Disclaimer: About This Blog

THIS BLOG IS: my personal journey of how I am rethinking some of my spiritual beliefs.
THIS BLOG IS NOT: intended to point fingers at people who I think are wrong.
I do not believe the final judgement will be based on how many correct answers we get on a theology exam. I believe many people throughout history have had genuine relationships with our Lord and Saviour Jesus, despite holding questionable beliefs and practices. I make no claim to having it all figured out or being your judge. If we end up disagreeing over these topics I pray we can find a way to demonstrate grace.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Our Task Quote by N.T. Wright

“Our task as image-bearing, God-loving, Christ-shaped, Spirit-filled Christians, following Christ and shaping our world, is to announce redemption to a world that has discovered its fallenness, to announce healing to a world that has discovered its brokenness, to proclaim love and trust to a world that knows only exploitation, fear and suspicion...The gospel of Jesus points us and indeed urges us to be at the leading edge of the whole culture, articulating in story and music and art and philosophy and education and poetry and politics and theology and even--heaven help us--Biblical studies, a worldview that will mount the historically-rooted Christian challenge to both modernity and postmodernity, leading the way...with joy and humor and gentleness and good judgment and true wisdom. I believe if we face the question, "if not now, then when?" if we are grasped by this vision we may also hear the question, "if not us, then who?" And if the gospel of Jesus is not the key to this task, then what is?” 

This quote by biblical scholar N.T. Wright makes me stop and consider how Jesus lived his life.  He was about the business of redeeming those who were in bondage, bringing healing to the broken, and proclaiming love to all.

He was in touch with the people in his culture. There was nobody too low, too dirty, too messed up, or too "worldly" that He would not help.

The good news that Jesus proclaimed and lived as he walked this earth made a positive impact on the people and culture of that day.

As followers of Christ, I am challenged to follow and lead others along the Way of Jesus in a way that is relevant to real people yet rooted in the historical movement Jesus started.   Can this movement of Jesus bring supernatural healing to people and our world today?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Winds of Next Reformation

Some of us sense the winds of change in the church, a second reformation. From my side of reading church history it looks like the first reformation accomplished some good.  There were also some negative results.  If we are entering a second reformation how can we navigate the good and the bad that may come?  What might it look like?

Some good from the first reformation:
  • The Bible was put into the hands of common people. It was translated into common languages, and people were encouraging each others to read it for themselves.
  • Believers began to question the authority and infallibility of the Pope.
  • Believers rejected the past practice of the church selling indulgences.
  • Believers rejected the past practice of buying and selling church positions.
  • Clergy were allowed to get married
  • Believers rejected the idea that they received some special grace simply by participating in the sacraments of confirmation, penance, anointing of the sick, holy orders, and matrimony.

 Some negative results of the first reformation:
  • Believers began to accept the idea that the church was divided. Thousands of denominations or sects have emerged.  The understanding that there is one universal church was for the most part lost.
  • Christians tortured and killed each other to protect, defend, or promote their preferred system of beliefs.  Some of the hatred and mistrust has been past on for hundreds of years, Ireland's conflict comes to mind.

It was a painful time for the church, yet 500 years later, for the most part we are thankful for the results of the reformation.  We should recognize that the Catholic church has also undergone reformations of it's own.

Some good I believe may come during the next reformation. These are some common themes I keep reading in other peoples books and blogs:
  • Priesthood of all believers.  This was one of the rally cries of the first reformation.  But I don't believe the generations that followed have fully understood what it means.  For the most part we still have a church that is run by a special class of clergy.  There has always been a belief that Christ is King and Lord over every member of His church.  But sometimes it seems other men have placed themselves in positions above others, between the church and God.
  • I believe it will become increasingly clear that Christ is the head of His body, which we call the church.
  • Good news of the kingdom of God.  I am impressed that many in this new movement are starting with the message of Jesus as King and Lord.  There is a growing understanding that Jesus did preach the gospel, and that He was the gospel.
  • I believe denominations, sects and divisions will fade away.
  • Believers will be more interested in making disciples than running programs.  There will be a shift towards building relationships over putting together the best show.
  • More believers will become active participants in all aspects of the faith. They will be obedient in caring for others, teaching others, loving others, baptizing others, serving others, and admonishing others.
  • I believe there will be an increased obedience to the command to go out into the world to make disciples.  There will be a shift from come and see, to go and tell.
  • I believe there will be a shift from teaching others to follow us, to teaching others to follow Christ. At times there may be some overlap. The need to control others to become like us will be replaced with a desire to love and encourage others to become more like Christ.
  • Our time and financial resources will shift from investing into buildings, programs and staff, to sharing and caring for people.

