Posts Tagged ‘church of christ’

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.

Bad/Good Theology + Good/Bad People = Big hurt

June 11, 2008

Abuse within the spiritual and religious realms is not limited to one group or one end of the liberal/conservative spectrum (if there is such a thing). Abuse show up everywhere.

I am tempted to believe that religious or spiritual hurt originates bad people who do bad things. I am tempted to believe that, but I just can’t. At least I cannot limit it to that. Beliefs (theology, philosophy etc) and more importantly the beliefs about how to share/spread/multiply those beliefs in others do matter when it comes to living a Christian life.

For example, if someone believes that sin gets you a ticket to Hell adn losts of sin can get you there even faster, that is certainly one thing. That’s the belief. Now, if the tactic (the belief about how to implement the belief) for sharing that message is to go around threatening people who are sinners (a very tricky thing to learn without being a hypocrite) with Hellfire and to take names later, then that is certainly another thing.

The very same belief about a sin and hell connection could be dealt with by befriending “sinners,” helping them deal with the natural consequences in their lives that they have accumulated for themselves, showing them kindness, forgiving them constantly, being gracious when they are crude, etc. A process theology of goodness, generosity, grace, and humility can really help alone a theology of sin and Hell. The original belief is not necessarily the problem, but it is the belief about how to implement the belief that could be the problem.

That is a theology problem because theology is not just about the WHAT, it is also about the HOW.

Now, there are some very bad theological perspectives which I think have only one end to them – hurting people, but i do not want to get into those in this post. The important thing is that even good people can get swept into bad theology, from any point int he theology spectrum, and end up doing harm regardless of intention.



Asterisks: Introdcution

June 9, 2008

Pontius Pilate asked a timeless question as he looked Jesus in the eye. He asked, “What is truth?”

What a great question. Jesus could have simply responded to Pilate that he should just read the Bible. The problem is that the Bible had not been written yet. Well, half of it had been written. The rest of it, the part many Christians call “the truth” had not been written yet. In fact, most New Testment events had not been performed yet.

So, I guess Jesus could have looked at Pilate and said, “Well Pontius my friend, I would tell you to read the Bible, but it hasn’t been completed yet, so I guess you’re out of luck. There is no truth yet because there is no complete Bible yet. Sorry Pilate, but if you manage to live a few more centuries, then we’ll have an agreed upon Bible. Then you can read it, and if you read it honestly, you will know the truth.”

Of course I am being ridiculous with my fake conversation between Pilate and Jesus. But I use it to make the point that the Bible and truth (Truth) are not synonymous. There has always been truth, but the completed Bible (if it is indeed completed) is a relatively new addition to the story of God and the truth. Even if you hold to the 6000 year old history of the world, the completed Bible hasn’t even been around for a third of that time period. Truth cannot be solely contained in the Bible unless truth itself did not exist until either  the first or fourth centuries (depending on how you want to measure it).

This series of posts entitled “asterisks” flows from a rather pleasant conversation I have been having in response to this blog post with Don Prather. The title asterisks comes from a general agreement Don and I have that God’s word is truth. I agreed with Don, but with certain asterisks. They are listed below.

(a) Truth (and God’s word) is not limited to the Bible

(b) Different people have different threshholds  of truth they must “meet” in order to be saved from…

(c) Truth is a process as well as content. But the process is more important.

Each of these asterisks will get its own post. All are welcome to join in on this conversation. Feel free to invite your friends and bloggies to jump in as well. I look forward to the conversation.


Most of my conversations about truth, God’s word and the Bible have been great and respectful. Some, however, have degraded into name-calling and blaming. All are invited to converse here, but disrespect is not welcomed. Please keep it honest and friendly.

Book Review: The New Christians #2

June 6, 2008

The New Christians Part 1


This post is the 2nd of 6 from Tony Jones new book called, “The New Christians

Chapter 2 starts out with some fiction (Tony is secretly a fan of fiction), an allegory. It serves to set the stage for the lion’s share of the rest of the chapter which covers, warts and all, the friendships which evolved into a movement. But this movement was not started by these friends, packaged tastefully, and then promoted, although it could easily be interpretted that way. Instead, this group of friends got together and began to recognize that there was a common experience among them which had no voice. They wondered if there were others “getting it” (whatever ‘it’ was).

The story goes on sharing how many people were experiencing the same thing in the United States and in the U.K.  

This chapter is a skin of made partly of history, partly of autobiography, partly of fiction, partly of anecdote – a skin wrapped around the response to the problem of the RIGHT/LEFT Christianity denoted in the first chapter.

What is not stated as expicitly as it could have been is the incredible risk taken by many of these emergent friends. Many of these people have cast their lot with a life of church and then turned their back on the bread and butter. Many of these people have families to feed, have rent or mortgages to pay, have to make ends meet. They put it on the line with the institutional support completely evaporated.

