a rant by a runt about the american church, part 11 (final)
Thursday December 15th 2005, 8:45 pm
Filed under: church

important preliminary comments here (part 1)
our american identity here (part 2)
my framing theological assumption here (part 3)
the unfortunate results of being reactors here (part 4)
the unfortunate results of being simplifiers here (part 5)
the unfortunate results of being systemitizers here (part 6)
the unfortunate results of being highly individualistic here (part 7)
the unfortunate results of being overstaters here (part 8)
the unfortunate results of being enamoured of BIG here (part 9)
a few things we can learn from the church in other countries here (part 10)

to wrap up this ‘rant from a runt’, i’d like to talk about values. when ys began our process of reinvention 18 months ago, the first thing we addressed (really, the thing that brought about the change process) was a hard look at our organzational values. we identified a massive list of spoken and unspoken values, positive and negative. then we began the group process of creating two lists: re-affirmed values (values that had been part of the history of ys that needed to be kept close to the center of the radar through the change process), and new values. the new values were, primarily, positive restatements of some of the negative (unspoken) values we’d identified. there were six to start with, and we knew it would be a fluid list. since then, we have modified that list two or three times; but these new values have been one of the primary ‘compass arrows’ we’ve used during this shifting time of change.

in that spirit, i’d like to toss out four ‘new values’ for the american church. none of these will come as any surprise to anyone who’s read this whole series, or my blog in general, as they’re very subjectively mine. the crazy-absurd mental image i have is of a collection of the key leaders of the pop-culture church in america gathering together and stacking hands on these. ha.

i’m also hoping that these will foster further suggestions from many of you — in the comments section, and on your own blogs.

exploration is good.
we’ve retreated into a corner. or more accurately, we’ve retreated into dozens of corners, drawing our lines of demarkation and differentiation. we’ve swung the pendulum so many times and reacted so often and spoken (and written) in hyperbole so often and built our simplified systems so strongly that we no longer even know where our pith helmets are kept. entrenchment never got the church anywhere, and we’re fools if we think it will get us anywhere this time. exploring new ideas, new models, new assumptions, and (gasp) new theology doesn’t require a blind leap onto the slippery slope. exploration can be a wonderful and wild adventure — albeit, with risks. but the risks are one part of what makes the exploration valuable, moving us out of our comfort zones and into the wilderness of mystery, new possibility, deeper understanding, and full living. the kingdom of god isn’t behind our lines, it’s OUT THERE!

questions are (often) better than answers.
i’ve harped on this long and hard in the past, and taken lots of shots for it. and i’ve even softened it a tiny with with that parenthetical ‘often’, replacing my earlier ‘always’. full disclosure: my ‘always’ was my own characteristic overstatement. that said, i still long for the pop-culture church to embrace the value of questions. our security as believers is in the person of jesus christ, not the answers we posit. yes, yes, answers have value. i needed an answer yesterday about why my tire was leaking air, not a question. but — OH! — that the church would find joy in wrestling, in dialogue, in finding where we were wrong. i dream of a day like that.

let’s stack one hand in the middle and reach out with the other, rather than using both arms to create an impenetrable, exclusive circle.
i was first introduced to the idea of bounded sets and centered sets by tony jones, and have since read about it quite a few places. it’s been developed extensively in frost and hirsch’s book, the shaping of things to come. rather than restating, in my own dumb words, some of the great stuff that’s been written recently (please do read frost and hirsch’s book, btw), here are a few helpful links:
andrew jones’ reflections
helpful stuff from nextreformation.com
more helpful stuff from next reformation.com

we should demand that all christ-followers excise war metaphors as well as all us/them language.
ok, so maybe the first is possible, and the second is only partially possible. on war metaphors: yes, i understand they’re all over the bible. but that wording was to a people who were constantly under siege, constantly in literal battle. but these war metaphors (“a soldier for Jesus”, “let’s take this campus for Christ”, “the battle is raging”), used today, have all kinds of lousy side-effects:
in evangelism: they lead to a conquest mentality that is so contrary to the loving gospel of jesus
in cultural engagement: they draw the line in the sand, creating a false us/them dichotemy, giving the illusion that ‘we’ have all truth and ‘they’ have no truth. this creates a lose/lose for both sides of the stupid line.
in spirituality: these metaphors often lead to an obsession with evil, at the expense of resting in the power of the holy spirit

on us/them language: i realize we can’t completely excise this from our language. there’s a certain amount that’s normal and even necessary, linguistically. it’s just become too much of our focus. i’d love to tell you i’m stacking hands (in youth ministry-land) with tony jones and ron luce and josh mcdowell and jeanne mayo and chris hill and kenda dean. i’d love to see spend more time acknowedging what we share than deliniating what we don’t share. geez, i’m starting to sound like a miss american contestant, huh?

ok — so that’s my rant. thanks for joining me on this little journey through my pet-peeves about the american church i love!

next up in this series: nothin’!

6 Comments so far
Leave a comment

It was 2am, and in my insomnia, I was trying to think of what you said regarding the war terminology… And there it is :) It just seems so linear- students hear enough about violence anyway.

Comment by brittany 12.15.05 @ 9:00 pm

Great series, and I find that I resonate with much of this.

I’ll be linking this weekend to you on my Blogs of the Week for your “margin” post. Whatever that means.

Comment by Scot McKnight 12.16.05 @ 11:32 am

Those diagrams look MUCH better in “The Four Spiritual Laws” booklet.

Seriously, I liked your rant a lot. Thanks.

Comment by Donna 12.16.05 @ 5:19 pm

Thanks again for a great series. I need a few days to process, then maybe I’ll trackback a post on my site.

Comment by Chris Marsden 12.16.05 @ 5:23 pm

Marko mate,

Well said. Much of what you’ve said here translates almost exactly to the UK situation. To be a right-on christian seems to mean ticking the right theological boxes, reading the right books, attending the right conferences, doing the right kinds of worship, watching the right kind of christian telly, wearing the right jewellery etc, etc, etc.

I *think* this is something particularly encouraged by evangelicalism - still a major force in the UK, though maybe in different ways to the USA - which seems to create a complete christian subculture which is fast becoming all-emcompassing. Conversely this also creates a kind of fragmentation whereby those who do not ‘buy’ into one or more aspects of the accepted ‘norm’ are ignored or villified or both.

The result is the largest bunch of christian young people have no relationship with anyone from another age group nor from any other christian subculture outside of the narrow confines of their own.

Moreover, as church becomes increasingly polarised and people are pushed into more and more extreme positions, they have less and less in common with others within the Church corporate.

Anyone within any of the established ecclesiastical structures suggesting that things can be done slightly differently becomes a threat.

I don’t think the internet helps in this - we have more access to communication with people we agree with and thus find even less reason to associate with anyone local to our own situation.

So we come to the ultimate in overstatements. The rich and the young, with access to the great counter-cultural communication schemes actively destroy it. The poor and the old with no access to it stay put and build community.


Comment by joeturner 12.17.05 @ 6:30 pm

[…] s some issues…which I think Marko dealt with, albeit longwindedly , very accurately here. There seems to be pockets of places where there is a cry to expand the rational to include the experiencial […]

Pingback by the G sides » What Are We Doing Well? 01.21.06 @ 1:18 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment
Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: