Assignment: 50 words of "My thoughts for the last class". This will be posted in response to each class of the 10 week quarter (2 classes/week).
It was interesting to be taught about Pentecostalism and the Emerging Church in the same day. In many ways they both could be considering “emerging” movements in the world today. Pentecostalism is growing dynamically in the non-Western world and the Emerging church, while not the same level of growth by any means, is another response to dissatisfaction with what was. One major difference is that is seems the Emerging Church connects to the more post-modern culture of the West and Pentecostalism with the non-West. I don’t necessarily see the Emerging Church having the same level of success on a global scale, though I think it has important elements that are thinking creatively about how to reach the West where Christianity is in decline.
It is interesting to hear about all the innovative ideas coming from the Fresh Expressions Movement in the Church of England. My immediate question, however, is regarding the idea that the church needs to look like the mission, and in one case that meant meeting in a pub if that is where the network is, or the school, etc. I wonder what this kind of view of church does for the concept of diversity in the body of Christ, in the community? If only like-minded and perhaps the same age demographic are meeting together, how do they experience diversity in views, in age, in interests, etc.? This of course depends on what the setting is, but I have often wondered this when working with university student ministry. If they only consider their time with other students as the gathering together, they are missing out on the wisdom of elders, of being able to mentor younger people, etc. I think a lot about the idea is inspiring, I just wonder if it limits the idea of Christian community and instead simply becomes affinity groups in which everyone is comfortable and people are not being challenged as much relationally.
It is difficult to not get disheartened when hearing about the decline of Christianity in the west. However, that Christianity is exploding in the rest of the world is both hopeful and fascinating (especially because many of these are now more indigenous expressions of the faith). What will this do to our generally western-dominated theologies? Will the church be revived in the west by the efforts of those in the nonwestern world? Will Pentecostal expressions of Christianity become the norm? I have to believe that there is hope for Christianity in the west, I am just incredibly curious as to what that would look like in the decades to come. I do know that there are creative expressions popping up in the western world and so I wonder what will happen when these” new” expressions of Christianity in the west meet with those (generally) more conservative (yet charismatic) expressions of the non-west. I can only imagine the interesting theological debates that will continue between west and non-west…or will that kind of discourse inevitably change as well?
My struggle today was trying to understand the teaching of some traditions regarding the Eucharist. It is difficult for me to see why it would be necessary to teach the fact that in the Eucharist (in connection with the Word preached for many), Christ becomes present. This is due to my understanding that Christ is present “wherever two or more are gathered in Christ’s name”. Is Christ not already present in the body of gathered believers before this sacrament is performed? While I certainly understand that having the Eucharist stand only as a memorial can cause a loss of meaning, I do think there can be a mystical element in the remembrance without limiting the presence of Christ to the this Eucharistic sacrament.
It is interesting to think that in a way, St. Francis’ movement was Protestant in nature, yet the Catholic Church allowed it, whereas other movements by those such as Tyndale and Luther were stopped or not approved by the Catholic Church. I also think it is interesting how many Lutherans idolize Luther even though he was not the one primarily responsible for the Protestant movement since it was quickly out of his control. He did make some significant contributions, but there are also many questionable aspects to his character (his anti-Jewish sentiments for one) that are not acknowledged by most Lutherans. Having grown up in the Lutheran church and even having gone through catechism and confirmation, there is much that was never taught about the history of Lutheranism and Luther (I suppose understandably so because they wouldn’t want to focus on the negative traits). I just think it would be beneficial if Lutherans had a better understanding of the history of their tradition.
Some Thoughts on the Missiology Lectures with featured speaker Vinoth Ramachandra (extra credit):
Wedndesday, Nov. 10: "Christian Missions in a Post-American World: Global Economic Realities and the Church's Missionary Mandate
Thursday, Nov. 11: Integrity, Mission and the Reign of God
Overall, I enjoyed hearing Ramachandra share. However, it was interesting how different my response was after the second talk on Thursday evening compared to his talk on Wednesday afternoon. On Wednesday, he seemed intent on challenging many of the characteristics of globalism that have been embraced by Western Christianity. While this is a needed rebuke, I found his desire to dismantle even the positive efforts of Western Christians to think more globally in terms of mission strategy more of a discouragement than an encouragement. I do understand his point in critiquing the idea of Partnership in mission, but I do think he has a pessimistic view of what this can mean that is not characteristic of all those “in the South”, to use his phrase. I agree that Biblical interdependence would be a better way of looking at this relationship, but I do think that we need to be encouraged by the more recent focus on “partnership” as a step in the right direction and not one intended to be yet another way for the West to lord their wealth and authority over their non-Western partners. Though I do not doubt this does happen, I think that partnership can be defined in a Biblical way that acknowledges the full worth and contribution of the other. At the end of this talk, I felt that Ramachandra was perhaps more discouraging towards those from the West who feel called to and are training towards becoming missionaries.
The lecture on Thursday evening had a much different tone to it. While Ramachandra did continue to challenge, his emphasis on unlearning the Gospel (i.e. recognizing that the content of the gospel is a new humanity and world through Jesus and the consequence is salvation, etc.) and doing Integral Mission out of an Integral Gospel, are important to be reminded of and helpful in moving forward. I appreciated his opinion that informal discussions dealing with everyday issues between different faiths is in many ways more effective than “a bunch of dignitaries sitting around a table talking theology”. He used a quote by Kenneth Cragg to illustrate this point: “It is our life task to make bridges into their minds, this means being near enough to be heard”. I also appreciated his discussion on the importance of not just trying to find the similarities between different faiths, but rather acknowledging the differences because it shows that one takes the other seriously. In his words, “criticizing is to take a person seriously”. This kind of interaction also allows ourselves the opportunity to be converted, either to the other or more deep in our own convictions. His discussion on “double conversions” as seen with Peter and Cornelius was a good illustration of this. During the discussion following the lecture, a good critique was brought up about how much Ramachandra focused on the unity that the Gospel brings. He was challenged to consider that perhaps the diversity and division that occurs within the Christian faith is a reflection of the culture, and therefore the way God has chosen to work. While this is a thought-provoking observation, and I agree with the premise that the differences that do exist within Christianity allow the Church to reach the diversity of humanity through its different expressions, I do have to agree with Ramachandra’s answer that if the Gospel cannot bring unity than what hope to we have of being a witness to the world that Jesus transcends the culture divisions that human beings so often put in place. In other words, how can it be God’s design that “America is most divided and fragmented on a Sunday morning”?
Again, I do think that it is so interesting that the Catholic Church is embracing the charismatic movement because it sees it as a renewal movement and a way to, essentially, not lose more Catholics. I think it is great if Catholic charismatics can continue to maintain some of the traits that are valuable within the Catholic church while also being charismatic. I do wonder though, if this is happening. I have always believed that the Pentecostal movement could really use more of the Catholic emphasis on social justice and serving (which I do think is increasing in many Pentecostal churches), so I would hope that these charismatic expressions do not lose that and become inward-focused because of the experiential nature of the charismatic movement. As a Pentecostal, I think that this can actually be a powerful witness and fuel for service in the world, but it has not always resulted in that. In many ways I find the idea of charismatic Catholicism really appealing! If I could just get over that "having to go to mass every Sunday or you are living in sin" thing...
I find the emersion of more charismatic expressions in the Catholic Church fascinating, but at the same time not entirely surprising. I think back to some of the well-known people in the monastic movement and see an openness to new expressions of intimacy with God. The mysticism that is present in the tradition could be seen as a key to acceptance of the supernatural as well as the emotional (two traits that are quite visible in charismatic expressions). What I had not thought of before was the fact that many in high positions within the Catholic church are allowing these expressions to continue because they see it as important to the survival of the Catholic Church. The question then becomes how much do these new expressions still represent traditional Catholic beliefs, and how much are they developing more of a Pentecostal theology? Not that I don’t believe one can be both Catholic and charismatic or even “pentecostal” in the lower-case “p” sense. I actually think that, as someone who has been a part of a Pentecostal ministry for ten years now, combining elements of Catholicism and Pentecostalism (as well as other denominations) would result in a more holistic expression of faith. I just wonder how much of what defines the Catholic tradition is still believed in these new movements.
One of my concerns from the class was the elevation of liberation theology. I agree that there is much that we can learn from it and model our way of doing theology after, but I don’t know if I would advocate for it as the “the best representative of Kingdom theology”. I would argue that it is a limited theology in some ways because of its emphasis on economic and external categories. I do believe that the Bible is clear with its focus on the poor and the marginalized, but I also do not believe that the message of the Kingdom is one of liberation only for the poor. People of all economic standings are in bondage and in need of liberation- both inner and outer. The liberation movement should also be critiqued for some of its ineffectiveness and some of its connections (though of course this is not accurate for all expressions) to Marxism and violence.
The idea of doing theology from the perspective of the people is one that is very important and liberation theology sought to do this, however there still needs to be a caution that human beings are all flawed in our way of bending Scripture to support all our own views and not looking at the full picture. That being said, I have a high regard much of liberation theology, but would not go so far as to elevate it above other theologies. There is also apparently a reason that many of the poor in Latin America are choosing to be involved with the Pentecostal movement (which can also be critiqued), rather than the liberation movement. But that is a whole other topic….
