Modern Pensées

Reconsidering theology, philosophy, culture, economics, and politics

Posts Tagged ‘Missional Church

Best Links of the Week

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Click picture for higher resolution image (HT: JT)

Parents, Don’t Dress Your Daughters Like Tramps

Front Porch Hack – Brilliant idea about turning your garage into your front porch for the purpose of creating intentional Gospel inroads into your neighborhood (HT:  JT)

Tax compliance costs $.30 on every taxpayer $1

In order to balance our current budget we would have to tax at the following rates:  Corporate 88%, Highest Income 88%, Middle Bracket 63%, and Lowest 25%.  Some of our precious entitlements have to go, this is insanity.  The sad part is that this would only balance the budget for this year and not even touch the $14,000,000,000,000.00 debt and trillion in compounding annual interest.

S+P says 33% chance they will downgrade U.S. debt from AAA

Mubarak has a heart attack during questioning

Wisconsin man finds live bomb in the wall of his own home

Best University ROI – Glad to see University of Florida yielded a 14.6% ROI.

U.S. Navy tests laser weapon on boat

iPhone keeps log of everywhere you go

You couldn’t pay me enough to do this job:

RC Car powered by soda can rings:

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Best Links of the Week

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Kevin DeYoung has a brief writeup of Keswick Theology (from Andy Naselli).  This is the “let go and let God” theology and the divorcing of salvation from Lordship (ie.  I got saved when I was ______ old and I accepted God as Lord/re-dedicated when I was ________ old).  This kind of language was par for the course in my Dispensational upbringing and its view of sanctification is quite problematic.  The writeup has a nice brief history and summary of Keswick theology.

Avoiding Missional Idolatries.  Some lucid and thoughtful analysis of some pitfalls of missional church thinking.

The problem of groundwood paper vs. archival quality paper in modern book publishing.

Technology is re-wiring our brains.  I have felt the pinch of technology on myself.  Compulsive e-mail checking and always being on the grid actually stinks.  In the same vein is this article:  “Does the Internet Make us Dumber?

Some thoughtful analysis of Two Kingdom Theology and Neo-Calvinism.

The culture of narcissism among millennials.

Our National Debt is about to overtake our GDP.

Rahm Emmanuel and Joe Biden supersoaker fight on the White House lawn (you can’t make this stuff up).

If you don’t know what UVB-76 is, you may find this wikipedia article interesting.  It ceased broadcasting this week.

Apparently the financier of the much-maligned Gaza bound Flotilla is also the same financier of the proposed Ground Zero Mosque.

D-Day Pictures.

Obama’s trifecta of policy failure.

What in the world does “Spiritual But Not Religious” mean?

Video of the expansion of Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam over time.  Its a bit reductionistic, but worth a watch.

Finance Bubble Predictor.

Adidas World Cup Commercial = Star Wars Cantina Scene + David Beckham + Snoop Dogg + Lightsabre = Awesome

Two videos this week:  Neat time lapse video, shot .1fps on motion track, and set to some Jonsi:

My Two Caveats for the Missional Church

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I recently attended the Advance 2010 conference on Contextualizing the Gospel in the New Urban South.  The content of the conference was excellent and the speakers were Gospel-centered and Christ-saturated.  In the interest of full self-disclosure, I would willfully self-identify as being a part of the missional church movement.  While steeping some of the teaching receieved, I am left with two potential pitfalls for the missional church movement.

I think the obituaries have already been written and the eulogies given for both the church growth movement and the emergent church.  Hence, my first concern for the missional church movement is that it will just be another fad within evangelicalism.  I’ve chronicled before the very fickle fadish-ness nature of American evangelicalism.  We have the strong inclination to let our pendulums swing wildly, rarely finding any semblance of balance.  If history is any predictor of the future, the missional church movement will gain steam, others will jump on the bandwagon, then the movement dies because many identified with the movement not for its intrinsic principles, but rather for its pragmatic ends.  Nothing will kill a movement like the evil trinity of inauthenticity, superficiality, and pragmatism.

