Church 2.0

Posted: 11th February 2013 by admin in Uncategorized
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Miscellaneous Monday

The Internet, considering the scope of human history, is in its infancy, yet it is already revolutionizing the meaning of the hijacked word “church.”  Web 2.0 refers to the way the Internet has evolved so that people can come together to collaborate on projects, “harnessing collective intelligence,” (Tim O’Reilly) sharing information both new and long-forgotten.  Consequently, the institutional church is being turned upside-down and inside out, with the very nature of authority being redefined by the fact that many teachings of authors, theologians, and pastors are finally, after so many centuries of darkness, being exposed to the light of scrutiny.  Controversial subjects that were once relegated to the pastor’s office are now being examined in the marketplace, where the men in suits have no power to shut down productive conversations. We are now only beginning to see how God is demonstrating to the world the fundamental difference between institutions run by handfuls of people who have everything to lose if the institution in its current state fails and the organic, non-commercialized, collaborative body of Christ (the real church), and it is with a great sense of excitement and expectation that we move into a new century in the Reign of Christ.

“In the Hebrew Scriptures there is no word for spiritual. And Jesus never used the phrase spiritual life. Because for Jesus and his tradition, all of life is spiritual.  Everything is spiritual.” – Rob Bell

Have you ever had a moment when you discover spiritual truth in an unexpected way?  This happens to me when I watch movies or TV shows, hear music, have conversations with other people, or in the ordinary activities of my day.  God is always with us, and if we are sensitive to that idea, we become disciples (from “discere”meaning “to learn”) of the greatest Teacher ever.

Today, I typed notes as I listened to Card’s lecture on various aspects of fiction writing. The analogy of God-as-author and we-as-characters is inadequate and flawed.  The main problem with the analogy is that God loves us, His very REAL non-fiction characters.  And the Plan of the Ages is so much more than a story.  Nevertheless, for people who are able to look past what doesn’t fit, the analogy is loaded with spiritual truth.  Card is an author who is very concerned with explaining why people do what they do, and as an author, he explores the human condition through his fictional characters and circumstances in various settings from familiar to alien.  I always find some spiritual truth in his books because of this. In his writing class, he explains the brainstorming processes and techniques that he uses to invent his wonderfully imaginative stories, and like his books, I also glean spiritual truths from his lessons.

I’d like to share a few excerpts from the notes I typed today.  Card’s ideas and words (my paraphrase, NOT direct quotes) are in bold.  My observations are in regular type.

Writers tend to retreat from the scene that really ought to be written.  This can happen as a character flashback or narrative digression.  If you find yourself doing this, ask yourself, what is so important about the scene that I want to retreat from it?  This is the very thing you need to write.  This is what is powerful and interesting to the reader.  (And on a funnier note, if you want to make a character throw up, it is probably because you are hiding from writing a real scene.)

When I first began to notice inconsistencies and believability problems with spiritual concepts that I had always assumed were true (because the institutional church said so), my natural inclination was to retreat.  I was afraid explore, because what if I actually found something that clearly contradicted beliefs that were foundational to my understanding of Who God is or what God does?  What would my church friends think of me, if I were to challenge the “truth” of the pastor or highly respected elders?  Does God approve of “dangerous” critical examination of orthodoxy?  Am I allowed to do that?

As it turns out, God wouldn’t have it any other way.

Consequently, I have learned to recognize that when someone introduces an idea and I have the urge to retreat from it, I stop and ask myself why.  What is so important about the idea that I want to retreat from it?  This may be the very idea I need to explore.  This may be an interesting and powerful concept that God, the author and finisher of faith, wants me to understand.

The real question, then, is do I trust God enough to keep me from serious spiritual misdirection?  If the idea turns out to be false or corrupt, do I trust Him to keep me from embracing it in ignorance?  And what if I get it all wrong?  Do I trust God to set the record straight?  Do I believe that His love for me does not depend on me having an accurate understanding of everything?

Someone can be a brilliant writer, but if there is no story, that talent is wasted.

A pastor can be a brilliant speaker and natural leader, but it doesn’t mean he has the final say on what you ought to believe.

Christians can build magnificent churches and put on a high quality Sunday morning show, but if there is no hope in their message, why bother?

God can create billions of unique human beings, but if there is no hope, His creative act was a waste of time.

If you write, “She was sure that…” or “She believed that…” from the point of view of that character, you are actually introducing doubt.  If you are giving directions to someone of how to get to your house, you don’t say, “I’m sure that you turn right on Holden” or “I believe that you turn right on Holden”, and if you did, people would think that you don’t know where you live.

I think that this one speaks for itself.  There are times when we ought to say, “I believe ___” but we don’t.  And there are times when we ought to say just say, “___” but we add, “I believe” to it.  The trick is knowing when to recognize that you are a fallible human being, and knowing that there are some truths about Who God is or what God does that transcend our innate ability to screw things up.

If you have a character that is supposed to play a minor role and the character keeps becoming more important to the story than originally planned, don’t let the character just take over the story, go back to your original story plan and rethink it to include the minor character as a major character.

