God is Setting All Things Right. So I am Blogging Through the Bible in a Year.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Class Summary for Oct. 27

Today in class we looked at the church in a network culture and a gaming culture. Dr. Bolger made an interesting connection between how parents are so afraid of allowing their children to play outside alone that they keep them locked inside. Teenagers respond to that by connecting to their friends online through blogs, gaming and social networks. Churches can and should minister to people online not only by having stagnate pages for people to download and read but having places for Bible study through both real-time and threaded conversations, fellowshipping times for people to come together and spend time. People are there. This is a reality. To act like online ministry is not a worthy place for ministry is to say God cannot work in this sphere and to surrender it to evil forces.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Class Summary for Oct. 20

In today's class we had a visitor, Doug Pagitt of Solomon's Porch in Minneapolis. He encouraged us to think outside the denominational box and invent a fresh movement. This was encouraging and interesting to hear him speak in person. His view of the mission of the church is very similar to missiology. He does not wish to take God to another person. He simply wants to tap into that part of the person seeking a god and introduce YHWH, the God of the Bible to him.
The second half of class we spent reading an upcoming chapter in a book he is editing. It was very interesting and I hope to have more to write later.

Book Review 2: Building a Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church by Mark DeYmaz

For my second book, I decided to read Building a Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church by Mark  DeYmaz. DeYmaz is the minister for the Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas, a multi-ethnic and multi-economic church he began in 2001. This group has grown to include Christians from over 30 countries spanning the globe. He is also a cofounder of Mosaix Global Network, a group dedicated to planting diverse congregations all over the USA.
Most discussions of integrating churches devolve into arguments about whether racism is prevalent in the USA or not. Surprisingly, this book avoids the taint of racism to the point of eschewing this word all together in favor of ‘ethnicity’ since people are of one race. The major thesis for this book is that churches should become multi-ethnic not for racial reconciliation, to conform to some cultural quota or to reflect the neighborhood. Churches should become multi-ethnic so that the church may fulfill Christ’s prayer in John 17 that we may all be one (p. xxviii). This philosophy is one I can respect greatly because it does not demonize one group or victimizes another. Instead, DeYmaz posits that “separate but equal” does not always mean “separate but unified.”
Part one focused on the Biblical model of multi-ethnic churches. It begins with John 17 and Jesus’ prayer that as God is one the apostles and the church may be one (ch. 1). The reason for this is so the world will see God through it. Next, he studies the first multi-cultural church of the Bible, Antioch (ch. 2). Here both Jews and Gentiles worked together in leadership roles. Since the church in Antioch was a multi-cultural church in a multi-cultural city, it grew in leaps and bounds. Chapter three describes Paul’s use of the word ‘mystery’ to describe the gospel. As one of the few apostles which understood the true nature of the gospel for both Jew and Gentile, Paul uses this word not only to describe Jesus’ resurrection but also that his resurrection meant all people of the world can be his people. This ‘mystery’ eluded even the apostle Peter (see Gal. 2).
The next seven chapters focus on individual characteristics of multi-ethnic churches. Chapter four (Embrace Dependence) encourages church planters to rely on the Holy Spirit and fellow Christians to begin the major transformation to or creation of a multi-ethnic church. This advice is important to all Christians, especially change agents.
The second principle, take intentional steps (ch. 5), provides an interesting observation that most people wish for other ethnicities to join their church but are unwilling to do what it takes to see it through. This is a very strong critique and he gives a great challenge that a church must intentionally become open to other cultures and ethnicities.
Empowering diverse leadership (ch. 6) is a difficult task which is handled well by DeYmaz. Leaders from every ethnicity of the church should not be chosen on the basis of affirmative action. Leaders should be chosen because they are the best ones for the job; however, coupled with the previous principle, including other ethnicities must be intentional, that is, there must be a very good reason not to appoint a minority. This is not to discriminate against the majority culture but is to make sure that all qualified and gifted persons are used where they are gifted.
When separated from evil influences, all people crave relationships from those around them. Cross-cultural relationships (ch. 7) have double meaning for they add a new perspective to people’s lives. By developing these types of relationships people from other ethnicities will feel comfortable around the members of the church.
Each church, each church leader and each church member should develop cultural competence, that is, the ability to adapt and feel comfortable in uncomfortable settings (ch. 8). Simply wishing to understand a different culture is not the same as being comfortable alongside them.
In the chapter on promoting a spirit of inclusion (9) DeYmaz begins to show his church-centric limitation. The entire chapter is focused on making Sunday worship more culturally-sensitive for other cultures. Although this is important, the spirit of inclusion begins the moment Christians meet non-Christians and the worship setting is only a small part of feeling included.
Mobilize for Impact (ch. 10) shows this bias directly. The focus is on the church as a collective going out and doing good things to bless the city, teach the gospel and encourage each other. This should be done by all Christians and not simply churches attempting to be multi-ethnic.
Part three ends with three different settings and how becoming a multi-ethnic church will be different in each: new church plants (ch. 11 by DeYmaz), revitalizing an existing church (ch. 12 by Rodney Woo of Wilcrest Baptist Church in Houston) and transforming a homogenous church (ch. 13 by Kim Greenwood of Village Baptist Church in Beaverton, OR). All three include the same principles stated in different words as the setting dictates. It adds very little to the overall scope of the book except to present two new case studies of the same nature as Mosaic.
Overall I found this book to be refreshing (though not perfect) in its discussion of why churches often become homogenous groups though it remains trapped in a denomination-first model. DeYmaz’s entire experience is within established churches and Mosaic began with the hope of becoming an established church with a different flavor. This limits his outreach to ‘churched’ American citizens or immigrants interested in American culture. Because of this limitation, Building a Healthy Multi-ethnic Church spends much of its focus on making Sunday worship multi-culturally relevant. Because of this, his critique of McGavran’s People Movements misses the point entirely. McGavran wanted homogenous churches to create a groundswell of people wishing to become disciples of Christ, not comfortable churches. Although Christians should take DeYmaz’s principles to heart for the collective group, he should have focused more on how individual members of churches can reach out to people of different ethnicities. DeYmaz’s multi-ethnic church idea is very important for established churches in immigrant nations, but in the end falls somewhat flat in its inability to think outside the church (building) model.

