Me and a couple of others from Mosaic wrote this poem/psalm a few weeks back at MCG, it explains part of the faith journey that some of us have been going on, we need people to walk with us, even when we are the most down, lost, confused. When we trek together with others who are follows, we find wholeness, we find answers and healing.
I stood in the desert.I was parched, I was thirsty.
Surrounded by others, as dry as each other.
We had settled by an Oasis
that had since dried up.
The thirst told me that water was out there over the horizon.
Some of us left.
I followed, convinced.
Searching for something better, something more.
We met many along the way.
Some septics, scoffers, some full of hope.
Each of us had a different story, but a common path.
After waiting and waiting holding each other up. We have tasted the dew on the ground, seen green on the horizon.
Together we walk.
Together we walk.
You can find other poems written by Mosaic people at our website.
Sunday, November 09, 2008
Me and a couple of others from Mosaic wrote this poem/psalm a few weeks back at MCG, it explains part of the faith journey that some of us have been going on, we need people to walk with us, even when we are the most down, lost, confused. When we trek together with others who are follows, we find wholeness, we find answers and healing.
The sense of belonging flows from trust: trust is the gradual acceptance of others as they are with their gifts and their limits, each one with the call of Jesus. And this leads to the realization that the body of community is not perfectly whole and cannot be, that this is our human condition. And it is all right for us to be less than perfect.
Helping each other,growing in trust,living in thanksgiving,learning to forgive,opening up to others,welcoming them,and striving to bring peace and hope to our world.
So it is that we come to put down roots in community - not because it is perfect and wonderful, but because we believe that Jesus called us together. It is where we belong and are called to grow and to serve.
Jean Vanier from The Broken
Sunday, November 02, 2008
This comes from the introduction of Alan Hirsh and Michael Frost's upcoming book Re: Jesus
Surely the challenge for the church today is to be taken captive by the agenda of Jesus, rather than seeking to mold him to fit our agendas, no matter how noble they might be. We acknowledge that we can never truly claim to know him completely. We all bring our biases to the task. But we believe it is inherent in the faith to keep trying and to never give up on this holy quest. The challenge before us is to let Jesus be Jesus and to allow ourselves to be caught up in his extraordinary mission for the world.
Whether it is the grand ecclesiastical project of the institutionalchurches, epitomized by the ostentatious excess of the Vatican, or the tawdry grab for the hearts and minds of the aspirational middle class by prosperity style Pentecostalism, the Christian movement has been subverted. Like a forgotten nativity scene in a shopping mall dominated by Santa Claus, reindeer,elves, Disney characters, tinsel, baubles, and fake snow, the biblical Jesus is hard to find. But Jesus is still calling us to come and join him in a far more reckless and exciting adventure than that of mere church attendance.
When allowed to be as he appears in the pages of Scripture, Jesus will not lead us to hatred, violence, greed, excess, earthly power, or material wealth. Instead, he will call us to a genuinely biblical and existential faith that believes in him, not simply believing in belief, as in many expressions of evangelicalism. It requires an ongoing encounter with Jesus. This will raise issues in the ways of knowing that bring about true spiritual transformation.
The first time I met Justin and Lacey, they called me Daniel, and brought me home. I failed to correct them that my name was Nathanael partly out of politeness and the fact that I worried that if I corrected them they might not bring me back to my house! We have had many awesome times, particularly early on, where I was involved in long drawn out counselling sessions over numerous issues with them.
Lacey is a key person within Mosaic, her warmth and friendship has been a key for bringing along people to connect to Mosaic. Me and Justin have spent hours having indepth theological discussions and managed to explain some of N.T’s theology in an hour, which was impressive.
Journeying with these Juicey has been cool, I can’t wait till next year and cooking up some great ideas for how to serve Wellington, serve students and share Christ with those who come across the Mosaic.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
“Live; I wanna live inspired.Die; I wanna die for something higher than myself.Live and die for anyone else.The more I live I see, this life's not about me.”
Anberlin - Burn out Brighter
We can either live a life where we go through the motions, where we live and are pushed by external forces, or we can live for a bigger ideal, something that forces us to live beyond ourselves. This something shapes us, moulds us and defines us.
As I look to the past and my experiences of the years, I know that at moments I have been shaped by outward pressures. The world of religiosity, in which you had to do certain things, or you felt you had to believe things to be holy and focused. Much of this was self-imposed. I believed it was true because that was what I thought was good and great.
I have seen this recently, sincere, zealous young people who are Christians desire to be in “Ministry.” I know I was in this same position a while back too. But I have come to realise how dualistic this thinking is. “Ministry” is seen as serving your local church, in a position of responsibility, usually for the benefit of the institution, either in its status, or serving people within its wall. While true ministry is about proclaiming the kingdom, in our day to day lives – our homes, our workplaces, the church community we are involved in.
I believe wholeheartedly that the job I work in is part of extending the kingdom. I believe that job of restoration and justice is kingdom work. I do my work with the intention of forming relationships that go deeper than that.
In our lives we get to live for something bigger than ourselves, something that can envelop us, transform is. That bigger thing I believe is “Love”. A love self-sacrificing. It calls us to see the world differently. This best example of this love was shown God sent his son to earth, to live as a human, and die on a Cross so that we could live new transformed lives. He was broken so we could be made whole, so that the world could be restored, so injustice could be ended and justice could reign and the oppressed set free
I want to live with intention. God has put me on this earth to be his servant, bringing about justice, showing people Gods character, sharing my life with those around me.
Life a year on
About a year ago, I made a decision, I walked into a Café at 6.00 on a Sunday night to meet a group of people doing something different, something new. I had become frustrated at where I was, I needed challenge. I had a yearning that there was a great world to be discovered, to explore. The community was Mosaic. A group of 10 or so people, who are trying to figure out what it means to be Christians today. We aim to be missional in all that we do.
So what has this meant for me, what have I learned over the last year.
What has happened to me on this journey:
I have detoxed from where I was;
I have learned new things about Gods character;
I am learning how important it is to be defined by God, not by stuff, by what I believe, the exterior;
I am learning that it I am responsible for my journey, I have to take self-leadershipl and
I have figured out that this journey isn’t over, its just beginning
Hopefully in the next few blogs, I will unpack a bit of what’s been going on this past year, where my thinking is, and where I need to move next. This may help people, it may not.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
On Sunday we went out to Newtown Tenpin Bowling place (cant remember the name and then went and played more cards (My card game and bowling both are something not to be desired of.)
As you can see I still had some spring in my step.
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Its been a long time since I last wrote, due mainly to the fact that I have been pretty busy with work and life and all that has been going on in the world around me.
So what’s going on.
Work is busy, I have the privileged of working in the deep end of one of the busiest times ever for my organisation. The organization is achieving and I am glad to be working in an area where I’m passionate about. At present I’m learning a lot about things that I need to work on. Like getting the small things right, such as grammar and apostrophes (as anyone would know these little things trip me up.) I have also learned recently that project plans may not be evil as I think they are.
