johncrossI have been part of the Learning Community of ekerk/echurch and Missionet since last year. The current LC is made up of a mixture of mainly Afrikaans speaking church leaders and some individuals interested in the church. They come from various denominations: Nederduits Gereformeerd, Herformde Gereformeerde Kerk, AGS(AFM), independent and others. Together we talk and learn what it is to be the Church in the world today. I attended a gathering of the Learning Community (LC) on 17 & 18 February hosted by Mosaiek in Johannesburg, and the many things discussed excited me but also made my head spin. There is much that was said that I do not fully understand yet, but my curiosity has been tickled and that is what the LC is all about.

This specific gathering of the LC was dedicated to feedback of the (re)formation conference held last year in Wittenberg and Berlin and further development of ideas born there. For more information on the (re)formation conference visit http://www.echurch.co.za/reformation-blog. In short the (re)formation meeting was organised by ekerk/echurch and people who are in the forefront of the post-modern church were invited to discuss what the 21st-century Reformation might look like. From the booklet we received at the gathering:

“Blending academic and real-world knowledge and experiences, the group will describe how God is bringing life to His Church in various nations, consider what the future Church may look like, and identify steps that disciples and leaders might take to facilitate God’s activity.”

The speakers that presented the subjects of discussion included George Barna, Mark Batterson, Chris Seay, Johan Geyser, Stephan Joubert, Christian Schwarz and Leonard Sweet.

During the LC I wrote half a note book full of notes, and to reproduce all of it here will take me months and will probably unintelligible to most. So here is just a few of the highlights:

Johan Geyser:
Johan Geyser talked about The Movement towards an Integrated Holistic Spirituality. He mentioned movements from a mechanical to a holistic paradigm; from a static to a dynamic world view; from classic to quantum science; from institutional to network structures; from visionary, strategic leadership to spiritual leadership… All this is impacting how spirituality is being experienced today.

The question was then asked: How must the church look like in this new and changing world. He then spoke about the tendencies of the Pre-Modern, Modern and Post-Modern world.

So how should the church look like?

  • Should we go back to the fundamentals, the church of Acts 2? He joked about people saying we should do this but then quickly add that they will exclude the selling of all property.
  • Should we redesign church from the start

OR

  • Should we look back to the roots and then into the future? (Ancient-Future Church)

The last point seems to be happening all over and there is already talk of a collective awareness in the church regarding it.

Johan then talked about how he sees this move towards a holistic spirituality happening for the individual. He mentioned the practice of silence, Lectio Divina, voluntary displacement (liminality) and embracing mysticism. (The mysticism is not referring to Eastern mysticism but that of the Church fathers)

He left me very curious to pursue what he said further.

George Barna:
We watched the session of George Barna at Wittenberg that they recorded on DVD. George is one of those people who seems to know what is happening all over the world, and I guess that is a good thing since he made it his job to inform the church of trends. He mentions 9 things that he sees God doing on the North American church context:

  1. A leadership shift from old to new
    a) Fading leaders of the last 3 decades (nationally known and followed) to…
    b) Baby boom generation leaders – transitional leaders to…
    c) Emerging leaders (locally known and followed)
  2. The leadership mantel is moving from the North American churches to other countries.
    He feels that the American church were not responsible with the blessings they received and had a heart of arrogance rather than brokenness. The American church became fixated on maintenance, is selfish and made a career out of Christianity rather than a calling. (Wow, harsh words!)
  3. God is eliminating the stranglehold of old institutions.
    Seminaries – training models; Institutional churche structures is passing and networks based on relationship is becoming more important.
  4. God has been amassing resources in the American church and it is filtering through to the rest of the world.
    The income of the collective American church is an estimated $50 billion p.a.
    $5 billion of it goes into buildings which might become shopping malls in 50 years time.
  5. God is expanding ways faith can be expressed.
  6. Faith is becoming a controversial aspect of life.
    It’s being discussed everywhere without reservations.
  7. God is stirring a great interest in the need of the poor and downtrodden.
  8. God is shrinking the world through technology to make the church one body.
  9. God is allowing greater friction between world faiths.

After his session we talked about how what is happening in the Afrikaans (mainly white) church in South Africa is similar to that in the American church and we agreed there are many similarities, especially the points about institutions, resources and the interest in the need of the poor.

Chris Seay:
This session was also a DVD recording of the Wittenberg conference. Chris talked about how schism is the spiritual cancer of the church. He quoted a friend of his saying that the greatest schism within the church is between the clergy and the laity. To collaborate with God’s redemptive work in the world is opposite to collaborate with consumerism. The schism between clergy and laity is something that makes religious consumerism flourishes. The church has become so entrenched in this culture of consumerism that it adapted its methods to it to the point that only professionals can do church. The modern church has become what the Roman Catholic Church was before the reformation where the church became a stumbling block for people to connect with God. The modern church teaches people that you can only serve God and relate to Him if you do church the way we say. The church has enriched itself at the cost of the Kingdom of God.

