Abductive Columns

Monday, March 28, 2005

One in Three Adults Is Unchurched

[There has been an] emergence of a national body of spiritual leaders who are assisting unchurched people in their quest for spiritual depth through means and relationships that are outside the usual institutional vehicles is significant. We anticipate substantial growth in the number of people who are not connected to a congregational church but who are committed to growing spiritually. It would not be surprising to witness a larger slice of the born again population shift from the 'churched' to 'unchurched' column of the ledger over the next ten years. What's amazing about the coming transition is that it is likely to occur without any real decline in activities such as Bible reading, prayer, tithing, family faith activity or service to the needy. The people involved will be altering the locus of their activity without diminishing the intensity of their commitment to God and to their faith.

from the Barna Research
One in Three Adults Is Unchurched [full report]

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Alternative Ministries

Remember Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker? Ever wondered about their offspring? Well their son, Jay, is preaching for a pomo church in Atlanta, Ga. – Revolution Ministries

I am a 29 year old minister who grew up seeing the good and bad of the church. Both of my parents are ministers and at one time had the largest church in the country until their lives were changed by one of the biggest scandals in America. The scandal exposed me to the pain and hurt that the church as well as the world can give. [more…]

Saturday, March 26, 2005

The Value of Confusion

We weren’t trained to admit we don’t know. Most of us were taught to sound certain and confident, to state our opinions as if it were true. We haven’t been rewarded for being confused. Or for asking more questions rather than giving quick answers.

But guess what? We can’t be creative if we refuse to be confused. Change always starts with confusion; cherished interpretations must dissolve to make way for the new. Of course it’s scary to give up what we know, but the abyss is where newness lives. Great ideas and inventions miraculously appear in the space of not knowing.

Friday, March 25, 2005

It's All a Mystery

It’s mostly a mystery. There’s the mystery of the kingdom in the first chapter of Mark. There is the mystery of Israel in Romans 11 and the mystery of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15. It’s all a mystery!

The book of Ephesians mentions no less than four mysteries.

The mystery of God’s will (chapter 1)
The mystery of the church (chapter 3)
The mystery of marriage (chapter 5)
The mystery of the gospel (chapter 6)
2 Thessalonians presents the mystery of lawlessness. And Paul mentions the mystery of godliness in 1 Timothy 3.

Did I mention mystery?

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Church Leaders--Role Models--How So?

Church leaders and their families are expected to be role models. But, what are they to model? For too long we've measured effectiveness and competency by a “perfectionist model” when, in reality, the measuring of leadership should be based on a “confessional model.” Jesus gives us a picture of the confessional model in Luke 18. In this parable the publican admits his needs and faults rather than hiding them. The Pharisee does just the opposite and denies his faults. This parable ought to give leaders, preachers, elders, and every family the right and freedom to say, “We have struggles, fights, losses, and unanswered questions. We don't love each other all the time like we should, but we survive because we admit (confess) this and pray for each other.”

Yes, leaders are to be “role models” but we can't pretend to be Jesus incarnate. If we do, we’re as guilty as the Pharisee who prayed as if he had no problems. We are only frail representatives of Christ.

A “role model” passages that needs a little theological fine-tuning is 1 Timothy 3:4-5.

“...He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?”
I want to key in on this phrase
“must manage his own family well” (NIV)
“…manages his own household well.” (NAS)
What does “well-managed” mean? Do we interpret this to mean immaculate and eliminate every man from shepherding God’s people? This is not what Paul was trying to convey. “Well managed,” doesn't mean “well-behaved” or even that a prospective shepherd’s children must be visibly involved in the church. In this passage Paul deals with basic character traits, not the way every episode of life “has” to turn out. “Well-managed” refers not so much to a result as it does to the importance of entering into the parental process and shouldering the responsibilities of the job.

Both Eli and Samuel had disappointing results with their children. Yet, Jehovah punished Eli for his ineffective parenting and blessed Samuel, who shouldered his responsibility, even though he had an unfortunate result. If a prospective leader is trying to be a “good father” and hasn't shirked his God-given responsibility, yet his children don't “turn out”, is he a Samuel? On the other hand, if the father irresponsibly ignores his parental duties, with a predictable result, is he an Eli?

