They like the Church but not Jesus

There’s a fantastic post at “Letters from Kamp Krusty“. Brant Hansen is a Christian radio host in the states, and as such has some fantastic insights on Christian culture. But I think he’s peaked with his latest post:

“I know you think I may be exaggerating. I’m not. Not in the least. Today, I read where Jesus told us that when we’re praying, we shouldn’t babble on “like the pagans do”.

I got three very Christian emails of protest, citing scripture to rebut Jesus.”

via Letters from Kamp Krusty: Can Jesus and Christian Radio Co-Exist?.

It’s the same point that (if I’ve read the blurb correctly) Hirsch and Frost are getting at in their latest book (which I’ll read really soon): ReJesus. We’re really quite OK with Christianity as we’ve fashioned it over the years, and as such can’t afford to have Jesus’ words get in the way.

They don’t like it.  I’m serious.  “You know, all the commandments can be summed up with love the Lord your God with all your heart, and mind, and soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.  Jesus said that, and…”

Ringing phones.   “Hello?”

“You forgot one:  Evangelize.”

Jesus stands corrected.


“Well, it’s not quite that simple, you see, because…”

No, no.  It can’t be that simple.  Not here.

Theology is a beautiful thing. As is church tradition. But we’ve got to be able to see the times when we’re wanting to use scripture to contradict Jesus.

(Aside – Brant’s review of U2’s new album is spot on the money. If I was funnier, I’d have written it).


Jonathan Brink put out the call for a synchroblog on leadership, to coincide with the Federal election over in the US. Given that I’m not exactly in that context, I thought that I’d ignore the context to a certain degree, and just take the opportunity to spew out some thoughts on what leadership starts looking like in the post-modern missionary context.

For starters, I think that it’s fair to say that the church model of having one person or a small group of people, authoritatively setting the agenda for “what we do” and “how we do it” is headed for obsolescence. It’s not a match with the relationally-centered, cynical post-modern mindset. The post-modern mind tends to be deeply skeptical of single points of truth, believing that every person has a bias, each is sub-consciously effected by the sliver of the world that they live in, and will only start to believe what they are being told when they feel they understand where some of those preferences and biases have come from.

So the easiest solution naturally seems to be to reject the concept of leaders and leadership, and instead opt for some kind of mob rule. But of course, this is completely unsustainable. Communities gather and grow together because they share something, whether that is a shared interest, a shared need, or shared goals. Without leadership, community either becomes a hostage of the loudest voices or else it loses all sense of purpose. There will always be leadership in churches and communities: an absence of leadership gets filled – just not always positively.

What then, does good leadership look like in the context of a relational, participatory community necessary to take seriously the post-modern culture we are hurtling towards? The role of the leader must become about building a community who are clear on “Who we want to be” a long way before being defined by “what we do”. And that must be a consistent and clear message – it’s first and foremost about how you act, how you lead your own life, how you interact and the priorities you have in your own life that has the opportunity to lead others.

And that’s the scariest part. A culture that has rejected positional authority as a barometer for reliability, will not believe leaders whose message they cannot see. Though the church has been frightened of post-modernity, we could discover that post-modernity will force the church to rediscover the need to incarnate the message we preach, if we are to survive at all.


This post is part of a Synchroblog on Leadership.  The following blogs took part in the experiment:

Jonathan Brink – Letter To The President

Adam Gonnerman – Aspiring to the Episcopate

Kai – Leadership – Is Servant Leadership a Broken Model?

Sally Coleman – In the world but not of it- servant leadership for the 21st Century Church

Alan Knox – Submission is given not taken

Joe Miller – Elders Lead a Healthy Family: The Future

Cobus van Wyngaard – Empowering leadership

Steve Hayes – Servant leadership

Geoff Matheson – Leadership

John Smulo – Australian Leadership Lessons

Helen Mildenhall – Leadership

Tyler Savage – Moral Leadership – Is it what we need?

Bryan Riley – Leading is to Listen and Obey

Susan Barnes – Give someone else a turn!

Liz Dyer – A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Polls…

Lionel Woods – Why Diverse Leadership is Good for America

Julie Clawson – Leadership Expectations

Ellen Haroutunian – A New Kind Of Leadership

Matt Stone – Converting Leadership

Steve Bradley – Lording or Leading?

Adam Myers – Two types of Leadership

Bethany Stedman – A Leadership Mosaic

Kathy Escobar – I’m Pretty Sure This Book Won’t Make It On The Bestseller List

Fuzzy Orthodoxy – Self Leadership

Sonja Andrews – Leadership In An Age of Cholera

Tara Hull – Leadership & Being A Single Mom

Glen Hager – Election Day Ponderings On Leadership

Beth Patterson – Leadership:Being The River

Bill Ellis – Spiritual Leadership And The Rehumanizing Of Our World

Liz Dyer – A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Polls

Rumblings of something new

In the White House Situation Room, Leo McGarry...
Jed Bartlet and Leo McGarry from "The West Wing" - Image via Wikipedia

It’s been quite a while since I’ve put together a stream-of-consciousness post, and this is one of those.

I’m restless.

