Experimental Ministry

Test TubesAlan Roxburgh discusses Missional Imagination in his book “Introduction to the Missional Church.” In discussing Saul (later Paul) and his transformation he writes,

“Information and definitions were not the issue; what Saul needed was a radical transformation of his imagination-of the way in which he saw the world.”

So Roxburgh basically defines imagination as “how one sees the world.” One might argue that “how one sees the world” is an adequate description of one’s culture or at least one’s worldview. In his book, he calls for individuals to be transformed so they might see the world and themselves through a missional lens. This shift to a missional worldview is ultimately what I desire for those whom I pastor.

The problem is, making shifts in culture and worldview is easier talked about than accomplished. Andy Crouch address this in his book  Culture Making. He says it is much easier analyzing the culture than actually changing it. In discussing why it is difficult to change a culture (or perhaps worldview), he has a very perceptive quote:

The language of worldview tends to imply, to paraphrase the Catholic writer Richard Rohr, that we can think ourselves into new ways of behaving. But that is not the way culture works. Culture helps us behave ourselves into new ways of thinking.

It seems that I’ve been taught that if people can think in new ways, it means there will be changes in their worldview. However, that might not be the case. What if, the culture has more affect on my thinking than my thinking has on the culture? What are the implications for a church that has been living in a certain culture for decades? I’m not sure we are going to “think” our way out of it.

What Roxburgh calls for (and Crouch may too…I’m only about 1/4 of the way through the book) is for experiments in ministry. If new ways of acting cause changes in the accepted culture, then the best thing we can do to change the culture, is to introduce new desired behaviors.

Perhaps this is why some translate Matthew 28:19 as “Therefore in your going make disciples…”

Unwilling

Adam Hamilton said something that really has caused me to pause and reflect. He said that successful (however you define it) pastors and churches are willing to do what unsuccessful pastors and churches are not willing to do. This seems to make a lot of sense. It is not only true of pastors and churches, but of musicians, athletes parents and students. Really it is true of just about everyone.

In the book Outliers Malcolm Gladwell discusses the very successful. Among his various observations is the ten thousand hour rule. Ten thousand hours is the time it takes to become successful. If you want to be a virtuoso, then you will need to practice around ten thousand hours Malcolm says. Sure talent plays a role, but the findings are that ten thousand trumps innate talent.

Successful people are willing to put in the time; in the gym, the practice room, the library, etc. The unsuccessful ones just are not willing to do so.

Perhaps one of the most productive things we can do is determine what we are not willing to do as individuals. Ten thousand hours is a lot of time. It takes most people about 10 years. I might not be interested.

What are we not willing to do as a church? The ten thousand hours may not come into play, but it is still helpful to know. Are you not willing to help in the nursery? VBS? There are things I’m not willing to do. Just remember though, the successful churches are those who are willing to do what the unsuccessful aren’t.

— Post From My iPhone

The Power of Religion

Yet, on the authority of God’s Word, and our own Church, I must repeat the question, “Hast thou received the Holy Ghost?” If thou hast not, thou art not yet a Christian. (From Sermon 3: Awake Thou Sleeper)

As I read through John Wesley’s sermons I am amazed at how often he defined a Christian as one who has received the Holy Spirit. He was not ashamed of his view and this view would get him in hot water from time to time.

In some of his sermons he went as far as to say that even though you might act like a Christian, look like a Christian, or even smell like a Christian, if you had not received the Holy Spirit then you were not.

He didn’t care if you had been attending a church your whole life, or if you fed the hungry and clothed the naked, or even if you were clergy. He even said that he was an “almost Christian” for years.

How many of us and our memebers would Wesley consider ‘Almost Christians’? As I reflect on Wesley’s definition, it causes me to wonder if perhaps the greatest need for the Methodist church today is for us to preach conversion to the church members (including the clergy).

Wesley’s fear wasn’t that Methodism would cease to exist, but that it would have the form of religion and lack the power. Our fear of Methodism is that we cease to exist. Perhaps it is time for us to concentrate more on the power of religion (the Holy Spirit empowering the life of love), rather than the form.

Different Strokes

I keep forgetting that in a church there are various types of individuals. There are some, who seeing the church as they would any other organization, will take part in its programs, its committees and other activities even though, they don’t understand the deeper issues of being sent or that Jesus calls them. There are others who come out of a sense of history because it is what they have always done. They don’t always understand why they are there or what part they play.

Perhaps the trick is to find those people who have been touched and transformed by Jesus and who still have their hearts open and receptive to what he is wanting to to through them and understand that. If you can get those folks together it would be powerful.

Of course, the other side of this is to discover ways to draw all in the church to a deeper relationship with Jesus so they will begin to understand their part in the kingdom of God.

They Like Jesus

 

And here we are getting at the root of the matter. A Jesus who does not look like us, doesn’t talk like us, doesn’t dress like us, and lives according to a different culture is alien to us. He is very hard to identify with. Instead of changing ourselves into an image more like his which requires hard work and not a little imagination, it is so much easier to mentally change him into the image of ourselves. And this domestication of Jesus if taken to an extreme (for instance with the Aryan Jesus concept) becomes in fact idolatry— the attempt to recreate God in our own image. But for most of us, it never goes that far. We just desperately want Jesus to be approachable, someone we could actually imagine emulating.

[Ben Witherington]

 

This is from Ben Witherington III’s blog. When I read it, I thought of the reports that people seem to like Jesus (when they do polls and such), yet, they have a low view of the church. Whenever I see articles reporting that Jesus is held in high regard, I always ask myself, “What Jesus?” My feeling is that the people responding to these polls really haven’t taken time to know who Jesus is, or what He calls us to. If so, then they either wouldn’t hold in in such high regard, or they would be living a very different kind of life. I believe that Witherinton is right, we would rather change Jesus to match our image, than to change ourselves to match His. For us to match His image means that we too must take up a cross…..

While I believe that what I’ve written isn’t Witherington’s point in the article, I believe the tendancy to create a new Jesus based on our likes and our image (Jesus as my fishin’ buddy) should be explored.