What an amazing interview (the one about the Plumbers was being shown). Sure beat watching my Denver Broncos get blown out by the Indianapolis Colts (hard not to cheer for Tony Dungy and Peyton Manning though). I was amazed to hear what Nixon admitted to (using the IRS, wiretapping of political enemies, and all sorts of dirty tricks) and his candor about his own self. It makes me want to read a really good Nixon biography. Any readers have any suggestions? I wish those interviews were on DVD. Nixon was fascinating to listen to. At times I thought he was lying while at others he seemed remarkably transparent. Fascinating television.
This is a rough draft of a review I am doing about The Search to Belong: Rethinking Intimacy, Community, and Small Groups that will be posted over at TheOoze along with an interview with Joe. The book is excellent so I am letting you in on it early. Enjoy…
I have been looking forward to reading Joe Myers’ book, The Search to Belong: Rethinking Intimacy, Community, and Small Groups for some time before it was released and I finally got my hands on it at Soularize. After a small hotel fire, a night sleeping at Logan International Airport, and a series of packing mistakes, I ended up checking it with my luggage and putting the book I had read twice in my carry-on for the flight home. After landing in Saskatoon, I finally pulled it out and read it.
Right away the book spoke to me. I worked in a “church of small groups” in the past and part of a denomination that is clear about the importance of small groups as part of every church’s Natural Church Development program. (From NCD: Our research in growing in declining churches all over the world has shown that continuous multiplication of small groups is a universal church growth principle – page 32 of Natural Church Development: A Guide to Eight Essential Qualities of Healthy Churches).
Despite being indoctrinated in the philosophy of small groups, I have never enjoyed my small group experiences and always felt guilty because of it. If a pastor doesn’t like small groups, how will the church value small groups? Or so went my thingking. It wasn’t just my own experience in small groups; I have always been uncomfortable when churches make a commodity out of my relationships and community. After reading The Search to Belong, it started to make a lot more sense to me about why I am uncomfortable in certain situations and why so many churches struggle to get the buy in they want for their small groups programs.
The book just isn’t about the church. It is about how I interact with different people in different contexts. Over the last couple of years I have had people I just could not connect with. Quite a few times while reading the book, I have said to Wendy, “this explains a lot about my relationship with this person.” As a pastor the book helped me understand the big picture and as a person who has struggled in some relationships in my life, it opened my eyes to what was happening and in many cases, what I was doing wrong.
Selected Insights from The Search to Belong
Common Myths of Belonging
More time = more belonging :: The first myth is that the greater amount of time spent in relationship with another person, the more authentic the community will be. This is a pervasive myth. In reality, time has little to do with a person’s ability to experience significant belonging. Many people tell stories of first time, episodic introductions from which a spontaneous connection emerges. (p. 11)
Belonging is not controlled by time, and time by itself does not develop belonging. (p. 12)
More commitment = more belonging :: A relationship that involves commitment does not necessarily promote a greater experience of belonging. A married couple may feel very committed to their relationship, yet still feel the strain of “not belonging to each other”. Every month I am reminded of commitment to my financial responsibilities, yet I never experience belonging because of those commitments. (p. 12)
To experience healthy community we need significant relationships. “Significant” is not the same as “close” or “committed.” (p.13)
More purpose = more belonging :: …Groups were started to help people with their search for community, and the first order of business was to write a statement of purpose. After all, people who strive toward a common goal connect, right? We even changed our language. We no longer asked people to attend committee meetings. They were no part of a team. And this simple change was all in the hope of helping people connect in significant ways.
Although many positive accomplishments sprung from this newly focused approach, in reality this strategy has little connection with the community experience. Sometimes people who have a common passion and purpose do connect. But a common purpose or vision or goal does not guarantee that people will connect. (p.13-16)
More personality = more belonging :: Many people believe that some have a natural ability to belong. They assume that if a person is more gregarious, more extroverted, he or she will have little trouble experiencing community, whereas those who are shy will struggle to belong. (p. 17)
More proximity = more belonging (p.17)
More small groups = more belonging … Almost every book I read on a successful church touts small groups as the key. But I have read that churches that provide small group opportunities can expect about a 30 percent involvement from the congregation. Why only 30 percent? Because small groups do not accomplish the promise of fulfilling all facets of a person’s search for community. Small groups deliver on one or two specific kinds of connection. (p. 18)
Most of us have always believed that a person could “belong” as long as their definition of belonging agreed with ours. Most of us have been raised on a healthy dose of believing before belonging. For others to belong, to “join the club,” it was a prerequisite that the person subscribe to our belief system. (p. 19)
[Edwin T. Hall] concluded that there are four spaces that we use to develop personalities, culture, and communication. Those spaces are: public, social, personal, and intimate… “Could this mean that belonging is multidimensional? Might people belong to us on different levels?” (p. 20)
Belonging happens when you identify with another entity-a person or organization, or perhaps a species, culture, or ethnic group. Belonging needs not be reciprocal. You can feel a sense of belonging-and in fact, can belong-without the other party’s knowledge or sharing the experience. (p. 25)
There are many who consider themselves part of the community of faith until they are confronted by someone that tells them otherwise. Our culture wonders-with some confusion-“Why don’t I belong?” And if there is one place that can welcome them with open arms, it is the church. In Jesus’ story of the prodigal, the father welcomes his boy home be redefining what it means to belong to the family. Perhaps our definitions ought likewise to broaden. (p. 25)
Tim grew up on the family farm, was the only one of the children to remain, and now owns the land and the buildings that represent so much of his life. His siblings are scattered around the world. Over the holidays the family returned, and Tim took a walk down the lane with his older sister, Pam. Their talk turned to reminiscing about old times an the journeys their lives had taken. Pam had travelled; Tim had not. Pam and her husband had shared several adventures. Tim had stayed at home.
Tim expressed the feeling that his life had been a series of safe decisions. Pam was surprised. “But you take risks,” she insisted.
“Don’t you worry about the crops? You plant and then pray that the right amount of rain will come and at the right time. Doesn’t that worry you?”
“Oh, no,” Tim answered quickly, “I don’t worry about that.”
Sensing he was not telling her everything, she probed. “What do you worry about?”
“I worry about being alone.”
