Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Some Thoughts by Jason Callina about Church

Jason emailed me these thoughts below, and I asked if I could post them on my blog. As he says they, "were just me brainstorming a couple of weeks ago. I want to get them up on a wiki so that people can collaborate and refine. Some are better thought out than others. My inspiration was the Cluetrain Manifesto from years ago and how it made perfect sense across disciplines."

This was in response to my Open Source Church post asking for narratives describing The Gathering. This post can be found on the Blog for our church in Salem.

Here are Jason's thoughts. Some good stuff, some provocative stuff, and as Jason says they are open to refinement and collaboration. Go ahead and respond to things you like, things you dislike, things you agree with, and things you disagree with.

* The new megachurch is not some vast resource sucking room. It is hyperlocal and networked. Thousands of people sitting in little rooms talking to each other from all over the world.
* Kindness and compassion need heroes. They can't defend themselves on their own.
* If something isn't broke don't fix it. If it is broke FIX IT NOW.
* Because something has been done for decades or centuries does not make it legitimate.
* if you are doing something but you don't know why, stop until you do.
* Lingo confuses an issue. If you can't explain something in plain language then chances are your logic is flawed.
* Ask difficult questions, don't settle for pat answers and don't give them.
* There are questions where there are no good answers. Be content.
* Be respectful, live with others of different opinons. Defend yourself passionately but be willing to be wrong and open to learning.
* Publish transcripts, videos, audio of services. Bring these things out into the sunlight.
* Worship is holy, sermons are not. Sermons are opinion. Don't confuse this.
* Fact check sermons. Just because someone thinks they are right and speaks with charisma doesn't make it so.
* If your service is unwilling to make a backchannel then make one yourself.
* Tweet, text, email, look stuff up on wikipedia during service, engage.
* Learn the logical falacies, they will serve you well.
* Loving someone is not the same as liking someone or how they behave.
* Differences of opinion are not disunity.
* Some of the best church happens in the hallway outside of service.
* Recapture the meaning of "church", it is you and your neighbors, not your building and the structure of the service.
* We should not be afraid of mistakes or FAIL. FAIL enough and it leads to WIN

Friday, March 12, 2010

Answering McLaren's Ten Questions Before Reading the Book (a SynchroBlog)

Steve Hayes revived the SynchroBlog tradition I started a few years back by asking us to answer Brian McLaren's 10 questions before reading his newest book.  So here are my answers to the 10 questions.  Now I will have to read the book after this, but that is okay, because I highly respect Brian.  I respect him not because of his writings, but because I have met him and spent some time with him.  Lots of people can write good and provocative books.  But to be a good and provocative person is something more difficult to do methinks. Brian is a standup kinda guy.  If you want to buy the book follow the link with the pic of the book, and pay a little less on Amazon than at Border's or wherever you go, and you will help Pastor Phil (that's me) with his Amazon account as well.

Now, if you have not read the book and are planning on getting it I challenge you to this same exercise.  Answer the 10 questions below and let me know when you do so.  This is good Christianity to practice our proclamation, and put it into dialogue instead of monologue.

Well, here are my responses to Brian's 10 Questions:

1) What is the overarching story line of the Bible? - there is a dynamic relationship between God and man.  It has been in tension and fraught with difficulty since time immemorial, but God still pursues that relationship passionately.

2) How should the Bible be understood? - as a narrative of the above filled with history, poetry, parables, and visions documenting the sorrow and the joy of this tension.

3) Is God violent? - passionate love has a violence to it.  Not as the violence of this world as we experience it, but violence in its expression nonetheless.  Perhaps it is best to see God as transcending the issues of violence/non-violence, and simply call Him Peacemaker and Judge, Lover and Defender.

4) Who is Jesus and why is he important? - God, second part of the question answered by the first I think.

5) What is the Gospel? -The specific curative message of God's pursuit of us in love, which was worked out in the life, death, resurrection and continued facilitation of Jesus.

6) What do we do about the Church? - go and help it be a carrier of the curative message.

7) Can we find a way to address human sexuality without fighting about it? - uhm, yes?

8) Can we find a better way of viewing the future? - since I am not reformed in my theology, and do not hold to a predeterministic point of view I would have to be extremely biased here and say that if we can not view it as in formation, and being created by the actions of God and humanity then we are not viewing it as future at all, but as a concrete sidewalk.

9) How should followers of Jesus relate to people of other religions? - like they relate to Christians - with love.  Shouldn't the church be the place where we model how we relate to the world?

10) How can we translate our quest into action? - by putting one foot in front of the other, and asking God to help us do so.  A pinch of idealism sometimes helps.

Go ahead.  Answer these questions on your blog, and let me know where to find it so we can link up with you.