Mosaic is a blessing, I love this community. Its also a challenge. I am realising how much I need to move forward. I have struggling with wanting to deliberate thoughts and ideas, rather than just go forward and push forward. I think I can break through this.
Mosaic continues to challenge me on my self leadership. Particularly, it makes me ask the questions, “how do I own my faith?” “How do I proclaim the Gospel in my words and deeds?”, “What is my story and how am I living out the story?” All are similar questions, but need to be answered.
Hopefully I will have some more substantial thoughts being downloaded sometime soon, controversial or not….
Monday, August 25, 2008
Sunday, August 24, 2008
I don't always agree with Mark Driscoll on all theological questions, but I think he gets it pretty right when he critiques Joel Osteen, a pastor of one of the largest churches in America. Listen to this and post your thoughts.
Our central lie is in the discrepancy between the language of worship and the actions of worship. We confess “Jesus is Lord” but only submit to the part of Christ’s authority that fits our grand personal designs, doesn’t cause pain, doesn’t disrupt the American dream, doesn’t draw us across ethnic and racial divisions, doesn’t add the pressure of too much guilt, doesn’t mean forgiving as we have been forgiven, doesn’t ask for more than a check to show compassion. We “sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” expressing our desire to know Jesus, but the Jesus we want to know is the sanitized Jesus that looks a lot like us when we think we are at our best. Despite God’s Word to the contrary, we think we can say that we love God and yet hate our neighbor, neglect the widow, forget the orphan, fail to visit the prisoner, ignore the oppressed. Its the sign of disordered love. When we do this, our worship becomes a lie to God.–Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship: Living God’s Call to Justice (Downers Grove: IVP, 2007), 71
Worship to me is one of the central aspects of the Christian faith. In its purest and truest form the Christian faith is radically and staunchy monotheistic (We beleive and worship one God.) God is jealous about being worshiped. We are to worship him and him alone, not ourselves, stuff, creation, but him along. We are also here to enact Gods righteousness, bringing about Gods kingdom on earth as in heaven. This means caring for the hungry, looking after the lonely, being there for the widow. Being passionate about ending injustice and helping the underdog. Worship is not about songs, its about the state of our heart. Desiring to honour God in every moment. Desiring to live a life that pleases God because we are bringing love joy and hope.
HT: Alan Hirsh
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
He was like everyone else, he walked the streets like everyone else. He ate and drank, needed the basic necessities. He cried when his best mate died, he needed rest and felt an inner torment at the destiny that lay ahead of him. Yet something was different about him. He was seen as a dangerous force by the fundamentalists of his city, a challenge to their hold over the status qou. He was seen as a source of hope for the poor and the marginalised. He hung out, and served them. He was seen as a liberator and healer of the country, a revolutionary who would bring his people out of oppression. He claimed to be God, he claimed to be the Messiah the one to lead his people to freedom.
He was a young man, like everyone else. He lived in his city, worked in a job, went out for beers on the weekend with his mates. But he lived in a way that was intentional. He went out of his way at work to get to know people on their own turf. In his times out with people he would listen. He would seek to listen and bring life to those around him. He would seek to be a servant in every area. People knew something was different about him. They found that when they spent time with him, they were at ease, they found healing in their conversations with him. They longed to get to know him more, spend time with him. He was willing to give up all he could to serve them and show them a new way to live. He claimed to know God, to know the Messiah who is the way to freedom.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Missional church is a community of God’s people that defines itself, and organizes its life around, its real purpose of being an agent of God’s mission to the world. In other words, the church’s true and authentic organizing principle is mission. When the church is in mission, it is the true church. The church itself is not only a product of that mission but is obligated and destined to extend it by whatever means possible. The mission of God flows directly through every believer and every community of faith that adheres to Jesus. To obstruct this is to block God’s purposes in and through his people.
Alan Hirsh, The Forgotten Ways.
Posted by Nathanael Baker at 8:02 AM
Sunday, June 15, 2008
... for we all live under the reign of one king."
Creed, Whats this Life For?
Many times we feel like we walk through the motions, taking steps wondering where we are about to go next. Many of us feel like we are just existing and do not know how to move forward. We are afraid, ashamed of who we are. We are scared of letting go if our past and taking the step into something more, something bigger than ourselves. Forgetting the glorious work that God has done on the cross.
Then others of us are enslaved to a weird view of our salvation, we beleive that everything is after the fact, that since we have been "saved", there is no work to do now in the present. We have heaven coming, we don't need to worry about the present and we do not need to do anything now.
But this isn't the case. Jesus' eschatology and Pauls eschatology and indeed a Jewish view of the world never hint to this. Jesus says the the Kingdom of God is at hand. Jesus declares in his example of how we should pray,
"Our father in heaven, may tour name be kept holy.
May your kingdom come on earth as it is heaven"
Jesus' introduction to ministry started with his declaration that the Kingdom has come, the salvation has come, where he takes the scroll of Isiah and does dis exegisis on it, declaring
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, doe hw has annointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord's favor has come."
Jesus' declaration is that the Kingdom has come, it has spiritual, emotional, and political significance to the world we live in. He declares that the broken can find healing, that the oppressed can find freedom, that Israel is to be redeemed, that the world is to be healed and redeemed.
So what does this mean for us, I don't beleive salvation means we get to live happilly in the reality that since we are saved we wait to do nothing, we are called as followers of Christ, that we are called to live in a way that declares that Jesus is Lord.
Jesus addressed, that for the kinfdom to come, there needs to be workers. He said
"The harvest is great, but the workers are few"
I do not beleive in the rapture, if it happens then I'm wrong, but I don't really think its one of the questions that matters at all to my salvation, but it matters to the way I live. People who live looking forward to being taken away forget the importance of our mission here on earth. To be agents of change and transformation. To bring the gospel to the lost. To be agents of change in our city.
I don't beleive we will ever get to an utopian ideal this side of eternity, but seeing people changed, people find wholeness, seeing cities changed (like Ninevah was in the bible in the story of Jonah, Like Jerusalem and the nation of Israel was in the story of Nehemiah) is what I look forward to.
I will end on this point, at the end of the bible, we see the fulfilment of Gods victory, the restoration of a new heaven and a new earth. God brings heaven down to earth and lives again amongst humanity. Relationship between God and his creation is restored. He reigns!
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Yesterday night at work we had a celebration of Matariki. It was a great time of feasting and celebration. We got to enjoy a whole lot a great Kai, including some great creamed Paua and Paua Fritters as a result of some hard work from some of the men of the organisation. There was a great performance by a Wellington Kapa Haka group.
Matariki is the the Maori name for the Pleiades star cluster, which consists of seven stars. This star cluster is used by the Maori people in tradition to work out when it is the best time to grow crops. Matariki in New Zealand appeared on the 13 may 2008 and the best time to have seen it was on the 31st of May.