He told the following parable to illustrate his point:

He has four children. Imagine his eldest was very successful at sport and became very famous and rich because of it. He has multiple mansions with more rooms than he has children and grand children. Each house has multiple garages with exotic cars filling them. He spends his money on all kinds of indulgences. Now imagine his other three children extremely poor. They have no opportunity for education and neither have their children and grand children. They live in the most terrible circumstance imaginable where they have to drink the same water they bath in. They do not have enough food and are starving to death. The eldest brother knows about this but does nothing about it. How will he as father feel about his eldest son? He will surely tell him that is not the way he was raised.

How does God feel about the church spending its blessing on indulgences when their brothers and sisters are starving? What is God saying in the Bibe about our brothers and sister that are suffering?

Conclusion
I went away convicted. I must rethink the way I live and what my priorities are… I made the following resolution:

I want to move closer to God and want to move with God in fulfilling His purposes for the church. I will do this through all means currently at my disposal. I will investigate new ways of experiencing God where He can transform me to what He intended me to be from the start.

Mine must be higher...

Mine must be higher...

Doctrine – the explication and officially acceptable version of a religious teaching. The development of doctrines and dogmas has significantly affected the traditions, institutions, and practices of the religions of the world. Doctrines and dogmas also have influenced and been influenced by the ongoing development of secular history, science, and philosophy.

And from the American Heritage Dictionary:

Theology –

  1. The study of the nature of God and religious truth; rational inquiry into religious questions.
  2. A system or school of opinions concerning God and religious questions: Protestant theology; Jewish theology.
  3. A course of specialized religious study usually at a college or seminary.

 

(In this discussion I often group the concepts of doctrine and theology together and refer to both when the word “doctrine” is used except when noted otherwise.)

We humans are limited, God is unlimited; our knowledge limited while God is omniscient. We form theologies to try to understand an infinite Being and doctrines to try to explain how He relates to us and how we should relate to Him. Because we are limited in our knowledge these doctrines and theologies fall far short to describe this wonderful unlimited Being we know and recognise as God almighty. Yet we claim our doctrine or theology better and more perfect than the next person’s. We group ourselves with others with the same doctrine/theology and the more people we assemble around the same the more perfect we claim it to be. If someone dares to question some small part of our sacred doctrine we launch out in full attack and claim their doctrine to be at worst heretical or best erroneous. We are like children building towers with building blocks and the highest claims to be best. When another threatens to be higher we’ll throw a tantrum and try to knock theirs over.

We have an inherent need for God and try to reach out to Him and His perfection (Acts 17:27). With these doctrines and theologies we try to reach the perfection of God just like the people who built the tower of Babel.  We try to reach to the heavens.

Genesis 11:4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” (NIV)

Now here is the catch. God stooped down from heaven, became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, walked among men, died on a cross and rose from the dead. All that is needed to reach out to God is belief in Christ Jesus and submitting under His Lordship. That is it. Nothing more than this.

In building our towers of doctrine higher we are missing the point. God is not to be found somewhere up there where the highest, most perfect tower can reach. He is to be found in the humility of surrender.

Doctrine and theology is useful because it help us understand (to a certain extent) what we belief. It is useful in figuring out how we should live out this submission to Christ and conduct ourselves while we do not know in full (1 Corinthians 13:12). But it is not essential for salvation.

My prayer is that God will knock us off of our towers of doctrine and that we will fall into His grace that is able to save and restore.

 

 

I have been reading quite a number of blogs lately criticising other people’s views, methods and theology as well as the comments following the posts. Now I don’t have a problem with critique and think it to be a healthy thing. What bothered me was the spirit the posts and comments was done in. What follows is my take on how it should be done.

What most of us (yes I include myself) do when we argue our point, is putting ourselves on higher moral ground. The “I now better than you” stance. Jesus warned us against such behaviour in Matthew 7.

One of the passages in Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk To Freedom that stuck with me is when he told the story of where he tried to convince one of the PAC members that the ANC’s way of doing things was the better way. He says that the man listened up to the point where Mandela said something that put himself on higher moral ground. From there on the conversation was fruitless.

Jesus came to us as a servant and that is what exalted Him to ruler of all. How can we, calling ourselves His followers, think we can effect change by “preaching” down at people from our own higher moral ground. Let us be servants of one another. When we disagree, let us do it in humility and love and just maybe we’ll get people to listen what we have to say.