Friday, October 29, 2010

The September 8s :: Blogs

The September 8s :: Blogs :: The most thought-provoking and world-opening blog posts I've stumbled on in the month of September

1. "Global nomads, existential migrants" (Tall Skinny Kiwi / September 29, 2010)
We are global nomads.
We went on walkabout but we are still walking. 
We started as backpackers but became serial travelers.
We embarked on pilgrimage but our spiritual quest continues.
We were circumstantial migrants but now we are voluntary migrants.
We were TCK's and now we are families on the road.
We were MK's and now we are itinerants.
We are existential migrants
We are global nomads
Urban nomads.
Digital nomads.
We couch-surf.
We travel light.
Our bags have straps, not wheels.
We are at home when we are away.
We chose migrancy over mortgage.
We are the perpetual dispersion.
We are the chosen exile.
Our accents do not place us.
Our current location does not define us.
Our closest communities are not geographical.
Our passport does not reflect our true citizenship.
We do not live anywhere but we do live everywhere.
The land of our birth does not feel like our homeland.
We cannot answer "Where are you from?" in a single sentence.
You may also want to take a look at these two interesting articles on existential migration the TSK links to:
"Existential Migration: Feeling at Home as the Foreigner" (Greg Wesson, / September 22, 2009)
"Existential Migration: Is Travel an Existential Need?" (Greg Madison, MatadorAbroad / December 7, 2009)

2. Andy Alexis-Baker posted the first two of an ongoing series of essays on architecture, property, and early Christian ecclesiology. Keep watching Jesus Radicals for subsequent installments.

"Early Christian Ecclesiology and 'The Property Question' [part 1]" (Andy Alexis-Baker, Jesus Radicals / September 28, 2010)
Christians did meet in private homes, but Christians also met in other places, which White himself acknowledges but ignores. Christianity thrived in urban environments where people lived in apartment buildings called insulae. For example, Justin Martyr, a second century Christian in Rome, gives an account that is almost assuredly set not in a private house, but in an apartment. Thus this standard account of early Christianity and property needs to be significantly nuanced and supplanted with other images of the church and how they related to property.
"Early Christian Ecclesiology and 'The Property Question' [part 2]" (Andy Alexis-Baker, Jesus Radicals / October 5, 2010)
German scholar Peter Lampe has shown that Christians at Rome in the first two centuries lived in the most poverty-stricken areas. The typical Jew living in these slums was “one who was pushed by his mother to go begging. . . . The Christians of the quarter could hardly have lifted themselves much above that social level.” 1 For the overwhelming majority of Christians living in Rome’s poorest quarters, White’s terminology of wealthy patrons hardly applies. Bereft of private houses, the well-to-do did not live in these areas. These slums were for the lower classes which claimed 90% of Rome’s population. In modern terms, these apartment buildings were low income housing. Wealthy people simply did not (and do not) go to these places. Church growth, leadership and social relationships could not be based on patronage for “apartment churches.”
. . . This apartment church was not based upon patronage and the patriarchal head of a household, but on mutual friendships, visitations, common worship and learning together centered on Jesus. So early Christian apartment churches had a different ecclesiology than the churches that met in private houses. We might call this “apartment ecclesiology.” They did not own property. Their teachers advocated voluntary poverty. They gave what they could for their neediest. They were necessarily small in size, but their decentralized missionary thrust would help Christianity grow more rapidly and more authentically than the bishop- or patron-oriented and property owning churches.
3. "Rural Renewal?" (Sarah Monroe, Emergent Village Weblog / September 12, 2010)
This excerpt is lengthy, but its length is proportionate to the critical questions Monroe invites us to ask.
Rural areas are places of declining church membership, economic slump, growing poverty and drug use, and a breeding ground for the rise of hate groups appealing to an already disenfranchised people. What if there was a way to address all of these problems? What if a new model of being church could be applied to declining rural churches? What if, in turn, rural churches could stand with their communities as they face the many challenges of the 21st century?
Rural areas have their own culture. The emergent church model of the urban context—with theology pubs and funky art spaces—contextualizes the church’s message for an urban, youthful culture. But rural culture is different—it is the place of wide open fields and towering forests, Native American reservations, cabins in the forest, farmers barely making a living, county fairs and greasy taverns on the way to a national park. More than that, it is also a disenfranchised culture on the edge of empire, cut off from the rest of American life and barely able to feed its kids and keep them out of trouble or pay the rent on substandard housing. Rural Americans face growing poverty and domestic violence, closing farms and ranches, and large corporations that take local natural resources but leave little for the local community. They also lose an increasing number of sons and daughters in foreign wars that have less and less meaning. Understandably, rural Americans are bitter and tired of being ignored. As David Neiwert points out, the astounding rise in local militias, hate groups and anti-immigrant sentiment in rural areas is only one symptom of a people at their wits end.
Rural churches have been a landmark for a long time, a part of rural life that prioritizes God, country, and family. But the pews become increasingly empty and the services continue as they have for the last hundred years. The church seems to have lost its way—desperately wanting to increase membership and at a loss for how to do so. Is it because the church is offering no answers to an increasingly desperate rural society? Is it because we continue to do church in the same way it is done everywhere else, ignoring the local circumstances?
4. "Post-Colonial Theology" (Brian McLaren, Emergent Village Weblog / September 12, 2010)

