Monday, January 26, 2009

God's Short List

I volunteered the other day to read some theology and blog about it in connection with a project Tripp Fuller is doing over at Homebrewed Christianity. He got so many applicants he's having to sort us out with some questions on a registration form, including this one:
What is the most interesting God question in your mind today?
So, with a little box to fill in, here's what I discovered I had to say about that:
I'm interested in minimalist Christianity from a practical standpoint, because the smaller something is, the faster it can be copied and spread. I blogged about this under the heading "Viral Christianity" here: This drives my interest in Simple Church, House Church, Organic Church, Todd Hunter's "Three is Enough" groups and so on. It also is part of an ongoing exploration into my own theological heritage (Lutheranism) which, while it can be as baroque as the next guy's, has certain features lurking at it's core that I think make it ripe for radical self-pruning.

That's what I think about anyway. To re-frame it as an answer to your question, maybe I'd put it this way; "What's on God's short list of the things that really, really mater for the Church?"
Nothing like a good question to get things moving.

So, what do you think is on God's short list?

And what would your life, and your church look like if you used the same list?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Eyeglasses for the Poor

I like to take note of encouraging signs that the poor of the world might actually have their lives improved. That's part of what I recognize as answers to the prayer; "Thy Kingdom Come!" So I think I'll start passing these on under the heading "Blessings to the Poor."

For starters, here's a link to an article about a British Physicist, Josh Silver, who has invented eyeglasses for the poor that the wearer can adjust to their own "prescription" without the need for an optometrist. He estimates they can be produced for $1 per pair and his goal is to have one billion pairs delivered by the year 2020. (20-20... get it? Cute!)

Here's a quote from the article about how much this could mean to people:
The implications of bringing glasses within the reach of poor communities are enormous, says the scientist. Literacy rates improve hugely, fishermen are able to mend their nets, women to weave clothing. During an early field trial, funded by the British government, in Ghana, Silver met a man called Henry Adjei-Mensah, whose sight had deteriorated with age, as all human sight does, and who had been forced to retire as a tailor because he could no longer see to thread the needle of his sewing machine. "So he retires. He was about 35. He could have worked for at least another 20 years. We put these specs on him, and he smiled, and threaded his needle, and sped up with this sewing machine. He can work now. He can see."
You can also hear a 3 minute segment from National Public Radio interviewing Josh here. It says that the U.S. Military has already purchased 20,000 pairs to give away.

How cool is that?!

Here's the Wiki page on him, a link to the Adaptive Eyecare project, and a YouTube video of him demonstrating how they work.

Of course, what he really needs is a "Donate Now" button! That's something I'd like to see.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Outcome-Biased Christianity?

Phyllis Tickle had an interesting post at the Emergent Village site that led me to write a comment I wanted to share here as well. She was writing about how people are rethinking the very definition of church and Church (which often ends up significantly shaping how people actually live as C/church.) She offered this expression: of right now, I believe both church and Church are “a body of people delighting in God, the Father, God, the Son, and God, the Holy Spirit.”
Here's what that triggered in me:
I like the feel of C/church as a “body of people delighting…” because it moves away from trying to define C/church on the basis of it’s attributes, and instead looks at how one might recognize C/church through it’s actions and attitudes. (I think that’s what you mean when you say it has “predication.”)

In my own thinking, I’ve begun to look for C/church as the body that, because of its delight in its relationship with the God revealed in Jesus, lives into three outcomes:

  • Growth of individuals into Christlikeness,

  • Growth of the C/church body itself (deeper in relationship among members, wider in drawing more into the body), and

  • Growth of the Kingdom beyond the C/church (as seen in justice, mercy, kindness, abundance etc. for all.)

To me, that expression provides the necessary specificity by linking C/church directly to Jesus, while also allowing for enormous diversity of belief and practice around him as the center.

I thought about referring to this as "Outcome-based Christianity" but that's not quite right... The basis isn't in the outcomes, so much as the relationship which impels us to pursue them. But I am drawn to the idea of being "outcome-biased." For one thing, I think it steers us away from investing too much into theologizing on the front end about what the C/church is or isn't. And for another, it pushes us past simply focusing on what the C/church does (e.g. we do "word and sacrament" or we do "worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry and evangelism") without at least checking to see if all our activity is resulting in anything or not.

I think I'll continue to muse on that, and I'd appreciate some feedback, particularly about how this might help shape the life of the C/church in practical ways.