Every Sunday morning, we’ll be posting articles and links that are saying something important about church, culture, and mission (or that just made us laugh). Here’s what resonated with us this week on the web:
On Missional Individualism:
Mike Breen started a vibrant conversation this week about the individualism that he feels has seeped into the missional church movement:
We get together on Sundays to be inspired and encouraged, but when we are sent, we are sent as individual missionaries, trying to influence our workplace, struggling to make an impact in our neighborhood, attempting to be a solitary witness to our peers at school.
In other words, the Missio Dei seems to be producing individual missionaries, because our theology of a singular God (Missio Dei) combined with the heady cocktail of Western individualism gives rise to an individualistic methodology of mission. It’s almost as if the missional conversation has inadvertently become merely theist as opposed to truly Christian.
We think through the lens of individuals being sent on mission because we envision God as an individual on mission.
But of course, the distinctive hallmark of Christian faith is that God is not simply an individual. While we believe that God is one, we see his unity expressed in a diversity of three persons. Within the Mystery that is the unity of the Godhead, we have community.
Dan White, Jr. confirmed and expounded on this by asking, How Will “Missional” Survive the Future?
Innocently many churches begin to preach, teach and stir up their congregants to live missionally but often it is fueled by individualism. High emphasis is placed on “me” to use “my”capacities to be missional. Churches hand out 21 helpful hints for “how to be missional” to their attendees. I love helpful hints but in many ways this mode places emphasis on an insidious drive embedded in Western culture: individual productivity. Being missional can easily become a new collection of readily accessible methods in being productive. I’m convinced a missional life cannot be sustained individually.
And David Fitch brought his anabaptist perspective, influenced by thoughts from John Howard Yoder:
When we think of church-planting, starting new churches, or sending missionaries to unreached places, we generally think of sending individuals. I want to suggest this is all wrong. Churches, denominations and mission sending agencies should examine another strategy. We should send communities. We should think of mission in terms of migration. We should promote the sending/forming of migrant communities to new places. O, I know, this probably is not practical. But I think it’s worth a shot. Here’s why.
John Howard Yoder (RYFC), in his Theology of Mission, unravels how the basic logic of mission in the New Testament is the dispersion of communities not the sending of individuals. When we take into account the role the dispersion of Israel and the resulting communities played in the NT church mission, we can say that mission happened via the migration of communities who carry a way of life who then inhabit various contexts, not the sending of individuals into towns and villages to singularly proclaim the gospel.
On the Smartness of Jesus:
Matt Tebbe serves up a thought – nay, action – provoking post on Why Jesus Was So Smart (and it’s not ‘because he was God’):
How was it that Jesus was so smart without being taught? Look at his own words: “Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God…Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law”
Those who questioned Jesus in John 7 knew all about God but didn’t actually DO what he said. Their eyes worked perfectly fine, but they couldn’t see. When they saw light they sat analyzing, watching, questioning, pondering, theorizing, theologizing. They stayed 2 feet off the ground. Safe, detached, unencumbered by the challenges of DOING so they could devote all their time to THINKING. But sight is an interactive capability. We learn by doing, not merely watching.
Jesus on the other hand knew all about God because he interacted with him. Lived with him daily. The law was written on his heart. He learned obedience through what he suffered, you know – lots of bruises, scrapes, bumps, close calls, near misses. Jesus was smart because he acted on what the Father taught him. He didn’t sit 2 feet off the ground. He responded and interacted with the light.
On Saying Things to Sexual Abuse Victims:
Mary Demuth writes on Sarah Bessey’s blog about 21 things that should not be said to victims of sexual abuse:
As a sexual abuse survivor, I’ve heard my share of insensitive comments. I’ve also talked to enough victims to be able to gather some of the most damaging words here—all for the sake of those who truly, truly want to be loving, sensitive and helpful.
My intention in writing these is not to shame those who want to help, or make them walk on eggshells. Instead it’s to help friends and family members of victims best love and understand the sexual abuse recovery journey.
One. That was so long ago, why can’t you just get over it?
In this case, I simply ask, “How long did it take you to ‘get over’ the death of a loved one?” Sexual abuse involves grief—the loss of innocence, the shame of sexual violation, the removing of living life free. I’m not sure we ever “get over it.” We grow. We heal. We process. But there will always be that grief.
On the Grace of Equality:
Grace Church of Indiana explains their official position on women in leadership:
Our task as a church is to heal the broken places that resulted from the fall and show the world God’s intentions.
One of these broken places is the equity and dignity between men and women.
Our task is to be the best of citizens; it is a part of the Christian world view that leads to equality of all individuals… and to the opportunity to fulfill God’s call on our lives. The secular culture has it right when it comes to opportunity. Christianity’s reticence comes from not doing the harder work of holistic exegesis on the few passages that have consistently determined our stances. This is not a slippery slope; it is getting in line with God’s initial design and standing against the power structures of sexism. The issue, as I see it in 1Timothy is competence and character… just as it should be for men. Eldership needs to be carefully defined; teachers need to be properly vetted. But according to Paul race, class, and gender are not to be issues.
On Valentine’s Day:
Kurt Willems gives us The Story of St. Valentine in a Nutshell (seriously, this is the whole post):
Quoted from Common Prayer –
Valentine of Rome (d. 269)
A Christian priest in Rome, Valentine was known for assisting Christians persecuted under Claudius II. After being caught marrying Christian -couples and helping Christians escape the persecution, Valentine was arrested and imprisoned. Although Emperor Claudius originally liked Valentine, he was condemned to death when he tried to convert the emperor. Valentine was beaten with stones, clubbed, and, finally, beheaded on February 14, 269. In the year 496, February 14 was named as a day of celebration in Valentine’s honor. He has since become the patron saint of engaged -couples, beekeepers, happy marriages, lovers, travelers, young -people, and greetings.
So what did we miss? Feel free to share your favorite links (or your own great posts) in the comments!
And be on the lookout for our Christianity and Violence series on the blog, starting tomorrow!