Being alone. That was something that never concerned most farmers of the past. The family stayed home. As life progressed, no one ever thought about being alone. The kids were given plots “on the back forty” to build a home and raise a family. When mom and dad could no longer work, the boys took over and cared for the land and the old folks as well.
Not so today. And this cultural shift is a major factor in our struggle to belong. People are trying to find their place in this world for the “back forty,” for a place to belong. They are searching for family. (p. 26)
People crave connection, not contracts. They want to participate in our rituals, even though they may not yet fully understand their meaning. They see a kaleidoscope of possibilities for belonging. But our language struggles to fully express this spectrum of possibilities. (p. 27)
The question, “Who is my neighbour?” guides the church to its fundamental calling. And defining “neighbourhood” has been one of the primary tasks for the church throughout its history. And in this postmodern, post-evangelical blip in time, we still struggle to guide people toward a healthy experience of community and belonging. (p. 30)
Some theorists suggest it is impossible to make significant connection in public spaces. Don’t tell these people that. Their connections burrow deep. I doubt that they visit each others homes or get together outside of the bingo hall, yet they care for one another-all in public space. They may not know each other’s names, but they are not strangers. They are family. (p. 41)
I am a member in good standing of the Grand Old Party. Yet the only indication that I am a Republican is that I show up and vote. I do not stuff envelopes or attend party events. I do not ask others to contribute money. I have never campaigned for office. I belong to the party only in public space.
The party accepts this fact. They never suggest that if I really want to belong I will need to become more committed. They never hint that if I were to come closer to the organization I would be a more authentic Republican. They validate my space of belonging.
In the 2000 presidential election, Florida could not tell immediately who would receive the electoral vote. During the controversy, I (and other public belongers to both parties) became more involved. When the family is in trouble, those accepted as family come to the family’s-or party’s-aid. (p. 41)
Public Belongers Are Committed and Participate. We tend to validate only those ways in which we want people to participate. In truth, people participate in many ways.
I mentioned the Hoosiers earlier. I am a huge Indiana University men’s basketball fan. I belong to the team publicly. To them I may be nameless, but I am not a stranger. I’ve adjusted my schedule to see games, both in person and on TV. I buy a special cable package to see games not broadcast on regular TV or standard cable. I wear official IU garb. I am not hesitant about praising or arguing in favor of the team. I am a committed public belonger.
It is simply not true that people who belong only in public space are “on the fringe.” Nor is it true that we somehow need to get them to move “closer” to get them to be committed.”
Were we to validate that space people inhabit–whichever of the four spaces it may be–we will find countless people who are actively committed into the shadows or written off entirely.
Public spatial belonging is not about anonymity. And anonymity has little to do with commitment. People can–and do–experience connectedness at different levels, and when they feel connected, they explore the possibilities of significant, committed participation.
Consider Jesus’ encounter with the soldier, a centurion in the Roman army of occupation.
When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralysed and in terrible suffering.”
Jesus said to him, “I will go and heal him.”
The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that very hour.
Jesus is a master of permitting people to belong to him in all four spaces. He offered to come to the centurion’s home. Why didn’t the centurion want Jesus to come? He had his reasons. Matthew says he felt he did not deserve it. Luke says the centurion did not consider himself worthy.
Whatever the reason, Jesus accepted the centurion’s statement; he did not insist on coming closer. He allowed this centurion to be a part of the “family” in public space. The centurion did not want to be intimate with Jesus. The centurion was not after a personal or a social relationship. He needed Jesus to accept him in a public space and yet help in a significant way. Jesus honoured that request.
True community can be experienced in a public space. Public space is not mere togetherness:, it is connectedness. It is family. An essential key to developing community is the maturing of our competencies to growing significant, committed public belongings.
What would this look like in our congregations? Can we be comfortable with people belonging to Jesus and the church in public space? Can we give the help, home, and home in the space where they choose to belong? Without pushing them to come closer? – (p. 43-44)
In many ways, social belonging is the “small talk” of our relationships. We denigrate social belonging as superficial. We surmise that nothing significant takes place in social relationships.
If you don’t think much of small talk, try living without it for a while. One of the chief complaints of those in so-called commuter relationships is the inability to discuss the inane. One commuter wife observed that “you have a lot of immediate impressions and little jokes and observations that you can’t save for a week. You can’t reconstruct that kind of trivia in an effective way. I find the loss of that material really annoying.” Another geographically displaced wife lamented lost opportunities “to share in everyday things like ‘What did you have for lunch today?'”
Take away social relationships and our community conversation becomes flat, lacking a spontaneous connection to the entirety of our relationships. (p. 45-46)
Kennon Callahan suggests that the “search for community is the search for roots, places, and belonging. It is the search for sharing and caring, for family and friends.” Not everyone wants his or her “place” to be an intimate one. Nor is that even possible. Annoucning programs that promise intimacy to every person within reach creates unrealistic expectations. Worse, it actually pushes those who are no read for such relationships farther away. (p. 52)
Who started this theory of “building community through small group” thing anyway? I would like to find them and wring their neck.
I was given the responsibility to start and run small groups in our church after my senior pastor returned from a conference where he was told, “If you want to grow, you need small groups.” What kind of foundation is that for pushing people into another once-a-week meeting? (p. 61)
Why do we promote small groups as the most significant way to build community and congregation? Why have the become a fad of our time? Why do we lead our congregants to believe that small groups deliver the community they seek?
Some congregaigtons went to small groups hoping to increase attendance. Remember the felt-need small groups? “If we can just get them into the building, maybe some of them will stay” was the pervasive thought. Others started small groups in order to grow people into “fully devoted followers of Christ,” whatever that means.
Reasons for starting small groups usually included the words “to grow community” or “to help people belong.” Have you ever said, “We have small groups because as the congregation grows larger we must grow smaller?”
Unwittingly we have promoted two exclusive environments of belonging-large (public) and small (intimate). This does not lead healthy belonging. (p. 62)
The secret is to see all connections as significant. All of these spaces are important, real, and authentic ins people’s lives. We need to validate what people themselves count as valid. When we validate the space where they are, we greatly increase our ability to bring help to their lives. (p. 63)
So often our small group models encourage forced belonging. We surmise that putting people into groups will alleviate the emptiness so prevalent in our fast paced culture. (p. 68)
The very agenda of a typical small group gathering may be its demise. Participants become confused as to what space they are to belong in… The level of information becomes personal. Those in the room move mentally into a personal space. Some experienced belonging. Others wish for another round of finger food.
