Thursday, October 12, 2006

dysconnected


So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover's life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.
(philippians 1.9-11- The Message)

i was thinking a lot about the whole phil1 thing the other night before our church board meeting. however, i didn’t want to preach a whole ‘sermon’ on it (a sermon and a board meeting? too much, even for these amazing saints that sit on our board…) so there were some things that i wanted to say but didn’t. it's tough when you know that you only have room for a devotional and yet the message burning within you is bigger than that.

you see, my mentor had asked me a really good question a week earlier and it was still alive in me when i read this passage. the question was a simple one: who are we attracting to this church?

later on that week, with such a question richocheting around in the cavernous hallways of my brain, i was able to separately meet with members of four different households that have just recently begun to call this place and the people who worship here 'home.' what was really neat was how, although completely unsolicited by me, they all volunteered some pieces of the answer to the big question of the day...

in each case these relative newcomers reflected upon how this little church was (my words now) both receiving and accepting; in each case there was a person who had been hurt by the religious establishment and had been prompted by God through another believer to give this whole fellowship road another go...

apparently my answer was right in front of me...
my answer even had faces.
those who are hurting and in need of healing within a loving and accepting environment.

so reading phil1 with all of this life going on was affirming:
love is both our message and our method
love is both our raison d'etre and our modus operendi.
love is the point.

but here's the thing that i didn't have time to share: the love that we share, which originates from the Spirit of the Living God, seems to be best detected by newcomers. they feel, as i mentioned that night, received and accepted. where it can break down in this community, as in any one i imagine, is that once someone is assimilated they are presumed to be connected. this presumption can be dangerous, as people seem to fall through the cracks all the time. i spent a fair bit of energy building into a group of young adults last spring, but over the summer they all drifted elsewhere… we lost their fellowship. God didn’t, but we did.

sometimes in a relational vacuum, people just leave. other times, connectional counterfeits can grow to meet the basic need for connection illegitimately. you know the kind- religious circles are infamous for them: negativity groups, specializing in the establishment and maintenance of malcontent. driving wedges between church people and then continuing to hammer them down over self oriented (as opposed to others oriented) shallow-water issues, these perspective collectives often preach a gospel of criticism and social dissonance... but do so out of basic hurt and disappointment. see, they really sensed that people cared for them once, but hadn't felt it for quite awhile.

back then, everyone had them over for lunch. everyone learned the names and ages of their children. everyone offered them the fellowship that they so desperately longed for. it hooked them because they hadn't expected this- they had heard that churches were clique-y and judgemental. this experience was none of that. but that was for a relatively short time a very long time ago- back when they were 'newcomers.'

i think that there is something important to note here: as we continue to grow and impact the lives of those new to to our fellowships, there is a very real need to be attended to in the basic loving of our regular attenders, lest they become ensnared in the type of negative mindset that becomes ballast for greater and greater works that are trying to get off the ground.

everyone needs to continue to experience the love that initially attracted them. otherwise, embitterment sets in.

embitterment has a distinctive spiritual smell. it is the smell of rotting fruit. it is the smell of good things going to waste simply because no one is doing anything with them. to fail to disciple those who no longer qualify as 'newcomers' is to leave carefully gathered baskets of fruit in the orchard to spoil while racing around to fill more.

paul continues later on in phil3.12-16 with some humble words that i am trying to live. if the mission and the method is love, then i think i need to make every effort to keep it at the front and centre of everything i personally do and say... and, well, some days are better than others:

I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back.

So let's keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you'll see it yet! Now that we're on the right track, let's stay on it.

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40 Comments:

Blogger SocietyVs said...

That is a great point and something I am trying to address a lot in my blogs, getting the people of the church to be cohesive effort, not just on the stage but on 'life: the stage'. I have some of that bitterness also, but I recognize that within myself and it called out for 'change'.

The change being that all should be involved in the ministry, from newbies to members of the congregation that have 'spoiled' (only because no one ate them - is that a good analogy?). I think it is on church leadership to get these people involved in meaningful relationship building practices (both within and without the body). I have started the Action Group for just that, anyone can give and anyone can help (moreover we all work together in the establishment of Christ's kingdom - which is based in love).

I agree with the message (not the Message as an interpretation so much) that you speak here...love is something for all of us to keep on working at and building amongst each other. I am thankful you wrote what you wrote since I can be embittered at times but I don't let that determine my faith (or get in the way of my love for others). But I do realize embitterness is the problem, now find the solution.

10/12/2006  
Blogger hineini said...

"making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God."

Thats the end of the passage quoted from "the message bible"

If people know how to be friends; how to befriend someone and how to respond to an offer of friendship outside of church, why does doing this inside church become so complicated. It seems to me that it's because of the above quoted passage. Peterson (he wrote the message right?) seems to think christianity is something to sell, to be marketed. Its no longer a community of free association in which everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Its now about getting everyone to buy in, invest, and not just once either, its like an auction. Its trying to always get everyone to up the ante, to buy more and more of Jesus or church or missions or...etc.

10/13/2006  
Blogger jollybeggar said...

two things, H;
***
"If people know how to be friends; how to befriend someone and how to respond to an offer of friendship outside of church, why does doing this inside church become so complicated?"

i think that Jesus asked this question a lot too.
***
"Peterson (he wrote the message right?) seems to think christianity is something to sell, to be marketed."

yeah this is the problem with getting too carried away with the semantics of a passage... especially the semantics of a passage in a paraphrase.

there is lots of debate as to whether 'the message' is a translation of a paraphrase. i don't know, but sometimes the word choices in this 'version' (note how diplomatic that was) do carry too much weight.

i remember reading in the old 'living bible' (which was paraphrased back in the 60's by this guy who was preparing devotionals for his children on the daily trainride home) something about 'a bird in the hand... two in the bush' and i thought "who the heck thought that it was a good idea to put a cheesey cliche in the writings of paul?"

yes, the word 'attractive' does carry with it the invitations to infer all that marketing stuff...

so, courtesy of the good people at www.biblegateway.com, here are some alternative wordings for your consideration...

