Category Archives: Culture

The Changing Face of Christianity

Strapped for time available for posting material here, I humbly submit my first seminary paper. The prompt was “Drawing on your readings and class discussion, how is the face of Christianity changing? Describe the changes and what has contributed to those changes, and then analyze how this may affect the church as a whole.” Bear with me, as I have opted to not remove the parenthetical citations.; if you have questions about the context in the articles from which I drew my quotes, don’t hesitate to ask :)

The Changing Face of Christianity

Russell Duren

IN581: Theology of Mission & Evangelism

University of Dubuque Theological Seminary

March 3, 2008

Without a doubt, the face of Christianity is changing. Worldwide, Christians comprise a dynamic and diverse group of people. Because of this makeup, change -or the call for change, at the very least- should come as no surprise. So, although one could make the case that this state of constant transition might be called business as usual in Christianity, the possible changes themselves that lie on the horizon are quite remarkable. Global Christianity stands on the verge of deep shifts in demographics, in a revival of the missio Dei and the Gospel’s relation to the surrounding culture, and in the influence exerted on the church by technology. Though the effects of these changes remain largely unseen, no collection of circumstances in recent history holds as much promise for the Bride of Christ to respond in a unified and world-changing manner. Before exploring the church’s expanded possibilities for taking Christ to the world, an examination of the conditions setting the stage is in order. Continue reading

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Snow

Tonight went to a Christmas party at a house in a neighborhood in the hills west of Durango. Normally the drive takes about 15 minutes. Coming back down into town took maybe 30, 4WD and low gear all the way. It was so cool to see that much snow on the road! I’ve been complaining about how warm it’s been recently, and how little precipitation we’ve been getting. Last weekend we got a pretty good storm and Purgatory opened with a good amount of frontside trails available. Today the backside opened during a storm. So maybe all my complaining got us somewhere… or not. It’s just nice to finally have snow around. Hopefully the temperatures will stay down so we can keep it.

After we got home I took Rusty out to pee, since we had been gone about two-and-a-half hours. Now normally this involves a flashlight for any time later than 7:00. This was 8:30, and even though Durango doesn’t have a lot of glaring lights, what little there is was reflecting all over the snow and it was like a bright dusk outside. A wierd phenomenon to try to put into words. Just much brighter outside than one would expect it to be when the sun has gone all the way down.

I know I haven’t posted in a while, and this is a good excuse for me to write some, to get back into it. There’s been interesting stuff going on at work, but I’m carefully examining how much work stuff I talk about now that staff blogs are on their way to becoming a disputed topic. And that may have been saying too much, hahaha.

Well, hopefully February will bring plenty of blog fodder. Pending official acceptance, I’ll be taking an online class through University of Dubuque Theological Seminary (UDTS). “Theology of Mission and Evangelism.” Seeking to rethink these two major components of ecclesiology in the context of our ever-changing culture.

Tattoos, pt. 2

Tim Keel, pastor of Jacob’s Well (in Kansas City), had a great post about tattoos earlier this month. He was discussing a story that spawned from an article he wrote for Christian Century earlier. It’s a great followup to the post I had earlier.

Like many of my favorite authors and pastors, Tim says something on a topic I’ve been thinking about, and I’m just like, “Yes! That’s exactly the wordless sentiment that’s been brewing inside me!”

Anyway, it’s a great story. Go read it. I won’t ruin it for you… go read it.

  • If you have a tattoo, how attached are you to the story behind it (if there is one)?
  • What would you do if you were in Tim’s friend’s shoes?
  • Have you had a similar experience?

My Theological Worldview, Part 2

Took a QuizFarm quiz a while back about my Theological Worldview. The results from that original assessment are here.

So here’s what my answers from tonight’s re-taking yielded:

You scored as Emergent/Postmodern, in your theology. You feel alienated from older forms of church, you don’t think they connect to modern culture very well. No one knows the whole truth about God, and we have much to learn from each other, and so learning takes place in dialogue. Evangelism should take place in relationships rather than through crusades and altar-calls. People are interested in spirituality and want to ask questions, so the church should help them to do this.

Emergent/Postmodern
 
82%
Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan
 
79%
Neo orthodox
 
61%
Classical Liberal
 
54%
Roman Catholic
 
54%
Reformed Evangelical
 
50%
Charismatic/Pentecostal
 
43%
Modern Liberal
 
36%
Fundamentalist
 
14%

What’s your theological worldview?
(created with QuizFarm.com)

So how have I changed?

  • Emergent/Pomo … +9%
  • Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan … +11%
  • Neo-orthodox … -7%
  • Classical Liberal … +11%
  • Roman Catholic … +4%
  • Reformed Evangelical … -4%
  • Charismatic/Pentecostal … +14%
  • Modern Liberal … -7%
  • Fundamentalist … -11%

Biggest change: I’m 14% more Charismatic/Pentecostal than I was 9 months ago. Didn’t see that one coming.