“Well managed” is the faithful process of parenting, not the end result. It’s time we begin distinguishing between the self-destructive behavior brought on by poor parenting and the developmental crisis that teenagers predictably pass through. For too many years we've eliminated good, godly men who've desired to lead Gods people!

Monday, March 21, 2005

The First? Pomo Missionary

A local congregation is supporting me as their pomo missionary. So, I’m gearing up for time in the public square with the idea of gaining cultural perspectives on spirituality. I was asked to meet with the worship leader, a shepherd and the transformational architect today. It amazes me on the amount of time and energy we expend in crafting a fast moving, seamless Sunday worship.

I wonder why we don’t carve out the same kind of time in developing apprentice for Jesus as well as teaching believers how to walk alongside their friends, neighbors and co-workers as spiritual explorers/sometimes guide?

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Church Services and the Post-Christian

I find it interesting that Jesus never once called anyone to make an appearence at a church service. He simply laid out a two-word invitation: “Follow Me.” This is important to remember, because if our post-Christian friend declines an invitation to church, this isn’t the end of the road in our spiritual friendship. There are plenty of ways to invite someone to experience Jesus besides attending a church service.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

God's Politics: An Interview with Jim Wallis

My conversion text is the 25th chapter of Matthew, where Jesus said, “As you’ve done to the least of these, you’ve done to me.” I don’t hear Bush ever talking about the Sermon on the Mount; I just don’t hear it. I’m hard pressed to think of teachings of Jesus that are being talked about in the White House.

Jesus didn’t speak at all about homosexuality. There are about 12 verses in the Bible that touch on that question. Most of them are very contextual. There are thousands of verses on poverty. I don’t hear a lot of that conversation. Fighting poverty’s a moral value, too. There’s a whole generation of young Christians who care about the environment. That’s their big issue. Protecting God’s creation, they would say, is a moral value, too. And, for a growing number of Christians, the ethics of war—how and when we go to war, whether we tell the truth about going to war—is a religious and moral issue as well.

What you really don’t hear [from Bush] is Jesus saying, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Or even more, how many sermons have we heard since Sept. 11 on the text, “Love your enemies?” It hasn’t been a very popular text since Sept. 11. Well, we should at least have a debate about what Jesus meant by blessed are the peacemakers and love your enemies in a world full of terrorism and tyranny.

I remember Bill O’Reilly one night was yelling at me about Iraq. I said, “Bill, what would Jesus do? Can you imagine him climbing into the cockpit of a B-52 and dropping a load of bombs over Baghdad?” And Bill said, “Well, Jesus would surely want to protect the American people.” And I said, “Really? What about the Iraqis?” “Well, well, them, too.” Once you start talking about this in a religious frame, it’s troubling.

The Republicans will not hold [Bush] accountable to the biblical prophets when they think all the issues are about abortion, and the Democrats don’t even know the language. He gets away with it. There’s got to be a progressive religious response to Bush that says, “We don’t quibble with your piety, but we challenge your theology.” There is no American exceptionalism in the Bible. The Gospel is uneasy with empire—except American empire?
God's Politics: An Interview with Jim Wallis

Monday, March 14, 2005

Organic Missional Leaders

The following is from the mind and pen of Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington.

Organic missional leaders in our postmodern, post-Christian, post-structural world are a tribe defined not by the answers they hold but by the questions which hold them. The following is a glimpse into the content of their dialogue.

What is the difference between missional and doing evangelism?
How will networks replace denominations?
How can ministries transition from being program driven to being community driven?
How can the church transition from giving data that are informing to giving experience that is transforming?
What is the difference between reason and rationalism?
How are the religious right and left missing their opportunity to be missional?

How to Witness Under the Pressure of Life and Death

I’m amazed that not even one blog among the many blogs I read has reported on the Ashley Smith story. Here’s a woman who made an extra-ordinary attempt that God used in a most dramatic way.