NIV:
9And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

NKJV:
9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

NASB:
9And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment,

10so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ;

11having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

NLT:
9 I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. 10 For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. 11 May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.

and of course...
KJV:
9And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;

10That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ.

11Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.

10/13/2006  
Blogger hineini said...

Upon re-reading my post and yours jolly I can see I wasn't very clear, maybe let me try again.

I wasn't making a big deal nor resting my thoughts on the abstracted poor choice of words by Peterson. I just found his phrasing a good example of what my concern was/is about. You referenced this passage in your own post as well;
"who are we attracting to this church?
put another way, who are we attracting to Jesus?"

and so it got me to thinking that this idea of marketing Jesus or church or whatever, seems to rest on a belief/action distinction. People are brought, or find, their way into church and are encouraged to believe in a certain way. Once this happens there is a disconnect I think your rightly identify;

"where it can break down in this community, as in any one i imagine, is that once someone is assimilated they are presumed to be connected"

Now I don't want this post to be overly long so maybe I'll skip the "conditions for salvation" discussion but I think you were onto something very valuable in your discussion of discipleship, which for me seems very much like the doing side of the belief/action distinction that is still at work. What I'd like to suggest is possibly looking at the "connectinal counterfeits" or "religious circles" that you spoke about a bit differently. You wrote;

"other times, connectional counterfeits can grow to meet the basic need for connection illegitimately. you know the kind- religious circles are infamous for them: negativity groups, specializing in the establishment and maintenance of malcontent... these perspective collectives often preach a gospel of criticism and social dissonance... but do so out of basic hurt and disappointment. see, they really sensed that people cared for them once, but hadn't felt it for quite awhile."

IMHO there are any number of things going on here. The issue that interests me though is that I believe there to be a need for "a gospel of criticism and social dissonance (see our discussion in 'Off The Record' posted earlier)." There is a clear precedent in the Christian tradition for a voice of dissention, even a "maintenance of malcontent".

But to bring it back quickly to what you were speaking about. I think your post was very insightful showing how the church as institution "assimilates" rather than connects, it forms a dogma rather than a community and I was just curious whether this is a symptom of the emphasis on belief over action.

10/13/2006  
Blogger jollybeggar said...

i like how you decided to keep it short! yeah, yeah... i guess i was the guy that used the 'attract' word first. my bad. LOL
***
"...whether this is a symptom of the emphasis on belief over action."

nicely put- i think that you're onto something here. something that i am just coming to understand within my own journey... having believed the same things for a few decades now, but been unclear on how to put those beliefs into action that would, as you say, engage the 'doing side of the belief/action distinction that is still at work.'

the evangelical church was so afraid of trying to work her way into heaven that she stopped working heaven into her ways.

10/13/2006  
Blogger SocietyVs said...

I like Heinini, that dude is smoking something that I should be smoking...street lingo there sorry. I like his persepctive and I think he is correct in assuming there is a place for malcontents, a 'sock heaven' if you please. I mean we are all quite different and have a lot of aspects to bring to the body of Christ, and that should be celebrated not be-rated. But I am young, vicious, repugnant, sadistic, inhumane, hated, neural, anarchistic, nihilistic malcontent...and not proud of it.

10/13/2006  
Blogger hineini said...

thanks societyvs, I appreciate not only your kindness but your posts as well. I finally managed to find my way over to your blog and really enjoyed your post "He didn't just say what I think he did? Did he?" What you discribed sounded like familar territory for myself as well and I admire your tenacity in "continuing the race", something I didn't feel able to do having since jetisoned most of the tradition. I guess I just felt that Matthew 25 has become to domesticated, people no longer believe that God is other people. Ironically it was Emmanuel Levinas, a Jewish Scholar, who had to point out to me the ramifications of Jesus' words here.

In trying to work out how that looks in my moment by moment decisions I thought I'd start with St. Paul's advice (again pointed out by Levinas) to "count others better than myself" but this has turned everything unrecognizable so I'm trying to sort out how to live without "giving it all away" so to speak. Anyway, I guess I should have posted this there but I figured maybe you'd like to hear it here.

To bring this back a bit to the current discussion, I always find it helpful to remember that when Ezekiel was given his fantastic drama to perform by God he was rightly ignored, scorned, and marginalized by the community. God's laws were very clear, given by God to Moses for the preservation of the community and here was a guy breaking these laws and saying God told him to. Why would God tell someone to do something God said not to do? Christian heros of faith are compromised people, humans who weren't afraid to call bullshit and point out the cruel and destructive actions taking place around them, commited by others and even by God.

as a post-script; I object to adding anarchistic to a list of negative traits :) "Every command slaps liberty in the face!" -M. Bakunin

salaam

10/13/2006  
Blogger jollybeggar said...

the rolling stones recently came to our town and there were contests held by radio stations and the like which afforded the winners of said contests to meet the big rock stars and even (yes, it's true!) ask mick jagger one question.

what would you ask...

