The demise of the front porch

The front porch a historical symbol of our connectedness and community the front porch and die. In fact it might already be dead. Used to be that you couldn’t go to the south and find a house that was built without a front porch or a veranda as we called them in the Caribbean. In the north brownstones of the city had their stoops and everyone sat on the stoop. The front porch, veranda or stoop was a regular way of interacting with our community of engaging in connectedness. We waved at our neighbors as they went by, watched the kids as they played in the front yard not cloistered away in the back and we interacted. We were connected. Now sad to say that day seems to have come to an end. Front porches no longer get built in new homes. Exiting ones get screened in for security purposes, and fewer people are found just sitting on the stoop.

Porches have been replaced by back decks on the backs of homes that I separate us from our neighbors and their community while affording us privacy to interact with our closest friends. I think this is symbolic of our increasingly individualistic culture and way of life. We no longer feel the necessity of being connected to the larger community, to the common good which bonds us together.

We have become so focused on what’s in it for me, how I’m going to get to the top, that we have lost the reality of the fact that nobody gets to the top, nobody gets over the top, that nobody can make it on their own; we’re all connected. The irony is that is a “christian” nation we have forgotten or ignore what the scriptures teach. We are one body. We can’t just ignore one part of the body, or all parts of have all parts of the body the same. To be we the body we have to have each of the parts interacting for the common good. As our culture but become more and more individualized and we have moved to our own individual personal spaces we don’t interact with people who are different. We don’t interact with people aren’t like us, who don’t live in the same places, go to the same schools who might just be passing by.

I believe this is why it’s so hard for people to understand groups and movements like I occupy Wall Street doesn’t have just one single theme, agenda or idea which they express. One T.V. pundit said today people need to look at them and say do I see myself. Thing is they are us. The sense people they’re coming from a variety of different places and experiences can simply come together for the common seems so foreign, that we call it communism. the scriptures call is the body. We not me or you but we are the body together. One part cannot make up the body.

So can WE do? We don’t have to go and remodel our homes but here are some great ideas from a post by Joshua Reeves on the Verge network blog. 25 Simple ways to be Missional in your neighborhood There is a link to 75 more ideas in there. Here are some of my favorites

Start

- In the normal rhythms of life pursuing to meet and engage new people

- Prayerfully watching and listening to the Holy Spirit to discern where God is working.

Then
1. Stay outside in the front yard longer while watering the yard

2. Walk your dog regularly around the same time in your neighborhood

5. Invite neighbors over for dinner

9. Have a game night (yard games outside, or board games inside)

14. Do a summer BBQ every Friday night and invite others to contribute

20. Host a movie night and discussion

21. Start a walking/running group in the neighborhood

25. Have a front yard ice cream party in the summer

Posted in Community ministry, conversations, Diversity, urban life | Leave a comment

Which Bible are you reading?

I have been asking myself this question quite a bit recently. I am not talking about the version of the Bible you read, Message, NIV or King James. This question is in response to what seems to me to be a growing inconsistency between the policies and principles espoused by some “christians” in the public sphere and the teachings of Jesus in the Bible. Self professed “Christians” are agreeing with the idea that someone sick, without anyone to care for them, and no means to pay for that care should be allowed to just die for lack of care. A husband who has a wife with Alzheimer’s disease is encouraged to put her in custodial care and then divorce her because she is already dead. Continue reading

Posted in spiritual practice | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

If love wins then Rob Bell sins

I am almost through reading Rob Bell’s latest book Love Wins Heaven He’ll and the fate of every person that ever lived. I read it in preparation h for my recent message on Hell at my faith community Mosaic Life. Since I have not completed the book I won’t call this s review just some initial observations.

1 Bell approach is grounded in scripture. He may be asking questioned that no one wants to ask but he is not pulling these out of thin air they are rooted in a careful examination of the Christian scriptures.

2 Much of his theological perspective is not new. It may not fit within the framework of modern evangelical theology (however that is defined) but it is not all together new. I heard echoes of Paul Tillich in Bell’s theological perspective. Since evangelical theology has been the dominant voice in the modern American church landscape this might be distressing to some who have only lived in that world. However it might be refreshing to others who have lived in the dominant shadow of American evangelicalism for the past several decades.

