Friday, August 21, 2009

Community, Gospel and the Word: a Review of Total Church

I found Total Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis (Crossway Books, 2008) to be a wonderful and challenging book. There are some aspects of theology that I would disagree with Chester and Timmis. But that might be the reason I've been so challenged to contemplate how this book should impact my life.

Chester and Timmis are the co-founders of the Crowded House in Sheffield, UK. The are proponents of smaller, more intimate church communities developed predominately through church planting.

I really respect the belief that the church is at its core Gospel Centered and Community Centered. (Although I do wish they would have found a better way to word that because you really can't have two centers.) What I took out of this book is that with everything that we do in the church or in our lives (which are really the same thing if you are to follow Jesus) should be considered with respect to missionality, truth in the Word and how it relates to the community of God. I appreciate the movement away from the individualistic mindset of modern evangelistic church toward a theology of community.

I'm not sure I would connect this theology as tightly with Calvinism as they do. They do this implicitly, not in any direct statement. More by quoting Calvin as the authority in key arguments. In the end, it seems to me to be closer to a heritage of the anabaptist. I'd suggest contemplating this alongside Stanley Grenz Theology and the Community of God.

As a result of reading this book, I'm doing more research on the theology of community as developed by Grenz, William Klein and the Crowded House. Also, I will be challenging my church staff to re-consider the theology of all of our church programs and visional work. My goal would be to assure that we are developing as a Gospel community ourselves.

I would also love to see our next step moving toward planting. How exciting would that be.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Beware the great danger of the suburbs

Did you notice the great danger in your suburban neighborhood?  Dave Gibbon has.  I've been concerned for some time about this danger.

The suburban enclaves with their middle class citizens and well- manicured lawns, gates, and guards protecting our Orwellian lifestyle and toys, Starbucks a few minutes apart from each busy intersection, and boasting some of the best schools in the country may actually be the most dangerous locations to live. Okay, we may not have the high murder counts or robberies, but I wonder if the suburbs have become breeding grounds for the accessible and shallow thrills of drugs and alcohol abuse, extravagant parties and proms, and mere facades of happiness and the American Dream. Just ask your local city drug dealer about his primary consumers. . . suburban teenagers and college students.

Okay, I’m not a researcher, but my gut impression from my travels and intersection with youth in the major cities of the world as well as the suburbs and rural communities is that they are all equally dangerous but just in different ways.

The dangers of the suburbs entail the lack of imagination (where do you find real art museums, innovative music venues and creative opportunities to explore nature. Sure there are exceptions but it’s not the norm); materialism; greed; isolation behind cookie-cutter neighborhoods and homogeneous clubs and churches; boredom: apathy; the fascination with the relevant more than the real; a love affair with popularity more than loving the poor; and a thirst for excitement superficially satisfied in the Friday night party. This takes precedence over a dangerous ride with God on the frontlines of His movement.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Nostalgia: grapes and baseball

I had one of those nostalgic moments this morning while looking in the fridge. I saw grapes. They were kind of old, squishing and small. I like grapes, but I like them only when they are plump and juicy.

When I saw the grapes my mind drifted back to a summer's day while I was in seminary. I loved the experience of living on campus. I guess I'm just a social kind of guy. The particular day that I'm think about, we had some wonderful grapes that I was eating out in the campus court yard. A fellow student came by eating another kind of grape. Mine were large with purple skins and white fruit. His looked like mine on the outsides, but the insides were midnight black. I don't know if I ever found grapes like those again.

I think this moment popped into my head because as I checked my Facebook this morning another seminary friend had posted something about missing Cubs games. He lives in New Zealand. Apparently, it's hard to watch baseball down there. I imagine so. I had just watched the Phillies whoop up on Cubs last night. Go Phillies! I've never been to a Cubs game and never really been to Chicago. He did his undergrad studies there.

I'd never been to a Cubs game, but just watching a Cubs game in that beautiful stadium called Wrigley Field can make a man nostalgic. What a sport! What a stadium!

Nostalgia is a good thing.  It helps us to reflect. It helps us to feel better about who we are. It's a good thing, but it has its limitations. You can't go back. Nostalgia isn't a reason to make major decisions. It will trick your mind. Those grapes were good, but I know those days are gone. I'm sure that Wrigley is a great place to spend the afternoon, but it just that and offers little more to life.

I skipped the grapes this morning. Just didn't think they'd stack up against my memory. I also suggest to my friend watching mlb online. It would cost a few pennies, but a lot less than a trip form Cambridge to Chicago. The Cubs are blowing it again anyhow.

Come to think of it. The Cubs blowing the season is in fact nostalgia.

I do miss those days though. I miss those guys.