Getting from Here to There Part 2

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Now about the corporate expression of our faith— within the church: it is not enough to live your Christian life in isolation— the Lone Ranger Christian, going it alone in the evil world. Christ called us to be a body of believers…, His Body. We stand or fall together. But if individual Christians re-gear their faith and the church does not, then we will have what sociologists call a paradigm conundrum. Individual Christians will be expressing their faith in one mode while the church still expresses its beliefs in another, older format— one that was appropriate when developed (1654 or 1945, take your pick) but has since lost its significance to the postChristian heart.

What follows are suggestions that the church-at-large needs to consider if it is to make sense—  both to twenty-first century Christians and to the rising tide of millennials/mosaics.

  1. The church will have to Rethink the Nature of Theology itself. Please do not take this as a rejection of any or all theological constructions of the past 500 – 1,600 years. It is not. But the last major rubric of theology was constructed during the Protestant Reformation in 1517, when priest Martin Luther posted his Ninety-five Theses, a critique of many of the practices of the Roman Catholic Church, on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. In similar ways we will need to construct a theology based on a new examination of Scripture, in the context of specific cultures, rather than simply another polishing of a theology based on a previous structure. Polishing American Colonial furniture doesn’t make it Danish modern.

The life of Christ and His redemptive work on the cross are our model for living the Christian life, today, throughout history, and across cultural variances. My guess is that this new Biblical Theology will arise in a people-group-specific, image-based format, and somewhat generationally-considerate. What will that look like in reality? Who knows?!? I’ll leave that to my successors.

  1. Redesigned corporate spirituality— The church will need to try on a new suit of clothes, spiritually speaking. It will need to try to express the Christian faith in multiple formats. What has been accepted as traditional will have to make room for newer forms of expression, previously foreign to our Christian traditions. And it will have to embrace these new expressions even if it feels terribly risky to do so. Remember, though, that we are in transition (versus a phase), in a time of paradigm shift; things are in flux. The Truth will remain constant while its expressions can vary with generation, region of the world, and culture.

            But please take note— we will have to allow for multiple forms of expression within the same local church as well, even within the same congregation. Decide to learn from those who express their faith in manners different from your own. Extend your comfort level to embrace expressions that call you to God in new ways. Our society isn’t what it used to be. Church shouldn’t be what it used to be either. New wine; new wine-skins… .

  1. Immersion vs. isolation…, not an option— One aspect of being a church is that we will no longer have a choice of opting out of our culture or its societal issues. The church of Jesus Christ must take a lead in healing our society’s sicknesses, from media to medical treatments, to definitions of life, death, and what it means to be a healthy human being. We have too long held back for fear of rejection or recrimination; it is time we took a stand. One thing we must not do is supplant our Savior’s role as Judge. That is not our place. Our place is to come along side of our fellow sinners and serve as their guide to freedom and life! The church in the first century understood this; so also must we. Jesus immersed himself in the lives of those around him, making little distinction between his followers and those who needed him. He served both: He loved both: He saved both.

Will the church be accepted readily upon first re-entry back into the society?  Not likely. Trust in any relationship is something that must be first gained, then if lost, regained with great commitment and agony. The church has a lot of negative history to overcome that our world remembers with a vengeance. But we can no longer afford the luxury of isolation, of feeling good about ourselves as long as we don’t have anything to do with the world outside. That, if anything, is true blasphemy. Jesus did not go to the cross so we could go to church.

  1. Cooperative— Remember that classic movie, Miracle on 34th Street? Kris Kringle was encouraging people at Macy’s to look for what they needed that Christmas at Gimbals’, across the street. Management, as first, was enraged; then they saw the light: customers were surprised and delighted to see this new cooperation-over-competition between the two stores. Since the Reformation the church in the West has been more about separation than about cooperation. The modern era saw western denominations first forming and then defining themselves injuxtaposition to one another. But we must learn to cooperate across denominational lines, despite different worship styles and theological preferences. Labels need to go away.  They must move aside for a new nomenclature— genuinely Biblical, Christ centered, locally missional, accepting, and alive to life.
  2. Sacrificial Servants— For the church in North America to truly have an impact on its culture it must shift its mentality and present itself as a sacrificial servant of the society, not as a judge of its illnesses. When people are sick, they need a doctor, not a critic. We must learn to give graciously to our world— much more graciously than we give to build our modern cathedrals of comfort. We must learn to give up rather than to calculate next year’s pledge units. We must also provide places where the normal people of our society can find solace and safety, and see Jesus Christ embodied in those who go by His name.  Another Gordian knot to be cut.
  3. One Lord, one Faith, one Language…— In the same way that individual Christians need to learn to express their faith in common everyday language, so also does the church need to learn to use the metaphors, idioms, and common expressions of the day to express Biblical Truths. Oddly, the stories of the Bible can stand on their own with little amplification about their context. We must learn to be culture sensitive. The only place most of us use Christianeze is in church or when trying to explain our faith to someone else (a.k.a. evangelism).

            Many years ago comedians Lou Abbot and Budd Costello performed a baseball Vaudeville dialog titled Who’s on First?[i] It was a classic example of miscommunication due to a misunderstanding of the use and definition of words. “Who’s on First? What’s on Second. I-don’t-know’s on Third.” Their dialogue was funny: the Christian miscommunication block to a confused world is not funny. We dare not have an in-house language which only Christians can understand, vs. a normal language that we use to talk with the world around us. How much easier would it be if we had one language pattern that everybody could understand? Think of it, you could talk about your faith in church the way you would naturally talk about it in the rest of your life; no stomach knots, no translating, no shifting language/emotional gears. Just breathe.

  1.  We need Leaders who will go out on a limb. One of my favorite quotes comes from Mark Twain— “Why not go out on a limb!? That’s where the fruit is.” The last shift that the church in postChristian society will have to make is one of leadership. Our leaders will actually need toLEAD! Too many Christian leaders have become conciliatory politicians, mediating their way to church peace or to a better position with more prestige and/or money. Others have become theological authoritarians, sweeping their will and interpretation of Scripture over their congregations. Why? Because theology is safe…, you can nail-down just about everything.

Genuine leadership, not merely positional leadership, is a risk. It goes with the territory. Just get used to it. There was an ad from a brokerage firm in NYC that used to read—  The only real risk in life is not taking one. May Christian leaders in North America become a risky bunch!

*   *   *   *

            So, where do we go from here? To the trenches of life, to the committee meetings and shopping malls, to the days and family gatherings with ol’ lip-sticked Aunt Maude who always kisses her grandchildren on the cheek? We go back to living. I cannot convince you of the exuberance that comes when you start to morph your life, your church, or your family to a postChristian faith. It’s quite a ride! Risky…, with the outcome yet to be written. Honor God, honor people…, make a difference.

Hopefully, making a difference.

Gary

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Phases #4 Discipleship

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PHASES— #4, Discipleship

    Welcome to the Christian life!

The word DISCIPLE is from “Old English, from Latin  discipulus ‘a learner,’ from discere ‘to learn’; reinforced by Old French deciple; to follow. Same root to DISCIPLINE ones self.

To be a disciple is to be a learner; it means to sit at the feet of one more learned than yourself and to listen to them, to learn from them.

Following deliverence and delight, the next thing you will experience in your Christian journey is discipleship. That is, a deep desire to know more about Jesus and the context for His leadership in your life. You will hunger to follow His precepts for living, His teachings, His admonistions to live a righteous life within a society that has rejected most, if not everything, of what He represents. Some of the things you will learn are—

1.      Christian faith is much larger than you may have first surmised. It holds a grandeur that exceeds the simple recognitions of trust and forgiveness. It is a way of viewing and living life that extends well beyond the limitations of human intellect and the vastness of the universe itself.

2.      It is learning your place, your role, in the grand scheme of things. The Lord has designed you to make a difference on this planet. How will you discover what that is?

3.      It is taking on the role of a Servant; not when you feel like it, but even when you don’t. We who claim the name of Jesus grow through serving others and in worship of God. How are you doing with that?!?

4.      Righteousness comes more readily as you accept the Father’s design for your life. The more you allow God to sculpture your life the more your desires will coincide with His. We are declared righteous, and so we will grow into it…, one way or another.

5.      You will be able to bear more suffering in your walk of faith. Yes, suffering. Whether from those who reject and ridicule Jesus Christ, or from those who claim His Name and find your faith warrants some correction. Consider first the extent to which they might be right in their judgment; Then turn to the Lord for either admonishment or vindication.

    To be a disciple of Jesus Christ is first and foremost to sit at His feet…, and to learn. Never confuse this with anything else.

 

Growing in grace and forgiveness,

  Gary

Beyond Words-Take 2- Faith Factors

 

One critical question needs to be asked when desiring to connect the Christian Message with people living outside the confines of the Christian bubble. Namely— What are the key elements that determine the expression and communication of our faith in a postChristian society? As a reminder, we can no longer “just give them the gospel.”The gospel” simply has no cultural pinning in a world so long removed from its Christian roots. Maybe a picture is worth a thousand words—

communication circles

In the next few EMPulses we will explore these 6 elements in more depth. For now, let us open a cursory unpacking of these ingredients.

First, to express and/or communicate our faith in this postChristian society we must establish a Biblical Mindset within our own practice of faith. Just going to church, saying the right words, and memorizing a few Bible verses conveys only s surface-faith to others.

