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July 10, 2008

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Jesse Phillips

YES! YES!

I think we've obviously lost our place, and I think it's a good thing. I think, as you indicated, we're best working from the margins, being different - pointing to a better way of life.

But we (er, I) don't live it out! I'm so NOT living that abundant life that I need in order to evangelize effectively!

Also, unlike the 3rd century, we're moving to the margins with a HORRIBLE brand image. People hate us and see us as the "evil empire." I wish we could just blow-it-up and start clean with a new brand ... call ourselves Jesusians or Loveists.

Thanks for this post Jay! Viva la NEW REFORMATION!

Dave Lewis

Jay,

I agree wholeheartedly with Clegg and Bird's position. I have thought this way for the past decade. I have done pulpit supply in many churches here in NY and the Northeast and have seen similar traits; people just going through the motions of doing church. Lately I have been questioning the whole organizational structure of the church (generally speaking)to the point of getting myself in hot water with my own denomination. Are the systems we have grown accustomed to over the centuries even Biblical? While some of these practices may have their roots in the first century Biblical picture, most of what we see is cultural, and culture is continuously changing. I do respect and appreciate what the Church has accomplished over the centuries and the revivals and missionary movements that have taken place, and the many saints who have served the Lord faithfully, but the church, as you have stated, has lost its place at the center of American life. I believe guys like Alan Hirsch are showing the way we must go and think if we are to reach this current generation, and those who come after. We need to think like missionaries;no longer just the shepherd tending the flock mentality, but the shepherd searching for the lost sheep mentality as well.

Dave Lewis

I wanted to add that this shift in culture and society's view of Christianity may not be a bad thing. It will cause those who truly want to serve and represent Christ to re-think their strategy, purpose and mission.

Jesse Phillips

Dave, I agree. I don't think the structures we're using are very explicitly biblical. I feel we need to be incorporating the gifts of multiple body members more into the service - not sure what this looks like. Myabe "the service" is totally different - I'm influenced by the smaller missional communities I'm hearing about.

jay hardwick

Jesse & Dave ::

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think we have to be careful to not automatically start shifting pragmatics. To me, before this is a practical issue, it's a spiritual issue.

If Jesus following people do not make decidedly different decisions from those who are not following Jesus, then the pragmatics are useless. I know people in house churches who look at porn, get wasted every weekend, and look down their nose at other Christians who just don't get it like they do. And, I know people in traditional churches who passionately love Jesus, serve homeless people, love their neighbors, etc.

Before we get married to practical forms of church, we have to be sure they will actually produce transformed people. That's all that matters.

My opinion...the shift of Christianity from the center of American culture is first a call for Jesus followers to act like Jesus. Then, the call for those of us who lead is to figure out how to do that in the context where we live, lead, and serve. It will look different from place to place, but the result will be the same = transformed people.

Love the conversation guys...let's keep it going...

jason salamun

The message of the quote is more like a wake-up call to awaken (pun intended jay) the American Church.

Perhaps before we get too pumped about new/ancient/whatever models of church. Maybe we should take a step back and look at what we're called to do.

Above all, we, The Church, are to love and glorify God. That's a given.

The 'what's next' question is one churches need to wrestle with biblically. Personally, I'm convinced it's to make disciples.

From there, we ask, "How do we most effectively make disciples in our context?" That affects how we reach people to take the first step in following Christ. It affects how we help people as they're following Christ. It affects how we lead people by following Christ.

So far I'm learning that just because God is calling us to be the church one way doesn't mean other ways are wrong. God's bigger than a model of church.

I think churches are like one big person. They don't look exactly like each other, they are unique, like people. That's how God created us. Maybe we should celebrate and appreciate that and be true to who God called us to be where we are.

Bryan Plyler

Dead on...and your statement that you're not so sure Christianity losing its place at the center of American life is all that bad is not heretical except to people whose heads are buried in the past or, more accurately perhaps, an illusion of a past reality. Funny when you compare it historically, look what happened when
Satan couldn't stamp out Christianity from the outside...he joined it via Constantine. That did a lot of good right! Seems strangely similar to what has happened to the church in America...the church gained a prominent cultural position for a while then went to sleep, developed an entitlement mentality as it related to its position...an now it's lost that position.
But that's not something to be mourned...we don't have time for that. We can impact culture today just like the early church did, if we'll wake up.

Dave Lewis

Jay,

I couldn't agree more. For me it is about living as Christ lived, loving as He loved and serving as He served. Whether it is in a century old church building (which is what the CORE Church inherited) or in a night club, banquet hall, house, barn, etc. For me it's not merely a matter of location; its about being the people of God in the community; in the world but not of the world. Anyone who claims to be a follower of Christ, yet dabbles in the vices of this world, is of this world; carnal, as the Scriptures call it. My mission is to make Christ known in the heart of the commnunity where I live. I am constantly repeating this to myself and to the folks in our church because we can easily lose focus from what we've been called to do in favor of filling church pews to support minstry programs. Any ministries that we begin should reflect the whole needs of those God brings us into contact with. We can't do everything, so we pick and choose what will accomplish the mission of God, which is to make Him known in the hearts of the people we are reaching out to. It's not always an easy task discerning what we will or will not do, but through prayer and being in the word, God simply opens doors that He allows us to see and walk through. That, to me, is vision; seeing through the eyes of God as to the value of every human life and how I as a follower of Christ will go about the mission of making Him known.

jay hardwick

well said, jason, bryan, and dave!

this is great stuff...thanks for helping me and others process and learn!

let's keep it going...

Brad

Jay, I'm not sure Christianity was ever at the center of American life, at least not the kind Jesus advocated. We took control of this land by exterminating the natives who lived here and built the country on the backs of African slaves. For 200 years, America has been best known for power and wealth, qualities that Jesus stood quite strongly against. I think what's happening is the church is finally starting to rethink the last 1700 years of Constantine Churchianity. I see no benefit in having Christianity at the center of American life. Instead, I pray that Jesus regains his place at the center of his church.

jay hardwick

Brad,

What a great prayer! And the hard part is that it starts with you and me. Jesus has to be in His place at the center of my life and your life. Then, by default, He will be at the center of His church. Thanks or adding your thoughts!

Christopher E. Burcham

There is no question that 50 years ago, our culture was far more steeped in outward forms of Christianity. Prayer and Bible reading were still a part of the daily routine in most public school classrooms; most Americans went to Christian churches; and the general populace had some measure of biblical literacy (to the point of at least being familiar with the basic biblical narratives, characters, Ten Commandments, Sermon on the Mount, etc.).

That said, I'm not at all certain that any higher percentage of people had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ than do today. We were, without question, a more outwardly Christian culture than we are today--but perhaps that only contributed to confusion between trappings and the Truth.

Much as we tend to lament the fact that all that is largely gone now, I wonder if it might not make easier our task of clearly elucidating and demonstrating that Christianity at the very least transcends all of those trappings and may, in fact, exist entirely independent of and apart from them?!

Now if we could just take this a step or two further and rid most of the population of the still largely-held notion that they're "Christians", we might be making even more significant progress.

From my perspective, it's far better--both individually and nationally--to be disabused of thinking that we're Christian when we're not (based simply on the presence of some belief, behavior, or knowledge)!

Rhonda B

Is Christianity not being the center of our culture the problem, or is that just the result of Jesus not being the center of our lives?

Rhonda B

For thought...have we successfully put Jesus at the top of our TO DO LIST (instead of the center of our life) crossing Him off, just like the other things that we get done in the course of a day? And how would Jesus spell center anyway? Perhaps A B I D E as in 24/7.

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