Monday, August 31, 2009

the death of christendom

i wanted to clarify my own thoughts on this, so here goes. christendom is a term that basically means that christian ideas and values at some point so saturate a culture that those things inform everything that is created, rejected, or continued in that culture. In my case, this is what happened in America from her inception till...i guess the 1960's or so. But christendom also can mean simply propping up old and discarded values in forms and functions that the culture and her people no longer really believe. in such a case christendom is nothing more than nostalgia and narcissism for conservatism. It becomes a currency for dialogue using things and words that no longer matter much like the fact of having "In God we trust" imprinted on money that we spend on pornography. In our culture we [the christians] often spend a lot of energy propping up the relics of christendom. We fight for the 10 commandments, prayer in school, marriage ammendments to the if forcing the form on other people would conform them to Christ. it doesn't. It simply makes Christianity appear to be another totalitarian cultural regime seeking dictatorship. Without a relationship with Christ, these are simply manipulation and pseudo-religious affiliations that are rammed down people's throats. The truth is, we have already lost the war for people's hearts, souls, paradigms, and perspectives. enslaving them to religious and moral constructs will do little to woo them to relationship with God. Christendom is doomed, and i for one am truly, truly happy. Why? It's obvious isn't it. or at least it is obvious to me. When we finally stop bombing people with our morality we may finally have the chance to love them. The sick need a doctor not smart-bombs, protests, legal-coalitions, and all the other weaponry we level at them. As archaic as leeching and electro-shock therapy is for the mentally ill, so are our techniques and tortures for this culture. Look at the middle-east, they hate us. We keep claiming we are liberating them as our bombs fall, our torture is rationalized, and our policies disrespect thier beliefs. The fact is: Christians are trying to water-board gays, abortionists, feminists, etc. "you only hurt the one you love," true...but confusing as hell for them. So then, finally we are running out of bombs and christendom can finally come to her fatal end. Amen. She has become such a religious prostitute of hypocrisy anyways. We are pimped out by politicians from both sides, and neither are indwelled by the fullness of Christ and his kingdom Gospel. At last the full wreckage will be revealed. Christendom in all her religious form and fury will be dead and paganism, humanism, mysticism, sensuality, science, etc. can reign supreme. And then, after the smoke has cleared we can finally get back to our business. Building the kingdom. Most of the church buildings will be gone or converted to art galleries and coffee houses. We will be 10% of the population or less. It will be like Rome in the time of Paul. And we will grow again of that i am sure. Because the death of christendom will purge the social, political, and other advantages of christianity from the church. Those who are left won't be televangelists. It will be unpopular, rare, and costly to be a Christian again. People will have to count the cost, because all the advantages [o this earth] will be removed. And what will win people over? The things we are supposed to be great at but have forgotten. We will again be great at trusting God and God alone as our everything. Not in some vague philosophical way, or emotive way...but in a substantial all-or-nothing way. God will again be our air and without him will will suffocate. And we will love again. We will desperately and death-defyingly love God and each other. And we will be great at suffering again. Prison, corrective thought facilities, all this and more will teach us how to smile, forgive, and die again. And the world...choking on the vomit of it's selfishness will see these people who are so disconnected to this world of lies, pleasure, and pointlessness and will be in awe. Like they used to be. Christians will look like st Francis again. They will walk and talk like st Patrick, Augustine, and others. Joy will again sustain us in our great pain. Our communities of love will shine like an oasis from heaven in the desert disaster of porn, disposable relationships, and empty romance and sexuality. Oh yes, the great hulking edifice of Christendom will totter topple and fall in a great flaming heap of ruins. And from those ancient and archaic ruins a seed will again be born. The seed of the true Church. The unstoppable force of God in this place. An irresistable revolution will be born-again. An impregnable fortress of joy, awe, and wonder will again have to be recond with. The Church will become the ark of truth, love, mercy, hope, and meaning in the great sea of insanity called humanity. Let's not call it a funeral, let's have a wake for the old girl. Her time came and went, and she lost herself in the living. But when she awakens on the other side she will be made new. And God knows she needs to be made new. Say something nice at her funeral, it's a lie, but say it's what people do. But even as she dies, she is giving birth to a daughter who will live on. She will live on thankfully NOT knowing her mother. But her Father...her husband [Christ] and the Spirit will make her great. Her freshness will fill the world with laughter and light. Go oh Christendom, go away...and come Church, come and be born-again. The world needs you. The world will want you. The world will kill you. And you will forgive the world and go home to God. And the world will see this, and repent.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

missional sanctification


As the stories of our lives intersect, there are transformations that take place. This is a story of transformation, but not in the way that you might suspect.

The word “missional” gets kicked around a lot these days. Mostly it becomes a covert word for evangelism through social justice, altruism, or servanthood. Missional is rarely talked about as sanctification or incarnation or discipleship. But I suggest that missional living has two primary impact points. One is the effect that God has on the world through his people, and the second is the impact these moments have on God’s people when they are with God in his missions to the world. We want to be a church people that are moving into the world in such a way as to bless it, love it, rescue it, and transform it.

At 5 stones community church we are just exploring what it means to be missional. We have formed a leadership team to do this; reallocated a lot of our budget in this direction; and begun to search the scriptures to see how we can join God in his ongoing mission to the world.

