Month: July 2011

Was the Conclusion to Harry Potter Satisfying? (Pt 1)

Harry Potter: The Deathly Hallows (Pt 2) provoked more reflection than I would have ever expected. After viewing it (Alamo Draft House) last night, my wife and I discussed the ending all the way home. So, [spoiler alert] for those that haven’t seen it and hope to.

The Ending Is Not What You Want

The Harry Potter series concludes in a way that is counter-intuitive. There is no grand vanquishing of evil, no triumph that, without a doubt, secures peace, no enthronement of the hero, no visual restoration of all that has been undone. While the Potter series in no way nods at capitulation to evil, or even a balancing of evil and good (see Matrix Triology), it did leave me longing for more.

The great showdown between Voldemort and Potter is anticlimactic. Voldemort blows Harry into an intermediate state, where he walks with Professor Dumbledore, only to return, resuscitate, and fight for what? Their wands fuse in a stream of green and red power, Voldemort is weakened by the destruction of his last Horcrux, and Potter gains the upper hand. As the red stream of wand power retracts, the elder wand (most powerful in the world) catapults through the air into Harry’s hands. As Voldemort visibly weakens, gazing with disappointment at his failing wand, he disintegrates, his body flaking into ash which is blown away by the wind.

Harry rejoins Ron and Hermoine and walks to the edge of the bridge, where he takes the most powerful wand in the world, and snaps it in two, tossing it over the edge. He denies himself the greatest power in the world. Then, there is no erupting applause, no shoulder-carrying of the reluctant hero, no enthronement of a new Headmaster or Great Magician. Instead, Potter walks the halls of a derelict Hogwarts, as we hear the wounded students and teachers bemoan their suffering.

The Future Harry Potter

Then, we are suddenly taken into the future, 19 years later, where we find Potter and his family escorting his son to the magic train to take him to Hogwarts. Potter is unimpressive, surrounded by wife and children. He is tender, kind, and fatherly. He is not powerful, immense, and regal. The Potter family is joined by the Weasly family (Ron & Hermoine) as, they too, send off children to Hogwarts. This concludes this film.

Disappointingly, we see no vision of a restored Hogwarts (though it is implied). We see no great display of power. Potter does not represent cosmic security, peace, and power. He is, in a word, normal. All we see are simple families ushering their children into the next stage of life. Magic, it seems, does not have the last word…or does it?

25 Ways to Engage Your Neighbors

Guest post by Josh Reeves, who is planting Redeemer Church in Round Rock, Tx.

Recently I made a list of 100 ways to engage your neighborhood. I have found that it is often helpful to have practical ideas to start engaging the people around me in order to be a better neighbor. Most of the things on this list are normal, everyday things that many people are already doing. The hope is that we would do these things with Gospel intentionality. This means we do them:

  • In the normal rhythms of life pursuing to meet and engage new people
  • Prayerfully watching and listening to the Holy Spirit to discern where God is working.
  • Looking to boldly, humbly, and contextually proclaiming the Gospel in word and deed.

Below is a list of my top 25. The full list of 100 is available to download below the list. Not all of these are for everyone, but hopefully there will be several ideas on the list that God uses to help you engage your neighbors. Would love to hear stories of how you have lived some of these out or other ways you have engaged your neighbors.
1. Stay outside in the front yard longer while watering the yard
2. Walk your dog regularly around the same time in your neighborhood
3. Sit on the front porch and letting kids play in the front yard
4. Pass out baked goods (fresh bread, cookies, brownies, etc.)
5. Invite neighbors over for dinner
6. Attend and participate in HOA functions
7. Attend the parties invited to by neighbors
8. Do a food drive or coat drive in winter and get neighbors involved
9. Have a game night (yard games outside, or board games inside)
10. Art swap night – bring out what you’re tired of and trade with neighbors
11. Grow a garden and give out extra produce to neighbors
12. Have an Easter egg hunt on your block and invite neighbors use their front yards
13. Start a weekly open meal night in your home
14. Do a summer BBQ every Friday night and invite others to contribute
15. Create a block/ street email and phone contact list for safety
16. Host a sports game watching party
17. Host a coffee and dessert night
18. Organize and host a ladies artistic creation night
19. Organize a tasting tour on your street (everyone sets up food and table on front porch)\
20. Host a movie night and discussion afterwards
21. Start a walking/running group in the neighborhood
22. Start hosting a play date weekly for other stay at home parents
23. Organize a carpool for your neighborhood to help save gas
24. Volunteer to coach a local little league sports team
25. Have a front yard ice cream party in the summer