Next, we need to understand that our faith is Personality Specific. Our personality filters our faith to fit who we are and who we must become. We must not squeeze ourselves into a faith-box. You cannot be like me or any other Christian. You must be you.

Thirdly, our Christian faith is Culturally Sensitive. We dare not continue to import a western faith into a postChristian Europe, emerging Africa, or a diverse Asia. One of the distinctives of our faith is that it fits into the heartbeats and lifestyles of the host-culture. Yet, in our Western, North American patchwork of cultural blends we must here, too, learn to be culturally sensitive.One size, or shape, does not fit all.

Fourth, as we offer people a relationship with Jesus Christ, we must remember that they must hear His offer of life in their context. “The Gospel” must be heard in their life context. Therefore, in many ways, the Gospel is Receiver Determined. How do they see the Christian faith? It is our task to express our faith in ways that they can respond to and receive Christ’s life into their own.

Fifth, the expression and communication of our Christian faith should be Community Networked. First, we should be networked within a healthy group of fellow believers who have a similar passion for the normal people around us. Second, our faith communication should be networked among those God has placed in our path. No need for commando raids or “debriefings” afterwards. We need to immerse ourselves into the lives of those around us who have no concept of the Christian message. [Warning: you may just come to love them.]

Finally, we, as genuine Christians, need to become more aware of the Holy Spirit of God within. We need to become Spirit Attuned. For we do not offer a person merely the Truths about Jesus, we are offering them Jesus Christ himself. We need to attune our spirits to be in line with God’s Spirit and also in tune with the lives of the people we have come to love. We cannot sense the work of Christ in the lives of others until we clean up our own inner-selves. No wonder God works in spite of us so much of the time.

For what it’s worth,

Gary

 

 

The Day After

easter, christ, risen, needinc, gary, davis, sundayYesterday marked the annual celebration of the Resurrection of Christ, called Easter and/or Resurrection. It is celebrated often alongside the Passover Commemoration, coinciding with the lunisolar calendar, used by the Jews of the first century, to celebrate the pass-over of the Death Angel in ancient Egypt.

 

But what about the day after Easter?

 

At that point in 30 AD, only 2-3 women had actually seen Jesus. Announcing this to His disciples, the men found their report incredulous. Skeptical and confused, they remained hidden.

 

In Western Culture today, Christians merely go back to their everyday lives with little to no change. Back to business-as-usual. Unless you live in a monastery, the dominant culture of our time has supplanted the formerly prevailing “Christian” underpinnings with the bottom line of progress and profit. Very little Christian influence remains in our nation’s preferred secular-religion-free society.

 

The Resurrection of Jesus should remind us of some characteristics that should pervade our lives as genuine Christians. Like the reminder that we are truly forgiven; forgiven for our rejection of His Godhood, our ignorance of what He wants from us and of what He wants to give us. We should be reminded that our imperfections are being made perfect, that we don’t need to feel so guilty when we are already forgiven. We need to remember that the penalty of eternal separation from the God who made us is no longer an option. We are now saved from that fate…, and from ourselves.

 

So the next time your world seems to be coming apart at the seams, remember Jesus on the Cross. Remember that He is in charge of your life, bringing together the various streams and roadways to merge in the perfect pattern for your fulfillment, AND for His glory. Never separate them: they are woven together within you.

 

But the day after, take some of those remembrances and reasons to celebrate along with you. Know your place in our world and move with grace.

HE IS RISEN!

Formidable Force

Malala Yousafzai, Formidable, Force, Courage, Brave, love, Forgiveness                 “Love is a Force more Formidable than any other. It is invisible— it cannot be seen or measured, yet it is powerful to transform you in a moment, and offer you more joy than any material possession could.”

~ Barbara De Angelis

Formidable Force.

What do you think of when your mind searches within for a symbol of Formidable Force? My first thoughts were of a Roman Phalanx, the Mongols, the USS Nimitz, and even the U.S. Congress— all formidable forces to be reckoned with. Each held/holds power in their own way— mostly military. But there are other more formidable forces in our scope of existence to which we must always give heed. Gravity comes to mind, first. Here are some others—

1.      Nature— There’s nothing like a change in the weather change your plans. Rain kills picnics: floods destroy: hurricanes (rain with wind) kill people. Then there is our place in the Universe— do we know what role we are to play in the grand scheme of things?

2.      Multi-Media Communications— It started meekly with the telegraph, then the telephone, then radio & TV; now, it’s out-of-control. The myriad forms of communication and entertainment available would have been deemed demonic a century ago. They weren’t, of course; but do they border on mind-control now? “Binge Watching” of TV shows has taken over more than one generation. Will we be known as the watching generation? A formidable force indeed!