Not an annoyed type of restless, because I’m not really angry at anything, nor is it the same kind of restlessness of a kid on Christmas morning, just aching to open their presents. Instead, this is more like a kid on a really good theme park ride, going through a bit of a lull and hanging out for whatever is going to happen next.

And like that kid, I have no idea what it is that’s coming. I’ve got some thoughts, some hopes and dreams maybe even, and a deep gut instinct that something new is getting ready to be born, but there’s still no genuine indication as to what that actually might be. I’ve spoken about church planting before, and about wanting to rethink how church happens, and that’s certainly the arena that I’m hoping and believing it’s going to be in, but I still can’t get any kind of a hold on what that’s going to look like.

A couple of nights ago, Bec and I watched an episode of “The West Wing” – called “Let Bartlet be Bartlet“. The vast majority of the (first) season up until this point had been about the compromises that the president’s administration had been consistently making, to keep everyone happy. And throughout the episode, the frustration of believing one set of things, and not acting on those beliefs is proving too much for the White House staff. The whole episode eventually raises to the crescendo, where the President is pulled aside by Leo McGarry – his chief of staff and Bartlet is challenged to start acting on his beliefs.

And that’s how I feel (in some respects). It feels like there are a bunch of things that I’ve been discussing, and thinking about with respect to church stuff, and that it can’t last much longer before the dam will burst – else I’ll be stuck in this cycle of inaction perpetually. There are so many things left to happen, people to  join up with, before anything could possibly “get started”, but there’s just that feeling deep down that God is pushing some of this stuff up to the surface.

What next? Like my metaphorical child on the theme park ride – I don’t know. But it’s an exciting prospect.

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Dan Wilt on why we can’t give up on the institution

Dorothy has seen the wizard, and she has 4 possible choices:

1. Run away, completely. (the faithleaver)

2. Run away, but stay in the orbit of the idea. (the runningprophet)

3. Stand still, and do nothing. (the silentbystander)

4. Run to the wizard, see yourself as part of the “we,” and help fix a gift that could be beautiful once again (the hopegiver)

I’ve come to believe that God is not afraid of historical process nor human process; we however, are deeply suspect of both.

Over the course of thousands of years, the containers have been many, and have often shaped the content of our beliefs as the Church. Guilt by association can follow, and a desire to distance ourselves rises to the surface in the face of the inadequacies marring the landscape of an otherwise helpful scene.

Frank, you’ve chosen the path of 2., and I wish you all the best. Tell us who we are, who the world sees us to be. But for the love of all things holy, allow the Church to be human, and to move through time and culture as sojourners.

I however, choose the path of 4. I see the whole shebang as the “we,” and I’ll work within as long as I have breath.

Response To Frank Viola On “Why I Left The Institutional Church” on The OOZE  ::

I started reading Frank Viola’s “Pagan Christianity” – and got most of the way through it before I decided that I couldn’t keep reading. Everything he said was well researched, thought out and for the most part accurate. But it felt like I was just beating up my best friend, with his hands tied and a blindfold over his eyes. Reformation needs to stem from love.

Clean Up Australia Day

The church got out and involved in Clean Up Australia day on Sunday, and I was struck with just what a positive thing it is to be out there and doing this stuff. Seems to me that it’s times like those when you’re out getting involved in “doin’ the stuff”, that this whole community thing just falls into line. And it’s got to be a good thing to be out there and making a difference to the environment. Especially if it’s not just a jump-on-the-bandwagon thing.

Anyway – we got some good results 😛


Before Clean Up Australia Day


After Clean Up Australia Day

Sorting stuff out

I’m re-reading “The Shaping Of Things To Come” (Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost) for an essay for Tabor, and found this little gem of a model for sorting through what you keep and what you throw away in re-imagining church models:

Sphere of Authority Description Degree of Flexibility
Christ’s Commands
(The Core)
Jesus is our ultimate authority. His commands are unquestioned. No adaptation possible, non-negotiable
Biblical Principles
The Substance
These are cross-cultural principles drawn from biblical teaching The essence is unchanging. Adapt only to maintain dynamic equivalent
Apostolic Patterns(The Application) Behaviour, practices, lifestyles of the first century church Interpret or contextualize to fit the culture
Church Practices
(The Expression)
Established ways of thinking about and doing church Fully adaptable and flexible to the culture

I loved it: I would be intrigued to hear anyone able to disagree with that as a way of thinking about church, I think it’s about as solid a framework as I’ve heard.

Diversity and the emerging church movement

Had a thoroughly interesting “Discipleship Training Night” this evening – mostly because it was a chance to engage in discussion around church planting, which brings me back to life every time. Pete (senior pastor for at least another week or two) was talking through where his mind is to do with the whole emerging/missional type movement, which is always very interesting to hear. Lots of the push is to build churches around specific people groups.

Which brings up the difficulty of building a church that loses the sense of family, and the diversity which is really quite necessary for discipling and growing – I believe. For instance, as we’re growing our youthy types – I want them to be in relationship with some young 20s types, but also with some 30 year olds, and some 40 pluses. I think unless you get an opportunity to see what the christian life looks like in that context, you end up missing lots of what the whole deal is about.

But these are turning into ramblings, and I really should just go to sleep. Thanks for putting up with my rants 😛