See full list of 100

Verge Video on 5 Key Missional Questions

Verge posted a video interview with me today. In this video I answer questions like:

  • Who are you?
  • Is the Gospel dangerous?
  • What does risk look like in following Jesus?
  • How are we called and equipped for the risk that comes with mission?
  • How does entertainment prohibit mission?
  • How does the gospel compel risky mission?

 

I wrote a follow up article to work out the idea of a “Dangerous Gospel.

Movements That Change the World

Book Review: Movements That Change the World by Steve Addison

This guest review is by Josh Reeves, who is planting a church in Round Rock, TX in partnership with Austin City Life.

Overview

In this short 128 page book Addison lays out five keys to spreading the Gospel. Overall Addison does a good job of keeping the language accessible to everyday readers, while also pointing those who would desire a deeper treatment of certain topics to a nice selection of supplemental resources.  One of the things I appreciated most about the book was that it got its point across cogently, making it easy to grasp the key ideas while moving quickly through the content.

The main purpose of the book is to outline what Addison sees as the five key elements present in movements that possess the capacity to spread the Gospel. The five elements identified in the book are White-Hot Faith, Commitment to a Cause, Contagious Relationships, Rapid Mobilization, and Adaptive Methods. Before expanding upon each of the five elements, Addison opens the book by telling the story of St. Patrick and the missionary movement he started among the Irish Celts. It was a great way to excite the readers appetite for radical movements of the Gospel.

Summary of 5 Movement Elements

White-Hot Faith (Chapter 1)

“Missionary movements begin with men and women who encounter the living God and surrender to loving obedience to his call.”

I appreciated that that from the start of the book he makes it clear that any movement is going to be driven by God powerfully working in his peoples heart. Dynamic missionary movements cannot exist apart from the power of the Spirit.  This is what Addison describes as “White-Hot Faith.”

Addison further explains this Spirit led dependence by what he calls, “Crisis” and “Process.” Crisis moments are explained as God’s initiative to “call a person to his service.” It is in these moments of crisis that  “we renounce dependence on anything but the presence and power of God.”

Process is defined as “all activities that deepen our relationship with God.” Addison gives several historical examples of movements that had Spiritual disciplines integrated into the rhythms of their members lives ( The Jesuits’ Spiritual Exercises of Loyola, Methodist and Moravian classes and bands which where accountability groups that met for prayer and confession of sin, Student Volunteer Movement had the “the morning watch”). The overall message was that no movement can be sustained on the initial crisis experience alone, there must be Spiritual disciplines to prepare the way for, and support, life changing experiences.

 

 

Commitment to a Cause (Chapter 2)

“Committed people make history by living in alignment with their deeply held beliefs.”

In chapter 2, Addison points out one of the more obvious elements of a movement in the book. Addison once again utilizes a nice mix of scripture, history, and modern examples to make his case.  This particular quote stuck with me and I found to be a valuable take away from the chapter:

“Living organisms are constantly seeking self-renewal by referring back to their essential identity and adapting to their environment.”

There is a necessity of commitment to a core identity, but also an element of adaptability that must be present in a movement for it to be sustainable.  Addison gives historical evidence for movements that declined due to losing their essential identity, as well as those who held their identity but failed to adapt (see pg. 63-64).