If you have an acquaintance that has a minor role in your life, and the he or she keeps becoming more important to your spiritual journey than you expected, don’t let the him or her just take over your spiritual journey, go back to who God created you to be and what God created you to do, and consider how God may want to include him or her in your spiritual journey.


 

“Nature and Nature’s laws lay hid in night; God said Let Newton be! and all was light.”

Alexander Pope (1688–1744), British satirical poet.  Epitaph Intended for Sir Isaac Newton in Westminster Abbey (1730).

 

During Galileo’s childhood, the most widely accepted belief about the mechanism to explain planetary motion was that planets rode on an eternally unchanging solid crystalline sphere.  However, a supernova and a very bright comet, likely seen and remembered by Galileo, shook this seemingly firm foundation of the universe.  Between this and the “wandering planets” (two words some people use to describe any pesky little details that just don’t fit current scientific understanding), Galileo began to see the universe as a clock where motions are caused by some force.

It is no secret that Galileo’s ideas, and empirical science in general, were fiercely opposed by religious leaders.

Both in science and in religion, when someone takes the time to think ideas through, to examine, meditate upon, and imagine explanations for wandering planets, it often leads to some of the greatest discoveries mankind has known. Newton’s Mercury did not follow planetary laws, and had Newton left the idea alone, we might not have benefitted from Einstein’s subsequent laws of gravity – concepts that radically changed our understanding of space and time.  It has been suggested that Newton’s ideas about attractive and repulsive forces were inspired by his dabbling in the practice of alchemy.  This practice was frowned upon by religious leaders.  The way I see it, God knows exactly what He is doing, and if alchemy is what Newton needed in order to make his important discoveries, then God placed Newton in such an environment purposefully – so that Newton could hone his thinking-outside-the-box skills.

The same concept can be applied to pesky scriptures that don’t conform to widely accepted doctrine as well as an innate (God-given) understanding that somewhere along the way, humanity really screwed up true spirituality with religious dogma.  Orthodox Christians can look down their noses at people who read their horoscopes, go to palm readers, get involved in Scientology or mysticism.  Meanwhile, God is doing what He inevitably does best – revealing Himself to people.  Sometimes that revelation takes place through a long and difficult learning experience, a path of trial and error.

Giving people the breathing space to explore spiritual matters without condemnation is often viewed, through the orthodox lens, as condoning Satanic or antichrist activity.  But this view does not take into account the possibility that God stoops to the individual’s current level of understanding.  He knows what knowledge an individual can and can’t receive at any given season in his or her life. Furthermore, God is the only one who knows the intentions of the individual’s heart – whether his or her intent might be defined as the exact opposite of antichrist, that is, he or she may be hungry for spiritual truth, a desire to know God that has been initiated by God Himself, and may be acting upon that desire in the only manner he or she knows.  Who are these spiritual police, who know little or nothing about our Father’s timetable and method of reconciliation, to stand in judgment of their brothers and sisters?  God stoops for all of us, not just heretics and heathens.  Every one of us, every day, maybe even every hour or minute, are all in need of God’s grace.

In scientific theories about gravitation, the new “wandering planets” include extra fast moving stars, the rate of expansion of the universe, extra energetic photons.  In spiritual theories, the new “wandering planets” are not even on the table for consideration, at least not within the walls of the orthodox institutions.  I believe that God allowed a wedge to be driven between science and religion for a very good reason: so that religious people would become sick to death of religion-in-a-box and learn a thing or two from the scientific community about considering all possibilities, having the ability to admit that perhaps there have been and continue to be some terrible misunderstandings about Who God is and what God does.  In fact, this has already begun – look at the mass exodus of the human population from the institutional church.*  People will discover the significant difference between religion and spirituality.  In addition, people will discover that science and spirituality, like intellect and emotion, are both necessary in order to unravel the mysteries of the universe.  It’s only a matter of time…

 

*Read or listen to NPR’s story, “You Lost Me”: Young Christians Rethink Faith

This is an assignment from my digital media class, which I thought might also be ideal to serve as an “about the author” tab for the blog.  I should have the tab up in the next week or so.  Busy, busy!

 

“Me Story”

I just finished reading George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, a haunting portrayal of extreme government.  The description inside the front cover is as follows:

To Winston Smith, a young man who works in the Ministry of Truth, come two people who transform his life completely.  One is Julia, who he meets after she hands him a slip reading, “I love you.”  The other is O’Brien, who tells him, “We shall meet in the place where there is no darkness.”  The way in which Winston is betrayed by the one and, against his own desires and instincts, ultimately betrays the other, makes a story of mounting drama and suspense. [...] IN the final section of the novel George Orwell spells out, for the first time in literature, how the spirit of every man living may be broken in Room 101, and how he can be made to avow – and believe – that black is white, two plus two equals five, and evil is good.

Some of the concepts in this book strike me as very similar to my experience with each institutional church I’ve attended.  This is a quote from the book and an explanation on how it relates to the institutional church.

