Contact Does Not Equal Contamination

Are Jesus followers to withdraw and separate themselves from culture and the world? This question is often discussed and many struggle with the tension of the thin line between being in the world, but not of the world.

Below Michael Frost shares his view on the North American churches use of resources and about the skewed theological framework around being separate from the world.

One good quote to ponder is, “Missional effectiveness is directly proportional to your relational capacity. If you have high relational capacity with the world — high missional effectiveness. If you have limited relational capacity…you have limited missional effectiveness. ”

Concept to commit to memory: contact does not equal contamination.

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Giving Thanks

Giving Thanks

Confronting Idols & Making Disciples

Good, good, good stuff in this five minute video excerpt of Chris Wright, Langham Partnership’s International Director, on confronting idols and making disciples.

HT: Bill and Imbi Kinnon

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The Church: A Who, Not a What

I’ve often noted that the term “church” refers to the people of God; the called out ones; those formed for his dwelling and bearers of his presence in the world. It doesn’t refer to a building, denomination or physical location.

This video clip points this out well. I wish I’d had it for the class I recently taught on the subject. My tagline for the class was, “The Church is a who, not a what.”

HT: Rob Fairbanks

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A Chat Between Dave Fitch and Gary Nelson

This is a series of videos, produced and by Imbi and Bill Kinnon, of a chat between Gary Nelson, President of Tyndale University College & Seminary and Dave Fitch, Associate Professor of Evangelical Theology at Northern Seminary. You need to take time to watch these videos. They are really insightful and encouraging.

In this first conversation, Dave and Gary discuss whether the word “missional” had become so over-used/mis-used that it no longer has value.

Here Dave and Gary talk about theological education that is not simply for full-time seminarians, nor designed purely to create full-time ministers, missionaries or other paid church staff.

This third video looks at The Pastor in Post-Christendom, a calling that lacks social significance in the eyes of much of society. They end the conversation talking about what excites them about our future in a Post-Christendom world.

You can subscribe to Bill Kinnon’s Missional Channel on Vimeo for more videos on the Missional Conversation. There are 14 videos available at this time.

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Diversity of Faith in Various U.S. Cities

The Barna Group notes that “there is little debate that most Americans are faith-oriented people. Yet how does spirituality and religion differ from one city to the next?” They decided to find out and released some of the results today.

I’m not sure what conclusions one might draw from the survey results, but here are some snippets of their findings:

The lowest share of self-identified Christians inhabited the following markets: San Francisco (68%), Portland, Oregon (71%), Portland, Maine (72%), Seattle (73%), Sacramento (73%), New York (73%), San Diego (75%), Los Angeles (75%), Boston (76%), Phoenix (78%), Miami (78%), Las Vegas (78%), and Denver (78%).

The markets with the largest share of unchurched adults included San Francisco (44% of whom had not been to a religious worship service in the last six months), Portland, Maine (43%), Portland, Oregon (42%), Albany (42%), Boston (40%), Sacramento (40%), Seattle (40%), Spokane (39%), New York (38%), Phoenix (38%), Tucson (37%), and West Palm Beach (37%).

One of the underlying stories is the remarkably resilient and mainstream nature of Christianity in America. Nearly three out of four people call themselves Christians, even among the least ‘Christianized’ cities. Furthermore, a majority of U.S. residents, regardless of location, engage in a church at some level in a typical six-month period.

You can read more here.

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The Sacred and the Secular

Bob Robinson has a good take on an important issue: Dualistic Christianity and the Church. Pop over and read it. It’s good.

Bob’s post reminded me of a similar piece I did back in June 2008. I’ve reposted it here because I believe “dualistic Christianity” is an underlying reason why so many follower of Jesus struggle to consistently embody the life, spirituality, and mission of Jesus.

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Ask yourself, are we merely devotees, who, as a mark of our faith, attend church weekly, participate in a bible study and often invite a friends or neighbors to join us? Or are we disciples of Jesus whose life is consumed 24/7/365 with, as Hirsch stated it, “the practical outworking of the mission of God (the missio dei) and of the incarnation”? Most operate in the former when God calls us to the latter. Missional is about the latter. So why does the average Jesus followers labor to understand Gods call and to live it out?

One core reason for this struggle stems from our western culture adopting the Greco-Roman supposition that all the world is divided into two realms: the sacred and the secular. The average Jesus followers segregates their lives (all they are and do) into one of these two boxes.