Sometimes we encourage the group to become even more “intimate”. We try to get everyone to grow “closer”. However there usually too many people gathered for the group to become intimate. On the rare occasion when this happens, some-if not most-describe the experience as “going too far” as they travel home in the cars. (p. 69)
We assume that we grow and lead people. The truth is that often we are merely growing and leading ourselves. As Kennon Callahan so aptly states, “only you can grow you.” In the same way, only you can lead you.
It is time to give up the intoxicating need to control other people’s lives. It is time to start leading our own lives in healthy ways. People need us to help in healthy ways, not controlling ways. This is the “holy grail” for which people are searching in the promise of belonging. They want help in healthy ways, they want to connect in healthy ways, and they want to experience family in healthy ways. (p. 74)
We shape environments, as opposed to creating groups. When the environment is healthy, people will find connection on their own and form groups spontaneously. This approach gives freedom to individuals, because people will experience belonging and a sense that this helps them with their life. It also helps keep our controlling nature at bay.
Claire, a church secretary tells us,
When they call the office and asked to be placed in a small group we politely encourage them to gather with a few of their friends. This is the type of small group that we are finding helpful for people’s lives. Individuals are telling us that this spontaneity and self-organization has helped them find the relationships they have been searching for. We are no longer in control-and that’s a great feeling.
I have an idea. What if the congregation God has given you is all of those who experience a connection? Granting that this may be true, and realizing that we have no idea how many actually connect, what if we were to assume they are a part of us and give them an opportunity to “opt out” rather than to “opt in”? To put it another way, what if we were to assume that they everyone who is in some way connected to our congregation belongs until they specifically indicate they do not?
“We do that already,” you may say. “If they do not come to our weekend worship or participate in some way, they have opted out.” Yet, as we have seen, people can connect in ways other than coming to “our place.” What would change if we treated everyone as if they belonged? (p. 81)
Many belonged to Jesus in different spaces. The Bible mentions the multitudes, a room full, a crowd of seventy, twelve apostles, the inner circle of Peter, James, and John. All experienced community with Jesus.
What would this look like in our congregations and communities? Are we comfortable with people belonging to Jesus and the church in public or social space? Can we give them significant connections in whatever space they chose to belong without pushing them to come closer?
Jesus never forced strangers to become intimate. Instead he encouraged them to move from stranger to public belonger. “I was a stranger and you invited me in,” does not imply intimate. The stranger is invited in, to belong publicly (p. 112)
When I want to get together with friends, I don’t invite them over. We go to a neutral place-a median place. These spaces provide the space between public and intimate. They provide the space for “personal and community” discussions. They provide front porch. (p. 129)
The cultural trend to seek out front porch is evident in the phenomenon of “church shopping.” For several years, we have credited consumerism with birthing the trend for people to “shop” for a church that offers a buffet of choices to meet their many needs. We have observed that many individuals jumping denominational lines. We attributed these evils to the consumer mentality of our time. Yet I am not convinced that this is at the heart of people’s search.
There may be several fundamental life searches, but the search to consume is not among them. People consume in an effort to fulfill a search. For example, a person may purchase a new outfit to help with their search for identity and individuality. At the same time another may make the same purchase to quench a desire to fit in, which helps with their search to belong. People do not consume just to consume.
What I believe may be happening is that people are dating our congregations. They are looking for communities where they can become part of the family. You do not shop for family. You date to find family. (p.130)
Much of the Search to Belong is based on the work of Edward T. Hall. Hall identified four types of social space: public, social, personal, and intimate. Building on Hall’s research on the four spaces, Myers suggests that far too much time and energy has been directed on promoting intimate space as the ideal. Churches and organizations need to stop equating intimacy with significance and more efforts need to spent appreciating the value of public space, and promoting opportunities for social and personal space.
This runs counter to the conventional wisdom of most churches which see small groups as the way to church growth and a solution that is right for everyone in the church.
In the end Search to Belong blows away conventional thinking about small groups and places where discipleship happens in many churches. It isn’t about coming up with better icebreakers, different approaches to coax out answers to quiet people, and how to have small groups divide. It is about better understanding how other people and ourselves interact with each other and what we are looking for.
The book is one of those books that asks a lot more questions than it does answers but I am glad someone is. I was suprised how many assumptions of mine the book exposed and kicked around for a little bit, leaving them rattling around until I spend some time thinking more through them. In the end, I think that will determine whether this book speaks to you. If you are looking for a programmed and all encompasing magic bullet to solve your church’s issues for community, you will be disappointed. If you are looking at a book that will expand your mind and equip you to dialogue and ask hard questions about small groups, community, and discipleship, the book is a great resource and travelling companion on a journey more of us need to take.
It did raise some questions for me. For so long I have been taught the concentric circles of Rick Warren and the process of moving people from community to core. Conventional church growth tactics extoll the value of the high committment church. Committment and effective community seemed to go hand in hand. Even the language that we use is the language of movement to descibe discipleship. To move from that to affirming people where they are, is a big jump for some. How will the church grow if the people don’t move forward? It requires a whole new and less controlling way to thinking about church life.
The book isn’t for all people. I know lots that don’t care at all about the relationships around them and the enviroment they
create poison that probably won’t even crack the cover. Other people like managers, team leaders, and pastors who interacting with people is a vital part of their jobs, will want to read it. Pastors will want to spend some serious time going over the content in this book and then taking some time to walk through it with other people who help create and make up the community in their churches. It does go against much of what we have been taught in church growth circles so reading it and really engaging with the ideas will take some courage but it is time worth spending.
Joseph R. Myers is a multipeneur, interventionist, thinker, speaker, writer, and conversationalist. He owns the consulting firm, FrontPorch, which helps churches, businesses, and other organizations promote and develop healthy community. He’s also founding partner–with his wife, Sara–of settingPace, a communications arts group based in Cinncinnati.