3.      The Wielding of Power— Those in authority use it; by the grace of God, may they use it properly. Power always seems to usurp power. I remember a saying of former Secretary of State George Schultz— “Never give authority to someone who cannot live without it.”   Point taken.

4.      Revenge— For some people, and nations, it is the driving force behind their existence. They will not be placated.

5.      Love— Love seeks to give, to for-give. It offers the arms of embrace and friendship. Forgiveness and reparation. It may be buffeted, but it can rarely be destroyed.

6.      A corollary of Love is Forgiveness. Forgiveness is an aspect of Love, enacted upon to correct a wrong done. But if we refuse to forgive are we not also denying ourselves love? It is impossible to love without forgiving:  it is equally impossible to receive love when your heart is full of anger.

Thus does our discussion come down to these 3 questions—

1.      Are you a formidable force in this world? If so…

2.      What kind of formidable force are you?

3.      How do you face the formidable forces in your world, in your life?

For what it’s worth,

  Gary

 

Get your passion on

Dr, Gary, Davis, Clueless, Christian, Sir Richard Branson, Virgin, PassionPassion. That driving force within that will not allow you to give up. It’s that tenacious voice that screams within, “No matter what, I will, I MUST, do this one thing!” It can be a call to arms, a commitment to excellence, an unshakable compulsion to complete a task:  it might also be a deep heart yearning for a man, a woman, a love between friends that is a life-time commitment.

To be sure, passion, of any kind, can be twisted. It can be twisted into revenge, seething inner rage, or a deep evil desire to cause harm to another; like ethnic cleansing, terrorism, erotic murders, etc. These are perversions of passion. Still passion, but of the darkest kind. Don’t go there. It will inevitably consume your strength, turn your mind into a shadow, and hollow out your soul.

A proper passion is not like that. As billionaire/philanthropist Sir Richard Branson once said, “There is no greater thing you can do with your life and your work than follow your passions in a way that serves the world and you… .” [Founder of The Virgin Group- Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Records, & 400 other companies.  He has always been one of my heroes.]

My passions, like my commitments, run deep and long. Many people see passion as a sign of weakness because it is an emotion. I’ve never understood that. Are people afraid of their passions (vs. feelings)? I don’t know many who have experienced a cerebral kiss. Sounds yucky. Personally, I would rather find someone who is truly passionate about what they believe than someone who is generally compliant, in the middle, indecisive, passive.

Every decade of my life has produced a mantra that guides me. My present one is—

Honor God, honor people—and make a difference.

            So if you are passionate about something, anything, you are well on your way to making a difference. [Or to becoming a great kisser.]

 

For what it’s worth,

  Gary

Playing God

Dr, Gary, Davis, Needinc, Clueless, Christianity, Christian, God, Playing, reality, pride, self-centered, atheist, beliefPlaying God. How many of us do this unconsciously every day of our lives. Of course, if you are an atheist, you cannot play; there is no one to impersonate. But if you are anything else you have probably wanted to be God in some situation or another. Sometimes, for the good—as in saving a life or preventing a disaster:  other times, for your own selfish control—you just want things to go your way. Everyone else be damned. This last reason is the most likely explanation why you are not God. You’re not that good at playing Him. It’s always too much all about you.

            Too many of us believe that playing God is about exerting absolute power over things. Some of the men I know try to do this in their immediate families with varying degrees of disastrous results. Fathers want to be dictators or drill sergeants, yelling out commands with unquestioned authority. Thank God He isn’t like that. To the contrary; he actually tells us what He wants from us, so there will be no question.  Psalm 51:16, 17 puts it best—

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;

You do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.

You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

Basically, outward shows of worship do not compare in any way with an inner understanding of our place in the universe. But why broken?” Really?!? Do any of us truly need to ask? Our propensity to play God is only usurped by our arrogant assumption to become God, at least of our own little realm.

            So thus do we come to play God with everything and everyone around us. Our species has a natural proclivity to assert ourselves. We are restless. We cannot wait for definition or direction; we must determine our own direction with only a casual glance to the impression we may leave on this planet, in the universe, or on other creatures. It truly has become all about us.

            We become the God we reject and complain when others will not play the game our way. And so follows war, cultural degradation, family dissolution, and a re-writing (in many forms) of the internally inscribed moral-code; for there is no one left to constrain us…; but us.

            Really!

            Though I am but one man, one human, of one species among many, I do have a sense that I am part of something far greater than myself. And though I do dare to play god at times, in my own little universe, I am always mindful that I am but a small player in a grand scheme, designed by Someone much more omnipotent than myself.

            So the next time you are tempted to assert your manhood, or your womanhood, or your position or authority over another, do so from the perspective that you are no greater than the God of the Universe dares allow you: and prostrate yourself before Him. Next to me.

  Gary