Church

Why I Left The Church

It was an interesting evening for sure. A group of us had drove up to the north end of the city after hearing about a public conversation taking place between Bart Campolo & Sean McDowell. Taking different poles between each other in dialogue, Campolo embraced a stated “atheism” or humanist stance while McDowell stood upon a firm belief in the Christian Evangelical Church. While inviting the others, I had enthusiastically given support to “Team I Left”. It became a point of conversation as they wondered how I could support this stance while still being involved with Christian gathering events.

In honesty, I was giving the support in a tongue in cheek way. But, while I do give leniencey to this stance, we need to ask the question of what it means to be in or out of the church.

Of Pride & Self Worship: A Theological Exegesis of Amos 6:1-8

Introduction This exegesis is meant to explore the oracle of Amos 6:1-8 while also having an attentive mind to the ways in which God may be speaking to us today. It is Amos who states, “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?”[1] A rhetorical question that the prophet asks early in his letter so that those who would hear his words would recognize the deep calling he felt in proclaiming God’s judgments to the nation. While Amos walked with the Lord in this calling, let us also walk together as we listen to God’s words of judgment through his prophet and seek a deeper discernment to what God may reveal to us today.

Amos the Man and the Backdrop of Israel

The prophet Amos was an average Judean countryside herdsman and caretaker of fig trees near a small town called Takoa, which was about 10km south of the city of...

Finding Blood, Fire and Smoky Mist In Today's Wait For The Big Kahuna

smoky-mistBlood, fire and smoky mist (Joel 2:30), words which as Mark shares are rich in the metaphorical presence of spirituality and biblically spoken to the eminence of God in creation. I can't dismiss the physicality of these elements in scripture. Was Joel speaking figuratively or literally? Does the timing have to be the same for them all? Are they telling of some real narrative recorded later in God's story such as the blood and water pouring out from Christ's chest? I don't really know and it could also boil down to the semantics of questioning the definition of reality. Still, I think there is a validity both metaphorically and physically to Joel's words in the eschatological sense; or end to one world and the beginning of the other. This morning I spoke in my old college around the Wisdom of God revealed through the story of Job while dwelling in Job 38-42. Metaphorically these passages speak eschatologically into the new life Job would be living and I tied it to the point that 'It's not about who started it, it's about who finishes it'. It is Job's character of submitting everything he has, both the good and the bad (Job 2:10), that allows God to bring him into the newness of a man who, "girds up his loins before" (38:3) all of creation and declares God's, "things to wonderful" (42:3), to mystifying, to amazing to be more then just about "me"!

Likewise, Jesus on the cross submits himself to God in the work of defeating sin while crying, "It is finished!" (John 19:30) The world of brokenness, separation from God, the blindness of the Kingdom being present is removed and a new world is set in its place where we might live in the freedom of God's promises multiplied through the Spirit's gifting's and catalyzing us into a the missio Dei while being in "awe" at the "wonders and signs" (Acts 2:43) manifesting themselves amidst us.

The church then, "moves in the world with humility, knowing that it is always being called to its own conversion as it attempts to embody the coming realities of the Kingdom." (Mark, Pg. #15) A Kingdom where creation has "all things in common" (Acts 2:44), justice and righteousness is sought for all (2:45), and hospitality is given to everyone without reserve or indifference  (2:46).

I think a good question might be in that as we submit to God through the work of the apostles, how might we define "work"? While the Christian community embodies the metaphorical "Blood, fire and smoky mist" as signs to the presence of Christ's Spirit through the discipling identity of communal prayer, breaking of bread, and dwelling in God's Word; these terms must apostolically (Eph. 4) become engrained into all of life's expressions, both personally and communally, so as not to become a, "self-aggrandizement of the church or individuals", but shared with all as a, "participation in God’s coming kingdom." (Mark Pg. #15) With all of creations participation in the coming Kingdom, success is not measured by fulness of the institution or the definition of doctrine, rather it is found in the willingness for embodying a Spirit of, "inclusion, participation, generosity, and attentiveness to the other." (Mark Pg. #24)

It was in the movie 'The Big Kahuna' that the character Larry Mann (played by Kevin Spacey) mistakenly asked his cohorts, "Did you mention what line of industrial lubricants Jesus would have endorsed?" It was a question in search for his own self-aggrandizement or assurance of business success which had little to do with being in service for others. The search, or wait, for the entrance of "The Big Kahuna" had little to do with the "greatness" of Larry Mann or any of the other characters, and was more about their willingness to submit to their own insignificance for the sake of the greatness of others. Or, in the words of Phil Cooper (played by Danny Devito)...