The deeper problem, Peterson said, is that two things that are basic to the Christian life run counter to the American ethos. First, the Christian life is not about us, but about God. It is not like giving ourselves a makeover. “We’re in on it, but we’re not the subject or the action,” Peterson said. Ever notice how in the Bible, we always come in after a preposition? God with us, in us, for us. In an individualistic, commercial culture, where the self is the center of everything, an autonomous agent of transformation, we have lost this grammar of shalom—what Peterson called “prepositional participation.”
The second principle of the Christian life that runs against the grain of American culture, Peterson said, is that the ways and means must be appropriate to the ends. “We can’t participate in God’s work if we insist on doing it our own way.” He cited two examples of “doing the right thing the wrong way”: congregation and Scripture. We consider both to be our matters, not God’s. Instead of forming communities that embody self-denial, sacrifice, and patience for God to become present in them, we form “consumer churches,” using commercial methods to attract people and cater to their wants. And rather than reading Scripture as a way of “listening to God revealing God,” we treat it as information for us to process to become more successful and enlightened people. In both cases, the ways and means—bowing to the gods of salesmanship and efficiency—are out of sync with the ends—forming a community of believers submitting to God’s work within them.
Dr. Grenz: Despite their critique of modernism, evangelicals seem to have grown quite comfortable in the modern world. Several factors have contributed to this. For example, many historians of evangelicalism point out that although its roots lie in the Reformation, the evangelical movement as we know it today was born in the early modern period and hence the evangelical vision of the faith developed in conversation with the Enlightenment milieu. Perhaps equally important is the fact that evangelical
apologists and theologians have been active in recent years carving out a place for Christianity in the modern world by showing that a person does not need to commit “intellectual suicide” (when judged against modern scientific categories) to be an evangelical Christian. In this process, many evangelicals committed themselves to a modernist notion of truth, namely, that truth is the correspondence of our assertions with reality “as it really is.”
Postmodernism, of course, calls this concept of truth into question. Evangelicals who have pinned their faith to the modernist understanding, that is, who view the faith as bolstered by or constructed on a rationalist apologetic, find this intellectual shift threatening. Unfortunately, they often caricature postmodernism in the process, such as by claiming that postmodernism entails the denial of truth. One debilitating problem with this approach is that it leads evangelicals to assume that they must convert postmoderns to modernism before they can bring them to Christ. This battle, I might suggest, was decided at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15.
Alan Jamieson, church minister and sociologist, is author of recently-published A Churchless Faith, which interviews over 100 church leavers to discover why it is that people are abandoning the pews.
Dr. Dixon is a noted futurist and global change guru (according to the WSJ). He talks about the post 9/11 world, cloning, and privacy. You can find it here.
This summer while in Regina to see Shackleton’s Antarctic Adventure on IMAX, we wandered into a Chapters to look at some books. Dr. Patrick Dixon’s book, Futurewise caught my eye and it turned out to be one of the better books I read this summer. He breaks the trends that will be upon us into the word F-U-T-U-R-E. Fast Urban Tribal Universal Radical Ethical. Dr. Dixon is considered one of the world’s leading futurists and the Wall Street Journal calls him a, “Global Change Guru”. After exploring his amazing website for hours, I interviewed him via e-mail. He answers provide much food for thought about both the present and the future world.
What is Global Change and who are some of your clients?
Global Change is an international trends consulting company which I founded in 1996. Our clients include Microsoft, IBM, Ford, Credit Suisse, Price Waterhouse Coopers, Sara Lee, Saks Inc, Roche, ExxonMobil. I work with senior executive teams of multinationals, helping them get ready for the future. Either we take hold of the future or the future will take hold of us. But I also work with Christian agencies and not-for-profits.
What long term impact do you see 9/11 as happening on the western world? We see certain political moves being made in the name of security, will a loosening of freedoms be a part of our future? If so, how much freedom will we lose? What do you see as the impact on the Islamic world?
This is an acutely sensitive issue, and whatever words I write here are likely to provoke strong reactions… So try to hear the heart of what I am saying…..9/11 impact will be long term and significant in one way yet almost irrelevant in another. On the one hand it was a deeply traumatic shock, and a wake-up call to the growing powers of small numbers of extremists in a media-dominated, globalised world. On the other hand, despite what you might believe from watching too much CNN, the patterns of daily life actually go on unchanged for most of 6 billion people – including almost all across America. Most of the impact has been and will be psychological. A positive of that is that many are asking deep questions about the meaning of their lives and are finding faith in Christ.
The greatest weapon of the terrorist is fear, and the greatest weapon against the terrorist is quiet resilience and courage to go on exactly as before. That’s why I did not change one single flying schedule. In the last 4 years my neighborhood has been bombed in London 3 times by the IRA. The local shopping district is still full of bombed out retail outlets from a blast two years ago. Yet life continues. The day after the blast we were all out there as usual. During the Second World War one in four of all homes in London were destroyed by terror bombing – much of it by missiles launched from other countries – yet life went on. It’s a very important lesson. Terror must not win. However, fighting terror also means a loss of some personal convenience and freedoms.
The trouble is that history shows so-called Wars Against Terror cannot be won in a conventional way, nor by aggressive policing, nor by intrusive intelligence gathering. Terror groups can be weakened but not wiped out, because so long as the conditions remain that encourage small numbers of activists to behave that way, new groups will form. And the more aggressive your anti-terror actions, the greater the recruitment to new terror groups can become, if the anti-terror actions are perceived by some as unjust. So truly effective action will always attack terror groups in every conventional way possible, while also looking to deal as compassionately and fully as possible with any underlying social or political situations that may become hot-beds of conflict, resentment, bitterness and violent activism in the future. For example, suppose slavery were still legal and black slaves belonging to terror groups were blowing themselves up in Shopping Malls every day across America and Europe in protest. Forces of law and order would react, and perhaps the cause of abolition of slavery would be put back a decade, with leaders denouncing the use of terror against innocent lives, and declaring that any moves to abolish slavery would simply reward terrorists. As Christians we have a moral responsibility to bring clear balance: speaking not only of justice in terms of law and order and civilisation, but also justice in terms of fighting oppression and obscene contrasts in wealth and privilege which are growing larger by the day. One day God will judge us all for how we responded to issues that would provoke angry words from Jesus if he were on earth now.
Regardless of whether or not Cloneaid is a hoax, you and others are calling 2003 the Year of the Clone. Are we too late to stop cloning or will we just drive it underground? Will this topic ever be dealt with. If yes, what will it look like when we have?
We are probably too late to prevent the birth of cloned babies – and indeed it may have happened already as many groups have been trying for a long time and their attempts are largely in secret, with the constant risk of tragic malformations and baby deaths. Cloning is already underground. The trouble is that despite public concerns most nations still have no laws against cloning babies and the laws in the US have huge holes in them, the same in countries like the UK. One problem is who you prosecute and for what? The creator of an embryo? Legal in the UK. The person who puts it in the womb? But the doctor and patient can slip out of the country for a few hours to do it. The person who assists the birth? We need clear global agreement that those who are involved in the process of cloning babies will be put in prison in every nation, without refuge. Laws won’t stop all cloning, just as laws don’t stop being being slain with guns, but without laws we sink into an abyss where criminals say there is no crime being committed and no action can be taken.
A major problem is an informal collusion between two types of human cloners: those who want to earn money from medical research, and those who want to earn money making babies. The first group consistently rubbish the second group as fantasists, frauds or incompetent (whoever they are), as part of a deliberate attempt to reassure governments that cloning babies is not unlikely to happen and all is well, don’t bother to legislate, don’t over-react. They are scared that cloning headlines will provoke public demands for tighter laws and medical research will be more difficult.
But you can’t have it both ways. A year ago UK human cloners campaigned to get Parliament to legalise the creation of cloned embryos for research: they claimed it was practical, realistic, and with huge medical potential. Now these very same people systematically attack the competence all groups around the world who claim to have used the identical process to make human cloned embryos as part of a baby production programme. The UK human cloners are now pretending that what they said to Parliament is untrue: making out that human cloning is science fiction and almost impossible. But they are playing a very dangerous game. Those making babies are using all the lessons learned from the medical research cloners.
In a further twist of irony it looks at present as though those making babies will make money and those making cloned embryos for research will continue to make catastrophic losses. The markets voted with their feet some time ago and have dumped shares big-time in PPL Therapeutics (which owns Dolly the sheep technology). In 1999 the shares were so low and PPL so near to folding, that PPL was snapped up by Geron. Now Geron’s prices have tumbled from aroun $75 to less than $4 each and once again UK human cloners are running our of cash fast. They desperately need a success story and that is why the Rosslyn Institute (who made Dolly) is about to apply to the HFEA in the UK for an official human cloning licence (to make embryos for research). The trouble is that human cloning technology is looking rather last-century from the medical point of view (and I say this as a Physician). Adult stem cell technology means we can now do what human cloners promised, but with adult cells. We can take adult skin or bone, find special cells, treat them and inject them back into the person’s blood stream, where they travel around and repair damaged bits of brain or heart. That is the story in animals at least, and I am certain it will be the case in humans soon. The cloning alternative is tacky: take a cell from an adult, fuse it with an egg, make a cloned embryo, grow it for a bit outside the womb, take cells from it and throw the rest of the clone away, and so on.
You mention in your book that tribalism will be the downfall of Europe. What does an increasing tribal Europe look like? What will be the impact on European culture and mindset of those that live there.
The European model is changing forever with rapid expansion to the East, doubling the number of countries and embracing nations that are extremely poor in comparison. Governance will be complex (we don’t even have an elected President), and so will be the culture mix. Face the facts: ethnic cleansing is a daily reality in Europe – even in the UK. Every night somewhere in Belfast we see sectarian attacks and every morning the removal vans arrive to take another family away to another location. It is the same in Bosnia, and Kosovo, both part of old Yugoslavia, yet another part of the same old nation is entering the EU: Slovenia. So here we have nations rushing to become one, who cannot even stop people in the same street butchering each other because they want to be so different. So expect growth, extension, vast economic trading areas, and with it growing tensions, xenophobia and resentment.
How big will the conflict be as cultures clash between the millenialists and the pre-millenialists over things like corporate culture and their different values? Will organizations be forced to choose between the two?
We are seeing a huge shift in values: in how people feel about themselves and the world they live in. Look at the huge emphasis today on work-life balance for example. People in general don’t want to put up with lifestyle pressures that were normal in the 80s and 90s. We are also seeing a huge questioning and unease about the power and goodness of science. Again, look at the explosive growth of alternative medicine. Post-millennialists are those whos entire adult life has been or will be lived in the thried millennium. Watch them closely. They will shape a new world order. The current crisis of corporate culture post-Enron is just a tiny flicker of the whirlwind to come.
A great challenge for the church will be to show deep spirituality and total integrity. The attraction of Islamic fundamentalism has been the utter devotion of followers. We need a new generation to rise up with radical faith, and a total commitment in every area to lifestyles that are consistent with the teachings of Jesus. But when that happens it will be an uncomfortable time indeed for millions of church-goers who have been content enough to attend on a Sunday, but live in un-Christian ways for some of the rest of each week. Personal morality will be a key issue, and I am not just talking about paedophile priests. Faithfulness in relationships, monogamy, abstinence before marriage, moderation or abstention from alcohol and zero drug use, paying every cent due to the revenue, being totally open and transparent at work about things that matter (except when required by law), treating people with respect and care, acting honourably. The test is this: if people get to know me inside and out, will they be more likely or less likely to become committed disciples of Christ?
If fighting breaks out in Iraq again, do you see any significant changes coming about in the Middle East in the other Arab states?
Yes: There is a profound readjustment – or series of them – that will need to take place that will affect a number of nations in the Middle East. Firstly the Palestinina question must be settled or we will find no peace in any part of the world in the longer term. Second, governance by non-elected Royal Families will come under increasing pressure in some nations over the next two decades from those who want theocracy (government by religious leaders) and those who seek democracy. War against Iraq may accelerate some of these adjustments, with some instabilities along the way. One of the greatest challenges in it all – as well as in many other areas – will be for America to find new and more comfortable relationship with the rest of the global village, which is in danger of becoming increasingly irritated by the actions of a lone superpower, whether on issues of security, respecting national sovereignty, caring for the environment, bringing hope to those in the poorest nations and so on. A problem is that positions justified by America today as morally right are seen by many in other nations to the East as morally wrong.
