Recalibrating Church: Pt. 4

Sorry it's taken me so long to post again.  I'm on vacation and it's hard to focus!   ;)

I can tell by some of the comments here that some of my comments - particularly about one of the presenters - touched some nerves.  It's very difficult in Christianity to critique someone's view or theology or approach without rubbing some very raw emotions.  Especially when it's in a format like this: cold text written by a guy most of you probably don't know (me) and who probably appears a little too self-assured.  I apologize if that's the vibe I've given you.  As I said in a recent comment, I've seen enough of the church's own little "celebrity culture" to be a little bit jaded about how we talk about approaches to ministry.  This is an industry.  Just like some folks think Seth Godin is a quack in business/leadership circles.   And we need to be able to talk about Christianity honestly for God's sake - literally.  If we can't - if we let politeness overwhelm honesty and transparency - then we're sunk.  And maybe in many ways, we already are.  Which is why we need to recalibrate in the first place.  But we can keep chatting about this, so for now I digress...

Recalibrating Church: Continued... 

I’ll say up front that I was really impressed with Alan’s portion of the Recalibrating event. I’ve read his blog, but haven’t read his books or heard him speak. He seemed to carry himself with a humility and focus that was captivating from the moment he began speaking.

Alan opened with a comment that “Re-Founding the Church” was a more radical way of looking at the task-at-hand than reformation. He explained that we – as Christians - have to recover or rediscover the “way of the founder.” The way of Jesus. This does not mean digging for the “right theology,” but rather focusing intently on the person of Jesus and allowing the results of that focus to manifest in the church and the world.

“When one recalibrates something, one resets the algorithm, resets the system – reboots the computer,” he said. “I don’t wear collars... I have a short little neck: some Jewish-hobbitty thing… But when I do wear a collar, I usually mess it up. I have to unbutton it, rebutton it, straighten it out…” so we must unbutton, straighten out, and rebutton the church. So to speak.

On Post-Christendom: “We’re here for the first time. We haven’t been here before.” Not in Pre-Modernity, not in Modernity. “But we have an idea of church that is shaped by the Christendom model… God has used it… It’s not totally bankrupt, but it’s not going to take us into the 21st century.”

Hirsch continued, “Behind that, the more important issue is getting back to the person of Jesus Christ. The centrality of Christ… It is Christology – the phenomenon of Jesus – that determines our missiology in the world. Out of our missiology – our purpose and function in the world – is how the world performs in the world. The church is a historical entity – an entity made up of human beings… It must ALWAYS express itself in cultural terms.”

Keep in mind I wasn’t typing every word. Some of these notes are fragmented. I humbly ask your forgiveness...

Hirsch said, “I like the term ‘Gospel Planting’ instead of ‘Church Planting’ because when we say ‘church,’ we THINK we know what each other means. If you plant a gospel (seed vs. pot) then the church grows up around it. You can’t plant a MOVEMENT with an institutional church. You plant it with the Gospel seed.”

I really liked that. The image of planting a seed vs. a potted plant. Maybe we aren’t patient enough to wait for a seed to sprout, so we just dig out a piece of our existing plant and transport it elsewhere…

Re-Jesus is my new book… it’s about taking us back to our FOUNDER. I can’t think of one thing more important for the church than to rediscover the utter centrality of Jesus.”

Love it.

“It is CHRISTOLOGY that lies at the heart of how the church needs to change in the world. How else are we going to know we are Christian unless we line ourselves up against Jesus. How else are we going to know? By what other means?”

Hirsch outlined five critical things that result from Jesus’ centrality. I caught three of them (no PowerPoint; oh how co-dependent I am on aged software for my learning!). There may be #’s 4 and 5 in here and I just didn’t catch them as headings…

1. Jesus defines our understanding of God.

If your conception of God is radically false, then the more devout you are, the worse it would be for you. It is better that you be an atheist. It is God who reveals himself primarily through Jesus. If we want to understand God, we look at Jesus. We only understand the Trinity through the 2nd Person of the Godhead, Jesus. It’s not so much that Jesus is Godlike. The more radical truth is that God is Christlike. “If you have seen me, then you have seen the father.”

It’s critical that we “Re-Jesus” the church. The Gospels must become our primary texts again. We in the Reformed tradition have looked at Paul for far too long. Paul would be appalled at it! Any substitute, replacing Jesus, distorts the fundamentals. If we take Jesus out of the equation, then we lose our reference point. If we’re going to be healthy Christians, then we have to both engage the Incarnation, we need to return to the narratives of Jesus as what life is meant to be lived like. Mostly we hear Jesus in Sunday school. We use Jesus to turn our kids into nice middle class citizens. But Jesus undermines all of that – the real Jesus.

2. Ecclesiology must get its agenda by Jesus. 
Christianity minus Christ equals religion. I’ve come to serve the church in America. I deeply love the American people.

But I’ve got to tell you there’s a lot of religion in America – some hard core stuff going down! And it depresses people.

There’s that book: “unChristian.” unChristian? That is the WORST insult that can be hurled at the church!

I’m a Jew. My people have suffered far more under Christians than under Muslims. By putting Jesus back into the church, we recover what it meant to be Christian in the first place.

3. Jesus sends and defines our mission. 
He’s the commissioner. Not only is Jesus the sending God, but he’s also a darn good missionary. I’ve worked with freaks my whole ministry – people on the fringes of society. Prostitutes. I know them – in the non-Biblical sense. Here’s the thing: they love Jesus. They couldn’t get enough of Jesus. But they don’t like evangelicals. I know, it’s a shock. But What is it? We’re not Christlike. If we were, we would do the things Jesus did. We lay into sexual issues, but Jesus says more about pride and greed and self righteousness than anything else. He doesn’t even talk about homosexuality. We should at LEAST put our issues into Jesus’ perspective.

All of the women I worked with (prostitutes) were drug addicts. As a control freak, my job was to go fix them up and tell them what to do. The more of them that came into my life, there more I was getting more tired. God said, “It’s not your job to do all that. Do what a priest does.” So what does a priest do? He mediates between God and people. So: “Sally, here’s Jesus, Jesus, here’s Sally…” and then I step out of the way. Jesus is able to change people in ways we cannot. When I try to play the Holy Spirit, I do a really bad job. We can trust the spirit – God is good at what he does. It’s not my business to run their lives. It’s very liberating!

- - -

I love it.  I've often written about "jumping the gun" on the Holy Spirit.  Getting ahead of God's own work.  Assuming I know better than God what someone needs to hear, and when.

I'll be picking up Re-Jesus very soon.  Gotta read Phyllis Tickle's Great Emergence first though.  Will let you know how it is...


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