3 Much of the reaction could be seen as overblown and self-serving. I mean this to be true of both sides.some of Bell’s critics on the more conservative side have used the book as an opportunity to shore up their conservative credentials and even sell of reactive books of their own. Bell is far from being a heretic.

Others on the “liberal” side of the debate have ceased the opportunity to not only defend Bell but even more radical ideas that are clearly outside of the mainstream of Christian orthodoxy. As Scott McKnight says in his blog it imperfectly possible to disagree with Bell without demonizing him. I believe it is also possible to agree with him with out idolizing him as well.

Bell’s editor Maudlin describes this kind of choose up sides response to the book as Christian tribalism. I agree and think it happens on both sides

4 With that in mind here are my favorite insights in the book about hell.

Jesus did not use hell to try and compel “heathens” and “pagans” to believe in God, so they wouldn’t burn when they die. He talked about hell to very religious people to warn them about the consequences of straying from their God-given calling and identity to show the world God’s love.

Bell, Rob (2011). Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived (p. 82). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Jesus talked about hell to the people who considered themselves “in,” warning them that their hard hearts were putting their “in-ness” at risk, reminding them that whatever “chosen-ness” or “election” meant, whatever special standing they believed they had with God was always, only, ever about their being the kind of transformed, generous, loving people through whom God could show the world what God’s love looks like in flesh and blood.

Bell, Rob (2011). Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived (pp. 82-83). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

5 Finally here is one thought from the book what while intriguing I have admit I have a hard time wrapping my brain around.

Failure, we see again and again, isn’t final, judgment has a point, and consequences are for correction.

Bell, Rob (2011). Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived (p. 88). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

The reaction to the book does not have to be a choice between seeing Bell as a heretical teacher who is leading his followers into sin and away from God; and Bell as a modern prophet who has got it all right. I can disagree with some of Bell’s ultimate conclusions and aspects of his hermeneutic while still maintaining that he is well within the bounds of solid biblical exegesis and theological inquiry.

Posted in books reviews | Leave a comment

At the Speed of Grace – The God Article

The Church’s general resistance to change is really odd if you think about it.  God was (and is) always about to do a new thing.  From Noah, to Abraham, to Moses, to David, to the prophets, to Jesus, the disciples and Paul, the people of God are always experiencing God moving them from one state of being to another.  The way it was done (the old life) is gone and the new way (the new life) has begun, and those are just the most obvious Bible stories.  Add to that the fact that the history of the church is also littered with constant change.  It truly is inexplicable that we think we don’t have to change.

via At the Speed of Grace – The God Article.

Posted in conversations | Tagged | Leave a comment

Why is Sunday morning America’s most segregated hour

A recent study reinforces the reality that the church has a long way to go to address issues of diversity. Here are three important observations from the research by Kevin Dougherty who used be a professor at Calvin College here in Grand Rapids.

Socially, we’ve become much more integrated in schools, the military and businesses. But in the places where we worship, segregation still seems to be the norm.

Calling a church segregated may make some people uncomfortable because it implies that its members are racist. But many contemporary churches that are dominated by one racial group weren’t formed by racial animosity, Dougherty says. Parishioners’ prefer to go to church with people who look like them, Dougherty says

The first Christian church was known for its diversity. Jews, Gentiles, and Greeks mingled alongside women and slaves. Biblical scholars have long maintained that the early church’s diversity was one of the reasons it became so popular. Roman society was characterized by rigid ethnic and class divisions.

To summarize, the church has fallen behind the culture in general in its progress dealing with the issue of the race and diversity. People of Christian faith in the modern church tend towards being with people who are like them not maliciously but in perpetuating unintentional intolerance. Finally this benign neglect of issues of race inclusion and diversity does not reflect the values or character of the early church.

The most important statement from the article on the CNN religion blog suggests that the church may well have been so successful because it was diverse rather than homogeneous. In contrast the homogeneous principle has been touted by many in recent years as the most effective way to grow a successful church.