Its rising and falling are used to declare when the New Year begins. Prior to Matariki's falling is a period of mourning and loss. This year New Zealand lost one of its great symbols of National Identity and leadership with the passing of Sir Edmund Hillary, and in Maori leadership there has also been the passing of some great Maori Kaimatua.
The time we are in now is a time for celebration and for eating and for telling the stories of the past year and looking forward to the coming year. It is a joyous seasion that we are in looking forward to the coming harvest but also the celebration of successes both in our own personal lives and in the lives of others.
So what do I need to be thankful for, what can I look forward too?
- I am thankful for successfully graduating from University last month with Honours in politics.
- I am thankful for getting a great job in a great organisation.
- I am thankful for the headway that Mosaic is making as a community and that God has lead me into this community.
So my prayer for these coming months is:
Dear God, thank you for this time of remembrance. Thank you for all that I'm learning, and thank you for the challenges that are around the corner. I pray that I will follow your heart in the way that I live. That I will passionately follow your call and mission. That I will love others and put thier concerns above my own. God I thank you that you rescued me so I could be on mission to let your kingdom come on earth and I pray that I would follow you. Lord I thank you for placing me in Wellington, I pray that I would learn to serve my city and love this city in a way that transforms it and makes it a light in the dark. I thank you for the creative vision that you have placed in this city, I thank you for the political influence you have placed in this city. Let it be used to honour your name. Let me see it honour your name.
Sunday, June 08, 2008
This post is to let you all know that I'm still alive and well and give an update of my day to day life.
I have just started work in my first permanent job in a Government department here in Wellington. I am really enjoying the variety, also know that I'm having to learn a whole lot more about Government, working with people and everything else. It is really exciting work and I can't beleive that I'm where I am now.
What am I reading
I've just started reading the Presidents by Stephen Grauband, this book goes through from the Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt to George W.Bush. I have just started it, so I will be preoccupied with it for a while yet (especially since I don't seem to have much time. I'm enjoying it, especially with the American election up and coming (Congratulations Obama!) It brings me back to my old politics days!
Sunday, June 01, 2008
From Michael Kruse
Why did the Emergent Chicken cross the road? Here are my top ten reasons in no particular order:
The Chicken was drawn to the candles and incense on the other side of the road.
There was a Hauerwas discussion group at the coffee shop on the other side of the road.
The idea to cross the road emerged from the chicken’s generative cohort.
It was more “post” on the other side of the road. (i.e, postmodern, post-evangelical, post-colonial, post-institutional, post-post, etc. Pick your favorite "post.")
D. A. Carson showed up on the chicken’s side of the road.
Obama was on the other side of the road.
To demonstrate that it is more environmentally sustainable to walk across the road than to drive across the road.
Bono said crossing the road would save Africa.
The chicken was seeking change. Everything must change!
The question is merely a foundationalist modernist attempt to distill complex realities down to a single proposition in accordance with some metanarrative.
Richard Burton, Shakespeare’s worst nightmare, plays Marcellus, a Roman soldier who crucifies Jesus and then wins his robe in a drunken game of dice. Since he can't put the thing up for sale on eBay, he decides to hang on to it. But instead of being the historical keepsake, bathroom rug or future dorm curtain he hoped it would be, the robe tortures him to no end. The very touch of it burns his skin and after he gets rid of it, disturbing dreams of Jesus' death and having to marry Elizabeth Taylor haunt him. The film attempts to portray the power of Jesus Christ by showing how even his outfit can kick your ass.
This was the first movie filmed in wide-screen Cinemascope, the format that was supposed to save Hollywood from the threat of television, but all it did was establish the principle that a dirty tube sock magnified a thousand times on a Technicolor screen will still look like a dirty tube sock. Everyone turns the overacting up to 11, which for Burton goes to the level of a drunken Renaissance Faire actor padding his resume.
It's May 1999 and it's sweeps week. All the other networks have big boffo blockbusters lined up to trick people into watching as much television as possible, but CBS executives find themselves standing out in the cold with nothing but old Murder, She Wrote and Diagnosis Murder reruns on your schedule, guaranteed to attract the oldest demographic since the Weather Channel went on the air. What do you do? Simple. You play on people's fears about the coming Year 2000 apocalypse and produce a made-for-TV Jesus biopic that’s bloodier and more over-the-top than all three of the Evil Dead films combined.
This little film festival puddle jumper conjectures that the reason Jesus returns from the dead is so he can feast on the brain of the living, which we're sure isn't kosher even if you kill thehuman
If faux-science shows like Unsolved Mysteries and In Search Of . . . attempted to tackle the Messiah story, of course they'd have to release their merry band of over-actors to reenact the story of Jesus in ways that made you giggle as a kid in places you weren't supposed to until the pressure from your sinus would blow your brains clean out of the back of your skull.
Since it ran in drive-ins across the country for years, it was allowed to feature the full crucifixion experience in all of its fake gory glory. So let's do those drive-in totals. We've got two nailed wrists, one stabbed chest, spear fu, Roman fu, Jew fu, Wrath of God fu and no aardvarking. We give it zero stars.
THE PRINCE OF PEACE, a/k/a THE LAWTON STORY
Six-year-old Ginger Prince failed to become the next Shirley Temple.
Have any of you parents out there ever sat at one of your children's Sunday School Nativity pageant and thought you'd like to see your own kids acting out the birth of Jesus on the big screen? Hell no.
Despite that fact of life, that's pretty much what William “One-Shot” Beaudine did with a passion play from Lawton, Oklahoma. Beaudine got his nickname because he reputedly directed more than 350 films without ever asking for a second take. For this project, he was working for the legendary showman Kroger Babb, who specialized in traveling roadshows that would pack the local theater for three days of “educational” or “inspirational” screenings, followed by a quick exit to the next town. Beaudine and Babb took a local production and interspersed it with a film about a young girl who convinces his greedy rich uncle to see the passion play so it will open his eyes to the value of serving, not taking from, his fellow man. The acting in this thing is not only bad, but the Sooner accents were so thick that the entire film had to be redubbed because the angry mob in Jerusalem never sentenced Jesus to die by announcing "Git-r-Done!"
Some of the world's most astute film critics and historians have lauded Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini's retelling of the Gospel of Matthew with glowing words that will never be used to describe directors like Ed Wood, Uwe Boll and the guy who made the Rollerball remake. But anyone who’s ever had to sit through it in film class, struggling with the idea of a Marxist Jesus with a homosexual subtext, will realize why Pasolini boasted about his lack of research. He basically turns the birth and resurrection of Jesus Christ into a kung-fu flick starring George Takei as Judas. Oh my.
