Thank You

September 30, 2004

I started missionThink a little over a month ago. I know that I am a late entry into the blogging world, but I decided to jump in whole-hog. I didn’t want to be like those bloggers who only post every month or so. I wanted missionThink to be a helpful site for people grappling with how to be and do “missional church.”

The other day, I had my 1,000th hit. This isn’t much for those of you who’ve been blogging for a long time. But it is a good beginning. I now have an average of 150 hits a day. Things are moving along quite nicely. Thank you to everyone who has been checking out missionThink regularly.

My goal is to move to an average of 500 hits a day. Once I reach that goal, I’m planning on making some changes. I want you all to know in advance so it doesn’t catch you by surprise. Once I start averaging 500 or more hits a day, I’m planning on expanding missionThink. My goal is to make missionThink a helpful resource for people who are struggling with how to be and do church in a missional way. I’d like to think that my daily thoughts serve that end, but I think some other features will help. So, once I hit 500/day, I’m thinking of doing the following:

Inviting a few other bloggers to write for missionThink. I’m not sure if we’ll share a blog, or if we’ll each have a separate blog housed on missionThink. If you have an opinion on that, let me know.

Adding an articles page. Blog posts are supposed to be brief. Sometimes, however, one has more to say than will fit into one post. The articles will come from missionThink authors, as well as outside authors that we respect.

Including some in-depth book reviews. There are a lot of good books out there. I want to choose which I think are the most helpful and tell you why they are worth reading.

Providing a robust list of links. I want to catalogue the best sites out there for ecclesiology and church planting. Nothing mediocre–just the good stuff.

If you have any other suggestions, please let me know. I want missionThink to be a useful tool, and a place where good dialogue can take place. My ultimate goal is to provide a website that aided people in the process of considering important theological/social issues…and then begin to conceptualize how the church might incarnate those ideas. Most website focus on idea without much in terms of ministry practice. Others offer practical ideas without showing the philosophy behind them. I want to navigate the middle. I want missionThink to help in the process of moving from idea to reality. That is the most difficult step, and few sites do it well. Most of the sites that address this area don’t specialize specifically on ecclesiology.

I’d be interested in your thoughts. Does this seem like a worthwhile endeavor? Is it needed? Any suggestions?

Rethinking the Culture Wars

September 30, 2004

Check out this offering by Tom Sine. I hope people take his proposal seriously.

The Gospel Experiment

September 29, 2004

Check this out. Very cool.

The goal of Mission

September 29, 2004

In the previous post, my friend blorge left the following comment:

the [church] family can’t just be missional if it isn’t drawing people to a relatively healthy body.

I agree. The goal of the church’s mission is to draw people into relationship with the church and our Triune God. If we engage in mission that draws people into a horribly dysfunctional way of relating to others and a spiritually and theologically harmful way of relating with God, then we aren’t engaging in mission. Mission always has a goal. The goal of our mission is to disciple people in the way of Jesus. We are to pattern our mission after Jesus’ earthly mission. As he was sent, so are we. And if we aren’t going out to bring people into health, then we aren’t engaging in Christian mission.

This is part of the reason I get upset when big-name Word of Faith people like Benny Hinn come to town. Thousands attend his meetings. Many get “saved.” When I gripe about Benny, some of my friends will say things like, “he isn’t THAT bad–people are getting saved, after all.” If you define “saved” as “getting out of Hell,” then I guess I can’t argue. But biblical salvation is more about a new way of living healthfully and authentically with God through Jesus Christ, by the power and presence of the Spirit. This salvation is eternal, but it has to do with more than just the afterlife.

So, going back to blorge’s statement, I agree that the church needs to draw people into a healthy body. Mission is about bringing people into a live-giving and transforming relationship with Jesus Christ.

Church Without Presence?

September 28, 2004

People sure throw around the word “incarnational” alot these days. It may even be the word de jour when one is looking for a single word to define the church. “Missional” or “community” also rank right up there. At any rate, I don’t think people really understand the weight of the word “incarnational.” You see, incarnation implies precense. If you attend a church gathering in a particular neighborhood, but don’t really live in said neighborhood, or at least frequent that neighborhood, you aren’t really being incarnational. At least, not in a precise way in regards to whatever church you “attend.” You can’t be incarnational without presence. And in my book (which I know you don’t all read) you can’t be church the way Jesus intends without being incarnational.

I’m not trying to be a dink. I just don’t understand how a group of people meeting in an area, but without those people effectively living and engaging people in that area, qualifies as “incarnational.” Neither is it particularly “missional” for that matter. “Community” may still happen, but community is almost always better if the members of that community are in close proximity to one another.

Please. Please. Please stop using such profound words unless you understand what they mean and are prepared to use them in the right way. Throwing around words like “incarnational” causes them to lose meaning.

Church needs to be less about affinity groups gathering for an event and more like a family reaching out in their neighborhood with the love of Jesus Christ. We need to be careful not to end up looking like the former while claiming to be the latter.

Sky Captain and the Church of Tomorrow

September 28, 2004

The other day I went to see Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow with a buddy. Movie reviewers are right–Sky Captain looks great, but its plot and characters are weak. The movie is a prime example of style over substance.

