“These are people [a group of more than 20 million adults, as of Oct 2005, throughout the nation labeled ‘revolutionaries’] who are less interested in attending church than in being the church,” Barna explained. “We found that there is a significant distinction in the minds of many people between the local church – with a small ‘c’ – and the universal Church – with a capital ‘C’. Revolutionaries tend to be more focused on being the Church, capital C, whether they participate in a congregational church or not.

“One of the most eye-opening portions of the research contained in the book describes what the faith community may look like twenty years from now. Using survey data and other cultural indicators he has been measuring for more than two decades, Barna estimates that the local church is presently the primary form of faith experience and expression for about two-thirds of the nation’s adults. He projects that by 2025 the local church will lose roughly half of its current “market share” and that alternative forms of faith experience and expression will pick up the slack. Importantly, Barna’s studies do not suggest that most people will drop out of a local church to simply ignore spirituality or be freed up from the demands of church life. Although there will be millions of people who abandon the entire faith community for the usual reasons -hurtful experiences in churches, lack of interest in spiritual matters, prioritizing other dimensions of their life – a growing percentage of church dropouts will be those who leave a local church in order to intentionally increase their focus on faith and to relate to God through different means.

“That growth is fueling alternative forms of organized spirituality, as well as individualized faith experience and expression. Examples of these new approaches include involvement in a house church, participation in marketplace ministries, use of the Internet to satisfy various faith-related needs or interests, and the development of unique and intense connections with other people who are deeply committed to their pursuit of God.

“…The consequence is that millions of committed born again Christians are choosing to advance their relationship with God by finding avenues of growth and service apart from a local church.

“Asked if this meant that the Revolution he describes is simply a negative reaction to the local church, he suggested that most Revolutionaries go through predictable phases in their spiritual journey in which they initially become dissatisfied with their local church experience, then attempt to change things so their faith walk can be more fruitful. The result is that they undergo heightened frustration over the inability to introduce positive change, which leads them to drop out of the local church altogether, often in anger. But because this entire adventure was instigated by their love for God and their desire to honor Him more fully, they finally transcend their frustration and anger by creating a series of connections that allow them to stay close to God and other believers without involvement in a local church.

“…Our studies persuasively indicate that the vast majority of American churches are populated by people who are lukewarm spiritually. Emerging from those churches are people dedicated to becoming Christ-like through the guidance of a congregational form of the church, but who will leave that faith center if it does not further such a commitment to God. They then find or create alternatives that allow that commitment to flourish.

“…’Having been personally frustrated by the local church, I initiated several research projects to better understand what other frustrated followers of Christ were doing to maintain their spiritual edge. What emerged was a realization that there is a large and rapidly-growing population of Christ-followers who are truly want to be like the church we read about in the book of Acts. We began tracking their spiritual activity and found that it is much more robust and significant than we ever imagined – and, frankly, more defensible than what emerges from the average Christian church. But, because the Revolution is neither organized nor designed to create an institutional presence, it typically goes undetected.’ ”
read more …

More and more I am realizing that I do not ‘attend church’ for spiritual formation. I can find teachings, systematic or otherwise, from gifted teachers on line. I do not go for the corporate singing. Although I enjoy it, I do not find it to be where I have my intimate times of worship. Besides, I am in the process of trying to make my whole life a life of perpetual worship. And I do not go for ‘fellowship’. (Q. where else other than ‘church’ is this word used?) Though I do have friends there, they are Sunday morning friends and if I moved away or started attending somewhere else, that friendship, for the most part, would end. This is neither right nor wrong, it is just the reality of life. Truly, you can only really have strong, intimate friendship with a handful of people and in my case, most of those intimate friends do not attend my ‘church’, and those that do, that friendship is not developed on Sunday morning.

So why do I ‘attend church’? I have come to the conclusion that, for the most part, it is out of religious duty.

