Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Why Should You Survive?

‎"Why should you survive?" the consultants got the church to ask themselves. Excellent question. But perpetuates the problem. They need to find ways to ask the same question of their/our/your congregation to others in the community they serve and listen to the hard answers from that most important place. Good article though, skimming the surface of so many vital aspects.

A form of missional church....

Good use of merging secular sacred, serving others first.

White, Middle Aged, Eurocentric, Well Educated, Suburban Immigrant Churches?

In Robert Putnam's newest book, American Grace, he quotes the work by Oscar Handlin on the religious effects of the great migration of immigrants to America around the turn of the 20th century, namely "Struggling against heavy odds to save something of the old ways, the immigrants directed into their faith the whole weight of their longing to be connected with the past."...

If, as Leonard Sweet uses the terms native and immigrants in his book Postmodern Pilgrims, to mean immigrants are those of older generations who do not feel this is their home culturally anymore and natives are those younger generations whom are right at home in the "cloud culture" of social media and experientialism, participation and interactivity, image-driven, and communal....

Then, putting the two together, it might explain the deep-seated resistance in established churches where the majority age are those born before 1963, hence the new cultural immigrants, to missional transformations in the church--which are even more revolutionary than "mere" worship wars in the church, or its corrolary in some liberal churches over conflicts on what language is used, what is taught, etc.

Immigrant churches served, and serve, a purpose. Putnam cites how one German Lutheran church in Houston still fosters a lot of German language in its hallways even four generations after its founding, to prove the continuing attachment of them.

Perhaps we should consider the established churches today as immigrant churches and seek not to change them missionally. If anything, this might free them up, from anxiety or other emotional reactiveness, to support to the best of their abilities the manifestations of missional church beyond themselves, as community ministries, the same way the old established churches supported missionaries abroad; now they could support missionaries in neighborhoods and hear reports from those missionaries, but maintain the ways of the "old country."

Nurturing A Common Life

an excerpt from Common Prayer for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and Enuma Okuro, used as part of communion homily at our worship welcome table Nov. 21, 2010:

In reading this excerpt I am particularly mindful for the Thanksgiving Season, remembering our religious ancestors who formed a free church (and a "commonwealth") with a covenant, not a creed, in Scrooby England in 1606, travelled to Holland, then on a journey to a new continent with the ringing words from their Pastor John Robinson who said "more light and truth are yet to break forth", who gathered inside the Mayflower and signed their Compact for a "civil body politic" in November 1620, enduring loss and hardship through bonds of community, both with members of their church and with those who had travelled with them to new shores, and who discovered a thanksgiving with others already here, where God was already present waiting to be discovered by them. We are in many ways pilgrims today, envisioning a new kind of common life possible, on new shores amid the wreckage of the American Empire. This is a vision, an aim, both idealistic but also grounded in the utmost realism of what is necessary, what hasn't worked before, and what is worth pursuing. Common Good may require Common Life.

"Nurturing a Common Life":

Independence is a value of our culture, but it is not a gospel value. Jesus lived in community and was part of a village culture...Jesus' culture was more like the Bedouins than the Burbs.

The Scriptures teach us to value interdependence and community more highly than independence, and tell us that we are to lose our lives if we want to find them. Forming our lives around something other than our own desires, jobs, and goals is radically counter-cultural. Even our architecture is built around individual families, not around community. But for many Native Americans and tribal cultures, society and architecture are built around a village. Individual dwellings...are very small, and they are built around a central common space where people eat, dance, sing, and tell stories. The rampant individualism of Western society is a relatively new thing, and its emptiness is increasingly evident. We are wealthy and lonely. But God invites us into a common life with others.

Rather than build our lives around the individualistic dream of a house with a white picket fence, we can build our lives around God's vision for community.