Look, up in the sky! It's a skydiving hippie! It's that guy from Three Dog Night in a jetpack! No, it's Ultrachrist
Christ runs around New York City in his street-bought sandals and clip-on utility belt that doesn't seem to be holding any utilities in his never-ending quest to fight crime. Eventually the big man upstairs decides he doesn't like his favorite son's new public persona and the Antichrist is on the rise and Christ finds himself stuck between appeasing his father or ridding the Earth of unholy evil, much in the same way the audience finds themselves struggling to either return the video to the store for a full refund or throw the thing in an incinerator to spare anyone else from watching it.
Get ready to see Jesus like you've never him before--in crappy, old-fashioned stop-motion animation that even kids don't use when they're making Star Trek fan films in their basement.
If you thought that Sunday school film of the death and resurrection had more wooden and hollow actors than a Renaissance faire, wait until you see these actors who are actually made out of hollow wood. It's a stop-motion "3-D" film of the Jesus story that looks like the makers of Robot Chicken phoned in their last episode so they could clear the animation studio space for Assy McGee in time.
It also features an all-star cast of celebrity voices including Alfred Molina, Miranda Richardson and Ralph Fiennes as the voice of Jesus, because, after all, the Son of Man spoke with a stuffy British accent though he was born and raised in abject Bethlehemic poverty.
THE DAVINCI CODE
The book that everyone in your office cubicle said you have to read is now a big-budget overblown movie without any big words or scary facts about religion to give you a headache. The book and movie dares to uncover the greatest cover-up in the history of the Catholic Church, unless you don't count the church's refusal to stand against the Holocaust and the string of priest molestations and the selling of indulgences as a form of penance and the fact that eating meat on Friday between Ash Wednesday and Good Friday is no longer a damnable sin.
The movie suggests that the Son of Man was also quite the Ladies' Man because of an alteration in Leonardo DaVinci's famed "Last Supper" painting. Of course, it doesn't get to that juicy little tidbit until after two-thirds of the most excruciatingly bad acting and dialogue is done. But it doesn't end there. There's this big M. Night Shyamalan ending that reveals Jesus had a family tree, and after you calculate what you’ve had to sit through to get to that one scene, you realize that Christ may have died on the cross for our sins, but now we’ve paid him back by remaining faithful all the way to the excruciatingly painful end.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Just to let you all know, Mosaic has now got a blog, the first post is by Jessica Falconer, asking the questions "are we people of the way or of the book" and "How do I follow Jesus in my job?
N.B, I will be writing for this hopefully some time close in the future.
Posted by Nathanael Baker at 8:21 PM
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Mike Brantley has done another great post where he dialogues with his brother in law Gavin Knight (a successful church leader of a mainline Christian Congregation.) He was asked by gavin on how you define success in the Missional Church paradigm. Mike Brantley replied:
Measuring success: Just had a conversation this past week of how we are doing that. Souls in heaven is the ultimate isn’t it?! What we (our community and not able to speak for anyone else) is using a pathway: not interested, potential contact, contact, participating, journeying, embracing the Gospel, grounding, serving, growing, reproducing, catalyst... This left to right scale is a method we use to measure where we are with EVERY contact... From a Rona (whom you know) to Justin (latest newsletter) they are on there; what we are doing is discussed, what next, managing the conversational journey with them, etc. SO there is a measure of success as we move them along.
Anyway, there are many great things that are said in this post, especially some really practical thoughts on Missiology (the study of how to do mission in the culture we live.) You can find the full post here.
The Dip is a book about assessing when is the right time to quit. Goden argues in his book that one of the major aspects of the human psyche is to quit when we begin to feel a sense of pain. When we pick up an instrument and start playing for the first time, the baby steps are real easy and we find that we receive affirmation for the little work we put in, we hear that we are a natural, then it goes into a dip, where we put in lots and lots of energy with little or no return. Those are successful are those who can go through the dip then see the rewards at the other end.
One key idea that came out of this book is that we should strive to be the best in our own sphere of influence and where we are working. Striving to be the best rather than being average is the key to success and gaining worth in ourselves and the world around us.
Goden looks at three different curves, one being to the dip and another being the cul de sac curve. The Cul de sac is a curve where you are putting in energy and constantly receiving the same results. This is the case in which you work in a dead end job, the energy you put in gets you know where, you are being offered no ways forward and there is no chance of further success. At this point you should quit. Goden argues that even when it seems you have been in a successful roles, at times you should quit because the development that you can get from moving on into another sphere of influence is greater.
Godens work contains a lot of truth for how we should move into success. One issue I would see with a few ways Godens ideas work is the value systems that we are driven off. I do think it is important to quit at times, I’ve done this in my own life, particularly quiting from jobs which were bringing me no where so I could focus on the bigger picture, those that would allow me to achieve in my sphere of influence. But if we go out of a “whats best for me” strategy of quitting, our quitting can be ultimately destructive to individuals and friends around us. This particularly can occur when we put our economic or personal security above others. I have a view that how we view success needs to be put in light of what is best for the whole and how we can better society and humanity. There will be positive benefits that come from this for the person, actually there will be a deep sense of worth and value from this as well. By playing to our strengths and learning when to not quit we can benefit society a lot more. We are allowed to quit things that don’t bring substantial benefit to the whole.
Intention, Church and Life
The ideas contained in “The Dip” flow into one of my favourite principles of life; “The Principle of Intentionality”. The principle of intentionality is that we should live in view of fulfilling our values and letting our strengths as individuals shine. For me the central values that drive me have to be to love the lord with all my heart mind and strength and to love those around me, these are my central values – the driving value the comes off this is that I intentionally live in a way that makes the world a better place, then comes off these are my strengths/personality.
At the moment I’m personally going through a period of self-discovery, rediscovering and discovering the skills, talents, personality that God has given me so I can best play to my strengths in the environments that I serve and work in. I am trying new things and not trying to box myself in, but also wanting to become aware of who I am as a person.
The Cul De Sac and Individuals
I know I am being humanistic here, but I do not think this goes against the heart of God, God wants to see us be courageous in who we are and our sphere of influence for the benefit of the whole of humanity, God wants us to be wholly aware of who we are (that is, who he created us to be), and he wants us to be whole. By allowing ourselves to use our strengths and becoming what God intended us to be, we honour God and give him room to make us whole.
The Church and the Cul De Sac
The dip also is about the success of organisations. Organisations themselves can get to dead ends in what they are doing. I believe this is one of the issues at the heart of the decline of the church in the west. Though I think its worse than this, some churches are in decline because they have lost their value system, or they are watering down their value system and are being led into syncretism, but many Churches are focusing their energy and talents in the wrong way, into a model of church which leads to few results for lots of capital and energy.