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Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort provided by love, any fellowship in the Spirit, any affection or mercy, complete my joy and be of the same mind, by having the same love, being united in spirit, and having one purpose. Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself. Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well. You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had, who

though he existed in the form of God
did not regard equality with God
as something to be grasped,
but emptied himself
by taking on the form of a slave,
by looking like other men,
and by sharing in human nature.
He humbled himself,
by becoming obedient to the point of death
— even death on a cross!
As a result God exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee will bow
— in heaven and on earth and under the earth —
and every tongue confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord
to the glory of God the Father.

so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God without blemish though you live in a crooked and perverse society, in which you shine as lights in the world by holding on to the word of life so that on the day of Christ I will have a reason to boast that I did not run in vain nor labor in vain. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice together with all of you. And in the same way you also should be glad and rejoice together with me.
(Philippians 2:1-18)

Daddy, I live in a crooked and perverse society. One that rewards the rich and ignores the poor. One whose god is commerce and capitalism, greed and selfless desires. Even as the sin of our nations is coming home to roost, your heart is to bless and not to curse. And what a blessing you have, that even as we lose all our worldly wealth, though our economy dries up, though industry packs it in and leaves us high and dry, even in this you will dwell with us and daily you meet our needs.

I pray that you will help me, and those that walk with me, to understand your love beyond measure. That though Jesus was clothed with glory, he emptied himself and met us where we lived. So, as his body, help us empty ourselves of our selfish ambition and vanity, those privileges rightfully ours as sons and heirs of the living God. I don’t pray for worldly blessings but ‘to be content in all circumstance’ and to be your incarnational blessing to the world around me.

AMEN

Missional expression can grow out of the current church, but it is not limited the the current church. The missional agenda literally just requires that Jesus followers live missionally. People currently immersed in nonmissional religious church systems can begin to practice missional Christianity. Some are keeping their church membership or even their leadership roles while they are making the transition. Some do not choose that path. They are creating other ways of living their faith, some in missional communities and others in marketplace expression. Some serve as missionaries to the church as part of the wooing strategy of God. While those prophetic messengers are often viewed as threatening (to those who should be threatened), they are another sign of God’s grace in restoring his people to their rightful covenantal relationship with him and his intention to continue working through his church to prosecute his redemptive mission in the world.

McNeal, Reggie. Missional Renaissance: Changing the Scorecard for the CHURCH. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2009. p. 38″

To those of you who have chosen the marketplace route – Blessings and peace. Do not let the institution discourage you. Keep doing what you have been called to do and pray for the rest of us.

To those in the institution: Please do not think that the fact that some may leave and pursue missional practices in a non institutional manner is an inditement against you. If anything it is against the broken system. As such, pray for them as the fore runners they are!

There is a three pronged impact on Christianity evident in today’s society. They are distinct and yet overlapping. They have to do with structure and form, purpose, and theology.

House Church/ Un-Church

If any of you reading this have followed any of my notes, you will know that this is a hot topic. The Barna research group have said that we are in a time of migration out of the institutional church into a more organic form of Christianity.

1) Leadership Hierarchy is flattening out; the clergy/ laity split is dissolving.
2) Believer gatherings are becoming smaller, and though some house churches are mere duplications of the institutional church, many others are taking open participation to a new level.

Un-Churched people, on the other hand, believe that community just happens. It does not need human organization, rather God is responsible for guiding the believer into relationships that He wants the believers to develop – be it with other believers or non-believers. The emphasis for these people is to remain in Christ and to be obedient to His daily leading.

Of course there is the possibility of losing contact with some Christian fellowship, but the fellowship that does occur is claimed to be deeper and have more meaning then the average Christian fellowship within the institution. My caveat is that in the new testament, the letters were written to the whole body and individual believers were addresses through the body. My caveat is not just to the un-churched believer but the the institution. Communication has been greatly enhanced in the information age so the un-churched believer will know what God is doing in the greater community. But the greater community may not include house churches or the un-churched in their mindset of the Body.

Missional vs Attractional Movement

Missional vs Attractional is far more than just ministry emphasis. They are ways of being.

Attractional: the goal of attractional is to get the un-believers into christian community. It is a ‘come to us’ mentality.

Missional: living an incarnational life. Our Christianity is lived out in the world.

Scenario 1: Coffee Shop Ministry
An attractional church will create a coffee shop, either in the church building or in another facility, in order to minister to unbelievers. Even if they have a coffee shop in a public facility, for the period of time that they are doing the coffee shop ministry, they convert the public space into a sacred space. Even in the most benign environment, they are still either excepting the people to come to them to be ministered, or they enter the unbelievers space to strike up conversations in order to get the person to come back to the believers space.

