At-home-ment: Born Again in the Bible

We need to change our understanding of being born-again. And we need to change our emphasis on atonement.

“You’re a ‘born-again Christian’, right?”

I was asked this while at O’Mei, a fine dining Chinese restaurant I worked at through college.

My first thought was, Aren’t all Christians born-again?  But I said, “I don’t know. What do you mean?”

There, in the back room of O’Mei my religious understanding of Christianity in America changed.  My co-worker had just taken a sociology class on “Born-Again Christian Religion in America.”

But I didn’t know what a “Born-again Christian” was. I thought every Christian emphasized the need for adult conversion, the deep spiritual crisis brought on by consciousness of sin, resolved through faith in Jesus who died to forgiveness our sins.

In those years of college I was slowly learning that was an evangelical, a ‘born-again Christian’ who believed I needed to made a decision for Christ and believe with my heart in order to be saved.

Born-Again Atonement

Being ‘born-again’ roughly consists of two major movements (depending on which evangelist or tradition you come from).

First, you need to become aware of your sin and the consequences of sin.  This usually entails fiery illustrations used to scared the hell out of you, or to put the fear of hell in you.

Second, you needed to have faith in Jesus to forgive your sins because he had paid the penalty for your sins. He paid the penalty by dying on the cross as a substitute for us.

This is the “penal-substitutionary” view of the atonement (a theological word I wouldn’t learn until seminary a couple years later).

Atonement = At-one-ment

Atonement is a funny word.

It is an English word created—yes, it was created—in order to translate the Greek words for sacrifice for the King James Bible.

People often break up the word “atonement” as “at-one-ment” to emphasize how the sacrifices bring people into relationship with God. They are now “one” with God.

We usually think this is just a cute preaching device to teach a concept. But funny thing, this is EXACTLY what the word means!  It was created to mean coming to be “at-one” with God.

Trouble with Atonement

The trouble with focusing on the idea of atonement is that the process of often overwhelms the purpose.

We now have so many atonement theories, so many mechanisms for explaining what Christ’s death accomplishes, and so many disagreements about what is “most important”, that we often forget the goal of atonement.

And the goal of atonement is union with God, it is to live with God.

Born again into a new family

To be “born-again” is a fairly rare concept in the New Testament (though you might not know this in certain conservative circles).  It shows up in John 3:3-7 and in 1 Peter 1:3 and 1:23.

From use in evangelical circles “born again”, one might think it means individual salvation from the consequences of sin. But this is wrong.

Being “born again” is a family term.  It emphasizes one entering into a new family and living in a new household, a new home.  To be “born again” is to enter God’s new home and live with God.

At-home-ment

John H. Elliott says that one of the main themes in 1 Peter is the “at-home-ment” accomplished by God. In Jesus we can now approach God, live in God’s home, and call God Father.

Through God’s at-home-ment we live with God and God lives with us. 

Now, if you follow me on Facebook or Twitter you know that “God with us” is a major theme for me.  In fact, I think it is the theme the holds the entire Bible together, and indeed, it is the fabric of salvation itself—and the cosmos too.

(In fact, if you Subscribe to the blog I’ll send you the first chapter of a book I’m writing with my wife about all this “God with us” stuff.)

Two Things

So I submit before you two things for consideration.

  1. Being “born-again” is all about salvation, but not salvation through some atonement theory.  It is salvation through entrance into a new family and a new home.
  2. We should focus less on theories of atonement and more on practices of at-home-ment—”at home” with God and “at home” with one another.

How would a focus on at-home-ment change your understanding of the Gospel, of life, and the church? (Non-rhetorical question. I would love to hear your thoughts).


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Is Prayer the Answer to Shootings?

Responding with prayer is right (but not in the way you think).

The immediate reaction to shootings like the one in Las Vegas is to offer “thoughts and prayers.”  We make an image-card and post it on social media. And we say prayers for those grieving.

But the immediate response to this by progressives is to complain that “thoughts and prayers” are no help at all. “What we need is a change of laws,” they say.

The call to prayer—for so many—feels like an abdication for responsibility.

“Why pray when we know the problem and the solution?”
“Why pray for those grieving when we could have avoided this?”
“Why pray when we can go out and do something?”

