God told His people to go out and impact culture, announcing and revealing His Kingdom.

Instead, we went out and built a culture and called it His kingdom.
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What do you think?
(note: this is not an invitation to call anyone away from a local congragation!)

St. Paul wrote, “When I was a child, I thought as a child…” And he’s right.

We may want to believe that this isn’t the case — that we have always had a homogeneous consistent world-view — but it’s simply impossible.

Reality isn’t monolithic.

Reality — as much as we might crave for it to be otherwise — isn’t fixed.

We often come to new understandings.

And once we come to new understandings, we can’t go back to our old, comfortable ways of thinking.

It’s amazing how often we all willfully pretend otherwise — we continue to associate with people and engage in activities that we know are no longer beneficial to us, purely for nostalgia’s sake.

Rabbi Brian

I listened to a few interviews on the Drew Marshall Show where Drew asked the more traditional guest where they had made or realized change over the course of living out their faith. The answer more often then not was, “They haven’t changed. ” I find this amazing. Christian faith and orthodoxy has been changing ever since the first few decades after Jesus’ death and resurrection and yet they are content to continue thinking as they always have.

If we are Christians that want to be faithful to the historic orthodox and creed’s, at the very lest we would need to become Orthodox. However, this would only bring us back to the fourth century.

There are historical Popes that would be declared Heretics today by the standards of the Catholic  Church itself, let alone the Orthodox or Protestant Church. If our faith is not growing; if our theology is not progressing, then we are still acting and thinking like children. This is why I am content to align myself with the Emergent Church- even if I don’t know what that means and even if I do not agree with everything they/I believe.

We are Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians who have united at this hour to reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in defending them. These truths are:

  1. the sanctity of human life
  2. the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife
  3. the rights of conscience and religious liberty.

Manhattan Declaration

Although I have yet to read the complete document, what I have heard seems positive. I have seen the typical reactions: conservative right labeling it as anti-christian and the liberal left, well basically ignoring it. The majority in the center – Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians – at least seem to be entering into a dialogue over this. That can only be a good thing.

Here are a few posts that I found interesting:

The ultra-conservatives booed it down, mainly because of the presence of the Catholics and Orthodox or assuming it was a statement about the gospel. Steve Camp called it the “New Downgrade and John MacArthur rejected it as he did the Evangelicals and Catholics Together document. The liberals tended to shy away from it also.

I read it through with my American wife. The reason we didn’t sign it … has more to do with not knowing how our vote will be used in the long tail of American politics.
Andrew Jones

“The church is being redefined before our very eyes. Soon it will be just a faint memory of what God had truly designed it to be; like an old faded picture on a wall.” -Author Unknown
SJ Camp

In his response to the declaration, Jonathan Merritt, a younger evangelical in age as well as spirit, wrote in The Washington Post, “Older evangelicals have been largely silent on these issues and in similar fashion this declaration has relegated them to little more than a footnote.”
Brian McLaren

Finally, because of the above points and because this is from a widespread group of Christian leaders, because I respect those who have signed it and those who drafted it, because it is ecumenical both on the basis of the great tradition and on the basis of shared moral values, because they have overtly claimed this is not just a partisan statement — and there are folks from both sides of the political spectrum on their list — and because they are not claiming these moral statements about abortion and marriage are the only central moral issues of our day, I hereby publicly endorse The Manhattan Declaration.
I hope you will join me or at least join us in a conversation.
Scot McKnight

On Original Sin and the origins of doctrine:

Christianity obviously has a doctrine of Original Sin. Christianity also has a concept of Original Inherited Sin (i.e., it was/is passed through conception and birth?). I’m sure this doctrine and concept has more to do with Plato and the influence of the philosophical School of Alexandria upon early church fathers (they wrote the doctrine and theology) more than it has to do with Jesus of Nazareth and Hebrew thought and theology …
read more…

It was not until the fusion of Platonic and Aristotelian theology with Christianity that the concepts of strict omnipotence, omniscience, or benevolence became commonplace.
Wikipedia

On faith:

