E. McManus is on the right road. His explanation of the Truth is exciting and I agree with the fact there is a living hope for today's culture and today's needs. The church has more to offer than a flashy new program or a new look that might be cool enough to get the attention of a few. There is a new game to play because catch-up is over. Jesus Christ and the hope He has to offer is good for today, tomorrow, and by the way yesterday.
God is interrupting today's plans. McManus explains that culture is looking for something that is alive and God is revealing His truth to people today. When revelation happens then transformation will soon follow. The world is ready for the mysterious and God has not missed his queue. It is the church's job to show people how to respond to God's voice and find life.
The church culture and the world's culture needs to intersect. The church has intentionally been separate from the world for too long. McManus challenged the church to begin a transforming journey across an intersection with the world's culture. Jesus did it 2,000 years ago and we need to follow in his steps.
THE OLD PATHS
I liked the old paths, when
Moms were at home.
Dads were at work.
Brothers went into the army.
And sisters got married BEFORE having children!
Crime did not pay;
Hard work did;
And people knew the difference.
Moms could cook;
Dads would work;
Children would behave..
Husbands were loving;
Wives were supportive;
And children were polite.
Women wore the jewelry;
And Men wore the pants.
Women looked like ladies;
Men looked like gentlemen;
And children looked decent.
People loved the truth,
And hated a lie;
They came to church to get IN,
Not to get OUT!
Hymns sounded Godly;
Sermons sounded helpful;
Rejoicing sounded normal;
And crying sounded sincere.
Cursing was wicked;
Drinking was evil;
and divorce was unthinkable.
The flag was honored;
America was beautiful;
And God was welcome!
We read the Bible in public;
Prayed in school;
And preached from house to house
To be called an American was worth dying for;
To be called a Christian was worth living for;
To be called a traitor was a shame!
Sex was a personal word.
Homosexual was an unheard of word,
And abortion was an illegal word.
Preachers preached because they had a message;
And Christians rejoiced because they had the VICTORY!
Preachers preached from the Bible;
Singers sang from the heart;
And sinners turned to the Lord to be SAVED!
A new birth meant a new life;
Salvation meant a changed life;
Following Christ led to eternal life.
Being a preacher meant you proclaimed the word of God;
Being a deacon meant you would serve the Lord;
Being a Christian meant you would live for Jesus;
And being a sinner meant someone was praying for you!
Laws were based on the Bible;
Homes read the Bible;
And churches taught the Bible.
Preachers were more interested in new converts,
Than new clothes and new cars.
God was worshiped;
Christ was exalted;
and the Holy Spirit was respected.
Church was where you found Christians
on the Lord's day, rather than in the garden,
on the creek bank, on the golf course,
or being entertained somewhere else.
I still like the old paths the best !
"The Old Paths" was written by a retired minister who lives in Tennessee.
This I thought of the Celtic people as I read it. They would have held onto
these values and I believe we need to stop searching so hard in the Christian
church for the lastest and Greatest when we already should be experiencing it
as Christians. Being Christ-like is a honor we must believe in. I will say
I did like McManus chapter and what he believes in. I thinks other persons
I have read in this class are looking to hard at what is already there.
I attended a Christmas party last night. The air was choked with cigarette smoke, the music was screaming, people were drunk and vulgar, and everyone who sang karaoke had out of tune voice that sounded like broken glass in my ears. As I sat there with a brave look on my face what I saw was a large room full of people in pain trying to do anything to be relieved of it for a moment. There were people suffering the throes of divorce, people suffering deep poverty, people abandoned and lonely looking for the comfort of human touch even at the sacrifice of their self-respect. There were good people there who, even unknown to themselves, were compensating for pain. They had enough alcohol to medicate away the pain. They listened to music that was loud enough that they couldn’t hear the voices in their heads. All this they did to experience anything that felt a little bit like love.
It was a room where many of the Christians I know would not go: partly because they disapprove of that behavior so strongly, and partly because it makes them feel so uncomfortable. We shake our heads disapprovingly and never do anything to relieve people of their lack of love.
I have to say that I didn’t want to be there. When we arrived home again I wanted to burn my clothes because they reeked of smoke. When I graduate from seminary God will put me into some ministry. To reach people I will have to go places that I don’t want to go, be with people whose behavior I don’t like. There will be good Christians who don’t approve of the people I’m hanging out with. But isn’t this the message of the incarnation and the cross? Jesus, God, came to earth from heaven, lived as one of us, taught us what love looks like in a fallen place – best expressed on the cross – then sent a guide and teacher to continue the task. It is the message of Gethsemane “thy will, Father.” I don’t want to do this if there is another way. But there isn’t another way. Love demands that we enter into people’s pain with them. Then and only then do we have the right to speak into their lives.
Our job is to help move aside those obstacles that keep people from hearing the word of life that Jesus speaks.