And they have a point.

Is the call to prayer that we make just a platitude thrown around to sound more concerned than we are? Is the promise to pray just a vacuous statement signaling how compassionate we are (or would like to seem to be)?

Even if it is genuine, even if we are pleading before God for mercy with countless other, is there more we could be doing?

I say, No.  We should keep praying.

We should pray without ceasing.

Prayer without ceasing

Paul tells us to “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:16-18).  But what does mean to pray without ceasing? How can you pray without ceasing if you have to go about your regular life?

 

One view of “praying without ceasing” understands all our loving connections with others as a type of prayer, a kind of connection with God.  All our good works and compassionate acts constitute our praying without ceasing.

Prayers for those affected by violence

So we should offer prayers to God for all who suffer from these shootings.

And we should do this by acting compassionately and by seeking justice on behalf of these and future victims. Part of our praying without ceasing is to advocate for a change in the gun laws in America.

Prayers against the spiritual forces of violence

But I’m not siding with the progressives by redefining prayer as merely political action.  I don’t think the answer to all of life’s problems can be fixed through government regulation.  It can’t.

It doesn’t seem like anyone has the will to change our gun laws. And as one has said, “You can’t regulate against evil.

Many progressives have thrown up their hands in despair over the possibility of changing our guns laws.

And this is exactly why we should pray! 

As Paul reminds, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12).

So Let us Pray

To all progressives calling for us to stop praying and instead take up the cause for gun regulation, I say, “No way! Without prayer this cause is lost.”

Today, may we pray for those who grieve, for those in pain, for those who lost a loved one.  May we pray without ceasing in seeking justice and righteousness in the laws of our land. And may we pray to overcome the cosmic powers of darkness and evil.

So by all means, please pray.


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Bi-vocationalism as guerrilla warfare: 5 thoughts

Ok, yes, it might sound extreme.  But let’s be sober-minded.  As Todd Hiestand (and the comments) notes in his great post, “10 Suggestions/Thoughts on Bi-vocational Ministry”, being a missional bi-vocational pastor is hard, it takes commitment, it takes faith.  But in this post-Christian context (or at least outside of the ever shrinking Christendom pockets), the option to be a bi-vocational is not an option at all, it is a missional necessity. I want to frame the discussion here with this image of guerrilla warfare exactly because I don’t want bi-vocational ministry to sound merely like a life-style choice, good for some, but not for others, or some kind of fashion accessory for missional pastors.

But I want to clear up one thing.  I’m not taking about guerrilla warfare against the more established church, or mega-churches or anything like that.  To think narrowly that way is just not helpful.  I’m thinking that our battle is within post-Christian, post-modern, consumer-theraputic-individualistic culture.  The warfare is in the terrain of our neighborhoods and families, our calendars and wallets.

So, to start this off, here are five thoughts.

Bi-vocational ministry is necessary:

1) not because missional churches are poor, but because they are rich. Some of the literature on bi-vocational ministry point to it being an option when churches are little, too poor for a full-time pastor.  In this scenario church finances are the determining factor.  Well, I know many missional churches that are small, and probably too poor for a full-time salary plus health insurance.  But the missional church is rich in resources, resources that are flowing outward into the neighborhoods and communities.  They are rich in leadership and talents that would go untapped if there was only one person (a man usually) who did everything and got paid for it.  My own community is actually big enough to support a full-time pastor, but we choose not to do that because we believe it would make us poorer as a community.  Bi-vocationalism, then, is to use what the culture sees as a weakness (money, resources) as a strength, and therefore is a necessary attribute of missional guerrilla warfare.

2) not because missional churches have little work, but too much work. Sometimes you hear the complain from a bi-vocational pastor that there is so much work and too little time (oh, wait that was me!).   But we all know what the truth is.  There is always too much work.  No matter what.  But instead of allowing ourselves to believe (which doesn’t really happen), or worse, allowing our congregations to believe (which almost always happens) that one or several “full-time” people can basically cover the work of the kingdom, missional churches know that there is always way too much work for one (or even some), but that all are engaged in the mission of God’s kingdom.  Bi-vocationalism is an automatic safe-guard against thinking the work is manageable when really it is totally unmanageable outside of all entering the fields to bring in the harvest.  Therefore, missional churches use another perceived weakness (lack of impact or results by a visible few) as a strength because the mustard seed is growing.

