Archive for the 'Young Adults' Category

Books / Readings, Church Planting, Community, Ministry Formation, Missional, Spiritual Formation, Third Places, Young Adults

When Sacrilege is a good thing

A few weeks ago I got an e-mail from Mike Morrell, who runs the Speak Easy blog program that I am a part of. This e-mail was letting me know that Speak Easy had a book that I could review. The book? Sacrilege: Finding Life in the Unorthodox Ways of Jesus by Hugh Halter. As soon as I read the e-mail I went right to the form and filled it out hoping that I wasn’t too late. I hit submit, held my breath, and waited for the confirmation that I indeed got a copy to review for Speak Easy. Seconds later I received that confirmation that i was hoping for, a chance to read the newest book by Hugh.

You see Hugh and his normal writing and ministry partner Matt Smay have influenced me in profound ways in their books The Tangible Kingdom and AND:The Gathered and Scattered Church. And Veritas has used their Tangible Kingdom Primer in developing missional communities (and plan to do so again in the coming year). So I was excited to see what Hugh had to say about following Jesus. And of course the title Sacrilege, which normally is seen as a bad thing in Christian circles, grabbed my attention right away.

The first thing that Halter does in the book’s first chapter is to define what he means by the word sacrilege. He says, “To commit sacrilege is to de-sacredize what is deemed to be sacred….In the Christian sense, to commit sacrilege means to disregard, disrespect, or be irreverent toward those things that have traditionally been considered holy, venerated, or dedicated as sacred. It’s tipping holy cows” At first reading how can sacrilege be a good thing, according to Halter. Just about the time when you are wondering if Halter is trying to just be controversial or provocative, we says this, which sums up what the book is all about, “In actuality, as I’ll show, de-sacredizing what should be de-sacredized is not only good, it begins to move us toward the undercurrent of the real person and Good News of Jesus. Sacrilege is about removing religion from our faith. It’s about securing the integrity of what is most important. It’s about chipping away at people’s false assumptions about who Jesus is and what following him is all about.”

As an Anabaptist I was totally on board where Halter went to show his readers the sacrilegious nature of Jesus, right to the Sermon on the Mount, and more specifically the beatitudes. Halter takes the remainder of the book unpacking the beatitudes and how they flip everything upside down and how following Jesus and living out the beatitudes will fulfill what Jesus wants of his disciples (or apprentices as Halter wants to call those who live for Jesus). Halter says that Jesus, “wanted people to become like him; sacrilegious, incarnational people who lived a contagiously countercultural, kingdom-centered life. (I believe Jesus wanted that when he walked the face of this earth and he also wants that now as well.)

I appreciated the book and what Halter was seeking to do, unpacking Jesus from the religious confines that He has been wrapped up in for 2,000 years and to truly see Jesus as “the ultimate sacrilegious leader.” I resonated with his use of the beatitudes to show the sacrilegious nature of Jesus and how if we follow Jesus, by living out the beatitudes, we’ll be committing sacrilege as well and becoming sacrilegious apprentices.

Here are some quotes from the book that I found helpful or that resonated with me:

“Jesus and the early faith communities lived an intentionally countercultural life without any sense of consumer-oriented fluff- and people still chose to take the leap!” (This is my desire for not only Veritas but for my life as well)

“Biblical apprenticeship is about three things: 1. Becoming just like Jesus. 2. Doing what Jesus did, and 3. doing the above with the types of people Jesus liked spending time with.”

“Jesus messed with people’s paradigms.”

“Jesus utterly jacked up everything people thought about religion and God. And he’s still at it.”

“Jesus loved the Scriptures as they witnessed to him, but his biggest fights were with those who knew the most Scripture.”

“Jesus really doesn’t care how much we know if our knowledge amounts to no change in our lifestyle.”

“Jesus, however, is trying to take people from a small box of religion to the place where they can open up their lives to a huge new world called the kingdom.”

“Although Westernized Christianity pulls us away from risk, confrontation, and getting gritty with real issues, Christ is going to lead us into places that will capture our emotions and reorient our entire perspective about life and why we live it.”

“Being a Christian is about being like Jesus, and sometimes that means taking risks to reach out.”

“Jesus came to expand your life, not keep it the same. His life is fuller than the American Dream, but it’s not as safe.”

“The wall of assumptions will only come down as entire communities band together in unity to live like Christ before the world. This may mean turning from idols of materialism, individualism, consumerism, and religion.”

I’m sure I could go on with various thoughts and quotes that stuck out to me and resonated with me and our journey in planting Veritas as a missional community. But I thought I’d end this blog with a final thought from Hugh that is a deep hope and longing of mine for our community. Hugh says, “Jesus never called people to follow him by themselves. He knew that life in the Kingdom was and still is only available for those committed to community with other apprentices.”