Another thought that I have been having is that people have a tendency to manifest externally the internal realities that they perceive. If it’s a video game fantasy that is in them then they will relate to the world in a way that is markedly like that fantasy. If it is the word of God that has been written on their hearts then they will manifest the love of God in the people around them.
I do not believe that engaging the culture is what is necessary. In fact, I’m not sure that it’s possible. It is people that we must engage. It is their hearts. To be relevant has nothing to do with method of evangelism, style of worship, or cultural trends. Relevance is to make a difference in the lives of the people who surround us.
How have you made love alive today? That’s the question that has to be answered. In what way am I a better person because of the discipleship I have received? Is there someone who can guide me? Is there someone I can guide?
How did the early Christians become Christian? How did they know they were Christian when the New Testament documents had not yet been written? There was no Roman Road! There were no three or five point sermons. There were no altar calls. There was not even a sinners prayer. So, how did the faith spread, and how did they know they were believers? Can we apply those lessons in our lives as Christians today? Also, how did the faith spread over the next century?
I agree with the response on page 240, true conversion happens “one to one, friend to friend, and our more modest goal should be loving, listening to, praying for, and bearing witness to the individuals around us.”
McManus says, “the real issue facing the church is not essentially about methodology or even the preserving of the message; the real issue is why the church is so unaffected by the transforming presence of the living God.” When I read that I wanted to stand up and cheer, or fall down sobbing. The lack of transformation is the issue I have with the “existent church” and a superficial focus on culture is the issue that I have with the “emergent church.” Hmm, what was it that Jesus said about the beam in someone’s eye?
Later he says that it is “far more important to change a person’s passions than their beliefs.” But that’s not in our power to do. So, I go back to what I said about God writing His law on our hearts. All we can hope to do is move the impediments from their lives so that they can hear His voice and come into His presence. Look at Job 42. Job says, “I have heard of You … but now my eye sees You, therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes.” In other words the presence of God is what transforms us and brings us to a place of humility in which we change.
I enjoyed reading the Sweet book. He assembled quite a diverse group. Even the format, with the opportunity for the other contributors to offer comments within the body of the various essays, was acceptable. The rebuttals at the end of the chapters we helpful, etc. But the page numbers in the middle just drove me crazy! (I would find something that I wanted to write about & jot the page number down. Then going back to find it was less than 'user-friendly.') Anyone else? Alright...now that's off my chest I can proceed. :-)
Without doubt the McManus chapter wins the prize! I believe that his proclamation is a prophetic word for the church today. Throughout the chapter my spirit resonated with his passion.
And McLaren was better in his summation of McManus than is his own chapter. I appreciated his appeal for others to 'see them [emergent leaders] as pioneers on a risky but necessary trek.' (p. 259)
McManus' observation of our penchant to 'time-date the sacred' was humorous and at the same time convicting. His call for the church to settle for nothing less than 'fresh expressions' of faith was excellent. (Was it Wesley that didn't want to hear testimonies about anything beyond the last week?) The reminder that 'even the manna had an expiration date' (p. 239) provides a testimony of God's provision and faithfulness as well. God supplied (and still supplies) according to need.
He goes on to point out that, 'Relevance is not about conformity; it is about clarity and connectedness.' I think this is one of the big differences in the charismatic world. A new worship song there is seen as 'fresh bread.' I realize that this is a generality, but there seems to be an acceptance and an engagement in the newness. Some of the music is improvised and will never be heard (at least like that) again. But it is for that moment. Whereas many of the mainline or more conservative denominations tend to have a more cerebral approach...and are resistant to the new. The attitude of, 'Let's see how this works before I decide if it's good. Convince me that this is going into the accepted repertoire...that I'll actually hear it again. Then I may try to learn it and participate.' With this approach they miss the moment...they miss the blessing.
There are interesting observations regarding the progression leading to cultural change on pp. 246-247. He says it all starts with 'passion;' which is articulated in our values; which shapes our beliefs; which determines our practices; which produces change in our culture. I like this, but I need to soak in it some more. I think it's probably true.
Again, just so much excellent material in this final chapter. I've had the opportunity to hear McManus speak a couple of times and he is a gifted speaker as well. I would love to visit Mosaic sometime. About 10 days ago there was a seminar called ETHOS in New York City (Nov 27-29). It was subtitled: A dialog hosted by Erwin McManus on leadership, creativity, innovation & the future of the church. It was in my calendar but lack of funds & too large a class load said, 'Not this time' Maybe next time.
Lots of really good poetry in this final chapter. Words that were to me 'fresh bread.' The verse that I really loved (p. 197)...
"God has not forbidden us to love the world,
And to love it with all the naked senses together,
Every shape and colour, every voice and every sound,
There is a shudder in our blood when we see
The traces of his craftsman's hands upon the world..."