You ask the question, “should scientists be told to stop?” Throughout history the world has wrestled with that question and has never been able to come up with a response. We have allowed them to push the limits for so long. Can we say, “stop!” Even if we do, won’t it continue in a different jurisdiction?
Scientists have always had boundaries. For example in most nations it is illegal to experiment on prisoners, illegal to take organs from a dead body without consent, illegal to cause unnecessary suffering to animals and so on. The problem is that science is creating new kinds of work that are not covered by old laws. For example in the UK we realised that legislation covering human eggs and fertilisation, could not cover cloning because there is no act of conception!
Much has been made in the U.S. about the office of Total Information Awareness? Is it just the first step is us losing all of our privacy online and off? How long until the injectable PC becomes mainstream?
Forget it. You lost personal privacy a very long time ago. For example you are being tracked right now by your mobile phone. Actually you only had privacy for a short time. In the old days you lived and worked in the same small village or part of town and everyone knew your business. If you got out of bed late, the whole world new about it. Then for a brief period in human history many were able to lose themselves in big cities, and travel to many other nations where they were unknown. Now we are returning to our roots when (we hope) crime will become once again more difficult, where people are known once again. In a democracy such knowledge should cause little fear, but it is true that tomorrow’s dictators will have extraordinary powers. Even so, never underestimate the power of human resistance. Human beings are free spirits and tyrrannical leaders don’t tend to last long. Injectable chips? Here already. 10 million made last year for cats and dogs. You will find them soon in clothing and shoes, and some will try them under their skin. As Christians we should not fear being known, of losing privacy. Our maker and protector knows all. I always start to worry of it becomes clear that someone has a lot they would rather hide. Why are you so worried if someone at Inland Revenue can see your bank balance on his or her screen? Of course there should be tight controls on access and confidentiality is vital to maintain trust or – for example – people would stop going to see their physicians
You talk of your workplace in your book and on your site. What are some of the tools you are using right now that you find indespensible and we will be hearing more about in the future?
Everything is going wireless and virtual so I live and work in a completely wireless environment, in a home with 10 megabits per second of wireless networking and 2 megabits per second of net access, as well as other data channels. That means I can lecture to audiences the other side of the world from my own TV studio, and at the click of a button I can broadcast from any radio station (life is too short to travel to a studio when you have virtual reality). I carry a small pocket device which is a mobile phone, fax, e-mail, web surfer, diary, video player, word processor etc. It works in most countries of the world and is my global office. Watch out for video – everywhere… Like short messaging and online chat for teenagers today, video will be part of the air we breath and will alter our social lives.
You can find out more about Dr. Dixon, his writings, and information about our future on his website at www.globalchange.com.
Recently while browsing the under stocked shelves of the local bookstore I was surprised to see Len Wilson and Jason Mooreï¿½s newest book, Digital Storytellers sitting on the shelf.
The book follows up on Len Wilsonï¿½s The Wired Church: Making Media Ministry which introduced thousands of church leaders to media in worship and in teaching. Digital Storytellers takes the conversation further. While the Wired Church looked at much of the technical aspects of media, Digital Storytellers looks at using media to communicate the Gospel in the new vernacular.
The book deconstructs and challenges much of what has gone as accepted preaching and teaching in the church. Questioning generally accepted homiletical teaching in seminaries by challenging teachers to integrate media into their teaching. This goes far beyond PowerPoint and video clips and moves into existing communication patterns and challenges the reader to rethink how and what we communicate when sharing the Gospel.
In hundreds of contemporary churches that are still showing PowerPoint text on screens, this opens up the power and potential of what multi-sensory worship can and needs to be.
Those that are pastors and teachers will want to pick up a copy of the book. The book asks too many questions and challenges too much of the status quo to be ignored. You may not agree with all of their answers but they are asking the questions that many churches need to hear. For churches that use a team approach to worship planning, it is a book that the entire team would benefit from.
The writing style of the book made for a pleasant time reading. It is much different than The Wired Church which had a very technical focus. As I was reading Digital Storytelling, it was as if I was overhearing a conversation over coffee at the end of workday. The back and forth dialogue between Jason and Len gives the book a relaxed and easy to read feel. The accompanying DVD is well integrated into the book (if you donï¿½t have a DVD player handy, the book still makes sense) and brought much of the conversation to digital life.
After reading Digital Storytellers I e-mail Jason and Len some questions to gain some more insights into the book. Here are their replies.
1. In your opinion, where will the most significant changes happen in media technology that church should be aware of?
Len: Media is becoming more organic. Which is paradoxical because it’s becoming more high-tech at the same time. But what I’m talking about is more about subtlety. Like with the coffeehouse movement, which has not been about anti-technology so much as beyond technology, or making it not obtrusive but part of the fabric of how we communicate. So as we collectively master its ministry uses more, I think we will begin to see it blend in to the canvas of the worship space.
Jason: The sad truth is that a large percentage of the church isn’t looking for changes taking place in technology. Many have just begun to embrace the technology that has been standard for the last 4 or 5 years. At least that’s a start! We’ve seen a very large increase in the number of churches that now have a screen and projector installed, but that isn’t enough. The technology itself should be secondary to how the Gospel is being communicated through it. So I’d encourage churches to focus on creativity, and not so much on the gizmos that make it look bigger on screen.
2. The art of a metaphor is a hard one to learn. Same with telling a good story. Most seminaries teach neither. Where would you send pastors and communicators to move beyond the hermeneutical metaphors to contemporary ones?
J: I’ve been told by some that I’m fortunate to have not attended seminary, because it could very well have sucked the creativity right out of me. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know, but that perception does exist. For seminary grads who have been taught the ins and outs of hermeneutical metaphors, it can be especially hard to grasp the way we approach metaphor.
I think that may be because we’re using the same word, but with different meaning. We like to describe what we’re doing as creating postmodern parables. That’s usually an “a-ha moment.” We use analogies and metaphors all the time in our everyday conversations. Taking that one step further for worship isn’t that much harder, but it does take time to learn. When it works, good worship can be come outstanding worship. Also when we use metaphors from the culture, the culture becomes a reminder of the Gospel.