Wow, there were a lot of names covered this class! It is always good to hear again about those people who made their mark on the history of Christian mission. Though many can be critiqued for their motivation or techniques, it is important to acknowledge their successes as well and place them in their own context. When doing this, one realizes that certain Christians (for example some of the Jesuits to Asia), were innovative in their way of reaching out to those of another culture and they sacrificed much in the way of personal identity in order to better connect with people. In other words, it is easy to be critical, yet we need to acknowledge that for the time, these people really stepped out of the box in many ways in order to proclaim the Gospel through their lives.
I know many would beg to differ, but I have such an appreciation for the monks and nuns who started and were a part of these communities that sought a more dedicated life with God. Of course there were negative sides, but I am still inspired by their focus and I have been blessed by aspects of the contemplative tradition as well as the attempt to lessen the split between the secular and sacred.
I am also inspired by those such as St. Patrick who had enough compassion and courage to ask God to bring him back to his captors in order to display the love of God in ways that transformed an entire country. Again the merging of the secular and sacred are evident in the Breastplate prayer attributed to him that we prayed in class. If only we could all understand more the presence of God in each moment and circumstance of each day.
It was really thought-provoking to watch the opening video of the Lausanne conference (Learn more about the Lausanne movement here: http://www.lausanne.org/, and about the recent 2010 conference in South African here: http://www.lausanne.org/cape-town-2010.) You can watch both parts 1 and 2 off of this link (30 minutes total): http://www.dionforster.com/blog/2010/10/19/an-overview-of-christian-history-and-the-church-video-from-t.html.
My first thoughts were that it was actually really well done, for trying to show an entire history of the church in 30 minutes! But I agree with many of my classmates that it was told from a very western perspective considering the conference is supposed to have "4,000 selected participants from 198 nations". I do wonder what those present from non-western nations would have thought of it.
However, that being said, I did feel like the way it was done was portraying the many mistakes that were made and I do feel that the overall point of the movie was to show that despite many negatives of the history of the church, God still continued to move his mission for the world forward. Christ was still proclaimed and there is a rich heritage of those who stood for Christ even in the midst of such opposition and even intense persecution. Though at many points throughout history it has indeed felt like "the end of the world", God in his grace, has remained sovereign and uses even the most flawed people and situations to advance his kingdom. I have no doubt he has been greatly grieved in the process, yet he continues to use us anyway to accomplish his mission that all the nations might know him.
I think we need to guard ourselves from becoming so cynical about the history of missions and the church that we forget about the sovereignty of God and fail to be those that God can use to bring about transformation in the world. If we believe that we are better than our predecessors in the way of sin, than we are doomed to make the same kind of mistakes. But if we recognize our need for the Holy Spirit, repentance and a humility before God, than there is hope that we will have the privilege to join in with what God is already doing in the earth. It will be exciting to see how the face of Christianity changes as the focus continues to move away from the west. We have much to learn!
Class Nine (Class Eight cancelled)
I thought it was interesting that Orthodox theology is the influence behind the idea of Trinitarian mission, and therefore, missional church. That they understood the idea that the church is sent people that are bearers of the divine mission is something to be thankful for. It is through this understanding that we can begin to think about how to be the kind of communities in which people are drawn into and also that look to see what God is already doing in the world and join in. Can the church truly be a place where the people of the world experience God? I think this is what most would desire, but so often we focus on outreach techniques and don't recognize this idea that as a body, we can display a kind of life in which God permeates through it all and as a result, the gospel is proclaimed.
I also think evangelicalism could benefit greatly from a more Orthodox-influenced theology of creation care. I am really interested in exploring this more fully as I desire to be a part of ministries that have this as more of a focus. I have already begun developing a better theology from those who have already been exploring this in more depth and I have found that many of the theologies are greatly influenced by the theology of the Orthodox Church on this matter.
Class Seven 10/19/10:
The theology of the Orthodox Church is fascinating to me because there is so much in it that seems to make so much sense! O f course there are some fundamental differences, but the emphasis on the love of God and the relationship of the Trinity and between God and God’s people is optimistic in a way that sometimes feels lacking in Protestantism. Unfortunately, as with all of Christianity, the theology and the actual beliefs or practices of the people seem to be far from unified. I'm also pretty sure if I attended an Orthodox Church (which I intend to at some point), I would have no idea what was going on!
Another thought I had is how my experiences in the Pentecostal tradition may have some similarities with the (seemingly) experiential nature of Eastern Orthodoxy. There is that openness to the mystery of the Spirit and the communion with God that happens in worship. I would like to find out more about how the presence of Pentecostalism in traditionally Eastern Orthodox countries has been received, despite theological differences
Class Six 10/17/10:
Every time I learn more about the Orthodox Church, I become more convinced that western Christianity has really lost something from this tradition. Because of our systematic, linear way of approaching theology, a sense of the mystery that is more characteristic of the Orthodox Church is left behind. The mystics of the Catholic Church, present in many of the monasteries, seemed to be those who still held on to some of this. I am encouraged that moves have been made to reconcile western and eastern Christianity, but I recognize that there is much to be done still. Knowing the persecution that the Eastern Orthodox Church has had to endure saddens me, yet gives me hope in that they have continued to endure despite such hardships.
I am also again challenged by the stories of evangelicals rushing to evangelize Russia’s Orthodox believers only to find they were insulted, as they see themselves as having possessed the faith for over a thousand years. Because of the arrogant attitude of the evangelical missionaries, there is now no longer such an openness between the two traditions in Russia. This is yet another lesson of the importance of contextualization and being educated about the place and sensitive to the people in which one is going!
I am interested to learn more about Bartholomew of Constantinople and his ecumenical work.
I am interested to learn more about Bartholomew of Constantinople and his ecumenical work.
Class Four 10/7/10:
I love the idea that the early church was such a source of cultural transformation. One of the most amazing witnesses the Church could have is for others to see it as place in which initiatives for the marginalized are implemented, where community that we were created for is really being lived out, where the complaints that are raised against it can only be that it does too much good in the world. How amazing that Jesus inspired his followers to be such a counter-cultural force in the world in so many ways. I am inspired by those such as Perpetua (see her story at http://www.ttstm.com/2010/03/march-7-perpetua-and-felicitas-martyrs.html), who probably knew so much less “theologically” when the church was still figuring things out, yet was affected enough by what she did hear that she was still willing to give her life for it. How much of us really understand this kind of commitment and walk in such power that the Gospel is supposed to possess?
Class Three 10/4/10:
Recognizing where the church has come from and how many expressions it has taken since the very beginning is really thought-provoking. So many have sought to be the Church as they felt God would most desire. All have been human and flawed, yet also blessed despite their weaknesses. It is difficult to not look at the form the early church seemed to take- that of house churches and smaller, intimate communities and not see that as God's preferred design for the church. There is so much about it that seems to embody Kingdom values as expressed by Jesus, and I have personally experienced so much authenticity and fruitful witness being involved in such communities. However, I look around at the varied expressions of church, from the mega churches to the traditional cathedral churches and monastic communities to the underground churches and the house churches, to the coffee shop and emerging churches...and see that somehow God has seemed to bless them in different ways and produce lasting fruit (even if there is negative fruit sometimes as well). How valuable it is to be reminded of the Church as representing the Body of Christ, the People of God, more than a structure. Who in all their humanness, God saw fit to be those who bear witness in the world. I suppose God must have expected nothing less than the diversity of expression that exists if humans have been created in the image of God yet with such uniqueness and diversity.
Class Two 9/29/10 :
When talking about Church and Mission in the First Century it is so important to remember that it was a movement that was political, social, and spiritual. The Jewish culture did not have divisions between these categories such as the west has imposed since around the 18th century. Jesus would have been seen as a revolutionary in many ways because he was choosing another way of living these realities than was common at the time. However, he was not revolutionary in the sense of trying to overthrow the Romans, for the first time a leader was choosing another way, presenting another way of embodying the Kingdom of God. As a result, the growth of the church would be slow, but obviously dynamic. If the church is to look to Jesus, than it must also be embodying another way.
Class One 9/27/10:
Interesting point that the decline of church attendance is due more to sociological factors than theological. In a post-modern culture, what should the church look like? If the west is becoming increasingly anti-institutional, this greatly affects sentiment towards churches that have institutional structure. Thinking from a global perspective, one realizes that asking questions about what the church should look like is very dependent on the context. For example then, it wouldn’t work to do an Emerging Church in a culture that was not postmodern (a culture can only be postmodern if it has gone through modernism first!). So, is the "emerging church" only a viable option for western cultures???
Assignment for 12/10/10: Choose a book from the list and respond to each chapter with a paragraph.
The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why
by Phyllis Tickle
Part 1: The Great Emergence: What is It?
Chapter One: Rummage Sales: When the Church Cleans Out its Attic
Tickle makes an interesting observation that every 500 years Judeo Christianity has gone through an major change. The Great Reformation, the Great Schism, Gregory the Great and the Fall of the Roman Empire… in other words, there have been great upheavals throughout history and we may, in fact, be on the cusp of another one. While this sounds very dramatic, it seems that making the point that this is a process that happens throughout history, makes it less dramatic and rather something that we just need to be aware of, and in that awareness, know how to respond.
