Monday, November 07, 2005

A Downer

Today began with disappointing news . . . Brian McLaren would not be arriving until Tuesday evening. This news was added to the bad news we received a few months ago that the class would be one week instead of two weeks. I enjoy learning and so I am always disappointed when the learning experience lacks the person (professor) from whom you want to learn.

At this point, I needed to be reminded that learning is more than the teacher. These courses require thousands of pages of pre-reading before you begin class. I spend time reflecting on the reading and interacting with the concepts of the books in the form of short response papers. The learning experience also involves the students. Amazingly, the students come from incredibly diverse backgrounds. The cross-section of this class includes a pastor from Hong Kong, a missionary from Viet Nam, church planters, para-church ministry leader and ministers of all different function. Our ages, locations and ethnicities are diverse. Students can make the learning experience better.

Fuller professor Eddie Gibbs saved the day for me. He came to speak about his new book "“Emerging Churches," which researched churches that are developing in this postmodern age. He strongly emphasized that America is becoming much more secular. The West coast is most secular followed by the North West. Christianity is loosing ground in most every American denomination and we are mirroring the decline of Europe.

Maybe his most thought-provoking comments were to describe a Christendom mentality church or most good churches in America. These churches depend upon invitation and the transfer of membership. It is important to be welcoming. They claim to be "seeker sensitive" but faith seekers are in the minority, because it is the invitation of seekers to come on our terms. Twenty percent of the membership is needed as volunteers to keep the work of the church going (maintaining insider ministries). These churches construct buildings rather than people.

Wow, churches that construct buildings rather than people. There is nothing wrong with building buildings or being welcoming. Actually, the are obvious results of people on task. These are not problem until they become the fixed focus. Maintaining a fixed idea of church and believing it "works" in all ages may be the problem. I wonder what a church would look like that focused on birthing people? What would change? What would become important? I wonder what a church would be busy doing if it realized that it existed for the good of the world and to be a blessing to the world. I wonder what the church would look like if it used its 20% core and its ministers to prepare the other 80% to go into the world?

Well, I think it is important to dream and think and reflect. Maybe it helps you to think and talk, too. I realize that I have the benefit of doing the readings, sitting in class, wrestling with these issues and all that you get is a few words here. Yet it is still good to think . . . thanks for letting me think out loud.

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