My second concern for the missional church movement is actually legalism.  This may actually come as a surprise of anyone who saw/listened to any of the Advance 2010 material.  Rightly so, Tyler Jones, Tullian Tchvidjian, Ed Stetzer and others railed against the quaint moralism (or think of Michael Horton’s, moralistic therapeutic deism) of the South.  Here is how legalism could creep into the missional church movement… and it is really subtle and nasty.  In your call to missional movement and mindset, create an implicit caste system within your church.  In this caste system reward those who are ‘more on mission’ vs. those who are ‘less on mission.’  In this caste system the way to earn God’s favor is by doing the works of the mission of God.  I don’t know if this kind of legalism is better/worse than any other form of self-salvation.  Remember that legalism is one of those nasty sins like pride, that can literally manifest themselves in even the most counter-intuitive or even contradictory places (ie. one can be proud in one’s humility).  We must be careful to still remind ourselves and others that our standing with God is not changed by even our greatest Gospel efforts or lack thereof.

In my view, we must guard the missional church movement from those who would see it as the next “it” way to grow your church (after shaving their soul patch and ceased showing movie clips).   We must also guard against guilting people into being on mission.  They must desire to be the church because of the Gospel not because it is the new way to rise in the legalistic caste system in your church.

Your thoughts?

Top 10 Books on Missions, Evangelism, and Discipleship

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Let the Nations Be Glad by John Piper

These books are books that are excellent concerning Missions, Evangelism, or Discipleship.

1.  Let the Nations Be Glad by John Piper  [y, l, e, p, s]

This classic elevates worship as the goal of missions.  It is an easy and enjoyable read.

2.  The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman  [y, l, e, p, s]

Coleman takes a thorough look at Jesus’ method of discipleship.  A short and easy must read.

3.  From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya:  A Biographical History of Christian Missions by Ruth Tucker  [c, y, l, e, p, s]

Missionary biography is fascinating and oftentimes hilarious.  See my previous write-up here.

4.  Tell the Truth by Will Metzger  [y, l, e, p, s]

Great book on evangelism written from a Reformed perspective.  Metzger challenges people to tell the whole gospel to whole people, causing you to ask the questions, ‘what are the essentials of the Gospel and people?’

5.  Operation World by Johnstone and Johnstone  [y, l, e, p, s]

Operation World is essentially several dossiers on the remaining unreached people groups, giving analysis on how you can pray for them.  Also, Window on the World is like Operation World for kids.

6.  A Faith Worth Sharing by C. John Miller  [c, y, l, e, p, s]

Jack Miller lived a pretty crazy life.  These are some of his stories.  It is a short, encouraging, and easy read.  Also, Miller’s, Heart of a Servant Leader is excellent – it consists of letters he has written to various people under his care throughout his ministry.  Really valuable wisdom.

7.  Transforming Mission by David Bosch  [p, s]

This is a deep, dense, and thorough look at missionary paradigms.  It is not an easy read but patience will be rewarded with excellent deep thought.

8.  Perspectives on the World Christian Movement by Ralph Winter  [y, l, e, p, s]

This is the classic introduction to the task that lies ahead for the worldwide church.

9.  Breaking the Missional Code:  Your Church Can Become a Missionary in Your Community by Ed Stetzer  [l, e, p, s]

Stetzer is quite knowledgeable on how to create church cultures that have real Gospel impact on their community.  Also, Lesslie Newbigin’s, The Open Secret, and Darell Guder’s (editor), Missional Church are excellent.

10.  Re-Entry by Peter Jordan  [c, y, l, e, p, s]

Going from living in one culture back to your culture can really mess you up (just think of the stereotype of the socially awkward and/or out of touch missionary who comes back to give a powerpoint presentation to your church).  Long-term missionaries invariably find themselves in a cultural no-man’s land as they have adopted many of the redeeming aspects of the people they are ministering to, while putting off many of the deplorable or unfortunate aspects of their former culture.  There is also the question of where is home?  The people you are ministering to or the place where you grew up?  Re-Entry is a helpful guide for the returning missionary.

Update:  Highly Recommended

Church Planting Movements by David Garrison

I have heard this book recommended several times (including the comments from this post), so I thought I would put it up here.

