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Embarking Blog

...on the journey towards restoration of all things

Filtering by Tag: Mark Driscoll

Conversation on the Church 2

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Many of my friends, though, fall into one of four camps: 1. Theologically and culturally conservative 2. Theologically conservative but culturally liberal 3. Theologically liberal but culturally conservative 4. Theologically and culturally liberal

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Emergent Converts & MegaChurches

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(written back in August... but forgot to post) I've found the conversation around mega-churches and emergent churches lately quit fascinating. (cf. Fitch's first post, and his redux post] I've heard many people for awhile saying, "the fruit just isn't there with the Emergent Churches."  By fruit, this usually means converts.  So, when David Fitch went after Mark Driscoll and talked about this issue, I found it quit interesting.  Being someone who is emerging at heart and history (and in some ways theologically, but not others) but also being currently a pastor at a mega-church (where I sometimes fit in, and other times feel like an odd-ball) these conversations are quite intriguing.  I'm particularly interested in numbers 4 and 5 of the 5 points Fitch makes, which I've listed below - this from the Out of UR Blog:

4. Having said all this, I think that the missional communities that do persist probably have a higher conversion rate than the Driscollesque mega churches. Missional churches are much smaller, so 6 conversions from a group of 25 over ten years would match (or exceed) the percentage growth of a typical mega church. I think it would be interesting to measure how many dollars per conversion are spent in missional churches versus mega churches. It makes me smile knowing missional churches are probably more cost effective when it comes to conversions because we resist spending money on buildings, programs, and “the show.”

5. We must recognize that "missionary conversions" take longer than megachurch conversions. The conversion of a post-Christendom "pagan," who has had little to no exposure to the language and story of Christ in Scripture, may require five years of relational immersion before a decision would even make sense. If you do not have this immersion/context, any decision that is made is prone to be little more than a consumerist decision—it is made based on the perceived immediate benefit. It lasts as long as this perceived benefit remains important. It does not lead to discipleship.

So a true missionary conversion, which I believe missional churches are after, takes a much longer period of time than the kind of conversions most often generated through a megachurch. The megachurch is largely appealing to people who grew up in old forms of church and know the Story but quit going to church many years ago. These "unchurched people" require the old messages to be made more relevant. They need to be "revived" or called back into a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. There's nothing wrong with that, but we should recognize there are fewer and fewer of these kinds of people left.

These are some arguments that I myself have made in the past.  Knowing, realistically two things: 1) how inefficient mega-churches really are in reaching the lost per dollar spent and 2) how really unconcerned most members of these churches are to reach anyone.  Emerging churches are still too young to measure long term fruit and effectiveness, but it will be interesting to see the longer term effects of churches that spend less money, focus more on community, tend to care more about "holistic transformation", and are committed to individual people over programs.  The percentages of transformed lives to Jesus Lordship and Kingdom per capita and per dollar (though even talking about it that way seems, somehow, wrong) would be very intriguing to see.  So... someone do the study already.

The other thing I find so intriguing is the issue of "who" these churches reach.  My take is that not only mega-churches, but most contemporary evangelical churches are fairly good at reaching those who are part of Christendom... meaning they've been raised with Jesus and the church, and they have been educated in Christianity.  They may be "de-churched" because they were one-time churched, but maybe they never took the step to enter the Kingdom and submit to the Lordship of Jesus.  Those people do need to be reached.  But what I think is being argued in some of what Fitch is saying is that those who are part of the emerging postmodern, post-Christendom culture have very little or no knowledge of Christian theology or of Jesus other than what they learned on the Simpsons, King of the Hill, or in political campaigns.  These folks are a slower burn because they have so much knowledge to gain before they have a clue what they are saying "yes" to.  I've heard Alan Hirsch talking about this at a church planting portion of the RCA's OneThing conference in San Antonio when he said that the "forms" of church we are using today are reaching a certain group of people, but that the culture shifts of post-christendom require new forms of church plants to reach new people who will likely never be reached by our current forms.


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McLaren at Baker

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Brian McLarenFindint Our Way AgainI went to see Brian McLaren tonight with a friend at Baker Book House in Grand Rapids.  He was on a book tour for his new book in Phyllis Tickle's series on Ancient Spiritual Practices called Finding our Way Again.  He didn't talk a whole lot about the book, but instead talked for a bit about his last three books (The Secret Message of Jesus, Everything Must Change, and this new one) and the kernels of thought and heart that have produced them.  You can tell that McLaren is passionate about change in the world in which we live more in line with the Kingdom of God.  It's always great to hear McLaren, not because he's super-inspiration or charasmatic, but because he opens up the Scriptures often in a new way and his questions are challenging.  I also am particularly fond of his almost fearless (now) prophetic words towards the secular culture and towards the church, particularly the evangelical church.  He answered the typical questions I figured he'd get like "What do I say to my conservative friends who don't like you or think your dangerous" and "what do you really think of hell and the afterlife."  The second one, he really danced around and I wasn't fully satisfied with, but he consistently went back to his reading of Scripture through the lens of the inbreaking Kingdom of God in peace, love, generosity, and goodness.  Here are a couple highlights for me (paraphrases):

"The evangelical church is not meant to be a chaplaincy to secular capitalistic consumerism."