Why is it so hard for the church to break through the barriers to diversity? Because it is hard, to break through the barriers to diversity. Our brains are actually quite lazy when it comes to including people and things with which we are not familiar. We form mental models which make it easier for us to deal with the unfamiliar by filling in the blanks with previous knowledge. Now comes the scary part, in the absence of previous knowledge our brains will often make stuff up. It is hard to break those patterns and not mindlessly fill in the blanks. Considerable effort and intentionality is required. So much that it is often just easier to be with people who are similar mitigating or diminishing the feeling of discomfort often associated being in diverse community.

However if the church is to reflect the historic church, maybe if is is to be successful it cannot do so without being diverse. This is  something that I have been working to communicate and coach churches towards for many years.

Read more details

http://www.cisionwire.com/baylor-university/congregations-struggle-to-keep-racially-diverse-members43485

http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2010/10/06/why-sunday-morning-remains-americas-most-segregated-hour/?hpt=T2

Posted in Diversity | Leave a comment

Post religious trend continues – Anne Rice Leaves Christianity but Remains Faithful to Christ

A couple weeks ago famous author Anne Rice added to the continuing post religious trend when she posted on her facebook page

““I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being ‘Christian’ or being a part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to ‘belong’ to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.”

via Anne Rice Leaves Christianity but Remains Faithful to Christ – Associated Content – associatedcontent.com.

As the question about whether one can be spiritual without being religious rages on more and more faithful people are stepping away from religious institutions that are to quote U2 stuck in a moment they can’t get out of. Some in the Christian community have begun to attack these people as self centered and self interested ironically one of the greatest flaws of the modern western church.

There are however some folks who have begun to take this trend seriously as I have and are raising interesting question for the dialogue.

Rev. Bill Shuler is pastor of Capital Life Church in Arlington, Virginia. CapitalLife.org
offers 10 thoughts pertaining to Jesus and the Church, (over at the Fox News opinion page no less) and asks is quitting the church the answer?

At its core, Anne Rice’s statement is a challenge to the modern church to look and act more like Jesus.

Shuler appropriately calls for dialogue and a biblical response by others who feel as Rice does and a more Jesus like response from the “church”. Problem as I see it much of the “church” in North America and particular the US is more the church of institutional maintenance than the “church” of Jesus. The traditional church has become less and less a place for us to grow up together in faith and have discerning conversation about spiritual matters under the leading of the Holy Spirit ; and more an more a place of exclusive involvement where adherence to dogma and not Jesus teachings reigns supreme.

This has meant the “church” has become less hospitable to those who most want to connect with God. So spiritual people seek “church” outside the “church”. As Shuler suggests the big question will be how the church will respond to this growing trend

Posted in faith & culture, in the news | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Give Us Your Lavishly Rich, Your Xenophobic | CommonDreams.org

Immigrants. Taking our jobs and public assistance. The cause of all our problems.But it’s not true. We’re blaming people who are struggling day-by-day to survive on their own or support their families, while we applaud a system that allows a financial expert to make enough money to pay the salaries of 50,000 police officers.

via Give Us Your Lavishly Rich, Your Xenophobic | CommonDreams.org.

Posted in Diversity, in the news | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

religious memory loss

One symbol of our post religious time is that the religious folks among us have lost their memories. Culturally we have forgotten what is means to be a person of Christian faith or followers of Jesus. So we say think that are clearly unbiblical wrap them in patriotic words and call it religion. Diana Bass Butler writes about this dilemma recently on the Huffington Post.

At the present juncture of history, Western Christianity is suffering from a bad case of spiritual amnesia. Even those who claim to be devout or conservative often know little about the history of their faith traditions. Our loss of memory began more than two centuries ago, at the high tide of the Enlightenment. As modern society developed, the condition of broken memory — being disconnected from the past — became more widespread. Indeed, in the words of one French Catholic thinker, the primary spiritual dilemma of contemporary religion is the “loss and reconstruction” of memory.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/diana-butler-bass/is-western-christianity-s_b_554231.html

When we get into this memory loss or maybe memory block, then we forget that Jesus didn’t come for the church but those disconnected from God. We forget that Jesus critiqued the religious institutions of the day as not being in touch with God’s mission. We forget that the Christian  faith  did not start with our most recent experience of it. We forgot that Jesus Christ calls us to sacrifice for the other and not preservation of self. We forget what it means to live faithfully beyond religious patterns. This is who we got to a post religious world and why we need a post religious church

Posted in conversations, faith & culture | Leave a comment

Are there dangers in being ‘spiritual but not religious’? – CNN.com

It’s official the institutional word is in. It may dangerous for people to be spiritual but not religious. I find it amazing how easily the religious in the Christian community can disparage or call dangerous something that Jesus and Paul alike called good thing. Jesus challenged the religious institutions of his day and put those folks on notice as being dangerous which they proved all to well.