(c=children; y=young adult; l=lay leader; e=elder; p=pastor; s=scholar)

Top 15 Books on Status of American Evangelicalism

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No Place for Truth by David Wells

These books represent the best analysis on the present status and recent history of evangelicalism.  This list is meant to be informative and not to be alarmist or disconcerting.  I think the classic Dicken’s line, ‘it was the best of times, it was the worst of times‘ will apply the Christ’s church til He return.  It is implicit also in this list that works commending a Christian worldview, like Nancy Pearcey’s Total Truth, are must reads.  I have also omitted more esoteric debates including books on open theism, federal vision, new perspectives on paul… etc.  The purpose of this list is zoomed out than those specific issues.

1.  No Place for Truth by David Wells  [e, p, s]

How modernity crept in and screwed up evangelicalism.  Absolute classic.

2.  The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind by Mark Noll  [y, l, e, p, s]

The scandal of the evangelical mind is that it is so scarce and scant.  You may also want to read Os Guinness’ Fit Bodies Fat Minds, addressing evangelicalism’s intellectual laziness and preoccupation with the temporary.

3.  The Democritization of American Christianity by Nathan Hatch  [e, p, s]

Fascinating analysis of the democritization of Christianity in America.  His historical analysis is keen and well-researched.

4.  Christianity and Liberalism by J. Greshem Machen  [e, p, s]

This classic work delineates the liberalism of the early 20th century as being a completely other faith than the historic orthodox Christian faith.  86 years later it is still relevant.

5.  God in the Wasteland by David Wells  [e, p, s]

Wells continues where he left off in No Place for Truth, by challenging evidenced consumerism in evangelicalism.

6.  The Courage to Be Protestant by David Wells  [e, p, s]

The title is a play on Paul Tillich’s The Courage to Be.  Tillich’s work was a classic in early 20th century Protestant liberalism.  Wells draws connections between the emergent movement as really being a form of rehashed 20th century era liberalism.  Wells is also scathing on the level and abuse of marketing in modern evangelicalism.  As far as Wells goes, his Above All Earthly Pow’rs s also a worthwhile read:  in terms of analysis Pow’rs is to post-modernity what No Place for Truth was to modernity.

7.  The New Shape of World Christianity:  How American Experience Reflects Global Faith by Mark Noll  [e, p, s]

I am surprised by the lack of press for this book.  Noll examines the history of Christianity in America and draws parallels in key growth areas (Southern hemisphere and the East).  Noll is actually rather positive amid the torrent of bad press on what American Christians are exporting.  This is an important work because we are good to be reminded that American evangelicalism is not the height of church history.  Further, the church is Christ’s and she will prevail.  I think Noll has his fingers on the pulse of what is going on and what is next, we would be wise to listen to what he has to say.

8.  Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism by George Marsden  [e, p, s]

This is a must read if you seek to understand our history.  Also an important work is Revival and Revivalism by Iain Murray.

9.  Reclaiming the Center:  Confronting Evangelical Accomodation to Postmodern Times by Various Authors  [y, l, e, p, s]

Various heavyweights chime in on the necessity of remaining faithful to the preaching of the Word and to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  If you like this work, I suggest also Os Guinness’, Prophetic Untimeliness:  Challenging the Idol of Relevance.

10.  Christless Christianity by Michael Horton  [y, l, e, p, s]

This books has caused a bit of a stir.  You can read John Frame’s book review here.  I have yet to read the book, but I thought it a worthwhile mention to engage in present dialogue over the status of the Gospel in evangelicalism.  From what I gather, Horton has guys like Joel Osteen in view when he speaks of a Christianity without Christ.

11.  Young, Restless, and Reformed by Colin Hansen  [y, l, e, p, s]

This book is an important first look at the growing demographic of young Reformed folk.  This is an area that needs further analysis and hopefully a good work will come soon.

12.  Respectable Sins:  Confronting the Sins We Tolerate by Jerry Bridges  [y, l, e, p, s]

Bridges is 100% right when he highlights several sins that evangelicals strangely tolerate:  gossip, anger, pride, jealousy, anxiety, and selfishness to name a few.

13.  Why Johnny Can’t Preach:  The Media Have Shaped the Messengers by T. David Gordon  [e, p, s]

Gordon applies Marshall McLuhan’s keen insights to shed light on the dearth of serious bible teaching in evangelicalism.

14.  Confessions of a Reformission Rev by Mark Driscoll  [y, l, e, p, s]

I think Mark Driscoll is a very important voice in evangelicalism, moreso than many of my fellow Reformed brethren.  This book is a humorous yet insightful look into the story of the planting of Mars Hill Church in Seattle.  There are many lessons weaved into the narrative that are wise and memorable.