I was involved for several years in “the postmodern conversation” before I realized that it was only one side of the coin. It took place largely among the former colonizers. Meanwhile, the post-colonial conversation had arisen among the formerly colonized. While the postmodern conversation focused on important intellectual issues like the objectivity and absoluteness of statements, the interpretation of texts, the limitations and biases of language, and so on, the postcolonial conversation focused on how those intellectual issues were playing out in history, especially during and since the era of the Conquistadors. The former was largely about knowledge, and the latter largely about how knowledge became a tool of power. So the two conversations were inter-related, and the latter in some ways enfolded and extended the former from the realm of theory to the realm of practice, from philosophy to ethics.
As I expanded my own considerations in these directions, important words in the postmodern conversation suddenly made more sense to me. I realized that deconstruction, for example, was specifically (even if unconsciously at times) focused on dismantling the foundations of colonialism. Metanarratives weren’t simply big stories – they were the stories that fueled colonialism. In this light, the moral arc of the postmodern conversation—which was understated by its advocates and invisible to its critics—started to shine through for me.
If standard Christian theology has indeed been colonial, then we would expect it to have certain characteristics, perhaps including these:
. . . If standard Christian theology were determined to be essentially colonial by these and other standards, a natural question would arise: must the Christianity of the future forever maintain this colonial bias? Is an imperial or dominating mindset inherent to Christian faith, for better or worse – or can there be a new and different kind of Christianity?

5. "ONE SIMPLE ORIENTING QUESTION 'What is God saying? How will I respond?': Missional Discipleship" (Reclaiming the Mission / September 20, 2010)
This one simple question can be a starting point for discipleship into what we at the Vine describe as “living in Christ together for God’s Mission in the World.” It is not that this one question explains everything. Rather, it is an orienting question from which practically anyone, at any stage of belief, can begin to seek God and enter into His Kingdom work in their lives personally and what He is doing in the world. This one question initiates one into the activity of the Spirit as opposed to merely teaching about it conceptually. That’s right, can I say this again, ONE SIMPLE ORIENTING QUESTION, “What is God saying? How Will You Respond?”
So we at the Vine have begun a process this September of calling our people into God’s inbreaking Kingdom. The entrance into God’s Kingdom always begins in faith, opening our lives to God’s salvation begun in Christ’s work of atonement. IT IS NECESSARILY A RECEPTION, TRUST AND DEPENDENCE UPON THE HOLY SPIRIT (I had to emphasize that because it is an assumption that sometimes goes unnoticed). It is furthermore a continual following of Christ into the Kingdom, the world of His Lordship where He is working for new creation, reconciliation and righteousness in our lives and in the world (2 Cor 5:16-21). “In Christ, God is reconciling the world to Himself.”
6. "Sanctuary or Living Room? Senior Pastor or 'Community Organizer'?: What You Do the First Year Shapes Your Congregation for Decades" (Reclaiming the Mission / September 8, 2010)
Although there is much to be thankful for in what God is doing with Acts 29, for me, this is an approach heavily dependent on the cultural conditions of Christendom. The preaching requires people already habitualized to go to church and hear a sermon. It requires people who understand the language. It organizes the church structure toward the center – where the single strong leader is – instead of outward where lost people are. It will work where there are wandering peoples who have a Christian past and/or have discontent with existing forms of church (i.e. Roman Catholic or traditional evangelical) who are easily drawn to something new and impressive. This is not, however, a Missional strategy because in many ways it sets the new community up to be a centralized attractional community. Its dynamic works against invading the rhythms of a context, living the gospel in ways that invade the secular spaces of the world that is living oblivious to God and His work in Christ for the world. If we would be missionaries, we need to think differently about congregational formation
. . . I said there should be three goals for the first year of a church plant- a seeding of a missional community:1.) Establish a small community of fellowship in the neighborhood who can pray together for the Kingdom. This community will develop as friends, dialoguing, listening, praying – learning to listen for God’s voice, observing where He is working so as to respond and participate in what He is doing to reconcile, heal, create anew and birth righteousness.
2.) Get to know the neighborhood. Exegete it so as to know how to pray, minister, adopt rhythms, hang out, and be Christ’s presence.
3.) Facilitate hospitality. Become a place to facilitate hospitality in the neighborhood as well as helping people move to the neigborhood. I urge a contant calling of people into the Kingdom. When these people don’t live in the neighborhood, I encourage the community to help these people of the kingdom find jobs, find a place to live at reasonable cost, know how to live in this community.
7. "How (Not) to Change the World" (James K. A. Smith, The Other Journal / September 8, 2010)
So how do we change the world? Wrong question, Hunter argues (285). The desire to change the world too easily tends toward reactive strategies ofressentiment and ends up playing by the rules of the will-to-power. So instead we should be asking: what does faithful culture-making look like? What does it mean for us to care for the gardens—and cities—in which God has placed us? When that is our concern, change will be a by-product at best. Hunter summarizes this in an important, italicized passage:
If there are benevolent consequences of our engagement with the world, in other words, it is precisely because it is not rooted in a desire to change the world for the better but rather because it is an expression of a desire to honor the creator of all goodness, beauty, and truth, a manifestation of our loving obedience to God, and a fulfillment of God’s comment to love our neighbor. (234, bold in original)
8. "5 Game Changers that didn't make my video for The Nines" (Tall Skinny Kiwi / September 3, 2010)

1. In 1995 I moved out of my office and held regular hours at a particular coffee shop in San Francisco where I was ministering. Since then, I have not had an office. A few years later I got my first laptop (a gift from Chris Seay) and I never used an office again. Its good to get out among the people. We are not going to change the world from our offices!
2. Dr Paul Jackson once told me that half my audience were females and if I didn't read books written by women and try to understand their way of thinking then I would only communicate to 50% of my intended hearers. Game changer! . . .  

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