Concerns during this reformation:

  • Some people will get hurt.  There will be pain, and misunderstanding. At times it may seem like a battle both for those defending the current systems, and for those promoting change.  I pray it won't be as messy as the last reformation.
  • There will be some bad ideas and false teaching (as has always been the case).  We will need to rely on each other, the Holy Spirit, and our Scriptures to navigate the Way of truth.

Am I just imagining this movement taking traction?

Am I missing any key currents of change?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Related Posts:

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Reign of God vs the Empire

"The reign of God is in direct opposition to the Empire. In the political sense, if the world had to be operated on the principles of the reign of God rather than the principles of Empire, then there will be less a need for power and control, and more a sense of shared power or even a relinquishing of power. This is where Jesus’ kenotic act of emptying himself provides a glimpse of what the reign of God is all about (Philippians 2:1-11)."

Taken from from Council for World Missions Theology Statement.

I'd love to hear your thoughts about this quote. Do you think it fits with the message of  good news of the kingdom of God that Jesus and His disciples preached from town to town?

Thanks Len for sharing this quote earlier on nextreformation.com.

Related Posts:

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What Does It Look Like To Follow Christ?

This is a question I have been chewing on lately. I welcome your thoughts.

For most of my life I have assumed people knew I was a Christian.  The first clue would be that I went to church.  I also assumed the type of church I went to would give further evidence to the type of Christian I was.  Yes, hopefully there were some other clues. I didn't swear, smoke, drink or dance, or hang out much with those that did.  And, yes, hopefully there were some other positive clues as well...

But what if none of the above clues are really signs that I am following Christ?

To help answer this question, Imagine if your country closed down all the church buildings.  What would it look like then to follow Christ?  What does it look like to follow Christ in a country where there is no organized church to follow?  What did it look like to follow Christ for the first disciples of Christ in the New Testament?

Here are some initial thoughts, in no particular order:

Loving God -  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. (Matt 22:37-38 NIV)

Loving Others -  "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34-35 NIV)

Fruit of Spirit - it seems when the Spirit is at work in us certain fruit will grow out of Christ in us. Things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Gal 5:22-23)

Listening to His Voice and following it  - to be a follower of Jesus, it just makes sense we should know His voice and follow it. "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me" John 10:27 (NIV)

I suspect this could end up looking different for each of us.  Are there any other big 'clues' that I'm missing?  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Viral Kingdom

I am continuing my series on the secrets of the kingdom, taking a look today at Mark 4:30-32(NIV).
"Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it?  It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground.  Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.”

(Parrallel passage in Matt 13:31-32)

Was Jesus making a contrast to the cedars of Lebanon and/or other large trees that were talked about in Ezek 17:22-24, 31:5-6; Dan 4:10-12; and Ps 104:10-17? These other passages spoke of grand and majestic trees that had large branches to shelter the birds of the air and other honorable animals.

