Friday, June 18, 2010

The New Model

I spent much of my "church life" as a pentecostal and was blessed to have found such a witness to the grace, glory and love of God through Jesus Christ as the Methodist Church. Sounds like a commercial spot, right? Well it could be and ought to be, but instead of it being done by "starving, no talent actors", it should be done by sincere, moved and transformed Christians who have found a relevant meaningful and purposeful gospel that makes sense to us "post-moderners." I have recently been reading a book that was published by the Nazarene Church publishing house and that was heavily contributed to by Nazarene's...oh and one little unknown Methodist dude, named Len Sweet :). The book is entitled "Post Modern and Wesley"...intriguing, right? It was to me!! From the moment I picked this little book up I could not set it down. For me, this book put some skin and muscle tissue on the skeleton of what I have been feeling about our churches post-modern witness, or lack there of. The truth is the world has changed, but the churches approach to how it reaches the world has not. The church is using modern techniques to try to effectively reach the world in a post-modern era. So the big question is...where do we go from here? I mean, if your paying any attention at all to main-line protestantism you will see that what we're doing is not working, it is in fact, broken. What actually needs to be done is that church needs a new model for doing church. I recently spoke with a friend of mine, who is a priest in the Episcopal church and she also believes that some "new model" must be formulated in order to reach a post-modern world, but she admits she has no idea what that looks like and neither do most church leaders. We all have been doing what we do for so long, there just isn't any other way to do it, or at lest that's what we think. The new model, the model that will reach post-moderns can best be demonstrated in the natural order of things.

Scientist have proven that in nature order comes from within not from without. Order in nature is born out of what we would perceive as chaos. This is called chaos theory. In quantum physics there is this thing called a "strange attractor". A strange attractor is a sub atomic particle that moves in what seems to be random order, but in it's chaotic and random movements it creates something that is ordered. I saw a diagram of this in a book I recently read called "Leadership and the New Science." This one small sub atomic particle moved and moved across a computer screen and created a three winged bird!!

The key to reaching postmodernist is Holy Spirit Leadership. How do I derive this from quantum physics? Well nature is often the best reveler of God's plan. Len Sweet says that "truth is green and black" meaning that truth is found in the black ink of scripture, but it is also found in the "green" of nature. The Holy Spirit moves and often we do not understand its movement, but we trust that in this not-understood and sometimes chaotic movement of God's Spirit...God is creating and re-creating in and through us. If we are to reach postmoderners we much take on a new model that listens to the movements of the Holy Spirit, we must embrace what is organic in a community, what is natural, the church must return to it's grass roots and stop confusing the mission with the institution.

As a Methodist, I value structure and organization, but I see it only as a tool for the purpose of building the kingdom, not as the kingdom it's self. The church must reconsider what works and what does not, we must do as Lovett Weems suggest... "live on the edges", the edges of what once worked and what will work. I belive that Wesleyanism and the new Anglican Churches such as The Anglican Church in North America that have been formed out of the "chaos" of the Episcopal Church are moving in away that will allow the Holy Spirit to be their Strange Attractor and create new life out of it all. I'll finish with this story... The most transforming and reforming moment of my Christian life came after our fallout with the Pentecostal church. We were so burned out and hurt from our experience in that church that we were about to give up on church all together. Then we came into contact with an Anglican/Episcopal Priest who invited us to come and receive "Eucharist" that night. we went, not sure what Eucharist was, but we went and we met Christ maybe even for the first time. When I went down front for communion and that wafer touched my tongue I felt forgiven, I felt alive, even born again, for the very first time!!! That was a transformation.... out of chaos and uncertainty, out of what was not typical for me came the creation of beauty from God's Holy Spirit. I finally gave up on what I thought God was and what I thought church should look like and that's when God moved the most. Join me and others as we continue to seek out truth and meaning and the way to connect the gospel to this post-modern world.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Do good, do no harm and stay in Love with God

Greetings!!! This is my very first post on my very first blog site! I going to use this site to attempt to inform, challenge and renew the the minds of those seeking to be in right relationship with God.

When I was young I was a member of a pentecostal denomination, I went to one of this "fellowships" Universities, and even became a minister in this fellowship, but about three short years ago I felt that I was no longer a very good fit for this fellowship and moved on. I found a home in a church, in a town in Oklahoma...the farthest place I expected to find what I was searching for. I found the First United Methodist Church. I didn't know much about the people called Methodist. I know my grandparents were life long Methodist and that my father was still a member of the Methodist Church in the town that both he and I grew up in, but I never attended. The little bit I knew about Methodism was that a man name John Wesley was it's founder and that we was important to "us" as Pentecostals because "we" grew out of Wesleyan principals of holiness and sanctification, but other than that, I didn't know much.

We joined that faith community in that town we lived in and shortly afterward I was hired to be the youth director...what I didn't know about Methodism, I was about to find out very quickly. I learned about PPRC, UMPH, UMW, UMM, UMYF and all the other local church acronyms. I learned about Church Council, Charge Conference and Annual Conference. Shortly after that I was introduced to more acronyms because I felt God calling me into Ordered ministry as an Elder, acronyms like DCoM, BOoM, and GBHEM. That fall I entered seminary and learned one more very important acronym...MEF...which is were the money to attend seminary comes from :).

It was a blitz of polity and procedural things that I learned in that short year. I also learned about the episcopacy, the superintendency, and the itinerantcy, terms that are very important for Methodist Clergy to be aware of. :) Now it may sound like I didn't learn anything spiritual during that first year, but I did, I learned three simple rules to following God and leading a holy life. All that stuff and all the great doctrines and theology that make up the Methodist Church and all that complicated polity...all of it really is summed up in three simple rules, that Father Wesley himself invented for the early Methodist... These three rules will ensure that any Christian keep the faith and remain in right relationship with God and other people. Three rules, three simple rules, Do good, do no harm and stay in love with God.

If your doing good, your helping people, your giving to charity, your being selfless and living a redeemed life with God and man. If you are doing good, than you are not doing any harm. Make sure that every choice you make harms little to no one or thing. Do not harm each other with words, actions and even thoughts and do not harm our plant by being a poor steward of our natural resources. Finally stay in love with God. How can we remain in love with God? Wesley said attend upon the means of grace, live in and out acts of grace and live a life of piety. The means of grace are the sacraments, especially the sacrament of communion, which this blog derives it's name from. The table is were we come together to ingest grace, to be filled with Christ, after all, "you are what you eat." To be made one body, through sharing of one loaf. Acts of grace and a life of piety is bible study, prayer, and fellowship with a faith community. This is how we stay in love with God.

So, in my first year as a Methodist, the year that has led me down this road which I am on now, serving as a pastor, a seminary student and a candidate for Ordained Ministry, taught my three simple ways to be a committed follower of Christ. I learned that the people called Methodist, which I am proud to be, live a simple and visible faith, that involves three simple, but very biblical rules to living. So I will continue and I will press on and I encourage you to join me to do good, do no harm and to stay in love with God. See you at the table.
Grace and Peace,