Enter a phone call. On the other end of this phone call is a man who has lost his job, has no place to live, and a wife that is overwhelmed. There are drugs, alcohol abuse, and a huge warehouse of negative history for a couple that have lived most of their lives outside of Gods will and ways.

The phone is picked up and a church responds to this story with as many resources as can be found and bought. Rent on a new house is paid, furniture and clothes found, appliances purchased. And two people who know God enter into the lives of two who do not.

At first this story heads in the romantic direction we all so wish it would. The couple attends church services, begins to make friends there, and tries to kick the bad habits that they know have been destroying and enslaving their lives. Christ seems to be pressing into them with his transformational love, and they seem to be responding.

But then there is a fight, the loss of another job, and another night of binge drinking. Followed by promises of repentance and reform.

And those that have been investing in them don’t know what to do. They pray, they call, they visit…but the more they reach out the more it seems like this couple is slipping through their fingers. Finally after weeks of unreturned phone calls one of them visits church, and tells of the affair-the drugs-and the divorce papers being filed.

And this is where the heartbreak of being missional begins. At the juncture where romantic ideas about spirituality crumble and we are faced with the stinging truth that peoples lives are never clichés. Here is the fork in the road for Gods people, and here is the place of deep sanctification. For in this place we must be transformed the most deeply or we will exit the mission of God.

First of all we must stop trying to figure out who is to blame. When things go awry from our expectations we usually look for a source to assign guilt to. Sometimes we stand like a prophet on the wall and blame God; sometimes we blame those we are reaching out to; and often we blame ourselves. But if we stop blaming and start really feeling we can be transformed. Because if we would be missional and Christlike we must be called into his heartbreak for the world. To allow the worlds rebellion and lostness to shatter our hearts as Gods heart has been shattered. To sit with Jesus and watch the rich young ruler walk away, and to weep over a Jerusalem that will not come home. And when we let this heartbreak form in us, and we take it to our heartbroken God he can then fill us with his compassion, long-suffering, and faithfulness. Missional heartbreak opens the door for our hearts to be ravaged and transformed into the very heart of God.

Secondly we must become resilient. Jesus warns us that we will be battered, rejected, imprisoned, etc. and yet we often act emotionally surprised when these things actually happen. We say things like “I’m just not called to this; it’s too hard; or I guess this doesn’t work.” If we aren’t wise we will quickly stuff our pain and frustration into a simplistic and convenient excuse jar and reference it every time we feel called to again engage in the rescue of a dangerous world. But Jesus experienced the same thing. In some places he was rejected, in others no faith meant no miracles could be performed, and at other times his own disciples didn’t understand what he was saying. But Jesus always saw the “joy set before him” and understood the magnitude of the mission. The event or relationship before us is microscopic not macroscopic. We must like Jesus set our eyes on the prize not the person in front of us. Missional living is not an experiment it is a mandate; it is not a moment it is a lifestyle; and it is not about momentum but about obedience. We must learn to be a tougher and more resilient people, a people of tenacity and training. We must learn to deny ourselves, pick up our crosses, and follow Jesus as he leads us.

Third, and lastly, we must grow our interior world so that from it we can have the energy and resources for the mission before us. The immature disciple is still looking for some external event that will provide the motivation and momentum necessary to live the Christian life. They read books, attend worship events, and plug themselves into as many things as they can to acquire passion, focus, or intentionality. But the missional person must ultimately be a mystic. Because the world they are called to minister to is so dark and twisted they dare not find their courage and resolve in what happens “out there.” They must instead be focused on what happens “in here” and work their life…words…actions…thoughts…feelings…etc out from a deep and vitally vibrant relationship with God. In particular the God who has indwelt us with His Spirit. The missional community and a missional people are not naïve nor are they negligent. They have a high view of God and find pleasure in serving Him by serving others. They engage the world anticipating it might change, but are more expectant about the fact that they themselves will change. And it is in this fact that they take refuge and find rest, because he who is within them is greater than anything that is outside them. A person and a people that are spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually mature on the inside can face anything. This is what we had when we lived in the age of the martyrs and it is to this way of existing that we must return.

So is this a happy story? Does this have a happy ending? That my friends, depends on you. If heartbreak, tenacity, and mysticism are things to be avoided than this is a gloomy fable of tragedy. But if the experience of formational empathy, the discipline of resilience, and the call to a contemplative life are to be embraced then this is a narrative of epic adventure.

As Christendom dies in America the people of God will have to be transformed. Our lives, our morality, our politics, our church services have become so much rust and dust to the world around us. But from these ashes we are finding the true embers that lie beneath the rubble. The everlasting echoes from eternity that calls us into Gods deep and transformational love. And when we traverse into this love and are saturated with it, we are then unleashed by God to lavish the world with this love. And love is the backbone of the missional movement. God’s love residing in us being given freely to the world. This is revolutionary. And while Christendom may or may not ever be rebuilt in America, our goal is not to try and force this to happen. Our goals are simpler. To be a person of revolutionary love, amidst a people of revolutionary love, serving a world that is lost without love.

And the story I told you of is not over. The biography of those lives are still being written. Redemption is still within reach and restoration may yet happen. And our faithfulness and obedience have something yet to say on the chapters that have yet to be written. But for the two at our church who have embraced this call, their biographies have been forever changed. And the spiritual formation in them has been profound and painful. But I believe they would smile at you from a deep-deep place of intimacy with God, and they say “join us.”


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