Saturday, March 17, 2012

"Cutting Edge" Christianity, Part Three

Two points in this series are the power of labels and the functional shaping of groups by fear and pride. On labels: Discussions and teachings that I hear on sin of mention the problem the heart while most of the real words and related concern focus on the behaviors acted out as a result or on the consequences of these behaviors and the costs. In other words, what tends to get our attention and energy are the surface, material issues we can see. The inside of the problem or the root issues are not effectively addressed even if identified accurately.

Today, consider the words "cutting edge" as a label. We use the phrase to mean that the thinking or action so described is beyond the common approach; it leads others. In Christian circles and applied to Christian experience this might mean a given church is unique in its programs or that its use of technology is at the forefront of such applications. Perhaps a "cutting edge" church is a mega-church with organizational approaches to management of huge numbers in membership and attendance.

There are not pure applications of the phrase "cutting edge" since it is not specific technical nor spiritual terminology. It is a phrase used both as a trend and in describing the beginning of trends. The phrase has a meaning -- it's in the dictionary -- but it's application is loose and not limited to Christian topics clearly.

The use here as the title of a series of posts is intended to raise questioning of Christian "trends". My question is, "Is there something inadequate with what God intended for church?" And a corollary question: "Can the current church actually be substantively moved into greater levels of effectiveness in its missions of providing the faithful with spiritual instruction and support, evangelizing those outside the family, and mitigating for people generally the impact of this painful world."

The label "cutting edge" applied to church is seen in various movements and particular expressions of church gatherings across American culture. It is a biased label without actual meaning. The bias simply put is one of perspective. One might label a church "cutting edge" for its programs and another church across town as "dead" for its teaching. Clearly these labels are not logical but emotional. They are not used based on measurable quantities, as each label is simply a subjective phrase which reflects the view of the label user.

This dynamic illustrates perspective on the Christian experience and subsequent descriptions are based on surface factors literally seen with the natural eye. We think these outward signs sparking our labels are evidences of the spiritual state of the groups under inspection. If we would be honest with ourselves, we would admit the failure of our labels to appraise spiritual reality. Why do we continue to trust in these labels and fling them at others...or posture ourselves under their tyranny?

Friday, March 16, 2012

"Cutting Edge" Christianity. Part Two

Once again I briefly was involved in a discussion of what it means to be a Christian. This occurred on a Facebook page initiated by a brother in the Lord which involved reading a book by Bonhoeffer entitled Life Together and participating in a group discussion. Greg invited me to join the group/page discussion, and as is typical for me, I read a comment and jumped in with a response. I didn't notice at first that a book was being discussed, nor did I make the connection that I had therefore not read the chapter under consideration when I went blathering off with my thoughts.

Anyway, the point here besides my thick-skulled willingness to talk without knowing what I am talking about, is the wonder and curiosity and immediate thinking provoked for me when anyone who knows Jesus begins to speak of that relationship and how such plays out in the simple reality of daily living. The idea that we as humans have far more in common with one another on the basic level of our humanity than all the attention given to our differences, this commonality of human experience, fascinates me.

The conversation in question was largely over the position Bonhoeffer takes in his book on how Christians are to relate to one another: we relate to Christ first then to one another. This developed into a lively discussion on how Christians relate inside the family, that is as a gathered group labeled "church".

In commenting about that topic...again...I failed fairly miserably in the Facebook discussions to encourage others in this. The lack of my ability sent me into reflection before the Holy Spirit, which became some notes, which is becoming this next series of posts in the Wild Wood.

Anyway, it all boils down to this: sin is far too much the focus of what church is all about in modern day practice. Therefore, when the church seeks those outside the family of God for the purposes of evangelism, it is a constructed outreach that is handicapped by sinful attitudes on sin. This impacts the fellowship of those so gathered.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

"Cutting Edge" Christianity: the Maintenance of Holiness while Authentically Living Among Non-Believers

9 As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector's booth ; and He said to him, "Follow Me!" And he got up and followed Him. 10 Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, "Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners ?" 12 But when Jesus heard this, He said, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. 13 "But go and learn what this means : 'I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,' for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners." 

The gospel author, Matthew (chap. 9), above recounts an interesting moment in the life of Jesus, a circumstance of spending time with "sinners"  Jesus revisits in other situations throughout the gospel accounts. 

We are called to mix with those outside the family of the Lord while knowing a sanctification of our souls which creates a revelation of the living Spirit of Jesus.

This next series of posts in the Wild Wood explores the tension between being separate from worldly desires while living among those who are still ruled by the same, and this accomplished without coddling  or condemning those with whom we interact daily.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Can't believe it's been six weeks since I put up a post here. I am both busy and lazy, which means stuff that I don't HAVE to do slips by easily.

I have made some notes though for the next post. Maybe ...