3) not because we battle outside, but within ourselves. This one gets tricky, but follows from #2.  Too often people, organizations, nations, and yes, churches, come to think that the battle is outside, that all those in must conform to a certain image or idea, and then move outward and attack (this happens even for laudable causes).  Many churches have implicitly or explicitly adopted this organization/operational structure, and even for those churches that haven’t it is a constant temptation perpetuated by full-time ministry.  But we must always remember that the battle is within our churches, and within ever leader (I referred to it before as a power addiction).  I’m reminded of the lyrics from U2’s “peace on earth”: “And you become a monster / So the monster will not break you.”  Ministerial bi-vocationalism is the necessary spiritual discipline to ward off this temptation toward consolidation, and not just spiritual discipline, but relational, financial, and temporal discipline befitting those on the front lines (which are never front but always shifting) of the missional battle. In this sense you don’t fight fire with fire.  We must creatively resist.

4) because the culture is already fighting a guerrilla style war against us. Advertising, opinion polls, new television shows, iPhone apps, American Apparel, and on and on it goes.  The culture is an ever evolving parasite on others beliefs and practices, always moving toward how to make a dollar off you, or spin something as propoganda.  So it is necessary for missional churches to be just as nimble and creative, culturally creative even.  In this way it is necessary to fight fire with fire, guerrilla warfare again guerrilla warfare.

5) not because the missional church is against formal leadership, but because we seek to form proper leadership. I will not spend as much time on this because de-centralized leadership has been a common enough theme, especially in regard to actual guerrilla warfare, cell groups, and house churches.

So, those are five reasons off the top of my head that missional bi-vocational ministry is not a cute lifestyle decision, or something that we try for a little while but then abandon, or a missional accessory that so like an others don’t.   But I truly believe that if the kingdom is to fruitfully gain ground in this post-Christian context that we must adopted strategies for the long run.  Anything less will perpetuate the stagnation of the American church.

(p.s. I know I could qualify this a little and mention all those in larger churches who are legitimately following God’s call in a full-time ministry and such [many whom I know and love]…but I prefer to just let this start out more black and white without fading everything to gray too quickly).

Being the Temple for the World, #4

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Here is the complete series: 1, 2, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6.

So we have talked about how Heaven and Earth are best thought as God’s Temple, and that God rests in his temple residence as the ruler of the cosmos.

This naturally leads us to ask, “Ok, so what does humanity have to do with all this?”

Good question. Glad you asked.  Answering this questions leads to an understanding of the nature/purpose of humanity, and then how this was lost and what salvation means (hint: salvation is re-gaining the presence of God).

Image and Likeness of God?

Theologians have debated forever what the image and likeness of God means: what makes us in the image/likeness of God? Is it our spirituality, our immortal soul, our rationality, our creativity? Well yes, but no.  Well, yes and no.

Yes, I believe all of these things are part of humanity in some sense and they inform what being in the image/likeness of God is.  But, as with our understanding of “creation” as focusing more on the function than the material, so too must we consider the function of humanity rather than its material (spirit, soul, body, mind).

Royal Image:

Our first understanding of “image” comes from the practices of rulers to place statues of themselves around their land to remind the inhabitants who is in charge.  The “image” of the ruler is an extension of his rule, marking out the boundaries of his kingdom.  In a sense, humanity serves as representatives of God.  And as God’s representatives God blesses humanity to be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:28).  As we will see, this “blessing” to be “fruitful” and “multiply” is key in understanding God’s call to Abraham and then Israel.

Cultic Image:

But in addition to this “royal image” we also need to think of the temple context of creation and the garden (something we have been arguing for throughout).

When people build temples for their gods they usually included an “idol” of the god, an “image” that was a representation of the god.  These would be placed in the holy places of the temple.  Of course people understood that they were not the gods themselves, but was a representation of the god.

So, if we are to think of Eden (and the cosmos as a whole) as a temple of God, made by God, then it is reasonable to think that God placed his own “image” in this temple.  Indeed, this is exactly what he has done in humanity, the original “image” or “idol” of God, serving in the temple of God.

