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Monthly Archives: December 2006

Check out the attached picture for a hint of where we think God is leading us in our ministry to the city of Austin. More details in the future, but the post from yesterday gives an idea of the direction we think we’re headed…

Peace

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I’m anxiously awaiting the arrival of the new book from Alan Hirsch “The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church” for several reasons including his incredible writing skills, (see “The Shaping of Things to Come”), his incredible story, the praxis of his preaching, and the fact that he comes from the Church of Christ tradition. Here is a link to the introduction and Chapter 1. I find it especially invigorating that someone from the Church of Christ is pushing the envelope for doing ministry and recapturing the essence of the first century church. Supposedly the restoration movement is all about this idea, so I’m excited to see someone actually trying it, instead of focused on getting all the methods correct. Here is a quote on this subject from the Introduction…

“I have to confess that I do not think that the inherited formulas will
work anymore. And what is more, I know I am not alone in this view.
There is a massive roaming of the mind going on in our day as the search
for alternatives heats up. However, most of the new thinking as it relates
to the future of Christianity in the West only highlights our dilemma and
generally proposes solutions that are little more than revisions of past ap-
proaches and techniques. Even much of the thinking about the so-called
emerging church leaves the prevailing assumptions of church and mis-
sion intact and simply focuses on the issue of theology and spirituality
in a postmodern setting. This amounts to a reworking of the theological
“software” while ignoring the “hardware” as well as “operating system”
of the church. In my opinion, this will not be enough to get us through.

As we anxiously gaze into the future and delve back into our history and
traditions to retrieve missiological tools from the Christendom toolbox,
many of us are left with the sinking feeling that this is simply not going to
work. The tools and techniques that fitted previous eras of Western history
simply don’t seem to work any longer. What we need now is a new set of
tools. A new “paradigm”—a new vision of reality: a fundamental change
in our thoughts, perceptions, and values, especially as they relate to our
view of the church and mission.

And it’s not that reaching into our past is not part of the solution. It is. The
issue is simply that we generally don’t go back far enough; or rather, that
we don’t delve deep enough for our answers. Every now and again we do
get glimpses of an answer, but because of the radical and disturbing nature
of the remedy we retreat to the safety of the familiar and the controllable.
The real answers, if we have the courage to search for and apply them, are
usually more radical than we are normally given to think, and because of
this they undermine our sense of place in the world, with its status quo—not
something that the Western church has generally been too comfortable with.
But we are now living in a time when only a solution that goes to the very
roots of what it means to be Jesus’s people will do.”

Alan Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church,
Brazos Press, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2006.

I’m also actively engaged in the current series Rob Bell is doing at Mars Hill on “Peacemakers”. I think the two authors/preachers have much in common in their attempts to revive the church as a body of people committed to Jesus as the focus for all we do and believe. In the building of ourselves as disciples, we are enabled as the people of God to join in the process of kingdom work.

“The truth is that the twenty-first century is turning out to be a highly
complex phenomenon where terrorism, paradigmatic technological innova-
tion, an unsustainable environment, rampant consumerism, discontinuous
change, and perilous ideologies confront us at every point.” —-Hirsch, “The Forgotten Ways”

The board that strikes me across the forehead is made up of perceptions. The way we look at ourselves and the way the rest of world looks at us is important. We who claim to be the church must change our views of who we are and what we are about, so that the perceptions of others are not so out of line with the reality of what a disciple of Christ is. In other words, we must fundamentally accept the redemptive processes of Christ on the Cross and focus every decisision, every thought, every action around that reality. This means we change our very core existence…even in America. This means we radically alter our consumption habits for example. We begin to live in smaller houses, we don’t use so many trash bags, we redesign our cities to use less oil, etc. A few examples…

1 billion people are without
safe drinking water
Americans consume 26
billion liters of BOTTLED
water annually

every 16 seconds somewhere in
the world someone dies of
hunger
2 out of 3 Americans are
considered overweight

Americans spend more
annually on trash bags than
nearly half the world does
on
ALL goods

80% of the world lives in
substandard housing
New home size in sq. ft.:
Ireland-930
U.K.-815
Japan-1000
U.S.-2349

Look at the stats link for more examples here

The point that Bell makes so well is that when someone who has nothing hears the word democracy, they look at America and think GREED. Or, maybe when they hear freedom, they look at America and think IMPERIALISM. As disciples, we should, we must lead the way to change these perceptions. He tells a story of a friend in northern Africa who witnessed people dancing in the streets for joy when 9/11 happened, but were stunned a few years later after a devastating earthquake hit the village when a group of American disciples came to rebuild and love on them. The gospel was shared in those days because the Holy Spirit moved amongst and through those people seeking to restore and redeem the world for the sake of the kingdom.