Where Mosaic and the Missional Church is
Mosaic Wellington is probably lying somewhere in the Dip and not in the upward point, we are still small and having to put in a lot of energy to find out our talents and form and value systems and what we are about. The good thing is we have some organisational savy, we are definitely playing to our strengths (particularly in the area of good food) and the desire to be hospitable and living it out is rubbing off on our guests. These are early steps in the journey. Mike Brantley mentioned on his blog that it takes an average of five years to journey with someone for them to come to know God, so our dip may be five to seven years before we see the size of mosaic grow exponentially and then multiply (probably 10 years, though I could be wrong on this point as well.) We have to quit the things that are not working (for example, we had to quit the loft as we were putting to much energy into it at the time), we have to be intentional on the things we put our energy into and realise what may actually limit our potential to grow and reach those around us (so for us this means that we don’t see having a church building is an ultimate aim, there are benefits to having a building, but a building constrains you and the mission then becomes about upkeep on the building rather than the mission of God in this world.
We are a young part of a larger movement; we can see Mosaic LA which is past the dip (for it the dip was when Erwin took the church on Bradey. Even though the church on Bradey was a successful large Church, it was at the end of its growth and had lost its “edge.” It had got itself near to a Cul de Sac situation. Erwin came in and had to change the mindset of the church members – meaning that they lost a huge number of once committed people and he had to build the ethos of Mosaic from the ground up. This period was painful for the Church, but has meant that Mosaic is much larger than what it was in the past, having a global reach into the world and reaching many lost people within the city of LA. Seeing Mosaic past the dip gives us hope of what we can be, if we play of our strengths and keep to our ethos. I love Wellington and want it to be an even greater place to live, where dreams are lived and fulfilled lives. Where people know they belong and know they have worth. I want people to come to know Jesus because he can bring wholeness to our once broken selves and lives. I want my life to be a source of faith love and hope to those around me.
Monday, May 12, 2008
Monday, April 21, 2008
On Sunday we had another Mosaic book club where we are going through The Forgotten Ways. This is the second time I have been through the book. This time fleshing out the ideas of the book is a lot less esoteric. I see that the Mosaic Community has the potential to challenge and change Wellington. We are desiring to learn and put in the hard. This is actually the book that led me into thinking about joining Mosaic when I read it. I was reading it and I was going through the desire for Movement. That was my theme word at the time, and I needed to move forward and to flesh out what God had layed on my heart at that time.
So I’ve digressed, why have I called this blog enfleshing the gospel. We went through a discussion on the chapter the “missional-incarnational impulse.” If anyone knows me you will realise that I believe contextualisation is a highly important concept to me. Many times I have summed this up in the idea of “relevance.” That as Christians we need to be relevant to the culture that we live in, we have to speak the language and follow embed into the culture. The problem with the concept of “relevance” is its limitation – which I struggle with. If we are to be relevant, we can quickly fall to the woes of syncretism, becoming watered down and P.C, losing our impulse and our message. Rather than being relevant, we are to enflesh to gospel.
Enfleshment is a different idea. The heart of this is enfleshing the key message of the Gospels. Enfleshment means that we live out a life that shows the key values and moral framework. For this to happen though we must know what our key values are, otherwise if we don’t, they will sure shaped by the world around us (trust me I know this all too well.) So, one of the key things for Mosaic to do is to find out what its key values are and what its DNA is. Luckily, as being part of a bigger movement we have been helped up big time. As a community, we are to be a community of faith, known by love and we are to be a voice of home in the world. These core values go to the heart of what we intend to be. A community of Christ followers transforming the world around us by living out the Jesus story in the way we act and lives. To do this we need to know our saviour, we need to know the gospels. Not intellectually knowing Jesus, but intimately knowing Jesus. Constantly being transformed by Jesus we are continually sent into the world. As one missional movement tells us, we are living out Acts 29 today.
We have to remember our DNA. The heart of the Christian DNA is the story of Jesus and the gospels. If we forget this, we will lose our heart.
So what does enfleshment mean for us as Christians. We it means that we are to be incarnational. Living out Christ in the World. As Christians we believe that God became human and lived amongst us. He came in on our turf and lived amonst us to bring salvation and to radically identify with us. Hirsh says in his book “The Incarnation not only qualifies God’s acts in the worlds, but must also qualify ours If God’s central way of reaching the world was to incarnate himself in Jesus, the our way of reaching the world should likewise be incarnational. To act incrationally therefore will mean in part that our mission to those outside the faith we will need to exercise affinity with those we are attempting to reach. At the very least it will mean moving into common geography/space and so set up an abiding presence amongth the group. But the basic motive of incarnational ministry is also revelatory – that they may come to know God through Jesus. (authors emphasis).
There are four Ps that some up incarnational lifestyle; they are Presence, proximity, powerlessness and proclamation.
Presence: Presence meanings to out a normal human life and living a profoundly disturbingly normal way. But engaging in mission through normality. As the Vineyard forefather John Wimber says, we are to be “Naturally Supernatural.” We are to be in relationship, relationship is the key means to transfer the message of the gospel and engage in mission. Our lives embody and enflesh the message and we naturally tell a story to the people around us of redemption, hope and restoration. We tell people through the way we live that they have worth and that God loves them and wants to spend time with them.
Proximity: As Christians we are to mix with every level of society. Jesus engaged with every level of society and found disciples at every level of society. As people we are not only present, but we are genuinely available. We need to from genuine relationships, be part of the activities that others are involved in, have lunch with people, engage in intentional relationship.
Powerlessness: This means that we are not imperialistic. We take on a shape of humility in the world. We have to be willing to form relationships with people who are completely antagonistic to what we hold on to and be willing to truly love through it all, as Jesus did. I think as I continue to read the gospels I really realise just how far Jesus would go to love his enemies and also to try to rescue even those who did not accept his message. It is totally revolutionary. Jesus humbly came as a servant to all, to seek and save the lost.
Proclamation: We can never forget the message of the gospel and realise that is what we have been put here for. We are called to share the gospel in real ways. We are called to live out the gospel minute by minute, day by day.
We are figuring out what this means for our community, actually we will always be re-evaluating this and finding out what it means to live out the gospel in our context.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
I believe the heart of what CS Lewis is saying is that the mission of the church is to make disciples for Jesus.
This is what Jesus commanded us to do in the Gospels in the great commission (not the great omission!) And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Mat 28:18-20)
Questions that have arisen with this.
What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus?
How do we become a disciple making movement?
How do we measure the success of a disciple making movement? Do numbers matter?
I have some thoughts on this, but would like some discussion. Please add your views/opinions.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
This is another qoute from Alan Hirsh's forgotten ways which hit me when I first read the book.