"I'm saying you've already done plenty of things to regret, you just don't know what they are. It's when you discover them, when you see the folly in something you've done, and you wish that you had it do over, but you know you can't, because it's too late. So you pick that thing up, and carry it with you to remind you that life goes on, the world will spin without you, you really don't matter in the end. Then you will gain character, because honesty will reach out from inside and tattoo itself across your face."

I can't help but reflect back on a thought I had a few weeks ago. Posting it on Facebook I wrote: "The greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing the world he didn't exist. The greatest trick that God ever played was convincing the devil that he was winning. Which trick are you playing?"

With the embrace of new life that we find in Christ, I think we often blind ourselves to the on going death that is taking place within ourselves simultaneously. Perhaps we think it as morbid or negative to do so but, we cannot separate the joys and freedoms of a resurrected eternal life from the ongoing cruciform life we live in today as temporal created beings. While the physical cross was embraced by Jesus on the hill of Golgotha in his 33rd year, he metaphorically clung to the cross through his entire life.

Living in this way, I think, is really a continuance of practicing a life of "awe and wonder" in the Spirit's work. Assumedly, we have confused this practice to the witness to the "good" in life while leaving the "bad" to cast off, marginalize, or exclude from the soul's journey. Revolutionarily, Jesus diverges this understanding by calling us not to act in judgement between the "good" and the "bad", clean and unclean, holy and unholy, but allow ourselves to see all things as new. In some sense, we are to be in awe and wonder of sin and brokenness too, not judging it and excluding it from ourselves or the other, but rather submitting it as part of the redemptive process we go through both as personal and communal beings before God in community.

Returning to the question of, "Which trick are you playing?" If we are in the effort of trying to prove the devil's existence, attempting to judge and articulate every nature of sin in creation by saving that which we think is good and excluding that which we deem as being bad, we will fail and ultimately find little meaning in life. But if we embrace the metaphorical cross of Jesus, loose ourselves to the wonder and awe of all things both good and bad, we will find a life of ultimate significance and deepest meaning. It is a life that gives into the Spirit of all things being, "not my will Father, but yours!"

"What Is A House Church?" ~ Vision Proper For The Tribe of Expressions

"What is a House Church?" This is probably the most common question I get asked when people hear that I am a House Church leader in The Edge. I think one of the common mistakes we make in answering comes when we see House Churches as a model rather then an organic community of people. We say, "We are trying to..."

  • "... be like the 1st century house churches."
  • "... be less organizational."
  • "... just do life with friends and family."
  • "... do church smaller within our homes and living rooms."
  • "... be a simple small group."

When we really look at what being a house church is, our intentions are not to follow a model or even past example, it is really to be a closely knit spiritual family who are...

A Deep Gaze Into Missional Theology and The Eschatological Gleanings From Them ~ Pt. #5 ~ Fun Houses and the True Identity of the Ekklesia

As a boy I used to love going to the local fair and exploring the fun houses and the glass maze. I would sometimes spend hours feeling my way through the glass and mirrors till I reached the top of the house and the maze broke way to a large open room filled with funny mirrors. They were curved and warped so that when I stood in front of them they would distort my image and I’d look really short and fat or tall and super skinny. I’d laugh with my friends, point at their funny images, and strike poses for my own amusement. Looking back, there was a certain degree of reality within those moments in the fun houses. Paul shares with the church in Corinth that, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.”[1] He was articulating that as we grow in the maturity of Christ, we do not fully comprehend all that the Kingdom of God wishes us to see...

A Narration To Relational Polarities and Ritualistic Church Encounters

I thought I'd begin this post with a bit of a story in my life.I grew up in the church. Probably not the one you’re expecting. While not overly religious, my parents baptized me as an infant in the Catholic community they were a part of back in Hamilton Ontario. It would only be a few years later that my parents would divorce and my mother and I would move from Fort McMurray down to Calgary.

While divorce was not looked well upon in the Catholic denomination, particularly in the late '70's and '80's, my mother became involved with the Anglican Church cathedrals in downtown Calgary. There were many a choir practices to which...

Future Steps Towards The Edge - Pt. #5 - Conclusion - Pilgrims and Fellow Sojourners in the Missio Dei

Standing-on-the-edge Michael Horton wrote once that,

“There is a significant origin and end point to history, within which we ourselves are cast members. It is a courtroom drama in which we are either false or true witnesses, “in Adam” or “in Christ,” justified or condemned, alive or dead.

