Emerging / Missional

Celebrating 100 years of missional fog

Screen Shot 2014 04 02 at 8 55 19 am Paul Johnson asks,

Imagine you can ask any question to eighteen leading writers, thinkers, and speakers who have significantly influenced the “missional church” in American evangelical thought.

That’s what he did on behalf of the Evangelical Missions Quarterly (subscription required).

This line in his report got my attention:

Surprisingly, only nine of the eighteen leaders identified the Great Commission and the making of disciples as the essence or heart of the mission of Christ.

Anybody else catch the irony?

Paul’s conclusion:

It appears that the missional church movement has split into two competing factions. Those who advocate for placing the Great Commission as the mission of Jesus Christ for this age are the strongest proponents for prioritizing the making of disciples. Those who identify the mission of Jesus Christ with the overall reign of God in the world and missio Dei, do not, for the most part, promote either the Great Commission or disciple-making as a central priority to fulfill Christ’s mission.

He asks,

Where do we go from here? Well, that’s another good question to explore.

My point would be that western Christians have been exploring mission for a 100 years and still aren’t going anywhere.

UPDATE: Eighteen Leaders Discuss the Mission of Jesus Christ Today

Celebrating 100 years of missional fog

Screen Shot 2014 04 02 at 8 55 19 am Paul Johnson asks,

Imagine you can ask any question to eighteen leading writers, thinkers, and speakers who have significantly influenced the “missional church” in American evangelical thought.

That’s what he did on behalf of the Evangelical Missions Quarterly (subscription required).

This line in his report got my attention:

Surprisingly, only nine of the eighteen leaders identified the Great Commission and the making of disciples as the essence or heart of the mission of Christ.

Anybody else catch the irony?

Paul’s conclusion:

It appears that the missional church movement has split into two competing factions. Those who advocate for placing the Great Commission as the mission of Jesus Christ for this age are the strongest proponents for prioritizing the making of disciples. Those who identify the mission of Jesus Christ with the overall reign of God in the world and missio Dei, do not, for the most part, promote either the Great Commission or disciple-making as a central priority to fulfill Christ’s mission.

He asks,

Where do we go from here? Well, that’s another good question to explore.

My point would be that western Christians have been exploring mission for a 100 years and still aren’t going anywhere.

UPDATE: Eighteen Leaders Discuss the Mission of Jesus Christ Today

A faith for this world

By ‘secularised’ we mean to move from otherworldliness, to present a more distant and indistinct conception of the supernatural, to relax the moral restrictions on members and to surrender claims to an exclusive and superior truth.

Finke and Stark

The post-evangelicalism of former evangelicals such as Rob Bell, Brian McLean, and Steve Chalke, reminds us that successful movements tend to drift from orthodoxy to secularism over time.

Every generation faces its own challenge to remain faithful to the gospel, while remaining connected to a lost world.

You can be faithful in your view of scripture, your doctrine of the atonement, and sexual ethics, yet unfaithful in connecting with lost people in a lost world. Being right is not enough.

Being relevant is not enough. You can be contextualised in a postmodern world, and yet adrift from the truth of the gospel.

When Jesus welcomed the woman who wept at his feet (Luke 7:36-50) he announced to the room of religious bigots that, "her sins are many." They agreed. Jesus was not soft on sin. Yet he welcomed her love and devotion because this woman who had been forgiven much, loved him much. He came looking for people like her because they were lost, and he loved them.

Post-evangelicalism would have us believe that there is no sin to forgive. Jesus just accepts her. He's on the side of the marginalised. Yet Jesus taught that we all need forgiveness — the sexually immoral person, the corrupt government official, the military officer, the lost son and the righteous son, the proud Pharisee.

To say that there is nothing to forgive, that God does not judge sin, is an unloving act. Listen to Rob Bell's interview. It's all about keeping up which changing social trends to ensure the survival of the church. Compromise is too high a price to pay for relevance.