Our Function?

Ok, so these are two essential aspects of what it means for humanity to be in the “image and likeness of God”, but still, what does that tell about our function.

In this sense, that humanity is made in the image of God means humanity is to express and extend God’s rule and reign as God’s representatives (royal image), and more intimately, humans are to be representations (cultic image) of God in the world.  Wherever we go God is meant to be seen and known.  This is why God blesses humanity and tells us to be fruitful and multiply.  In a sense, as humanity spreads out and cultivates the earth the living and walking image of God will expand and fill the earth so that God’s presence will likewise fill the earth.

The function of humanity means we are to be representative of God’s kingdom in the world, and more than that, we are actually representation of God

This sets the bar pretty high for what we were created to do.

Unfortunately Adam and Eve almost immediately fell from being a representative and representation of God in the world, and instead wanted to set up their own rule and kingdom (one separated from the word and work of God) (this is what Romans 5:17 tells us, that in Adam sin and death gained a kingdom).

But that is for the next post.

God’s Presence

To sum up, creation is best thought as a place for God’s presence in that it is structured like a cosmic temple, a place for God to rest and rule as his residence.  And humanity was meant to represent this presence of God in the world.

But all is broken now, with God’s presence known as partial and fleeting.  What is God going to do about it?  First he begins to creates a small scale place for his presence, which then turns into a person of his presence, and finally a people of his presence (overview is here).


Here is the complete series: 1, 2, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6.

Being the Temple for the World #3b

god-resting-on-7th-day-granger

Here is the complete series: 1, 2, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6.

(SNARK: I’m hoping to answer, “Everything you didn’t know you didn’t know about it about God resting.”)

Yesterday the post was getting long so I cut it off and will pick it up now (see this for the beginning of the series).

Yesterday we talked about “The Cosmic Temple of Creation: A Dwelling…”, in that heaven and earth were made to be a dwelling place for God to rest.  But what exactly does this means.

The Cosmic Temple of Creation: …For Resting (which is Productive)

If a temple is a place for a god’s dwelling and ruling, then this is what we need to understand by a god resting in a temple.  “Rest” is not a cessation of work, but a sitting down from all the preparatory work to engage in the real work of ruling.  Let me explain.

Rest from enemies

“Rest” in many texts indicate God giving Israel deliverance from their enemies.  When they come into the land they will have “rest” when their enemies have been defeated, and they no long have to worry about them. The “enemies” were making the kingdom disorder and unproductive

Joshua 21:44 (also Josh. 23:1)

And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their ancestors; not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands.

Deut. 12:10-11:  

When you cross over the Jordan and live in the land that the Lord your God is allotting to you, and when he gives you rest from your enemies all around so that you live in safety, then you shall bring everything that I command you to the place that the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his name: your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and your donations, and all your choice votive gifts that you vow to the Lord.

This second one is notable because after “rest” is achieved then they are to go to the place “God will choose as a dwelling” and worship there.  So we have “rest from enemies” linked with God’s “dwelling” in the land. Interesting.

Also, let us turn to a key passage in 2 Samuel 7:1-17.  There we hear that after God had given David “rest” from all his enemies, and David was settles in his house (a palace), David thought about building God a house (a temple).    This is important because it shows us what “rest” from enemies means.  In David’s “rest” (in his house) he didn’t do NOTHING. Rather he was active in the “rest” of his kingdom in a productive manner (desiring to build God a house).  Now that David’s kingdom was secure from external threats he was able to move toward more productive activities.  In a sense, David was now ruling his kingdom rather than just securing it.

God’s Resting Place

What does this mean, then, for Genesis 2:1-2 where it talks about God resting? We usually think this means God finished his work.  But is this the case?  Could it be that God was not read to start his work, the work of ruling the cosmos?

Before we get to this let’s look at Psalm 132: 7-8, 13-14.

7 “Let us go to his dwelling place,
let us worship at his footstool, saying,
8 ‘Arise, Lord, and come to your resting place,
you and the ark of your might.

13 For the Lord has chosen Zion,
he has desired it for his dwelling, saying,
14 “This is my resting place for ever and ever;
here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it.

