Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Christianity Rediscovered Chapter 10

We come to the final chapter.

Can't wait to hear your thoughts again!

It's been a quality journey with you my friends.


Kevin said...

Since I'm the first to post, here are a few of my thoughts. I look forward to seeing how y'all will expand them.

1. I was really, really surprised and saddened by his evaluation about the numbers of missionaries involved with sharing their faith. "Missionaries involved primarily in direct evangelization have never been more than a handful in Africa. In modern times, in the Catholic church, there were never more than a thousand of them in the entire world."

2. I'm not sure yet how I feel about the following comment (I think I like it, but I need to chew on it): ". . . evangelization is not meant to embrace the conversion of every single individual in a country or a continent, but rather the bringing of the gospel to every ethnic, social, cultural nation in a country or on a continent - a finishable task."

3. I love his assessment about how pervading Masai life was with their traditional religion. I don't agree with his sentence about sacraments. I do think that life can be sacramental and yet have only a few sacraments. I also don't feel as strongly as he does that the reason Christianity should be so pervading is so that paganism will not fill the holes. I think that the reason it should be is because it's that important. Anyway, here it is: "There was no area of Masai life that was not touched by their traditional religion, and now they saw Christianity continuing and fulfilling this process. Their entire life was sacramental, filled with effective signs as real as the things they symbolized. There was no way I could tell them that Christianity was less than that, that the real and the holy in Christianity were restricted to two or seven signs. I could not leave any gaps in their lives, vacuums to be filled by the reservoir of paganism surrounding them. Christianity had to be as all embracing and pervasive as the paganism it was replacing and fulfilling. In seeing this for them, I began to see it for myself as well."

4. I like how he sees the Africans moving Descartes from "I think therefor I am" to "I am known, therefore I am;" likewise the "I believe" to "we believe."

5. I think it's an interesting thought that the missionaries' goal is to bring hope. I'm just not sure that I could go as far as to say all everything except hope was already present among the people. I absolutely believe that God is at work among each people group but I'm not quite ready to say that all but hope is there. Here's the paragraph: "I believe this is what lies at the heart of the urgency and necessity of missionary work and evangelization. This is what I, and others like me, are trying to do out there. Not to bring salvation and goodness and holiness and grace and God, which were there before we got there. But to bring these people the only thing they did not have before we came - hope - a hope imbedded in the meaning of the life and death and resurrection of Christ. It is a cleansing and humbling thought to see your whole life and work reduced to being simply a channel of hope, and yourself merely a herald of hope, for those who do not have it."

6. I really like his statement, "It (the nations of the world) commits missionaries to the urgency of forever reaching out with the gospel to the place where people truly exist, where they are and as they are." Enough of the "learn our language, when to stand and when to sit and clean up your life if you want to find God." More of the "becoming all things to all people so that by all means some might be saved."

7. Something hit me that I've never noticed before in the last scripture that he uses, Isaiah 52:7. It is talking about those that proclaim God but he uses "Your" when he says they proclaim him. You'd expect "our." We certainly have said that through missions most of the time. "We've come here to teach your about our God." I think it's great that the people who are proclaiming God (even if they are doing it to Israel) recognize that God is there among them already.

8. Lastly, I really like the African Creed. Even though I treasure using creeds that have been used by many since ancient times, I also strongly believe that when God is at work among you, creativity flows. New songs, new poems, new art, new creeds, etc. help each group of people worship Him from the unique perspective of what He is doing among them.

This process has been helpful for me. Thanks for dialoguing and stretching on the journey.

Brian said...

Winds of Change

1. I love the heart of this statement, "The secret was to keep opening doors and to rest with no unanalyzed assumptions, not even those made just five years before." We must continue to re-create, re-evaluate and re-imagine. The day we stop opening doors is the day we stop being a part of the kingdom.

2. Keriko says, "As I see the Word of Jesus and the Brotherhood - they are come to make us better Masai." I resonate with this because it recognizes that God is already at work among them. It is the work of God's people to be "gardeners/horticulturalits" who can see where God is at work, identify it and bring it out further. This is truly good news.

3. I wonder if our churches, sermons, lessons, are more about propaganda than about evangelization, more about control than hope. "Quite the opposite of propaganda is evangelization, filled with hope, which means moving forward in a world with unlimited possibilties, in which we won't be suprised if something unforeseen happens."

4.Kevin, I too am not sure if all that is missing is hope. In many ways I'd like to believe this, but it seems that there is more to being made new than hope. Perhaps I sell hope too short, but what about faith and love?

5. Kevin, I agree again with you about the bringing it from "I believe" to "we believe". One of the things I've found incredible hope and comfort in through the years is at times being able to sing, read or say Scriptures together that "we believe", sometimes knowing that I'm not sure if I do right now, but I know that I hope I do and would love to behave myself into these believes within this community. [That could be the longest run on sentence of our blog!]

