Recalibrating Church: Pt. 5

Recalibrating Church: Part 5

Dr. Leonard Sweet

Len’s was the final presentation for the day. He approached the podium at about 5:30pm. His is a booming voice: “How many PKs are out there? How many Pastor’s Kids? Well I’m a PK. My mother was ordained in the Pilgrim Holiness Church. It merged with the Wesleyan Methodists to form the Wesleyan Church. My father was a ‘liberal’ – he was a Free Methodist.” Laughter and applause.  He knows how to read an audience.

Len told a story about growing up with a mom who always managed to know what was going on: “My mother knew when we were up to something. My brothers and I would take blood oaths not to tell her, but she’d find out. I finally had to say: ‘you know what?’ Mom is ALWAYS gonna know when we’re up to something…”

“Well let me tell you: God’s up to something. Huge!  The question for all of us here is: do we know Jesus WELL ENOUGH to KNOW what God’s up to?”

Len pointed out: the FIRST problem the disciples had when Jesus was resurrected was - what? “They didn’t recognize him!”

Len told the story of Joshua Bell, a concert violinist who decided to play in a Washington subway to see how many folks passing by on the way to work would recognize genuine beauty. Only 3 people stopped to pay attention to that beauty.

“Joshua Bell is Jesus,” Len said...  "Jesus is beauty."   Are we paying attention?

Len talked about connecting with a "Google culture"…

“I don’t think generational analysis works anymore. I was born a Guttenberg person… in 1973 the cell phone was invented… 50% of the world has cell phones now… I don’t talk about postmodern anymore. I don’t talk about emerging anymore. I talk about pre-Google and post-Google… This is the fastest diffusion of technology in the history of the planet. When you buy a cell phone, you’re buying a relationship. That’s why the cell phone is free. And If you DON’T think you’re in a relationship, try canceling your plan!”

85% of all cell phones now have internet access.

Len’s acronym “EPIC” interacts with this culture. He started its usage with the book Postmodern Pilgrims, and now The Gospel According to Starbucks is the most recent iteration.

    : : :   E   P   I   C   : : :


“But EPIC is just an interface,” Sweet clarifies. “And God’s not up to an interface. It’s just: ‘do you want to do ministry in 2009?’ Ask your church: ‘What year is it here?’ The problem is, the EPIC interface is morally neutral. The devil is an evangelist, and wants to do ministry in 2009… and I don’t see EPIC working anymore in 2030. The culture will have shifted again… NEXT it will be ‘HIGH TOUCH.’”  A brief description of emerging technologies that stimulate/simulate actual touch experience.

Len explained that “we have literally two brains – they aren’t one.” A Guttenberg world stimulates and facilitates Left-Brain thinking. A Google world is a step to the Right-Brain. Can we function in a Right-Brain world?

Here’s the core of Len’s presentation: “The BIGGEST thing God is doing is DEFRAGGING THE CHURCH, putting it through a virus scan, rebooting us into the ORIGINAL Operating System of the Christian faith… In other words: ‘You gotta use the interface that connects with that operating system.’ The problem is we’ve been stuck in a bad ‘Default OS.’”

Len’s new focal acronym for getting the church through this process:

 : : : MRI : : :  Missional, Relational, Incarnational

  -  Helping the church to move from Attractional to MISSIONAL
  -  Propositional to RELATIONAL
  -  From Colonial to INCARNARTIONAL

“Jesus’ first word is ‘come,’ but we come to GO! … 2/3 of the word God is Go!”

The Way - Missional
The Truth - Relational
The Life - Incarnational

“We still think in terms of a ‘mission trip.’ All of life should be a mission trip!
You have a ministry to the Body, but you have a ministry IN the WORLD!”

“The thing that’s hardest to get – JDD. Jesus Deficit Disorder. We’ve made Christianity EVERYTHING BUT Jesus! When they said, ‘Jesus is Lord’ they didn’t mean ‘Jesus is my core value.’ Close your eyes and answer: what is truth? If what came into your mind is a proposition, then you’re more Muslim than Christian. Christian is the wackiest religion, because truth is a person! … This is returning the church to what should have been its first love to begin with.”

Len's presentation began to wind down with this story:

“When I was in Wittenburg, I could not find a single Lutheran Church. They’re all gone. Christianity is dying in the West… A lot of what we think is healthy – there’s something else going on. It’ll be called the Wal-Mart-ization of the Christian church. What happened to mom-and-pop stores when Wal-Mart came to town? What happens to small, local churches when a Mega Church moves in?”

I'd like to reflect again on "Jesus Deficit Disorder."  It's the core-argument of Alan Hirsch's book Re-Jesus.  We have to rediscover our first love.  We have to re-approach our Founder (no, not Paul the Apostle).  We have to learn who Jesus is, all over again, and what our Church could look like if we paid attention to the Person of Truth.

If we can do that, then it won't matter what culture we're in - what shifts are taking place around us - because we won't be "loyal" to a paradigm.  We'll be loyal to a personality who IS.

There's more "defragging" to do.  And it's going to hurt more than it has.  We're just getting started (I think)...


SteveK said...

A couple good books that have convinced me that we, who consider ourselves the Church, have missed the mark that Jesus set for us are UNChristian by David Kinnaman and Reimagine Church by Frank Viola. Both have shown me that even though I thought I was accepting I am really very bigoted in my thoughts of any that don't fit my Christian mold. I don't associate with any outsiders which shows that I don't care about them.

I aim to change. God made every human and has a purpoes for each of our lives.

RickNiekLikeBikes said...

We often read in Matthew 28, "Go and Make Disciples...". Correctly interpreted we should read, "As You are Going make Disciples of all nations..."

Josh Mueller said...

I liked Len Sweet's computer analogies but sometimes wonder whether the result is similar to many free online scanners: it will tell you clearly where the problem is (viruses, adware, hardware configuration etc.) but won't fix it unless additional steps are taken (like buying the program).

Now I won't start a discussion on the sovereignty of God here but is it possible that a large part of the church will neither recognize nor get in on what God is doing?

Peter said...

SteveK, thanks for your humility. I aim to change, as well... it's a long process, I think.

Rick, great interpretation. The emphasis is on GOING (which seems to carry all sorts of implications that would be interpreted as far broader than JUST the "making").

Josh, point taken: are we just scanning for viruses, or are we taking the time to actually defrag (takes forever) or even more extreme: wipe the whole hard drive clean and reload the original (or perhaps, "updated original") OS?

The analogy only goes so far. But there's a huge chasm between recognizing something is problematic, and actually having the guts and commitment to make necessary changes.

To your last question: yes, it's absolutely possible. I just finished Peter Rollins' Fidelity of Betrayal which suggests that our Christianity may be the very thing that's undermining our ability to hear God and be faithful.

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