Neither masters nor tourists, we become pilgrims.

Unlike masters, pilgrims have not arrived and they do not presume to inaugurate their own kingdoms of glory. They don’t have all the answers and they are not exactly sure what their destination city will be like; they are driven by a promise and by God’s fulfillment of his promise along the way. Yet unlike tourists, they are on their way to a settled place and every point along the way is a landmark toward that destination.”

Sojourning with the tribes of The Edge has without a doubt brought great joy in my life and as Horton points out, shown me “landmarks toward that destination” we endeavor to journey towards together. Bevans and Schroeder say that, "Christians are incorporated into the divine life and experience a foretaste of the world's destiny of full communion with God, with one another and with all of creation."[1] It is my hope we too will also experience this uniting communion together, so as to become all that which God wishes us to become.

My hope is in sharing this that we will see these challenges not as critiques or divisions, but as opportunities to greater engage in the mission of God as he has called upon us as one unified movement. I know that together I dream of the day that we are all Living the Life of Jesus Within the Lives of Others to The Edge and beyond this world!!

[1] Bevans, Stephen B., and Roger Schroeder. Constants in Context: A Theology of Mission for Today. (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2004) Pg. #299.

Further Steps Towards The Edge - Pt. #4 - Creating an External Vision for Dreaming Dreams and Seeing Visions

Out There“I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day this [movement] will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed:”[1] to be Living the Life of Jesus Within the Lives of Others! Ok, so I took some creative freedoms in sharing Martin Luther King’s famous words. There is such an inspiring force to them though as we contemplate the significance of dreams and visions in the mission of God. The apostle Peter knew that too, as he quoted the prophet Joel, “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.”[2] God’s mission is bigger then just any one movement. The old saying is true that, “It is not so much that God’s Church has a mission as much as it is that God’s mission has a church.” We cannot limit the vision of The Edge or the dreams we might have of its future solely to the internal voice of self-reason. Lesslie Newbigin writes that, “the Spirit who thus bears witness in the life of the Church to the purpose of the Father is not confined within the limits of the Church. It is the clear teaching of the Acts of the Apostles, as it is the experience of missionaries, that the Spirit goes, so to speak, ahead of the church.”[3]

The challenge brought to The Edge is a willingness for all of our leadership to seek inspiration not solely from its internal practices of The Edge and our Cultural Discipling Rhythms, but from those outside of its identity who might be of like-mindedness. While maintaining the cultural discipling rhythms of Investing, Involving, and Inspiring, we can find inspiration and wisdom from other missionally focused movements that might strengthen, build, and equip our own covenantal practices and understandings of them. Holding our own beliefs and practices in open form to the greater community of missional groups, not only creates a communicative dialogue between movements that would shape our own, but also open doors of collaboration and the ability for us to shape other movements around us. This is not dismissing the solidarity of our own cultural rhythms in discipleship but rather transcending them to the greater movement of the mission of God as a whole.

In the practicalities of this we need to explore the questions of what are the other missional movements around us that resonate with our own? How might we begin a dialogue with them towards mutual collaboration? Are we willing to let them speak into our cultural rhythms in the pursuit of “dreaming dreams and seeing visions”? What practices of accountability would we expect upon our leadership in participation?

[1] Kouzes, James M., and Barry Z. Posner. The Leadership Challenge. 3rd ed. (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2002) Pg. #145.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Ac 2:17). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3] Bevans, Stephen B., and Roger Schroeder. Constants in Context: A Theology of Mission for Today. (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2004) Pg. #297.

Further Steps Towards The Edge - Pt. #3 - Creating a Central Unity for a Culture of Rhythms in Discipling

Heart RhythmsOver the last several months Desmond Tutu’s words from his book ‘No Future Without Forgiveness’ has been resonating in my thoughts. He said, “‘My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours.’ We belong in a bundle of life. We say, ‘A person is a person through other persons.’ It is not, ‘I think therefore I am.’ It says rather: ‘I am human because I belong. I participate, I share.’”[1] It is a natural rhythm of breathing in and out the life presence of Jesus as we find a sort of organic communal covenant relationship with him that begins our discipling practices and says we belong both to him and to each other. So what are the rhythms that we practice to which announce our belonging to The Edge Movement? There seems to be three spheres of discipleship that naturally form in our culture. While each may find different expressions between the tribes, The Edge focuses around the converging practices of Investing, Involving, and Inspiring the lives of its members. It is difficult to state a defining place of beginning in such a process as each sphere coexists with the other and yet each element of the three begins a radical transformation of the disciple and the community to become more entwined in the reflective life of Jesus.