L: It is unfortunately true that seminaries are rooted in a prepositional tradition that has in fact been anti-story. Truth in the modern era was not found in the telling of stories but in the deconstruction of stories. (Jesus Seminar, blah blah.) To learn metaphor and story I had to become a cultural student, exegeting advertising and film the same way I was taught to exegete scripture in seminary. Learning to communicate in metaphor and story is a
skill. Anyone can do it if they commit themselves to immersion in digital literacy–analyzing, not just watching, the presentation and reception of stories and metaphors in our digital landscape. And reading the Bible in the same way. Look at Jesus’ public communication style. Read Mark 4. I love that passage.
3. What do you think are the major stumbling blocks for local churches to accepting and embracing digital culture, even though most other forms of culture have?
L: Many of the traditional forms of resistance are fading as more and more people of our generation move into church leadership positions. The challenge has always been and will always continue to be seeing ministry not as a reflection of the cultural forms with which we feel most comfortable.
People confuse Jesus and the horse he rode in on. They make their own methods of knowing Christ the most holy, because THEY experienced it that way. The world doesn’t have this problem because they know to make a buck they have to make the message understood to the receiver, not to themselves.
J: That’s right. I would say though that fear is the number one stumbling block that local churches encounter. What if I misrepresent the Gospel, or what if my computer crashes in the middle of my sermon, and what if two of my top tithers leave the church because of this? Those are all valid concerns, but they are all rather short sighted. We can misrepresent the Gospel with our words, computers will crash from time to time, and yes some folks might leave, but ultimately the dying world is in need of rescue. We have to speak their language, or we will never bring them in. As we hesitate, the church as an institution dies right along with the world. Let’s take a hint from Jesus, and speak the good news in a language that those around us can understand.
4. For many of us A.D.D. driven children of the net, media is something our parents watch. What does media look and feel like for the interactive hands-on generation?
J: Worship must become participatory. This goes way beyond communion and prayer requests from the congregation. We should strive to design worship that engages all of our senses. One recent favorite at my church was a play-doh weekend. We learned that each of us is shaped for service. Every worshiper was given a mini jar of play-doh to hold, smell, touch and eat if they wanted (OK, not really eat. That’s too edgy even for us.) During the prayer, they held their lumps of doh (representing what they were shaped for), and in unity prayed together words from the screen. All of this while the band softly played Spirit of the Living God. After the service they were invited to join various ministries of the church.
L: Those kinds of worship services truly become “experiences.” This kind of illustration Jason gives demonstrates that TV and the Internet is a “both/and” situation for us now. We watch and click now. Especially with films. In fact the net is becoming more film-like as it matures (e.g., flash). What we need to do is craft worship that both creates an experience and enhances relationships. This might mean extending worship themes to small groups and to the net.
5. Church and the arts are an oxymoron for many people, even in many media driven churches. Why are the barriers there and how do think they can be taken down.
L: The barriers are found in the reformation, and even before that in the iconoclastic movements of the Catholic church dating back to the beginning.
Some people think God is found in artistic expression and some think in rational explanation. It’s in some ways the difference between right and left brain-type people. Reason and art are both ways of experiencing God. Since reason has been so established through the enlightenment, many of us don’t understand the possibilities for (re)-introducing art, whether through digital or not. In these types of discussions I like to point to places outside the church where we find authentic expressions of Christian faith–in film, music, and the like. I ask people about places they find meaning, even if they can’t explain it. Ask a Christian what his or her favorite movie is and why.
J: That’s an interesting question. I have seen a wider acceptance of “the arts” than I have digital media in the church. The term “the arts” usually refers to masterworks, or to art often created for previous culture through traditional mediums such as oil paints , charcoal, and pencil. “Media” is the term we use to describe video and graphics or anything else projected on the screen, but for some reason we don’t think of that stuff as art. I have always thought media ministry is a funny term. Media is just the means by which one one communicates a message, so speaking is a form of media, drawing with crayons is a form of media, and so on. I’d like to see the church embrace all forms of media including pop culture mediums like television, sketch comedy, and movies. The barrier we have to cross is that of thinking of certain forms as more holy than others. Art is art. Digitally created graphics and video are art too. That paradigm shift in thinking is enough to bring many along.
6. Are there any organizations coming along side churches to assist them in media communications areas that you would recommend? What do they offer?
L: There’s a lot of organizations and as I list I’m surely going to leave some out. Churchmedia.net offers a lot of resources. We’ve got friends in the presentation software business at Prologue, MediaShout, Song Show Plus, and EasyWorship. Highway Video and Visual Reality offer video clips. Lumicon Digital Productions offers complete worship services with digital components. And of course our ministry, Midnight Oil Productions, at http://www.midnightoilproductions.net/.
J: Yeah but we’re the coolest!:) (In the Bizarro world)
7. What kind of impact does media have on the average churchgoer?
J: I’d dare say, that for many who have not grown up in the church, or who have had a bad experience in the church, it makes the ultimate difference. This week I was told the story of one woman who came to our church by accident (we meet in a YMCA, and she was there to work out). Early in life she rejected her Catholic upbringing, and does not share her husband’s Jewish beliefs, but she was so blown away by how we use metaphor/music/digital media/etc., that she’s not missed a Sunday in 7 months. The worship experience is so meaningful to her that she’s even expressed interest in helping with the creative design process. That’s just the latest; I’ve talked to people and heard many other similar stories.
L: Sometimes, it can keep them from coming back!! No seriously, It can wake them up. It can make them hear Bible in ways that they haven’t heard before, or see fellow Christians in ways they haven’t before. It can inspire, inform, make for reflection, move to action, or just simply make them FEEL.
8. What are some of the different expectations that moderns and postmoderns have regarding media in worship.
L: Moderns tend to see media as more of an instructional tool for teaching. A medium for the mind. Postmoderns understand it as an expression of moods, fears, whims, and dreams. A medium for our soul. Well-produced digital media gives us the chance to love God with our hearts and souls as well as our minds.
