Attended Yearly Tribal Gathering

Last week I attended my yearly tribal (denominational) gathering.   It culminated Thursday evening with the “reading of assignments” a wonderfully imbedded tradition where pastors and leaders are formally assigned or reassigned to their places of ministry here in the Pacific Northwest and around the world.

The gathering was distinctly different from previous years evidenced and confirmed by many of those in attendance. Something of a new wind blowing, almost bordering on a paradigm shift.  The Spirit has been laying the ground work for what I would describe as something of a “missional thrust” among both conference presenters and participants.

Multiple stories were told of congregations initiating and implementing creative ministries relevant to serving their community and neighborhood needs, such graffiti cleanup, decorating neighborhood streets with flower baskets, feeding the homeless, and providing carnival events for children.  One church in Bend, Oregon closes its service for a Sunday to provide service to the city in various cleaning and renovation projects.  The exciting piece this is; the added stories that accompany these service projects.

The congregations involved in these types of ministry hold a strong “go to them” stance as they relate to their individual places of ministry.  In the past too often its been a “come to us” mentality.  This current stance is just one avenue of many, but one that definitely communicates a posture that embodies the Gospel of Jesus Christ in ways relevant to the postmodern culture.

Historically our tribe has held  a strong missional stance, but in recent years it has displayed itself in more dormant nuancs.  This particular season is one of intentional engagement with the culture and I’m encouraged!!!

Another factor that bodes well for the future of our tribe which seemed in jeopardy not long ago, is that a majority of the stories were told by leadership that is relatively young, those in their twenties and thirties.  In the past, these voices were not regarded as legitimate – now they are and we are the richer for it.   Personally I’m looking forward to hearing new stories currently being written.

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Updates on Rick Meigs

Updates on Rick Meigs and his situation can be found at Brother Maynard’s site. Currently there are about three that he has posted.  Lets keep praying for Rick’s healing and recovery.

Pray for Rick Meigs

Just received an email regarding Rick Meigs who was at a Motorcycle rally at Hell’s Canyon in Oregon.  He was clipped by a vehicle who crossed the center line and hit him head on.  It was a hit and run.  He is in critical condition with two collapsed lungs and a ruptured spleen.  His wife Fran is in Texas and trying to get to Baker City, OR before they fly him to Boise, ID.

Please be praying for him and his family.

Everything’s amazing, nobody’s happy

I thought this clip was amazing and got me to thinking about how blessed we all are.  Thank you to my friend Katherine who sent this clip to me.

Practical Reason Two for Simple Church

The second practical  reason to embrace Simple Churches is that they are relationally founded and based.  Everything transpires in the context of relationship.  Referencing the importance of relationship, Leonard Sweet states:

Relationships and interrelatedness are as primary in the spiritual realm as they are in the physical world.  In theology, what is important are not things themselves, but relationships between things.  In fact, nothing is ever one thing or another, but rather a relationship between things.  These involve the relational connections both within the organic communities and those without.

 The importance of this truth is realized when observing the current postmodern culture, which at its core welcomes relational connectivity, a dynamic necessary for Simple Church plants to germinate and grow.  In both the Church and the secular world, humanity cries for authentic relationship.  Often, a fractured family life has deprived people of the real relationships that would have given them security.  There is a growing trend in today’s culture to reclaim the spiritual roots of family. 

Simple Churches are in a unique place because of their mobility and size to play a unique role in restoring a sense of family to many who are searching for authenticity.  The words of Malachi suggest that God’s intention is to establish spiritual parents who are willing to nurture spiritual children and help them grow in their spirituality.  This is a fulfillment of the Lord’s promise to, in the last days, “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers.”(Mal. 46)  In this relationally starved culture, the opportunity is there for Simple Churches to rise to the occasion and fill this need for spiritual parenting.  I suggest that God’s heart is for us to take a generation that has been cursed by the breakdown of family relationships and rebuild trust, using the Church as his instrument of reconnection with them. 

A recent report, Hardwired to Connect: The New Scientific Case for Authoritative Communities, was prepared by the Commission on Children at Risk, a group comprised of 33 prominent children’s doctors, research scientists, and mental health and youth service professionals.  The commission was convened because of a growing sense that children and teens today are facing a widespread and deepening crisis.  “In the midst of unprecedented material affluence, large and growing numbers of U.S. children and adolescents are failing to flourish,” the commission said.  Mental and emotional difficulties have afflicted our youth at staggering rates, including depression, anxiety, attention deficit disorder, conduct disorders, and thoughts of suicide.  Beyond that, a wide variety of physical ailments have their roots in emotional troubles, such as heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and ulcers.  The report goes on to say:

Despite increased ability to treat depression, the current generation of young people is more likely to be depressed and anxious than was its parent’s generation.  According to one study, by the 1980s, U.S. children as a group were reporting more anxiety than did children who were psychiatric patients in the 1950s.

From the commission’s perspective, the cause of this crisis is that children and teens are experiencing “a lack of connectedness… to other people, and the lack of deep connections to moral and spiritual meaning.”  This report stated that the human brain appears to have a built-in capacity for religious experience.  For example, using brain imaging, scientists have discovered that spiritual activities such as prayer or meditation actually increase the activity in specific areas of the brain.  “A search for spiritual relationship with the Creator may be an inherent developmental process of adolescence.”

The key solution to the problems facing our children and youth, according to the commission, is what is called authoritative communities.  “Authoritative communities are groups that live out the types of connectedness that our children increasingly lack,” the report said.  “They are groups of people who are committed to one another over time and who model and pass on at least part of what it means to be a good person and live a good life.” 

Among the characteristics that define an authoritative community are:

  • A social institution that is warm and nurturing; 
  • Establishes clear limits and expectations; 
  • Is multigenerational; 
  • Has long-term focus; reflects and transmits a shared understanding of what it means to be a good person; 
  • Encourages spiritual and religious development; and is philosophically oriented to the equal dignity of all persons and to the principle of love of neighbor.

The commission stated, “We believe that building and strengthening authoritative communities is likely to be our society’s best strategy for ameliorating [changing for the better] the current crisis of childhood and improving the life of U.S. children and adolescents.”  This model of authoritative communities presented by the commission members should look at least vaguely familiar to Christians—its sounds much like the New Testament model of church life.  The Simple Church paradigm is ideal for addressing this situation, by providing the relational connections which so many are searching for.

[1] Leonard Sweet, Out of the Question—Into the Mystery: Getting Lost in the Godlife Relationship (Colorado Springs: Waterbrook Press, 2004), 16.

[2] Commission on Children at Risk, Institute for American Values, Hardwired to Connect: The New Scientific Case for Authoritative Communities (New York: Institute for American Values, 2003).

 

Interesting Oprah

I found myself in conversation with some friends the other day about Oprah Winfrey. A woman with a great deal of power and cultural influence as she continues to grow her empire. (media, print, entrepreneurial, etc.) and now a new hit television show The Big Give. We all like her as a person, and were commenting about some of the “good” things she seems to be doing, with the multitudes chanting her praises along within the church. We agreed that Oprah is definitely doing some good. Personally, I like Oprah as person, but have reservations regarding her authenticity and agenda. What is behind the person herself? Many who are naive think she is a Christian, but not so — at least in the orthodox sense. What she is promoting is a new kind of spirituality. Here agenda and what she believes is important. We need not be confused.

Michael Frost defining Missional

The following YouTube video of Michael Frost defining for Presbyterians what Missional Church is quite phenomenal. This video has been posted by numerous bloggers who are engaged in this conversation, but the message is worthy of at least one more post — actually many more posts. Be challenged in your own missional journey.