Edge Discipling RhythmsThe challenge brought forth to The Edge is to recognize the interdependence we have on one another in following these rhythms. Each needs to be dynamically broadened in depth and understanding and each must be communicatively interlinked within the entire movement itself and between all the tribes. We must recognize and see them in practice through the entire network and not limited to just a limited few or solely in the leadership. How might we as collaborative leaders develop these rhythms further? How might we develop interlinking ligaments that foster stronger relationships between each tribe and between the tribal leaders?

The importance of tribal harmony is detrimental to the transmission and communicative contextualization of our discipling cultural rhythms. In Bevans and Schroeder’s words, "Like a complex fugue or polyphonic motet, God's unity is constituted by diversity and God's diversity is rooted in unity of will and purpose; the church is the church inasmuch as it has been included in that harmony."[2] As leaders in The Edge, we must make the effort to not only find a listening ear to that which God is doing in our own tribe, but also find interlinking relationships with other leaders in the movement to hear the harmony in which God is creating with the surrounding tribes. If we only are listening to our individual tribal identities and practices at the exclusion of the others, we could very easily lose track of the communal rhythm and become nothing but “a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal”[3] in the midst of a struggling symphony. As God’s mission began in love for the other (John 3:16), so must ours, as we love those who we are a part of.

[1] Tutu, Desmond. No Future Without Forgiveness. (New York: Doubleday, 1999) Kindle Location 431.

[2] Bevans, Stephen B., and Roger Schroeder. Constants in Context: A Theology of Mission for Today. (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2004) Pg. #298.

[3] [3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (1 Cor. 13:1). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

 

Further Steps Towards The Edge - Pt.#2 - A Mission Built on the Foundation of Relationship

imago Dei "We are not so much individuals, as our Western culture in particular would have it, but, as images of God, deeply social and communal in nature. The perfect communication and self-giving that is God's very self is the church's deepest reality, since Christians have undergone theosis and participate in the divine nature."[1] Stephan Bevans and Roger Schroeder articulate the deep need we have to base our existence and mission in the roots of relationship. It’s not just a passion; it’s in our very nature to want discipleship on a personal and intimate level as apposed to simply being a Sunday event. We don’t want to just know about Jesus, we want to know Jesus!

After spending years with his disciples, Jesus turned to them and asked, “Who do the people say that I am?” Speculatively they answer, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Jesus, wanting to know if they really knew him then asked, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter, perhaps hesitant at first, states, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”[2] It is an epiphany brought only through the relational presence of living life with Jesus and the revelation of God’s Word through the daily work of the Holy Spirit.

This is the nature of The Edge’s mission – Living the Life of Jesus Within the Lives of Others. It propels us from the transformational life of simple discipleship to the apostolic life of serving the other for the greater sharing of God’s glory and Kingdom. To be a part of The Edge is to embrace this identity and mission as central to the purpose of all other endeavors.

We cannot take this mission lightly however and we must be intentional about our covenant to its calling. It is not just an individual binding of independent relationship but a communal covenant shared between ourselves and the others in the movement. As Christopher Wright shares the significance to God's act of redemption and it's role in the believer through the model of the exodus story, "The exodus was not a movement from slavery to freedom, but from slavery to covenant. Redemption was for relationship with the redeemer, to serve his interests and his purposes in the world." Our participation in God's mission is not to be out of self-propitiation or communal or personal freedom, but in the giving of ourselves to the work and pursuit of fulfilling the vision communally set before us as a Kingdom citizen.

The Edge’s mission comes with the promise of great reward and benefit through supported discipleship but also with the apostolic commissioning and responsibility to invest, be involved, and inspire our fellow brothers and sisters in the greater movement. This is the challenge left not just to the greater leadership, but all who are in covenant as tribal leaders. To do otherwise is to question whether we are truly part of the movement we call The Edge or just solely part of our own smaller independent endeavors.

Our first steps towards the future of the Edge is to explore an understanding of how we personally and communally are willing to commit and covenant to this vision as a singular movement who is Living the Life of Jesus Within the Lives of Others through Investing, Involving, and Inspiring practices. Secondarily we need to explore how this vision is then shared, expressed, and embodied, by the tribes we lead.

[1] Bevans, Stephen B., and Roger Schroeder. Constants in Context: A Theology of Mission for Today. (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2004) Pg. #298.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Mt 16:13-20). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.