Tuesday, June 27, 2006

How can we help Emergent church planters?

I sincerely believe that it takes different kinds of churches to reach different kinds of people. One type of church that has appeared recently is the emergent church. I won't try to describe what an emergent church is, but most are urban, skewed toward young adults (although others are not excluded), draw on many aspects of the Christian heritage for worship, and tend to be relational and experiential.

Emergent churches bring a new edge to the Christian movement. We could use a few in the CBF movement! The catch is, do emergent church planters and leaders want to relate to any institution, even one as loosely structured as CBF?

Emergent leaders tend to be very entrepreneurial. They already have a vision of what they want to accomplish and a way to get there. So do they want coaches? Probably not. Are they looking for funding? In most cases, no. They are a bit afraid of the "ties that bind" and are afraid that this will be selling out.

What do they need then? I think they need relationships. They need friends with a different point of view who are willing to dialogue with them about what it means to be church. They need colleagues who recognize that we are all doing kingdom work. They need encouragers to say, "Go for it."

In reality, maybe we need them more than they need us. They are the scouts out on the new frontier of postmodern culture. They may well challenge us to follow in their steps as pioneers on the new frontier.

Do you know anyone doing an emergent ministry? What's your relationship like?

Monday, June 26, 2006

Did New Testament Jews Get a Bad Rap?

There was a recent article about the work of E. P. Sanders in THE CHRISTIAN CENTURY that I found interesting. Sanders has suggested that we need to rethink "common wisdom" about rabbinic Judaism of the first century. Sanders questions if the Jewish leaders of the first century were as legalistic has we have been led to believe.

I am not sure that I follow all of Sanders' argument, but I do remember there are times when I have felt that many of us who are "religious leaders" may have more in common with these first century leaders than we wish to admit. Sometimes the "good" that we attempt to do falls far short of what the world really needs. "Let the one without sin cast the first stone."

Sunday, June 25, 2006

What are you reading?

What are you reading? I just started PRACTICING GREATNESS by Reggie McNeal and purchased PLANTING MISSIONAL CHURCHES by Ed Stetzer.

Defining the Territory

Our SS class is studying the BCE material on the Ten Commandments. Our teacher spent some time this morning describing the context, according to the Book of Exodus, in which the commandments were presented. The Hebrews had been an enslaved people in the richest nation in the world--a nation of polytheism, slavery, and a religious dictatorship. They were unmotivated, rebellious, and uncertain about where they were going. The commandments provided a basis for conceiving the world in a new way. They provided a new definition of the territory--the world they found themselves in. Although he did not use the term, the Decalogue introduced a meta-narrative--a way of bringing order to a disordered world.

Is this where we find ourselves today? In a postmodern world, what do we base our lives on? What is lacking for many in this world is a meta-narrative--a story to help them make sense of the world. Maybe the commandments are a good place to start.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Campus Ministers: Moderate Baptist Leaders

When I encountered three friends talking with each other as I strolled the halls of the Georgia World Congress Center during the CBF General Assembly, I suddenly realized that all three of these folks had been campus ministers at one point and are now pursuing other roles in moderate Baptist life.

Over the next two days, I started keeping a mental list of folks that I met and talked with who had been campus ministers/BSU directors/collegiate ministers at one point and are now part of the moderate Baptist movement. I am not talking about simply former participants in Baptist collegiate ministry, but those who had served as leaders. Some made the leap several years ago and found new places of service. There is the person who is now a leading Baptist journalist, another who is a pastor, another who is a pastoral counselor, and several who are working for state and regional CBF organizations. Some others are still in transition, seeking new places of service, obtaining additional training. There were several friends with whom I talked who are still serving in collegiate ministry, usually through a church, but a couple working on campuses for state conventions that are not dominated by fundamentalism (or fear of same).

