Archive for July, 2009

Books / Readings

The Seven Faith Tribes

The book that I am currently working through that I got from The Ooze Viral Bloggers is called “The Seven Faith Tribes” by George Barna. I am about half way through it. I believe this is the first book I have read by George Barna and so far I am having a difficult time with it. Maybe it’s because I have been pretty busy and so much of the reading is broken up into pieces. In the book Barna lays out 7 faith tribes that make up America. The 7 tribes are Captive Christians, Casual Christians, Mormons, American Jews, Muslims, Spiritual Skeptics and Pantheists. In each chapter he spells out what these tribes believe, think, and feel in regards to politics, religion, the Bible, and various other issues.

I think one of the issues that I have with this is that he paints with a very broad stroke. For instance, he says that 4 out of 5 Americans consider themselves Christian (which boils down to 80% of the population). He then spells out what these 150 million people believe, how they act, and what they think. I realize that this is the limitation of such work. Anytime you do a survey of American Religion, thought, and life you will have to use a broad stroke, but I was hoping to find something more in this work.

Now I am not saying that I didn’t find anything helpful…..Here are some thoughts that I have agreed with or been challenged by:

“The future of America depends more upon the compassionate engagement with society by devoted Christians than upon their persistent insistence of their moral supremacy.”

“Sadly, Christians in America are not seen as loving, but we currently have a window of opportunity to demonstrate our love in the midst of hard times, confusion, and cultural chaos facing the nation.”

“Increasingly, we demand that the world embrace the worldview we possess or we respond in hostile ways: public criticism, nasty blogs, and text messages, lawsuits, angry letters to public officials or professional associations, confrontational letters to the editor, damage to property, or other means of retaliation.”

“Another paradox is that although they (Pantheist) view poverty as one of the most significant issues facing the country today, they have no personal interest in getting involved with the poor or with programs designed to address poverty.”

“Their (Muslims) identity is spiritual more than nationalistic.”

As I am only half way through the book, I will share some more later about how Barna sees these 7 faith tribes coming together to, what he calls, “restore our country to greatness.”

Annual Conference, Ministry Formation

Emergent Brethren Conversations at Annual Conference

Sorry to be so late in reporting how our gathering was at Annual Conference. The week following conference, I was busy preparing for and attending my D. Min. classes at Bethel Seminary.

I was surprised and amazed by how many attended our gathering this year! Knowing that some who attended in previous years were not coming to San Diego made me wonder if anyone would show-up. Twenty-three people showed-up for all or part of the gathering! This is the highest attendance since the group started with Brian McLaren’s participation (2005).

No only was this year’s gathering different by having the highest attendance, but the topic of conversation was very different. In the past, this has been more of a time of support and sharing what’s happening in our ministry. This year, about 2/3’s of the group was older than 50. Some came because they feel like their traditional-styled ministry is not working, they don’t know much about emergent-style ministy, and so they came to find out. One literally asked, “What is emergent?”.

Some attempted to answer this question in different ways such as:
* the local community works best at defining it.
* it is measured both subjectively and objectively.
* it is a combination of both artistry and technology.

In addition to those who didn’t know much about the topic, there were some from a Sustaining Pastoral Excellence group who had studied the topic and gone to Europe to explore different churches. There were also a couple pastors present who are trying to move their congregation in this direction. So, much of the conversation was going back and forth between those who are new and curious about the topic and those who have seriously explored this style of ministry.

My wife commented afterwards that she felt like she had been in one of my seminary classes at Bethany. This was a good description of the level of conversation.

If I mis-interpreted what happened, please leave a comment below to correct my reflections! Those who didn’t make it West this year — we missed you!

Jeff Glass

Books / Readings, Missional

The Ministry of the Missional Church

The other day while at my favorite “book store”..Ollies…you know what they say…”Good stuff cheap”, I picked up several books. One was Death by Suburb and another was called “The Ministry of the Missional Church” by Craig Van Gelder.