What point is Jesus making when he tells a similar tale but with a mustard seed? The mustard seed was known to spread like a weed. It was against the law to plant it in a garden, because once it started to grow there was no stopping it. It would continue to spread whether you wanted it to or not.
"Pliny the Elder, in his Natural History (published around AD 78) writes that "mustard… is extremely beneficial for the health. It grows entirely wild, though it is improved by being transplanted: but on the other hand when it has once been sown it is scarcely possible to get the place free of it, as the seed when it falls germinates at once." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_Mustard_Seed

Consider the type of people that were most likely to enter this kingdom of God. The wealthy and the religious folks seemed to be opposed to Jesus and His message. The good news of the kingdom of God seemed to spread most quickly amongst the poor, the underdogs, the outcasts, and the less fortunate. This less than desirable crowd were part of a growth that spread throughout the region and around the world. Many people haven't welcomed the growth, but many have taken shelter in it.

What do you think?

Did the kingdom of God go viral?  Did it spread like wildfire throughout the world?  Is the kingdom of God still growing? Are people welcoming or opposing the reign of God in our lives and world? 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

See One, Do One, Teach One

Medical students are familiar with a teaching method refereed to as "See One, Do One, Teach One".   It is a format for acquiring medical skills, based on a 3-step process: visualize, perform, regurgitate.  If there is a procedure that needs to be learned, a great way to learn it for yourself is to simply watch someone do it once, then try the procedure yourself, and then show someone else how to do the procedure.

Some logic behind the 'See One' in this method is that the longer a students spends just watching some expert do a procedure the lower their confidence gets in their own ability to do the procedure.  The student will become more nervous and less willing to give it a try.   But if a student is asked to repeat a process after simply being shown it once, they will give it their best effort.

Can the church improve how it teaches one another?

Unfortunately the main teaching method in the church doesn't even start with "See One".  The main teaching is often more of a lecture where someone talks about what should be done.  How do we move to a point where students spend more time observing the Way of Jesus, repeating how they see it lived, and then teaching others the Way.

How did Jesus teach his disciples?  I see a parallel with how Jesus trained His disciples.

See Some: The disciples of Jesus watched their teacher preach the good news of the kingdom of God, and demonstrate the reality of the reign of God as He brought healing to people. (Matt 4:23, Matt 9:35, Matt 11:5, Luke 4:16-20, Luke 4:43, Mark 1:14-15).

Do Some: The disciples were then given authority to bring God's healing to others as they shared the same message of hope that Jesus preached. (Matt 10:5-8, Luke 9:1-4, Mark 3:14-15, Mark 6:7-13)

Teach Many:
After about 3 and a half years with His disciples Jesus leaves them with this command.:
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt 28:18-20 NIV)
So it was these disciples who became the next disciple makers in the early church.  I believe they multiplied using similar teaching methods as they had received.

I'm not saying all teaching needs to be done with the "See One, Do One, Teach One" method.  But at some point all students should be expected to go out and do what they have seen others do, and begin teaching others by demonstrating the Way.

How can we move discipleship out of the lecture hall and into the hands on practicum lab of life?

Related Posts:

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Leading The Way

This will be a summary post on some questions about leadership in the church. I think a lot of my issues with institutional church boil down to how Christians view leadership.  I've written a number of posts on this topic. I'll try to organize some of my main thoughts here, linking to related posts, and then leave this topic alone for awhile.

I see two different types of leaders in the church.
  • Those who make decisions for others to follow
  • Those who live their lives as examples that others follow 

I know in many cases some people do a bit of both.

1)  I love this funny leadership lessons from dancing guy video.  It shows what leading by example can look like.  Could it be that in the church leadership is not decision making?

2) To form a Christian perspective on leadership, I think it makes sense to start by looking at what Jesus had to say on the topic of leadership.

3) We should also look at the example of the early church. What titles did early church leaders use? It seems many in the early church despised titles of honor.

4) The topic then becomes complex because we do see verses in the New Testament that talk about elders, overseers, pastor/shepherd, deacons. I don't want to overlook these verses.  I did a 9 post series looking at the verses related to elders, overseers, shepherds, deacons.  For each passage I looked at the greek meanings of the terms in question. I looked at what we could conclude from each passage, and what questions were still left unanswered.