(better question: and why would you bother? performance magic doesn't usually translate well into insightful soundbytes, but i'm digressing...)

i mean, i'd rather just sit and listen to interesting people talk and draw what i can from the perspectives shared.

that's how i feel when you guys (H and SVS) get going.
**
anyway, as i sat in the drive-thru at the slowest tim horton's in canada this morning, i got thinking further about the 'attraction' debate...

you know what? most people i get to meet or read seem to be okay with Jesus. it's his homely girlfriend called 'the church' that they have a tough time with.

the attraction is already there to one who seemed to say so much that made sense to our inherent picture of the way things should be; it's quite natural to be drawn to one with such passion, such selflessness, such moral balance, such justice drive... people like friedrich nietzsche and marilyn manson seem to be surprisingly kind to Jesus, saving the harshest of their criticisms for the church, not Jesus.

but what of his church? is it, in fact, his?

hmm.

do pastors like me inaccurately speak of attracting people to Jesus when, in fact, what we are meaning and pursuing in our rhetoric is to attract people to the churches that we lead in order to fill the seats and the coffers to overflowing? perhaps. intentionally? there's probably not one answer to that one. self awareness can be a game of kick the can in the dark.

but i wonder why the church needs so much advertising. probably because it has created so much bad publicity for itself by failing to be the girl that Jesus knows it can be- choosing instead to rely on fashion and makeup and the like to cover up things that could probably be eliminated with good diet, lots of sleep and healthier eating habits. instead, the intended bride of Christ often has more in common with the whore of babylon than with mother theresa.

the great thing is that Jesus has already decided that the intended bride is worth all the effort... she is attractive to him, worth giving his name to, worth dying for, worth living happily ever after with...

so i guess all this talk about marketing and such has to do with somehow challenging the church to take ownership of her own sex appeal.

yeah, i think i'll remove that 'Jesus' sentence from my post.

blessings
-jb

10/14/2006  
Blogger hineini said...

My first response to your post JB is to point to the obvious conclusion that if people like Jesus, but not the church, why keep the church around? Couldn't Christians solve a lot of the problems facing their tradition if they did away with the church? Like I said, this is my first response, the one I'm tempted to declare before I consider the other, the people, whether priest/pastor, leadership or parishioner/congregant to whom the church as it is now, has something to offer.

My anti-institutionalism is already probably fairly clear in my previous posts and so my bias is hard to shake off but I would hate to arrogantly sound the death bell for something which has historically offered so much to so many. The other side of this being that the church has also cost countless people their lives, sanity, health and I don't think I'm risking much by saying their faith/salvation.

Although the two easiest options always seem to be of the either/or variety, I don't think its ever a good idea to stop looking there. Limiting ourselves to burying or reifying the church. I see a lot of possible work redescribing the church with no bank account, building or unified dogma or canon.

I'll step out and take a risk and try and offer a concrete contribution. I'd like to see this redescription or redefinition of church move in the direction of community. A community with loose boundaries, open and flexible conditions for inclusion and a suspicion and aversion to those things which exclude, keeping people on the outside. This sort of project would be something I'd definately reconsider being part of, a group who is willing to spare no cost to welcome the other.

10/14/2006  
Blogger SocietyVs said...

Heinini you brilliant mind and JB you're not too bad yourself. I really like the talk about church and faith, got me thinking a lot on a subject I am setting out to change anyways, the church.

I think the church has to continue as an institution, but it should be a useful one dedicated to sole means of 'helping others' and less about 'helping ourselves'. I am absolutely sick of the 'me' in Christianity these days and how God is all about 'me'. I thought Jesus was all about others? Every single line and parable in the gospels seems to point to a Jesus who gave and never took, which seems to be the imperative we have been given and the blueprint for our lives.

The story of Jesus is quite simple: He came, he gave, he helped, he dies for the people he loves...now go and do likewise. Easily put, I came, I gave, I helped, and I will sacrfice on behalf of the people. Jesus so poignantly tells us to take up the cross, which to me seems quite simple when the cross = sacrifice (or death)...we are called to following Christ in a very deep and sacrifical way. All this is on behalf of the other people around us, who God apparently loves also. Shoild I be so selfish to think this is all for 'me'?

The church can become something great, as Heinini points a 'redefinition' but it is also a 're-claiming' of what was written and passed onto us. The church needs to move towards a giving and caring attitude and away from a 'self-serving' attitude, scrap divsions over denominational dogma and the likes and we all should start holding hands and singing 'kumbaya' while giving what we have to someone less fortunate than us (sacrifice). The church is the one institution that can do something about the poor, destitute, and broken in society since it has a mandate to do so and the resources (which mainly go un-tapped). Imagine if we all worked together for the benefit of others and not for the benefit of a denomination, we might actually 'do something of significance' within our communities. We need less dogma and more living the virtues of Jesus.

I have heard of 3 stories within this city of churches raising money for a parking lot and to build a school...like these things were of dire importance and required of our faith. It's in those stories lies the problem. I know the amount of money for each endeavor in total was over 1 million dollars (them combined). None of that money is being used for people and the betterment of individuals lives or for programs. This is what I call 'self-serving with a purpose'. However, they turn a blind eye to the prisoners, the poor, the oppressed/depressed, the social dysfunction, etc. But as long as the church looks good 'Praise God'. It's a sad state of affairs when the church's priorities go to things like this (another example being bringing in big preachers for some show they can put on - we spend tonnes of cash on that program) all the while people suffer around us and we 'pray' for them? 'Someone slap me right here', or better yet give me a dose of reality. Are they making pills for that yet?

And I will stand in opposition to these types of ideas until, as I have said before, they change or they kill me. I have no fear of helping others to the chuches dismay and I moan over their callousness. I say it's high time the churches got out of the rock they hide under and started caring for the people in need around them. This goes for all denominations and all churches that claim a faith in Christ, I am calling them on their hypocrisy and I am not sitting silently on the sidelines while they 'serve themselves'. I mean, how much church services and messages do we need about God's love for humanity before we actually realize it's true? Half a million and counting last time I guessed.