We dream of a holy village in the middle of the urban desert, with a little cluster of homes sprinkled about and a neighborhood where folks are committed to God and to each other. Some folks are indigenous to the neighborhood. Some are missional relocaters. Some have gone off to school, trained as doctors, lawyers, social workers, or business folk, and then returned to the neighborhood to offer their gifts to the work of restoration. The houses are small, but that is all we need--a place to lay our heads--because most of our lives are lived on the streets, on the stoop, sweating in the practice of resurrection. Village life begins by greeting the day in morning prayer, and in the evenings we share a meal or grill out on the street. Maybe there is a village center where folks can cook healthy breakfasts for the kids as they head off to school. Perhaps in that center there are laundry machines that we can all share and a game library where kids can borrow a game for the afternoon. Maybe there's a tool library so folks can check out a saw or drill for the day; maybe there's an exercise space for lifting weights or taking an aerobics class to keep our bodies healthy. It's a dream for a village that shares things in common, a space that makes sure possessions and privileges are available for all, a place on earth where there truly is a "common wealth."

Shaping a life together sometimes begins simply by creating a space for community. For many intentional communities, that means that we work only part-time so that we free up time for things we don't get paid to do, like welcoming homeless folks for a meal, helping neighborhood kids with homework, planting gardens on abandoned lots, or praying together each day. Sometimes we have to remove some of the clutter that is occupying our time and energy, like getting rid of the television. But then, as we say no to some things, we say yes to others--cooking meals, painting murals, playing games. And most people don't miss the old life much anyway. A reporter once told Mother Teresa, "I wouldn't do what you do for a million dollars." She responded, "Me neither." We live in community and among the suffering because it is what we are made for. Not only does it give life to others, but it gives us life as well."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

from "Living Mission" ed. by Scott Bessenecker
Excerpts from the new book about the visions and voices of the new friars movement among the world's urban poor.

"Walking with friends who wanted out, we started to dream together: what could this place become if we stayed here together?...Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove..."rethinking church means rethinking Christian mission"

"They are artistic, entrepenuerial, international, ecumenical, contemplative misfits. They are apostolic activists with a vision to see the flourishing of God's shalom among commercial sex workers, refugees, street kids and their neighbors trapped in poverty--communities committed to work toward systemic change in the halls of power." Scott Bessenecker

"Mother Teresa's sisters pray six hours and work five hours. Protestants, by contrast, enter mission "teams" not communities, and then they "work" or found "works" as if they were starting a business...We formed Servants as a movement...based on a lifestyle of incarnation, community, simplicity, suffering and sacrifice." Viv Grigg

Craig and Nayhouy Greenfield share about the helpful frame of John Perkins' 3 Rs or relocation, redistribution, and reconciliation, but also how Perkins has a 3rs of Relocation itself--relocaters who move into poor areas to live incarnationally; returners (like Bonnie and I) "who were born and raised in the community and then left for a better life...yet choose to return; and remainers, who could have fled the problems of the community but have chosen to continue living there incarnationally. The three types working together in an area help keep the privilege of middle Class in check so it is not always at the core of the communities. But each of the three types of experiences is important to the other two and bring special gifts to a community. They write: "The incarnational approach is more than the sum of its parts. The value of incarnation lies not only in the immediate relationships developed but in the symbolic nature of the act. When the nonpoor reject their position of privilege and move toward the poor, they encourage others to do the same and model a way of life that values the poor and underprivileged."

"Ivan Illich, the philosopher and social theorist, was once asked, "What is the most revolutionary way to change society: Is it violent revolution or gradual reform? He gave a careful but very insightful answer: "Neither. If you want to change society, then you must tell an alternative story."...Mahatma Ghandi once commented on this when he said: "You Christians look after a document containing enough dynamite to blow all civilization to pieces, turn the world upside down and bring peace to a battle-torn planet. But you treat it as though it is nothing more than a piece of literature." Indeed, it seems that a significant number of Christians have accepted Christianity as a religious belief system--a little Jesus to spiritualize their life and a little extra God to give them peace in a stress filled world. But they have not allowed the biblical message to transform their underlying worldview, the framing narrative or storyline that continues to shape the way they really live their lives....
[This leads to] eight categories of transformation: 1. reproducing transformational communities of people following Jesus. 2. increased civic participation for the common good. 3. improved accessibility to education that equips and enhances life. 4. expanded opportunities to achieve economic sufficiency. 5. increased spiritual and psychological health and freedom from destructive patterns. 6. increased family health and well being. 7. improved environmental and community health. 8 presence of political, economic, and legal systems that work for the poor and vulnerable. --Derek Engdahl and Jean-Luc Krieg