6. Finally I'd like to say:
- Disco is over-rated
- Break-dancing is under-rated
- What is an appendix for? And if it doesn't have a role then why do books have them?
- You all are fine people and I've enjoyed this quite a great deal.

renee said...

So, I don't totally agree either that hope is the one thing lacking, the one thing the missionary brings. However, Brian's comment got me thinking. Amonst my friends, there is a good deal of spirituality as some might call it and what I see as faith. And there is a strong idea of love in the theoretical and many practical advances at the goal. I see at least close to as much progress toward the goal of enacting the theoretical love among these who don't identify themselves with God's love as among those who do. Hope, however, is severely deficient in the former group. Perhaps my sample is biased, perhaps my observations only apply to the current state of a grad student culture and the balance of faith, hope, and love fluctuate, but Donovan's identification as a herald of hope strikes home with me.
I am also not sure how I feel about evangelism not being for each individual but for each ethnic, cultural nation. I do know that I lean toward not liking it, that it doesn't sit well with my sense of the importance of the individual. Which leads me to another comment made by both Kevin and Brian-- "we believe". I agree with this in the theoretical and see how it is enacted in worshipping together, communally. But this seems to look a lot different to me than the Masai being baptized together as a group and living and believing as a group. I still am uncertain how much of that groupness we should try to fit into our western individual culture. If Donovan realized that he was breaking cultural norms by wanting to baptize only those that he thought got it, then should we impose the groupness on a culture where that is not the norm?
And my last comment is the quote that Brian put in about the need to continue re-creating, re-evaluate, and re-imagining. I wholeheartedly agree, although it has taken me some time to be able to use that adverb, that the day we stop doing all this is the day we stop being part of the kingdom. He's to much re-ing in the future.

Josh said...

"the last step is the most painful of all, the step leading to the conclusion that the whole process is really out of one's control after all; that there is a Spirit moving through the world and through Africa, and what control there is lies with that Spirit."

Josh said...

First, I'll respond to you all.

1. Hope: I am with Brian and Kevin in wondering if that's the only thing that evangelism brings. But that would lead to another question: what is present already? And what does an evangelist bring?

I think he was more clear when he said, "the aim of evangelism can be nothing less than...to establish shalom."

Maybe evangelism is what connects the dots for people. It answers basic questions about existence and life.

2. Personal vs. communal salvation: I think Renee brings up a good point, in that it is difficult to bring communal salvation to a society where community is hard to define and find. But we can take it farther. Everybody has a circle of influence, a circle of friends, family, co-workers. Some circles are closely tied, some circles are loosely connected. Often a circle can be committed to something, say partying or social justice or scientific exploration.

How does that group get the focus? Is it because of one person? It is because of two people? Does the group affect others?

i think the answer is different for each situation.

But...and this is just me exploring something that you've sparked Renee...if the answer is different for each situation, could it be possible that evangelism could take place in similar ways in different situations?

Also, i like to think of salvation like this: salvation doesn't just save me from hell, it also saves the people around me from who I would be without the Spirit of Christ. So in one sense it's individual, but in another sense it's communal.

Second, let me just say that this has been a fun trip. I have really enjoyed hearing your thoughts and hope we can do something like this again.

Brian said...

One more before the door closes...

I do understand that the gospel exists in a culture, in a context already, and that we in the Western world live in a very individualistic society, however, I wonder if the gospel here speaks prophetically against and into that individualistic culture.

For my family and I we try to intentionally live in community with others. We try to open ourselves up and be vulnerable and real. We find others with which to share life. We do this because we think its what Jesus would do, we do this because its a better life. I'm not trying to argue if our society is one based on individuals (I think therefore I am), I am posing the question if part of the gospel is learning that individualism is not the best life?

If you are going to throw something, please make it blunt!

Josh said...

the door is never closed.

and did you ask someone to throw a blunt at you?

Kevin said...


I really do hear your struggle to completely buy into asking Westerners (esp. USA) to renounce our individualism. That independance is part of defines who we are. And you make a very valid point that we're so ready to change our approach to missions so as to only seek to change the minimal aspects of following God in a people group so we should make sure that we're giving the same leeway to Westerners. All I would ask you to do is to spend some time exploring the issue biblically. I'm really inclined to agree with Brian about this that we have chosen the lesser path. I think that we reflect more of who God wants us to be the more seek to live in community. I also think that we more readily lead people to the Kingdom when we do so. Anyway, thanks for helping keep our enthusiasm for openness from going too far.

Let's keep the door open.

And I'm thinking that if you do end up throwing something at Brian, I'd make it a computer monitor. He's already got experience at dodging those.