Catalyst 2007 – Rick Warren

“God’s Agenda”

  • If you want God’s blessing on your life, then you have to get with God’s agenda. 1st line of PDL: “It’s not about you.”
    • Stop praying “God, bless me.” Instead: “God, help me to do what you’re doing.”
  • The Kingdom is the single biggest image in the New Testament.
    • Where is it? Wherever Jesus is king… Heaven, earth, within you…
    • What is it? God’s people fulfilling God’s purposes on God’s planet for God’s glory
  • Cf. Matthew 25: If you want Christ to come back just get out and start sharing your faith
    • The disciples always wanted to talk about prophecy and signs; Jesus wanted to talk about evangelism.
  • God’s agenda is the church.
    • What if someone said, “I like you but I just can’t stand your wife (or body)?”
  • God created the entire universe just so He could create a galaxy just so He could create a solar system just so He could create a planet just so He could create an ecosystem… just so He could create a human that would choose to love Him and He could love the human back.
  • Your parents may not have loved/wanted you, but God did, and he made sure you had the ability to love them back, and in turn love Him.
  • God is a creator. You are most like God when you are creating. So stop trying to change culture. Create it.
  • The Moses “Staff to Snake to Staff” story
    • Why is that in the Bible?
    • Hint- When God asks you a question, it’s not for His benefit.
    • Likewise, when God does a miracle, it’s to teach a truth.
    • Moses’ Staff
      • His identification as a shepherd. Who he was
      • Symbol of Moses’ income. What he had
      • Symbol of Moses’ influence (over sheep :P). What he did
      • Take your ID/influence/income and throw it down.
      • God: “And if you surrender it to me I will make it come alive like you’ve never imagined. And every time you pick it up again, it’ll go dead.”
      • From that point forward, Moses’ staff is always referred to as the Rod of God… it pops up in the 10 Commandments, the Red Sea, Pharaoh, simply all over the Pentateuch
      • So: What’s in your wallet hand?

Warren’s Response to the Moses’ Staff Story

  • After writing Purpose Driven Life, an AIDS trip where he accompanied his wife really turned him around.
  • “What’s in my hand?” – Affluence
    • I Corinthians 9 – “It’s ok to get paid for preaching, but I wanna do it for free so no one can doubt my motives.”
    • Not gonna spend the money on myself
    • Not gonna take a salary from the church
    • Gonna give salary back for 25 years
    • Gonna set up AIDS and poverty charities
    • Gonna become reverse tithers (give 90%, live on 10%)
    • “There’s a bumper sticker that says ‘Honk if you love Jesus!’ Well I wanna make one that says ‘Tithe if you love Jesus, any fool can honk!'”
  • “What’s in my hand?” – Influence
    • Psalm 72 – “Solomon’s prayer for more influence. It sounds more selfish than good ol’ Jabez! Solomon was already the wealthiest, wisest man on the planet.”
    • But it’s only selfish until you read the purpose: “So that the king may help the orphaned and marginalized…”
    • “I want to use my power for these people to speak up for those who have no influence.”

Catalyst 2007 – unChristian

A moderated discussion with Tri Robinson, Chris Seay, Dave Kinnaman, and Gabe Lyons, on Kinnaman’s & Lyon’s new book unChristian.

  • Why does our revelation to others that we’re Christians bring such rejection?
  • unChristian set out to scientifically document perceptions of and attitudes towards Christians. Over 10,000 interviews were conducted.
    • Top perceptions: Anti-gay, Judgmental, Hypocritical, Sheltered, Too political, Proselytizers
    • NonChristians 16-29 years old are 8x less favorable about Christians than their Boomer parents
    • unChristian is not an opinion poll to see how we should act… we still have the Bible for that.
  • “We’re not hated for righteousness, but for self-righteousness.” Dave Kinnaman (DK)
  • “On ‘Oh, this is nothing but media bias…’: Research shows that 16-29 y/o’s have 5 Christian friends, 6 months experience among a church community, a majority have at least considered what it means to follow Christianity, etc. They’ve been up close and personal and have some very real things to say.” Gabe Lyons (GL)
  • “They have personal stories to back up their perceptions of Christians as hypocritical, shallow, etc.” (DK)
  • “This generation is slipping away from us. If we sit back and assume our world’s going to Hell, and just leave it alone… well, we just can’t be like that.” (GL)
  • There’s been a surge of people identifying themselves as ‘Christ-followers’ and other similar terms, instead of ‘Christian’. “We need to be redeeming the term ‘Christian’, showing all the things we’re for.” (DK)
  • If Jesus were physically among us again, “his focus would not be on morality… it would be on God and the Creator. If you focus on morality, Romans ultimately tells you you won’t get morality. unChristian is not despair of where we’re at, but hope of where we can be.” Chris Seay (CS)
  • “Before we’re gonna change our culture, we’ve gotta change our own hearts.” Tri Robinson (TR)
  • “It’s wrong to preach a message about social justice or giving water or feeding the poor without providing an outlet for people to go and put it into action. We need a path to run on and it’s the role of the church to provide that path.” (TR)
  • “Christians today are waiting for their leaders to say its ok to care for the environment.” (TR)
  • “It comes down to our character. So far, the right answers have produced the wrong character. We have to own some of that.” (CS)
  • “In those perceptions are tremendous opportunities. They [nonChristians] are smart & savvy. They do remember. They’re begging for chances and deep conversations to wrestle with their doubts. They’re absolutely waiting to be awakened to God’s purposes. They could change the world, we just have to get out of the way.” (DK)
  • “Spirituality is at an all-time high, but they’re not finding it in Christianity. It’s not just an image problem. It’s not that you have to five yup the truth. You just have to hold it in tension as you engage people that are different than us, that are anti-us.” (GL)
  • “I feel that there is a major major trend coming. Let’s talk about the things we agree on. There are so many organizations that are on the same page that don’t know each other exist. Let’s draw the gifting into one place.” (TR)
  • “They don’t recognize the ‘fruits of the Spirit’ in Christians. The generation is skeptical of us. What will we do? Will we hole up? Do we draw a line in the sand? How could we embody that grace and truth that Jesus tells us he is?” (DK)

