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Conference Brochure/Poster

February 26, 2006

In case you are interested, you can download a pdf of the brochure/poster for the conference here. 

Speakers and Presentations

February 26, 2006

Most of the information regarding speakers and their presentations are now up on the conference website. 

An Alternative to the Consumer Conference

February 22, 2006

Thanks to Jeff for pointing out this conference opportunity: The Buzz Conference.  Now those of you who were planning on going to the Conference on Christianity in a Consumer Culture have an additional option for conference awesomeness!

(in case you are one of those infrequent visitors to my blog, let me be quite clear that what I have written in this post is a snarky joke)

The Everchanging Theme

February 19, 2006

You may have noticed that my theme has changed again. Several people have let me know that my previous design was lacking.  For some reason, I find it difficult to get my typepad blogs "perfect." I enjoy designing stuff–it is an interesting distraction for me.  However, I really dislike typepad at this point, because the customization is limited.  Even though they supposedly allow you to update code and tweak the .css, I find the interface and options sort of confusing.  I prefer wordpress (which I use for missio-dei.com), but I’m sorta stuck with Typepad, since I have a number of blogs here and don’t want the hassle of moving all of them.

And so, right now I’m using a prepackaged Typepad theme.  I like it, but for some reason I’m not able to use any of the Typepad Pro tools to change the banner image.

The Dominance of the Emergentsia, Revisited

February 17, 2006

The other day, my friend Chris blogged about some words he’s coined:

E-mer-gent-si-a 1. an elite group enjoying superior intellectual and
theological status in the emerging church movement. 2. a class among
the emerging church population claiming intellectual dominion over
particular aspects of the movement.

A small conversation has developed over at Chris’ blog (go there and chime in if you want). Go there and read the comments to get filled in.

Here are my questions:

1) Is there an emergentsia? (I’m not looking for rants, but honest "sociologist-like" commentary).

2) What should our response, as folks in the emerging church movement, be? I’m also interested in hearing from the so-called "emergentsia."

Missio Dei: A Missional Order

February 16, 2006

When we started Missio Dei about 1.5 years ago, we really didn?t have a clue about what we were doing.  Sure, we had the same ethos
that we have now-but we had no idea what it should LOOK like. We didn?t
want to define things too tightly, because we wanted Missio Dei to
emerge out of our enagagement with the West Bank. And so, we were open
to being messy. We were open to experimentation. We were open to making
mistakes. And we?ve made mistakes. But in the process, we?ve learned
some things. And because of what we?ve learned, we?ve got a renewed
focus. We are leaner, more committed, and a bit wiser.

We started out trying to be a network of house churches that had a weekly large gathering.  I know that this approach seems to work for our friends at Vineyard Central, but it was really bad for us.  Probably because Vineyard Central had a sort of history that led them to where they are today.  For us, it was a mistake.  We got the worst of both worlds.  And I should have known better.  It wasn’t really faithful to the vision God put on my heart.  There were two things that were really important to me when we started Missio Dei: 1) a commitment to a specific neighborhood (the West Bank neighborhood of Minneapolis), and 2) that our core would be a group of radically committed disciples.  Since my late teens, I’ve wished I could be a married protestant monk.  When I closed my eyes to envision what Missio Dei would look like, I kinda envisioned a group of neo-franciscans serving the West Bank.  But I thought my dream was too extreme and wouldn’t attract a crowd.  And part of me still was too in love with the idea of attracting a crowd.

That part of me died around a year ago. There is nothing to keep Missio Dei from returning to that earliest vision.  This weekend, Missio Dei is gathering together for a retreat.  At that retreat, we’re going to articulate our refocused commitment to be a Missional Order for the West Bank.  Please pray for us.

We are much smaller in number than we were a year ago.  But the funny thing is that we are poised to actually make a difference.  Impact is about more than numbers.  I’d rather have 10 committed people than 100 semi-committed people in Missio Dei. 