As I was reading Gelder’s book I came to a chapter dealing with Spirit-Led Ministry in context and was struck by something he had written. In a section dealing with Relating the work of God’s Spirit in the World to Congregations in Particular contexts, Gelder encourages congregations to ask two questions that he believes need to be regularly asked in relation to the contexts that the congregation find themselves in.

The first question is “What is God doing?” He says, “Discerning this work of God is foundational for effective ministry. The church is called and sent to participate in God’s mission in the world. The responsibility of the church is to discern where and how this mission is unfolding.”

The second question that Gelder encourages congregations to ask is, “What does God want to do?” He says, “God desires to bring all of life into reconciled relationship. The church must seek to understand how the intent of God, as expressed in the gospel, can work itself out in a particular context to contribute to this ministry of reconciliation.”

Those two questions have stuck in my head and I think can give Veritas a framework to move forward in mission and ministry. I will be sharing these questions in the months to come, before the launch, and after the launch as well. So I ask you…what is God doing in your context and what does God want to do?

Books / Readings, Ministry Formation, Missional

Death by Suburb

I have been doing a lot of thinking over the last year regarding Suburbia. Mostly in relation to what does it mean to be missional in the suburbs. My wife and I wrestled with this question and whether we needed to move to a more “urban” area in order to be missional…but I think that is, in one way, a cop out. Being missional is about where you are planted. Yes you can be missional in the urban area…the needs are easier to see. But you can also be missional in suburbia. I got to see a great example of that at a church in Bucks County called the Well. Todd Hiestand is the Pastor and he has written a great deal about being missional in suburbia, which has been tremendously helpful to my journey.

So the other day while in my favorite bookstore, Ollies…(good stuff cheap) I found the above book “Death by Suburb” by David Goetz. So I picked up and began reading. Goetz lays out 8 toxins of Suburbia and 8 Spiritual practices to counteract the toxin.

The 8 toxins are: I am in control of my life, I am what I do and what I own, I want my neighbors life, My life should be easier than this, I need to make a difference with my life, My Church is the problem, What will this relationship do for me, and I need to get more done in less time.

The 8 Spiritual practices that he lays out are: The Prayer of Silence, The journey through the self, Friendship with those who have no immortality symbols, Accepting my cross with grace and patience, Pursuing action, not results, Staying put in your church, Building deep and meaningful relationships, and Falling in love with a day.

Here are some quotes from the book that resonated with me:

“I think my suburb, as safe and religiously coated as it is, keeps me from Jesus. Or at least, my suburb (and the religion of the suburbs) obscures the real Jesus. The living patterns of the good life affect me more than I know. Yet the same environmental factors that numb me to the things of God also hold out great promise. I don’t need to escape the suburbs. I need to find Jesus here.”

“The kingdom of God often appears plain, ordinary, small, in the moment.”

“Even in suburbia all moments are infused with the Sacred. God is really present where I live…”

“The practice of solitude may be the most important spiritual discipline for the suburbs. And it is probably one of the most difficult to practice here.”

“A friend with a special needs child (and five other kids as well) recently said to me that he thought one spiritual issue of our community (which has a median household income of 75,000) is how hard we work at appearing not to have any issues. ‘The sad thing’ he says, ‘is that you wind up with a bunch of folks who appear to have it all, but are miserable. They’re trapped in the attractive veneer of being ‘perfect people.’ That, by its very nature, negates the transparency to form a deeper bond with a human being.”

“The perfect suburban life is bogus.”

“Coveting may be the most toxic indulgence of the suburbs, and the life practice to overcome it requires the discipline to face another kind of person. This person is not like me. This person in not like my neighbor, whose house I covet. This person is invisible to me, because I am facing in the wrong direction- toward those I perceive to have more than I.”

There are a lot more quotes that I could share but I close with this one…

“forget trying to live a safe, gated life.”