Here are my other friends Synching up too:

The Evening of Kent: Ten questions that might transform something.
The AnteChurch: Synchroblog: A new kind of Christian?
Beth Patterson : Lenten reflection 5: I’m probably way off base
A New Kind of Christianity: My Answers to Ten Questions: Ryan Peter Blogs and stuff
Steve Hayes answers Brian's 10 Questions
Kieran the Celtic Rover answers Brian's Questions too

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Help Define a Church! Open Source Christianity - try it and see if it works.

This fits in with the Emergent Church conversation we had going.  And I suppose it fits with Tony Jones' discussion about Theology after Google.  So here's the deal:  We had a discussion about finding a narrative for our wildly active, incredibly difficult to define community.  So I have told the story and asked for you help HERE.

Help us! Please. :-)

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Jesus as the Archetype Shaman (Part 4c): extended journey and communication with spirits

The story of the the death and resurrection of Jesus covers a three day period.  In this three day period tradition and Biblical narrative relate to a soul journey by the man in the tomb of Gethsemane: a journey which would take him on a visit to the souls of other departed individuals and a return to life in triumph over death itself.

This journey into death, which appeared to be a hopeless end to a powerfully lived life would become the ultimate statement of his power.  Like the initiatory trances, sicknesses, and journeys by many Shamans in many cultures, the journey of Jesus into death is a crisis, which necessitated a return as proof of his power.

This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be given to him.  When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,
and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed.  And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the tomb.

On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, saying, "Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, 'After three days I will rise.'

"Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, 'He has risen from the dead.' So the last deception will be worse than the first."

Pilate said to them, "You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how."  So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard.

This three day period is reflected upon by the Apostle Peter who gives insight to the soul travels of Jesus with these words, >I>"For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient...."

The journeys of Shamans in a variety of folk traditions from Siberia to South America relate of dangerous trance journeys into the underworld.  Communication with spirits is a regular aspect of these travels.  We find this motif being reiterated in the death and resurrection of Christ.

For three days Jesus is faced with humanity's greatest enemy - death itself, and according to narrative laid out in Christian tradition, Jesus communicates with the dead, and returns from the grave.  In this we see once again that Christ could easily be seen as an archetype Shaman.  His communication with spirits of the dead, and his return to life from death become a literal fulfillment of that which is experienced only in traces by Shamans of tribes across the world.

This is a continuation of thoughts on Jesus as the archetype Shaman.  Previous posts relating to this topic can be found below:

Part 1 of the series
Part 2 of the series
Part 3 (thoughts on shamanism and glossalalia as it relates to Christians)
Part 4a of the series
Part 4b Descent by crisis or struggle

Passages above come from these Biblical passages and are from the New King James version:
descent for days/ extended journey (Mt. 27:62-28:6)
descent and communication with spirits (1 Peter 3:18-19)

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Is this what an Emergent preacher sounds like?

This is Jeff Gentry.  He is one of the pastors at The Gathering - the church I also pastor.  He is a self-identified Emergent guy.  He started the Emergent cohort in Boston, and the one on the North Shore of Boston as well.  This is just a short clip of his preaching this morning at church (3-7-2010).  What do you think?  If this is one example of how someone who self identifies as Emergent preaches, is it possible that theologically orthodox people are also Emergent?

Of course, I suppose there is also the possibility of pursuing the question "What is a heretic?" and asking if it is possible that there are some "heretics" who are really the orthodox ones correcting the ailing church.  Well, that's another topic for another time.  For now, here's a short clip in the middle of Jeff's message - hopefully not too disjointed a segment from the overall body of his message.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Tonight: Tony Jones presents on Emergent and Pentecostals

Tony, who was Mr. Emergent Village is speaking at the Society for Pentecostal Studies annual meeting tonight.  I have personally been asking the question about how Pentecostals and Emergent fit together for about 4 years, because I am caught between the worlds, and I know a number of people who are.  Yet the merging of the two worlds has not been comfortable for many of the Pentecostals who have been involved.

The reason for those difficulties go both ways:

On one hand, many Pentecostals are uncomfortable with the more theologically, and morally liberal elements of the emergent conversation.  One the other hand, Evangelicals of the Pentecostal variety (and this is another whole topic in itself sometime) are often more seriously berated by non-Pentecostal evangelicals - most notably those from a more Reformed tradition.

I do not expect the issue to be addressed, nor any of the underlining dynamics of this issue, but dialogue on finding elements from which both tribes can learn from one another is a good start.  That appears to be direction Tony is looking at presenting tonight.  With the focus that both groups have a robust pneumatology.

