Archive for November, 2011
With the swearing in of the new Greek Prime Minister this past week, I heard multiple news pundits share that it was really strange to see such a strong religious aspect accompany a seemingly secular event. Many references were made to separation of church and state–yes, our separation of church and state. Some personalities seemed to imply that our less religious political transfers of power should be more of the norm for other western, developed countries. The commentary was often laden with ethnocentrism mixed with disbelief that others could be so different. Disbelief that others could be so elementary or even so wrong.
Just because there are religious leaders all over the place does not make Greece or other declared Orthodox countries super-religious. This is not too different for Catholic countries as well, but one peculiarity of Orthodoxy is the nationalism that it reinforces and generates. Without a centralized Pope, many Orthodox countries have their own Patriarch. There has been a multi-century symbiotic relationship between the state and the church in these lands which I would contend continues to this day. The state has relied on the church to confirm its voice or authority as the one designated by God to lead the people. As for those of the cloth, the church has relied on the state to keep its head and shoulders connected. Whether this is actually execution, state funding, and/or unique, favorable legislation, the mode changes, but the outcome is very similar. In addition to the nationalism that this codependent relationship fosters, it also often leads to a secularization of society. Everyone is aware that there are charades afoot and all are willing and expecting to play along. Once the ceremonies are over, however, all can return to normal.
So, methinks, maybe a little less ethnocentric worldview would be good in general and especially so for the sent ones. Also, methinks that there is much to learn about how another people think, worship, live, etc. Understanding culture is a never-ending incremental process that we would do well to embrace if we are to be the ones to announce and demonstrate in contextually appropriate ways that indeed, our God does reign.
There is a percolating discussion on the blogosphere about the mission of the church with the release and subsequent reviews of What is the Mission of the Church? by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert. I first learned about this from my compadres at UC and then this morning saw a pretty exhaustive list of those critiquing the book on Stetzer’s blog.
I wanted to add my 2 cents to the conversation. First, let me state the obligatory disclaimer that I have not read the book. So now for my critique…just kidding.
Second, I have decided that these discussions make me tired. Not because they are unimportant, on the contrary I think they are very important. Thinking through why these discussions make me tired, I thought maybe it was because the debate wasn’t done over a cup of coffee. Then I dismissed this as I took a sip of my coffee and still didn’t feel the conversation to be any brighter. Then I realized it tires me because it is not done with visible eyeballs. There is something about sitting around the table or campfire or wherever and drinking a cup of coffee or tea or whatever and talking about how these things impact our lives. So, carry on the discussion, I just wish it could happen with some of my buddies where theological discussions happen best: in person, in community.
Still, I do have something I would like to offer to the conversation. Here’s a clip with Frost’s take on the purpose of the church. This seems important as Gombis states that he is “not sure that the authors are familiar with the viewpoints of missional Christians.” Consider this guy as one of the voices among the missional tribe(s).
Our call is to make disciples. He builds His church.
Often it seems we give ourselves wholly to building our church and trusting her to make His disciples.
The economic landscape of America is changing rapidly at present and it is having and will have significant ramifications for the western church. We would do well to be aware of the trends and be thinking about not only the impact current economic developments will have on the church, but more importantly, the impact the church will have on a hobbled economy–at least those participating in the economy.
One of the most disturbing trends at the lower socioeconomic strata in the U.S. is the huge number of people on food stamps. With a 74% increase since 2007 and the current number of people participating in the program is some 15% of the population. (ht) While this puts a strain on government coffers–not the topic of this blog–there is growing concern that these food stamps will contribute less and less to the daily needs of recipients due to growing inflation–especially in the key “core inflation” category.
Another troubling trend is the foreclosure issue that has been an albatross for the U.S. since 2008. This key factor continues to be a drag on the whole of the economy with some signs of an uptick in foreclosures on the way.
A third issue to address quickly is the massive concerns surrounding the developed world right now–specifically in Europe. With Greece being an ongoing concern, Italy is now moving to the forefront of the economic discussion. The concerns for Italy make it look like a whale in comparison to Greece being a minnow. Many are referring to Italy as “too big to fail, but too big to save.” If Italy, or Greece, or Spain, or Portugal were to succumb to the debt pressures facing them and not be able to finance their debt, the ramifications are significant, but unknown.
So what does the church do? Well this is not intended to be a doom and gloom view, but it seems essential that we are aware of the macro and micro issues that impact both existing and would-be disciples. The combination of the above factors and others should impact how we minister, allocate resources, live on mission in our local and global context, etc. More on this in the future, but for now I will link back to a series of posts on things the church would do well to consider.
Also, here’s a first-hand account of one living in poverty and the food-stamp system.