In some ways, this made me a bit sad, maybe nostalgic. I loved working with college students (I could write several paragraphs about former students I saw at the meeting), but circumstances forced me to choose to pursue another form of ministry. But I still have something in common with all these folks--those still in campus ministy and those who have moved on--I believe that the college/university campus is a place where important decisions are being made by people seeking to know and respond to God's leadership in their lives. I believe that God works in a very special way in the lives of all individuals who seek to follow Him--men and women, young and old, the weak and the strong. I believe in a liberal God who gives His love liberally to all. That's why I was out of step with those whose view of God is more restricted in terms of love and grace. My friends in campus ministy--both past and present--believe the same thing. That's why we were at the CBF General Assembly.

The Future of Missions?

Jack Snell has done an excellent job as interim CBF Coordinator for Global Missions. He has brought a pastoral spirit and local church "smarts" to the role. A parting gift to Fellowship Baptists was this candid comment at the commissioning service for new field personnel in Atlanta on June 23:

“Our offerings are flat. We haven’t reached our Offering for Global Missions goal in several years,” he said. “In many cases our passions are dulled and our compassion is defeated by fatigue. Yet there continue to be unbelievable statistics that tell us one of four has not yet had the opportunity to hear and respond to the word of Jesus Christ. The world is groaning. I challenge you to be no less than Christ in a hurting world and challenge all of us to become nothing less than global disciples. Jesus is calling us to see the need, to be gripped by compassion and to move out from this place into the harvest field.”

In Tennessee, state budget gifts have declined. Thankfully, the Tennessee Partners in Missions offering has continued to be strong with church and individual gifts exceeding the 2005-2006 goal. This will help five creative, independent ministries in doing their work.

What's going on? A key issue is that fact that we have encouraged churches to be missional--to take responsibility for doing the Great Commission. Well, they have, and part of this is keeping a portion of their missions dollar to be used in projects that the church plan and control--often sending their own members to work with CBF (and other) missions personnel. We are in something of a Catch 22 on this! Hooray for churches who assume this responsibility, but how can CBF provide missionaries who provide the structure to support such church-directed ministries? How can TCBF facilitate linkages between churches and mission points without funding to support our staff who do such things?

Good News--the churches are more involved in direct missions! Bad News--Churches are cutting their support for mission-sending structures! How can CBF and TCBF adapt to this situation? What does the future hold? Let's get involved in a dialogue about the future of missions.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Experiential worship at its best

Trinity, our new church start in Murfreesboro, had its fourth Community Gathering on Sunday afternoon. Joel Emerson, associate pastor at Brook Hollow Baptist Church, and his wife, Ann Bassett, pastor of Peace Lutheran Church in Spring Hill, led our worship. The worship experience on "grace" included hymns, readers theater (with the children involved), readings, multimedia, a sermon,and communion (with Ann as the officiant). Not sure that I can handle all this stimulation in worship!

Joel's approach is probably a good example of what Robert Webber calls "ancient-future worship." This means that everything is on the table; we can draw from the entire Christian experience in planning worship.

This is an advantage of a new church--we can try new things. What have you tried in worship recently that was "out of the ordinary"?

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Some thoughts about new churches

One of the things I hear continually from "moderate" or progressive Baptists is that our future lies in starting new churches. If this is so, why aren't more of us investing ourselves in this effort? I can think of at least five possibilities for new church starts just in the middle Tennessee area, but there is little or no interest in supporting such efforts.

There is all kind of informatin available to testify to the value of starting new churches. New churches reach unchurched (and dechurched) people, identify new leaders, and allow the freedom to try new methods of worship, Christian nurture, and outreach.

The group that I work with is trying to find ways to start churches with very little money and with part-time, bi-vocational, or volunteer staff. I came to the conclusion last year that I could not really gripe about the lack of interest in new church starts unless I tried to do it myself. I am pleased that a good group of leaders from the church that I attend (First Baptist, Murfreesboro) have joined in the effort to start a new church in a growing area of our county. I have already experienced some of the frustrations of a church planter--limited resources, discouraged participants, etc. But I am also seeing people who are members of the same (sponsoring) church come to know each other for the first time. I am also seeing new leaders emerge. Our goal is to create community before we start a congregation. That may take some time, but we have started the journey.

Any ideas about the lack of interest in new church starts? Help me here!


Hello! I'm Ircel. Trying a blog is something of an adventure for me, but I am willing to give it a shot.