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Time magazine: “Ideas changing the world right now – The New Calvinism”

Mark Driscoll points out that Time Magazine has named New Calvinism as the third biggest idea that’s changing the world right now. He points out what makes it distinct:

Four Ways ‘New Calvinism’ is So Powerful

  1. Old Calvinism was fundamental or liberal and separated from or syncretized with culture. New Calvinism is missional and seeks to create and redeem culture.
  2. Old Calvinism fled from the cities. New Calvinism is flooding into cities.
  3. Old Calvinism was cessationistic and fearful of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. New Calvinism is continuationist and joyful in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit
  4. Old Calvinism was fearful and suspicious of other Christians and burned bridges. New Calvinism loves all Christians and builds bridges

God-forsaken Suburbia

BSECEddie Arthur just posted a helpful link to J R Woodward’s primer on Missional church. Glancing through the huge list of links I came across a useful paper by Todd Hiestand called  The Gospel and the God Forsaken: The Challenge of the Missional Church in Suburbia.

Although Todd is thinking about suburbia in America I think it speaks equally well to the UK context. If you like me are facing that challenge, do read the full paper – it isn’t very long. Here’s how he summarises the challenges which the church should be bringing to life in the suburbs:

There are at least four main ways the default suburban lifestyle needs
to be challenged. First, we need to speak out against the suburban
value of extreme individualism and call Christians back to community.
Second, we need to deconstruct the value of consumerism in way that
leads instead to sacrificial living. Third we need to question the
suburban value of safety and comfort and judge it against the call of
the gospel. Finally, we need to understand how our individualism and
consumerism lead us to neglect the hurting and needy people in our
neighborhoods and cities.

And here’s a taster from the challenge to deconstruct comfort:

Uncritically accepting comfort and safety affects more than just our
personal discipleship and mission. It also has great impact on the
mission of our community. Church communities seeking to maintain and
find comfort for their members will quickly lose the mission they
started with. In his book Exiles, Michael Frost claims:

Timidity squashes our missional impulse. It causes us to
withdraw from any grand sense of purpose for fear of upsetting the
delicate balance of conflicting egos currently residing in each church.
Christians surround themselves with fellow churchgoers, so that their
church’s only goal is to maintain equilibrium. Such timidity and
anxiety leave the church as nothing more than a retreatist, frightened,
ineffective organization.

Mistake not familiarity for naturalness

Wayne Leman at the Better Bibles blog has written a helpful article showing how familiar wordings in the Bible may actually be unnatural and why this is a problem. Here's a short extract to encourage you to read the whole article:

Overuse of unnatural wordings for rhetorical effect desensitizes us and
a desired effect is lost. If English Bibles are filled with unnatural
wordings, readers get from those Bibles the wrong sense about the
messages they are reading. Instead of being intellectually or
emotionally or volitionally challenged by the unnatural, the unusual,
the unique turn of phrase, we become too familiar with them if they are
overused. And familiarity can not only breed the proverbial contempt,
but it can also create within readers a sense that God is distant, he
doesn't talk our language, he isn't really interested in incarnation.
And that is exactly the wrong message we want to have connoted by Bible
translations. God not only incarnated himself to bring salvation to
mankind, but he also incarnated messages he wanted communicated to
mankind through normal human languages.

 

Following Christ is not PC, so is it Mac?

Enjoy this interesting take on the Mac vs. PC ads. Would you prefer to call yourself a Christian or a follower of Christ?

{mosmodule video=http://www.youtube.com/v/8RtfNdg1fQk}

You can watch the whole series of 6 videos on Bramsvan's YouTube channel .

Hat tip to Eddie 

Exiles – Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture

Michael Frost – Hendrickson Publishers

exiles

click to buy

“This book is written for those Christians who find themselves falling into the cracks between contemporary secular Western culture and a quaint, old-fashioned church culture of respectability and conservatism.”

Our situation is much like that of the Jewish exiles in Babylon.

Just as Jerusalem was finally razed in 587BC so Frost says

“Christendom is over and we need to get over it”

We are conscious of the humiliation of God’s people in the eyes of the society amongst whom we now
live. a society where “Christianity is believed by many to have been tried and failed.”