I’m thankful for Mike Morrell and Speak Easy for the opportunity to read and review Sacrilege. Hopefully reading this book can help and remind me to flip some tables and follow the subversive, countercultural, and sacrilegious leader Jesus of Nazareth.

Community, Leadership, Young Adults

Leading with diversity

After lurking here for quite a while and having posting privledges for over a year, I finally have something to share!

I was writing this post for another Brethren-related blog where I am an contributing editor and I thought it might connect with some of the folks on this blog as well. The site is called Already and Not Yet and was an  outgrowth of an Office of Ministry-sponsored young adult forum on ministerial leadership held almost a year ago. While most of the posts are written by young adult, Brethren-oriented thinkers, anyone is welcome to come join in the conversation. As for this re-post, feel free to comment here, there, or everywhere!

I don’t think anyone will argue we live in a diverse world. Today’s technology and culture have made amazing advances in connecting us to others who are very different than we are. However, the church (worldwide, denominational, and local) has been reluctant, hesitant, and at times flat out refused to embrace this diversity.

Thankfully, some of these trends seem to be shifting. I read with great interest about the “emergent/emerging” church that is growing in recognition and numbers. Part of my affinity comes from strong similarities I sense between their commitments to living out the life and teachings of Jesus in the midst of community. Yet one of the distinctive elements of many (most?) of these groups is their tolerance, acceptance, and comfort with diversity. Not just racial or cultural diversity, but also political and theological differences. It’s not just a “check your differences at the door” kind of diversity, but one that welcomes people to bring all of who they are as they gather around God’s table. By committing to this as a part of their identity I think they are modeling a deep, authentic way of living together as the body of Christ that those of us in the “existing” church could learn something from.

This raises important questions for leaders seeking to nurture this kind of diversity within communities of faith. How do we lead out of our own beliefs and values while leaving space for those who may believe (very) differently? How can we provide a sense of centeredness and direction in such diverse communities? Is there less space for prophetic leadership amidst this kind of diversity?

If we are to truly embrace the beauty, wisdom, and mystery that living in such deep, authentic, diverse community can bring, we will need new visions of leadership to make it work. What do these new visions look like to you?

(Original post – Already and Not Yet)

Church Planting, Ministry Formation, Worship, Young Adults

I’m So Excited…and I just can’t hide it…(as the song goes)

I’m so excited about what God is and has been doing in and through Veritas the last few weeks. He has done exceedingly more than we can even dream or hope. I feel so blessed to be able to be involved in this new adventure in faith, mission, service, and worship. Here are some of the things that have me excited…

1. This past Sunday we had an amazing turn-out. Now we aren’t all about numbers…but it is awesome to see people coming and having interest. We had 41 people there and when you subtract a friend who brought her small church (I think there were 7 there), and 2 “friends” of Veritas….you get 32 people (including kids). Some of the 32 have been there all 3 weeks, some for 2 weeks, and about 8-10 visited for the first time this past Sunday. Two of the ones who have been there all 3 weeks are F&M college students and they are amazing. I met the one for lunch on Thursday and had a great conversation and I am meeting the other one tonight for coffee (and probably dinner for her). Another who has been there every week is an amazing artist, poet, and overall great person who gets what we are all about and probably travels 30 minutes or so to be with us each week.

2. The visitors who came on Sunday is another reason that I am excited. A couple came with their two children. The father is a friend from years back and is a drummer. He spied the Djembe sitting up front and asked if anyone was playing it… I said I normally did but he would be more than welcome. So he got up and played Djembe during the 1st musical worship set. They have been looking for a missional church to be involved with, and will be returning this Sunday. Another couple came because of our presence at Purple Door. This couple blew me away (the wife’s name is Trinity…instant connection). He is ex-Amish (which is a story I would love to hear) and she is an amazing artist. We have connected via Facebook and it looks like they will join us this coming Sunday.

3. Last evening we had our second worship planning session with 4 of us there. The ideas were flowing last night around our next series entitled “We have questions, do did they”. The thoughts, ideas, and comments that flew around the table last night was amazing. The synergy was evident and electric. I’m excited about the next sermon series.

4. This Sunday is Service Sunday where we go out into the community to seek to be a blessing. At this point we plan to walk through Marietta and pick up trash in various places (streets, parks, etc..) I will be calling the borough office tomorrow to see if there is anything we could do for them.

Anyway I am so excited about what is going on and the future of Veritas. And that’s why I had to write this because I am excited and I just can’t hide it….

Change!?!, Missional, Young Adults

Some more thoughts on church…

From Reggie McNeal’s book Missional Renaissance….