There has to be room for change or else the church will become stale water, I mean where is it flowing too? Just take one look at your congregation and ask yourself this 'are they doing this for themselves'? They have cars, homes, jobs, and the perfect life that they can be blessed with but help the needy...c'mon this is capitalism and God has to obey it's rules. Meanwhile on the other side of town, people are unemployed, don't own cars or homes, and dig themselves in deep with drug addictions, alcohol, and crime yet we leave that for the police or some other aspect of society, 'well it's not our concern' or better yet 'I never signed up for this'.

Here's where it gets interesting. I don't care how good someone can 'pray', 'worship', or 'preach' if they can't help those in need then it begs the question of 'who are they serving...God or themselves?'. I am just as human and as selfish as the next person and every flaw they have, I have. I have attended church and have a bachelor of theology so I know a lot about this faith and myself. I am making calls based on that and how church has led me to 'have a good life and God blessed me' jargon. But I never fully realized that God loves everyone and not one of them he wants to 'perish'. We need to change our priorities before they just keep on perishing in front of our eyes.

10/14/2006  
Blogger jollybeggar said...

first, H, i need to communicate that i thought the same thing: why keep such an abomination around?

but then i was reminded of how different people are, and how differently people connect with each other, much less with God. the struggle for so many has to do with being incapable of seeing the validity in how others connect sociospiritually.

both of you guys are activists... whether this is anti-institutional or reform-oriented comes down to the guy. now, i'm not a big fan of putting people into boxes with tidy labels, but i've got to tell you that i have rarely met someone who acts and thinks like an activist that felt anything was moving fast enough. it's part of how you guys are wired up and it is one of the main reasons that good things actually get done on planet earth (as opposed to simply planned...)

however, i think that one of the strengths of the institutional church is that so many different types of people are provided opportunity to connect with both God and others simultaneously.

gary thomas wrote a book called 'sacred pathways' which may be helpful in understanding how others connect most naturally to God. of course, nobody is a textbook case, but the insights into different perspectives- in particular, those unlike my own- have been helpful for me.

SVS said:
what i love most about these dialogues in the missional perspective that drives both of you guys. But I never fully realized that God loves everyone and not one of them he wants to 'perish'. We need to change our priorities before they just keep on perishing in front of our eyes."

H said: "I'd like to see this redescription or redefinition of church move in the direction of community. A community with loose boundaries, open and flexible conditions for inclusion and a suspicion and aversion to those things which exclude, keeping people on the outside."

sounds like acts 2.42-47 to me- we're in good company...

42They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.
44All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

10/14/2006  
Blogger hineini said...

societyvs, what else can one say except "Oui! viens!" "Yes, Come!". I agree almost entirely with what you said and maybe thats part of the problem. I would imagine that the majority of Christians, at least the ones I know would also whole heartedly agree. I would doubt you could find someone who says (or even believes!) that they do the church thing only for themselves or even firstly for themselves. Even so, I am still tempted to agree with you and personally conclude from what you wrote that people are simply lying or in denial. The problem with this is twofold however. Firstly I would be tempted to see others, at least the "churchers", in a negative light believeing them to be liars or hypocrites. Secondly, I'd be left with a horrible reality of myself having some sort of monopoly on truth which I am utterly convinced is not the case (if it were, no hope would remain for humanity). Either way there remains something unsettling for me about concluding that the "truth" is simple and the majority of people have, at best, simply misunderstood or at worst insidiously plotting their own denial or delusion.

I guess thats the long version of saying that I want to look for something else because it seems to me that pointing out the reality that there is a failure to actuate some of the core beliefs in the tradition doesn't seem to be "baking much bread". That even if it is a case that all these people misunderstand, is there something in society, in the church, or in individuals that facilitates this misunderstanding.

Thats why I, like you societyvs, enjoy discussing church. It seems to me like this would be a good place to look for the reason why the church seems to be unable to enact some of the things it "preaches". Its my suspicion that the "institutional" structure of the church carries with it a compulsion or tendency to self-preservation that necessarily is focused on self, possibly leading to the symptoms or problems you so clearly identified. Anyway, thats a quick glance at just one of the issues that seem interesting.

10/14/2006  
Blogger hineini said...

sorry jollybeggar, when I posted the last comment I didn't see yours for some reason. I'm not ignoring you just didn't see your comment in time, give me a bit and I'll respond.

10/14/2006  
Blogger jollybeggar said...

"...I'd be left with a horrible reality of myself having some sort of monopoly on truth which I am utterly convinced is not the case (if it were, no hope would remain for humanity). Either way there remains something unsettling for me about concluding that the "truth" is simple and the majority of people have, at best, simply misunderstood or at worst insidiously plotting their own denial or delusion."

sheer bloody poetry

hey, something just occured to me. the whole 'me' thing mentioned in the original post that doesn't seem to be present in the 'newcomers' is possibly what makes it easier for us to focus on the needs of these newcomers at the expense of the others who have been here for awhile...

isn't that classic? people's greatest needs not being met because somehow they've communicated them too clearly?

i mean, what makes people's basic sustenance needs so much more noble than their belonging needs? maslow put them a little higher on his pyramid, but self actualization (or entire sanctification for the free methodists in the crowd- the realization of all that God intended for us to be) is still beyond them- it is still at the top and so there is still an existing need to be discipled through expressed love and leadership.

sure, we all get frustrated with people who put themselves at the centre of the world all the time, but perhaps they do this because no one is putting them at the centre of anything... not at the centre of their fellowship or their service or whatever- feeling abandoned?

there is a major grace issue that needs to be addressed in the face of all this sanctimony (especially my own.) the original point of the original post was simply that people's gifts and whatnot tend to be more freely given to 'the cause' (whatever it is) when they are already experiencing love and a sense of belonging themselves.

self actualization will remain an unrealized ideal as long as we sit in judgement over the expressed needs of those who have made initial commitments, but are still in need of deep fellowship and community.
***

I ME MINE (George Harrison)

All thru' the day
I me mine, I me mine, I me mine.
All thru' the night
I me mine, I me mine, I me mine.
Now they're frightened of leaving it
Ev'ryone's weaving it,
Coming on strong all the time,
All thru' the day I me mine.