I appreciated her acknowledgement that there are other “rummage sales” going on in other faiths, though similar patterns are seen.
Chapter Two: Cable of Meaning: The Loss and Discovery of a Common Story
I’m just wondering how in the world she came up with this metaphor! It seems to simply things a bit, but does help to understand how these movements have taken place due to the process of a re-orientation.
Part 2: The Great Emergence: How Did it Come to Be?
Chapter Three: The Great Reformation: A Prequel to Emergence
“The Second Great Schism” or the warring of 3 Popes as a catalyst for the Reformation occurred and shattered the illusion and story of society. Tensions between the stories and imaginations of near East culture and continental European culture also contributed (48).
The birth of individualism which resulted in the emergence of the middle class, capitalism, nation-state, and Protestantism really are all elements that contributed to this change but are also the very things that are being rejected in the current Great Emergence. Interesting how that happens!
“…the tension toward changing things externally into new forms, as opposed to reworking them internally into what should be, has been a major characteristic of each of our previous hinge times and will continue to be part of our present one.
The imperative for us in the twenty-first century, therefore, is not to fear either of the two coursings, but to fear with all our hearts and minds and souls the pattern of bloodiness that has in the past characterized the separation of innovators and re-traditioners from one another” (58).
Chapter Four: Questions of Re-formation: Darwin , Freud, and the Power of Myth
Science became the supreme challenge to story and imagination. The awareness of the unconscious and the existence of a “self” also brought up many questions. According to Tickle, each time of re-formation has asked this question: “Where now, is the authority?” (72). I wonder whether this is a question being asked in a post-modern world that seems to not want to believe in any authority?
Chapter Five: The Century of Emergence: Einstein, the Automobile, and the Marginalization of Grandma
This was a very full chapter of events that have overthrown the stories and imaginations of society. Tickle’s observance that with the popularity of the automobile, the Sabbath was forever changed and people no longer spent time with family in a stable place on Sundays, talking about church and hearing the wisdom of the Grandmothers is an interesting one. It seems to simply things a bit, but it definitely seems to be true that with increased mobility has come a breakdown of some of the traditional values that allowed for a greater appreciation of history, story-telling, rest, and family time. I would also say though, that it has opened up a world of possibilities as well. It is interesting that the local church attempted to be a life-giving replacement for what had been lost by offering stability for people. However, in the 1970s people rebelled against this with the slogan- “I’m spiritual but not religious”.
Part 3: The Great Emergence: Where is it Going?
Chapter Six: The Gathering Center: And the Many Faces of a Church Emerging
The Diagrams in this chapter were a bit confusing to follow, and certainly feed into stereotypes, but altogether do point to some interesting developments of this movement. It seems that divisions between Christians are disappearing as people are forced to interact with each other and not stay in like-minded parishes as in the past. An increase in urban centers has contributed to this. It is interesting that though Tickle recognizes that the boundaries between the four categories are softened, there still seem to be divisions that have roots in traditional expressions of Christianity. I did think that the categories of traditionalists, re-traditioning, progressives, and hyphenateds was a more helpful way of understanding the categories surrounding the emerging center (which at this point still seems a bit vague).
Chapter Seven: The Way Ahead: Mapping Fault Lines and Fusions
This chapter was what I was most interested in hearing about because one person labeling a time in history as The Great Emergence makes me a bit skeptical. I am not sure if agree that the ultimate authority for the emergent Christian is both “in Scripture and the Community” (151). It seems that there is actually less and less authority being placed on Scripture in the new expressions of church. I do agree that it tends towards egalitarianism and my hope would b e that it expresses an indifference to capitalism (though I’m not entirely certain that this is true) (152).
It is interesting that for the emergent, meta-narrative is to be mistrusted, yet “Narrative…is the song of the vibrating network”. This seems to be true because there is much more emphasis put on individual stories rather than the collective. This is makes sense in what seems to be an increasingly individualistic society.
De-Hellenization: from dualism to holistic Judaism: “If in pursuing this line of exegesis, the Great Emergence really does what most of its observers think it will, it will rewrite Christian theology—and thereby North American Culture—into something far more Jewish, more paradoxical, more narrative, and more mystical than anything the Church has had for the last seventeen or eighteen hundred years” (162). This of course, sounds very post-modern which makes me wonder if this still will hold true for those that believe that we are already moving into a post-post-modern time period.
Tickle does address in a footnote the distinction between Emergents and Emerging Christians, but the book still leaves me a bit confused about that.
Assignment for 12/1/10: Choose a book from the list and respond to each chapter with a paragraph.
Overall, this book was extremely helpful as an introduction to the many ecclesiologies that exist and I appreciated the emphasis not only on western, but also non-western forms and reflections. Incredibly interesting and thought-provoking when considering what a Unity of the church might need to look like in order to accommodate for all its diverse expressions.
An Introduction to Ecclesiology: Ecumenical, Historical, & Global Perspectives
By Veli-Matti Karkkainen
Chapter 1: The Church as an Icon of the Trinity: Eastern Orthodox Ecclesiology
I really appreciate the Trinitarian outlook of Eastern Orthodoxy. Due to this focus, the mystical aspect of faith, as well as the experiential are allowed an important place. The idea of growth in sanctification to deification is an interesting one that does not get talked about much in western Christianity. I agree that this outlook does prevent the kind of legalism and the notion of merit that have developed in the West. The physical church is an image of the Trinity and is also “the center of the universe” (20). “It is in the church that human beings are restored to their original role as cocreators with God” (20). This view gives great meaning to the sacraments and also to all of creation. This understanding of creation and human beings’ role with God in recognizing its sacredness can contribute greatly to a Christian ethic of creation care.
Chapter 2: The Church as the People of God: Roman Catholic Ecclesiology
Vatican II resulted in profound changes for the Catholic Church’s ecclesiology. The church was communicated as being a mystery and sacrament rather than simply a hierarchical institution as well as being the People of God rather than such a distinction between “pastor and flock” (29). Karl Rahner has been instrumental in advocating for the charismatic in the church and he and others feel that the charismatic and pneumatological teaching of Vatican II is not being taken seriously and should be the job of the whole church not just the Catholic Charismatic Movement (36). It is interesting to see how these changes have resulted in movements such as CCBs and the Charismatic Movement, yet still have not penetrated into all Catholic churches.
Chapter 3: The Church as Just and Sinful: Lutheran Ecclesiology
One of the most important contributions of Luther seems to be his desire to reclaim the idea of the “priesthood of believers” which was present in the early church. What resulted from this was also the Word and the Sacraments being considered the only mark of the church. Luther rejected the idea of a “pure church” (42) as would be understandable if all were considered able to participate in the church- humans are both just and sinful. I found it interesting that Luther limited the phenomenon of Pentecost to the apostolic era (44) and instead saw the Word and sacraments as replacing/fulfilling this role. In the Lutheran church that I grew up in, I have not found this to be true (though gifts of the Spirit are not advocated from the pulpit).
Chapter 4: The Church as Covenant: Reformed Ecclesiology
The Word and Sacraments are still very important, but so also are “correct faith and upright Christian life” (50). Perhaps this was a reaction to Luther’s emphasis on faith alone, there was the need to communicate more balance between faith and deeds. The idea of the visible and invisible church is present, yet Karl Barth in the 20th c. criticized this distinction and also advocated for the gifts of the Spirit as necessary for the priesthood of believers. The relationship between the church and state is one that I have a difficult time understanding, though it seems that Calvin later drew more of a distinction between the two. The history of this tradition’s integration of these two, however, makes me leary.
Chapter 5: The Church as the Fellowship of Believers: Free Church Ecclesiologies
I had never heard these denominations categorized under the term “free church” before. What is emphasized most strongly is the participatory nature of the church, the emphasis on the Holy Spirit (thought there seems to be a big distinction between this emphasis and that of Pentecostals, Charismatics, and newer Free Churches), and mission as the purpose of all church life (66). It is interesting that there is such a rich history of missions, yet there was often the view of separation between the church and the world, between believers and non-believers. Perhaps this just gave them more missionary fervor to convert those who were considered “outsiders”. I appreciate the willingness to allow women and the uneducated to participate in the life of the church. The admission of women in these roles would have been quite radical.
Chapter 6: The Church in the Power of the Spirit: Pentecostal/Charismatic Ecclesiolgies
Karkkainen states that we should refer to this emergence as Pentecostalisms rather than Pentecostalism because of the many different expressions of the movement. Encounter or Experience is what is primary to this tradition. “Worship” is the same as the “presence of God” (71) in contrast to this being present in sacraments. I like the holistic approach that individuals are empowered through the Spirit for witnessing and service to others. An interesting question was whether or not Pentecostals even have an ecclesiology or are they simply just a movement (72). It seems that they do in some sense: “ For Pentecostals there is no single criterion to indicate the “true nature” of a given church. Their view is based on the observation that the New Testament does not seem to show us the structure but several structures” (74). In this way, it is considered a charismatic fellowship rather than an institution. As a result, Pentecostalism can be seen as being more restorationist and as a result, has a low view of history and tradition. My hope would be that they can be a restoration movement while also having an appreciation and understanding of history and tradition- perhaps incorporating more traditional elements into the charismatic worship.