I wanted to hear more about the emerging church in Africa, South America, Asia, and Australia. The stories from other continents, if there are any, didn’t make chapter 2 of the book besides a reference to Brian McLaren’s travels to Africa. But that is still an American headed out. I want to hear about Korean emergents, Guatemalan emergents etc. I also want to hear more about women in emergent. Factor out Karen Ward, and there is not much talk of women.  

What this chapter best does is show how something comes out of nothing. How emergence happens – or can happen. It is not a model for how to do it, but rather it is a story that shows that it can be done. People with a passion, an itching, a yearning, with a sense that maybe this church life is getting in the way of your relationship with God, then chapter 2 gives hope that you don’t have to just be suffocated by your denomination. At the same time, you can’t be a little emergent. So far as Jones is concerned, it is full immersion.

Church of Christ Compost #2

June 5, 2008

Much of the compost created by churches of Christ has to do with the way in which people from its tradition interact with the rest of the world. There is a way in which religious people (RM people very much included) can get so insular and self-focused that it becomes impossible to have any meaningful communication with people who are not within their group.

The Church Rollerskating Party

Times were good at the South Twin Cities church of Christ. We were growing numerically, the youth group was coming together, and there were a large number of very involved members. It was time when there was optimism and hope that a Northern church of Christ could break the stereotype of the small, weak Northern church.

The parents organized a rollerskating party for the youth group. It was an invite your friends event, filled with evangelistic optimism.

We arrived with all of our friends and started skating. All the popular tunes of the of the 1980’s were pumping. Oops. The music was not something the parents had anticipated. Styx, Boston, REO Speedwagon, Jefferson Starship etc rocked us as we skated.

Even though every parent had allowed their kids to skate at this very roller rink with these same songs on Saturdays all year long, this was a church event. This heathen music was not acceptable – not for an evangelistic event. So, one of the parents took the bull by the horns adn asked the DJ for some Christian music. The teenage boy was apparently not aware that Christians had music (and with good reason in the 1980s). The parent insisted that there was Christian music. Furthermore, the parent insisted on something acappella. Again, this acappella music was not something the DJ knew about. When it was explained to the DJ that acappella meant singing only without instruments, he got it. He told the parent that he did have one song that was mostly acappella. The parent was not happy, but felt stuck as she had not brough in some music of her own (Can you imagine rollerskating to “How Great Thou Art” by the Hardin Acappella chorus?)

So, the DJ, in his best effort to accommodate what must have sounded like a crazy request, annouced a mostly acappella song.

The drums lead in Buhm buhm shih, Buhm Buhm Shih and then the vocals “Buddy you’re a boy make a big noise playing in the streets gonna be a big man some day…”

We Will Rock You by Queen was the best the DJ could do.

Please respond with your ideas about why this is or is not compost.

Signs of Emergence #2

June 4, 2008

Click here to see a sign of emergence from a life long church of Christer.

Book Review: The New Christians #1

June 4, 2008

This post is the first of 6 from Tony Jones new book called, “The New Christians.”

The first thing I want to say about this book is that it is easy to read. Important words are defined in inset boxes, it is written in digestable chunks, and it is generously sprinkled with relevant stories. Tony can write.

Chapter one presents the reader with the problem with the modern American church. Neither liberal nor conservative churches escape being exposed as flawed. My favorite word in the entire chapter is compost. I liked it so much I created a category on this blog called “Compost Pile,” which will serve as place for posts representing the specific church of Christ compost pile that is rotting in our ecclesial back yard.

Jones’ compost, as best as I understand it, represents the old, stale, entreched, decaying, dying church structures, systems, and organizations. It is the waste that churches decide to keep around because of decisions made long ago, the need to maintain a distinct identity, or the inertia of beaurocratic layers which just can’t be stopped. Each group’s compost is different in some way, but the common theme of spiritual death runs through them all.

Being introduced to the philosophical notion of foundationalism was insightful and worth getting into. He provides a mock conversation which I am sure has been had a million times which does a fine job of showing the problem Christians have with foundationalism.

Jones ends chapter 1 with a dispatch from the blogosphere and how emergent might be something more than an insular theological exercise for educated white people. The inclusion of Musings From a Postmodern Negro is not just a strategic move by Jones, it is a statement to White Christianity and a critique of emergent that there are many voices that must be heard which are not sitting at the same table. Just because Christianity has always been segregated in America does not mean that it has to be that way in the future.  

This book is relevant to members of churches of Christ because our heritage sits smack in the middle of the critique of the conservative wing of Christianity. There are New Chritians in churches of Christ who will find this book a breath of fresh air. Ministers, elders, deacons, professors, and bible teachers in churches of Christ should also be looking into “The New Christians.”

Go to The New Christians #2

Church of Christ Compost #1

June 4, 2008

Click here for Church of Christ compost #1.

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.