I’ll share more about the shape of Missio Dei in future posts.  And don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about my series on Discipleship in America…I’m just taking my sweet time.

The Dominance of the Emergentsia

February 16, 2006

One of a growing number of made up words from Chris:

E-mer-gent-si-a 1. an elite group enjoying superior intellectual and
theological status in the emerging church movement. 2. a class among
the emerging church population claiming intellectual dominion over
particular aspects of the movement.

Common Critiques of Emergent and/or the Emerging Church

February 14, 2006

I am hardly in love with Emergent.  And I get really irritated with some of the behaviors and ideas presented by some folks who claim the title "emerging." But what REALLY irritates me is when folks try to put the whole movement into a little box, and then proceed to step on that box.  In other words, I’m fed up with people setting up a straw man and calling it "emerging" or "Emergent."  Let’s be honest and humble here. 

These are the most frustrating criticisms I hear about emerging/Emergent:

The emerging church is just a bunch of white American 20 somethings doing church.

I’m willing to grant that most of the folks that call themselves "emerging" are youngish and white.  I’ve offered a version of this critique myself.  But it is one thing to say: "the movement is still too white and young…let’s try harder." It is quite another to dismiss the movement entirely because "it is just a bunch of white American 20 somethings doing church." Let’s be honest.  Most of the folks who issue that critique belong to denominations or movements that either are, or used to be, predominantly white.  Movements start somewhere.  The thing that makes the emerging church really cool is how it is how much those white 20 somethings value diversity and how they are increasingly succeeding at seeing diversity within their ranks.  Most emerging folks that I know really want to work hard on this issue.  The movement is only a decade old…and good steps have been taken.  The movement is increasingly diverse–ethnically, nationally, economically, generationally. 

Emerging folks are arrogant and/or cocky.

I hear this one quite a bit.  In fact, I overheard a conversation in the bathroom at Bethel Seminary (I was in a stall) that touched on this.  Here’s how it basically went:

Person 1: "Emerging folks aren’t really interested in the critiques and concerns of more traditional evangelicals.  I think that is why John has such a problem with the emerging church.  They assume they already understand the concerns and critiques, so they don’t even listen."
Person 2 (a professor): "Hmm…actually, I wonder if it is the opposite." (good job professor!)
Person 1: "Well, I’m sure John has read the books!"
Person 2: "I don’t want to assume that."

I’ve heard lots of evangelicals issue the charge of arrogance against emerging folks.  I’m sure there is some truth to it. After all, people who willingly go against the grain have to have a little bit of a rebel in them, and often this comes across as arrogance.  And since the movement has a disproportionate number of young adults, it is likely to reflect a sort of youthful confidence.  But most of the folks I know in the movement really care about the concerns and critiques of others.  There is much more willingness to learn and grow than many folks think.  If you offer the critique humbly, I think it will be taken humbly.  In all honesty, I’ve seen more arrogance coming from those who critique the emerging church than I have from within the movement. 

The emerging church is just liberalism infiltrating evangelicalism.

For some emerging folk, this may be the case.  And in some ways, I’m more "liberal" than I used to be.  But most emerging type folk find this criticism really frustrating because they don’t think in categories like "conservative" and "liberal" that much.  Such a distinction assumes a bunch of modernist categories that many in the emerging church no longer think in.  So, instead of just calling the emerging church a bunch of liberals, take the time to find out what folks actually believe and why they believe it instead of reaching for a handy box to put them into, so that you can more easily dismiss them.

The emerging church has compromised the Gospel.