Chapter 7: The Church as One: The Ecumenical Movement Ecclesiologies
What does it mean for the church to be in unity? Karkkainen makes a very good point that “ecclesiology determines ones view of ecumenism” (81,84). I am tempted to identify more with the Free Church idea of unity which is one more of spiritual unity than a visible unity because of the diversity of Christian traditions. However, I would like to believe that the church can be the highest expression of unity as the Trinitarian view believes (86). What is even more difficult to imagine is an ecumenism between churches and religions, but interreligious dialogue is seeking to move forward in that direction.
Chapter 8: John Zizioulas: Communion Ecclesiology
“Outside the Trinity there is not God” (96)- what a profound statement! This view espouses that “the local Eucharistic gathering is the church of God” (97) and therefore a bishop is necessary. The universal church is thus derived from the local church. Zizioulas made an important distinction that the New Testament church is called the “Body of Christ”, not the “Body of Spirit”, a good directive as to the nature of the church.
Chapter 9: Hans Kung: Charismatic Ecclesiology
Kung was calling for renewal and reform of the church. “A real church made up of real people cannot possibly be invisible” (105). What this idea results in is an emphasis on community, on service, on love. It is a recognition of the importance of the body of Christ in building up one another and a “local-church-oriented, unity-in-diversity view of ecumenism” (112). These ideas seem to be essential in producing renewal movements in many churches.
Chapter 10: Wolfhart Pannenberg: Universal Ecclesiology
“He does not want to see faith first received into an individual heart and then the church added as an afterthought” (114). Pannenberg believed in the idea of church being a sign, “pointing beyond itself to the final purposes of God” (116), and therefore there was a connection between ecclesiology and eschatology. What this unfortunately meant for him is this meant for him that Christians cannot really be instruments of justice and peace on earth since that is an eschatological realization and one that the church will represent, but not individuals. Yet, he did see the need for someone who can speak for Christianity as a whole, which seems to contradict many of his other beliefs. I did like his understanding that “at each celebration of baptized Christians all Christianity is present” (120) and his attempt at finding a balanced, holistic view of christology and pnuematology.
Chapter 11: Jurgen Moltmann: Messianic Ecclesiology
For Moltmann, “the church is called to serve the world, including having political involvement” (126). As a result, there is a focus on mission. What I appreciate is that he draws from many sources and traditions- western and nonwestern. His doctrine of the church is both messianic (in its suffering and joy) and relational (serving, missionary, Trinitarian, “community of equals”) (128). I also really think his understanding that “the ministry of the church is charismatic in essence” (131) is important to a holistic view of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit’s role in mission. With this naturally should come an ecological concern because “any kind of community of creation is the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” (133). This kind of holistic doctrine of the Spirit is greatly needed.
Chapter 12: Miroslav Volf: Participatory Ecclesiology
In light of my criticism of the beliefs surrounding the Eucharist in many traditions, I really appreciated Volf’s understanding that gathering in Christ’s name is the only precondition for Christ’s presence and therefore “the only condition for the ecclesiality of the church is the presence of Chirst amidst the gathered community as mentioned in Matthew 18:20” (136). Amen! This of course does not mean that the sacraments do not belong in the church, but they are to be understood as “a form of the confession of faith and an expression of faith” (137). He seems to have a balanced view also in his belief of the mutual interdependence of the local and universal church in their common confession of faith (138).
Chapter 13: James McClendon Jr.: Baptist Ecclesiology
I like his idea of a “narrative community” rather than what can be seen as the overindividualistic nature many Free Churches are accused of. If a church is a church of disciples, than there needs to be an abolition of the concept of “the laity” and a re-introduction of the biblical concept of “the discipleship” (149). I wonder what a church that really tried to live this out and re-orient our way of thinking about leadership and traditional models of church would look like? I think he is on to something.
Chapter 14: Lesslie Newbigin: Missionary Ecclesiology
Newbigin presents such a radical re-shaping of the nature and purpose of the church. “The essential nature of the church is missionary, rather than mission being a task given to the church” (151). In this way, the church is called to challenge culture. I wonder what a truly Christian view of reality (159)that Newbigin suggests, would look like? Is that possible with our culturally entrenched viewpoints? I do agree that Christianity needs to both affirm and criticize culture and recognize how we are influenced by culture (especially modern and postmodernism).
Chapter 15: The Non-Church Movement in Asia
The Mukyokai movement is difficult to understand partly because it is such a drastic shift from re-imagining church to advocating for no real church at all. This view really focuses on the invisible nature of the church (while not totally neglecting the visible, but certainly not institutional) which does promote the idea of faith being active in society and in everyday life. This idea of there being no sacred/secular split is one that the west should listen to. However, there still seems to be a more western, individualistic element to this as salvation is only regarded as personal union with Christ and therefore promotes a “subjective, individualized foundation for the church an ecclesiality” (170).
Chapter 16: Base Ecclesial Communities in Latin America
I think the idea that the CCSs are a reaction to the lack of community in society and church is an interesting one. It shows how important it is for people to feel that they are a viable part of something and for the CCBs, this sense of community was created “from below” which always seems to be a better way of producing a movement that is not tarnished by a hierarchical use of power. The CCBs focus on the social implications of the gospel (183) and in this way, faith becomes something both applicable and transformative.
Chapter 17: The Feminist Church
The questions that come from this movement are important ones. The questions involve the whole Trinity- for example, how does Jesus’ maleness relate to the other half of humankind and is the Spirit masculine or feminine? It makes sense that women would be seeking for answers to a faith that has so long been communicated in masculine language and imagery. When we are reminded that God is neither male or female, what does that do to our understanding of God, as well as our understanding of the divine nature of both men and women? I think this quote also is striking at something very important, which is a re-thinking of the very nature of leadership and what that could mean for the equal recognition of men and women as being gifted by God to serve God and others: “the core issue of ministry is not necessarily an insistence on the right of ordination for women but rather a revision of the whole concept of ordination. For example, leadership is not the idea behind ministry. It is specifically a reference to service of others” (188).
Chapter 18: African Independent Churches’ Ecclesiology
Recognizing that the nature of family and community in Africa is so conducive to the Gospel is so fascinating because it shows how Christianity really can be authentically Christian and African, and also how much westerners can learn from that expression. That most African churches are Pentecostal in expression is something worth paying more attention to and learning from.
Chapter 19: The Shepherding Movement’s Renewal Ecclesiology
This movement is new to me and seems to have stemmed from a valid concern for pastors to take on a more discipling, care-oriented role. Unfortunately, in its “desire for countercultural community that proclaimed the kingdom” (210), they are perhaps blind to their own weaknesses (such as the inability to challenge their own authorities) (209).
Chapter 20: “A World Church”
The idea of a “planetary Christ” (215) is an interesting one! I think that the idea that was suggested, that science needs to recognize the divine and Christianity the sacredness of creation, is one that makes sense to me, yet I wonder about the implications of: “for a Christian church to be universal, plurality and variety have to be allowed” (216). What is meant by “plurality” here? I am also intrigued by this statement: “it is time for the church to move away from a theology of salvation and redemption to a theology of creation” (217).
Chapter 21: The Post-Christian Church as “Another City”
The idea of desiring the church to go back to the characteristics of the early church seems to be a common one. The early church functioned as “another city” in many respects. Faith was social, political, evolutionary, and everyday life (225) but it existed in a kind of “eschatological fellowship” (224). What might this look like now?
Barry A. Harvey: “In short, not only for its own sake, but for the world’s sake, the church need not, indeed must not see itself on a continuum between sectarian withdrawal and secular servitude. It is rather summoned by its Lord to live as a parallel polis in the truth, that is, in the sacramental interval between Passion, Pentecost, and Parousia” (quoted on p. 229).
Assignment for 11/17/10: Choose a book from the list and respond to each chapter with a paragraph.
This book has now been added to my list of must-reads for Christians. It deals with an extremely important reality to be aware of and that will continue to change the face of Christianity, its theology, and expression. Too few people are thinking along the lines that Hanciles presents in this book and to all who hope to be in forms of ministry or mission, this should be essential to our understanding of how the world is changing and what this means for present and potential future realities. I think it is both fascinating and exciting and I am interested to see how Christianity responds to this shift. For Western Christians, this is an important wake-up call and admonition to realize how western-focused we still so often are not only in our actions, but also our language and thought processes. That the author was born in Sierra Leone and has lived as a migrant in three different countries, makes his perspective all the more valuable.
“The ultimate achievement of the Western missionary movement was its pivotal role in the dramatic shift in global Christianity’s center of gravity, which has witnessed the emergence of the non-Western world as the new heartland of the faith” (110).
Beyond Christendom: Globalization, African Migration, and the Transformation of the West
Jehu J. Hanciles
PART I: TRANSFORMING THE MARGINS
Chapter 1: Globalization: Descriptions, Debates and Destinies
Globalization is more complicated in reality than theory. Often it is viewed as originating the west and a recent phenomenon, het “global consciousness” has been evolving throughout history. Some point to the Treaty of Tordisellas in 1474, the adoption of the British system of time in 1884, and the moon landing of 1969 as significant events in this consciousness. Hanciles acknowledged their significance but critiques this definition as western-based and starting too late. Despite this, the “magnitude, complexity, and velocity” (24) of current globalization is striking.
