Friday, December 28, 2007

Thinking about.... They Like Jesus But Not the Church

Emergent Church leader Dan Kimball recently published a book called, They Like Jesus but not the Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007). The book is divided into 3 sections: 1) Why Emerging Generations are Changing (more like, where they are at, and how different the church is), 2) What Emerging Generations Think about the Church, 3) How the Church Can Respond. I am going to review it a bit, mixed in with personal commentary, but most of all I want to pose the question: Would a teaching series based on these topics be beneficial? Likewise, what may be some other questions that you constantly encounter (or think about) that we should teach on?

The emerging church movement, as it is now commonly called, is basically the pejorative term for all the fresh, new, hip, young, and culturally savvy churches popping up around the country. Dan Kimball is one of its best voices. He seems to be the mediator between leaders like Rob Bell and Mark Driscoll. The common theme among them all is that most of the church in this country has forgotten how to reach the culture they live among. Your parents church is now a completely different culture with its own language (Christianese or church-talk), dress, and food (casseroles and bad coffee). Kimball, meanwhile, takes the time to sit in cafe's and talk with people, and simply get to know them. They Like Jesus... is a summary of what he learned from the emerging generations who don't like your Mom and Dad's church (pretty much all of them), but they do like their person of worship, Jesus. I like Kimball a lot and he seems to avoid the controversies that follow Bell and Driscoll. The guy lays down the state the church is in, and calls us to wake up and start being missionaries to our neighbors. This means not standing on street corners or beating down doors, but listening, taking notes, meditating, praying, and getting out of his comfort zone to find creative ways to express the saving message of Jesus Christ. The guy is a great teacher, listener, is rather introverted, funny, and looks like he was time-warped out of the 1950's.

Anyways, the early chapters stress the importance of the situation. Having read lots of emerging church or missional church stuff, most of it I had heard before. However, one of the better chapters is called, "Jesus as Son of God and plastic action figure". In it he basically highlights lots of places Jesus has shown up in popular culture, from quirky celebrity quotes, to t-shirts, to music, etc. He has a rather funny, but also insightful, story about his lack of comfort with a Jesus action figure that roamed around his church office. He eventually got rid of it but notes it existence says something about what our culture thinks of Jesus.

On with the reasons why people don't like the church. If you are younger, came to Christ later in life, or didn't get too sucked into the Christian bubble, these might be a big DUH to you.
1) The church is an organized religion with a political agenda
2) The church is judgmental and negative
3) The church is dominated by males and oppresses females
4) The church is homophobic
5) The church arrogantly claims all other religions are wrong
6) The church is full of fundamentalists who take the whole Bible literally

[Side note: #6 makes me want to read a new book really bad. Its called The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs. Where a non-Christian dude, decides to follow the Old Testament to the LETTER for a year. It sounds hilarious and is not critical. Nonetheless it ought to raise interesting questions about how many Christians interpret scripture.]

I have so much to say about each chapter (what else is new). Overall, this is a very good book and I think Kimball provides an excellent example of how to converse with non-Christians in a natural and effective way. He provides plenty of quotes from the people he talks do, never gives canned answers, and sees through some of the more emotionally charged responses to hear the person. You get the impression he never fires back "The Bible says so", or "let me show where it says that homosexuality is wrong", or "women should be submissive," or "this is just what I believe." Instead, he shows us that often times, non-Christians seem to have a better idea of what Jesus would say or do then Christians. It makes me wonder if those terms are even appropriate in this context, maybe it should be those "inside" the church versus those "outside" the church. Anyways, one example is on the issue of homosexuality. The two people he quotes provide excellent observations we all should hear. Kimball basically says we need to teach people how to deal with sin, not point out what we think is their sin. Thus, he poses a question: If a gay couple walked into your church should you treat them any differently than a straight couple who is living together and having sex? Biblically, I think the answer is no.

Two things really stuck out at me about this book:
1) Lots of people really dig Jesus and that should give us great hope.
2) Christians don't know their Bible very well.
He constantly presented examples of having to really study hard to come up with a Biblical answer for some of the questions these issues raise. Do you really understand all of the passages related to women teaching in the church? Do you really know the context of all the passages related to homosexuality? How do you explain other religions (Kimball provides an excellent one)? Are you even familiar with the arguments for the other's side position? They are often very sophisticated and not to be taken lightly.

Bottom line, we need to be "quick to listen" and slow to attack with jargon you heard from the pulpit because you trust your pastor is always speaking God's honest truth. We need to act more like Jesus and stop talking like Pharisees.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Boot Camp for Web Addicts

I saw this article awhile back and found it interesting, not for its content, but for what it says about our modern global culture.

NY Times: In Korea, a Boot Camp Cure for Web Obsession

It ought to be employed for video game addicts too, as new dimension for discipleship in youth groups.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Top 14 Biblical Ways to Get Married (Mostly for Men)

Is the "dating scene" not working out as well as you had hoped? Take heart: the Bible is not silent on how to find a spouse! Here are fourteen Biblical alternatives to "dating":

  1. Find an attractive prisoner of war, bring her home, shave her head, trim her nails, and give her new clothes, then she's yours. (Deut. 21:11-13)

  2. Find a prostitute and marry her. (Hosea 1:1-3)

  3. Find a man with seven daughters and impress him by watering his flocks. (Moses, Exodus 2:16-20)

  4. (For the ladies) Find a man who is sleeping, lay down at his feet, then when he wakes up, ask him to marry you. (Ruth 3:3-9)

  5. Go to a party and hide. When the women come out to dance, grab one and carry her off to be your wife. (Bejaminites, Judges 21:19-25)

  6. Have God create you a wife while you sleep.1 (Adam, Genesis 2:19-24)

  7. Agree to work seven years in exchange for a woman's hand in marriage from her father. Get tricked into marrying the wrong woman, then work another seven years for the woman you wanted to marry in the first place. That's right, fourteen years to get your wife. (Jacob, Genesis 29:15-30)

  8. Cut off two hundred foreskins of your future father-in-law's enemies, and you get his daughter for a wife. (David, 1 Samuel 18:27)

  9. Even if no one is out there, just wander around a bit, and you'll definitely find someone. (Cain, Genesis 4:16-17)

  10. Become the emperor of a huge nation and hold a beauty contest. (King Ahasuerus, Esther 2:3-4)

  11. When you see someone you like, go home and tell your parents, "I have seen a woman. Now get her for me." If your parents question you, simply say, "Get her for me. She's the one for me." (Samson, Judges 14:1-3)

  12. Kill any husband and take his wife.2 (David, 2 Samuel 11)

  13. Wait for a close relative to die, then take his widow. (Boaz, Ruth 3:3-9, see also 4)

  14. Don't be so picky, just make up for quality with quantity. (Solomon, 1 Kings 11:1-3)

(From Rick Holland's message to the Crossroads College Ministry, 11/7/1999) [download]

1 This may cost you a rib.
2 You must be prepared to lose four sons as a result.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Grand Opening

The Regeneration blog is now open for business! My hope is that this can be an outlet and a forum for musings and interaction especially for the Regeneration community, but also for the larger internet world if they perchance wander by here. Since we are representing a ministry of Bear Valley Church, we will do our best to be sure that no inappropriate content or comments are published in this venue.

I have in mind that we will be blogging through the book Breaking the Missional Code by Ed Stetzer. I hope that we will also be able to bring on several contributors from our community to provide thoughts, provocations, and topics of discussion to keep this place lively. (Nothing is more useless than a blog with no new content!)