I-I-me-me mine,

All I can hear
I me mine, I me mine, I me mine.
Even those tears
I me mine, I me mine, I me mine.
No-one's frightened of playing it
Ev'ryone's saying it,
Flowing more freely than wine,
All thru' the day I me mine.

I-I-me-me mine,

All I can hear
I me mine, I me mine, I me mine.
Even those tears
I me mine, I me mine, I me mine.
No-one's frightened of playing it
Ev'ryone's saying it,
Flowing more freely than wine,
All thru' your life I me mine.

10/14/2006  
Blogger hineini said...

"...i was reminded of how different people are, and how differently people connect with each other, much less with God. the struggle for so many has to do with being incapable of seeing the validity in how others connect sociospiritually." (jollybeggar)

Its my agreement with this that makes me want to go more in the direction of community rather than church. It just seems to me that church doesn't give as much room as some other alternatives for these differences to be nurtured and celebrated and given expression. What I seem to be hearing is that somehow the church is the only (?) or best (?) provider of a "spiritual connection with God". Jollybeggar, you wrote;

"i think that one of the strengths of the institutional church is that so many different types of people are provided opportunity to connect with both God and others simultaneously."

I have difficulty with this. It seems that by definition institutionalization limits or closes down possible differences or variation. It would seem that maybe we are speaking about different elements of institutionalization. Its the job of institutions to be conservative and like you hinted at, slow to change. I see a definate strength here for the church to act as a theological/ideological anchor or point of stability. I guess what I'm questioning is whether this isn't getting too costly, at least in certain areas. Its not my desire to "do away with church", nor do I think it realistic. Instead I'd like the church to become a little more self-aware and take a harder look at just how institutions function and what their life cycles look like.

In regards to the Acts passage quoted, it is also no longer feasible to envision, "All the believers [being] together..." or "...enjoying the favor of all the people." So the possibilty still remains to adress the fragmentation and "dark side" of what this mythic early group of Christians has now become.

10/15/2006  
Blogger SocietyVs said...

"both of you guys are activists... whether this is anti-institutional or reform-oriented comes down to the guy." (JB)

But why I am I an activist and for what? I only picked up the bible and read it for what's there, denominational-ism's aside. I don't think I am anti-institution ot anti-church but I think challenging that structure is a 'must'. I read the bible and I see a Jesus that cares about everyone and the community in general (whether in the synagogue or not)...then is dis-liked by the religion/people he is called to help. Was he anti-institution in that process? Yes, in that he demanded a change and nothing less than that change was of any value to him. So, in a way, if the institution gets too 'into itself' then I demand a change (and I ain't saying our of dis-like for the church, but concern and love for others within and without). But I say the church needs to focus on others and their problems if they want even a sort of credibility in any community. I am looking at the dis-like for church and now offering a solution to it (which I stake as the Action Group). If churches can give and help in real ways, credibility is something no longer to think about.

"Secondly, I'd be left with a horrible reality of myself having some sort of monopoly on truth which I am utterly convinced is not the case (if it were, no hope would remain for humanity)" (H)

But even without the monopoly, we can all agree that is true, what do you do about the information revealed to you? I make no claims to a single bit of the truth, since I am a human, but I do offer solutions plain n simple (and nothing more). If I am gonna ask questions about what the church can do different (which I did) then I should be prepared for the answers to that problem (otherwise I find the seeking useless). I see problems in the church and I see a body of people that can do something amazing if led there (like a Moses experience), but the facts remain 'how can someone learn something he has never heard?'. To me it is no good to keep the info to myself when I see something the church can do pro-actively (which is the foundation of the Action Group).

The Action Group being an effort I started to develop mass charity within the church (no matter what denomination) and to live a life closer to the Acts community and the life of Christ (based on His life and teachings). The reason I did it because it was the biggest deficiency missing from the body of Christ, and I seen the church as a change agent within society not controlled by some political mandate. But I am well aware of the obstacles in pushing for a 'giving community', it's called tithes and buildings. But even if the church will discover the use they can have in their communities by giving they will change their views (of this I am sure). If you ever helped a single mother who had no food, you will know the utter joy of doing that good deed and what Christ meant by 'loving your neighbor' - ie: answering the need and the person that asked of us. It's odd but we have a belief we can ask of God anything and He will provide (which I believe), but what if God has supplied and we just aren't noticing it? (the sharing of mass resources with our communities). My end goal is that each and every church establishes this mandate, then works together with their resources, and in the end changes the cities communities answering the prayers of the people asking. It's not that God hasn't provided (actually far from it) but that we don;t know He meant we have what they (poor/defeated) need.

10/15/2006  
Blogger Cinder said...

"i mean, what makes people's basic sustenance needs so much more noble than their belonging needs?"

do you think it's really a question of whether one or the other is more noble? i think in some cases it might be perceived as which one is easier to help with...for some, which one requires less strings of committment.

from what i've observed in the past, people will jump to 'herd' newbies in the door and make them feel welcome, because they don't want to feel alone or like they don't have a place. but then there seems to be an unwritten rule that the 'newbie' stage only lasts a certain amount of time and then you are shoved off to sink or swim.

i think it is vital to make 'newbies' feel welcome and a part of the community, but the church also has a huge responsibility to offer ways to reach out to the people who are newer or who have been there a long time. a lot of times, the church fails miserably at this and the end result is a lot of hurt, pain and reservations.

