Thursday, April 05, 2007

A new read... a continuing journey...

So I started reading this book by a guy named Alan Hirsch entitled (that means - named) The Forgotten Ways. (Corrie, thanks for the recomendation.) I was actually looking for some insights on discipleship in our culture but it appears the book is more about approaching how God's church could look or must look in todays culture to be at its best or to be what it was created to be. (Which to an extent I am certain will tap into discipleship.) It's premise is looking at places in history and in the present at where The Church has been thriving and beautiful and trying to "point to " varibles that lead to this thriving. It's not as formulaic as it sounds. It's really just saying the only absolutes we have in looking at these things are our own personal observations and experiences, so why ignore them.

I am in the first chapter I am already challenged. He says this "In the study of the history of missions, one can even be formulaic about asserting that all great missionary movements begin at the fringes of the church, among the poor and the marginalized, and seldom if ever at the center. It is vital that in pursuing missional modes of church, we get out of the stiffling equilibrium of the center or our movements and our denominations, move to the fringes, and engage in real mission there."

While I am a church planter and possibly a Pastor (not by title but by giftedness or calling) I am constantly reminded of how my concern, desire, or passion is not to build a big church where people gather together on Sunday and thats it. Not a place where we have a center, place ourselves there, and expect people to come to us. I want to be apart of a community of people on mission to share the love, hope, peace, and resurrection power of the gospel of our Lord and our Savior, Jesus Christ. I pray I am willing to risk everything including my job, my income, and even my life should it be necessary to be apart of such community.

Hirsch mentions the current decline of the church in the west and also in Australia where he is from. According to statistics it is not due to a lack of "spiritual seeking" or even "Jesus openess" (both my terms - sorry to poorly paraphrase) as an increasing percentage of people report a "yes" to God and to Jesus but that same increase is also saying "no" to the church. My prayer is that our church and the Church as a whole can find a place to meet people where we do not expect them to first be willing to walk in through the doors of a building that could represent oppression and/or judgement o reven worse to them.

I am becoming more and more aware of the gospel being for everyone and not just those willing and/or able to come sing songs with us on Sunday morning. If this is the case then it is our calling as the church to be on constant mission to bring this hope that we celebrate to all of the world and namely our neighbors.

My prayer for Visio Dei is not to become the church where "cool people" go, the place with the great teacher, or the place with the cool vibe (Lord knows we don't have to worry about it being the place with great music.) My prayer is that we will be an authentic Jesus community living on the fringes of culture taking a radical message of Hope to the world around us. I fully believe that is the only Church worth giving our life to and I fully believe that is the gospel that Jesus allowed himself to endure the cross for.

Just some thoughts from the first chapter... a new book... a continuing journey... may we follow Jesus more and more closely...

Love and Peace,

-J

15 comments:

BFrancese said...

"Not a place where we have a center, place ourselves there, and expect people to come to us."

Active...it is what He always did. He went to the people. He goes. We go.

Good post. Inspiring.

Revolu

Shannon Smith said...

I long for the time when the fringes feel crowded. When we must push out to make room. When we look back and can no longer see the crowd in the center, but only the cross.

jason said...

thats an excellent visual... thanks, Shannon... might have to put that in my bucket...

Jason said...

Ultimately though doesn't there need to be some kind of center for community? Yes, we need to go out to them, but they will ultimately congregate somewhere for worship, fellowship, etc, right?

jason said...

I am not saying this is easy but its possible that our "current explanation" of worship and fellowship could be irrelevant. Espeacially if you mean simply "they need to come here on Sunday morning". I am not saying anything is wrong with that but honestly it is not the end all for "worship" and "fellowship"... Worship happens in life, day to day, not just singing songs (this is coming from a worship leader - one who is passionate about the church gathering for "corporate worship") and biblical fellowship occurs while on mission together not sitting in a room or eating a covered dish meal.

In short, no one is questioning if there should be a center. My statement has to do with the church being willing to engage outside of current environments that operate under the framework of "they should come to us".

Peace,

-J

Corey Paxton said...

Jason,

I'm so glad you are reading this book, and I'm glad it is stirrring your soul. I have only read another book by them, and have looked through the one you are reading, but won't read it for another week or so. You are actually opening up a big can of worms with your post here about the nature and mission of the church. It would be a very long blog entry to get into this fully now, but I will give a couple brief comments.

