February 13, 2008

conference re-cap

I've been thinking about a few things since the CMA conference last weekend. They all stem from a conversation I had in the hallway with Wolfgang Simson. While I enjoyed being there this weekend, I think there are many ramifications of doing church "organically" that are not being addressed in meetings such as the one we were at this weekend.

a more just church
First, meeting in such a way as so many simple/house/organic/missional/whatever churches do, can be a strong move towards more a just (as in "justice") church simply by it's egalitarian approach to practices and rituals–removing the classism, sexism and racism that has so often existed in so many Christian traditions. As I talked with people in the halls I noticed that this is at least an instinctive reason for why many leaders turn this direction. For women leaders and wives, this seems even more of a conscious reason. It's one thing to go out and "do justice" but if your practices and mannerisms in your meetings evoke injustices for those with a less prominent voice are we accomplishing much? Remember, Jesus broke most social boundaries by involving women, the poor, diseased, unorthodox and uneducated in conversations, meals and practices. There's loads of potential for communities meeting in this model to return to this.

a more sustainable church
Another reason why the "organic" model is potentially more just is because of the approach to resources. We talked about this in the workshop that Brad Fieldhouse, Scott Wilson and I led entitled, "Transformation of a City". The low overhead necessary for faith communities such as these allows them to make their collective resources more available to where the greatest need is in a neighborhood. As well, I would think that the ecological footprint of a network of faith communities meeting in homes would be less in comparison to a typical congregation of the same number of members [I don't know for certain-someone should do some research on this]. So, these communities are potentially more sustainable economically and ecologically. I spoke about this at more length awhile back.

But, there is one thing that seems necessary to talk about that we aren't talking about in order to go further down the path of being more deliberate about justice and sustainability in our communities: Money!

For the most part, it seems that many community leaders do not know what to do about finances in their communities. Here's several things that seemed to come up last weekend:
  • How do I make living? It seems that a lot of people are asking, "Do I still get paid to do this? If so, why? What's my 'job description' now?" But not many are answering this well. I remember this came up at the Off The Map conference in 2006 during a panel discussion with Brian McLaren, Jim Henderson and George Barna. Barna gave a terrible answer that made me cringe, encouraging young people to still attend theological schools... Wow, that's useful. Thanks. Here's your door prize. Some people-like me-will still get theological degrees, yes, but that doesn't really help us in trying to reinterpret vocation in a post-Christendom context. But the truth is that this isn't an option for those with limited income usually. McLaren and Henderson didn't really respond, which was probably wise since I would assume they didn't have a good response. "I don't know," is okay until we have a better answer. I think the best response to this that I've heard so far has come from Wolfgang Simson though you may not agree with everything he says (you can order his lecture on finances here).

  • How should a faith community use its resources (ie. money)? It seemed apparent in conversations following our workshop that many people have no idea how to start connecting to needs in their surrounding community. It does require a different type of skills than are not typically taught in church environments. Brad's organization, Kingdom Causes, might be helpful for some to connect with. Another So. Cal. resource would be the School for Urban Ministry. They have a class on community organizing that is superb. I would assume that CCDA would be a good resource as well. Outside the Christian community there are a ton of resources out there too.

  • Money gets in the way of discipleship. Discipleship while possibly deeper and more holistic in this context has one common, major road block in the west whether in the 'burbs or in the city: consumerism. How do we break this? It seemed to me that some people were trying to say, "I don't want to be an anti-capitalist but the good life is getting in the way of discipleship." Yep. We gotta address this. Again, Wolfgang's lecture might be useful. (Just remember, he's German-he doesn't intend to agree with everyone or make them feel good) David Fitch's, The Great Giveaway, addresses this. Phil Kenneson's Life on the Vine, addresses this as well. I'm working with my friend Lee from Jubilee Economics Ministry on making something available on this subject. There's a lot of stuff out there, you've just got to look for it. This conviction is why I love Adbusters and the community around it. There is a level of creativity in addressing this that Christian community hasn't really attained yet.
the supernatural
The last thing that seemed to come up, time and again, was the miraculous. In fact, the conference had a few workshops on the matter. I don't know if we'll be able to get a way from this topic for awhile. With the interest in issues of justice and mercy amidst the Church we continue to read passages that allude to the supernatural occurring around justice. I quite honestly have no answers to this. My heritage hasn't really equipped me with much to work with on this subject beside plugging our ears, shutting our eyes and pretending it doesn't exist.

I know this is a scary subject for many. I don't get it either. But there are voices emerging that are blending traditions and appreciate the shifts we have seen in our culture. Bob Eckblad and Paul Alexander are blending justice with the supernatural. Blogger David Schlaginhaufen has been talking about contextualizing supernatural language in Switzerland for some time (Another Swiss, Daniel Hari gave out a handbook at the CMA event that is interesting so far-I've only read a few pages). And of course, John Wimber didn't do so bad a job of talking about this practically. Outside of the anglo community, I'm certain there are a lot of wiser voices to address this subject matter. Often it seems, this is only a weird subject for whitey.

I think that in post-colonial, post-Christendom contexts the growing majority are indifferent to the Church at best. In this case, I wonder if anything short of the supernatural will change people's mind about the existence of a Creator that is involved in creation. Matt even attested to this in our session... Just thinking out loud here.

1 comment :

eric keck said...

thanks for the recap...

finances and supernatural...

good stuff!!

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