Hanciles uses the term “non-western” is used more than other terms such “third world”, 2/3 world”, and the South because of its cultural and existential significance (26) rather its economic and demographic rating.
Chapter 2: Globalization of Culture: “We are the World”
In this chapter Hanciles critiques the secularization thesis. He refers to Samuel Huntington’s writing: “Far from undermining religious beliefs, the spread of economic and social modernization has actually triggered ‘a global revival of religion’ on every continent” (38). Hanciles also discusses secular rationalism versus natural choice theorists and discusses the idea of western secularism itself being a kind of religion.
Hanciles’ critique of the global culture or cultural homogenization thesis (48) is one that should definitely be discussed more amongst those who see a global culture as something to strive for over diversity. He believes this can be seen more as Americanization where liberal democracy is used as a universalized end (58). What this theory does is devalue indigenous non-Western cultures (61) and “discounts the salience of cultural resistance” (61). It is also a Western vision of “ a future that is de-pluralized and secular” (64).
Chapter 3: Cultures of Globalization: Funny Thing about Elephants
Hanciles states that the concept of a global culture is unique to Western culture that judges the rest by the West and also as an argument coming from the affluent sectors. “The persistent and pervasive Western idea of the universality of its particular cultural values not only perpetuates ignorance and rejection of the ‘other’ but also sanctions a refusal to understand” (79). This is crucial to an understanding of mission as a Westerner. There needs to be a recognition of how Westerners have fused both their Christian and cultural values.
Chapter 4: The Birth and Bankruptcy of Christendom: A Missiological Reflection
This chapter discusses Christendom as originating with the conversion of the Germanic tribes of northern and western Europe rather than with Constantine as so many point to. The conversion of rulers or chieftans and then the whole tribe or subjects was a form of Christendom.
Also discussed is the importance of vernacular translation as a decisively non-Christendom contribution that resulted in indigenous expressions and authority for indigenous people. This is such a huge point to recognize. What has made Christianity so accessible around the world is the belief that all cultures should be able to reflect on the Bible themselves, and in their own language. Contrary to some of the historical methods of the Catholic Church, this resulted in an embrace of Christianity by cultures that would eventually result in new theologies as well. I believe this will continue to be extremely impactful as non-Western theologies begin to have their voices heard more often. I am curious to see how this will continue to impact traditionally Western-based theology.
There were also many results that were not expected such as the European missionary movement can be seen as even strengthening Hindu reform and nationalism.
“The ultimate achievement of the Western missionary movement was its pivotal role in the dramatic shift in global Christianity’s center of gravity, which has witnessed the emergence of the non-Western world as the new heartland of the faith” (110). Again, though, as Hanciles points out in a chapter seven, much of the growth in Christianity occurred after colonization as indigenous peoples began to embrace Christianity as their own.
Chapter 5: Twentieth-Century Transformations: Global Christianity and Western Intellectual Captivity
This chapter highlights the African Christianity explosion that occurred and interestingly, the importance of primal religion to Christian expansion (130). This is due to the fact that many primal religions are naturally supernatural-minded and therefore took the claims to the Bible seriously. This is an important realization and can also explain why Pentecostalism is on the rise because it is perhaps doing a better job of relating to this realm of the supernatural that seems to be so integral to African spirituality.
PART II: MIGRATION AND THE NEW WORLD ORDER
Chapter 6: “A Wandering Armean Was My Ancestor”: Exile, Migration, and Mission in Biblical Perspective
“Throughout the Old Testament, God’s salvific intentions and designs repeatedly unfold within the trauma and travail of displacement, uprootedness, and migration” (142).
This chapter introduces the connection between migration and mission and also looks at Jesus as being a boundary-crosser. What an important theme that is woven all throughout the Bible. We would do well to acknowledge this fact and reflect on its implications for today and the future.
Chapter 7: The Making of a New World Order: Empire, Migration, and Christian Mission
Hanciles makes an important observation that foreign missionaries were not responsible for the most extensive and dynamic growth of Christianity for those events were “more catalytic than comprehensive” (169).
In this way, empire building had large, unintended consequences for the empire builders (172).
This is such an important observation and one we must acknowledge. It helps to be able to see how God works despite and in spite of our mistakes and that Christianity is not simply a Western religion, but rather a faith that transcends culture and therefore can be embraced by all cultures.
Chapter 8: South-North Migration: Old Story New Endings
This chapter focuses on the reasons for and demographics of migration and its impact on source countries. It is also interesting that there has been a rise in female migrants that find jobs in care-giving and domestic jobs. Some suggest this reflects on the change of family structure in wealthy families.
Here are the titles of the remaining chapters of the book to give an idea of the content and to entice to get this book!
Chapter 9: African Migrations: A Single Bracelet Does Not Jingle
Chapter 10: The Emperor Has new Clothes: Assimilation and the Remaking of the West
PART III: MOBILE FAITHS
Chapter 11: Immigration and Religion: Reflections on Islam
Chapter 12: Sacred Canopies: Immigrant Congregations and American Religious Life
Chapter 13: On the Road with the Ancestors: America’s New African Immigrants
Chapter 14: Have Faith, Will Travel: African Migrants and the Making of the New Missionary Movement
Chapter 15: African Immigrant Churches in America: “Switch off Mobile Phones—the Only Urgent Call Here is the Voice of God”
Conclusion: New Age, new Movement, Old Mission
Assignment for 11/3/10: Choose a book from the list and respond to each chapter with a paragraph.
These assignments are impossible to limit the number of words in order to really respond to each chapter! I tried to make my responses more of the summary this time as I point out a few aspects that stuck out. There is so much that could be said and so many thoughts as a result of reading this. I found myself being more critical than I expected, even though there is much that I agree with and that resonates with me in the emerging church. I think it just also raises many more questions because the movement is so broad and still difficult to define succinctly, so my criticisms came out more. What is important is that this book attempts a new kind of ecclesiology.
Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures
By Eddie Gibbs and Ryan K. Bolger
Chapter 1: A Brief Look at Culture
The point it made for the necessity of the western church to study its culture that is not longer considered modern. What struck me the most is how in many traditions “the church removed the symbolic, the mystical, and the experiential to make a space for logical and linear ways of thinking and living” (20). As someone who is considered to be part of the post-modern generations, I fully identify with the need for that which has been removed. There seems to be a definite reaction against that which is logical and linear. However, I do think that the term “post-modern” is not entirely accurate because of its lack of recognition of modern mindsets that are still influential. I think we like to think that we have transcended modernism, but I don’t think that is true—especially those generations after the boomers who have grown up in the modern church. What this proclamation of being post-modern also can do is precipitate a disregard and lack of appreciation for our history and heritage—and this is necessary also for knowing how to learn from its mistakes.
I also wonder if our culture’s emersion in sound and visual stimulation is something that should be emulated in the emerging churches. Perhaps upcoming generations are over-stimulated by culture and as a result become desensitized to or distracted from the message of the church that might be communicating through these means. I do, however agree with the need to be more multi-sensory if done well.
Chapter 2: What is the Emerging Church?
This chapter does address the idea of the emerging church declaring itself “post” because of recognizing what it is emerging from. So perhaps my comments above about lack of understanding of what the emerging church is reacting against is not correct. However, speaking from experience, I have grown up knowing little about church and mission history and what I am currently learning is incredibly influential and makes me reflect on what is needed now in the church in a much more informed way. I do agree though that the modern church was “wedded” with modern culture, so it important to recognize in what ways and how that no longer connects with the current culture.
I am thankful for the shift away from generational ministries, though I still see their prevalence as the way the more modern church is still misunderstanding the post-modern era. One of the key points here is that the emerging church is seeing a CULTURAL shift happening in the west, not simply a GENERATIONAL shift.
“To be missional is to go way beyond strategy. It is to look for church practices that can be embodies within a particular culture. (34).”
What does this mean: “theologies given birth within modernity will not transfer to postmodern cultures” (34)?
“Emerging churches are communities that practice the way of Jesus within postmodern cultures” (44). The three core practices are: 1. Identifying with the life of Jesus 2. Transforming secular space, 3.living as community (43). I appreciate this definition and believe it something that many Christians I have spoken with desire to see happen. The focus on the kingdom of God and getting past the sacred/secular dualism of western culture also gives me much hope.
I am reminded of a class I took this summer in which the professor stated that he believed our current culture lacks any kind of metanarrative because of its disregard for history (I would characterize him as very modern and wester-focused), so I was surprise to read the authors opinion that they do believe there exists a metanarrative within the emerging church and that is that of” the kingdom of God, the gospel” (46).
Chapter 3: Identifying with Jesus
People don’t have a problem with Jesus. But what Jesus do they know? Is it the Jesus of N.T. Wright, John Howard Yoder, David Bosch, Lesslie Newbigin, etc. as mentioned by the authors (49)?
