Friday, September 26, 2014

Slow Church Chp. 4

Chapter 4

Patience is upheld as a high virtue in this chapter.  The attempt is made to answer how we grow in the virtue of patience in the context of a restless culture around us.  The Three Mile Island reference and BP references are not useful.   The first is outdated and the second was an anomaly.  There is next a strong challenge regarding why we rush our labor.  The initial answer is that the technology that speeds up labor helps us avoid suffering.   We even avoid the suffering of others by outsourcing their care (ouch!).  The authors use teachings from Tertullian who was and still is a controversial figure in Church history for although he was brilliant his ecclesiology was heretical.  I have not read Tertullian’s patientia but the quotes are helpful in showing how patience can be learned by way of physical disciplines such as fasting.  Patience is longsuffering and therefore as we practice it we emulate our God. 

The point that patience is best learned within the local church overtime and the passing of seasons of life is so very true.  It appears to be the goal of both authors to underline the need for Christians to stay put in their local church unless CALLED elsewhere.  I suspect that those who practice church hopping are not likely to read a book like this.  The authors share personal stories of how their churches have been places where patience as been learned that include surviving serious illness and tragedy.   I appreciate the description of a Eucharistic life but I missed the connecting between that and suffering to build up patience.  The argument is made that suffering in the Eucharistic life, which is within the local church works for the greater good.  And then it is stated that the ends do not justify the means but the means matter as much as the end.  I agree with the latter point but popular utilitarian theories actually ignore the morality of the means. 

The food pantry example is helpful for it points out that food banks are an impatient way to help people in need because food banks do not forge relationship nor do they provide people a way out of their poverty.  They feed the need in the here and now only.  The answer for one Church was to become involved in the development of the community, which gave the parishioners more opportunities to show the love of Jesus (the means). 

The authors close the chapter by challenging churches to see themselves as vehicles for reconciliation.  The focus is on personal reconciliation to God and within the community.  It could be argued that reconciliation within communities should be a natural bi-product of a people being reconciled to God but example of such are difficult to come by.  It has to be intentional. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Slow Church Chp. 3

Chapter 3

An apple tree is more than a tree.  It bears fruit, holds honey, provides shade for other flowers to grow and even provides a setting for song and celebration.  Good metaphor!  The diversity of the planet in all its beauty and wonder means that one size (church outreach) cannot fit all.  Ok.  Jesus was born in a particular time and place and thus community and everywhere he went as well as the disciples who came after him developed communities.  The Slow Church approach provides the possibility of the types of communities God wants with His Church at the center.  Bringing the tree and community images together there must be a rootedness that provides stability for a community to flourish.  Monasteries and nunneries are used as examples of the importance of stability as these institutions required a life long commitment.  I don’t know how well evangelical Protestants are moved by such examples. 

Chris identifies the problem of western culture with the terms hypermobility and individualism.  Hypermobility is our ability and willingness to pick up and move from community to community.  His statistics prove his identifications to be accurate.  He uses a line by Ron Swanson a character in the television show Parks and Recreation (a show I love) that well states how people use other people and when they are done they walk out of your life.  As a pastor I have painfully experienced this.  A quote from Dr. Willie James Jenning of Duke Divinity school to prove this point is filled with so much liberal speak that although I wanted to agree with it I could not avoid the political agendas underneath it.  At this point it would be helpful for the author to step back and examine each argument by itself.  The premise that automobiles make people more mobile does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that it is the cause for why people don’t worship near where they live.  From my experience there are factors that play a much larger role.  The point that automobiles and individualism make it easier for people to look for a new church when conflicts arise is most important.  Working through conflicts overtime builds trust.  I like that. 

It is a great point to make when Chris says that the hypermobility is a problem with churches as well as individuals.  Churches up and leave communities because they want to be bigger or more affluent.  Such reasons are no less shallow that parishioners who want different styles of music. 

After each writer shares a personal story about their church experiences the point is made that a long stay allows parishioners, the leaders and the church body as a whole to get to know the area and thus know its needs and is peculiarities.  The beauty of this point is that the focus is not just on building up the church but the community that is around the church.  Thus it is “others” focused. 

Abuse of rootedness is when we think we are superior to those who are new to our community and using position for financial gain and political power.  It is labeled entrenchment rather than rootedness.  To prevent abuse we are to practice biblical hospitality which places the needs of others before our own and welcomes the stranger.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Slow Church cont.