God judges sin. If that offends you, consider the alternative; a world in which God is indifferent to evil. A world without justice.

The God who opposes evil is the God who bore the consequences of our rebellion. Let them reject this as "cosmic child abuse." Reality won't change. God judges evil. God rescues sinners through Christ's death. There is no other gospel.

The gospel of progressive Christianity cannot save. It leaves people lost in their sin, separated from his sacrificial love.

No one will cross the road, let alone the ocean, to spread this gospel. No-one will suffer and die for it. Why should they? It's a gospel for those who have lost their faith, but want to hang on to it's trappings.

Ben Witherington on Rob Bell on sex

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A disciple is one who walks so closely to the master that the person is covered by the dust of the one he or she is following.

Rob Bell

At the heart of every disciple-making movement is a unwavering commitment to obey what Jesus taught. Yet a week ago Rob Bell joined a growing band of "post-evangelicals" who have come out in favour of same-sex marriage.

As far back as 2007 New Testament scholar, Ben Witherington, raised concerns regarding Rob Bell's teaching on homosexuality. The context was an event promoting Bell's new book, Sex God. Witherington commended Bell on a number of levels and then identified his concerns.

… when Rob Bell was asked about homosexuality. His answers was evasive in part, and disturbing in other parts, and clearly unBiblical in other parts and in this he sounds like some other leaders in the Emergent Church movement. Some specifics should be mentioned.

First of all, Rob made the blanket statement that you have no moral authority to speak on this issue unless you have gay friends and understand their struggle. While I am all for having pastoral empathy with people and their struggles, on that showing, Paul should never have spoken on this issue at all. This comment by Rob is simply an unhelpful way of silencing important voices in a divisive conversation, and its not helpful. Indeed it goes against the whole M.O. of Rob himself, which is to honor other people's views and beliefs and questions.

Secondly, Rob then makes an argument from silence which is in fact misleading. The argument is this--- "Jesus never said anything about homosexuality". This is not quite true. Jesus took all sorts of sexual sin very seriously, even adultery of the heart, as Rob admits, and so it is no surprise then that we find Jesus telling his disciples in Mt. 19 that they have only two legitimate options: 1) marital fidelity (with marriage being defined as a relationship between one man and one woman joined together by God which leads to a one flesh union), or 2) being a eunuch for the sake of the Kingdom.

The term 'eunuch' here whether taken literally (as in a castrated person who is incapable of normal sexual intercourse), or simply morally (as in a person who never engages in sexual intercourse, remaining celibate in singleness, though he or she is capable of such an act), makes very evident that for single persons, any single persons, celibacy in singleness is the standard Jesus holds up for the unmarried.

Nor, in view of the way Jesus talks about marriage in the context with the discussion of the original Genesis story about the creation order-- the creation of woman for man (and their interdependency), could one ever imagine Jesus redefining marriage to include same-sex sexual partners. Jesus is not silent on such matters at all-- fidelity in marriage and celibacy in singleness are his standards, and indeed they are standards by which Jesus himself lived when we are thinking about the celibacy in singleness issue. He is likely talking about himself when he speaks of persons who have chosen to be eunuchs for the Kingdom. Chastity was considered a great virtue in that honor and shame culture.

Rob then raises the issue of hypocrisy. Of course he is right that all sexual sin should be taken equally seriously, and in view of the abysmal record of heterosexual Evangelical Christians when it comes to issues of marital faithfulness he is right that one should not single out homosexual sin for special attention and ignore the seriousness of heterosexual sin. True enough-- but the proper response to such a situation is be an equal opportunity critiquer of all such sexual sin, while honestly admitting one's own failures and shortcomings.