The idea is that what is developed in the emerging church is a kingdom focus instead of a church focus (62).The understanding of mission is interesting. It is more seen as being missional rather than a focus on a mission strategy or structure. The goal is to be outwardly oriented rather than getting people to come to a church, etc. It is about joining what God is already doing.
How does this affect a sense of community when everyone is simply responsible for individual relationships with no desire to have them come into the Christian community (whatever that may look like)? I believe strongly in the importance of relationships like this, but I have also found a deep desire in non-churched individuals for a more solidified community of people that also functions as a kind of family. Do emerging churches see this as a way of mission if they are against any structured kind of community? I can’t help thinking about the church in Acts and people being drawn into that community because of seeing how they related to one another in it. How are creating “missional communities” (60) that much different from planting churches (some interviewed say they have shifted away from traditional church planting to these communities).
The emphasis that is placed on participating in bringing God’s kingdom is important, but I do wonder if that ends up translating into personal transformation as well (verses a focus solely on social transformation) and its importance in being empowered/equipped to do God’s work in the world. I appreciated the discussion by Mark Palmer of presenting the “costly nature of the message of ‘free’ grace” so people “know what they are getting into” (57) rather than a seeker-sensitive approach.
Chapter 4: Transforming Secular Space
I believe that the focus of this chapter is incredibly important to a greater understanding of theologies be born in the emerging church and also for the renewal of western Christianity in general. Attempting to do away with the sacred/secular split provides many opportunities but present many challenges as well. The positives are that it seeks to claim those things within the world that are good and true for God, not limiting the Christian life to things/experiences originating in the church. A challenge I see is how to respond to Jesus’ prayer that we “in the world, but not of it”. Though there is much in the world that can be reclaimed as sacred, I still believe that evil exists in the world and we need to be careful about so closely identifying with culture that we get won over by it, instead won over by Jesus. Jesus was counter-cultural in many ways and challenged practices of culture. We are human after all, and history has shown that we can easily be seduced by things that try to take our loyalty away from God.
I am disappointed with the comments in some of the interviews that react to negatively to charismatic expressions. Clearly Pentecostalism and charismatic movements are on the rise and these do not all seem to result in experiences only of transcendence and a lack of engagement in the world. In fact, there is a growing number of Pentecostals that see experiences with the Holy Spirit as being foundational for their equipping to go out into the world and be Jesus to those they meet. I understand some of the criticism, but think that some of the worship described in this chapter regarding creation of new music and innovative worship environments sound not so different than much that characterizes charismatic worship!
Chapter 5: Living as Community
This chapter focuses on the idea of the church as “primarily a people, not simply a place to meet” (90). There are clearly many different ways that emerging churches feel this community is to be lived out. But the essential ingredients seem to be a recognition that it is messy at times, functions more as a family and therefore must be smaller in size, and can be extended beyond the bounds of Christian relationships. I see many benefits of striving to live in community that is centered around the life of Jesus. My question is whether or not there is any hope for more traditional church structures/denominations to acquire some of the emerging church’s focus on the kingdom and church as living life, or is it only possible through entirely new movements outside of traditional churches? Obviously some churches seem to be making some efforts in the stressing of small groups out of the church, but these seem to be lacking the same focus at times. Also, I see in much of the emerging church ideals the possible challenge of lack of commitment, so I appreciated the discussion with Simon Hall about a place of mutual accountability (105).
Community is a challenge to the autonomy of the individual which is such a western, modern concept!
“Creating a vital community is a challenge in our current cultural context. People are both hungry for relationships or contractual relationships are the norm, it is difficult to build relationships on deep foundations that can survive disagreements and disappointments. People are more prone to walk away when the going becomes difficult than to work through a crisis to the point where a new depth of understanding is reached” (97).
Chapter 6: Welcoming the Stranger
This chapter focuses on the “practice of including those who are different” (117) as influenced by Jesus’ own example and teachings. The practice of sharing meals together seems to be one of the best ways to accomplish this (as was practiced by the early church).
“Emerging Churches resemble the kingdom when they contain many differing perspectives yet remain committed in relationship” (122).
I appreciate Simon Hall’s emphasis on the Christ-centeredness of his community because I think that is something that can be easily lost in an effort to be open to all (though it shouldn’t need to be in order to be inclusive!) and therefore, it should look different than everything else. This chapter thus also places emphasis on the need for incredible humility in walking this journey and on not having hidden agendas.
One big focus seems to be on embodying the kingdom and as a result people end up transformed, rather than making it into a project.
Chapter 7: Serving with Generosity
“We do not do evangelism or have a mission. The Holy Spirit is the evangelist, and the mission belongs to God” – Karen Ward (135).
I believe that hospitality is something that must really be reclaimed by (and taught to) Christians.
This chapter emphasizes the failure of marketing approaches as way of embodying the kingdom and hospitality. Practicing a kind of genuinely caring servanthood in the world really does result in a more holistic demonstration of the Gospel.
Chapter 8: Participating as Producers
This chapter focuses on the emerging church as an attempt to go back to aspects of the early church in which existed a priesthood of all believers where all contributed to and participated in the life of the community. We are not to be spectators or consumers of spirituality, but rather contributors. There exists and atmosphere in which there is openness and vulnerability.
“For worship to be authentic, it must be indigenous rather than imported” (160).
Emerging churches strive to encourage interactivity and dialogue rather than only having a senior pastor up front doing all the teaching. There is room for spiritual authority, but it can look much different than modern expressions of leadership.
Chapter 9: Creating as Created Beings
“Make something beautiful for God” – Mother Teresa (173)
This chapter shows how Creativity is dependent on the participation of all, not only a select few. I appreciated the discussion about the theology of creativity and the point that “its starting point is the affirmation that we are all made in the image of God and that God is by nature creative” (175). It is important to create environments in which all gifts of the Body can be given and all can be drawn into new aspects of God as a result. Though technology can be an important aspect of this creativity, I appreciated the thoughts by Andy Thornton that it should play a supporting role and not dominate everything (188).
Chapter 10: Leading as a Body
This chapter mentions the needed departure from modern forms of leadership that are characterized so often by control. “Emerging church leaders are opposed to any hierarchical understanding of leadership out of the conviction that it inevitably stifles people and creativity” (194). I appreciate the idea of moving from the vision of one leader to a vision that is created and sustained by all, but I also realize how idealistic this is and therefore difficult to achieve! There may be a desire for leaderless groups, but inevitable leaders will emerge and will they then feel stifled when the group tries to prevent them from having too much influence? In this chapter there are those in the emerging church that are also critical of this approach.
Chapter 11: Merging Ancient and Contemporary Spiritualities
This chapter seems to reflect a different tone to the previous chapters since it is looking at emerging churches as fulfilling a need in people to actually get away from the world by finding places of quite and respite from the success-driven culture. This seems contrary to the idea that the emerging church correspond with culture (such as the club scene, loud techno music, etc.) and rather makes it a counter-cultural movement. This appeals to me much more. Also, in the emerging church’s rejection of modern forms of church, it is interesting that there is a desire to use spiritual practices that are from modern church traditions (liturgy, monasticism, etc.).
The emerging church is highly selective of what ancient practices they take up because they need to be those that “integrate body and spirit” (220), this reflects a desire for those practices which are holistic.
I find the desire to be “post-charismatic” interesting because of its seeming increase around the world (though perhaps not in the western world). I identify with the desire to be more contemplative but do not see how this cannot also be coupled with the charismatic in order to be that holistic expression the emerging church is searching for. I also think, contrary to the discussion of charismatic worship being “overhyped”, that this kind of worship can also become highly contemplative as it is given room to be lead by the Holy Spirit and creative in its spontaneity (some examples of this can be found in the some of the worship styles of the International House of Prayer).
Assignment for 10/25/10: Choose a book from the list and respond to each chapter with a paragraph.
Again, I went way over the amount we were supposed to write, but oh well! These are both notes and personal reflection (often the personal comments are in italics) of the book I chose.
Global Pentecostalism: The New Face of Christian Social Engagement
By Donald E. Miller and Tetsunao Yamamori
Global Pentecostalism: An Emergent Force within World Christianity
Global Pentecostalism: An Emergent Force within World Christianity
This chapter basically lays out the emergence of Pentecostalism, different types of Pentecostalism, its expressions, and explanations of growth. It also dispels some misconceptions that are commonly associated with the movement. Pentecostalism appears to be the fastest growing strain of Christianity in the world, with perhaps 1/3 of Christians identifying with it (18). Many of these (and those focused on in the book) are indigenous expressions. “The central question of this book is whether Pentecostalism in all of its different manifestations can have an impact on the many problems facing our world, and especially developing nations” (31). The authors spent four years travelling the globe and conducting research in twenty different countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the former Soviet Union. What lead them to researching the Pentecostal church was writing to 400 different individuals asking for nominations of churches in the developing world that were growing rapidly and had active social ministries. They were surprised when 85% of the nominations were Pentecostal congregations.