Still there are modern day religious types who

“I’m spiritual but not religious.”

It’s a trendy phrase people often use to describe their belief that they don’t need organized religion to live a life of faith.

But for Jesuit priest James Martin, the phrase also hints at something else: egotism.

“Being spiritual but not religious can lead to complacency and self-centeredness,” says Martin, an editor at America, a national Catholic magazine based in New York City. “If it’s just you and God in your room, and a religious community makes no demands on you, why help the poor?”

via Are there dangers in being ‘spiritual but not religious’? – CNN.com.

As I read the article and have to say the writers are missing the point. People who are spiritual but religious are very connected in community,  just is not the religious community. They do not trust religious institutions because they a know what we do not want to admit we have not proven ourselves to be trust worthy.  I just picked up a book today from a mainline publisher call I’m fine with God it Christians I don’t like.  The book Unbinding the gospel written by mainline authors shows statistics that we are looking the statistic and credibility gap in terms of reaching out to those who are unchurched. Greg Kinneman and George Barna showed the same thing in the book unChristian.

It has become a common practice in the church to use a few anecdotal situation to point out the flaws in a situation that it feels threatens its maintenance.  20 years ago my denominational challenged ts churches to move from maintenance to mission. Most churches are still struggling to do just that, which is why we are in dramatic decline.

The facts are irrefutable people are spiritual but not religious and much of the church and certainly most Christians does not know what to do with that, or  how to reach these people effectively. So we tend instead denigrate and diminish their perspective and call in self serving or individualistic. We can do that because we are just talking to ourselves and to them. We find ourselves in an echo chamber of our own creation, for our purpose and we end up with these kind of numbers :

55000 churches will close and 60000 will open between 2005 and 2020. We need 103500 just to keep pace with pop growth!

We Christians (I prefer followers of Jesus to eschew any religious connotation) have a choice. We can try to explain this fact by denigrating those who don’t buy into our religiosity, which is absent a passion for the mission of God. Or we can look at ourselves honestly and ask if it is something we have done or not done.

The truth is we don’t have to be religious to be faithful Christians That is what Jesus taught over and over again. Religion as it is practiced in most of the western world and certainly the US is a human construct to make sense out of what Paul calls the foolishness  of God.

Posted in faith & culture, in the news | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Finding Faith: More college students see themselves as spiritual rather than religious | AVALANCHE-JOURNAL

The future of the church depends on reaching the growing number of spiritual but post-religious people especially today’s students. This recent article fromthe heart of the Bible belt shows the post-religious phenomenon is not restricted to hot spots of “secularism” like Seattle or NYC.

Rachel Robinson knows she is called to the ministry in some way. A 21-year-old Texas Tech student, she’s been on mission trips and she interns at Westminster Presbyterian Church.Yet she says many of her peers aren’t as involved in their churches as she is. Robinson attributes this to the strict traditions that accompany religion, rather than most church teachings, that she believes turn college students away.

via Finding Faith: More college students see themselves as spiritual rather than religious | AVALANCHE-JOURNAL.

The article suggests that more colleges students in the area are leaving behind institutional religious traditions and institutions for other ways of expressing faith and finding relationships of faith. They are seeking “church without religion”. If the “church” can’t wrap its brain around this trend I believe more and more traditional churches will drift away into oblivion and irrlevance. Doesn’t mean the faith of Jesus Christ will go away the mission of God and  purpose of Christ will prevail! But the institutional church will not be a significant part of it.

The issues are not new they are the ones that challenge every missionary. Learning to speak the language and credibility (earn the right to speak). It the church up to this? Are up for this?

Posted in conversations, faith & culture, in the news | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment