Archive for the ‘Change’ Category

Lectio Divina with teens

August 3, 2008

I just taught the high school bible class at Flaming Pine Youth Camp. It was incredible to see what these kids did with scripture. They read scripture, meditated on scripture, interpretted scripture, and discussed the meaning of scripture with each other.

At the end of the week, they were asking for more.

I reject the notion that adolescents do not like scripture, the bible, or religion. I believe that boring, pointless, and guilt-laden approaches to scripture make it unattractive. But when teens get a chance to converse with scripture, they like it. Teens are able to go deep in their conversations with scripture.

We used a variant of a practice called Lectio Divina. In short here is what we did:

1. I read the chapter or scripture selection to them and asked them to let it wash over them. Nothing was required of them but to listen.

2. I read the same passage again. Only this time they were to pay attention to the part of the passage that was calling out for attention. (No one even questioned that scriptiure was able to call out for attention).

3. Then they were to free write about that piece of the passage which called out for attention. They were to wonder about why such a piece of scripture would call to them.

4. Then there was optional sharing time with feedback from the other students.

They couldn’t get enough of this way of reading and conversing with scripture. They ahve asked for a facebook group to be created in order to continue this practice.


Names, Labels, and Wordsmithing

June 13, 2008

Click here to see some other names of the conversation among people in churches of Christ and the emerging church.

Let’s take this thing for a drive

June 6, 2008

One of the great advantages the history of churches of Christ and the Restoration Movement offers is a foundation of autonomy. There is no central office or denominational headquarters to answer to. There is no governing head of the church. There is no written church laws on top of the Bible that must be reaffirmed and voted on at annual conferences and conventions.

Everything historically and structurally appears to set in place to step unfettered into an ever reforming and ever renewing body of Christians. Few fellowships or denominations are better situated to become change as change is needed.

And yet we have, in the spirit of the modern enlightenment, found a way to act as though we were a denomination. We find that we have a greater investment in distinctiveness (jacked up with scriptures extracted from their source) as proof of our faithfulness than we have investment in bringing and being a message of hope.

The time has come for churches of Christ to take their autonomy for a drive. It is our greatest untapped strength.

What do you think a church of Christ could do that churches tethered to a denomination just couldn’t? How could we take our autonomy for a drive?

Signs of Emergence #1: Itsy Bitsy Teeny Tiny emergence

June 4, 2008

Words have meaning. Labels are powerful. Names matter. The language we use is important. We should not take it lightly.

Language and origins of language are power laden. If we do not consider the leverage language gives one person or or how it can work to de-power another, we are prone to either abusing or being abused. When we do not consider how power flows through what we do, then we will miss what is actually going on.

Consider this conversation (post and comments) as an example. It is a conversation about the name “church of Christ.” This conversation has hints of emergence in it as well as old-line power dynamics – with the Bible as its tool.

The hint of emergence is that the “true” church does not have to be a collection of like-minded, religious people who have a building where they gather regularly with the name “church of Christ” on it. The blogger states the following:

Must that great church that Christ established bear the name “church of Christ?” No, I do not believe it must. Now in some circles, that last statement would have branded me a heretic.

What is so striking about the risk this blogger is taking with the name of the church is that such minutia is so controversial. And yet, we must consider the power game behind the name of the church. The right name, the most Biblical name, is understood as an indicator of the most correct. Being the most correct means being the most faithful. Being the most faithful means being closest to God. Being right means winning a guaranteed spot in Heaven. And the naming of the church is part of that nearness to God.

So, having the right name is essential. Without it, there is the risk of disobedience, the risk of sin.

Yes, this church of Christ blogger who does not  require the church he attends to have the name “church of Christ” on the sign (even though he prefers it) is taking a big risk. He is also showing, though it is itsy bitsy teeny tiny, a sign of emergence.

It also shows what compost emergents within churches of Christ must emerge through in order to emerge.  

This is my story; this is my song

June 2, 2008

If there is one thing that points toward emergence in churches of Christ (among other groups of Christians) it is that there are an increasing number of storytellers – alterantive storytellers. The proliferation of story tellers within the churches of Christ is quite, well, telling. The days of the ministers, elders and perhaps the deacons as the owners of the known Restoration story are in their waning stages. Even though these voice still hold the most authority over the Restoration story, they no longer own it all.

Minority voices such as female voices, charasmatic voices, democrat voices, ecumenical voices, critical voices are now all telling a story within the Restoration Movement. There are small clusters of people in churches of Christ swapping stories and building stories outside the privileged means of commuication – primarily the sermon. The sermon is losing its sole propietorship on storytelling. The mens’ business meeting and elders meetings are being de-centered in their prominence for decision making that occurs in the churches of Christ.

Emergence in churches of Christ can be measured by the stories being told and the status of the storytellers permitted to speak. If only a few men at the top of the hierarchy make all the decisions, determine what is true, and control Biblical interpretation, then there is likely little room for the often fragile voices to speak, to emerge. Rather, if there is room for the formerly muted voices to take risks and speak, and make mistakes, and make progress – emergent voices can fill the story capacity of the church.

Spreading out the “author|ity” in churches such that more people can author stories and author songs is a sign of emergence. Such things are happening, sometimes under the radar, in 1000’s of churches of Christ in America.

Any signs of emergence in your church of Christ?

Diversifying, Not Disintegrating

June 1, 2008

The wind that once filled the sails of many, if not most, members of the church of Christ has died down. The wind which was strong and steady was the wind of certainty that an honest reading of scripture would produce a unified Christianity which would render denominations pointless, or at least defenseless in debate. Quick access to truth (or should I say Truth?) was assumed. Truth was considered an obvious object which required only observation. Once observed, truth was self-evident.

This kind of optimism has waned for many in churches of Christ and completely died for others. Many have set up their lived experience of spirituality against the simple notions of truth espoused by the Restoration Movement and been left wanting, or worse, buried in guilt because something must be wrong with them and their experience.

Although some of these disillusioned members have either moved on to other churches who do non-denominational “bettter” than churches of Christ or have just had their faith evaporate, there are many more (I hunch) that have remained within the bounds of the Restoration Movement fellowship. Many are in various stages of a theological shedding process while maintaining the social networks via their churches.

In short, the optimistic (perhaps naive) impetus of the Restoration Movement, that of simple and quick access to an easily understood truth, may be what got the movement going in the early 1800’s, but it can be said with growing confidence that this same notion is not what is keeping it going today. Churches of Christ are diversifying.

Diversity on matters of worship and “women’s roles” are well documented. Diversity on epistemology (ways of knowing what is true) is less well documented. It can no longer be said that the typical church of Christ person knows truth because they read it in the Bible. Although the Bible is probably considered the primary cource of truth for the typical member, it is now not alone and the exclsuive source of truth. Many people who have no desire whatsoever to leave churches of Christ have learned about how to know something is true by the Experiencing God bible study and toehr sources which suggest truth is not contained only in scripture. Some have a special prayer language through which they believe God reveals truth. Some find Jesus through service in poor urban areas – it is their truth. Some have found truth in nature while others have seen it in the wonders of science. Going further, there are many people in churches of Christ who believe that there is a lot less truth out there, but that the Truth that is there is bigger and even more important than ever.

Spiritualities (and I do mean it plural) have emerged within churches of Christ which transcend the simple, yet confining, pattern which evolved out of the early pioneer’s efforts.

The range of spiritualities of members of churches of Christ has diversified. Churches, though many leaders and members might not be aware of it, rely more heavily on social networks and relationships as a means by which not to lose members than they do on members’ theological agreement. Theological and spiritual diversity represented in churches of Christ, were it fully known, would shock most members. Some would be pleasantly shocked while others would be devastated.

What is so ironic (and beautiful) is that even though the Restoration Movement has a long history of the necessity of theological agreement as the operating system of unity (which has a dismal record for causing untiy), the strength it has for maintaining its existence rests in the relationships that have been developed wihtin that context of a failed plan for unity. God is able to take flawed theology and redeem it.

Churches of Christ are not disintegrating in this increasingly postmodern era, they are diversifying.


Feedback of all kinds is welcomed here. Please be respectful of everyone who writes and comments on this blog. Disagreement is welcome. Disrespect is not.