Theological Liberalism is an indicator of institutional decline not only because it tries to minimise the necessary tension between gospel and culture by eliminating the culturally offending bits, but because it is basically a parasitical ideology. I don’t mean this to be offensive to my liberal brothers and sisters; I wish to merely point out that theological liberalism rarely creates new forms of church or extends Christianity in any significant way, but rather exists and “feeds of” what the more orthodox missional movements started. Theological Liberalism always comes later in the history of a movement, and it is normally associated with its decline. It is therefore a highly institutional manifestation of Christendom. As such it is deadly to apostolic forms of missional movement. But most established denominations, including the move evangelical ones, are also built squarely on Christendom assumptions of church and therefore, like all institutions, are facing significant threat and need to be led to the edge of chaos. It is there, by living in the tensions that it brings, they will find more authentic and missional ways of being Gods people. So leaders turn the heat up, but manage it.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
I was pleased to find that AJ Chesswass had put a link to my blog on his blog. I was confused to find that he had put my blog under Anglican Blogs. I'm confused because I have spent very little time in Anglican churches myself so I don't know how I can be considered Anglican. So AJ Chesswass or anyone else, can you help me understand how I can be considered Anglican. Feel free to enlighten me on the topic of how I am anglican, or any other topic you feel interested in.
Monday, April 07, 2008
Book review of book by Patrick Hanlon called Primal Branding: Create Zealots for your Brand, Your Company, and Your Future. Reviewed by David Mays.
Hanlon has been a senior executive at some of the world’s most creative advertising agencies. Hanlon says that a brand is a community of believers held together by seven assets that create a belief system. A concept book, it is long on description including many illustrative examples and stories.
“What is the magic glue that sticks together consumers and Google, Mini Cooper, and Oprah and not others?” (4) “The result of this quest led to a much larger question of how ideologies—belief systems—come to exist.” There are ‘seven definable assets that construct meaning behind the brand…seven brand messages that must be delivered to create preferential brand appeal.” (6)
“Primal branding is about delivering the primal code.” “Those seven assets are: ‘the creation story”; “the creed”; “the icons”; “the rituals”’ “the pagans”’ “the sacred words”’ and “the leader.” Together, these pieces of primal code construct a belief system. Brands are belief systems.” (6)
“Once you look at a brand as a belief system, it automatically gains all the advantages that enterprise strives for: trust, vibrancy, relevance, a sense of values, community, leadership, vision, empathy, commitment, and more. With the seven pieces of primal code in place you have created a belief system and products and services that people can believe in.” (7)
“Believing is belonging. When you are able to create brands that people believe in, you also create groups of people who feel that they belong.” “…we all want to belong to something larger than ourselves. That community can surround a product or service, a personality, a social or political cause, or a civic community.” (7)
“What we call primal branding is the ability to make people feel better about your brand than another.” (7)
The Creation Story. “Where you come from is as important for people to know as what you believe and what your advantages are.” “It is crucial for everyone to have an understanding of who you are and where you come from. It is the foundation of trust.” (11-12) “Creation stories usually embody the who and the why. Who the founder of any nation or organization was and why they started is important for people to know.” (13-14) “The creation story often involves a mythic quest.” (16) “The creation story is the crucial first step in providing answers to why people should care about you, or your product or service.” (19)
The Creed. “All ideologies begin with a set of core principles.” (20) “Defining, understanding, and communicating your mission are critical to the success of your brand….” “These are all simple, concise statements that embody hugely bold ideas. The creed is the singular notion that you want people to believe.” (21)
The Icons. “Icons are quick concentrations of meaning that cause your brand identityIdentity-Issues and brand values to spontaneously resonate. The Nike swoosh.” “The smell of Cinnabons,” …sensory imprints that instantly summon the brand essence.” “The simplest and often easiest icon to recognize is the company logo.” (26) But there are many other kinds of icons.
The Rituals. “Our daily lives are filled with … key ritualistic behaviors.” Driving to work in the morning. Logging onto the Internet or searching Google. “Rituals are touch points with your brand and ideology that might be made more pleasant, more engaging, enhanced, simplified, less frustrating, or more fun.” (54)
“When large corporations merge…they bring with them a collision of competing rituals.” “The truth is that the spirit of both companies is built, in part, around those seemingly unimportant rituals.” (55)
Rituals are the meaningful repeated points of contact between you and your guest, customer, client, or target market.” “These interactions with the customer can be flat experiences, or they can serve as enriching touch points that excite consumers and intensify the brand experience.” (68) “The real power is understanding how rituals can be tweaked and made more interesting, more evolved, or otherwise better suited to their purposes.” (56)
The Pagans, or Nonbelievers. “Part of saying who you are and what you stand for is also declaring who you are not and what you don’t stand for.” (70) 7Up declared itself the ‘uncola.’ “Defining your pagans is important in defining who you are. This can be difficult when marketers do not want to exclude potential customers and mass markets.” (71)
The Sacred Words. “All belief systems come with a set of specialized words that must be learned before people can belong.” “If you are a computer user you understand what it means to ‘log on,’ what a ‘virus’ is, and what it means to ‘crash.’ (72) “Words tell who we are.” “Therefore, sacred words are not simply professional jargon but … also bind people together as a group and are often crucial to working together effectively.” (73)
Any teenage text messaging knows ttyl 2g 2wk lyl. “If you know the language, you belong.” (75) “Many sacred words are invented constructions. iPod. Iced grande skinny decaf latte.” (76) “Belief systems come with their own invented lexicon that has precious meaning for those who believe.” (77)
The Leader. “All successful belief systems have a person who is the catalyst, the risk taker, the visionary, the iconoclastDriven-to-the-Brink May-07 who set out against all odds…to re-create the world according to their own sense of self, community, and opportunity.” (78) “Enterprise without a leader is like a headless elephant. It may eventually get somewhere, but only by destroying everything in its path along the way.” (78)
Primal Belonging.“All belief systems have people who believe, advocates who feel that the brand offers a place where they can belong.” “First, consumers invest themselves in your brand by purchasing products or services because they believe in them. Second, they are willing to help convince others to belong…. Finally, advocates believe so strongly in the brand that they fiercely defend it against rivals.” (87)
“Properly managed, the primal construct can help you create a belief system that results in a group of evangelists committed to advocating for you through thick and thin.”
“Often, the most overlooked group is the people inside your own organization. If you can’t get your employees to believe, how can they possibly convince others…to believe?” (88)
“Building a sense of community is what belonging is all about.” (94)
Primal Perfect. [I’m not sure what these titles mean. dlm]To order at Starbucks you have to learn the sacred language. The ritual of affordable luxury is intensified. Pepsi topes the list of Coke pagans. The IBM creed was the slogan, “Think!” The Amazon creation story was about Jeff Bezos writing up the business plan in the back seat while his wife drove across the country. Fast Company magazine developed a relationship with its readers. The icons were the magazine issues and the monthly ritual was picking it up on the newsstand. The humble brown vehicles tell customers UPS represents their customers and not themselves. The icons, rituals, and creed of the Marine Corps run very deep.