Chapter 2

John shares a personal story about growing up in a large Church and having many friends from that time in his life even up to today.  He recalls being critical of the college group when he became a part of it because the leaders modeled their approach after the mega church Willow Creek.  A lesson that stuck with him was summed in a statement made to him, “You cannot franchise the blessings of God.”  His reference to “simony” is an excellent example of the problem of franchising God.  His use of McDonalds is too obvious.  The example of wine is very good and very challenging for rectors.  For a Church to take on the characteristics of the environment in which it is placed just as a grape takes on the flavor of its soil, climate and barrel takes a great deal of time and sacrifices must be made.  The sacrifices include choosing what is best to meet the needs of the people rather than what the minister prefers. 

The critique on the church growth movement and its history is not for me.  I rejected the church growth movement a long time ago.  The results of that movement, however, do remain with the church and the authors are right to point out that segregation is one of those results.  Church growth models promote drawing crowds with similar backgrounds resulting in segragation.

“Plant sequoias” is a nice way to describe this Slow Church approach.  The note that spiritual formation is a long process is refreshing to read.  The control issues in satellite churches are currently being exemplified at Mars Hill in Seattle. 

Our sense of taste is used to explain how connected we are intended to be with our church community (Psalm 34:8).  This makes sense when taste leads to consuming because what we taste we then eat and what we eat becomes a part of us.  The argument that to taste God’s goodness is to experience costly discipleship is then made.  The connection is made because Jesus calls us salt and salt has characteristics such as being grinded up and dissolving which reflect the Christian life. 

Why this chapter was titled ETHICS has eluded me. 

Slow Church, A Summary

Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus

Chapter 1

Authors Chris Smith and John Pattison begin with the simile that describes Holy Scripture to be like improvisation.  Improv is as an actor saying when he enters a scene, “yes, and.”  When the Church is understood in terms of the “and” as in it being the next phase in God’s redemptive plan it means that we have a roll to play and it is not one of waiting only.  According to the authors the concept of Slow Church is to play out our part in a manner resembling God.  And God is slow, slow as in patient and long suffering.  The Slow Church idea (and I love this quote) is “in the world, not of the world, so we can be for the world.”  They then bring the truth of God being patience and the Church being for the world by describing God using His people in His redemption plan by patient collaboration. 

Smith and Pattison rightly state that the God’s collaboration with man is marred because of the sinful will of mankind.  They seem to have a good understanding of human depravity but have yet to flesh out how they understand the will of God and the will of man intermixing.  They correctly identify a major problem in the west as it works against what God wants to do with His Church.  That problem is the idol of individualism.  Although we more easily identify with Abraham because of his individualism we fail if we don’t see that God used him to start a community and that God repeatedly works to start communities and grow communities.

The subject of joy is next for the authors see it as natural that communities based on the victory of Jesus over death would have deep and profound joy.  With such joy we can holistically love one another within the Church.  It is how we are to love one another in the Church that the rest of the book will explain. 

A Good Read for the Western Church and Sexuality

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Repentance and Social Media Mobs

It is an intriguing vantage point I have regarding the domestic abuse by Ray Rice toward his then fiancĂ© and now wife Janay.  I root for the Ravens but I am not fanatical about the Ravens so I think I can be a little more objective than most of the people who live around me.  I have not seen the video.  I get physically ill viewing violence against women and children and I argue that I don’t need to see it in order to be appalled by what Ray did to Janay.   The first video of him dragging her out of the elevator unconscious and dumping her limp body on the floor beneath him told us what had happened in the elevator.  To view the video from inside the elevator and to cause mass hysteria because of how graphic the violence was, is to react on pure emotion resulting in a social media mob mentality.   As Christians we should never join a screaming mob.  Mobs yell, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” 

What we should pay attention to is the repentance of the guilty person.  We should test him to see if he takes full responsibility for his actions with no qualification or justification for any part of the abuse he did to his wife.  If he does take full responsibility then he can be redeemed and made new.  If however, he, in any way thinks that his behavior was caused by her behavior toward him then he is not truly repentant and is still in his sins.  As David said to the Lord, “For I acknowledge my faults, and my sin is ever before me.  Against thee only have I sinned and done this evil in thy sight.” 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Don't you know that your brother is a SAINT?

 In the ACNA catechism responding to the question "Who are the saints?"  the answer confirms that saints are the people of God in heaven and on earth.  As saints on earth the Christian is holy by the grace of God in Christ and lives faithfully for Christ.  The "communion of the saints" means we are in unity and fellowship with the other saints.  If these two truths are believed and practiced daily it would be transformational.  Please accept this challenge.  Whenever you see a fellow Christian think of that person first as a saint.  Note the change in your thoughts and care for each person you view as a saint.  If Christians see one another as saints we will likely act more like saints and that will be pleasing to OUR Father.