh and Keesmaat’s Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire. At times, they confuse contemporary implication with Pauline meaning. That said, I have room for Pauline contextualization, which is often counter-cultural; however, I have been careful to not confuse his intended theological meaning with his missiological orientation.
Denny Burk has provided some critical reflection on what he dons “The Fresh Perspective,” language taken from Wright’s writings on Paul. In this issue (vol 51) of JETS, Burk published:“Is Paul’s Gospel Counterimperial? Evaluating the Prospects of the ‘Fresh Perspective’ fro Evangelical Theology.” Although Burk states in anti-imperial thesis up front (314), he adduces convincing reasons to be suspect of the FP hermeneutic. Here are a few:
- Caution of the use of parallels. Just because a biblical word or concept has a Roman parallel use does not mean that Paul intended it to be an anti-Roman polemic, especially when the word or concept has a rich Jewish origin. After all, Paul quotes and theologizes extensively from the Septuagint (Greek version of the OT). Burk identifies the key linguistic issue: “To what extent are the parallels due merely to the fact that Paul and the imperial cult were drawing from the common stock of Koine Greek, the lingua franca of the eastern part of the Roman Empire?” (317)
- Caution about the distinction between meaning and implication. Citing E.D. Hirsch’s landmark work on literary interpretation, he writes: “An implication, however, differs in that it is not a part of the author conscious intention, even though it is established by a type that derives from the author’s willed meaning.” (320) In other words, get the author’s intended meaning first, then consider implications second. Make the distinction; don’t confuse possible implication with intended meaning.
- Caution about the hermeneutics of the FP. Burk points out that much of the hermeneutical ethos of the FP has been generated by the Paul and Politics group from SBL. Richard Horsley, a leading scholar among the Paul in Politics group, clearly articulates a political agenda in the fresh perspective of counterimperial studies: “The aims and agenda of the Paul and Politics group are, broadly, to problematize, interrogate, and re-vision Pauline texts and interpretations, to identify oppressive formulations as well as potentially liberative visions and values…” And here is Burk’s concern–Horsley’s elevation of the post-colonial readers of Paul to the level of “the text being read in the work of interpretation” in Paul. In other words, by trying to accomodate the political concerns of readers, Horsley and his colleagues give those popular readers’ concerns a prominent place in the interpretive task.
The NY Times offers an interesting article on Nouriel Roubini (AKA “Dr. Doom”), an economics professor at New York University, who predicted the current decline in the U.S. economy two years ago. Roubini has been labeled as a pessemist, written off as a naysayer, but is now being invited to address Congress, the Council on Foreign Relations and the World Economic Forum at Davos.
Apparently, an unhealthy amount of optomism is built into prevailing economic theories. “These are things most economists barely understand,” said Roubini. “We’re in uncharted territory where standard economic theory isn’t helpful.” Roubini cites extensive national and personal debt as a major factor, from educational loans to government spending. He predicts continued economic decline with a renewal by the end of 2009. Of course, we can’t place our hope in any economic predictions, much less the economy itself. Perhaps this trend will alert us to the affluenza that plagues the American soul, and lead it to not only more responsible spending but also more life-fulfilling hopes.
He closes the article with these words:
“Once you run current-account deficits, you depend on the kindness of strangers,” he said, pausing to let out a resigned sigh. “This might be the beginning of the end of the American empire.”