Catalyst 2007 – Andy Stanley, part 2

“Liberating Your Organization: Creating A Leadership-Friendly Culture”

Introduction

  1. There are organizational systems that are conducive to ministry, and there are those that impede ministry.
  2. There are organizational systems that free leaders to lead, and there are those that obstruct leaders.
  3. “System” defined: Your organization’s approach to getting things done.
  • Systems Create Behaviors
    • Preaching doesn’t. Curriculum doesn’t. Talks don’t.
    • Examples:
      • Family vs. Student Ministry
      • Marriage vs. Marriage Sermon Series
      • Western vs. Middle Eastern
    • The systems you inherit, adopt, or create will eventually what staff and volunteers do.
    • Anytime you hear, “Well, our people won’t…” you’re listening to someone who doesn’t understand the influence of systems.
    • Components of a System:
      • Expectations (rules)
      • Rewards (or lack of)
      • Consequences (or lack of)
      • Communication (content and style)
      • Behavior (of those in charge)
    • Systems have a greater impact on organizational behavior than do mission statements.
      • This principle explains why it’s so hard to transition an organization.
      • If a leader casts a vision and never addresses old systems, nothing changes.
      • “What’s happening down the hall trumps what’s hanging on the wall.”
      • People in your organization are only doing what you’ve led and rewarded them to do.
      • Ask, “What are the expectations in our organization? What’s rewarded? (Because that’s what will be repeated.) What brings consequences?
  • The New Testament does not present us with a comprehensive system or model.
    • In the NT we discover what the early church did. The NT does not lay out a comprehensive plan instruction church leaders what to do.
    • Think about it: They had a direct WWJD link, something that we don’t have. They had apostles. We don’t. We have the great opportunity to create the system that carries out the Great Commission.
    • Always differetiate between what is prescriptive and what is descriptive.
      • We can’t be a 1st Century church because we don’t live in the 1st Century!
    • The Old and New Testaments do offer some principles that should be integrated into our systems.
      • Delegation : Acts 6 / Exodus 18
      • Accountability: Acts 15
      • Authority : Romans 13
      • Interdependence : Paul’s discussion of spritual gifts
      • Point Leadership : Modeled in OT and NT
      • Seeking Counsel : Proverbs / Acts 15
    • Something not on the list is Congregational Rule. Some examples of its outcome: Golden Calves, Brothers Thrown into Pits, Following Kings not Prophets
  • System Imperatives
    • Your system should allow you to involve and hire the best person for the job.
    • Your system should provide you with the flexibility to get the right people to the table.
      • i.e. position of Youth Director does not automatically influence decisions regardless of inept person in position.
    • Your system should allow you to make complex decisions within the context of a small group of empowered individuals.
      • Simply cannot communicate complex decisions to large groups of people effectively.
    • Your system should ensure that only one person answers to “They”

Concluding Remarks:

  • “We have different gifts, according to the grave given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently.” Romans 12:6-8
  • You create a system where leaders are free to lead, and guess who will flock… leaders!
  • Congregations led by the “We/They” tend to end up with system dysfunctions.
  • The current system you’re gonna take all your notes back to has the potential to crush everything you’ll bring back. So, learning as leaders to deal with the nuts and bolts is absolutely necessary.
  • Before God created man, He created systems (solar, ecological, etc.)
  • But even in man, the human body is the most sophisticated system in existence.
    • Because the body is a system, it’s a meaningful experience to go to the doctor, a medical systems expert. This is why you don’t just pray when you get sick.
  • If you don’t approach problem solving systematically, you’ll spend the rest of your career blaming, firing, and being critical of people, and never getting anywhere.

Wrapup/Debriefing Questions:

  • List 3 behaviors that you wish characterize your organization (apply on many levels: church, youth ministry, staff).
  • List one thing you’re systematically doing to encourage each of those behaviors.
  • List the things you’re doing (maybe inadvertently) to encourage the opposite behavior.