10/16/2006  
Blogger hineini said...

Cinder, I have to agree with what you said about one need being more noble only if the criteria for judging are looked at in a certain way, such as our ability to meet them, and I think that is a great insight. My opinion is that this tendency to know better than the other what the other's need is has got to be one of my most dangerous and violent tendencies. I think jolleybeggar pointed out that one of the possible consequences of my challenging of the value and usefulness of the church as we see it now is that I threaten things of great importance to some who attend. I suppose this is where we start talking about trying to please everyone and whether this is a good, practical or even healthy goal.

"what do you do about the information revealed to you? I make no claims to a single bit of the truth...but I do offer solutions plain n simple (and nothing more)." (societyvs)

Without getting into a big discussion about revelation I have to say that I'm much more at home and much less prone to do violence if I focus on questions rather than answers. I'm not totally sure, societyvs, what you mean by "solutions plain n simple" but I lack faith in my ability to transcend my selfishness when it comes time for "solutions", especially when those "solutions" are sure to effect others . I think that is why I feel somewhat unable to make the same conclusions you seem to have come too about the church; that the major challenge it has (and by extension the people filling the seats) is an failure to impliment what you read when you read a "Jesus that cares about everyone and the community in general" (societyvs).

jollybeggar, I'm not really sure how to respond to the "activist" thing. I think I have some very general characteristics that might be included under this title but could you maybe clarify a bit what you mean? Chances are I won't accept the title ;) but I thought I'd give you a chance. Then maybe I could comment on a few of the things you mention.

10/16/2006  
Blogger IndieFaith said...

wow, you guys have alot of energy for this blog. i just visited it being connected by hineini's recommendations.

10/16/2006  
Blogger jollybeggar said...

"...it is also no longer feasible to envision, "All the believers [being] together..." or "...enjoying the favor of all the people." So the possibilty still remains to adress the fragmentation and "dark side" of what this mythic early group of Christians has now become"

nope- i don't buy that.

in my view, the world isn't any more dangerous or weird or cold now than it has ever been... there are just more options because there are more people. i don't believe for a moment that it was any easier or more feasible to live together in love and service with the roman soldiers trying to recruit christians for the circus while the zealots were trying to assassinate them for desertion...

nope, i think that the only real possible challenge to the feasibility of the western church re-enacting acts 2.42 is the distraction of basic affluence- and to deem a dream or an ideal infeasible simply because others have failed to realize it seems a bit hopeless.

as for the activist comment, you'll just have to read gary's book!

;-)

10/16/2006  
Blogger hineini said...

indiefaith, welcome! Good to see you. I hope our conversation that is turning to a discussion about first century or early christian communities makes you feel welcome.

"and to deem a dream or an ideal infeasible simply because others have failed to realize it seems a bit hopeless."(jollybeggar)

Okay, I'll give you that one, your right. I don't think I was being quite as dismissive as it sounded. I was unclear I guess. I think my point was that many of us agree that the Acts community is an ideal and sounds like a nice model to pursure but in terms of our above conversation about the current church, it seems like some radical changes are going to have to happen. This doesn't even address the issue of whether all churches should even be aiming for this "living in common" idea expressed in Acts or if its simply a matter of "different churches for different people who like different things" . If this is the case then really what seems to be the reality of church now could fit. If we feel the church is lacking in a pratical application of Jesus teaching and desire a more communal, hands on faith then maybe we should join a catholic worker community or one of the numerous other "intentional communities" many with a shared christian core of beliefs.

I realize that was a little all over the place, its what I get for posting without having drank enough coffee.

10/17/2006  
Blogger jollybeggar said...

"intentional community"

that's the phrase i was trying to recall. i love that. i really think that the institutional church will be more in line with what Jesus was dying to start once it has sorted out what Jesus's intentions were in the first place, and then pattern its activities accordingly.

inclusive mission statements are all fine and good but unless they are backed up with inclusive mission it is all just right-sounding rhetoric. however, the polar opposite of doing and being nothing for others is trying to do everything and be everything for others.

somewhere between exluding all and all-inclusive is one church's calling. just as individuals have specific gifts and abilities and personalities which can be used in the hands of God to bring about his kingdom on earth, so are the natural gifts, abilities and personalities of an entire church body. discerning the difference between what God is intending to do through you and what is of specific interest and appeal is a huge deal for any leader.

over the last while i've been trying to sort these things out as an individual- only to find that the whole process begins again for me in my involvement with a local church. leadership is just involvement... it is role that is played which is (contrary to a lot of the hierarchical leadership advice and practice)only as important as every other role in the community. when you see things as circles, nobody is at the front of the line...

anyway, my point (if there is one here... just as H is all over the place with too little caffeine, i am with too much- and it's been a drinking day!) is that most of the time i'm trying to hear the voice of God as to what i/we do next.

being in the loop with Jesus' modelled intentions makes that discernment a bit clearer.

10/17/2006  
Blogger SocietyVs said...

"This doesn't even address the issue of whether all churches should even be aiming for this "living in common" idea expressed in Acts or if its simply a matter of "different churches for different people who like different things" (H)

Those are 2 ideas that exist, one an ideal and the other the reality of the current times. I have never been a fan of 'pick n choose' Christianity, it's just too phony for me and I have seen the abuse of the idea. But if there is an ideal then it makes sense to reach for it then settle for a lower degrading easily reachable reality.