Being that I have been associated with the Pentecostal movement (in the west) for the last almost ten years, I greatly appreciated the way this book was introduced. It is an attempt by two Christian authors that are not of the Pentecostal tradition, to present a fair assessment of the movement as it pertains to social impact. Introducing the term “Progressive Pentecostalism” is intriguing and one that I identify with in the hopes of more holistic expression of this tradition. I especially am encouraged by the author’s belief that “the emergence of Progressive Pentecostals is simply one more nail in the coffin of secularization theory” (37). Clearly, the continual rise of Pentecostalism around the world shows that religion is not dead, and in fact is a motivating factor for many in social action. I am aware of the stereotypes as well as the existence of Pentecostal churches that seem more inward focused and end-times motivated, yet I also see the potential for the Pentecostal movement to be a Holy Spirit led way of being in the world that brings about dramatic transformation of individuals and society. I think that is what the authors are trying to show is happening in many places, despite examples to the contrary. The experiential nature of Pentecostal churches can actually be an asset and one that draws people from all economic, social, and cultural strata.
Progressive Pentecostals: Ministries, Beliefs, and Motivations
Progressive Pentecostals: Ministries, Beliefs, and Motivations
There is an increasing trend in Pentecostals to be engaged in social ministries, many of which are very innovative. Many Progressive Pentecostals desire to engage in these without ulterior motives such as in response to listening to a sermon, etc. (43). There are also many that are attempting to work on development-oriented social ministries and community organizing. Though much work is done at an informal level, many are also partnering with NGOs and working from a more programmatic angle. The theology of the pastor and congregation, the size of the church, and the social context surrounding the church are all determiners of the ministries that take place. Most see the need for a holistic way of viewing spiritual and physical needs. One of the most important spiritual levels is that of seeing oneself as having value. Pentecostals are not the only ones impacting society and many point to the Catholics as doing some of the best work. Pentecostals are seen as being more new to breaking out of the “otherworldly bunkers and into the world” (66). Not all Pentecostal churches are doing this. Progressive Pentecostals are not seen as necessarily progressive in the political realm, but this is also changing.
I appreciated the examples of those around the world who are seeing a Scriptural mandate to not divorce spiritual and physical needs from one another. However, I feel that this chapter focused much more on the meeting of physical needs and didn’t talk much about what that meant for people spiritually. Yet there was the emphasis on unconditional love that was the motivator for these ministries and I see that as made possible through the power of the Holy Spirit and transformation taking place as a result and I would assume that these ministries also see that if they are truly holistic, caring for mind, body, and spirit.
Building a New Generation: Programs serving Children and Youth
“Many of the young adults we interviewed referred to a reality that goes beyond the social and psychological variables referred to thus far. Namely, they had an encounter with Jesus—often mediated by what they described, according to their worldview, as the Holy Spirit—that transformed their lives. In a few instances, these encounters came in the form of visions and dreams; other respondents simply referred to the presence of Christ. Whatever the ontological reality of these encounters, the affective role they played is palpable. If one were to remove this element, it is doubtful that many individuals would have made the dramatic lifestyle changes they did” (86).
I found the story of young adults in Venezuela exciting because it showed the importance that the life of the church had in the lives of the youth. To read that they felt they had been opened up to an “alternative way of life, rooted in biblical principles, but punctuated by ecstatic worship” (85) was something I have heard others say about Pentecostal churches before. There is a melding between a disciplined life of following God, but also a sense of freedom in worship and expression of faith that brings balance.
Practicing the Faith: Transforming Individuals and Society
This chapter focused on numerous case studies of organizations/ministries (many informal) in which healing from drug addiction, prostitution, prison, etc. were attributed to the display of unconditional love and supernatural experiences that took place within those who were completely healed. The intervention of the Holy Spirit in their lives, and the lives of those running these ministries is what fuels them to continue following Christ and reaching out to others.
The authors are definitely trying to make a distinction between more traditional, legalistic forms of Pentecostalism and what they see as the emergence of another group of Pentecostals (that they are calling “Progressive”), or those who “fully embrace the Pentecostal tradition of the power of the Holy Spirit and the emphasis on personal transformation, but they also engage the world around them” (127). While I agree that there seems to be a movement in this direction, I wonder how much their viewpoint is partly due to a misunderstanding of how Pentecostals have traditionally seen their engagement with the world. While Pentecostals do have a reputation for being more inward focused, they have not been communities in which transformation has failed to take place or an understanding that their prayers and worship have an impact in the world. I have read elsewhere that in some churches, there is simply an understanding that as individuals are transformed within the church, this naturally brings about a transformation in society. When people begin to embrace their sense of worth and purpose as agents of God’s Holy Spirit, this is brought into their daily lives. However, I do agree that it is important that some Pentecostals are seeing a necessity to act more innovatively within the community in order to bring about social transformation. I’m just not so sure getting political is necessarily the best way to do that. It seems that the authors are negatively critiquing the lack of political involvement within the history of Pentecostalism. Perhaps there may be good reason for that lack of emphasis as the Liberation movement has not been seen as being as effective as hoped in the political realm for effecting change.
Encounters with the Holy: Meeting God in Worship and Prayer
“We believe that the root of Pentecostal social engagement is the experience of collective worship” (132). This chapter focuses on this idea and the author’s witness of the prominent place that worship and prayer have in the life of Pentecostals. While maintaining a more rationalistic outlook, it is evident that they also have a deep respect from the kinds of transformations that seem to take place in these worship settings, acknowledging that the worship always seems to be directed toward God.
It was interesting to hear an outsider’s perspective of these events. Having experienced much of this myself even in the Pentecostal churches of the west, it is encouraging to hear a more positive description of it. One thing that struck the authors, and has also been a benefit to myself, is the way that Pentecostal churches seem to forsake the spirit/body dualism so present in western thinking and instead allow for an environment that gives freedom to engage the mind, body, and spirit. The emphasis on physical touch in prayer and healing is also an asset that I believe Pentecostals bring, though there really seems to be an increase of this in even more traditional denominations. Personally I agree that the worship and prayer experience of Pentecostalism that allows room for the gifts of the Holy Spirit is what empowers individuals to walk out their “calling” in the world.
Born in the Image of God: Democracy and Upward Social Mobility
Because “Pentecostal theology deals directly with the issue of personal self-worth” (169), this is one big key between the Pentecostalism and economic advancement/upward social mobility. Along with the affects that the worship has on those that are struggling. The community itself also become a “safety net” (171) for individuals. Pentecostalism also deals directly with some of the issues that those in certain cultures believe strongly in, such as demon possession. Pentecostalism offers the Holy Spirit as a stronger alternative that will deliver people. The authors also believe there is a connection between the skills that Pentecostalism teaches and skills necessary for entrepreneurship, as well as an emphasis on the disciplined life.
The question of course becomes whether the upward mobility will have an effect on the society as a whole. It seems that Pentecostalism has traditional attracted lower class people, but the authors suggest this is also changing as these people move up in social status and are liberated from situations that have kept them poor and in the lower classes. One huge example of how this has affected society is with the Dalits in India. Being presented with such a message of individual worth, does have the possibility to affect an entire strata of society that has previously been considered as almost less than human.
However,the critique that the author’s are making is that Pentecostals should be challenged by Liberation Theology’s emphases on structural evils because of their focus so often on individuals. I agree that Pentecostalism could benefit from a greater emphasis on Biblical teachings of social justice.
Organizing the Saints: Giving the Ministry to the People
Dealing with the seeming contradiction of a strong leader of a church that still emphasizes that the congregation is a priesthood of believers.
It is interesting that the authors saw the organization of Pentecostal churches as being more “organic” as opposed to more traditional mainline churches that are more hierarchical. I still tend to see the hierarchy function in Pentecostal churches, but perhaps that is just the feeling that comes with what the authors describe as being a charismatic leader that carries the vision for the church. While it is good that the congregation is encouraged to be involved in the life of the church, it does seem to not offer the greatest possibilities to disagree with the vision that the head pastor has. This can be problematic as well if the leader does not have much education. However, it developing countries where Pentecostalism seems to be growing most quickly, the authors make a good point that seminary education is not always a feasible option, and that there is fear if young people pursue that, then they will not return to the church. I think this points to a deeper issue though of perhaps fear that greater education may destroy the vision of the church that has supposedly been given to the pastor by God. I personally feel that there is a great need in Pentecostalism for education of leadership and that this can be done in a way that does not negate the characteristics of Pentecostalism that may seem non academic to many.
I also appreciated the emphasis that many of the churches were placing on evangelism through relationship rather than large tent meetings. I was also impressed that the most successful of the churches the authors visited were not funded by foreign aid or run by foreign missionaries.
It is interesting that most of the churches were not lead by women, though most of the social programs were (208). This gives me a lot of cause for concern as to why this is and wondering what it would look like for some of these churches to be lead by women. Perhaps they do not desire that position for many reasons, and perhaps culturally it is not acceptable in many non-western countries.
The Future of Progressive Pentecostalism
It is difficult to generalize Pentecostalism because it is such a changing movement with so many different expressions (211). A positive statement, in my opinion, seems to be that: “Wherever it emerges, Pentecostalism tends to indigenize, absorbing the local culture in the way it worships, organizes itself, and relates to the local community” (211).