“…the church (the ecclesia), when true to its real calling, when it is on
about what God is on about, is by far and away the most potent force for
transformational change the world has ever seen. It has been that before, is
that now, and will be that again. This book is written in the hope that the
church in the West can, by the power of the Holy Spirit, arouse and reengage
that amazing power that lies within us.” —-Hirsch “The Forgotten Ways”

My next post will look at what Hirsch and Bell believe are the praxis, the applications of our faith to make the church viable, not for its own sake, but for the sake of the world…

shalom

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I read the following quote over at PreacherMike blog this morning, and just had to put a little twist on Garrison Keillor’s thoughts. See below…

From Garrison Keillor:
“I love reading Christmas newsletters in which the writer bursts the bonds of modesty and comes forth with one gilt-edged paragraph after another: ‘Tara was top scorer on the Lady Cougars soccer team and won the lead role in the college production of Antigone, which by the way they are performing in the original Greek. Her essay on chaos theory as an investment strategy will be in the next issue of Fortune magazine, the same week she’ll appear as a model in Vogue. How she does what she does and still makes Phi Beta Kappa is a wonderment to us all. And, yes, she is still volunteering at the homeless shelter.’ …

“This is rough on us whose children are not paragons. Most chlidren aren’t. A great many teenage children go through periods when they loathe you and go around slamming doors and playing pschotic music and saying things like ‘I wish I had never been born,’ which is a red-hot needle stuck under your fingernail. One must be very selective, writing about them for the annual newsletter: ‘Sean is becoming very much his own person and is unafraid to express himself. He is a lively presence in our family and his love of music is a thing to behold.’

“I come from Minnesota, where it’s considered shameful to be shameless, where modesty is always in fashion, where self-promotion is looked at askance. Give us a gold trophy and we will have it bronzed so you won’t think that we think we’re special. There are no Donald Trumps in Minnesota: We strangled them all in their cribs. A football player who likes to do his special dance after scoring a touchdown is something of a freak.”
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Some of my children had a very good year…some had an awful year. I love them all the same, but sometimes they can be so obstinate, strong willed, and full of pride.

Where I come from, it’s shameful to seek public approval for acts of love. But, kids will be kids and sometimes lessons are learned the hard way. They’ll take two steps forward, but somehow forget they needed help in learning how to make those steps. But, when they keep seeking, keep working, keep trying to do the right thing they grow and grow, not like weeds, but like strong, silent oaks that lift your soul when you sit beneath them on a spring day and just listen to the wind in the tall, rustling grasses.

My oldest son is a great example of what I’m trying to teach my children. He always did the right thing regardless of the consequences, and in the end he suffered for being who I made him to be. As he grew older, many people could he serve, and he did so using whatever method was necessary to help. Of course, this too got him in a lot of trouble with some people, but he kept his eye on the prize and helped people that nobody else was willing to get involved with like the homeless, the sick, drunks, prostitutes, and all sorts of people that get overlooked by most of my other children.

My children have a great example in my oldest and they are trying, at least many of them are trying. In the past year, they thought many beautiful thoughts and did many noble things to make me glad to call them mine. I rejoice that my name is uplifted because of them. I am glad to call them mine, even if they aren’t perfect.

—-I AM

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Check out my first video podcast, I think they call it a vodcast. I put together a short movie of my son learning to ski a few years ago. I did this using iMovie, GarageBand, and iTunes.Learning to Fly

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I’ll speak more to this idea later and what we’re up to here in Austin. But, for now you’ve got to read the post over at “The Rebellion of Thought”. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but am anxious to see it if it distributed here in Austin. Anyway, here is the blog post you’ve got to read…

My Next Church

peace,

carl

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My favorite pastor Rob Bell has started a series at Mars Hill on “Peacemakers” and started last weekend with a challenge for us to look at the cross not only as our personal salvific moment, but also as a systemic answer to the problems of the theory of “redemptive violence.”