"If we feel the church is lacking in a pratical application of Jesus teaching and desire a more communal, hands on faith then maybe we should join a catholic worker community or one of the numerous other "intentional communities" many with a shared christian core of beliefs." (H)

Now that's the spirit and I agree. Why don't churches work together for the betterment of communities which they are within, I really don't care if I work with Catholics, Pentacostals, or Universalists..to me the actions outweigh the doctrine. I would rather there was unity than division (which exists now)...I also wish there would be concern for the people around us in our communities and if any denomination does something for the people in their neighborhood...you can be sure I will support that endeavor (no matter what the denomination). I guess I see the ideal and I see the way things are, I am not content with the way things are and if one is...well convince me why it can't change or why it should stay the same (I am an open ear).

10/18/2006  
Blogger jollybeggar said...

"I also wish there would be concern for the people around us in our communities"

i don't think this is a fair statement. there's lots of concern that is translating into action among numerous churches in this city, so let's not deal with these big, bad, uncaring churchlady stereotypes... they are simple polar opposites to the ideal ofwhich you speak and that's too easy. do you mean to say that you don't know of a single caring community-centred ministry in any of the churches in this town- or is it simply that, in your view, there needs to be MORE concern for the people around us?

i know the differences may be semantic, but i get kinda tired of people making these big hardass statements against the church. we all know that there are problems and that the church isn't as effective as it could be, but can we come up with something original?

10/18/2006  
Blogger Shawn said...

Though my soul is in my eyes, darkening all I see, there is a light that shines out of the people who have Jesus lit inside. They love me and I love them for what we have in common. And we love the ones in darkness with the hope of the light that may one day be theirs. The church isn't an institution but a gathering of light, wherever two fireflies meet in the dark. aside: what church building has ever contained people who totally agree on anything? we are all individuals gathering together and doing the best we can with what we have. The cup is half full my friends.
Shawn.

10/18/2006  
Blogger hineini said...

"somewhere between exluding all and all-inclusive is one church's calling"

So does a church get to say "Our calling is to minister to the souls of the people that go to our church to the exclusion of eveything else." Are they right to stand with tear filled eyes and hands upraised for two hours sunday morning singing worship songs followed by a brief message on possitive thinking? Maybe if this doesn't appeal to me I just don't attend there? Do any of us have any right to question a/the church's stated mandate if all they need to say is "this is what God has told us to do"?

societyvs, what I meant by joining a catholic worker community or other "intentional community" is to join a small group of people living together, usually sharing many things in common, like a commune. These groups are usually smaller than a church congregation and sometimes choose simply to worship together rather than join a church.

"The church isn't an institution but a gathering of light," (shawn)

The church may be a gathering of light (a light that christians don't have a monopoly on however) but when I go I have no say in how the money is spent, who gets hired or fired, what programs are offered or which aren't nor even "how to shine the light" like our current discussion is about. In my mind, defining institutions very briefly, they are organizations of some kind with a hierarchy and a somewhat clear mandate/structure. I think I understand what your getting at shawn...the "where two or more are gathered" idea and I agree that sometimes people may gather and do together the same things done in a church. However, there is a very institutionalized Christian church.

I'll also agree that the cup is half full, at least for the majority of us in Canada who, for the most part, need not worry about the next meal, being arrested and tortured, watching our family suffer because there are no jobs, having loved ones murdered in military conquests etc. etc. etc.

10/19/2006  
Blogger SocietyVs said...

"Do any of us have any right to question a/the church's stated mandate if all they need to say is "this is what God has told us to do"?" (H)

Yes.

"These groups are usually smaller than a church congregation and sometimes choose simply to worship together rather than join a church" (H)

Yeah but they can't this be the revolution of the core culture of the church instead of a singled out group? Maybe this idea is more accurate to the original community than the current state of affairs.

"but when I go I have no say in how the money is spent, who gets hired or fired, what programs are offered or which aren't nor even "how to shine the light" (H)

This is mostly true but then I would say 'speak up'. Maybe your ideas might not be accepted but rage against the 'dying of the light' or at least the mis-placing of that light.

"I'll also agree that the cup is half full, at least for the majority of us in Canada who, for the most part, need not worry about the next meal, being arrested and tortured, watching our family suffer because there are no jobs, having loved ones murdered in military conquests" (H)

You see this is where I quite heartedily disgaree, the cup is not half full if we can say 'I am good' to another's 'suffering'. That's not half full at all, that others having emptiness to our cup runneth over. Time we started pouring some drinks.

10/19/2006  
Blogger Cinder said...

"You see this is where I quite heartedily disgaree, the cup is not half full if we can say 'I am good' to another's 'suffering'. That's not half full at all, that others having emptiness to our cup runneth over. Time we started pouring some drinks." (S)

exactly...if we are fortunate to have our cups even half full, if not running over, then it's time the contents of the cup quit being hoarded and instead shared around. things would be a lot better in this world if, instead of sitting on the sidelines trying to protect what we had, we just shared it around to help everyone's cup to be full...that's living a life of love and really in my mind, what the call of the 'church' is to be.

10/20/2006  
Blogger SocietyVs said...

Exactly Cinder, you rock!

10/21/2006  
Blogger SocietyVs said...

30th comment is always quite a feat!

10/22/2006  
Blogger Shawn said...

I think you are confused... The cup half full thing is about perspective, not possessions. Have you ever met someone from another country who lived in terrible circumstances, but they had more joy in their poverty than you in your riches? I have.
Hin says "I go I have no say in how the money is spent, who gets hired or fired, what programs are offered or which aren't nor even "how to shine the light." Who cares? Who would want to be sucked into the institution anyway? I have influence with friends, family and co-workers and that is enough for me. If I support something, I support it. I like Jolly Beggar, so I am here, and so are you.

10/22/2006  
Blogger SocietyVs said...

32 comments, wowsers! Let's see me, Shawn, Heinini, JollyBeggar, Cinder, and indiefaith...I love this game.

10/22/2006  
Blogger Cinder said...