“The primal code is all part of a narrative; it is storytelling. When pieces of the story are missing, the story becomes less interesting, people become less interested. …they feel dissatisfied and turn away.” (153)
The Primal Personality.Television and movie stars are brands. “If Oprah has a creed, it is about self-determination and personal growth.” “…doing what my heart says all the time.” (195)
Primal Reengineering.“Primal branding is an organizing principle to help products, services, personalities, and civic communities achieve popular appeal.” (209) “The sever pieces of primal code are a map—or checklist—that can help guide your efforts to create a brand that people can believe in.” (210)
“Many firms still haven’t figured out their company creed, or a statement that declares what they are all about.” (211)
“Brands are active engagements that continually reboot themselves to keep the consumer wondering what’s going to happen next.” (211)
“The first step in primal branding is to determine where your brand exists in the minds of customers.” (215)
“The origin story is the beginning of the brand narrative, the start of the mission.” “When companies merge…the origin story needs to be rebooted around the new corporate vision.” (217)
“The creed should answer the question, Why do we belong in people’s lives? … Why should people care?” “What, after all, does your company believe in?” (218) “The creed is a principle; it is what the company is about.” It is a ‘promise to a customer.” “The responsibility is to make sure that in every way you are meeting the expectation of the consumer.” (220)
“The expression of what your product or service is about becomes concentrated and instantly communicated in your icons.” “Icons can be as simple as your company logo or as discreet as senses like taste or smell. Icons can be the product itself.” “How does your brand make an impression?” (220)
“…rituals are actions that involve how the product is used, how the service is engaged, where and how the consumer goes to shop, and how the product is maintained, returned, renewed, downloaded, or updated.” “…think through how people become involved with your brand.” (223)
The pagans are most often your competition. “Who are you not? What are you trying to avoid? Who are you up against?” (225)
“What are the words that define your company or yourself? What words resonate internally or with consumers? What words help define who you are or what you want to become?” (226)
“Finally, you must find leaders. The natural place to look within large organizations is to the founder, chief executive officer, or president.” (227)
“Creating a corporate work culture that people can believe in is critical for employee enthusiasm, work performance, and efficiency. It also motivates vendors, suppliers, lenders, and others who come into contact with the organization. Establishing and promoting a working culture is critical when companies merge together.” (229)
When employees don’t understand the values of the company they bring their own. “The result is a confused sense of mission, blurred motivations, loss of leadership, disgruntled employees, and apathy.” (230)
“Using primal branding, leaders can create and sustain a company and mission that people believe in.” “The essence of this belonging resonates in a refreshed sense of commitment, trust, empathy, vision, mission, and values within the organization.” “Building corporate cultures is one of the most vital tasks facing organizations today.” (213)
“Brands are ideologies with their own universe of truths, iconography, history, heroes, and demons.” (233) “The more pieces of code communicated to your public, the stronger your cause, organization, product, service, or community.” “Creating a world of believers means creating a group of people who feel they belong to your ideals and want to convince others of your cause.” (235)
“Think of the things that means something to you. They all come from someplace (‘creation story’). They stand for something (‘creed’). They are symbolized by a sign, a sound, a smell (‘icon’). You do certain specified things regarding them (‘rituals’). Certain words evoke that experience (‘sacred words’). You contrast that experience against other experiences (‘pagans’). They have an individual, whether real or fictional, who is behind the whole thing (‘leader’). It’s all about creating a sense of meaning.” (237)
“Primal branding contains a web of relationships and inferences that bang at the drum of our emotional mind-set.” (239)
HT: Alan Hirsh
I don’t believe the consumerist model of church is good for discipleship. Safety, security and convenience impede our ability to grow and discover Jesus’s purpose.
Lets look at fish and biology. Have you ever had pet fish before, you put them in a bowl, feed them, clean there water and keep them safe, but they never grow as big as wild fish. They may be safe but they are really really fragile, if you tap the glass or cause them any stress at all they will die. There wild cousins face much more dangerous environments but they are stronger for it.
The issue for the church is that by creating a cushy safe environment for saints it makes it much harder for them to be effective witnesses to those around them and creates an issue for them in how to grow and become more like Jesus.
Erwin Mcmanus in his pod cast “The Gauntlet”, from his series “Living the Original Life” argues that the journey of discipleship is not easy but extremely difficult. He cites the verses in Paul’s letter to the Corinthian where it says:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
The verses clearly state that discipleship isn’t an easy ride, it involves hard training and discipline. I play indoor netball. I know that if because I don’t practice I struggle to improve. But if I was to practice every day and put time in it I would be a much better player than I am at present. To become good at something you need to practice and put passion into it. To be a marathon runner you need to go the distance and train your body for endurance. This is extremely difficult and painful, but has to be done. So too with the Christian faith, if we want to be people who reach out there is going to be pain and hard work. It means learning and practicing the gifts and fruits. If we are not hospitable, the only way we are going to learn how to be hospitable and learn the value is through practice, even when it hurts.
The issue with the consumerist mode of church is that many times it is based around comfort and meeting fixed needs. To get people through the door it makes the church experience easy, feeding easy sermons and easy worship experiences. As I was told by one Christian leader a number of years – this produces McDonalds Christians. Christians who feed on quick easy convenient food which makes you happy at the time but makes you fat, rather than training, eating well and working hard at endurance exercises.
I want to end personally, I am struggling personally to figure out in my life what is that is enslaving me and what is good. Is it ok to buy that next CD, or is it wrong. How am I using my time, resources and energy. Am I using my time to serve Gods purposes and to love people, or do I use my energy and time for serving my own personal needs. I want to live my life for a bigger purpose. I don’t want to be enslaved to stuff or desire for stuff, because I have been freed by the grace of God. I want to give myself to that purpose and live that out in my every action.
Jane is a Christian, she goes to a large church on a Sunday morning. This isn’t the first church she has gone to, actually she used to go to the large church down the street. She found that the worship was too loud at the other church, plus the sermons were not speaking to her needs. So she decided she needed to move on to another church.
When she walks into church she gets a friendly greeting from the ushers, she walks past the door of the church, there she sees a whole lot of CDs from her churches world famous worship band and books from her esteemed Pastor about how to gain everything you wish by saying a one simple prayer. She goes in and sits next to her friends. They talk about the most recent conference they have been on. “Oh man it really changed my life. I have never felt this good about my relationship with God!” Didn’t you love that worship band they had there, man I have to get that album, it just moved me so much closer to God.” They stand and sing some songs, such as “I am found in the arms of the one that I love.” The preacher comes up and speaks for half an hour, seeming to be more focused on preaching the benefits and grace he has received from his cellphone than speaking about the love and grace of Jesus Christ. They go home after the sermon, feeling happy that they feel good about what has been preached and that they can implement the three easy steps the life and happiness that were preached.
