Jesus Died for This? Review (Kind of)

A couple of months ago I saw Becky Garrison offer her new book (Jesus Died for This?: A Satirist's Search for the Risen Christ )to anyone who was willing to blog about it. I try to get a free book anytime I can. That's how I roll. Anyway, I didn't know much about Becky Garrison other than for some reason I had friended her on Facebook. She was friends of some of my friends (mostly authors I like) and I figured I might as well add her to the mix. At the time I didn't know that she was a writer for the The Wittenburg D


oor (or simply, The Door) or a religious satirist.

Since I didn't know much about Becky, I knew she knew absolutely nothing about me. So I sent her a message on Facebook along with my address, she responded, and graciously sent me a book a few weeks later. What I didn't 

know was how chaotic my life would become. What I had hoped would be a couple week turnaround to read the book and blog about it has taken me a couple of months. Nevertheless, here is the review.

I didn't know what to expect when I started reading the book. To be honest, I didn't like it at first. I guess it was the satire that was rubbing me the wrong way. Garrison says what she thinks and sometimes it isn't inline with cultural Christianity sensitivities. Now, I have no trouble with satire and I expected it based on the front cover (it is also what caused me to want to read the book). But sometimes I had to pause wondering if she didn't take things a bit too far. At times it seemed like she had a chip on her shoulder or was a bit angry…but who isn't a bit angry when it comes to how we, as Christians, sometimes live out out faith.

Another issue for me was the chapters didn't seem to be leading me anywhere. I kept thinking it was some type of travel log. I tend to read non-fiction books and I think I simply wasn't use to the genre being used. A couple of times, because of my schedule, I didn't want to continue reading it.

That being said, I'm glad I stuck with it. The issues I had with the book were my own issues. As I continued reading the book I realized this book was different from most of the ones I usually read. She was leading me somewhere, but I couldn't see it. As I continued traveling with her my heart started being touched. By the end of the book my heart was burning with the desire to discover the journey God calls me to. The book, it seems, is an attempt to paint a picture of what it looks to authentically follow Jesus.

Throughout the book Becky introduces to various aspects of living the Christian life. She does this through the story of her travels. In the book she recounts individuals she meets on her journey. Some of these are well known individuals, but the power of this book is in the unknown individuals. People who are living expressions of the love of God. They do what they do not for glory or notoriety, but because the love of God is burning within them and has to be made incarnate in some way.

I highly recommend this book, however, it could challenge you and the way you live your Christian life. Garrison says what she thinks and sometimes it can have a bite to it…although you might be chuckling as you get bit! In the end, if you have ears to hear what she is saying, you might just discover the heart of God for the least and the lost.

Reflections on Chapter 1 of The New Christians by Tony Jones

Just read the first chapter of Tony Jones’ new book, The New Christians. I don’t have the book. The chapter I read was free on the internet. I requested a copy from Tony to review on Missional Methodist Movement website, but as of now, I haven’t received it. I mention that because I want to be fair and also I have no idea where he is heading after the first chapter.

I thought Tony had a lot of good insights into the current issues with the church, religion and spirituality. I find myself leaning more toward missional and/or the emergent side of things, so I will probably agree with much of what Tony has in his book. However, there is one area that I think needs to be explored more in the emergent and missional movements. That are is the area of holiness.

It has taken me about 20 years to come to terms with holiness. I am a UMC pastor and the father of our denomination is John Wesley who had a lot to say about holiness. For a long time I ignored what he had to say and I don’t think I am alone in that. I ignored it because holiness always seemed like it was based on rules and regulations and I certainly didn’t want to follow the path that other holiness movement folks did.

Tony Jone, while discussing some of the problems facing churches writes:

The evidence is in: millions of individuals ‘‘inviting Jesus Christ into their hearts as their personal Lord and Savior’’ at megachurches and Billy Graham crusades has done little to stem the moral dissolution of America. And ironically,it’s the very individualism engendered by evangelicalism that has resulted inthis predicament. The primary emphasis of evangelicalism is the conversion of the individual, but that emphasis has also handicapped evangelicals in their attempts to tackle systemic issues like racism and poverty and thus has left themopen to manipulation by political forces.

Tony’s point is well taken. The church is very individualistic (which I hate, but struggle to break away from). It also has seemed to be pretty inept in the way of social change. But, is that because of the emphasis on individual conversion?

Later he writes:

The church that doesn’tchallenge its members to face the core ethical issues that confront themevery day at work is the church that has abdicated its responsibility. Many churches, particularly evangelical ones, make this mistake, and here’s why:too many evangelical churches have emphasized the vertical, just-me-and-Jesus relationship to the exclusion of the horizontal relationships with other human beings and with all of creation.In fact, a major study in the 1990s showed that the individualism inherent in American evangelicalism is directly responsible for evangelicals’ inability to diagnose and solve systemic social issues like racism and abortion. In other words, the formula for evangelical growth—namely,individual conversion—also precludes many evangelical churches from affecting the very changes that rally its members. So when I asked about the chickens,it was a theological non sequitur to the middle managers; as long as their relationship with Jesus was all right, everything else would take care of itself.

