Sunday, June 22, 2008

Missional SynchroBlog

Rick Meigs over at Blind Beggar recently voiced his "continuing concern that the term missional has become over used and wrongly used." So to foster some discussion about what we all mean by "missional" he put out a call for a SynchroBlog on the topic for today. I'm pleased to be one of 50 bloggers taking a crack at it, and savoring the irony of 50 bloggers writing about a term we're concerned is being over used. But that's just me. ;)

For a change of prose, I'm going to let my Inner Modern sit this one out, along with some of my better judgement perhaps, and just start out with this:

Missional is like pornography. It's hard to define but you know it when you see it.

Here's what I've been seeing lately.

I heard one person trying to explain house church to another, saying it was not just another worship option, like going from traditional to contemporary to house church worship. "It's not an alternative worship service - it's an alternative lifestyle." That's missional.

I was thinking about the Lord's Prayer. The petition "Hallowed be thy name" always feels like it's still awaiting translation into English. I think it wants to be something like "I want you to be famous everywhere!" followed by "And I want everything to be just the way you want it!" Or maybe even this: "My Father - large and in charge, oh yeah!!" Either way, it strikes me - what does a life look like when those two things are at the very top of your prayer list? Missional.

Recently I gave myself the challenge of telling the Old Testament story in three minutes or less and produced this narrated slideshow. In it, I set the stage for Abraham by saying that at first everything was good, but then something went wrong and it all came apart. Then I summarized God's response to the crisis with these words; "I am going to fix this, no matter how long it takes, no matter how much it costs me." Now that's missional!

I've been helping the congregation I serve re-think "membership" along the following lines. Church membership is not like health club membership where you pay for privileges. Rather, it's like public radio where the programming is free but people join anyway because they believe in the mission and want to help keep it free for other people too. But better still, Church membership is like yet another organization people join voluntarily because they believe in the mission: the Army. Public radio listeners are still mostly passive receivers, but in the Army you are the one who does the work. That's why they send you right off to basic training - a great model for new church members, eh? That's missional.

So... string all that together and it comes out something like this: An alternative lifestyle where your top priorities are all about signing on to God's project to repair the World because you want to do that work. That's missional.

I hope there's something helpful to you there - that always feels like my little part of the mission. And I invite you to check out what the others have to say as well. The blogroll is included below.



Missional SynchroBlog Blogger List
Alan Hirsch
Alan Knox
Andrew Jones
Barb Peters
Bill Kinnon
Brad Brisco
Brad Grinnen
Brad Sargent
Brother Maynard
Bryan Riley
Chad Brooks
Chris Wignall
Cobus Van Wyngaard
Dave DeVries
David Best
David Fitch
David Wierzbicki
Doug Jones
Duncan McFadzean
Erika Haub
Jamie Arpin-Ricci
Jeff McQuilkin
John Smulo
Jonathan Brink
JR Rozko
Kathy Escobar
Len Hjalmarson
Makeesha Fisher
Malcolm Lanham
Mark Berry
Mark Petersen
Mark Priddy
Michael Crane
Michael Stewart
Nick Loyd
Patrick Oden
Peggy Brown
Phil Wyman
Richard Pool
Rick Meigs
Rob Robinson
Ron Cole
Scott Marshall
Sonja Andrews
Stephen Shields
Steve Hayes
Tim Thompson
Thom Turner

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Three Minute Old Testament

Here's something I'd like to share. I created this short telling of the Old Testament narrative to support a sermon series we're doing at my church for he summer. It has what I think is the bare minimum of details for the story to hold together. As with any telling, it's an interpretation. I've presented the "plot" of the story as God's plan to use Israel as a showpiece and a meeting place to introduce himself to the rest of the world, with the whole people serving as a "priestly kingdom." (Exodus 19:6) I love how consistent God is in this fundamental outward focus for his chosen partner/servants. We see it applied to the Church in 1 Peter 2:9 where we we called a "royal priesthood." It beautifully invites the question: "If we are all priests, then who is the congregation?" All the rest of the world of course, the ones we are called to serve.

So - here is the video. I hope you enjoy it and find it helpful. (The resolution isn't very good so you may want to view a slightly larger version here.) I also want to say thanks to Harry Wendt of Crossways International for the use of his graphic icon for God, his prophet sketch, and general inspiration for this video. I encourage you to check out his excellent Bible-teaching materials!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Myth of the Balanced Life

Tom Bandy is a church consultant I have high regard for. Here's a sample of his thought from an excellent (and cheap!) online coaching forum he leads with Bill Easum:

"Modern church people (especially boomers) yearn for spiritual habits, but desperately fear accountability. So they have a real approach-avoidance attitude.

I think this is rooted in their desire to live a "balanced life". The myth of the "balanced life" is one of the great illusive quests. Church people often equate the "balanced life" with the "spiritual life" ... when in fact the spiritual life is a very "unbalanced life" ... unbalanced because of their thirst for God is greater than their desire for stability.

In my book Coaching Change, I offer a checklist of mentoring to help "unbalance" Christian leaders:

Crossing the Boundary to Post-Modern Faith


Systematic Theology--------------------------Pragmatic Christology
Propositional Thinking-----------------------Metaphorical Imagining
Judicious Evaluation--------------------------Experiential Witness
Denominational Heritage--------------------Congregational Identity
Standardized Liturgical Religion-----------Contextual Spiritual Expression
Professionally Interpreted Scripture-------Amateurly Interpreted Scripture
Leadership by Office and Competency-----Leadership by Credibility and Vision

Monday, June 2, 2008

Breaking a 17-Century Habit

I've been writing a little lately over at the Emerging Leaders Network, a Ning-based social network about 130 strong, populated predominantly by Lutherans interested in the Emergent conversation. One thread there led me to write the following about a shift taking place in our culture that undoes something fundamental which has been in place for 1700 years.

"One other thing I wanted to pick up on: you wrote about how "...many Gen X/Y people, especially, haven’t even had enough church contact to be alienated—the church is simply not on their radar." I think that's critically important for us to wake up to. People often talk about the importance of the change in worldview from Modern to Postmodern... shifting something fundamental that has been in place for some hundreds of years. But I believe there is - at the same time - another shift now in process that undoes an assumption that has been in place for 17 centuries: the relationship between Church and civil culture.

"Before Constantine, the Church was viewed as an enemy. Afterwards, the Church was viewed as a partner. (The Reformation - as significant as it was - did not depart from this. It simply led to multiple choices for which Church each State wanted to partner with.) But now, as your observation reveals, this way of relating for the past 17 centuries is changing. The civil culture is now looking at the Church as irrelevant.
"It's this kind of massive context-shifting that I believe really urges us to first, go back to the kernel of Christian faith, and second, experiment wildly with various ways to re-enflesh Christian life and community."