Friday, May 21, 2004

The Kingdom Of God Is Like...
  • Extreme Makeover Home Edition

  • Have you ever noticed that whenever Jesus talks about the Kingdom of God in scripture, he doesn't talk about worship services, church buildings, and Bible study? He instead seems to relate it to the ideology of restoration, redemption, and wholeness.

    I have a confesson to make. I watch Extreme Makeover Home Edition. I'm not really into the whole "Trading Spaces" genre, and I won't bore you with how I wound up watching this show for the first time, but believe me, this is out of character for me. Even so, as a follower of Jesus, I'm facinated by it.

    First of all, it is a metaphor for redemption. They don't level these rundown houses and start over. They redeem the existing structure into something much grander than any observer could have imagined.

    Secondly, I have another confession to make. I have teared up at the end of every single episode I have seen. This show targets the downtrodden; people who's lives have fallen apart. It intentionally lifts up those people who life has beaten down. I've never seen any of the design team or the producers of the show make any claims of Christianity, but what they do "looks like Jesus". In addition, 9 times out of 10, the people who are helped wind up thanking/praising God at the end of the show! That is facinating to me. Nowhere in the show is God mentioned until the end when most of the people being helped recognize His hand.

    It makes me wonder about the church. One of the reasons that I tear up is because I keep thinking "shouldn't the church be doing stuff like that?" Maybe if we devoted more time to really lifting up the downtrodden and the brokenhearted, they might recognize the Hand of God more readily than if we keep trying to shove dogma down their throats.

    Wednesday, May 19, 2004

    WARNING!!! I've been reading about postmodernism again!

    Out of the part of the church that's paying attention to what's going on in culture, there seem to be 2 schools of thought on postmodernism. 1)It is evil to the core and foriegn to Christianity 2) It is the greatest thing since sliced bread and is the key to revitalizing the church.

    While I fit neither catagory, I fall much closer to the latter. Postmodernism is a cultrual shift that is irreversably taking hold. Fighting against it and trying to convince the world to return to modernism is futile at best. In addition the idea that we must first convert someone to modernism before we can convert them to Christianity is equally ridiculous seeing as how Christianity predates moderism. Even so, it would be the heighth of ignorance and shortsigthedness for the church to marry itself to postmodernism in the same way it wed modernism. Instead, we should follow the tradition of Paul on Mars Hill who used the prevailing mindset and philosophy of the day to reveal the truth of God. He refuted the parts of the philosophy that were incompatable when neccessary, but he used what he could instead of dismissing the whole thing.

    For example: One of the major things that some Christian leaders are freaked out about is the fact that postmodernism rejects the idea of a metanarative (an overarching story that is true everywhere and encompasses all things). Now, this is a problem because that's exactly what we believe in. However, local naratives are incredibly important and meaningful to postmoderns. Is is possible that we can elevate the importance of our local stories (our personal interactions with God, Our faith communities being Jesus to each other and the world, etc.). I believe that if we do this, they will come to belive in our metanaratvie as a natural progression more readily than if we were to try to prove or argue that a metanarative really does exist.


    Wednesday, May 12, 2004

    The Church is perfect...on paper. Then you add us to it and we mess everything up. We try to clear things up that we think God wasn't specific enough on. We muddy things up that God made crystal clear. As Brian McLaren says "We see God as a bigger, better version of ourselves." Consequently, the things that are important to us must be important to him and the things that we see as unimportant he must see as inconsequential. Add to that our reactionary nature and you'll find that most doctrine winds up at it's essence being "Holy" opinion and reaction. When I look around (with eyes that are admittedly tainted with all of the above) I can't see anything that can seriously claim to be the Church that God had in mind. I read lots of articles and books that use scripture and point toward something closer (most of which can be found by clicking on the links to the right), but I don't know that any of us know what that kind of church would actually look like. So, what do we do? Do we give up on the church. Should all of us who see the inconsistancies between what the church is and what the church should be just walk away and start from scratch (as if somehow we could avoid the same pitfalls given time)? Could there be another answer? What if some of us stayed? What if we subtly, subversively, unflinchingly pointed the way to a more Biblical vision, not just with teaching and writing, but with the way we live our lives as well? I admit that this is incredibly frustrating. It flies in the face of our desire for instant gratification and overnight transformation. I admit that I'm a little irritated about it even as I type, but I believe that it's what Jesus would have us do.

    Friday, May 07, 2004

    Book Reccomendation
    I just wanted to take a second to reccomend a book. I don't plan to do this a lot, but this one is so good I just have to. It's called BLUE LIKE JAZZ: non-religious thoughts on Christian spirituality by Donald Miller. Miller has a unique, refreshing, and highly readable writing style and has theological depth and insight that will challenge your thinking and refresh your soul. Check it out. You won't be disappointed.

    Wednesday, May 05, 2004

    Sometimes in youth ministry you wonder if anyone "gets it". I mean sure they like hanging out together and everything looks pretty good, but you wonder if they are getting the deep truths of God. You wonder if they understand what it means to really follow Jesus. I asked a couple of my graduating seniors to handle our Wednesday night program for the teens tonight. The one who volunteered to speak e-mailed me his notes last night. Wow! They are getting it. They are getting it so well, that I don't think I can even take any credit for it. This kid laid out a plea for missional Christianity, Jesus centered living, and true evangelism (though he didn't use those terms) with a clarity that challenges me. Sure, the writing style was a little rough, but it was just his notes and he doesn't do this kind of thing all the time. The message however is crystal clear. Thank you God for letting me experience things like this. In spite of my weaknesses, failures, and frustrations you've got things covered.