By the end of this chapter, I was longing for an encore from Erwin McManus. And, he did better than that! His personal testimony was outstanding. The beautiful little church in the forest was so real, and at the same time, so illusionary (Narnia-like fantasy) that I could almost reach out and touch it. And, his journey, minus the church in the forest, was very similar to my own. When I discovered the love of Jesus, I too discovered the guilt and shame that had separated me from Him, much of which was inflicted by growing up in the dichotomy of an alcoholic home as well as a little country church that was not relevant to my daily life. My world was broken and the church did not offer a fix for it. Instead I felt judged, looked down upon, and destined to fail because of my upbringing.
It is no wonder, then, that his admonitions inspire me so: “The church can make life in the world work. We are not too holy to live in this place. Jesus lived here…We can thrive in this context, and we can enjoy the experience” (262). I love these words! They ring so true in my spirit. They inspire me to roll up my sleeves and be about the work of Jesus. And, yes, it is a jungle out there! But isn’t that all the more reason to get down to the business of kingdom work?
McManus’ longing for the jungle of LA thrilled me as well. His reflections as he looked out over the city reminded me much of my life in New York City after 9-11. His metaphor of Los Angeles ‘inhaling the world and [its]…wonderful potential for exhaling the gospel” is what thrilled me about doing ministry in NYC, particularly at that time in history. (236) I was always amazed at the number of people who traveled back and forth between LA and NYC as though the two cities were next door to each other. Now I understand more the similarities that draw the same constituents. They are both “cultural biospheres”, where “the world meets” and “the future is born” (236). I understand his love for his city. I feel that same love and compassion for the people, the cultures, and the streets of New York.
The take-home for me from this chapter that rings loudest is that “Our mandate is to continue the revolution Jesus Christ began 2,000 years ago” (247). Brian McLaren’s comment on page 240, “Creating culture is what humans made in God’s image do” follows well that same train of thought. “Jesus was a man of his times” (257); and we must not take on a Pharisaic attitude as the religious culture of His day. We must continue the Jesus revolution!
I guess I read the chapter by McManus in Emerging Culture a week early! See my last posting for comments on that. This one is about the final chapter in The Celtic Way of Prayer.
"Often praise does not rise naturally and easily to my lips! I have to confess that quite often it is hard work, needing to be renewed and sustained, for I tend to drift without noticing good gifts" (p. 204) Me too! Coming across this passage in the book encouraged me because, up util that point, I was thinking about this very thing. I often enjoy the beauty in nature, but not in depth, not with the full realization that it participates in worship of the Creator and that I can join in with it if I try. My naturalistic mindset doesn't take me very far. When I hear birds sing, I don't think much of the pleasant sounds as worship. They are calling to their mates, or just doing what birds do. (How's that for modernism?) It's encouraging to know that cultivating a different view can be done with some effort and others like de Waal admit that it often takes effort. I think it will be worth the effort.
Quoting Thomas Merton on p. 210: "If we have no real interest in praising Him it shows that we have never realized who He is. ..." This is the crux of the matter. Knowing the face of God, not just knowing about God, is the greatest attainment of the Christian life. This must be what the book's subtitle, The Recovery of the Religious Imagination, is all about. It is an imagination of the real. We often think of imagination as a child's fantasy or of thinking about unrealized possibilities. But our imaginings of God are a way for us to see the unseen, not because it isn't real, but just because we are unable to see it. Or imaginings can't be an actual picture of the unseen. They must be more symbolic or simplified, translating a reality that is much too complex for our senses and thought processes to comprehend into a more comprehensible form. Our imaginings may "go wild" and lead us astray, but we have scripture and the Christian community, the Holy Spirit and the world as it is to guide us.
I want to say that I have enjoyed the readings and our time together in this class very much. Dr. Jaques, you have done an excellent work in putting this class together! Especially so considering that this is its first offering. I feel like a "charter member." I hope you have the chance to offer it again. I will highly recommend it. It would also be nice to keep this emergentthought community going on LiveJournal. You could reuse it for the next time the class is offered and the members of this class could also participate as alumni. Just an idea. It's up to you. I'll be glad to stay "connected" here.
Methods change but the message stays the same. We have heard this before and I also have agreed to that statement and I still do agree in light McLaren's challenge. The methods change with the culture but the message of Christ needs to be consistent and must never be compromised. The message of Christ and God's Word must never be added to or taken from. McLaren took the theology of the Message a little beyond that point.
McLarens statements about how the Gospel has changed since they were originally heard from Christ's lips. Brian said that even the Apostle Paul preached a different Gospel than what Christ preached. Church leaders, political leaders, and theologians have made changes to the Gospel or message and McLaren believes those changes had to be made and has helped the message become stronger.
I understand where McLaren is coming from and I always want to be able to have an open understanding of the truth in the message. I believe we find our answer today from the same Gospel that was preached by Paul and lived out by Christ. The questions continue to change, but Christ's message is still lives today.