I am sure that most Pentecostals will not see Emergent as having a "robust pneumatology."  So, I think this is just the beginning of that dialogue.  This more academic group at the Society's conference will probably understand what Tony means by declaring that Emergent has a robust pneumatology - but that does that mean he is also saying there is a growing theological agreement in Emergent?  Hmmmmmm...

Slightly off topic from the initial posts about "What is Emergent?", but post your thoughts if you've got some.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

More answers from Salem, MA defining the "emergent church"

This is a continuation of the first post on this subject.  It had three video clips from Salem, MA from three different people who were part of an Emergent Cohort meeting.  They simply gave a single sentence answer to "what is emergent?"  Here are three more clips from the same evening two nights ago on Tuesday, March 2nd 2010 at The Gathering in Salem, MA.

The clips are non-professional answers - i.e. from people who don't have a monetary investment in defining "emergent."

This first clip is Jeff.  He may have more of a personal investment than any of the rest of the others, because he is the chap who founded the Boston, and the North Shore of Boston Emergent Cohorts.  Don't let that sway you though - he doesn't make a buck from it.  Looses a few bucks I am sure.

Jesse below pastors a house church in Beverly, MA.  He and I hung out for a pint after the meeting.  See, he has got to be emergent!  He drank a pint at the Gulu-Gulu Cafe with me, and an unidentified Baptist dude.  I would have said that Jesse had the best answer until he revealed he was kidding, and started over. :-)

This last one is Paul.  He attends The Gathering as do a couple of the others in previous clips.  He is a student at Gordon Conwell.  I like his "free-thinkers" quote, but I'm not sure that my atheist friends would agree with that point, but that's for future discussions.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Some answers from Salem, MA defining the "Emergent Church"

These people are not Emergent professionals.  They have not written books defining emergent, nor do they get paid for something which gets placed under the emergent banner.  They are just regular people.  Some know the Emergent professionals - you know who I mean, Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, etc.  Some don't.  Some have gone or are going to seminary.  Some have not and will not.  They are regular people without an agenda to define the Emergent Church/Conversation or whatever they choose to call it.  Different backgrounds, different reasons for being part of the conversation.  But listen to what they have to say.  This is the first three out of six responses I taped at an Emergent Cohort meeting in Salem, MA.

Here's Ben.  I like Ben.  He's pretty cool.  I guess he looks pretty emergent too.  Check out the glasses, and yes, he's a Mac guy.

This is Carlos.  What he doesn't tell you is that he is a Sociology Professor.  We had a dialogue about the roles of gender in the church - well, he teaches this stuff at University.

This is Cindy.  Cindy rocks.  She runs Kupenda.  Please check it out by following the link.

Emerging Church: What is it?

A rather inauspicious beginning this is to a season of searching "under the pews" of world religions, but the question keeps coming my way, and it is obviously hot in many Christian circles.  So, my friends have pushed the topic forward.

I have been called emergent/emerging by some people.  In fact, professor Adonis Vidu from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary sends students of his class, which looks at the emerging movement to visit our church as an illustration of emergence.  (Please note:  I have purposely used all the cognates of "emerge" here.)

I am not sure I am one.  I really think I am just a dude trying to follow Jesus, and succeeding and failing at any given moment.  Somehow I ended up as a professional follower.  Okay, not all that professional, because I really don't get paid enough to be a real pro. :-)

The movement has obviously garnered some criticism.  So it is worth discussing whether this is warranted or not.  Check out this super radically critical study series, which you can buy - if you are into this kind of stuff.  Be sure to click on the video and watch it!

So first comes the question:  How do you define emergent?  Is it a church, or something other?

Later today and tomorrow I will be adding short video shots of some of the people from the Northshore of Boston.  They come from a variety of backgrounds and have been involved in a Northshore Emergent Cohort.  I did not want the theologians of the movement to define it, because they are invested in such a way as to define what they would like it to be.  These were people who have been a part of it as followers, those who don't really know what it is, and those who are just trying to figure out how they fit in with God and life.  They are mostly regular people, some students of theology, some pastors, not all carrying the moniker of "emergent."

But first let's banter this about.  The definition may vary according to where you may live.  The UK variation appears to be different from the US variation I am familiar with.  Nonetheless, we will start here.  What do you think Emergent is?  Is it good for Christianity?  or is it heretical and a satanic bane to healthy church life like the video on the link above appears to suggest?

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Navigating the Wild World of Religious Experience

I will be taking a trip through the religious experience, and the thoughts and beliefs of the religions of the world.  Those which are closest to home, and your heart will be the primary foci.  Cultural issues will be discussed in the light of religion.  Yes, I am a Christian pastor, but I will be looking at other religions of the world along with Christianity.  I'd like to have you join me.