In terms of vocation outside of my family, I consider myself a pastor first, teacher – theologian second. This is the way it happened for me. More and more this is the route I recommend to anyone who (thinks they) wishes to become a teacher/theologian. As the ranks of the paid professional theologian grows scarce, it seems obvious no one should assume he/she can go get a Ph D and then get a job teaching theology. That seems laughable to me now. Instead, pursue ministry, live in the culture. Out of this context let the questions emerge and drive your study. If God affords, pursue a Ph D. Then a job opportunity in (so-called) academia comes? Discern it (it’s not always a good thing!) and take it as God leads.
Since its beginning 5 years ago, this blog has been a great place for me to talk about issues emerging from ministry. I haven’t done much academic theology here (but I’m thinking about doing one post a month that would be more academically driven?). As I look back at the last five years, I see some patterns emerge that will show up in my book coming out in a month as well as new book projects I am scheduled to write this coming year. This blog has been a discipline for me and a blessing. For those of you new to it, here’s a look back at 10 posts (in bold underlined), highlights of the past 5 years, with some commentary. All praise be to God for any good that has come from these past five years.
1.) The Myth of Expository Preaching (2006). Back in June and July of 2006 I wrote a few posts ( the other two are here and here) on the problems inherent in expository preaching. It was picked up in the blogosphere (including here). It was all based on ch. 5 of The Great Giveaway. This has proved fruitful conversation in many contexts as I think I’ve presented on this issue at least 6 times in conferences/seminars since then. In February I will again be leading a seminar on preaching as spiritual formation at the Ecclesia national gathering
2.) A Warning List For Those Who Would Join a Missional Church Gathering (2006). This became a pamphlet at our church. It reveals much about the critique of church in America that has been persistent in my work over the past 5 years. We have had to bring this one back from time to time at Life on the Vine to remind us of what we’re doing.
3.) When is a Story Not a Story? Willowcreek and Acrobats on Christmas Eve (2007) My critique on the excessive attractionalizing of Christmas at the mega churches. Since then Bill Kinnon has updated this critique here.
4.) Everything Must Change or Everything has Changed?(2008) (Part 2 here) Back in 2008 I reviewed Brian McLaren’s Everything Must Change. I’m a fan of Brian. In this post back in 2008 I started to articulate where I differ with him. I talk about his view of the Kingdom. I worry he is de-eschatologizing it (a fear I expounded on here). The same ambivalences are evident in this post (see more stuff with Andrew Jones here) Though I find much to applaud in Brian McLaren’s writing, I think there are also problems. For instance in his New Kind of Christianity I think there are about 5 sections (a few paragraphs long) that are simply baffling coming from a Christian pastor. I’m thinking about blogging on these 5 sections in 2011 if there’s still interest (and Brian would respond 🙂 ).
5.) Not Voting as an Act of Christian Discernment (2008) was one of my first “posts” challenging the sacred cow of evangelicals and protestant mainliners alike: voting is a sacred act of Christian devotion. Heading into the 2008 Obama election, this got me into some trouble here where Anthony Smith called me out, and then here again when Brian McLaren agreed with Anthony. I answered both Brian McLaren’s and Anthony Smith’s objection here but never heard back. I think now it has become more apparent that the Obama administration has sadly become “more of the same.” I think looking back “not voting” should be looked at more seriously as the means for Christians to work for social justice in America.
6.)Three Questions for Attractional Pastors Who Question the Fruit of Missional (2008). Ever since I wrote The Great Giveaway it seems I’ve been in the middle of this debate. Again, this critique of American church has been prevalent in my work over the last 5 years. I remember being at Trinity Seminary debating Ed Stetzer on” Can Mega Be Missional?” which was the title of another post in a syncroblog. I think this is the only time I ever won a debate with Ed (not in word count however – wink, wink, Ed). This post linked here is my best post on this topic because various representative figures who came onto the post to debate with me including Dan Kimball, Tim Keller, Andy Rowell and Alan Hirsch. Check it out!
7.) Teaching Missional Living (2008, 2009). If we are not going to do church in the modern individualist consumer driven ways of America, how then do we go forward? The following three posts I offered back in 2008, 2009 in response to the continual quest for “how do we live this Missional church stuff?” They were well received. I have used them as starting points in my own practical teaching ever since. a.) Instilling Missional Habits in a Congregation, b.) From Bridge to Onramp -Teaching Missional Evangelism, and c.) an example of exegeting your local community (in this case the suburbs) .
8. The “Gospel Coalition” and Post Christendom(2009). A major concern that has emerged for me on this blog over the last few years has been the migration of the “young and restless” to the New Calvinism in our day. In the aftermath of Emergent, it seems that the disenchanted have found something solid in the Neo-Reformed movement spawned by John Piper, Marc Driscoll and Don Carson. I see this version of Reformed theology as prone towards retrenchment and defensive Christianity. Instead I see great possibilities in a neo-Anabaptist missional position for the situating of the church for mission in N. America. I have only begun to express my reservations with the New-Reformed theological position and I hope to expand on it this year on the blog.
9. How Flat Leadership Works For Mission(2010). I’ve been an advocate for a renewed way of leadership for mission drawing on the Anabaptist leanings towards a communal based gift based leadership based in the practice of mutual submission to Christ. I see it as the way mission is shaped in community by God for the world. I reject the many who suggest this means no leadership. This kind of leader however looks different than what we have become so accustomed to in the technique driven world of modern business. Looking back on the list of posts in this category, my upcoming book on leadership has mostly already been written here. Nonetheless, I shall continue to write extensively on how this looks and works itself out theologically/practically in the life of mission.
10. The Gay/Lesbian Issue: The Idea of a Welcoming and Mutually Transforming Community(2010). I believe the gay/lesbian issue in the West is a test case for the missional church. I am profoundly dissatisfied with the approaches generated from the Emergent thinkers as well as the New Reformed. I don’t believe “sexual redemption” is a real posssibility within the categories laid down by some Emergent thinkers. I don’t see how witness and gospel engagement in the gay/lsbian worlds is possible under the terms laid down by some of the New Reformed thinkers. Instead I have sought to forge an incarnational way of witness among the LGBTQ peoples among us for the sexual redemption God is bringing to the world in Christ. I have only begun to write on these areas. Thanks to the many who are already thinking through this area and the many commentators who helped sharpen and extend the thinking here.
Thanks to all you for participating in this blog. Looking forward to the next five years!