Rob then raises the point that the Bible says nothing about sexual orientation. This is true, but irrelevant. It says plenty about sexual behavior, including same sex sexual activity between consenting adults in Romans 1, 1 Cor. 6 and Gal. 5, to mention three texts. It is simply not true that the Bible is just opposed to pederasty or male prostitution, though certainly both of those forms of same-sex sexual expression are prohibited. The terms used in 1 Cor. 6 refer to males who play the role of 'malakoi' or the soft or effeminate role, and those that play the aggressive more male role called 'arsenokoites'-- which literal means a male who copulates with another male (and the word certainly does not imply copulation only with under aged males). On all of this Rob really needs to read Rob Gagnon's definitive work The Bible and Homosexual Practice (Abingdon).

Of course it is true that we all are sinners who fall short of the glory of God, so there is no basis for finger pointing on such issues, and everyone must in all humility deal with their own sins rather than focusing on other people's sins. A Christian approach must be that everyone is welcome to come to Christ and come into the church as they are without pre-conditions. But no one is welcome to stay as they are--- no one. They all must change, repent of their sins as needed, and strive to live in newness of life whether gay or straight.

Witherington shows how far Rob Bell and others have strayed from what Jesus himself and the Scriptures, teach on sexuality.

UPDATE: Jordan Ballor on Rob Bell on Re-Defining Evangelicalism

Bell’s assertion that the ground motive of evangelicalism really is “to affirm people wherever they are” is, by curious contrast, “the exact opposite of the origins” of Christianity and the gospel. God does not affirm people where he finds them, in sin and on the road to perdition.

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Rob Bell — nothing to uphold and nowhere to go

I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it's a man and woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed and I think the church needs — I think this is the world we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are.

Rob Bell

Rob Bell chose San Francisco’s Episcopal Cathedral to announce his support of same-sex marriage.

In an interview with the Very Rev. Jane Shaw Bell described conservative evangelicalism as a dying subculture that does not work.

I think there is a very narrow, politically intertwined, culturally ghettoised, Evangelical subculture that was told "we're gonna change the thing" and they haven't. And they actually have turned away lots of people. And i think that when you're in a part of a subculture that is dying, you make a lot more noise because it's very painful. You sort of die or you adapt.

Bell chose not to affirm whether Christians "know" the truth in some ultimate sense

I would say that the powerful, revolutionary thing about Jesus' message is that he says, 'What do you do with the people that aren't like you? What do you do with the Other? What do you do with the person that's hardest to love?' . . . That's the measure of a good religion. . .

In an interview for Odyssey Networks Bell said that, God is leading us into acceptance of same-sex marriage.

Probably every generation had this sense of, “Man we’re living in the midst of history.” What’s interesting about this – and if you look through history, generally great new technological breakthroughs caused a ripple effect across culture. So technology seems to spur all sorts of social, economic, cultural and religious effects. And I think what has happened with the Internet – and lots of people are saying this – is simply you cannot live in your own tribal bubble anymore. You cannot stay cocooned off from how the world actually is.

And what happens when you are all suddenly exposed to thousands of different viewpoints is it can call your own into question and it can have this refining fire sort of dimension to it when you realize, “Wow, I’ve been living with a bunch of views and perspectives that don’t actually work and don’t actually bring life. So I need to be honest about that.”

There you have it. Evangelicals, are a dying subculture and should abandon faithfulness to the Bible's teaching on sex and marriage because the internet is opening us up to thousands of different viewpoints. Really?

And just who is this "god" leading us into acceptance of same-sex marriage?

Rob Bell has lost the plot and has been joined by Brian McLaren, and Steve Chalke, and a host of former evangelicals who cannot stand the heat of society's pressure to conform.

It's not accident that Bell chose San Francisco’s Episcopal Cathedral to announce his position. These "progressive evangelicals" are no more than a return to the theological liberalism of a generations.

TS Eliot's critique applies equally to this new generation of progressives.

In religion, Liberalism may be characterized by a progressive discarding of elements in historical Christianity which appear superfluous or obsolete, confounded with practices and abuses which are legitimate objects of attack. But as its movement is controlled rather by its origin than by any goal, it loses force after a series of rejections, and with nothing to destroy is left with nothing to uphold and nowhere to go.

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever (Is 40:8).