We now find ourselves caught between the temptation to sink roots deep into the foreign
soil of the ‘host empire’ and the desire to retreat into the comfort of a Christian ghetto and spend our energies lamenting or trying to restore the temporal cultural supports of Christendom.

The book is an exhortation to resist the inclinations to assimilation or fruitless
lament for past glories and to embrace a robust, confident Christ-
centred faith and lifestyle, lived boldly
together right under the nose of our host culture. Frost divides the book into four sections

Firstly we are called to rediscover DANGEROUS MEMORIES.

Jesus’ example is brought sharply into focus as we see how Christians have often been so intent
on demonstrating Jesus’ divinity that we have stripped him of his real humanity. Thus we end up placing him so far out of our own context and
experience that he no longer presents an achievable model of Christlikeness.

We must follow Jesus example by taking our faith outside of the boundaries of closed religious contexts into the public spaces of our
society and seek to practice his presence in our daily living (c.f. Brother Lawrence).

In the second section Frost calls us to make DANGEROUS PROMISES. To seek authenticity in our relationships within and beyond the community of believers; modeling the transforming power of the gospel in grace, mercy, forgiveness and service.

The sociological idea of communitas is explained in some detail. In simple terms this is the bond
created when groups share in action towards a common purpose. Frost argues that mission is the central and most powerful expression of worship. Christian communitas is created as bands of believers discover and actively pursue God’s grand missional purpose.

Frost gives examples from Sudan & China of how small Christian communities have reproduced
themselves dramatically without buildings, formal organizational structures or trained leadership. Although he does
not believe that formal structures are inherently wrong, he suggests that reliance on them is limiting growth: “We are not fully realizing our
calling to be the church of Jesus Christ as long as we rely on money, buildings and paid experts”

Other dangerous promises we should make include committing ourselves to generosity and hospitality as well as hard work in the host culture particularly in the God inspired realms of creativity/building, naming/renaming, truth-telling and healing.

Thirdly we are invited to engage in DANGEROUS CRITICISM of the ‘host empire’. Daniel remained resolute in his faithfulness to God and yet he thrived in the foreign ungodly society of Babylon. When called to interpret the writing on the wall, he faithfully declared God’s message of judgment on King Belshazzar. Frost calls believers to cry out in exposing the injustices around them. He writes at length about how international corporations and institutions often maintain ich nations’ power and wealth at the expense of poorer countries. Whether one accepts his political analysis or not it makes for very challenging reading.
The next area where exiles are called to speak up is against the damage being caused to the created environment. Once again what he says is challenging and controversial. The final dangerous criticism we must engage in is drawing attention to failure of the ‘host empire’ to recognize Jesus Christ as Lord of all and speaking out about the rights of persecuted believers. The accounts of persecution and abuse of our brothers and sisters is moving though I was somewhat surprised that he focuses on Darfur for one of his case studies since my information is that very few
Christians live in that particular part of Sudan.

Finally in a section entitled DANGEROUS SONGS we are led to think carefully about what constitutes genuine worship. This includes time we spend together as the church but also everything else we do. Frost has his own go at stating man’s purpose: “The chief end of man is to please God.” He has quite a bit to say about what we should and shouldn’t sing and is particularly scathing of ‘Jesus is my boyfriend’ type songs and spirituality.

It is very hard to do justice to the scope of this book in a short review. It is certainly a very provocative book. Its calls for radical Christian living and reinvention of the way we do church. I came away from it with a sense of need to respond its challenges and wondering just how our largely acculturated and inward looking churches can be made to sit up and face the challenges of living as exiles.

Are all Christians called to be missionaries? / Does a dog have four legs?

Top social networking site Facebook allows you to do many things with varying degrees of usefulness. One useful thing it does do is to let you ask questions for your friends to answer. I asked the question Are all Christians called to be missionaries? which has produced some varied and conflicting responses. My good friend Eddie Arthur wasn't too impressed by the question, but due to the 250 word response limit on Facebook he answered it with a post on his blog. Feel free to post your responses to the question as comments here.