Revolution?

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I was asked this last week about Barna’s new book Revolution. I confess that by-and-large I don’t read Christian books. Barna’s book is no exception. So while I couldn’t comment on the content of the book, I did comment on the title, Revolution.

Let’s define the word. Revolution is a “forcible overthrow of a government or social order in favor of a new system.” For those who hail from the third or two thirds world, the word revolution has the sound of bullets flying.

 

Today almost everything is considered a revolution. Blogging isn’t just a personal web based journal. It is a revolution. The emerging church is more than a media creation and more than code for next generation western christianity. It is a revolution. The house church is not just a small gathering in homes. It is a revolt against the program driven, megalomaniac, corporate, institutional church. It is revolution. But these are hardly “revolution” in the proper sense.

There is a secondary sense in which “revolution” is understood as “a dramatic and wide-reaching change in the way something works or is organized or in people’s ideas about it.” But essentially revolution is about the transfer of power. Historian Jacques Barzun defines revolution as “the violent transfer of power and property in the name of an idea.” [From Dawn to Decadence]. Futurist Alvin Toffler tells us that “real revolutions replace institutions as well as technologies. And they do more: they break down and reorganize what social psychologists call the role structure of society.” [Revolutionary Wealth].

People died in the Religious revolution ignited by Luther. The blood of royalty ran in the streets during the monarchical versus individual revolutions of the 16th and 17th centuries. Human beings were slaughtered en masse during the social and collectivist revolutions of the 20th century.

In contrast, speaking recently at a conference sponsored by the International Mentoring Network called HUMANA 2.0, Erwin McManus stated that what is being experienced today in the western church is not a revolution but a disillusion.

The major revolution of the first order in the world today is that of Fundamentalist Muslims seeking to forcibly transfer power from western institutions into the hands of the Mullahs. Whether or not that revolution will succeed is yet to be seen. The major revolution of the second order in the world today is the wide reaching effects of the world as we transition from an information-based knowledge society into an interconnected bio-electronic society. The questions will change from, “Who should have nuclear weapons?” to “Who should be able to genetically enhance their children?” This is not a revolution within the church. This is a revolution that is driven and dominated by technology let loose upon the whole of the world. The church and every other organizational structure in the world is being taken for a tumble like a surfer being pushed along the bottom underneath a very, very powerful wave.

For those of you who are so enthused, by all means use the word “revolution” to describe what’s happening in the church today. But recognize that any revolution happening in the church today is not new. The Christ Revolution has often been characterized by blood flowing in the streets. At the conception of the Christ revolution, there was an attempt to forcibly seize power. That attempt failed. For those of us who now follow him, revolution has an upside down meaning. Our manner of changing the world does not entail deceitful propaganda and forceful imposition of ideas. Instead, we proclaim and invite. We do not try to arrest power and seize control. We give our lives in service to humanity as a way of anticipating and participating in the coming kingdom. Revolution? Yes, but it is not the revolution of the emerging church neither is it the revolution of the conservative fundamentalist faction of the church. We don’t instigate a revolution. We participate in the Christ mission to make the world right. The revolution is that of Jesus Christ as he engages a world and culture in the midst of massive revolutionary change.

See you in the mystic.

Click here to purchase the HUMANA 2.0 DVD featuring Alex McManus, Erwin McManus and others.

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40 thoughts on “Revolution?

  1. Interesting post Alex, I agree the word revolution is over used and so in a sense “diminished” in value. I wonder if as you suggest we should see the cross as the birth place of a new form revolution which creates radical change not through the power of violence but the power of love. In this sense the message of the church is revolutionary, it revolts against the powers and principalities of this world and unseen world, it is revolutionary because it refuses to use coercion and violence and instead overturns injustice and oppression through love and compassion.
    A big part of my research for my doctorate has been Christendom and the church it produces, I think what I have concluded is that Christendom is toxic to authentic Christianity. When the Church is given power and privilege it loves some dynamic connection with the Kingdom of God which must always be an “upside down” Kingdom.
    I know you say that you don’t read Christian books but you should have at least a scan through Alan Hirsch’s work “The Forgotten Ways” in which he describes the church’s missional DNA and suggests that Christendom has deprived the church of the capability of being truly “revolutionary” by causing her to rely and focus on the wrong things. In contrast Hirsch claims that the early church and the church in China experienced amazing growth because they were forced to rely on God and decentralize church. I would be fascinated to hear your thoughts on Hirch’s Missional DNA, you remind me of each other in so many ways.

  2. thanks james. excellent thought on the cross. my sentiments exactly.

    the reason i stopped reading christian books is because they rarely present anything new. by the way, that is also the reason i’ve hesitated to publish a book. i’m bored with my own ideas once i’ve heard them. why publish more of the same? however, if you glean something in your readings that is remarkable and of note, i’m counting on you to make me aware of it. i am your student now.

    oh, you’re not the first to say to me that alan and i are similar and i’m looking forward to working with him in the near future. we’ve already been in contact by email and i think our paths will intersect down the road. i can’t tell you how flattering it is to resemble an aussie in any way.

  3. Hey Alex check out Scot McKnight’s recent weekly chapter reviews of Hirsch’s book I think they are pretty accurate and insightful, http://www.jesuscreed.org/
    You may well be bored with your ideas, but some of us don’t process quite so quickly or think so laterally so a book would be a real help to us, hint, hint!!!

  4. The word revolution has been stretched in meaning before. Two wars, two hundred years ago have been called revolutions: the American and the French. But they were of very different character.

    The Americans were not really revolting, so much as they were reaching for independence. It seems to me that they were merely reaching for the future that being born an Englishman had already put them on the path for. They fought for the right to be more “English” (in as much as being more “English” meant progressing towards an understanding that we have certain inalienable rights that come from a Creator God). They weren’t interested in overthrowing England, the King, and the Church. They just wanted to be given the freedom of self determination. It might be more accurate to call it the American War for Independence.

    The French Revolution seems aptly named. Theirs really was an overthrow of everything previous. The anger and anarchy that followed resulted in riots, guillotines, and Napoleon. Their war was more reactionary (to use another overused word). They knew what they didn’t want more than they seemed to know what they did want.

    Alex, I run into a number of guys that kind of fall into both of these camps in the Christian world. One, group is just mad at the church. They want to deconstruct everything about it.

    The other group (of which I identify myself) isn’t mad at the church at all. In fact, I was at first surprised at how angry some of them became towards me. Because I thought I was just moving towards the future that being more “Christ-like” led– the future that being a part of their church training and culture had pointed me towards.

    I don’t feel revolutionary or reactionary. I feel that I’m standing on the shoulders of those who led me to faith in a previous generation, but now I see something in the future to reach for that they didn’t/don’t see.

    It’s not a new path. Just farther along the same one.

  5. “reaching for the future that being born an Englishman had already put them on the path for.” …. sorry as a Scot I am not understanding this one! A significant number of the American revolutionaries were of Scottish and Irish descent so I don’t see how you can say they are born Englishman in any sense???

  6. Ah, James, I fear I’m over my head with you on this one. Obviously you’re more culturally aware of the nuances between the peoples of the British Isles than I. Assuredly, I meant “Englishman” in the broadest sense. But now I understand that I’ve stumbled into something tribal and therefore unwinnable for me.

    My name (Gary) does originate in your land. I understand that it once meant “spear thrower.” To which name I’ve apparently accidently lived up to.

  7. Just for clarification, ENGLAND, ENGLISH, ENGLISHMAN only refer to the southern part of the British mainland ie ENGLAND, the other parts of the British mainland island are Wales and Scotland, Northern Ireland is also part of the country which is called the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
    It is deeply offence to those of us who are Scottish, Welsh or from Ulster to be called English or have our homeland called England. I am a Scottish nationalist (could you have guessed) so my preferred title is being a Scot, or Scottish (not Scotch that’s an alcoholic drink) but because of the Act of Union I am forced to accept I can be called British.
    If you wish to refer to the whole country you have to use the name Britain or United Kingdom and refer to the people collectively as British, England and English ONLY refer to those who come from the part of the island and nation which is ENGLAND. Hope that helps. Telling a Scot he is English is a hanging offence in these parts 🙂 a bit like telling a Canadian he is American!! So Gary embrace your Celtic heritage and don’t confuse the Celts with the Anglo-Saxons

  8. James, in the interest of getting in your good graces, I offer these bona fides: I was born in the Appalachians between Virginia and Tennessee (One named for a British queen, the other a Cherokee name), the recognized home of Bluegrass music (which sounds strangely similar to Celtic music). The city of my birth is named Bristol (oops English name) and lies on the state line. Main street is called “State Street.” I received my undergrad (BA Music in Classical guitar) from Radford (oops English name again) University whose sports team is called “The Highlanders.” Our marching band wears kilts. One of my favorite movies is “Braveheart.” And one of my favorite TV characters is the brilliant engineer on board the starship Enterprise, Scotty.

    I hope you can see how my melting pot background sometimes causes me to see the world as being more stirred together. Funny how context affects meaning.

    Anyway, back to Alex’s thread on revolution. Forget I said “Englishman.” I meant to say the founders of America stood on the cultural legacy of the British Isles– the language, religion, view of man’s individual rights, view of God and law being over any human king, etc. I’m just saying that the American founders weren’t rejecting/revolting against their culture. They were taking the culture to its next future.

    OK, beam me up Scotty.

  9. Gary and James, you guys made me laugh out loud. Thank you. I love the theological and cultural learning that happens here. Thank you both for an enlightening and charming exchange. Now as we inch back towards the topic of revolution, may I quote a favorite Scot, “Freedom!”

  10. just for note Scotty sadly was actually an irish canadian and his accent makes me wince every time I hear it
    I live just along from Redford Barracks the home of the British army’s school of highland music so come and visit and you will hear a real marching band that wear kilts

  11. “may I quote a favorite Scot, “Freedom!” … Alex I think the one that said those words was Australian!
    What the real Scots said around that time was ….”for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom — for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.” Declaration of Arbroath 1320

  12. james, the favorite scot i was quoting is you. don’t you remember how i asked you to yell “freedom” at our conference in orlando a couple of years ago? i wanted us to hear a real scot yell it.

  13. I serve a church near what was the rallying point for a late night British raid upon Gen. Anthony Wayne’s Colonial troops, at Paoli, PA. In this part of the world the historical plaques refer to that event as The Paoli Massacre…just an interesting reminder, I think that (A) would-be revolutionaries do generate some passionate reaction, and (B) would-be revolutionaries can’t afford to nap. Cheers.

  14. “the favorite scot I was quoting is you” … flattered, but then again how many Scots do you know. That was a great conference, I felt I had finally found my tribe. Are you going to be in the UK this year?

  15. First, a confession, I haven’t read Barna’s book either. I appreciate it, from what I’ve learned, but I don’t see the need to read a book from the inside looking out perspective. Still…

    – He’s writing about people leaving the “church” to follow Jesus outside the walls. If religion is about power and control (thoughts?), then leaving to go somewhere with Jesus would be revolutionary. I’m talking about really leaving the game, not just emerging in a new way, reorganizing in a house, or even going back to origins yet still remaining unmistakably religious.

    – Those who leave religion are obviously a mixed bag, but I think Barna’s research indicated that a significant number are leaving the church AND moving forward with Jesus. This sort of thing threatens the whole machine, and it’s resisted by those left behind with degrees of social pressure. Not violence, admittedly, but Christians don’t do violence to other people anymore unless you count torturing suspected terrorists, blowing up neighborhoods, etc. Anyway, Barna’s research results were strongly criticized because he reported this phenomenon using too many positive terms. Of course, now more and more people in churches want to read the book and see for themselves (heck, I was shocked to find out yesterday that MY MOM is reading this book — maybe to understand me).

    – Barna is primarily describing what people are doing, I think, not talking about ideas. He may diverge, eventually, into how the church should respond. That’s what he does. But the meat of this book is the description of the research not necessarily his suggestions.

    – Real revolution happens when people move like an unstoppable tide and then kings fall and governments change. But violent revolutions, and co-opted revolutions as well, once they become led by intellectuals and activists, usually result in merely changing the regimes…

    – Finally, just to be clear (well, as I can be having just read about this book), Barna is not writing about the emergent church (or any other church based phenomenon), but about unheralded, unorganized people leaving en masse who still consider themselves followers of Jesus.

  16. Its interesting we have come into contact with a network of people here in Edinburgh like those Barna describes who like to describe themselves as believers beyond congregations who are following Jesus in the city and creation trying to fulfil what they believe are God given visions for various kinds of social action and arts projects. They are pretty anti-local congregations. I had lunch with a group of them and one of the sort of leaders of this movement earlier in the week and he immediately became sort of hostile when he discovered that we actually want to see a new Kingdom movement birthed here in Edinburgh and are connected to an established church.
    Now having pastored a couple of churches, I have a certain amount of sympathy with those who leave them as lost causes. I find it difficult right now to attend traditional churches. What I was kind of shocked at was the level of antipathy.
    I guess I believe that flawed as it often is, because its made up of flawed people like me, I can’t give up on the local church and move over to this kind of liquid Christianity with no structure. It seems to me that the NT expects people to be baptized into a visible local expression of the Body of Christ and that has to be more than a couple of people who get together occasionally to share a meal or talk about God. Seems to me that for our own spiritually growth we need to be connected at a level beyond the superficial with people who we would not naturally associate with. (which is why Paul talks about there being neither, rich nor poor, male nor female, slave or free, jew or gentile)
    Churchless Christianity I suspect will be much like a sexless marriage, it won’t last beyond a generation.

  17. Just to clarify, my opinion is that the person you met is an example of what I called “repackaging” (and, maybe, regime change as well). He still thinks there’s a power struggle that will be played out to see who’s right; and the answer is to start a movement that will fix everything (helping out Jesus greatly in the process).

    Unlike the “emergent” folks, I think Barna is describing people who are not interested in defining themselves or becoming a movement. There are countless clusters of people, and the extent to which they are networked or organized or share the same ideas varies widely.

    In addition, there will be people (maybe most of us) who bring with them the habit of seeking significance apart from Jesus, and their first reaction is to create a new way to achieve it (a new way to win) once they leave the old system.

    I’m just a learner myself with many failings and habits from my own background. I hate to plug one person, because there must be countless people worth hearing out about the points you’ve raised, but (if you really want to) check out “So You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore” by “Jake Colsen” (not a real name, but you’ll get that). You can buy it on Amazon. It’s a good primer that’s serious without taking itself too seriously. And I can say that the authors aren’t at war with traditional congregations OR trying to start a “movement” either. But they certainly address the points you raised.

    BTW, I don’t read “Christian” books either, meaning those books coming out of and packaged for Christian culture. But I’ve been reading some good books about Jesus and real life by people on this journey (the above book, Divine Nobodies…). I think there’s a difference.

  18. Sorry, but I glanced back and saw your final sentence about “sexless marriage.” Keep in mind that it’s easy to point fingers and raise doubts. You may be right, or you may be assuming that people are moving “away from” church rather than “toward Jesus.” If the latter is actually the case (even the reality), then I think they’ve (we’ve) got a chance.

    And the church (the ones meeting in buildings and organizing religiously), well…

    Barna’s most recent study showed that the divorce rate among conservative Christians is higher than among atheists. (Although Ted Haggard said, on Nancy Pelosi’s daughter’s documentary) that Christians have great sex lives. Also, is the church sometimes like a sexless marriage? What does it mean when a married couple need motivational speakers just to get them to try sex? I live in Japan, and I can tell you that most married couples: a) have a child, maybe two, and b) aren’t having sex much anymore.

  19. Andy my point about a sexless marriage was that such a construction of Christian faith is unlikely to be fertile, it is unlikely to reproduce itself. Let me tell you I struggle with church but I just can’t get away from the fact Biblical faith is inherently communal and visible, an important of Christian mission is centrifugal mission that there is a visible representation of God’s intention for humanity which can be seen in a group of flawed humans who are committed to one another and inhabited and empowered by the Holy Spirit and so exercise a magnetic effect on those outside the faith.
    This is why I believe the whole hermit tradition in Christianity is wrong headed, Christianity assumes incorporation into a visible local expression of the Body of Christ. It may feel to many people that they are heading towards Christ by walking away from the church (and it may even be true in certain occasions) but I think the plain expectation of the NT is that you can only truly encounter Christ in and through other believers in a local congregation.

  20. andy and james, you two would probably agree some if you defined how you’re using the word “church”. it is impossible to move towards Christ and away from the church. any move towards Christ is at once and the same time a drawing near to others who are also moving towards Christ [i.e. the church]. Imagine people as two points on the perimeter of a circle and Christ as the center point. You cannot move the points towards the center without at the same time moving the two points closer to each other.

    james, i think though that the cart may often times go before the horse. many times, believers in a local congregation may repel seekers. [the infamous encouter of Ghandi with a local gathering of believers in India that turned him away from “church” and christianity” but not necessarily away from “christ” comes to mind. i’m not sure whether the anecdote is true or not but it is illustrative of otherwise real experiences.] for biblical references, think of the ethiopian eunuch and cornelius and paul who actually encountered Christ not through a local gathering of believers, but through a vision and individual witnesses.

    in the end, though, the gospel does create community. as an introvert, i’m not sure i always like this fact. being the church, being a part of a new humanity can exhaust beyond measure. but then being human doesn’t always come naturally to me.

    great conversation. just a side note–andy, i don’t think james is pointing fingers, but raising questions as both of you have is ok. i feel it to be helpful.

  21. Alex I totally agree with you, I have found it difficult to move close to Jesus within a certain type of church, what I am saying is that it is not open to us to develop a form of Christianity that is so individualized that it lacks meaningful community, church discipline, the sacraments and communal demonstration of the Kingdom of God in mission

  22. James, I am very strongly in favor of community and a life that is missional by nature. Basically, I identify with all your core concerns (and, I would add, discipleship and raising up children who follow Jesus).

    I find myself moving outside of the institutional forms of church precisely to follow Jesus and pursue community and mission (and the other things I added). The difference is that I’m no longer building an institution in order to achieve the vision of community and mission. Rather, I hope to live out community and mission holistically with others. The key to understanding this is to separate things you’re concerned about (visibility, mission, community) from the institutions we create, and then it’s possible to consider other (perhaps better) ways. These institutions that have always been intended for good are NOT the church. There may, in fact, be better ways to live out church. Though I doubt we’ll find the perfect one. 🙂

    These institutions, if they are good ones, should always serve the church (form submitting to Spirit). But there’s a catch. Institutions that “work” are self-sustaining. They take on a life of their own. Outwardly, they insure their own survival in the name of “accomplishing the mission.” To do this, they teach that the institution is necessary. Then over time the institution and the mission become hard to separate, and the real mission may even become to support the institution.

    I agree with Alex about needing to define church. I think the church is the body of Christ in the world. Wherever you find Jesus followers alone or in groups that’s where the church is. We are all alone some of the time, but even when taking a walk by myself I’m still part of the Body. I agree with Alex’s statement that following Jesus will bring me together with others. I hesitate to say we “should” gather as a community. But I can’t imagine why we wouldn’t draw together with others.

    Well, there’s one reason people resist gathering in “Christian fellowship,” which is because they’ve been in fellowships that tried to control and manipulate them. I think that’s a hallmark of religion and institutions (the self-sustaining drive that turns away from Jesus to itself).

    I don’t mean to say being outside of formal gatherings that meet in buildings is necessarily better. But I can say many who are leaving the “club life” are in search of Jesus and his kingdom.

    Again, the book I mentioned above may help clarify that there are those who share your concerns AND have experienced the things you hold important outside institutional forms of Christianity.

  23. andy, as far as i know, the word “church” means nothing more than “gathering”. so i don’t see how a person alone could be considered a “gathering”.

    you write: “I am very strongly in favor of community and a life that is missional by nature.”

    are you also in favor of a communal life that is missional? if yes, that then requires an organization of the set of relationships involved in any given task/ mission. it’s hard to imagine a missional community without commitment to one another and the mission. that commitment is the glue of the organization [proto-institution].

  24. btw, have you noticed that this conversation is happening in scotland, japan, and the usa? is this a “gathering”? if the apostle paul were to write us a comment here, would he begin it with to the “gathering” at “into the mystic”?

    How does this technology –that warps space and time –change what could be meant by gathering. as you both may know, that’s been the focus of some of my thinking for the last three years.

  25. Wherever you find Jesus followers alone …. If this is an intentional choice I can’t see how it can be a church. I know the derivation of the word church is gathering, but technically a called out gathering with a purpose. The NT also makes it clear that the church is about ministry to one another and reaching out to the world in mission and assumes a certain level of ogranization to do that. I am agnostic about buildings but utterly committed to community where ever it meets, the issue is not for me where the community meets but what its ethos and actions are. I am also pretty sure church has to include the sacraments and even church discipline both those suggest a community whose relationships go beyond the casual and occasional.
    Alex is this church, perhaps an aspect, expression of church which needs more thinking through. On the one hand I often feel my relationships are deeper here and we discuss more meaningful things on the hand I have never been around to put an arm around one of us who is hurting or clean up the vomit (metaphorical and literal) of my fellow believers and I think servanthood is indispensable to authentic church.

  26. Alex…I agree with you that “church” means gathering and therefore it is very difficult to gather just with yourself. I live in Raleigh, NC and am in the midst of “re-clarifying” to our church plant the importance of us remaining committed to the missional. Now, the way I see missional is not the way others do. I don’t think missional means the style that a church uses, but actually what is at the heart of the church itself. In other words, I believe you can be a “traditional” church and be missional. I hope this makes sense.

    As far as revolution goes, I am resonating with disillusion. I live in a part of USA that is consumed with things and the more the better. This has definitley filterd into the church, so a sort of disillusion has set in among those who gather who are primariily interested in their things, but not interested in giving their things away to others who actually need them. Is it a revolution if these people change?

  27. Alex – I agree that being missional together requires organization. Our primary organization is “the body of Christ” with Christ as the head. My impression after growing up in the church and spending time in “radical” churches is that we have a tendency to step in and take over. In the past few years I’ve really just started to wrap my mind around the notion that Jesus leads in reality, not just in concept. Also, someone wise once told me (actually agreed with something I was saying) that structure is a good and necessary thing. He followed by saying that he simply doesn’t believe we should make permanent structures. Every structure should have a reason and come to an end (not in theory but really). Most importantly, I’ll add (and he would agree), we should create (and dismantle) structures as we pay attention to what Jesus is doing. Having said all that, there’s a lot of tension living this out in practice, and I’m feeling my way (as I have strong habits of taking control that I’m laying down AND an understanding that God calls me a partner not a passive droid). Hope that helps.

    James – We’re all alone. I’m alone, usually, when I’m going to the toilet and that’s intentional. Besides that, I’m often alone in the car, on a walk, and at all these times I’m part of the Body of Christ extended into the world. But please read the next line. I’m drawn into community as I move toward Jesus (with a nod to Alex). I don’t mean community is just in my future; my testimony is one story after another about relationships and community. I share your passion in substance, I think. In the past I might have said similar things about essential ingredients (discipline, servanthood). Now I think focusing on moving with Jesus is enough, and all these important things will follow. We’ll build and agree on structures (and take them down) as needed, and the building (and taking down) need not stop until we’re with Jesus face to face.

    Glen – Just a quick idea sparked by what you wrote. Disillusion means “losing my illusion,” so it’s a great thing if it leads me to hunger for something real that was promised but not delivered. I think Jesus can deliver. When we discover that and live it; then there’ll be revolution.

  28. Hmmm, it’s early morning in the USA and mid-day in Scotland.

    The word ekklesia does mean gathering, and it’s usually translated “church.” It’s a practical/functional and even, perhaps, temporary word.

    The “Body of Christ” is more conceptual language and probably equally applicable to thinking about what “church” is (especially the way we use the word “church” today). That is, ekklesia was used to simply address or describe groups; and I love the fact that they are simply gatherings. The Body of Christ analogy goes into the identity of the groups and their members. They work together practically (not by obligation but by nature or they don’t make sense) AND Jesus is the head (not the pastor, the board, the “leader” etc.). There are many leaders who are no more or less crucial that the other parts but only one head.

  29. I am going to mess up the quote, but this whole thing started with the idea of revolution and that made me think of a random quote on the top of the page in a book I’m reading…

    “What is the best way to create change? Is it violent revolution or gradual reform? The answer… show them an alternate way to live.”

    I butchered the quote (I am sure), but the reality is I have been struggling with many of these issues for 6 months to a year. But nobody could point to a single example of “church” that didn’t look like church, just repackaged. Hipper, cooler, simpler… but still 4 songs, communion, offering, sermon, go home.

    Recently I got the chance to get a glimpse of the possibilities that “church” could be. Just a glimpse mind you, and I am still sorting out the “mess” this has created in my life, but I have seen an alternative way to live. One that involves a more complete following of Christ and without the “religious” baggage that is “church”.

    My biggest struggle right now is finding better words to use since all of my “church” words are so overused and misused that they are meaningless.

    My concern with Barna’s book (I have not read it), is all the hype in the “church” world seems to be how do we fix things so this isn’t the case. Barna says that fewer and fewer people are going to connect with the institutional church (my understanding is these numbers are already something around 50-60% in US and 5-10% in UK and Australia). The impression I get is the church blaming society for its ineffectiveness.

    Someone earlier (sorry for not remembering who or where but this is a longish thread) mentioned the need for the church to be visible… At different points in history, the church HAD to be invisible, and yet it flourished. God’s power and the truth of the gospel is not limited to the visibility of a building, the recognition of an institution, or the credibility of a particular leader. The first and second century church did not lack leadership, power, authority, or influence, but I do not think I would refer to it as an institution. And at times, it was under persecution and had to fly beneath the radar, and still it changed lives.

    I am with Alex, wondering how new technologies are going to connect us in ways that will further redefine our terms. Can I fake my identity online and not submit to authentic discipleship and discipline? Yes. Can I do that in a F2F scenario in a “real” church? Yes. And in our consumer culture (at least in the US), I can just pack up and head to “another church” if I don’t like what you are preaching.

    With the internet, time and space are literally irrelevant. I have connected with people online who live near me and who live thousands of miles away. I have a tighter connection with some of them than with people who attend my church (and I was on staff until this week and it is a small church).

    In the overly cliched sense that creates sensationalism that drives book sales, we really are in the midst of a revolution. The reality is, though, that the world is simply changing, and instead of trying to adapt the old model, or even jump onto somebody else’s new model, we need to evaluate the truth of the original model and do our best to follow Christ and His teachings.

    If we are following Christ, than we are The Church. If we are just rag tag loners who “feel good about ourselves and our faith and don’t need anybody else”, than I have doubts that we are genuinely following Christ. If however, we are genuinely following Christ, I don’t see how we can help but find community with other Christ Followers, regardless of buildings, programs, proximity, or time/space limitations.

  30. good point. The “revolution” of disillusion is just a fad. The youth will get tired of mental and emotional stimulation they’re are being catered with and wind up complaining and wanting to be spoon fed some other way just like Israel in the wilderness.

  31. Wow. Interesting thread. I actually read the book. Andy, you summarized alot of points well for not having read it. One clarification that ties a couple of ideas in: Barna made clear distinctions between “church” – the organization created by men, and “Church” – the organism created by God. So his observation was that people were leaving the church for the Church. Real Church having real community with people on the journey towards Jesus, but away from politics, programs, etc. These people are not alone, but rather seeking out others on the same path for authentic, Biblical, relationship and activity.

    If we use Church as our concept for the question of this virtual gathering, there really is no question as I see it. Though we can’t physically touch (no holy kisses), I believe we as members of the body of Christ are functioning as the Church.

    And Alex, I asked you at Origins 2003 if you were ever going to write a book and you said you pretty much had the same ideas as Erwin. The way you express them, however, is unique to your God given gifts and would be greatly appreciated. I bet at least the 5 or 6 people on this thread would buy one…if you didn’t publish as a Christian book… 😉

  32. Che, Sorry. I don’t think I felt pissed when I wrote it. In any case, I’m feeling pretty good. Hey good news for you, Che. The revolution you gave yourself to still lives on in Castro and is really being enjoyed in Cuba. One day Cuba will have democratic elections just like Fidel promised when he came to power. Congrats.

    Viva La Revolucion de Cristo!
    The Bb of the cosmos.

  33. Wow, there are textbooks on what and how to be a “Christian?” Crap, and all along I thought it was an experiential thing. Worship God, live life, help others, experience God, wander the earth, share those Godly experiences with others—especially those who don’t know God and Christ, love others. I can learn all about Jesus from books? In a church?

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