If by "Gospel" you mean the classic reformed articulation of justification by faith, and the belief that the subsitutionary penal atonement is at the heart of the Gospel, then many have compromised the Gospel (including me).  But the Gospel is much more nuanced and multi-faceted than that.  Skim through church history and you’ll realize that while the reformers did indeed offer a valid and helpful critique against the Catholic Church in its day, they sometimes over-reacted and invented categories that minimize and simplify the nature of the Gospel.  Most emerging church folk that I know really love Jesus and are examining the Gospels and epistles with great care as they try to understand just what the Gospel is to Jesus and Paul, and what it should, therefore, be for us.  Such folk (like myself) have come to the sinking suspicion that evangelicalism has radically simplified and caged the Gospel and simply want to set it free…

…then again, maybe I’m just an arrogant white liberal. :)

Wise words about “responding” to homosexuality

February 10, 2006

I’ve avoided weighing in on recent controversies and debates about how the Church should respond to homosexuality.  Such debates are largely unhelpful and de-personalizing.  Here’s some excellent advice from David Fitch on how to respond to the "gay issue:"

How then to go on? This is what I propose: Let us, the emerging
churches, the “younger evangelicals” and all communities of Christ who
seek to be missional to the gay and lesbian worlds, direct our
attention to a different question when it comes to “the homosexual
question. Let us spend our time on the question, “what kind of people
should we be to welcome gay and lesbian people into the redemptive and
healing salvation of God in Christ for sexuality?” Let us listen to
each other. Let us listen to the postmodern writers who tell us it is
our communities and cultures that form desire. And let us spend
sufficient time…to discern what kind of community we need to
be to both speak what we are called to say and be the kind of welcoming
and redeeming community that can say it as “good news.”

Amen and Amen. 

Discipleship in America, Part 6: The Church in Formation

February 9, 2006

In my last post, I suggested that the Christian life must focus more on reshaping Christian imagination before we can really received sacred information. This is where Christian disciplines and practices come in.  We need a structure, we need physicality. Otherwise we will end up with disembodied wisdom.  Everyone’s got disembodied wisdom these days.  As Joseph brought up in response to my last post, we live in a society where it is almost ok for one to spout something that doesn’t bear out in their own life.

Here are some basic practices and disciplines that, I believe, help reshape our imagination:

  • Experiencing the sacred in casual fellowship. We have forgotten that we are the Body of Christ.  Being together is a sacred thing.  We don’t need to have something programmed in order for something spiritual to be happeing.  When we’re together, it is a spiritual act.  When we learn to simply enjoy one another’s company, and understand that it is sacred, our imagination will begin to be reshaped, helping us to understand that relationship is the foundation of our faith, not a biproduct.
  • Listening in Prayer.  When I was new to the faith, I was told to submit my prayers to God and then just listen.  The assumption was that God would communicate directly to my Spirit in response to my prayers.  Sometimes I experienced that communication.  Often, I did not.  I don’t think this is a bad way to listen in prayer, but I believe that God wants us to pray much more often with others, and to instead of waiting to hear "a still small voice" in our spirits, we should be listening from "a still small voice" from our brother or sister in the prayer circle.  Our imagination needs to be reshaped so that we can hear the voice of God in the Body, not just in our own souls.
  • Embodying our Prayers. I am a big fan of prayer walking.  There are other forms of embodied prayer (Doug Pagitt has written a book on this).  I’ll limit my thoughts to prayer walking, since it is a discipline I thoroughly enjoy and know a thing or two about.  When I walk in the West Bank, praying as I walk, I am connecting my prayers with a place.  I give my prayers context.  Praying in this way reshapes my imagination so that I understand that my prayers are tied to a real place with real people.  It also forces me to associate faces with my prayers, so that they don’t stay abstract and unemotional. 
  • Serving people without an agenda.  When we only serve someone in the hopes of "hooking" them enough to "sell" them the Gospel, we are being dishonest.  Our gift of service stops being a gift and we enter into it with our hidden motives.  This sort of activity keeps us from understanding the Gospel as God’s gift.  When we can serve simply for the sake of serving, and can reckon it to be an act of worship in itself, our imagination can be reshaped to seeing grace in new ways.  We will understand that anytime we share love and life with another, we are participating in the Gospel.

These are just a few. I invite you to share any spiritual practices that have shaped your imagination. 

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