Hirsch actually is questioning the center of the church. The big distinction he is making is between a Christendom mode of church in which the church has been at the center and people are expected to come to us, and mission is like a task we do to others versus the Jesus centered approach in which Christ is at the center and we as His body orient our lives around being good news to the community and world together. Mission is not a task we do but "overflows" out of who we are as God's people following the Spirit of Christ, and it comes out of people asking the question of how can we be a blessing to others around us in all our relationships as a gift to them rather than coming to us to experience and receive a gift.

What they are calling for is a way of being church that understands Jesus' life at the epicenter of our faith, not a cool church service. This is more than an ideal, or abstract message, but that our lives as people and communities become organized and patterned around the life and practices of Jesus in our relationships, workplaces, and world. The life of Jesus (the ultimate expression of the Kingdom of God) at the center, and His body organize around what His Spirit is calling us to do in a commmunity that is in tune with Him.

I think you are seeing the practical implications of this radical difference. This is why they are writing, to call the church in the west out of their slumber, and reorientate the way we see ourselves as the church, and the way we are going about mission in the Western world. I can't do it justice in this post (it's already taken them 3 books), but I encourage us all to keep searching and testing everything we do as the church with the life of Jesus as our refernce point.

I encourage you to keep wrestling with these questions, it's fun to imagine and dream about a different future, calling others into a revolutionary movement where we move from receivers to learners, from pure consumers to givers, from hearing about love to showing and experiecing love.

jason said...

amen and amen...

-and now I don;t have to read the book ;)

... I kid... I kid...

Corey Paxton said...

ha ha, i actually edited that too

Corey Paxton said...

ha ha, i actually edited that too

Shannon Smith said...

Can I get an abstract for Corrie's comment.

Corey Paxton said...

No

and my name is Corey

Shannon Smith said...

You know, sometimes less is more.

And, who is Jason talking about here: "(Corrie, thanks for the recomendation.)"

Corey Paxton said...

this is a good point, a little overzealous, i admit, i'll keep to 2,000 words next time

kaelius said...

Phoeey, I posted my comment in the wrong entry for this blogpost. Whatcha doing posting the same thing twice anyways? Anyway, here's the cut'n'paste from my comment to the other post.

----------------

a) Being humble doesn't mean being self-denigrating. The music at Visio Dei IS good, and it doesn't bring any glory to anyone to slam it. Ooo..that sounded harsh. Maybe a smiley will lighten it up? :)

b) re: discipleship. In one of my favorite podcasts (The White Horse Inn), they recently pointed out (well, just before new year's eve, but I'm a bit behind) that during the Reformation, many churches looked around and basically said "Hey! Our population is becoming visually oriented. They love entertainment. Let's give them the gospel via 'morality plays' and 'character studies.'" Sounds familiar.

The reformers answered by instead diving into the heart and soul of the gospel -- the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ and how the entire Bible is the story of how / why that occurred. According to the commentators in the podcasts, it was this focus that drove the protestant reformation and truly resulted in changed lives.

I mention this here because I think a big part of discipleship is teaching each other that the stories of Adam, Abraham, Moses, David, Samson, Isaiah, Paul, (insert character here) are all stories that lead to Christ. Seeing this picture, that even our salvation isn't about us, but about him, is what leads people to live differently.

The White Horse Inn commentators talked about Sunday School and why kids find it so boring -- it's teaching "morality," something that kids get every day, from all sorts of sources. Kids can handle complex storylines with lots of text -- look at the popularity of the huge Harry Potter books -- those aren't light reading. We need to be teaching kids, and each other, the awesome story of redemptive history, and getting as caught up in that overarching storyline as we do in Harry Potter

Corey Paxton said...

this is turning into an interesting discussion. i realize blogs lose a lot in tone and meaning of the words being said. I hope no one thinks I, or jason, is denigrating visio dei. I'm glad the music there is good, I've never heard it, but I heard there are some great musicians who should use their gifts. The problem hirsch is dealing with is that we unintentionally turn the church into consumers because a certain group does the ministry to others, and then getting people to come to us becomes the focus where more people become consumers.

about the second part, i think we need to return to the story in a way that even critiques the reformation message. they rediscovered a message that was incredibly important for their time, but it was very individualistic, and did not move beyond to how the church should look and organize ourselves around god's purposes.

many see this time as a new reformation in which we are returning to the story again, afresh, in our time and place, to respond the questions of our day and respond to the gospel in a way that reclaims the larger story of what God is doing in the world rather than just a individual me and god message of salvation. hirsch is writing to that end, to move the church to participate in god's mission in a way that revolved around the kingdom rather than the church

hope that didn't come off wrong, i really appreciated your thoughts