Now I have to say that not all this is bad stuff, in and of itself. Music is a good way to worship God, I use it myself. I also believe that we do need to give people a friendly greeting and reach out to new people. But I do have some issues with the attractional model of church. Let’s look at one issue that I’ve brought up here. The conference and the conference Christian:
I have to be frank here; I have been one of the conference Christians in my past. Also I have to state that there is nothing with conferences, but they are only a means to an end, and not an end in themselves. But what I’ve found, especially with the more Pentecostal and charismatic conferences is people go to them to get their spiritual buzz and spiritual high then go back to life where nothing changes. People go for there to here their favourite worship band or favourite speaker. Its dressed up many a times in the fact that “God will be there” but God is there in our ordinary day lives. Going back to this it seems God is only in the exciting fun times of life, the mountain top experiences, yet God is present in the valleys as well. I got very frustrated about this over the years. Why was it that we thought that God was present only when he shouted, when it says in the Bible that he wasn’t in the wind, the fire or in the earthquake but was present in a still whisper. I remember the last consumer conference I went to, I was already questioning a lot of what the evangelical church was looking like and I went to this conference and found a lot of what was going on to just seem like window dressing, it seemed fake to me rather than real and true. I was rather disoriented by the experience. Especially since I had been to the same event over a number of years and had thought I had found something there. I know people do experience God there and don’t get me wrong I think he was present there. But why do we need to go to conferences to get a religious experience? I believe conferences are still important but as I said they are a means rather than an end in themselves. I don’t want to be legalistic in this, I want to go back to this conference and go to others in the future. I’m just cautious in how I approach them.
The sad thing, this is a reality in the consumer world, the marketer sells something which is close to reality but really is a plastic alternative. We sell experiences that seem to be truly spiritual but really are not the real package.
In the modern and post-modern situation, the church is forced into the role of being little more than a vendor of religious goods and services. And the end-users of the church’s services (namely, us) easily slip into the role of discerning individualistic consumers, devouring the religious goods and services offered by the latest and best vendor. Worship, rather than being entertaining through creatively engaging the hearts and minds of the hearers, now becomes mere entertainment that aims at giving the participants transcendent emotional highs, much like the role of the “feelies” in Aldous Huxleys Brave New World, where people go the movies merely to get a buzz.
Church growth exponents used the ideas of big buisiness to try and grow churches. They used business marketing to offer better and bigger “products” to get people into their church. The reality is they commodified the experience, and made church ‘services’ into a shopping mall for Christians to come and get fat at. The reality is that these services are greatly passive, with at least 80% of the church sitting passively receiving their felt needs. These churches focus on slick presentation skills and even gimmicks to get people to come to their church.
The aim of these churches is for people to have convenience, security and safety, feeding our felt needs.
A particular form that we know of consumerism present within the Christian church is the prosperity doctrine. The belief that if you are a Christian you will be healthy and happy and wealthy, because somewhere in the bible it teaches that (this is at the extreme end of the scale). In some churches it is scary how successful this style of preaching has been, it one megachurch in america, when the pastor changed from teaching the gospel to teaching a more properity based doctrine the church has grown to 3 times its original number and is one of the largest churches in the States. The problem with the prosperity doctrine is that it is very very very destructive. It has destroyed numerous churches as greed takes hold in these church and corrupts church leadership. I really really do not believe that it is a biblical idea. It has been created to make people feel comfortable but is not anywhere close to what God intended.
I believe that for Christians to be truly the images of Christ light to the world, we have to denounce the message of consumerism in the way we live out the gospel (I may hit on this in a later post. I do not believe that we can marry consumerist culture with the gospel, they are opposing ideas and ways of living. Consumerism is too strong a spiritual force to marry too, it corrupts and damages the message of the gospel.
The Monkey in the Middle of the Room
I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. For thoughI am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ. Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
In my post “The Dangers of Syncretism” I highlighted the dangers of blending ideologies and religions with Christianity, and the fact that many times the Christian Church has not taken seriously the confession “Jesus is Lord.” Lisa has responded with further clarification on her blog on how to define syncretism and has argued that it has a presence throughout historical Christendom. Lisa comments, "Syncretism as it is understood in the modern Christian theological scene is ‘the incorporation of non-christian elements’ into Christendom. Every Christian culture in every epoch has done it. The western church does it, the eastern Church do it, they do it in Africa and Asia, they probably do it at your church."
I believe that syncretism is a major issue that as Christians we have to tackle. As Christians our allegiance is not to the ideas/idols/philosophies of the day. The danger is that if we do not ally ourselves with Jesus and let him reign present in our lives – submitting ourselves to his rule, we allow ourselves be shaped by the culture and we lose our force..
Hirsh in his work argues that the greatest challenge to the Christian message today is Consumerism. Consumerism has risen as a powerful reality as the power of the free market in our lives has gained a greater grip over our culture in the western world. Big corporations and there marketing brands have found that they can coerce buyers through co-oping religious and theological material to brand themselves. For example, Levis in New Zealand a couple of years ago used the image of a women going into the sea in her undies and coming out “born again” in her levis jeans. Marketers are using the idea that if you have the latest gadgets you will be part of a community and be accepted and loved because of the gadgets you own (Mac Zealots are now even being labelled by many “the cult of Mac”) Gaining more stuff and remaking your life and house has become linked to “improving your life.” Designer experiences to get emotional and spiritual and emotional highs are so common within our society that it isn’t funny. Reality TV shows, home do up shows, theme parks, even our overseas holidays all feed this need within the western condition for something more.
I believe there is a desire for “something more” but we fall short, we are searching in the wrong places. The spiritual highs we get when we buy things doesn’t last and leaves us empty inside, we search for fulfilment yet end up lost in a sea of voices.
Under this excessive influence of the market, experiences, indeed life itself tends to become commodified. In such an economy, people are viewed as mere consumptive units. The suburbs all orbit around the central consumerist temple called The Shopping Mall. Teenagers walk aimless up and down these soulless corridors as if looking for an answer that somehow evades them in the windows. Their parents saunter through the same malls indulging in a dose of “reality therapy.” Disneyland, cruise vacations, extreme sports, drugs, and the like are consumable experiences.
The desire in a consumer society is convenience, safety, and security. We want heaven conveniently packaged to reach our felt needs and wants and desires. Yet what looks so good really is what enslaves us and makes us fall short of the original purpose that God made us to live. By following these desires and these feelings we become enslaved – you can see it at present – people go in debt to own a house they cannot afford, people buy gadget upon gadget, cd upon cd, to keep up with the Jones’ so that they can be accepted. But it doesn’t work.
So how does consumerism infect the Christian community why do I think it is such a large issue
I will hit this on a number ways.
1. It is one of the major conditions of the attractional mode of church.
2. It impedes discipleship
3. Because it impedes discipleship it impedes our ability to be truly missional.
4. Because it is so enslaving we have to identify it and tackle it head on and do spiritual surgery in our own life.
As I write this I feel convicted of this myself, I struggle with the tensions in this world and struggle with my desire to buy and acquire more stuff to fulfil my felt needs. I am living in this tension and still figuring my way through it, struggling and wrestling to break the chains and lies that come from the messages of the culture around me.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
All of you doing first yeah politics or social studies at the moment - watch this video - you may find out some information that could be used in a pop quiz. Or you might be wanting to know a little more about these fascinating figures. Have fun!