Work, clubs, hobbies, school, recreation, vacation, money and other such things go into the secular box. Sunday “church,” bible studies, home groups, short-term missions trips, feeding the poor, quiet times, bible reading, prayer, teaching Sunday School, serving on a church committee, tithe and the like go into the sacred box. This thinking leads to considering the secular as pretty much devoid of anything sacred or spiritual. And anything spiritual must happen in the sacred box.

Dualism

When you attempt to explain the concept behind missional, the average Jesus follower simply can’t comprehend how they could possibly live their entire life in the sacred box (where all things spiritual happens, right?) unless they became full time clergy (the clergy/laity divide is a result of Greco-Roman dualism). In their mind, to live 24/7/365 as a missionary would require them leaving behind the secular. But which activities do most of our contact, dealings and interaction with our neighbors and community spring from? Can you see an oversees missionary thinking of their vocation as anything other than a powerful tool to be use to accomplish the practical outworking of the mission of God in their context?

I realize that most people have more gray between their two boxes than I’ve portrayed here, but my point is that we have to deconstruct the belief in dualism if you want to be able to communicate what missional is. Believers need to see their life holistically and completely sacred before they can begin to grasp what it means to be missional.

Part of the point of the missional movement is to recapture the biblical understanding of who we are and the life we are called to walk. A life where we are consumed 24/7/365 with the practical outworking of the mission of God and of the incarnation. A life where “the way of Jesus*” informs and radically transforms our existence to one wholly focused on sacrificially living for him and others and where we adopt a missionary stance in relation to our culture. But it will not happen in a people that operates within the concept of dualism.

* Seeking to consistently embody the life, spirituality, and mission of Jesus.

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Gabe Lyons and “The Next Christians”

Good interview here with Gabe Lyons, author of the new book “The Next Christians”:

Couple of sample questions from the interview:

Even though you see “Christian America” as over, you argue we shouldn’t lament this development, but rather, see the opportunity for the Christian movement within it. How so?

I am incredibly encouraged by what I see transpiring around us. First, we have to remember that the Christian faith always thrives under these conditions. Post-Christendom is not unlike pre-Christendom. But tangibly, I am seeing a whole generation of believers who are recovering the gospel and living transformed lives. “The next Christians” are living out their faith in the workplace and the public square in new ways. They are provoked to engage the world and creating new organizations and projects to restore the world’s fallen state. These Christians are revitalizing old churches and planting new ones. If these next Christians are the future of the faith–and I believe they are–we just might be witnessing the beginning of the faith’s next great expansion.

How can pastors better encourage, affirm and shepherd these next Christians you describe?

For starters, they must be aware that this generation isn’t running from Jesus, they are running towards deeper meaning and connection between their faith and all of life. This should be one of the most exciting developments for a pastor to hear. However, it does mean a pastor’s priorities might have to change in how they interact with this generation. Instead of trying to pull them “into” the church–they need to discover how to work alongside them to empower them “outside” the church in how faith intersects with their passions and work. This next generation needs their pastor to live in the tension with them, to help them institute practices in their life that will keep them grounded and anchored to Christ in a world that is screaming for their time and attention in everything but a rooted faith.

I like Lyons’ ideas and will be adding his book to my ever increasing reading stack.

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Video: DMin in Missional Leadership

Northern Seminary is offering a Doctor of Ministry in Missional Leadership and here Craig Van Gelder, David Fitch, and Alan Roxburgh discuss why it is unique.

Missional Leadership – Northern Features from Northern Seminary on Vimeo.

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Reaction to Pew’s Religious Knowledge Survey

Just finished reading the Pew Research Center’s U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey where they find that atheists, agnostics, Jews and Mormons are among the highest-scoring groups on religious knowledge, outperforming evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants and Catholics.

Interesting read, but how they can attempt to provide a baseline measurement of how much Americans (quoting them) “know about the beliefs and practices of major religious traditions as well as the role of religion in American history and public life” with just 32 questions is a mystery.

It would seem to me that one would have to ask hundreds of question to get a proper sense of our comprehension of this extensive subject. And my guess is that the scores would be a lot poorer than this 32 question survey reflects.

You can take Pew’s test here to see how you do in comparison with the 3,412 randomly sampled adults in their survey.

I’d be interested in your reaction and thoughts on this survey including whether you see any noteworthy implication in the reality that evangelical Protestants have less religious knowledge than some other groups.

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