Friday, July 31, 2009

Moving Past "Event-Driven"

First a note to my colleagues... this has nothing to do with "Event-Driven" programming, architecture, design, etc. If you want to read on, feel free, but this is about faith, not technology.

Okay, now that we've filtered out the riff-raff ;-)...

It's been on my mind for a while to write a little about what I think is a scourge on The Church in America and the western world at large - that is, an "Event-Driven" understanding of Church. Before I begin, I'll be the first to confess that I have had this view myself, and have needed to repent of it. In fact, I am still struggling to change my thinking and vocabulary in these areas.

What is Event-Driven Church? It's viewing Church as something to go to and participate in rather than something we're part of and is part of us.

An Event-Driven view of church sees the Christian life taking place in a series of meetings, get-togethers, and well... events! It's a way of thinking that says "we're Christians, so we need to do [Insert idea here] with one another" as a means of relating to other believers. I am not talking about normal, simple things like dinner, going to the park, etc - but events that are more planned, rigid, unnatural anywhere else, require a special language to participate in, etc.

But that's not something visible in Scripture is it?

I hear this sort of view reflected often. Usually it's with incredible zeal for doing good things - but in my opinion - it's leading the average American Christian into a life of extreme busyness, but not really providing many of the benefits of a life shared in the community of other believers.

Often it's like this.... "Heh John, we have some things in common - you like to play golf, I like to play golf... maybe we should start a Christian Golf League and play Christian Golf every week? We could begin with a devotional reading of Scripture, followed by prayer, then play 9 holes of golf!". From there, it's a downward spiral into meetings, committees, by-laws and a completely lifeless, in-organic way of relating to one another. Usually, the thing in common is now less enjoyable, and so are the relationships.

Why not just go play golf with your buddies? If you're a believer, it should be quite natural to be talking of your relationships with Jesus as you play golf. Too, I bet most of us are responsible enough to manage our own recreational schedules without the need to have someone coordinate our golf outings with our friends.

In my other relationships in life, there's not this unnatural need or tendency to create specialized events to spend time together, so why do we do that in The Church, where we ought to have more natural intimate and more meaningful relationships than anywhere else?

We don't have committees design our time with those we relate to everywhere else in life, why do we have them for relating to other saints? Why can we not get together without it being a prayer meeting, bible study, or outreach event?

We've replaced being together in simple relationships with this whole un-natural means of quazi-relationship that (to borrow a phrase from Frank Viola) is so shallow, a gnat couldn't drown in it!

Just a brief look through scripture reveals that the early Church related to one another in quite normal, natural ways. Church for them was what/who they were as a group - not something they DID on Sundays, etc. They were a people gathered under the headship and commonality of Jesus Christ.

Nearly all the instructional aspects of the epistles are written to address issues of relationship because this is where the early Church lived their life - in the gritty, day-to-day dealings with one another. This wasn't "how to be polite and civil with one another" sort of instruction - but how to deal with people at a soul-level. They spent lots of time together and knew a whole lot about one another - The good, the bad, the ugly!

Likewise, Jesus doesn't appear to have staged events in town center either nor did he call what he did "outreach" or "ministry". He simply went about, meeting people, hearing stories, forgiving, teaching along the way, etc. He didn't setup "Friend Day", or a "Free Donkey-Wash" to get people interested in what he had to say. But this is completely the sort of thing we do these days, isn't it? We even have special words to describe these things. If we have a cup of coffee with our spouse in Starbucks, it's called having a cup of coffee. If we meet a friend there for a cup of coffee to talk about their troubled marriage we call the same thing "ministry". Why the difference?

I don't know about you, but I feel totally busy but often very lacking in meaningful, real, time with people that results in all of us being built up. Most of this busyness comes from this sort of thinking unfortunately. Further, I find the more I say no to these special events, the more those believers seem to get offended. This to me is the real shame. What binds us together should not be our common attendance at any event - but our common relationship with Jesus Christ. That's what being IN The Church means!

Hopefully, we'll learn to replace GOING TO church with BEING The Church and by God's grace more past being event-driven and on to relating to one another in more caring, meaningful, and natural ways.

Just my $.02

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Thoughts on Rick Warren

I'll be the first one to confess that I've been largely critical of the Purpose Driven Life phenomena over the last few years. It's not the man, Rick Warren that I don't care for, but the evangelical frenzy over "shiny things" that come about in the evangelical sub-culture (ie. PDL, WWJD, Prayer of Jabez, Promise Keepers). I realize that people are sometimes encouraged by these fads, but I still believe the collective adoration of Evangelicals toward these things is nothing short of idolatry. Only Jesus Christ should occupy our attention with such fervor, in my opinion.

Anyway, it comes as no surprise to me that Rick Warren, being as popular as he is, would be invited to pray at a President Obama's Inauguration, or address the Islamic Society of North America. Likewise, it doesn't surprise me that there would be an evangelical uproar in response to these actions.

From what I've been able to tell from the news reports, the gist of Warren's message was "let's work together on addressing some social plights in the world." Heresy!? Not quite, but at the same time, I don't believe the mission of Jesus Christ and his body (The Church) is solely to address social issues either.

What I find disturbing is the evangelical attitude toward Warren for even attending and participating in these events. It reminds me of the response of another group of religious people a few thousand years ago.

In one example found in reading of the Gospel of John, I see Jesus breaking all sorts of social and religious taboos by deciding to talk to a Samaritan women - about religious things. This women had totally different ideas about God than Jesus, not to mention she was a women, not to mention she was an adulterous women, etc.

Yet, Jesus' love for this women is apparent in scripture. He didn't have a separatist attitude toward Samaritans like the religious people of his day (who happened to miss Jesus' entirely due to their religious fervor). In many ways, I think that the American "Christian" sub-culture has made enemies with groups of people (ie. Muslims, Homosexuals). This is contrary to the Gospel because it seeks to cut off certain people from the Cross of Calvary.

Jesus's message to the Samaritan women at the well (who was there for thirst quenching mind you) was that the current religious categories and practices (at that time) don't matter, God was looking for Spirit and Truth worship from Spirit and Truth worshippers. Please, don't misunderstand what I am saying. I am not saying that God wants Islamic and Christian worship. What he wants is people who know and worship him. He's gathering those people from every conceivable people group on earth those "born" into the "christian" sub-cultures of the west, as well as those born into Islam - even religious, mean-spirited people fortunately!

How else, aside from relating to people are we going to build relationships with those who are perishing? If the ISNA wanted to work together with Christians like Warren to build strip clubs across the nation, I could understand the hesitance, but wanting to relate to one another around something social is not synonymous with evil. It's not being yoked together as we're told not to be, but it's an opportunity to relate to one another which is why the Church is here on earth and not in heaven!

We'd all do well to learn that relating to one another does not equate to condoning the beliefs or actions of one another. Separating ourselves entirely from others is not the answer, and it's not something Jesus did. Jesus was nearly always surrounded by CROWDS of people.

In summary, perhaps Christians need to simmer down and holster their weapons. Rick Warren's actions do not make him an enemy of Jesus Christ, nor should he be made an enemy of followers of Jesus. They guy is building relationships with "Samaritans". When's the last time you and I did so?