Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Christianity Rediscovered Chapter 6

And so begins the journey into chapter 6.

I think this book is getting better and better.

Let's see what you think!


Kevin said...

Wow! So I've never been the first to post. In reality, I just posted on chapter 5 about an hour ago. (Sorry to make you go back and read behind.) But here goes on chapter 6.

1. I think we his thought that, "the missionary's job is to preach, not the church, but Christ. If he preaches Christ and the message of Christianity, the church may well result, may well appear, but it might not be the church he had in mind." is a great reminder. I know plenty of people who get this but too many still don't.

2. The same can be said of his statement, ". . . there must be many responses possibl to the Christian message, responses which are filled with promise and meaning, but which have hitherto been neither encouraged nor allowed. We have come to believe that any valid, positive response to the Christian message could and should be recognized and accepted as church. Taht is the church that might have been, and mighty yet be." The only disclaimer I would add is to say that the positive response definitely should be contextual but it's important how we define "positive." I certainly don't want to go down the "whatever you believe as long as you believe it fervently" route. But for too long, we have acted like we have the answers on how and what we are supposed to believe, instead of truly listening to others who differ with us.

3. I like a lot of what Tillich says but don't think that I'm ready to agree with what Donovan quotes from him, "beyond everything else, the church is simply and primarily a group of people who express a new reality by which they have been grasped."

4. Donovan points out that "A community, a group like this, will act as a unit, accepting you or rejecting you together. I found out that change, deep meaningful change, like the acceptance of a hopeful, expectant world vision, does not take place in one individual at a time. Groups adopt changes as groups, or they do not adopt them at all." As one seeking to bring about change, I don't like this but I know that for the most part it is true.

5. I thought that Donovan's discussion about speaking with the whole group and not smaller subsets reflects a lot of postmodern thinkers today. Brian's been questioning this issue with youth ministry as long as I've known anyone has. I don't struggle with this issue. And for the most part I agree. But I still see some levels of benefit for subset ministry. I do resonate with Ndangoya's response to him when he says, "Padri, why are you trying to break us up and separate us? . . . I can declare for them and for all this community, that we have reached the step in our lives where we can say, 'We believe.'" Baptisms in the NT of whole families are another example of this. I want to live connected to others this much.

6. Donovan is right when he states that, "we would never be able to cope with community conversions or group conversions if they came. We would not be ready if they should happen." What are some of the ways that we can become ready?

7. I really like his statement, "There are many idols, but two which, I believe, particularly mesmerize the Western church, are individualism on the one hand, and love of organization on the other. We consistently tend to interpret Christianity either from the individual or organizational viewpoint. . . . Besides paying lip service to the idea, how seriously do we consider the possibility that Christianity is essentially directed neither to the individual nor to the organization, but to the community?" Nows, when I start to shout, "Preach it brother!"

8. Lastly, I really like the way he ties in the history of the Masai with the ways God has been at work. "In the evangelization of the Masai people, there has been no notion brought forward, with the exception, perhaps of that of the 'man Jesus,' that has made them feel so certain that that which they have been treasuring and valuing for generations, has not been a waste, but rather a sign of God's continuing love for them, than the notion of the Orporor L'Engai. Perhaps for that reason, it lives today in Masailand." For way too long, we would have gone to the Masai with the attitude, "You are the lost, evil pagans whom we are here to save." God forgive us!

Brian said...

I think this is the best chapter so far. I also agree quite a bit with what Kevin has stated here. My thoughts specifically were:

1) "AAAARRRGGGHHHH" This is the actual quote I wrote in the margins of my book upon reading, "...and after announcing the depths to which this love has gone in the person and love of Jesus Christ, the missionary's job is complete. What else is there?"

I was happy to see him go on to answer this, but come on people, we've got to start realizing that the gospel doesn't exclusively lie in the death and resurrection of Christ. There are lots of Scripture there after all and I would even say that Paul often speaks to sharing about Christ and the gospel - as though they are tied together but not exclusively the same thing. That is a rant for another day, but I will say that I hope that speaking to people about how Christ is at work in them has got to somehow come up... and it does for Donovan.

2) Community - I love this whole section and will commit it to memory as soon as I finish this comment... or just keep it marked well in my book - but either way it is really good! We have so much to learn about living life and sharing faith as a society attempting to live independently of each other. Kevin brought up Donovan's quote about the two idols of the Western church and I agree - with Donovan and Kevin.