War is peace.  Freedom is slavery.  Ignorance is strength.

In this blog, I will address the first portion, “War is peace,” and only briefly address the word war in its most common usage, that is, military combat.  If you would like to read further on the subject, I found a very balanced look at this kind of war as it relates to the institutional church by Dennis Hinks called, “The Christian Attitude Toward War.”  My opinion on the matter at this time is dissonant and fluctuating somewhere between absolute pacifism and a defensive stand against immediate attack (with no pre-emptive activity).  I am grateful for the attitude in which people enlist and serve in the military, the selfless concern to accomplish the goal of making this world a better place, but I don’t think that the military system in its current state is accomplishing that goal.  In fact, I think it is accomplishing the opposite.  Regardless of my opinion, I can tell you that spiritually-based military activity such as holy wars, Islamic Jihad, the militarization of Christians, etc. may be frowned upon by the institutional church, but every church I have attended has made a point to display the American flag and have ceremonies to honor soldiers, which I see as a way of solidifying the idea that “if you attend this church, this is how ‘we’ feel about war”.  And I have never heard any serious discussion about whether believers ought to use guns and bombs in any circumstance.  If someone were to openly declare a totally passive, anti-military view, he or she would likely be frowned upon and seen as “other” by the consenting majority.

The type of war that I would like to address is the war between institutional church and the institutional church.  No, that’s not a typo.  You did read it correctly, that is, the war between the institutional church and the institutional church.  At first, I began to describe this war as the institutional church versus the non-institutional church, but then I realized that this description is not accurate.  There are many so-called non-institutional home-churches, where the hierarchical system still stands; it’s just a Shrinky-Dink version of the mega-church.

Tony Morgan, Pastor of Ministries at West Ridge Church near Atlanta wrote a blog called “The Church: Our Greatest Evangelistic Enemy?” that says, “Every time Christians step inside a church, it can remove them from the place where they have the greatest impact for God’s Kingdom—the world. It’s sad, but I wonder if we’ve inadvertently designed our ministries to isolate Christians from the places where God really wants us to be.”  Morgan sees the problem as geographical or social isolation.  While this most certainly is a problem, it is not the problem.  The problem is found in the question he asks in the title, “The Church: Our Greatest Evangelistic Enemy?”

Let’s look at the word “evangelistic.”  It is composed of a few parts: evangel + ist + ic.  We all have this cartoonish idea about an evangelist, based on our experiences with proselytism, in which a man in a three piece suit with big hair and a booming voice tells you and all the other who were bribed into the big tent with free barbecue that if you don’t-ah repent-ah and accept Jeeeezusss as your personal Savior-uh, you will go to Hell-ah.  But, seriously, what is an evangelist?  Our English word “evangelist” comes from the Greek word “euangelistes” which literally means “bringer of good news.”  In this sense, every believer ought to be an evangelist, because we possess the “evangelion” or “good news.”  The greatest evangelistic enemy is not that believers segregate themselves but that their screwed-up version of the evangel demands segregation.

This is where the “war” portion of this blog begins to take shape.  This idea that “we’ve inadvertently designed our ministries to isolate Christians from the places where God really wants us to be” should be reworded as, “we design our ministries to isolate Christians who intend to be who God really wants us to be.”  What should we be?  Evangelists!  How can someone be a true evangelist, if they possess the “good news” that says God intends to eternally torment you if you don’t believe that He wants to save you from the His own plan to eternally torment you?  The war is the institutional church versus the institutional church.  The system propagates the system.  The result is spiritual impotence, or as Jesus described it, “You nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down.”

The way that the institutional church as a body (not His body) handles this idea that Jesus is the Savior of all mankind is to label it heresy and treat it as a threat.  Since threats cause commotion, they seek to reestablish “peace” by ridding the system of “heresy” in what they consider spiritual warfare.  All the while they have no idea that they have declared war against their own body.  The so-called heresy could be compared to the white blood cells in the human body, which eliminate infectious disease.  Often, a high white blood cell count is accompanied by fever.  The institutional church panics at the fever, and filled with fear, they seek to eliminate the white blood cells from the body in order to return the body to its former state, not knowing that in doing so, they are destroying the thing the body needs most.  People say of a body in a casket, “He/she looks so peaceful.”  In the institutional church “War is peace.”

Fortunately, in the war between the institutional church and the institutional church, the casualties are actually the survivors, the conquerers who have been called out since the foundation of the earth to inherit age-abiding life.  No institution can destroy His body and His life.  This life is not one which seeks to exclude those who are not included but to reconcile those who are not included.  Jesus, the Great Physician, has purposed it.  Operating according to His will, as Ministers of Reconciliation, we cannot fail to accomplish the purpose for which we were created.  Peace is knowing that the victory over sin and death was accomplished over two-thousand years ago, and in some mysterious way that we may someday understand, it was accomplished before the foundation of the world.

I’ll address “Freedom is slavery” and “Ignorance is strength” at another time.