"I think you are confused... The cup half full thing is about perspective, not possessions. Have you ever met someone from another country who lived in terrible circumstances, but they had more joy in their poverty than you in your riches? I have." (shawn)

Shawn...confused...with this one, i don't see it that way. have i ever met someone in another country who had more joy in their poverty than i in my riches...YES, i have and it changed my perspective forever. would i give away all my riches to go live in that poverty and those circumstances vs. live my whole life in the western world...in a heartbeat!

i know the cup half full is about perspective. i wasn't meaning that comment to be about possessions only. what i was getting at is that sometimes, especially in the western world's thinking, our perspectives get clouded and inward-focused. you can have your cup overflowing with life experience, love and the support someone else needs, but hoard it, instead of sharing it around and simply being there for others. you can have your perspective, but choose to not allow it have any influence on you vs. allowing it to change how you live.

that's what i was attempting to get at.

Society...i too am enjoying the game!

10/22/2006  
Blogger Cinder said...

hey Society, I'm gonna take #34 as well...hmmm, how high will you build the comment box tally???

10/23/2006  
Blogger jollybeggar said...

so, like, as the big administrator guy of this little forum we have going here, i can probably just wipe out comments 30, 32 and 34 if it's my calling to do so, right? lol

you know, if i wasn't so dang busy these days i'd punch out a new post on a new topic... anyway, thanks all you people engaging here.

honestly, though, i think that we have looped this one nicely. awhile back, H said:

"So does a church get to say "Our calling is to minister to the souls of the people that go to our church to the exclusion of eveything else." Are they right to stand with tear filled eyes and hands upraised for two hours sunday morning singing worship songs followed by a brief message on possitive thinking?"

and i think i have to point out here that, although the last reported words of Jesus are about going out and bearing witness to the truth outside the immediate walls of the temple and the city and the country, the original post spawning all of these comments addressed the problem of serving/ reaching out to/ attending to the spiritual and social needs of those who are either newcomers or non-attenders AT THE EXCLUSION OF the people already going there... hence the whole 'rotting fruit' analogy.

we have once again defaulted in our thinking to this stock church caricature, rather than actual people we know.

not wanting to seem cranky or anything, but can we go a little deeper than characters on saturday night live if we're going to speak so strongly about those whom Jesus entrusted with his message of light?

otherwise it's all just rather familiar name-calling and blame-gaming.

10/23/2006  
Blogger SocietyVs said...

"we have once again defaulted in our thinking to this stock church caricature, rather than actual people we know...but can we go a little deeper...if we're going to speak so strongly about those whom Jesus entrusted with his message of light? Otherwise it's all just rather familiar name-calling and blame-gaming." (JB)

This sounds a little like something I refer to a lot 'us and them' mentality. It makes it seem like if someone speaks against the machine he is a 'them' even though I will contend those people also have been just as entrusted with the 'message of light' - whatever that vague idea even means.

As far as 'the blame game' goes and naming 'names' (of actual people we know), I find this a reprehensible church practice that needs to be wiped out. I remember the guys on Slice of Laodicea that used to 'rail on' Hybels and Osteen and literally called them 'of the devil' for their washed out gospel practices...they had some things right but the naming of names brought with it bias and contempt for those named by the Slice crew (to the point I think they might stone Osteen if they met him).

So I think most of use the generic term 'church' in what we say as the institution needs to change, not really a shot at a single person in that entity but as a collective whole. The collective church needs to change seems to be the message, no matter the denomination, the creed, the dogma's, or the structure...it all needs to be refreshed.

10/23/2006  
Blogger jollybeggar said...

"So I think most of use the generic term 'church' in what we say as the institution needs to change, not really a shot at a single person in that entity but as a collective whole. The collective church needs to change seems to be the message, no matter the denomination, the creed, the dogma's, or the structure...it all needs to be refreshed."
***
so it's okay to just spray the entire church with the criticisms meant for individuals whom we only imagine through the high contrast lens of our ideals? hmmm.

i don't think i clearly articulated in comment 35 what i was trying to say. here goes my second attempt...

i have no problem with contention. change comes as a result of just enough dissonance. however, in my view, there are some troublesome 'us and them' defaults in place which need to be torn down in order for the greatest number of people to be impacted to the greatest degree.

otherwise, there are just these little ideosyncratic/ethnocentric factions all over the place who all believe that they have a monopoly on 'the way things should be' and are called to tell apparently everyone else that they are doing it wrong.

i have a problem with that.

so when i speak of restricting (at least to some degree) our thinking to our sphere of immediate influence- those we know- what i am saying is 'let's stop talking about the whole church as though everyone in every church is more interested in themselves than others.' in my experience, this is not an accurate assessment of the way things are.

furthermore, to rail against 'the machine' is to once again create this comfortable distance between ourselves and any form of leadership/accountability structure because for some anything bigger than a discussion group is automatically suspect in the area of intentions and integrity. once again, factions rise up where everybody knows how things are supposed to be in their ideals and because these ideals are extreme, fitting antitheses are appointed from the realm of the distantly observed, rather than the realm of the experienced.

my point above was simply to say 'let's not forget that there are some really great people and groups doing the work that Jesus started as well.'

having said all this, i must say that i LOVE the last word of your comment SVS.

refreshed is a really good word.

10/23/2006  
Blogger SocietyVs said...

Thanks, I think refreshed sums up my position. I agree there is some great people doing great things in every church all over the place (by place I mean the entire world). Still some things which were expressed in the blog were quite valid points and to deny themis to add fuel to my blog (lol).

10/23/2006  
Blogger SocietyVs said...

and when do we got to 'blow up the outside world'?

10/24/2006  
Blogger jollybeggar said...

never- hopefully we ARE the outside world.

10/28/2006  

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