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 Pentecost
Andrew Perriman continues his exploration of the Spirit in the post-charismatic missional church by interacting with Michael Frost:
If Michael is arguing that the Spirit is as active outside the church as inside it and not merely that the Spirit speaks to the church through what is happening in the world, then I think we have a quite fundamental departure from the biblical witness.
In both the Old Testament and the New Testament the Spirit is given to the covenant community as the transforming, empowering, renewing presence of God. I’m not at all sure how you would argue otherwise. It’s possible that the Spirit is seen as the power of God in creation and in the giving of life, though I think it makes more sense to say that the “wind of God” hovered over the face of the waters (Gen. 1:2) or that the “breath of God” gives life to living creatures (Ps. 104:30). Cyrus is “anointed”, but there is no mention of the Spirit, and besides, he is anointed for the purpose of liberating the covenant people (Is. 45:1). Cornelius has an experience of God before his conversion, but the Spirit falls upon the household when they believe Peter’s story about what has been happening in Jerusalem (Acts 10:44).
This is not to say that God does nothing in the world without the agency of his people. He sends the Babylonians to punish injustice and faithlessness in Israel. He sends Cyrus to release the captives. An angel of God visits Cornelius and tells him to go and fetch Peter. But it is stretching the biblical evidence too far to say that there is a mission of God going on in the world through the Spirit and apart from the church that we need to catch up with. These exceptions only really underline the fact that the biblical God acts for or against or through his people. The Lord judges the nations, granted, but not by his Spirit, and he does not invite his people to participate in the work. If I’m missing something important here, let me know….
On Leaving Armageddon Behind
Brian Zahnd expands on thoughts from his new book, A Farewell to Mars:
Our looming Armageddons are always a possibility but never an inevitability. Armageddon is only inevitable if we listen to the propaganda that comes croaking from the dragons, beasts, and false prophets of nationalism, empire, and war. (See Revelation 16:13–16.) Jesus wept over Jerusalem because their fate could have been avoided. If they had believed in Jesus as the messianic Prince of Peace instead of a messianic Lord of War, Jerusalem could have actually become the City of Peace. Instead, they chose the path that led to a hellish nightmare of siege, famine, cannibalism, destruction, and death.
Repairing the world. Healing wastelands. Laboring to make a dying world livable again. This is the vision of the apostles and prophets. This is the prophetic paradigm the people of God are to coordinate their theology and lives with. We are not to be macabre Christians lusting for destruction and rejoicing at the latest rumor of war. It’s high time that a morbid fascination with a supposed unalterable script of God–sanctioned–end-time–hyperviolence be once and for all left behind.
On the Possibility of Transformation
Gary Black Jr. is on Scot McKnight’s blog responding to the conversation about transformation in the Christian life:
Dallas Willard used to refer to the perspectives Yancey and Yaconelli described (that substantive change is, if not impossible, then reserved for only a very special/lucky few) as “miserable sinner” Christianity. He suggested that throughout the ages there has been a longstanding argument between seeing the Sermon on the Mount, and the spiritual life Jesus highlights there, as either forming a deadly legalism or an unattainable idealism. Both leave the Christian in a miserable state of inbetween-ness. But such a theology also misses what Dallas understood as Jesus’ entire intention of the Sermon; to present the opportunity of entering the renovating, purposeful, and grace-filled reality of life lived with God that is made possible-now- through discipleship to Christ in his Kingdom. Such an opportunity is open and available for “whosoever will” since life to the full is quite literally “at hand.” Those with this life are salt and light to others. Now. Right where we are. It’s takes some effort to ignore the profound immediacy of Jesus offer.
Dallas also would wonder out loud why-if real, substantive, and verifiable change isn’t possible now-then how and why should we hope for the power or means of change in the afterlife? What kind of theological system and relationship with God would such an arrangement require?
I can’t help but wonder if, perhaps in part, this is what Mark, TGC, Kevin DeYoung’s, and Tullian Tchividjian are attempting to flesh out.
On Submerging Mission
Dan White Jr. writes at the V3 blog about his Submerge Schema:
What follows is a simple schema for navigating a neighborhood.
This tool draws a missional community into a real-time place, shifting our habitual patterns to draw us into the “other”. It facilitates practical, ongoing, incremental submerging into a neighborhood. Whether you’re new to a place or have been living somewhere 20 years, this “Relational Liturgy” will open up new space by plummeting your missional community into a social labyrinth.
The Submerge Schema is intended to be an ongoing instrument in discipleship-processing-pods for reflection and direction in rootedness. A Place-based community will have to embrace their limits and exercise active listening as they go about.
When applied for the long haul, it nudges us below the buzz of marketing, self-promotion, and event-dependence into the vital ordinariness that God’s mission requires in our world.
On Mission, Ministry, & Technology
Three posts at The Antioch Session dig into matters of technology in mission and ministry:
- Mandy Meisenheimer continues her series on social media and self-worth among adolescents.
- Jim Kast-Keat compares theology to technology and argues for innovation.
- Tara Lamont Eastman argues for the importance of churches embracing technology as story-telling tools.
On The Missio Alliance Blog
Taking the Spirit Seriously, by Karina Kreminski.
Blue Collar Pentecost, by A.J. Swoboda.
The Feast of Ascension and the Human Experience, by Nathan Clair.