I think we must be careful though to remember that it is the daily transformation of ourselves into Christlikeness that enables the power of the Spirit to manifest itself in our lives so that we may engage the cross in redemptive ways. Below is a letter from Richard Foster at Renovare on this subject of spiritual formation. Enjoy…

A Pastoral Letter From Richard J. Foster

Dear Friends,

My concern in this letter is for us to think together about a matter of genuine personal and ecclesiastical significance: how we might help to bring the modern spiritual formation movement into a growing maturity. Some of us have been at this spiritual formation work for a while now, long enough to see quite a mixture of helpful and decidedly unhelpful things set forth. It is time to assess where we have come and to think together about the way forward.

MATURING THE MODERN SPIRITUAL FORMATION MOVEMENT
The task of maturing the modern spiritual formation movement is complicated and will challenge our finest thinking and most creative energies. There are two reasons, at least, for the complication. To begin with, the continuing popularity of spiritual formation today has meant that all kinds of writing and speaking has now gone forth on the subject. Frankly—and I hate to say it in such a blunt matter—much that has gone out under the name of spiritual formation has been done by people who simply have not thought substantively on the subject, and (dare I mention it) we have to wonder if they themselves have been spiritually formed to any substantial degree. Hence, a great deal of “Holy Baloney” is out there now, and the average person is quickly going to despair at attempting to distinguish the good from the bad.

Then, secondly, people in general and Americans in particular are a fickle lot, and they tire quickly. Many, in fact, are already going on to the next fad. And let’s be honest: how many of us can truly wrap our minds around the notion of a forty-year journey into the subterranean chambers of the soul? That was Moses’s experience of character formation in the Egyptian desert, you recall. Forty years! Are we not tempted to opt instead for a short-cut or two? Impatience is a primary spiritual problem in our day.

These things need not discourage us, however. The human need—and longing—for substantive formation of heart and soul and mind and body into Christlikeness is always before us. It is not going to go away. No doubt our work will now be more difficult with those who feel they have tried spiritual formation, and it failed them, when all they really tried was some little “five steps to blessedness.” Remember, we are not presenting people with any “program,” but with a life. We simply and powerfully introduce them into an ongoing, interactive relationship with Jesus, their ever-living Savior, Teacher, Lord, and Friend. Apprenticed to Jesus they will be able to go forward from faith to faith and from strength to strength.

Here now are a few things to keep in mind as we continue our efforts at maturing the modern spiritual formation movement.

1. We take the long view … always. We think in terms of lifetimes and centuries. The soul lives forever. It is precious beyond imagining. Investing deeply in even a few folk will count for all eternity. Sure, many in today’s religious climate will go on to other “more interesting” topics. We bless these folk and pray for their well-being and growth in grace. But, there are plenty (vast numbers, in fact) who are committed to the long haul. They really want to be like Jesus with all their heart and soul and mind and strength. These are the ones we invest in. And, believe me, investing in these precious lives will take all the energy and all the time and all the prayer and all the weeping and laughing and singing and hoping we can possibly muster.

2. We refuse to think of spiritual formation in terms of various practices … ever. In another era those practices were things like “a quiet time” and Bible study of one sort or another. Today it is Lectio Divina and “journaling.” May I say as clearly as possible: Christian spiritual formation has nothing essentially to do with such practices. Many practices can be genuinely helpful in their place, but they are not “it.” What is “it” is LIFE—life with Jesus, interactive relationship with the great God of the universe, inner transformation into Christlikeness. Now, this reality can happen with Lectio and with “journaling,” and it can happen without them. It can, and it does! The tendency today, unfortunately widespread, is to think of spiritual formation exclusively in terms of practices of one kind or another. Please, dear friend, do not fall into this trap. It will only produce legalism and bondage, and it utterly defeats spiritual formation. Many of the familiar practices are useful, to be sure, and some more than others. But none is essential. We all are to walk with the living Christ and then “in humility regard others as better than yourselves” (Phil. 2:3).