“The missional church is not a what but a who. When we think of church in what mode, we focus on something that exists apart from people, some “out there” that people join and attend and support. We try, then, to build great churches, believing that this is God’s primary strategy to engage the world. Inevitably, this preoccupation leads to discussions of how we can “do church” better. Thinking about church in who mode focuses on what it means to be the people of God. The central task is developing great followers of Jesus, believing that God has created people to demonstrate his redemptive intentions to the world in and through them. This perspective frames an agenda so that the community of faith may encourage all its members to be faithful to God and to his mission as they live out being the church in the world.”

“The missional church believes it is God who is on mission and that we are to join him in it. As Bishop Leslie Newbigin says, ‘It seems to me to be of great importance to insist that mission is not first of all an action of ours. It is an action of God.'”

Change!?!, Decline/Growth, Leadership, Ministry Formation, Young Adults

My money, my mouth

In the year that I’ve ministered with the Pomona Fellowship, I have gone through quite a bit of evolution in my beliefs, although mostly with regard to ecclesiology. As a result, I have recaptured a passion for ministry that I haven’t had since my first years in seminary. But that passion has also transformed me into a bit of a throwback to the earliest Brethren. That first group of believers was economically communal, intentionally peaceful, and socially, egalitarian. They had no paid ministers, no cathedrals, no choirs or complicated liturgy. By these distinctions, they created ‘another way’ of Christian community, modeled not on the institutional church of their day, but instead on the church of New Testament.

What I have written below is part of what I have come to believe. It is not intended as a slight against my friends and colleagues in full-time ministry. Rather, please read what follows as a primer on what I think the future holds for the generations emerging in the larger church of Jesus Christ. Of course, as always, this is only one man’s opinion. Search your hearts, search the scriptures, and decide for yourselves if the ideas below comport with the teachings of New Testament.

A trend has been sweeping through The Church of the Brethren for over 100 years. It’s as if someone abducted nearly every church leader and reprogrammed their minds with the logic that argues, “If you have a deep serious relationship to Jesus Christ, you should become a full time pastor or missionary.” It’s so automatic that it’s scary. Against the backdrop of our declining churches and the fewer and fewer folk who file in every Sunday, anyone whose spiritual health rises above the level of comatose is instantly encouraged to pursue vocational ministry.

It doesn’t seem to matter that God may have strategically placed them within their own unique culture and community, with a career (potential or progressing) that could amply provide for their family, and put them in touch with people who don’t know Christ. No one tells them about Paul’s clear instruction that the new birth should not affect a person’s current vocation.

He says it three times, so how do we miss this?

Each of you should continue to live in whatever situation the Lord has placed you, and remain as you were when God first called you. This is my rule for all the churches. For instance, a man who was circumcised before he became a believer should not try to reverse it. And the man who was uncircumcised when he became a believer should not be circumcised now. For it makes no difference whether or not a man has been circumcised. The important thing is to keep God’s commandments. Yes, each of you should remain as you were when God called you. Are you a slave? Don’t let that worry you—but if you get a chance to be free, take it. And remember, if you were a slave when the Lord called you, you are now free in the Lord. And if you were free when the Lord called you, you are now a slave of Christ. God paid a high price for you, so don’t be enslaved by the world. Each of you, dear brothers and sisters, should remain as you were when God first called you. (1 Corinthians 7:17-24, NLT)

But we know our recent traditions better than the ancient Scripture; so the world is drained of our brightest most energetic leaders, and the secular workplace ends up missing those truly gifted to be examples of The Faith.

I’m convinced that we have such an artificial system of “church” that most of us can’t even process Paul’s logic. We have created a mythical category of Christian service known as “full-time ministry” supported by an un-biblical clergy/laity division within the body of Christ.

In 1 Corinthians Paul catalogs the leadership roles of the church. There he lists apostle, prophet, evangelist, and teacher as essential for a healthy Christian community. But because they’re paid a full-time salary, most parishioners expect a full-time pastor to have all these gifts. Unfortunately, none of them do, and so our churches are robbed of the spiritual leadership they need and deserve.

I’m not suggesting that we ‘muzzle the ox’, people don’t value what they don’t pay for, and theological education is expensive. But a prophet is not a prophet if he is beholden to those that pay him. Courageous honesty is just too easily corrupted when you’re worried about your mortgage or whether or not you can afford to retire. Leaders like that neither make waves nor disciples.

Freedom to tell the truth is the key to leader-like, leadership. Absent that, everything that matters will be absent; no apostles, no prophets, no evangelists, no teachers; just sad, scared, scrambling ministers all too aware of their own limitations. What we need is a revolution of thought. A new paradigm that opens the pulpit to a multiplicity of voices, and frees our ministers to live as a citizen missionaries.

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