John Walton (The Lost World of Genesis One, 73) breaks it down this way:

“Here the ‘dwelling place’ of God translates a term that describes the tabernacle and temple, and this is where his footstool (the ark) is located.  This also shows that the text is referring to his dwelling place as this throne roon and the place of his rule (because of the footstool).  I verse 8 the “footstool” is paralleled by the ark, and the temple (“dwelling place”) is paralleled with “resting place” (menuha). This demonstrates that the tmple is the place where he rests.  In verse 13 the text again refers to his dwelling in Zion, thus referring to the temple.  Then verse 14 uses “resting place” (menuha) again identifying it as the place where he is enthroned.  Thus, this Psalm pulls together the ideas of diving rest, temple and enthronement.  God’s “ceasing” (sabat) on the seventh day in Genesis 2:2 leads to his “rest” (nuha), associated with the seventh day in Exodus 20:11.  His “rest” is located in his “resting place” (menuha) in Psalm 132, which also identifies it as the temple from which he rules.  After creation, God takes up his rest and rules from his residence.”

There you have it.  God takes up his rest (the rest from a disorganized and unproductive state of the world in Gen. 1:2) inside the cosmic temple of creation so that God can now rule in his residence (which, again, is the temple—cosmos).

As Walton notes, “This is not new theology for the ancient world—this is what all peoples understood about their gods and their temples.”

Results

So, to sum up.

1) Creation in Genesis 1 and 2 is best thought of as God’s cosmic-temple in which God dwells and rules. In this temple heaven and earth are united because God’s presence is there.

2) “Resting” on the seventh day is not so much the ceasing of work but rather the ability to productively rule and reign.

So, God rested on the seventh day of creation not because he was tired, or ran out of things to do, nor as an example for us overworked people, but because he had finished organizing and giving purpose to a disorganized and unproductive world (in a sense he defeated the enemy).  And when God rested from this work it was so that God would enter into the productive work of ruling (enjoying) his creation. 

Our Rest?

So, to close this off, what does this mean for our own understanding of Sabbath Rest?  How does this change your ideas of what “rest” is?  How can your life be ordered for “rest” and what enemies to you need defeated so you can enter your “rest”?

Add your thoughts in the comments.


Here is the complete series: 1, 2, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6.

BEING THE TEMPLE FOR THE WORLD #3a

 

Here is the complete series: 1, 2, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6.

So I’m getting a little behind on writing up my class notes for “God With Us: Being the Temple for the World” at Life on the Vine.  Today I’ll be summarizing what we talked about two weeks ago.  Hopefully on Friday I’ll post what we did this week.

The overall goal of our class on Sundays (and these posts) asks, “If Jesus told us to pray ‘Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,’ are there other examples of heaven coming to earth? The answers will be definitely, YES.

Last time we talked about a different way to think about God creating in Genesis One by looking at the functions of created things rather than their materials.  We ended with the questions, “If creation has a function, then what is its overall purpose?”  I hinted that “Day Seven” held the key to this in regard to Divine Rest.

The Cosmic Temple of Creation: A Dwelling…

But before we come to God resting on the Seventh Day we have to ask about where God dwells, where God lives.

In the ancient Near East if you asked, “Where is your god?” they would point to a temple.  In one sense everyone knew the god does not actually lives in the temple like a material being, but in another sense, the god was especially available in the temple.  And not just this, but the god ruled its kingdom from the temple.  So the temple is a place of dwelling and ruling.

The question for us is this: Is creation itself thought of as God’s temple?

Creation: God’s Temple

Well before we turn to Genesis we hear God saying in Isaiah 66:1-2: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be?  2 Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” Heaven being a throne and earth being a footstool indicate the royal aspect of God’s dwelling place.  The allusion to a “house” always refers to a temple when in connection with God (we aren’t talking about a vacation home or anything).

And in Is. 6:3 we hear that the whole earth is full of God’s glory (the same glory that filled the tabernacle [Ex. 40:34] and temple [1 Kg 8:11]).  Given these and other passages it seems clear that heaven and earth, and therefore all of creation, is in some sense God’s temple where he dwells.