3) I loved and hated that he told them he was giving things wholly over to them. Hated it because it has to suck, loved it because we desperately need to learn this.

Well I'm off to memorizing...

renee said...

So, I had a slightly different reaction to the individuality and organization as 2 idols of the Western world section. I agreed while simultaneously identifying myself as a very Western girl and feeling a pang of guilt. I don't even like eastern art or literature. It's too disordered and group oriented for my taste. It's not that I don't agree that we (myself included) in the Western world have stressed these 2 things too much. They are there in excess, but it seems important to recognize this, that we are a very different culture than the Masai. My question is, How do you bring a gospel that has so much community built into it to an individualistic society? (I'll focus on just community to make the question simpler but it could apply to organization too). Do you first have to establish community or do you talk to the individual and then teach about community along the way? Or can they come simultaneously? Because I have to say that if you came to me first with this notion of commmunity, I might have dismissed you as hippie commune freaks and missed out on this whole Jesus character completely. I would and still find myself being much more receptive to a God who loves and care about me individually, with whom I can have a relationship and from there finding that I can open up in this love to the community.
Kevin, this question makes me think of what you said in an earlier chapter about not thinking that the Masai have to change their culture, but that the church does. Are we as Americans raised in a culture of The Great Gatsby and pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps and capitalism and westward expansion, supposed to change to accept a message of community? It seems to me that we are a bit because of the inherrent nature of the gospel. But doesn't this necessitate change from whatever culture to the "inherrent nature" of the gospel?

Josh said...

Well, I am writing this during a fire drill for our day care. I turned out the light in my office, to make it look like I wasn't here...so while the building burns down, I type this message.

But now I realize, I can't read the book...in the dark.

So I'll comment...Brian and Kevin, you both hit pretty much all I wanted to hit, so I will just further your comments.

1. EVANGELISM AND COMMUNITY: in looking at what Jesus does in the gospels, i think we find examples of him reaching groups and reaching individuals. I think he was sensitive enough to recognize what the best was for each situation. He called brothers from their father (think fishermen), and he called a tax collector from his lonely post. I think it is our responsibility to ask this question: in bringin this person to faith, who else needs to come to faith with him. I know in my work with youth, some of the best stuff I have done is in the context of 3-4 kids. But I also know that for some of my kids, they need their families in it too. And then some of my kids need "to find community again through Christianity".

2. ORGANIZATION: I think a lot doesn't get done within the established church because people are waiting for something to get organized. Come on, just go out and love your neighbor. Work out what that looks like for you...

3. COMMENTING ON BRIAN'S 3rd COMMENT: i was intrigued by donovan's final word to the people, but am worried by the relational implications. i am thinking of this in relation to how a father relates to his children. there is a time when he sends his children to do what they must, but most of the time, he is accessible. i think in theory donovan wants to kick them out, but in practice (as his sister comments later) he had a harder time actually doing this.

4. SYMBOLS: it is good that he was sensitive to their symbols, especially in the baptism service. but my question would be, what are the symbols in our society? Are there any?

Alright, the next chapter is long...you all are lovely...I am out

Kevin said...


For some reason, I had never thought about it before the way you responded to my earlier comment. "Are we as Americans raised in a culture of The Great Gatsby and pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps and capitalism and westward expansion, supposed to change to accept a message of community? It seems to me that we are a bit because of the inherrent nature of the gospel. But doesn't this necessitate change from whatever culture to the 'inherrent nature' of the gospel?" I'm not sure how I feel about this. But I certainly need to think about it. It's very easy for me to see the ways that the church in our culture needs to change but I am much slower to identify those things in other cultures. Are we to seek to find God through other cultures while insisting that our own culture is so screwed up that it must change? I don't know but I know what I'll be thinking about the rest of the day.

Josh said...

I'm stealing Brian's comments from a conversation we had...sorry...they're too good to wait.

So here is what Brian asks:"What are the missionary questions that we ask to be able to speak the truth of the gospel into a culture?"

yes, we know that we listen. Yes, we know that we pay attention. But are there questions that we ask to find out what are the values of the culture, what needs to be spoken to?

Sorry, Brian. You're too smart to be contained.