That is usually the price a movie pays in an attempt to secure the widest audience. Movies that try to gain huge appeal usually have to play to the lowest common denominator…or try to impress everyone. It is a common strategy these days to impress the senses in such a way that people feel satisfied with mediocre writing.

Many churches take a similar approach. They push style–not always to the exclusion of substance, but often in such a way that it is difficult to do both well. I feel that tension. In all honesty, very little of the church planting advice I’ve received over the past two years has been about the “substance” of faith. By far, most of what I hear is advice that will help me have a more polished presentation…a greater style. It is assumed that “seekers” are attracted by style–and that if we can get them to stick around for a while they will begin to ingest substance. This is part of the reason churches market. They spend energy trying to attract people to an aesthetically pleasing environment or to draw them into a novel experience with the hopes that they will stick around long enough to engage in deeper things. But often the emphasis on polish and presentation undermines the substance of our message.

My fear is that much of the current talk about arts in the church has become subtly tainted by thoughts like these. It is definitely cooler sounding to affirm the arts than it is to affirm marketing solutions, but often there is a shared underlying theme: if we can create a pleasing or stimulating environment, people may stick around. And if they stick around long enough, they may become Christians…perhaps even mature Christians.

When I read the Gospels, I am confronted with our Lord’s strong calls to discipleship. Jesus’ way of communicating was definitely artful, but it was jam-packed with substance. The substance of his message left little room for pleasantries. Jesus doesn’t play to the lowest common denominator. Nor does he attempt to wow everyone with dazzling special effects (his miracles, though impressive, were definitely not showy). Instead, he often made it difficult for seekers. He challenged people. He asked them to take up crosses and give up their wealth.

In our churches, we need to get back to the substance of our faith–the Gospel of our Crucified Lord. Style serves substance. Let the plot of our faith be more than mediocre.

Transforming Urbania

September 27, 2004

This is a great post from our friends at Leaving M?nster. There are a number of established churches that are doing great things in their neighborhoods. However, as a church planter with a small group of people, I am struck with this question:

How does a new, small church bring real transformation to an urban area? Where do we begin? I’ve tried to encourage people to live in the area and share their presence. It is amazing how many ministry opportunities arise from regular connections. We’re also going to begin an ESL tutoring program for the local immigrants. But there is so much need, and we are few.

A bit Monkish, are we?

September 27, 2004

TallSkinnyKiwi is moving his family to establish a monastery in the Orkney Islands. I think the idea of monastic living is incredibly appealing. God’s blessing to them in this adventure.

It has been pointed out by others, but I definitely think that there is a lot to learn from monastic movements. If the church needs a mendicant flavor, balancing mission and monasticism.

Lappy no more

September 27, 2004

Last night my backpack was stolen. Several important things were in this backpack:

Lappy (my nickname for my laptop computer) was stolen. Oddly enough, I feel the same way I felt when my childhood dog (Chuck) died.

Many of the hardcopies of Missio Dei’s documents (incorporation papers and stuff). This was a big loss, and I feel really stupid about losing Missio Dei’s important documents.

My wallet, which has credit cards, my driver’s license, and my social security card. Lets hope the thief lacks the moxie to attempt identity theft.

It is amazing how dependent I am on the contents of that backpack. I feel powerless and frustrated. My whole life was centered around my computer. That is just sad. Being the thinking-type that I am, I started thinking about what greater purposes this theft might serve. So far, this is what I’ve got:

I realized that Missio Dei isn’t the content of that backpack. It felt as though I lost Missio Dei when I lost that backpack. Some of my recent work for Missio Dei, and Missio Dei’s documents were in there. When they were stolen, I was forced to realize that Missio Dei isn’t in that bag. Missio Dei isn’t merely an organization. The organization part of Missio Dei was hit last night, but Missio Dei remains. Only Lappy is no more.

Let the right be wrong? [CB]

September 24, 2004

So, I happened to be browsing the radio stations and picked up the Sean Hannedy show on AM 1500. It was just starting and there was a song on for the bumper music that perplexed me to no end. I remembered some of the lyrics, came home and looked it up on the web. The song is by a country singer named Martina McBride, and here are the lyrics to the chorus, which were used as bumper music for the show:

“Let freedom ring, Let the white dove sing
Let the whole world know that today is a day of reckoning
Let the weak be strong, let the right be wrong
Roll the stone away, let the guilty pay
It’s Independence Day”

The rest of the song’s lyrics seem to be about a young child who is the victim of abuse by her father, but the point is that the chorus was used as some sort of anthem for the conservative movement. I think the lyrics express perfectly the syncretism of Christianity and right-wing conservative politics. The last line is particularly offensive to me. Apparently the burial stone at Jesus’ tomb was rolled away for the expressed purpose of making the “guilty pay.” Incidentally, I’m also at a bit of a loss as to why it seems to be a good thing to “let the right be wrong.” These five lines of verse so stunningly mix Christian imagery with conservative ideology that I’m ready to explode. This is also another great reason to hate country music.

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