Missional believers would not have their own coffee shop, they would attend an unbeliever’s coffee shop. They do not go with the agenda of planting seeds to get the nonbeliever to come back to the Christian’s space but to bless and serve. They are witnesses. As such they live Christ and let the Holy Spirit work His purpose in the lives of the non-believer. This in no way means that there is no talk about God stuff, but it comes through relationship and by the invitation of the unbeliever and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Scenario 2: Soup Kitchen
The attractional model of the soup kitchen is to build one yourself, or to have your church take over serving at a local one. The missional response would be to only work at one that already exists, preferably one not run by a Christian organization, and only go in small numbers. This spreads out the influence – instead of a team of ten taking over once a week, teams of two go out and therefore there is the influence there five days a week.

The idea of being missional is like a virus that spreads throughout the community rather than being like a caner that is more noticeable because the cells stick together.

Here are two of the best videos on missional teaching that I have heard:

Emerging Theology

The idea here is that theology is worked out in every generation and is formed for that generation according the their context.

-Paul’s theology was the result of working out the Jewish message in a gentile context.
– Augustine’s theology is a result of his struggle to balance Neo-Platonism with his conversion to Christianity.
– Since the time of Augustine, theologians have taken the greco-roman god of Christianity and reinterpreted this in their context. So Calvin and Luther took Augistinian theology and translated it for their context.

As a result of Augustine’s struggle and the resultant struggle in the middle ages to marry greco-roman philosophies with Christianity, our current theologies are heavily reliant on a non Hebraic philosophical system. The emerging theologians today are wrestling with what this means for our understanding about God. This is not to say that Augustine’s theology should be nonchalantly discarded, but it needs to be understood within the context of the neo-Platonism that is was formed.

The Greek philosophy of Aristotle, Plato and Socrates viewed God as an abstract force that lived apart from humanity in a state of divine purity. The Hebrews viewed God as One who got his hands dirty. He is a creator God very much tied to His creation and His creation tied to him. He was an active and present God not a god removed from the concerns of humanity. This God lived in the midst of his people not out there somewhere.

There is a large number of theologians, and if you have any thought about God you can consider yourself a theologian, that hold to the idea that theology is not static by dynamic. We can only understand God through our own human wisdom and understanding. And so, as human wisdom and understanding changes, our understanding about God must change. Some truths are not universal but cultural. Other truths are grounded firmly in God, but as God is so big, from our human perspective those truths seem to move and we have to wrestle what it means to us today.

There are other grand approaches to theology, that to our greco-roman saturated understanding deems to be heretical:
Process Theology:
God is not omnipotent in the sense of being coercive. The divine has a power of persuasion rather than coercion.
The universe is characterized by process and change carried out by the agents of free will.
Because God interacts with the changing universe, God is changeable (that is to say, God is affected by the actions that take place in the universe) over the course of time. However, the abstract elements of God (goodness, wisdom, etc.) remain eternally solid.

Open Theism:
Openness is based on God as the Living God. The five most fundamental attributes of God are that He is Living, Personal, Relational, Good, and Loving. These faithfully represent God the way that Scripture presents Him, and starkly contrast with the Greek and Roman philosophical construction of God.

All that I can honestly say about such theologies is that they may be closer to the ancient Hebraic concepts of God. I have not studied these ideas much and what I have read have challenged my current beliefs.

My theology has changed greatly in the last year or so. The change that has had the greatest effect on my life is that of the atonement. I no longer hold to the idea of substitution atonement. My views on ‘original sin’ [a neo-Platonism ‘doctrine’ incorporated into Christian doctrine by Augustine], nature of man, work of atonement came to a more harmonious view with in the love of God after many months of wrestling and inner turmoil. I realize that this puts me outside of the ‘orthodox’ of the evangelical and charismatic flavours of Christendom, but my views are in no way un-orthodox with much of church history.

I leave you with a quote from one last video that I feel sums up the attitude of much of the desire of wrestling with God in regards to theology.