"If you read the passages of the bible literally about some things, you have to read it literally about others."  His example here was the story of the Rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16, in which he says, "If you read this passage literally, it seems like the way to get to hell is by being prosperous, and the way to get to heaven is to be a poor beggar with nothing."

McLaren also talked about what the Gospel is and how it relates to things like penal substitutionary atonement and he also responded to Driscoll's comments (although Driscoll was unnamed) attacking McLaren - the jist being that McLaren's Jesus is too soft and sissy, and Driscoll's Jesus who appears again in on a war-path of violence against his enemies.  McLaren was excellent on this point and gracious to his detractors as always.  I'm not going to sum it up except to say that McLaren is thinking about writing a book that responds to the misunderstandings of his critics.  On this note he talked about exclusivism, inclusivism, and universalism in terms of salvation - and I think I'll try to post on that next.

Overall it was an uneventful but stimulating discussion as always.  McLaren speaks today at Mars Hill, in case you're interested. 


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Emergent Converts

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I've found the conversation around mega-churches and emergent churches lately quit fascinating. (cf. Fitch's first post, and his redux post] I've heard many people for awhile saying, "the fruit just isn't there with the Emergent Churches."  By fruit, this usually means converts.  So, when David Fitch went after Mark Driscoll and talked about this issue, I found it quit interesting.  Being someone emergent at heart and history (and in some ways theologically, but not others) but also being currently a pastor at a mega-church (where I sometimes fit in, and other times feel like an odd-ball) these conversations are quite intriguing.  I'm particularly interested in numbers 4 and 5 of the 5 points Fitch makes, which I've listed below - this from the Out of UR Blog:  

4. Having said all this, I think that the missional communities that do persist probably have a higher conversion rate than the Driscollesque mega churches. Missional churches are much smaller, so 6 conversions from a group of 25 over ten years would match (or exceed) the percentage growth of a typical mega church. I think it would be interesting to measure how many dollars per conversion are spent in missional churches versus mega churches. It makes me smile knowing missional churches are probably more cost effective when it comes to conversions because we resist spending money on buildings, programs, and “the show.”

5. We must recognize that "missionary conversions" take longer than megachurch conversions. The conversion of a post-Christendom "pagan," who has had little to no exposure to the language and story of Christ in Scripture, may require five years of relational immersion before a decision would even make sense. If you do not have this immersion/context, any decision that is made is prone to be little more than a consumerist decision—it is made based on the perceived immediate benefit. It lasts as long as this perceived benefit remains important. It does not lead to discipleship.

So a true missionary conversion, which I believe missional churches are after, takes a much longer period of time than the kind of conversions most often generated through a megachurch. The megachurch is largely appealing to people who grew up in old forms of church and know the Story but quit going to church many years ago. These "unchurched people" require the old messages to be made more relevant. They need to be "revived" or called back into a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. There's nothing wrong with that, but we should recognize there are fewer and fewer of these kinds of people left.

These are some arguments that I myself have made in the past.  Knowing, realistically two things: 1) how inefficient mega-churches really are in reaching the lost per dollar spent and 2) how really unconcerned most members of these churches are to reach anyone.  Emerging churches are still too young to measure long term fruit and effectiveness, but it will be interesting to see the longer term effects of churches that spend less money, focus more on community, tend to care more about "holistic transformation", and are committed to individual people over programs.  The percentages of transformed lives to Jesus Lordship and Kingdom per capita and per dollar (though even talking about it that way seems, somehow, wrong) would be very intriguing to see.  So... someone do the study already.

 


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Odds & Enns

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On his blog, Peter Enns has been sharing portions of a paper he delivered to the faculty at Westminster Theological Seminary in response to his book, Incarnation and Inspiration that got him into trouble and now into suspension.  In a recent post on the authority and cultural expressions of Scripture, first speaks of the mixing of Jesus divinity and humanity in his person.  Enns says that these are "essential" to who Jesus is, and that the combination is important.  I would be wrong to try to pit the humanity against the divinity or to raise one above the other.  Interesting, I was just relistening to a podcast recently by Seattle's Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Seattle  entitled "The Supremacy of Christ and the Church in a Postmodern World."  Driscoll was making a similar argument, accusing the Emergents of raising the immanence and incarnation of Jesus too high and accusing the New Reformers of raising the transcendence and exalted Jesus too much.  In any case, Enns argues that the authority of Scripture comes from its divine origin, in other words - in God's words, but that it is encased unescapably in humanity, or cultural expression.  Here is a short passage from his post:

What I argue in I&I is that Scripture works in an analogous (not identical) way. Scripture is God’s word because it is of divine origin. That is the locus of authority, and no discussion of its humanity in any way compromises that authority. What a study of Scripture’s humanity does do is help us see the manner in which the divine author speaks authoritatively into particular ancient cultures. How this authoritative Scripture translates to different times and places, in both its timeless affirmations and contextualized particularity is (I trust this is not too reductionistic) the task of theological study. It is my firm experience, however, that evangelical lay readers, those to whom the book is addressed, are not accustomed to understanding the nature of Scripture this way.