I know no faith except Christianity. I walk the Christ-path into the mystery of God, but I do not believe that God is a Christian. Christianity is a noble human system whereby millions of people have journeyed into the mystery of God and transcendence. The goal of faith is not to become Christian: it is to become whole.
John Shelby Spong

On the future of faith:

All of this underscores what many of us have seen coming for the last decade plus. We have entered what many think is the first stage of the long term breakup of Christendom.
John Armstrong

Confined to the parameters of liberal rationalism, [evangelicalism in the west— a movement whose members adhere to conversionism, Biblicism, activism and crucicentrism] has mounted no challenge to the present political order and offered no intellectually acceptable explanation for how one is to live and think in the postmodern world. As this magazine has chronicled, its brightest children are throwing up their hands in record numbers, defecting heavy-heartedly to less temporal churches, or to no church at all.
Get Over It[via]

An amazing array of Christian leaders from across the denominational spectrum have convinced me of some bad news and some encouraging news. The bad news: the Christian faith in all its forms is in trouble. The good news: the Christian faith in all its forms is pregnant with new possibilities. (ix)

from A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith (available February 9, 2010)

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(originally posted on Brian’s site)

“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.

Some of these posts were first put on Facebook as notes and  part 1 of ‘What should ‘Church’ look like’  created quite the stir with over 500 comments.

Its funny, of all my posts, that one seemed to me to be the least controversial. Maybe I’ve just wrestled over this issue with God so much that it became mundane to me. Or, maybe this is an issue that strikes at a chord of disillusionment many are feeling in the Body today. Even though my other writings deal with similar disillusionment, this topic is in your face. We experience it every week, we can put a face to it.

Every where I look, I see all kinds of people that are struggling with a disillusionment. There are:

Some of these people are hurt and bitter, with or without cause. Though this bitterness is not good or even right, there are probably more people where they came from that are remaining in their situation and in their bitterness. From what I have read, those that remove themselves from the source of their hurt, find healing.

Just as often though, there is a disillusionment and the desire to walk in something that they see in their bible but that is hampered by the machine. And most notable to me is that the people that are leaving to try something new, were leaders in the old thing. (Could be that we are just hearing from leaders because they are, well, leaders).

I look at this movement and see hope. I see the hand of God doing something new in our day. Others may look at this and see the enemy. What ever side we fall on, we need to recognize that these people are still apart of the Body. We need to love on them, embrace them, and even include them. To say that God cannot be active in their midst because:
a) they do not have the same leadership structure or
b) are doing something out of hurt
is to:
a) dismiss all churches that do not have our leadership structure. I belong to a church that have elders that rule over the congregation. There are other denominations that have popes and some that have elders that influence but the congregation votes (by majority or by consensus)
and b) heaping judgment on pain.

As I am on the side line cheering these fore runners on, part of me is envious. I think that these people will be remembered by history as the unnamed heroes of the second great reform. Often I feel the desire to jump ship and follow after them; but I have hope that change can come to the old guard. Like the first reformation, there are those who are inside the institution working for reformation and those that separate themselves. I pray that we will not make martyrs of those that choose, by choice or by accident, to walk away and live in what God is leading them into.

I believe that this new reformation will be marked by a desire for unity. The global community and flood of information make it easy for us to see our enemy’s side of things. And though we may never come to an agreement with them, we will see that they are real human beings and not just those witches in some other city. Once we know them as human, it becomes easier to pray for them and bless them rather than burn them at the stake.

The other thing I see happening in this move, is that all forms of hierarchy are being destroyed. In my reading of the New Testament, it is very clear that we are all brothers and sisters and that Jesus alone is the head. Sure there are elders and deacons that are recognized in the Body, but these are not offices and do not hold authority over others. They are examples, guides and even helpers on our joint journey.

Lastly, I think there will also be more recognition of the Spirit’s influence in every believe. God can distribute gifts, ministries, effects [1 Cor 12] as he desires to a gathering of 100, 1000 or even 10. He can even give some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. There are some that believe this can only happen by the blessing of the pope while others believe it needs the blessing of the elders. I believe, more often then not, God’s gifts go unrecognized by anyone but Him and possible the recipient.