“You don’t experience birth, birth is what allows you to experience.
I don’t experience life, its life that allows me to experience.
I don’t see the light in this room, it is the light that allows me to see.
in the same way
Christianity is not something that you can grasp, its what changes how you grasp everything.
So God doesn’t enter the world as an object that I can talk about, God is what changes how I interact with all objects,
God is that which transforms my experience, so that I become like Christ.
So that mean that I can not talk about God and pin him down absolutely, I can use some words, But God is somebody who makes me look like Christ and act like Christ”

Peter Rollin

Last week, March 10 2009, Rick Joyner released a statement regarding the restoration of Todd Bentley. Don’t get me wrong, I am not against Todd the man, however, this restoration continues to sours me to the whole charismatic, prophetic, and apostolic movements within the greater charismatic movement. I cannot put it any better than J. Lee Grady editor of Charisma magazine.

First of all, it is outrageous that Shonnah Bentley, Todd’s first wife, does not seem to be an issue in the current discussion. Her name is never mentioned in Joyner’s statement—while Todd is mentioned 18 times. We are never told how Shonnah is handling the divorce. How will she manage to care for the three children she and Todd share? She and the kids seem invisible in this process. Yet if anyone needs healing and restoration, is it not the other half of this broken family?

Second, we charismatics still seem to have a habit of elevating gifting above character. It’s almost as if the end justifies the means. (So what if a preacher ruins one marriage and makes a hasty decision to marry a younger woman—the important thing is that we get him back in the pulpit to heal the sick!) That is a perversion of biblical integrity. God can anoint any man or woman with the Holy Spirit’s power; what He is looking for are vessels of honor that can carry that anointing with dignity, humility and purity.

We have not mourned this travesty. We have not been shocked and appalled that such sin has been named among us. We act as if flippant divorce and remarriage are minor infractions—when in actuality they are such serious moral failures that they can bring disqualification.

In the original announcement, Todd makes a statement that I feel both lacks true remorse and subtly removes responsibility from his plate:

I am sorry for the hurt and confusion that my decisions have caused the body of Christ.

I apologize that it has ended in divorce, and I take full responsibility for my part for the ending of the marriage.

These statements have a hollow ring to me. He is sorry for our reaction? And he says that it was not his fault but his decisions fault. And then he apologizes for his part in the ended marriage? Subtly shifting blame to Shonnan, not that she may not have guilt, but this is a classic “shifting blame away from me” move. I am not making a judgment here, maybe he really is remorseful and not just sorry he got caught, however, it just doesn’t sit right with me.

Finally, Rick Joyner responded:

I am deeply offended that you would call our work “a travesty.” The Lord had far more grace for sinners than for the self-righteous, who He had no grace for at all. I am personally far more concerned for you than for Todd.

Jesus has grace for sinners, however, Todd is not a sinner, he is a leader that was living a life style of sin. He was a self-righteous hypocrite, living a white washed lie. The problem was not just his lifestyle, his ministry had a lot of questionable issues about it. When people spoke out, they were often accused of “touching the Lord’s anointed”. This is a scripture that has been brutally slaughtered in order to prevent leaders from coming under scrutiny. This verse is God speaking to the nations around Israel and has nothing to do with the people of God judging those claiming to be speaking or doing the things of God.

Rick Joyner’s response is the typical crap that is used to cover up having to answer to people that are in fact testing the spirit.

Should Todd be restored? That’s not for me to answer. I’m just perturbed that this was not seen as an opportunity to clean up some of the garbage that has been collecting in the charismatic household.

This list in it’s original unedited format is found in a blog post called Values of Organic Christianity.

The Kingdom of God

  • Emphasis as Christians should be on building the kingdom, not a church, or even “The Church.”
  • Allegiance within groups and networks is to the King, not to the leadership within those groups and networks.

Ministry

  • Ministry should be allowed to flow naturally, both during any gathering and in everyday life. It should not be viewed as an event that must be scheduled, but one that occurs as directed by the Holy Spirit.
  • Ministry is the right and function of all believers, not of a select class or group and certainly not the exclusive function of the leadership.

Leadership and Accountability

  • Leadership within each group of believers and across the wider networks should be recognized and based on character and their example rather than a title or office.
  • The primary purpose of leadership is to promote the spiritual growth of each believer so that every believer’s ministry to others can be stronger and more effective.
  • Leadership is fluid, overlapping and never exclusive.
  • Accountability, pastoring, teaching and encouraging should happen naturally as a result of the relationships between believers, not because of a specific job description of those with the proper ministry “credentials.”