In the Garden of Eden we also see indications and allusions that God has created a temple.  Gregory Beale has summarized the material of his massive The Temple and the Church’s Mission in an article called “Eden, the Temple, and the Church’s Mission in the New Creation” (Download).  There Beale outlines how God walking in the Garden, the lights of the heavens, the flowing rivers, the vegetation, the eastward facing entrance, and many other examples are all aspects mirrored linguistically and structurally in the Jerusalem Temple and other temple visions.  This indicates that readers of Genesis 1 and 2 would have thought of creation/Eden as a temple-like place, full of God’s presence.

Creation: God’s Rest?

Lastly, when ancient readers see that God rested on the seventh day they would have immediately thought that everything preceding was a description of a temple-like structure because gods always rest in a temple.

That gods always rested in a temple is not something we would normally think of because in our post-industrial world we are so busy that when we think of rest we just thing of the ceasing of activity, so we can recharge and get ready for another burst of work.

But ancient readers would have known immediately that for God to rest means that he had taken up resident in his temple, and therefore the preceding 6 days refer to the creation, or more likely, the inauguration of his temple.  The number seven is especially associated with temple construction: Solomon took seven years to build it. Gathered the people on the seventh month to inaugurate it.  The celebrated it for seven days, and then seven more.

But to say that creation is temple-like still doesn’t exactly answer what this temple if for, and what the resting of God has to do with us.
That will be for the next post tomorrow.


Here is the complete series: 1, 2, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6.

The Practice of Living: All Saints Day

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Why do we run from death if death has been defeated? Why do we forget those who have gone before us and pretend that we have to go it alone?

All Saints Day is good for us here in America, in the West, where we are prone to ignore death and live alone.

All Saints Day breaks through our willed ignorance of death and our own myopic isolation.

All Saints Day is the day we remember the great cloud of witnesses that has gone before us by remember that the Church of Christ is much bigger than just those we see day to day, and it has lasted much longer than our own local extension of Christ’s Body.

Death has been Defeated

We must come to remember death instead of ignoring it, and for getting about those who has passed before us. But we must also remember that death has been defeated.

Much like Ash Wednesday, All Saints Day helps us remember that from dust we have been taken and to dust we will return. And yet the accent on All Saints Day is on the Church Triumphant, raised in Christ, the one who has overcome the grave and stolen death’s sting.

It is a day to remember and rejoice the lives of our friends and family who have died before us and sleep in Christ.

Here at Life on the Vine we spend the hour before our service bringing pictures and sharing stories of our loved ones who have gone on before us. And these pictures then stayed around our altar as we worshipped and shared the Communion of Christ together in the main service.

The Great Community

All Saints Day helps us remember the community of faith who have gone before us. It helps us remember that we are not alone, in this time and place, but that Christ’s church, the community of faith, is much bigger and longer than we often think.

all saintsFor we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses (Heb. 12), a great cloud of the faithful from all ages, whose lives speak of God’s great love, whose lives tell of God’s great work, whose lives continue to spur us on to love and good work.

In a long but good prayer our liturgist led us in remembering the Saint from the early church, from all continents, and all tribes, and all peoples who bear witness to the risen Christ.

Not the End

Let us remember that “This is not the End”, for the story goes on, “further up and further in.”

How have you celebrated All Saints Day in churches and traditions?

 

Evangelism in the Missional Church: Nov. 7-8

Evangelism in the Missional Church:
How the Kingdom Breaks in Among Us

178869NOVEMBER, 7TH-8TH

This year’s Missional Learning Commons will focus on the oft forgotten member of the 5-fold gifts for the church (Eph. 5): the Evangelists.

While the Attractional Church focuses mostly on Pastors and Teachers, the Missional Church often gravitates toward the Apostles and Prophets.

But what of the Evangelists?

On Nov. 7th and 8th we will focus our attention on the Practices of Proclamation & Presence as we seek the Kingdom of God among us in personal spaces, social spaces, and public spaces.  

MORE DETAILS TO COME SOON

Add a comment below if you want to be added to the email list,
and/or subscribe to the posts here for all the new information.