3. We engage in spiritual formation for the sake of the Church universal … always. Sectarian reform movements that cement an eternal split only become ends in themselves. We work instead for the transformation of the whole Church. We love the Church, the people of God, in all her multi-faceted expressions. Traditional. Contemporary. Liturgical. Charismatic. Emergent. Catholic and Orthodox and Protestant. Big church and little church, house church and crystal cathedral. We attempt no end run around the Church. God is with his people in all their waywardness and silliness, and so are we.

4. We do not center on curriculum based solutions … ever. Curricula of all sorts are important but they come way down the line in formation work. Curriculum must always be subservient to ideas and ideas must always be subservient to relationship. In The Divine Conspiracy Dallas Willard (rightly in my estimation) has a chapter entitled, “A Curriculum for Christlikeness.” However, this is chapter nine and comes only after both a careful delineation of the unique qualities of the interactive relationship between Jesus and his apprentices and a careful explication of the central ideas related to this life in the kingdom of God. Far too many people rush to the curriculum program of chapter nine without establishing into their lives the foundations set forth so carefully in all that comes before. We must not leave out the curriculum work, but it never comes first and it must never be central. Nor can it ever be a “cookie-cutter” curriculum. Unique, individualized people require unique, individualized curricula. Frankly, “cookie-cutter” curricula are very much like cookies—all sweetness with precious little nutrition.

5. We draw wisdom and insight from the ancient sources … always. We reject the heresy of the contemporary. The people of God throughout history instruct us in the way eternal. Bible sources and post-Bible sources. We learn from Moses. We learn from Luther. We learn from Joseph of Arimathea. We learn from Catherine of Genoa. These are our teachers, our models, our inspiration.

6. We do not aim at outward action … ever. It is the renovation of the heart we are after. This inward work is much harder than mere outward conformity … and easier. Harder because we cannot see it, test it, control it. We cannot program the heart of another human being. We cannot program our own heart. But this is what makes it easier. God is the One who sees the heart. God is the One who tenderly programs the heart … always allowing time and space for our will to turn and respond to divine Love. We are working in conjunction with a greater Plan, a greater Planner. We are part of God’s great Renovation project for human beings. And so we can work resting. We can labor under God’s abiding grace.

7. We are keenly aware that true inward transformation will incline our hearts toward suffering humanity … always. Deep suffering is found everywhere; among the down and out and the up and in. As our hearts are increasingly renovated, they will become increasingly tender toward the bruised and the broken, the helpless and the hopeless. We then will find ways to move outside our insulated bubbles of security. Trevor Hudson, a South African pastor and writer, during the darkest period in his country’s history of apartheid developed an eight-day experiential program designed to help young South Africans reflect upon the meaning of their faith and discipleship within the harsh and oppressive sociopolitical realities of their nation. Trevor calls this experience “The Pilgrimage of Pain and Hope.” Oh, may we find ways to come alongside suffering human beings and together walk the pilgrimage of pain and hope!

Friends, right now spiritual formation is popular and much sought after. This time will pass, and when it does we will continue on. Frankly, whether we are in the limelight or in obscurity is of no consequence whatever. Such matters are wood, hay, and stubble. We seek everlasting results: gold, silver, and precious stones (1 Cor. 3:12). So, dear friends, live faithfully to the end. Be constant in season and out. Proclaim the good news of the kingdom. Walk cheerfully over the earth.

Peace and joy,

Richard J. Foster

Permission is granted to duplicate this letter for free distribution. Any quotations or references to it should give proper credit to RENOVARÉ, 8 Inverness Drive East, Suite 102, Englewood, CO 80112-5624 USA

I will start posting more links to blogs I read when I find content related to the mission of Simple Gestures. I’ll start today with a post from a brilliant Scot McKnight at Jesus Creed

Here is an article Purple Politics in the Press on politicians and preachers working together regardless of party affiliation. I’m going to try to do more of this in the future.

A very cool feature of this blog is the number of thoughtful comments he receives. If you’ve got some time, which I find it harder and harder to find, spend some time with Scot.

Shalom

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