I really appreciated the comparison of Pentecostalism and Liberation Theology and the idea that they could be complements of one another, without Pentecostalism replacing Liberation Theology as some have suggested. I also appreciated the statement that calling Pentecostalism Fundamentalist is a misconception. The authors state: “fundamentalism—particularly the fundamentalism movement within the United States—has almost nothing in common historically with Pentecostalism” (216).In fact, it may have more to do with post-modern expressions, especially as found in the Neo-Pentecostal churches (217). Lastly, the recognition of the impact that Pentecostal emphasis on the Holy Spirit can have on community-based social ministries is what resonates well with me and what I see as being the great potential of Pentecostalism in the world. Where so many people get burned out from social justice work, due to a “my work” mentality, there is hope for longevity if the work as seen as God’s and only possible with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Assignment for 10/6/10: Choose a book from the list and respond to each chapter with a paragraph.
I went way over the amount we were supposed to write, but oh well! These are both notes and personal reflection (often the personal comments are in italics) of the book I chose. There was a lot of practical info along with theory and the visuals presented were really helpful.
God’s Missionary People: Rethinking the Purpose of the Local Church
By Charles Van Engen
Some thoughts in response to reading: I agree that mission has become associated with a function that a church (congregation) supports or has people who may be involved with, rather than it being a part of the very nature of the Church (people of God). Having been involved for many years with a “parachurch” ministry, the question always becomes one of what the relationship with the local church is (which again indicates the split between church and mission that often exists). Often it is agreed upon that as an ideal, the local church connection is important and even necessary, but often in practice, it seems to carry more difficulties and frustrations than promise and identity for the parachurch ministry. Being able to recover a more holistic view of the local church and its identity as the Church (capital “c”) in whose very identity is mission in the world, for the world is a challenge that should be undertaken by all communities designating themselves as the Church.
Chapter 1: A New Perspective of the Local Church
Here is described the distinction between church and mission. Over time there has been a loss of vision of mission. In many cases, mission turned to social activism, with the result being to also often become secularized. Mission also then became more disconnected from the larger church.
The Church needs to be seen as an agent of mission, not the other way around. “…it is precisely because of being part of the universal Church that the local congregation is in mission, and as it lives out its missionary nature the local congregation discovers itself emerging to become the Church” (33).
Chapter 2: The Impact of Modern Ecclesiology on the Local Church
Ecclesiology was really only images that were meant to encourage the Church how to be and explain the relationship of the Congregation to the nature of the Church (36). With Augustine, there was less self-examination and criticism as the Roman Church was seen to be the definition of Church. The Protestant Reformation tried to return to more self-criticism in order to bring about correction. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was one to change this perspective from one of logic, order and systemization to one of practice. There seemed to be a gap between what should be and what was. As a result, two natures of the Church existed- the visible and invisible. The 19thc. brought about more parachurch missionary agencies, creating an even larger gap between “mission” and the church. (I still see this happening, though there seems to also be an increase in effort at least to reexamine this relationship and the role of parachurch ministries as they relate to the local church and also the world). Others questioned this and saw that Church and mission could not be separated. Bonhoeffer tried to keep both sides of the Church’s nature together—“the empirical and sociological on the one hand; and the priori, biblical, and theological on the other” (40).
The Church both is and is also in a process of becoming (41). In this way it is both a present reality and a future hope. The Church must be a missionary Church.
Chapter 3: The Essence of the Local Church in the Book of Ephesians
Though the word ekklesia, or assembly, is used all over in the New Testament, it is used only 9 times in Ephesians. Instead, Paul uses Hebrew representations or images. The Church as a mission in Unity or Oneness: “the whole definite the identity of the parts and is more than the sum of the parts” (50). It also has a mission in Holiness: both individual and corporate, growing in love; a mission to all: a cosmic Christology with the Church as the body of Christ; a mission of Universality: to become world Christians with and inclusive nature.
Chapter 4: The Essence of the Local Church in Historical Perspective
The early theologians did not distinguish between visible and invisible church. The Church was considered my Roman Catholics to contain four attributes: one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. Because these were designated as attributes, they were not necessarily seen as existing in the life of the church. They served more as criteria and for critique than reality. The Reformation tried to change this and instead refer to them as “marks” that must be tested by Christ. As marks, they needed to serve as witnesses to the world and were therefore missional. However, this also became a negative way of exclusiveness as there were different interpretations of these marks and what churches really contained them in order to be called the church.
Chapter 5: Restating the Missionary Intention of the Local Church
If the Church is really for the world, than it must identify with the oppressed and recognize that it is sent into the world. Mission then becomes a priority. Why do so few congregations recognize this as vital to the call that God has placed on the Church? In this way, four more words can be used to describe the 4 marks in a more missional light: Unity=Unifying; Apostolicity= Proclaiming; Catholicity= Reconciling; Holiness= Sactifying. Five new concepts can also be added to give greater detail to the four marks: Proclamation Witness; Mission; Yearning for Numerical Growth; Being for the World; Identification with the Oppressed. Yearning for Numerical Growth can be seen as encompassing all because it indicates the desire for other to know Christ.
Chapter 6: The Purpose of the Local Church
“How we answer [the question of the purpose of the local church] determines how we set goals, define objectives, and lay out strategies” (88). With Vatican II, came a more community perspective that is explained further by John MacKay. The Church’s mission should be Love which is outward, sacrificial action. Christ demonstrated this kind of love relationship with his disciples. It must also be one of Proclamation that Jesus is Lord of the world to those who have not yet accepted this. It must have a mission of Humble Service, always dependent on God to be a demonstration and contributor to the Kingdom of God. The mission must also be to be a Witness throughout the world that Jesus is present. This must bring about reconciliation. “…the missionary Church emerges when its members increasingly participate in the Church’s being-in-the-world” (89) through koinonia: “love one another”; kerygma: “Jesus is Lord”; diakonia: “the least of these my brethren”; and martyria: “you shall be my witnesses” (90-98).
Chapter 7: The Local Church and the Kingdom of God
“We cannot fully understand the breadth or depth of the congregation’s mission unless we see it in relation to the kingdom of God in the world….As the missionary people of God, local congregation s are branch offices of the kingdom, the principal instrument, anticipatory sign, and primary locus of the coming of the kingdom” (101). There is a necessity of the Church to recognize itself as a Covenant Community with a unique calling and purpose given by God. This purpose, however, is universal and therefore cannot remain exclusive. The difficulty is always knowing how to be “in” the world, yet not of it. How much to look like the surrounding culture and to serve the world, and how much to “guard [the Church’s] identity in the world” (103). With the Reformation, the Church began to be understood again as more than simply sacrament and ritualistic worship (which are also very important) but as community that speaks to the world. The Church was people. The church must be defined more in terms of the Kingdom of God.
Finally a critique on the Venn-Anderson “three-self formula”! I have mostly been hearing praise for this (and for the time, there was much that was good and innovative about it), but I see much lacking here as well. Van Engen believes that it is “narrow, shallow, and self-centered…local congregations are so much more than money, administration, and coverts” (116). However, it seems that the goal was not to cease to be missional as Van Engen suggests though if often resulted in a more self-centered approach.
Chapter 8: The Role of the Local Church in the World
Lloyd M. Perry and Norman Shawchuck: linking Christ’s offices with the Church’s ministry: priest, prophet, king. Van Engen adds to this, Liberator and Healer. I think that applying these characteristics also to the pastor of a church as Lindgren and Shawchuck do, puts a little too much emphasis on the pastor, rather than a team of gifted people containing strengths in each of these areas expressed in different ways. It seems to be too much pressure to put this all on one person to carry.
Chapter 9: Missional Goals in the Local Church
The necessity of setting goals that will help to better express “the vision, desire, and prupose of being a missionary church” (134). I feel like parts of this book are still taking a more modern, systemic approach to mission and being the Church. Goals are certainly necessary, but how those goals are communicated and attempted is very important. In the more post-modern western world, there seems to be a desire to go away from this kind of approach. However, often vision can be easily lost or unrealistic goals sent that leads to a decline of the community over time. It is reflective also of the upcoming generations’ apparent phobia of commitment to anything that might be clearly defined. “Organic” seems to be a well-liked word, and rightly so in many ways.
Chapter 10: Missionary Members in the Local Church
“The Protestant Reformation attributed great importance to the ‘priesthood of all believers’ and the fact that every Christian is called to intercession, prayer, justification, sanctification, and service” (150). This is crucial to the understanding of all who belong to the church so that there is a more full vision of what it means to be the “People of God”. When looking at the different models in the book of church structures for ministry, I have had experience with almost all. The parachurch ministries I have been a part of have functioned more as shared-ministry models and house church models. The (much larger in number) local church congregations I have been a part of have been variations of the bottle-neck model and the servant model.
Chapter 11: Missionary Leaders in the Local Church
“Church leadership is very difficult to define with precision” (165). In my cross-cultural experience living in Norway, understandings of leadership looks much different when dealing with a university student ministry. Within the local church, leaders are defined, but what that looks like and how it is expressed is quite different than in the U.S. Often the servant leadership model in western culture in general seems to be one that is not communicated well.
Chapter 12: Missional Administration in the Local Church
Why do I seem to have such an aversion to discussion administration? At the same time, I fully recognize its importance and am easily frustrated with situations in which this is not done well. This is why I believe a team model of leadership is important. Both people who are visionaries are needed as well as more detail-oriented. Both are needed in leading the church.