SCHEDULE:

Friday, Nov. 7th (7:30-9:00pm)
Saturday, Nov. 8th (8:30am-3:00pm)

REGISTRATION (here): 

Registration will include a catered lunch on Saturday as well as childcare on Satuday for those who need it.

LOCATION:

The Commons of Peace of Christ Community Church in Westmont, IL.

The poor you will always have with you.

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For the poor you will always have with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish:
but you will not always have me. (Mark 14:7) 

From crude realism to hopeless resignation, this quote from Jesus is confusing at best and disheartening at worst.

What? So poverty and inequality are just a fact of life?  Things really aren’t going to change?  In Kingdom of God is really so ineffectual?

But Nicholas Perrin has helped me see a different perspective on this saying that revolutionized how I read it and how we should see the vocation of the church (in his excellent Jesus the Temple).

Counter-Temple Movement

Perrin understands Jesus and his movement as a “counter-temple movement”, and by counter-temple he doesn’t mean against the temple all together, but against the current sinful administration of the temple.  Jesus is against the temple as it is because it isn’t participating in and pointing toward the true eschatological temple to come (Ez. 37:26-27).  Jesus was seeking to establish a true and living temple centered on himself and his movement outside the jurisdiction of the current temple establishment (just think of the temple sayings and activities of Jesus and the temple imagery applied to the early church… I’ll post on this more latter).

In light of this, part of what it would mean to establish the true temple would be to instituted the jubilee practice of forgiving debts (Deut. 15:7-15; Lev. 25), an action that was supposed to be regulated by the priests through the temple treasury, which rarely, if ever, happened.

Jesus and his movement, through living with and as the poor, and as those who attempted to be a clearinghouse for the redistribution of wealth, was in fact functioning like the temple as it was supposed to.

“The Poor You Will Always Have With You”

So when Jesus says, “The poor you will always have with you” he isn’t making a broad social observation about the current and future state of the world, certainly not one based in crude realism (as if he were saying, “There just is and always will be poverty in the world.”)  Rather, he is naming part of the inherent calling and purpose of his movement: “You will always have the poor with you because you will be the place that poverty is being overcome through the alternative economy of grace as the new temple”. 

Jesus is really naming a vocation for the church, not a reality in the world.

The church will have the poor because part of being the church is being with the poor.  If the church is not with and among the poor it is in danger of encountering the prophetic critique of Jesus himself through his Spirit, the same critiques he directed toward the temple establishment of his time.

The Work is With

This could mean all sorts of things for a local congregation: working in homeless shelters, educational programs, debt relief, or other practices of living an alternative, Kingdom-economy.

But we must remember this vocation is not just for the poor, it is with the poor.  This is not a vocation from a distance, but a work that is with the people.

Is your local church with the poor in some tangible way that makes sense in your community? If not, then perhaps you are not being built into the temple of God’s dwelling, a place in which God dwells among the fatherless and the widow, the downtrodden and the poor.

On Being the Head

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Cyd, my wonderful wife, was asked to talk about being a pastor by a friend teaching “Issues for Men and Women in Ministry” at a local Christian College.

And beyond being her being a pastor, she wanted to me share my thoughts about us both being pastors and  how you marriage works.
Basically, she said, “Since you are my head, what do you want to tell these guys about headship.”  You see, we believe in male headship in marriage amid equality of gifts and callings in the church (I know, confusing. But that is for another post).

This is what I quickly wrote up for her to 


Being the head of the family, the head of my wife is
not glamorous.read
.

It means “being the first to die“, because as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her, so you husbands should giving yourself up for your wives (Eph. 5:21-33).

 

You die first to your needs or desires in the moment, to needing to be right or understood. You die first by apologizing first and asking for forgiveness first, even if she doesn’t reciprocate.

 

Being the head is a multitude of little things, not a couple of big things: empty the dishwasher without being asked twice, offer to do the laundry, take the kids away for a couple hours, do the things you promise to do.

 

Being the head is more about not being afraid of hard conversations instead of just making hard decisions.

 

And as Christ died so that his church could live, husbands in all things should be flourishing life in thier wives, instead of just letting thier wifes give themselves up for the needs of the family (hello, that is pretty selfish).

 

So, if everything you are doing right now is directed toward flourishing your wife, then you are being an excellent head.