This is one of the issues that I find so fascinating about how we understand Scripture, and one that I've mentioned in various ways here on my blog.  One of the ways it has been raised among some like myself is how much we can "purge" the human side, the cultural side, and get to pure propositional truths.  Again, don't read what I'm not saying, and from what I'm reading of Enns, he's not saying either but being accused of.  I'm not saying there isn't truth, or objective truth for that matter or that God's truth isn't propositional in any way.  What I am saying is that our access too it is always enculturated, always incarnated, always spoken through word and cultural and interpretation from God into human cultures and persons.  God communicates, he doesn't philosophize.  God relates, speaks, and loves rather than providing pure platonic visions of himself.  God is God, "I am who I am" and not philosophical categories and platonic idealism or Kantian pure reason.  God is interactional and in his divine goodness has chosen to speak, act, and even come incarnationally.

God is still who he is.  He is still the King and the authority.  What he says goes.  What he wants, will be.  There is no other name under haven by which we can be saved.  But let us be careful not to turn scripture - or God for that matter - into pure philosophical Kantian metaphysics.  We need to find a way to accept the way God has communicated with us - not through theological treatise, but through narrative of his relationship with his people - and then figure out how it speaks to us today, and what God really intends and who he is.  That's much harder work than black and white propositions, I know, but that's the work.  Driscoll is right (although I don't like saying that) that we need to balance the transcendent and immanent God as he is.


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Lining Up

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One of the things that has always bothered me, and that continues to bother me is the ongoing segmentation of the church.  It seems that we evangelicals in particular have a penchant for either creating new litmus tests, new groups with whom we need to affiliate in order to be orthodox, or in order to be a part of the true, pure, right and holy group of Christians. It's been interesting because so many young people have lamented the fact that the church is so broken and disunified, and yet no, many of us are falling into the same trap.  Recently, I've seen this in the desire to protect the church from sermon pastors.  The emerging church is now splitting into multiple categories depending on who you agree with.  Are you a Bellist?  Or a Driscollite?  Do you ascribe to Piperian Baptist Reformed theology, or are you dabbling in McLarenism?  Are you falling prey to Seayanic visions of the missional church, or are you a Kellerite?  Does McManustic theology intrigue you or is Hirschology forming you? Is your church designed around Coletic discipleship, Seeker-sensitive Hybellianism, suburban Warrenics, urban Claibornest new monasticism, or McNealian simplicity?  DA Carson, Stanley Grenz, or NT Wright?  Clark Pinnock or Wayne Grudem?  Scott McKnight or Spencer Burke?  Mars Hill Graduate School or Trinity Evangelical?

Those are just a few of the things I hear in my own circles.  I find myself feeling like I always have to choose and line up or I'll be labelled a heretic at the next turn.  If I agree with something Rob Bell is doing or saying, am I heretical?  If I like Radical Reformission by Driscoll, but I disagree with where he draws the line for what's orthodox, am I out? If I like a lot of what McLaren says in Generous Orthodoxy and I think Bill Hybels is a great evangelical leader, whose camp am I in?  And how do we figure out who's with who?  Is Donald Miller with Rob Bell or Mark Driscoll?  Is Erwin McManus with DA Carson or Chris Seay?

I guess one of my frustrations is that we are continuing to throw out the word "orthodox" as if it's a word that has a pretty solid, hard and fast meaning.  So, where's the list?  If it's drawn from the Nicene Creed, then when we use it, we certainly expand the content.  Who decides what and who's orthodox?  What does orthodox really mean, anyway, because it seems to me lately to have a pretty wide semantic range.  And we seem to be quite afraid that the church is going to go to hell in a handbasket even though Jesus said quite clearly that the gates of Hell wouldn't prevail against it.  I'm not saying that theology, boundaries, truth, and orthodoxy don't matter.  In fact, I'm quite convinced they do.  But the way we are currently talking and treating one another by forcing each other to line up is getting a little tired.  It's particularly frustrating, for instance, when people get accused of being unorthodox because they are seeking to deeply enflesh the gospel in a culture of poverty while "solid" evangelical churches are deeply heretical in their praxis of encouraging personal success or other theologies. 

Paul said it best in 1 Corinthians 1:10-13

I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ."  Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?

How about we start talking about what it is the unifies us?  How about we start talking about how Jesus is being displayed in the world? 


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