5) I took a closer look at the word pastor/shepherd . I don't think anybody used the title pastor in the early church, it seems the first time pastor was used as a title was during the protestant reformation. I concluded I've got the best senior pastor. Jesus is refered to as our Chief shepherd.  We are all called to care for and serve others, following the example of Jesus.  I'd like to encourage you to be a pastor (but I'd skip the title).

6) What do you think Jesus would say about leadership today?

7) Church Hierarchical Leadership is common today.  People like to create flow charts placing some people above others.  It seems this practice can be traced all the way back to the influence of Ignatius.

8) Top-down leadership is likely the most efficient leadership structure as long as your goal is not equipping the saints or mutual edification.

9) I have been encouraged that some pastors are leaving the building of institutional church. They are simply leading by example. The choice to follow is up to us.

So as you can see I've invested some thought into this topic lately. But I don't want this to be the main focus of my journey moving forward.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Pastors Leaving The Building

A problem with starting a list like this is I will miss some that should be included.  Please leave a comment and I can update this post. And please correct me if any of my facts here are off.

I want to thank and acknowledge some men who have had tough decisions as they changed their beliefs regarding some church traditions.  Some aspects of my recent journey have been painful for myself and my family.  However I haven't had to switch careers or even lose fellowship with close brothers and sisters.

I keep coming across brothers who used to be vocational pastors and are now part of a movement spreading the message that there is more to church than institutional church.  At some point in their lives they found themselves serving/leading the church as vocational pastors.  They believed that was their calling. They had been trained for this, and had gained enough respect from the church to fill pastoral positions. These are men who the church trusted to teach them and shepherd them in the Christian faith.

So what happens when these men change their way of thinking about the position or office of the vocational pastor?  Let's be clear. They have not lost their faith in Christ, or their devotion for the church.

I must say I have extra respect for these men.  They not only took the risk of losing the approval of man.  They also took the risk of losing their way of earning an income. So I thank these leaders, these shepherds, these teachers.  These men are not simply tired of warming pews.  They have always been leaders in some ways, but no longer desire to lead from the front.

Wayne Jacobsen - Life Stream Ministries. I have been encouraged by his books: He Loves Me, So You Don't Want To Go To Church Anymore, The Naked Church, and his contributions in The Shack. I also have been encouraged by many of his podcasts.

Dave Coleman - co-authored So You Don't Want To Go To Church Anymore

Eric Carpenter - I've been encouraged as he shares his heart openly on his blog  A Pilgrim's Progress

Kevin-Neil Ward and Kathleen Ward - I am encouraged by their focus on Church in a Circle.

Jeremy Myers - I respect his dedication to teaching others as he blogs at www.tillhecomes.org and has other book and web projects.

Alan Knox (sort of) - He changed his way of thinking as he was being trained to become a vocational pastor.  He has since been on a journey to discover a different career path while he teaches, cares for, and serves the church. I have loads of respect for Alan. Always wise. Always gracious. And leads well by example as he shares his journey at www.alanknox.net. (And he sometimes reads my blog... so I have to be nice to him.)

Paul Vieira - author of  Jesus Has Left The Building.  A local Winnipeg author I recently discovered existed.

Rob McAlpine - a friend of our family, or family of a friend. Something like that.  Actually the only brother on this list I have met in real life so far.    I love the title of his book Detoxing from Church, a description I think fits well for many of us. I have appreciated how he has shared his journey on different blogs over time, he is now blogging at www.robbymcalpine.com.

Keith Giles - author and blogger at subversive1.blogspot.ca.

Will Rochow - another fellow Canadian blogs at http://rethinkingfaithandchurch.rochow.ca and show his humorous side at  http://theothersideofwill.rochow.ca/.

The truth is none of these pastors have left the church.  They are all still caring for and shepherding others. They are still active members in Christ's church.  And yes, I'm sure some of them still use buildings from time to time. :)   I won't do justice if I try to explain what each of them believe, and how each of them serve the church.  You'll have to check with them if you want more info.

I just wanted to say thanks for being leaders on this journey.