Structure

  • Structure, organization and hierarchy needs to be limited to however much is needed to accomplish a specific task or mission and then be dissolved afterwards.
  • Teaching should be facilitated in the context of discussion and dialogue. Dissent and disagreement should be allowed.
  • Programs should be de-emphasized and replaced with a dependency on the “behind-the-scenes” working of the Holy Spirit through obedient believers.
  • Programs that exist should be temporary for single or special events. Generic programs are less effective then specific ones.
    [Take a food bank for example. Setting up a food bank does a number of things. It separates individuals from responsibility of getting their hands dirty actually helping flesh and blood. I drop off canned goods every other week and I can check off helping the hungry. If the food bank were to end, we could help real needs of real people as they come to us for aid. Leaders could then take the opportunity to lead by example by getting together shoulder to shoulder with a weaker brother and getting their hands dirty and meeting a real need. ]
  • Quality rather than quantity should be used as a determination of success.
  • Gatherings should be allowed to be preempted in favor of activities that satisfy Christian responsibilities to the poor and needy, both domestically and globally.

Finances and Giving

  • Expenses of single-purpose buildings for use by the church should be foregone in favor of simpler gathering spots, such as homes, offices, restaurants or any places not requiring regular rent payments.
  • Expenses to support staff for the purpose of ministry should be minimized in favor of volunteers and/or simpler programs.
  • Believers should be encouraged to give of their time and monetary resources, both collectively and individually, to those activities advocated by Christ, such as meeting the needs of poor and persecuted believers and the weaker, needier members of society.
  • Tithing is old covenant and should be foregone in favor of the new covenant sacrificial giving. Tithing is a necessary evil that re-arose as a result of the new covenant believers depending more and more on expensive structural facilities and structured programs rather then on the Holy Spirit.

Dissolution of Denominational Distinctives

  • Belief in Christ as the Son of God should form the foundation for unity rather than mental conformity to a set of doctrines. Agreement and conformity should not be prerequisites for acceptance into a group or networks of believers.

____________________________________________

“Truth is unkillable.” – Balthasar Hübmaier, a flaming heretic in 1528.
“Churches are not the destination, they are the connector. People are to be passing through church on their way to life.”
Reggie McNeal, Missional Renaissance: Changing the Scorecard for the Church.

I heard it said once that we have church and missions mixed up. We attend church every week, sometimes 2 or 3 times a week. And once a year, or once a decade, or once a lifetime we go out on a missions trip. In reality, we should be doing missions daily and once a year go on a church retreat! The truth is, we feel that we need to be in church every week just so that we can make it through another week at the office. What a sad testimony of the power of the Holy Spirit!

Missions should be our reality. Sure we should be getting together with other believers regularly to have a meal [Lord’s supper] and edify one another. But, we have put too much emphasis on church and not enough on the kingdom. “How can I serve the church? Sunday school? ushering? …”, “How can the church bless me?”

Rather, our emphasis should be on how do I bless the people around me every day? Who is it that needs a glass of water? Who can I clothe? In this, our job is not to be evangelists but to be witnesses. And whats the difference? Witnesses do not ask questions, they answer questions, and only the questions that they have been asked.

Now a good barometer of how well we are looking at the church through kingdom eyes, rather that looking at the kingdom through church eyes, is the church budget. How much are we spending on buildings, salaries, internal programs and other bureaucratic needs, versus how much are we spending on feeding the poor and clothing the naked?

Even if 10% is given to missions, only a fraction of that gets to the people that really need it! In most churches, 80-95% of the budget goes to maintaining or feeding the machine. We are so self centered, that we think monies going to departments (worship, media, men’s, women’s and youth) is money going to missions. Church programs are self gratifying and is not kingdom spending, though it is required spending in order to allow the institutional machinery to keep running.

In N. America, hundreds of billions of dollars is spent internally within the institutions each year. Only a fraction of what is spent on our self is spent on the needy by the church budget. In the world, billions of dollars was donated to charity by Bono, Gates and a few others alone!

How well are we really doing at stewarding the finances that goes through the institution? You cannot tell me that there is nothing wrong with the institutional christian machinery!

The people of God spend much more themselves, I am not trying to say that Christians are cheep, but the the institution is broken. I believe that Christians are more generous then the average person, however, that does not mean that the charities they donate to are good stewards of the money that comes in to their coffers – and this includes the church.