Taken at gunpoint in front of her Duluth apartment by courthouse killer, Brian Nichols, Ashley Smith is taken hostage for over seven hours in her own apartment. Yet in no more than two hours this twenty-six year old single mom transitioned from a fearful, trembling young lady to a composed, thoughtful woman calmly appealing to this killer on both an emotional and spiritual level. So much so, that in the end it transformed Brian Nichols, however short lived, to take a white towel and wave it in surrender. (Now back in prison reports describe him as “defiant” and “proud of his activities.”)

How could a man who had carjacked several cars and violently taken the lives of four people end up waving a white flag. What changed this man’s psyche and caused him to watch accounts of his day of terror on television with his captive and then ask, “what do you think I should do?”

Ashley cooked pancakes, read the Bible and Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Church with a man who had intrusively invaded and threatened her life. She calmly wept as she spoke of family and her five year old daughter. She talked about purpose in her life and purpose in his.

Facing the pressures of life and death, Ashley Smith became witness-extraordinaire.

She gave a man without hope—hope—if for only a moment in time.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Things Unseen

Today Churches of Christ are a modern church in a world in which modernity is receding. This reality, probably more than any other factor, accounts for the swift and disorienting changes besetting them at the beginning of the twentieth-first century. Can this anti-tradition tradition come to terms with its own modern tradition?

Can Churches of Christ break out of modernity’s hold and engage the present age with the power of the gospel? Can they respond to the new challenges and opportunities of this “postmodern” era?
Leonard Allen

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

New Weblog

If there's one area the emerging church is slow to reconstruct it's in the area of evangelism. Jim Henderson, of Off-The-Map is one of the few giving the emerging church direction in making everyday ordinary attempts.

Yesterday Off the Map launched its OA Weblog

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Roadblocks to a God Relationship

A couple of years ago I read Allen and Swick’s “Participating in God’s Life.” Yesterday I had some time and picked the book back up and browsed for over an hour. Listed in chapter 4 were three barriers that can keep us from God’s Fire. Here’s the second roadblock facing the Churches of Christ (as well as other faith communities)

Some of us easily let passion for theological and denominational issues displace passion for Jesus, prayer and life in the Spirit. Kierkegaard, observing this perpetual human tendency in nineteenth-century Denmark, said that if faced with two doors, one marked “Heaven” and the other “Lecture about Heaven,” most would choose the lecture.

Billy Sunday said, “I don’t know anymore about theology than a jackrabbit knows about ping-pong, but I’m on my way to glory.”

Theology’s primary place is to discern and support what the Spirit is doing. It is the gyroscope on the ship of faith, not the engine. Theology helps balance and protect Spirit-quickened life, but it doesn’t bring life. “The Spirit gives life.” (2 Cor. 3:6)

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Ecology’s Story

In many respects ecology is the new discovery of our time. It helps us understand how our world works. In my lifetime ecology has expanded and stretched the traditional view by linking the lives of snails and sparrows with human beings. This reinforces the belief that all life is important. But just how important is a previously unknown plant or insect discovered in the rain forests of Central America? We may think the plant or insect is unimportant but suppose that it produces a chemical that can cure a dreaded human disease. Suddenly something thought unimportant becomes valuable. Yet the truth is the whole earth has value—the insect and plants significance is not found in its relationship to humans. Value is presumed even when we have not found significance. It’s the connectedness that makes all life important—every part.

Yes the universe is profoundly ecological but that’s not the whole story. The smaller story of ecology is simply a strewn piece of a puzzle without the larger story of what God is doing in Jesus Christ. God’s creation is marked by interrelatedness: Man and woman in mutual relationship, love in relation to truth, the individual in relation to society, humanity in relation with the environment, the present in relation to the past and future.

Ecology can help the church perceive the breadth and interconnectedness of its mission and underscore the twin truths of unity and diversity.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Will the Church Be a Global Player?

In the same way that Joseph became Pharaoh’s God-guided advisor to deal with a regional famine shouldn’t the church become the resource to a world at risk from similar threatening global realities (environmental degradation, racial and ethnic hatred, economic exploitation, etc)?