You will have to read the chapter to see why he asks about the chickens.

I agree with Tony on the problem, but I don’t think it is because of the focus on conversion. I believe the issue is we have separated justification from regeneration…which John Wesley wouldn’t do. Basically if your sins were forgiven, God’s power also came in and created, in you, a new creation. Wesley’s expectation from those who were forgiven from their sins were they would also be saved from the power of their sins.

Holiness, for Wesley, was the standard way of life for a Christian, however, while we have kept the focus on forgiveness, we have neglected holiness. It is holiness that is missing today and holiness would transform the Church. We already have an example of what a focus on conversion and holiness brings….just look at the Wesleyan revivals under the Wesleys. They literally transformed life in England. Not just the spiritual life, but also the social life. [edit: If we receive the mind of Christ as Wesley contends, then it makes sense that our agendas would reflect the will of God. This results in the outward focus of, as N. T. Wright says, “putting things back to rights.” ]

I was planning on writing some more about holiness (which I still plan on doing), but I thought it was interesting that Jone’s doesn’t seem even to bring it up…instead he seems to imply that we can address these social issues in some other way. Again, I lean toward the emergent/missional way. I believe emergent/missional is the best way to live out the life of the Gospel in our current culture, so I interested to read what else Jones has to say.

Web 2.0 Show – Episode 8 – Tara Hunt

Web 2.0 Show – Episode 8 – Tara Hunt

That is what was said in an interview on the Web 2.0 show. I know a show about the web, isn’t about the church, yet, it seems, like businesses see trends in society before the church notices them.

The comment causes me to think of postmodernism and their focus on small or communities. Big isn’t seen as being better any longer. During the interview Tara Hunt, they talked about how smaller organizations were better able to make changes (being agile) and how they were better able to work with the community.

Now, the questions I have is: how does all of this relate to the church? Does it? Could the church be better served if those of us in smaller church (not megachurches) see our size as an assest rather than working to become what we are not?

Subversive Influence » Rick Warren and the PDL Cathedral of Comparisons

Subversive Influence » Rick Warren and the PDL Cathedral of Comparisons

Ah…I read the quote referred to about a week ago in Christianity Today and thought Warren’s metaphor using the computer was a bit uninformed. I just put it off as someone in one discipline trying to use a metaphor from another discipline that he really doesn’t understand.

For one, not all computers use Intel. In fact, fewer and fewer do. Also, Windows is not the only Operating System and I sure wouldn’t want to say I was the “windows system for the 21st century” like Warren did. I would hope we would have a bit higher standards especially after Microsoft finally realizes (or admits) Windows is really broken.

Maynard is right on target comparing the traditional model church with Microsoft and the ermegent church with Open Source though. In fact, I’ve felt for a few years that the Open Source model could perhaps help us in the church figure some issues out.

Open Source is about distributive computing and creating. Open Source development needs people who know what’s going on and people who can actually do the work.

The traditional model doesn’t work that way. Basically, you have one entity (could be a pastor or “The Staff ™” who calls the shots. They tell “The Others ™” what to do. As long as “The Staff ™” know what their doing and “The Others” follow along everything is alright. It bcomes a top-down organization which worked in the past, but, isn’t really geared for the present or the future.

The problem, I see, in the top-down model is, “The Others ™” never really get to experience ministry first hand. Sure, they are followers, but they really aren’t experiencing the full move of God in their lives. While they may do what the leaders tell them to do, the experience is top-down (Although I should compare top-down to Top-down)

I’ve often wonder how we can have UM churches that have people who have been a part of it for years and decades, yet, they are unequiped to really do ministry. Sure, they might paint a building or two over the years, or give money, or work with kids at VBS, but really, do their day to day lives reflect a ministry or missional mindset.

There are some and, thank God for them, who have been able to rise above and discover God’s call on their lives. They are not Purpose-Driven ™, but rather Spirit led. God moves in their lives. They know what they’re about.

Perhaps I’m just ranting and I’m sure I’ve gotten off topic. The bottom line is this: I believe we, as the church, have stopped equiping and empowering Christians to make a difference in the world in which they live. Instead we have created followers of programs.

If there isn’t a DVD or book, or training involved, we don’t know what to do. We have forgotten how to listen for God’s Spirit moving in our lives. We study our Bibles, but do we allow God to speak through them?

There are some connections between Open Source software development vs. Traditional (read Microsoft) software development and the Emergent Church vs. Traditional Church. Perhaps I can flesh that out some more. The thing to remember is Microsoft is finding out the old software model doesn’t work. We, in the church, are discovering the old model doesn’t work. Yet, just as it is very difficult for Microsoft to change, so it is for us.