15.  Why We’re Not Emergent:  From Two Guys That Should Be and Why We Love the Church:  In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck  [y, l, e, p, s]

The first book is a solid book on the emergent church.  I also wanted to end this list with on a positive note with Why We Love the Church.  Many times we can get so bogged down in self-criticism that we forget to praise God for all the truly good things he is doing in and through the church in America.

What we need is always adherence to the same three things:  orthodoxy, orthopathos, and orthopraxis.

(c=children; y=young adult; l=lay leader; e=elder; p=pastor; s=scholar)

Thoughts on Evangelicalism Past, Present, and Future… Part 6

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Our brief look backward at the roots of evangelism has brought us to the last two decades. I think like almost any period in history there are encouraging and discouraging elements… reason for optimism and reason for pessimism.  For me, the last two decades have been more of a cause for optimism than pessimism.

The main cause for optimism is growth of the Reformed side of evangelicalism, combined with the weakening of the evangelical populist side that had dominated conservative Protestantism for most the 20th century.

There are several factors that have contributed to the weakening of the populist group.  First, the populist group had grown to borrow heavily from the culture-at-large, namely, from consumerism and from the methodology and structure of the corporate (capitalist) business world.  The paradigm of the 150-300 person local church became a thing of the past and the megachurch with slick production, smooth communication, and programs for kids of all ages.  Pastors became de facto CEOs.  Attendees were/could be anonymous.  Community was based on affinity groups based on generation or interest.  Upon first glance, it appears to be what the culture wanted…  Diet Jesus:  little/no accountability (or church discipline), worship where that draws attention away from self, preaching that is heavy on story and light on the challenging words of the Bible.  I am painting a rather pessimistic picture of the megachurch movement here, but I think in many examples it is more than fair.  In my view, this kind of church model cannot be sustained and will either die a slow death or ultimately implode.

Is it bad to pray against classical Dispensationalism?

End Times Charts!

Another factor contributing to the weakening of evangelical populism is the death of classical Dispensationalism.  When Y2K came and uneventfully passed it was the final nail in the coffin of classical Dispensationalism.  Surprise, surprise, God doesn’t follow the Gregorian calendar or your end-times charts.  Between no seminary teaching classical Dispensationalism anymore and Y2K this led people to start thinking differently about the millenia and drinking from different wells, reading a bit more broadly.

I think real Christians want real preaching of the Bible, with real community, and to make a real impact where God has them.  I think this desire has led to a large scale movement away from evangelical populism towards churches with

John Piper

John Piper

expository preaching, church discipline, historic confessions, and smaller size.  These churches are almost unilaterally Reformed in their lineage.  I think the resurgence in Reformed theology is primarily not a Presbyterian movement (that is nothing to diminish the real growth here), but predominantly Baptist.  This is due in large part to the influence of John Piper, Al Mohler, Mark Driscoll, and several others.  The Baptists have their roots in the Puritans who had deep roots in Reformed Theology.  This resurgence is not without its weaknesses and we shall talk about this later.

One of the more nefarious aspects of evangelicalism in the 20th century was the neglect of the everyday mission field of America.  We have already explored why evangelicals receded from cultural engagement as a equal and opposite reaction against the imbalances of the Social Gospel.  However, evangelicals were equally imbalanced in not engaging the culture with words and deeds.  In the last twenty years we have seen a resurgence in churches caring for the cities that they live in by seeing them as a mission field.  I think the missional church movement has been by-and-large very positive (minus the more radical emergent church voices).

Thrice

Thrice

There has been a resurgence in Christians making diverse solid music, see:  Thrice, Cool Hand Luke, Blindside, Appleseed Cast, Denison Marrs, Reach Records, Reformed Rap, Sufjan Stevens, and Mineral.  In addition there has been a resurgence of Christians making good art, across multiple mediums, see:  Makoto Fujimura, Marilynne Robinson (also here), and Darren Doane.  There has been a resurgence in Christians in academia:  Alvin Plantinga, Richard Swinburne, Rodney Stark, Dallas Willard, Phillip Johnson and James Davison Hunter.

This concludes our look at the past of evangelicalism… up next, we will at some potential future trends.

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