DeYmaz, Mark, and Network Leadership. 2007. Building a healthy multi-ethnic church : mandate, commitments, and practices of a diverse congregation. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass/John Wiley.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Class Summary for Oct. 13

The most interesting part of today's class for me was the discussion on how community is defined not by physical space (where people are) but "social space" (not tied to where people are). Although this was true many years ago (think letters), social space has eclipsed physical space and is the most important aspect for younger generations. The interesting and challenging part of this is how to minister to groups of people which are amorphous and changing daily.
The second-most interesting part was the idea of planting churches in "natural social units" (to use a phrase used by Dr. McGavran). If a person's natural social unit is a sci-fi fan base, how does the gospel go into that area? (See my previous book report on Dr. McGavran's book Bridges of God for a possible answer to this question.) These are fascinating questions which can and should be addressed by churches all over the world.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Class Summary for Oct. 6

The class today focused on mission in postmodernity. Being a member of a group from the Restoration movement of the early 1800s, I find their ideas refreshing. Where the beginning of the Restoration Movement was similar to Hezekiah (2 Kings 18-20; 2 Chronicles 29-32), I liken these concepts to the age of Josiah (2 Kings 22:1-23:28; 2 Chronicles 34-35). The church in postmodernity asks questions about traditions and mindsets which are more ingrained into the church than what the Restorationists asked. The idea of a holistic gospel focusing on building a discipling community and allowing for organizational chaos appeals to me. They are on the Restorationist track and go further than we have gone in the past.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Book Review 1: The Bridges of God by Donald McGavran

For my first Church Planting book review, I read Donald McGavran’s book The Bridges of God.

Donald McGavran grew up in India and worked there for 30 years as a missionary. Upon coming home, he began a school in Oregon dedicated to the study of missions. In 1965, he establish the School of World Mission (now the School of Intercultural Studies) at Fuller Theological Seminary. His is best known for his approach to missions called the “Church Growth Movement.”

The major thesis of The Bridges of God is given by McGavran himself, “The era has come when Christian Missions should hold lightly all mission station work, which cannot be proved to nurture growing churches, and should support the Christward movements within Peoples as long as they continue to grow at the rate of 50 per cent per decade or more” (109).

The major problem McGavran sees with the “Mission Station Approach” is that churches near these stations have grown stagnate. The solution to this problem is not to redouble our current (to 1955) efforts, but to learn how people groups are converted to Christianity and adapt to those strategies to create “People Movements” – large numbers of people in a certain tribe, race or community becoming disciples of Jesus.

The most glaring problem is that Westerners often have an ignorance of group dynamics in conversion. Western society stresses individual spirituality in Christianity which produce churches made of individual Christians. In group-based societies becoming a Christian may ostracize the Christian from his/her people group unless the group is converted as a whole.

McGavran sees mission work in Acts as people building “bridges” between Christians in Jerusalem and their family and friends in other cities to convert entire families in preparation for the gospel. Paul’s mission journeys were not to convert random people far away but to cross bridges built by Christians and create a vibrant, growing “People Movement.”

This concept is extremely important to Christian missions today. Missionaries must rely on native Christians to direct their work since they have built the best bridges to their friends and family. This concept has been expanded by David Garrison (Church Planting Movements, 2004) by encouraging missionaries to allow native Christians to not only build bridges but to disciple as well.

Overall, the book is meant to be read by mission organizations and church organizations with hopes of reviewing and re-appropriating their workers and money. This is the dated part of the entire book. His major view is that foreign missionaries should continue to live and work with the people (and grow as the group grows) until the church has reached maximum potential. This attitude continues Western hegemony over mission works instead of focusing on turning over all the work to the people. However, the first half of the book is very interesting and worth reading.

McGavran, Donald A. 1955. The bridges of God; a study in the strategy of missions. New York: Distributed by Friendship Press. (Reprinted 2005 by Wipf & Stock)