Contagious Relationships (Chapter 3)

“It does not take vast amounts of money to fill a nation with the knowledge of the gospel. What it takes is ordinary people, on fire with the love of Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit, who are willing to tell their families, friends and casual acquaintances what God has done for them.”

Chapter 3 was practical and immediately applicable. It was a great reminder of the existing relational networks that God has put us in that we often overlook. It reminds us of the importance of relationships and how historically movements have spread along these network lines.

“Movements appear to grow spontaneously and randomly, but on closer inspection they are spreading within and across networks of relationships.”

Addison helpfully clarifies that these relational networks must maintain some level of tightness, but remain open enough that others can come into the network. The chapter is full of very helpful information tidbits on this idea. Much of what I gleamed from the chapter was immediately transferable and applicable to my own endeavor of church planting.  I walked away with a renewed vigor to prayerfully and strategically think through the existing relational networks in my own life, identifying what Addison describes as “connectors,” and utilizing those people to help us expand our relational network. All of this so that we might deepen relationships and tell others of what God has done for us in Jesus.

Rapid Mobilization (Chapter 4)

“It does not take vast amounts of money to fill a nation with the knowledge of the gospel. What it takes is ordinary people, on fire with the love of Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit, who are willing to tell their families, friends and casual acquaintances what God has done for them.”

Chapter 4 was helpful but also proved to be the chapter I had the most concerns about. I loved the “Mobilization” part of the chapter (making disciples who are released to go and make disciples) but I struggled with the idea of doing this “rapidly.”  Nonetheless there was a great deal of good to take away from the chapter. One very helpful take away were the two lists Addison gives from Roland Allen.

List one listed Roland Allen’s seven conditions in which spontaneous expansion is inhibited:

  1. When paid foreign professionals are primarily responsible to spread the gospel, causing the gospel to be seen as an alien intrusion.
  2. When the church is dependent on foreign funds and leadership.
  3. When the spread of the gospel is controlled out of fear of error, and both error and godly zeal are suppressed.
  4. When it is believed that the church is to be founded, educated, equipped and established in the doctrine, ethics and organization before it is to expand.
  5. When emerging leaders are restricted from ministering until they are fully trained and so learn the lesson of inactivity and dependency.
  6. When conversion is seen as the result of clever argument rather than the power of Christ.
  7. When professional clergy control the ministry and discourage the spontaneous zeal of nonprofessionals.

Allen’s other list was equally helpful. It lists 5 conditions that enhance spontaneous expansion:

  1. When new converts immediately tell their story to those who know them.
  2. When, from the beginning, evangelism is the work of those within the culture.
  3. When true doctrine results from the true experience of the power of Christ rather than mere intellectual instruction. Heresies are not produced by ignorance but by the speculation of learned men.
  4. When the church is self-supporting and provides for its own leaders and facilities.
  5. When new churches are given the freedom to learn by experience and are supported but not controlled.

Overall the chapter produced some challenging questions for us to consider. It rubs against much of the institutional wisdom that has dominated the recent history of the church.

Adaptive Methods (Chapter 5)

“To fulfill their mission, the most effective movements are prepared to change everything about themselves except their basic beliefs. Unencumbered by tradition, movements feel free to experiment with new forms of the church and new effective methods of ministry.”

Chapter 5 gives some helpful tools with understanding past movements that are in rapid decline as well as ways to avoid that same fate. While affirming an unchanging message, Addison reminds us that our methods must be adaptable.

He very helpfully points out that once fruitful methods can become formalized and seen as the “right” methods. An organization can become so convinced what they are doing is right (because it worked at some point) that they stop paying attention to the world around them. Sadly, history shows us a long list of examples that prove this true of the church.

Conclusion

Overall, Movements that Change the World was a solid and concise work. It provides a wealth of practical insights while clearly defining the key components of dynamic movements. It puts forth a vision for world changing Christian movements that are rooted in orthodox Christian doctrine, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and adaptable to every context.  It challenges the church to take an honest look at our methods, and consider if they are accomplishing the mission at hand.