"People may come to our communities because they want to serve the poor; they will only stay once they have discovered that they themselves are the poor. And theyn they discover something extraordinary: that Jesus came to bring the good news to the poor, not to those who serve the poor" Jean Vanier..."It is only when the church relinquishes the privilege of the world's power centers that we can denounce its tactics. It is only when we Christians detach ourselves from the world's claims on us that we can find the power to criticize its values...The madate for the margins is not simply a strategy to get the gospel out to the whole world; rather, the movement toward the margins is primarily a reflection of God's heart for the world. When we walk with God, we are directed toward the margins because this is the way God works in the world. And when we see God on the margins, we find that what the world calls marginal is central for the church." Christopher Heuertz and David Chronic

"Activism without contemplation opens us to the risk of imposing our will on the world. If we are blind to our distorted compulsions, even our very best intentions and deeds can have self-ish motives and exploitative effects. These hidden motivations deceive us in the moment but are glaring in the rear-view mirror of history--like the dark side of colonial and imperialist missionary endeavors....What would it be like for our socieites--even our churches--to quiet our frantic frenzy down to a whisper? Imagine the impact of a church whose activism flowed from a life of devotion rooted in contemplation." Phileena Heuertz and Darren Prince.

"Incarnational, missional, marginal, and devotional--taken together, these signs amount to heady wine and require an appropriate wineskin. It is challenging to wrap these powerful currents into cohesive community. But without careful attention to the wineskin, the new wine spills onto the ground." Jose Penate-Aceves and John Hayes.

"Can I share my biggest fear in contributing to a book like this?...What I fear most is that people will read this book and live vicariously through the few of us who are already out there and overwhelmed by what is in front of us. Reading is not the same as living your faith....(quoting a professor in a class attended by Elias Chacour: "If there is a problem somewhere, he said with his dry chuckle, this is what happens. Three people will try to do something concrete to settle the issue. Ten people will give a lecture analyzing what the three are doing. One hundred people will commend or condemn the ten for their lecture. One thousand people will argue about the problem. And one person--only one--will involve themselves so deeply in the true solution that they are too busy to listen to any of it. Now, which person are you?"

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

What conservatives are learning and progressives need to about community

This is a call for conservatives to welcome in a new kind of community to help make their values real, speaking of ways their sphere, especially its libertarian circles, will be challenged by these new kinds of local intense transforming communities. They see this as a wave of the future for conservatives at a time when progressives are turning, in their view, to more national rather than local community identity and solutions. The political conservatives are seeking to learn from new forms of religious community as well as the megachurch model of community village. There are some parallels I believe with how mainstream and progressive religious denominations also turn toward the national identity and put emphasis in a one size fits all branding and campaigns rather than shifting resources to develop these local high demand high relationship communities.

Food for thought.

As missional communities of faithfulness, perhaps we even have put so much stress on the missional component, and its differences with traditional modern attractional church, that we have not put that focus on the inner shape of the community itself as a community. I sometimes catch myself in trying not to be like traditional church neglecting the real cultivation and nurture of the bonds of the community. Communitas yes, but it is still a community even though turned outward.

Food for thought.

Restructuring Boards and Leadership for Mission and Growth by Freeing the Social Entrepeneur

A fine article about the ways missional communities can form their leadership core team in order to keep on track and continuing fulfilling the mission and not get sidetracked; imagine replacing an organization's pres, vp, sec, treas, etc. board positions with 1. evangelist, 2. scaling partner, 3. connector, 4. program strategist, and 5. realist. all committed to the mission of the group. It has an aura of Ephesians 4 about it where early Christian groups were designating partners with a specific purpose such as evangelist, pastor, teacher, prophet, apostle. This also, as opposed to the old modernist roberts rules of order-esque approach of officers, puts the focus of leadership firmly facing outward rather than taking care of its own organizational needs which can be handled other less visible and authoritative ways.