J: Moderns are also sceptical that this whole thing isn’t simply a gimmick. That too is a valid concern. Often in the early stages, media tends to look like a gimmick because inexperienced users tend to rip off cultural phenomenons like Millionaire, Survivor, and the Osbournes rather than redeem them. Those shows probably aren’t redeemable. The good news for moderns, (if they can endure the growing process)is that postmoderns tend to hold high value on authenticity which leads to depth in the way media is used.
9. Just curious, did you guys make any huge blunders while you were at Ginghamsburg that you wish you could take back?
L: Never! Of course we did. One time we were asked, what percentage of your services at Ginghamsburg were flawless. We laughed and told the person, none. After working at it for a few years, we got to the place where we’d do something so bad as to completely break the worship moment once every few months, rather than weekly. Which is probably about the same average as most churches have with books and organs.
J: Yep, there was always something wrong every week. My worst memory went like this: We had a group of visiting pastors in to “learn from the experts”, so we did our best to design a media rich service. The pastor’s wife was hosting, and we had put together an animation to start the service. Immediately following the animation the host was to give the call to worship. The director called for the clip, but, oops, it wasn’t cued. Nope it was half way through the movie clip that was to be shown later in the service. We didn’t find that out until it was live on the screen though. In a panic, someone hit rewind, but again, it was happing on screen. Then the screen went black. Then nothing. The host decided to go ahead and share the call to worship. As she began to speak the clip started, only it was just audio, no visuals. By this time we pretty much knew the clip wasn’t going to happen, so we gave up, and the host finished off her opening words. As soon as the service was over the director came down to us and informed us that he was quitting the ministry. Len took him aside and reassured him that Jesus was still Lord, and that all was well. He had 4 more services to get it right, and as I remember he did. He became our best director, but man was that a tough lesson for all of us to learn with him.
[also posted online at TheOOZE]
The Younger Evangelicals: Facing the Challenges of the New World by Robert Webber.
I was waiting for Amazon.com to start shipping The Younger Evangelicals when I heard it was at my local Christian bookstore. Instead of waiting for Amazon, I stopped by the store and picked up a copy. Ancient Future Faith has been a very important book in my journey of faith and I was curious to see what Robert Webber had to say about those of us he labels the ï¿½Younger Evangelicals.ï¿½ As I was thumbing through the pages of the book while waiting in line to pay for it, I stumbled across his summary table (p.18) and it articulated much of the conversation that those of us in the evangelical church have been having over the years.
The book takes a looks at the three dominant influences on evangelicalism today. The ï¿½traditional evangelicalï¿½, the ï¿½pragmatic evangelicalï¿½, and the emerging, ï¿½younger evangelicalsï¿½. The book revolves around explaining the values, conflicts, stories, and ministry of these three groups with most of the book focused on the younger evangelicals.
Instead of a full review for The Younger Evangelicals, I e-mailed Dr. Webber and asked if we could do an interview via e-mail with some of the questions coming from themes in the book. Here is the unedited interview.
1) If I am a leader of pragmatic evangelical church who came from a pragmatic evangelical seminary who is now faced with what appears to be a very incompatible world, what advice for me? Where do I turn next?
I think you have to look at this issue from an immediate and then a long-term perspective. The pragmatic churches have become institutionalized – with some exceptions. They responded to the sixties and seventies, created a culture-driven church and donï¿½t get that the world has changed again. Pragmatics, being fixed, have little room for those who are shaped by the postmodern revolution. A clash is emerging. The younger evangelicals will not have a voice in the pragmatic, fixed mentality. Stay there and your spirit will die (there are some exceptions, pray for discernment). Many pragmatic churches, like old shopping malls are dying. Very few people under 30 are in pragmatic churches. The handwriting is on the wall. Leave. Do a start up church. Be a tentmaker. Build communities. Small groups. Neighborhood churches. Be willing to let your life die for Jesus as you break with the market driven, culture shaped, numbers oriented, Wall-Mart-something-for-everyone church. Be an Abraham and take a risk. God will show up and lead the way.
2) Interactive worship is talked about constantly at conferences and in books yet much of postmodern worship is accused of being “modern with candles”. For a church culture that is used to worship as a spectator sport, what does interactive worship look and feel like?
Big Question! First there is no such thing as postmodern worship. There is only biblical worship in a postmodern culture. The only way to face off with postmodern philosophical, ethical and spiritual relativism is through a radical biblical message of the uniqueness of Jesus, the absolutes of Christian ethics and a radical spirituality rooted in Jesus who does for us what we canï¿½t do for ourselves. A postmodern setting demands relationship, participation, community, symbol, servanthood and the like. The radical renorming of biblical priorities coupled with an absolute rejection of slick marketing, showy worship and phony verbal games precede the birth of an honest, genuine, authentic community passionately engaged with being the truth. Here is where we need to go. Get there and God will show us the style most in keeping with the spirit as our lives and worship witness to the rule of Christ over the nations of the world. First crawl, then walk and God will get you running.
3) What is the role of seminaries in the education of younger evangelicals. Also, how does their role change as the younger evangelicals distance themselves from denominations?
Most seminaries are still committed to the rational epistemology of modernity. Evangelical seminaries are still apologetic in outlook trying to prove God, prove the bible, find the authorial intent, badger people into the faith through reason or manipulate them into the church through well crafted worship shows. These seminaries will gradually serve a world that no longer exists. There is a need to wake up and acknowledge how rapidly culture is changing. Todayï¿½s culture – secular spirituality, pagan religions, ethical relativism looks like the first three centuries. The church grew then because it had an exclusive message to die for, a community to live in and an evangelism that grew strong Christians through a rigorous process of Christian formation. In seminaries today many of the courses of study are on technique, CEO management, psychology, marketing and the like. Christianity is becoming defined by non-Christian disciplines. There is a need to reverse the trend and define the world and all its disciplines by scripture. There is a need to assert once again the counter-cultural nature of the faith. Christianity needs to tell the world its story. I teach in a seminary that is not driven by business and market. We struggle. We wrestle. We turn people inside-out and outside-in – but we have only begun and have a long way to go (Northern Seminary, Lombard, IL, www.seminary.edu).
4) Can you talk about some of the differences between the Constantinian church of the modern world and the “Ecclesial” church of the younger evangelicals. Do you see churches transitioning from one way of thinking to another or is the leap to great?
The Constantinian church is beholden to civil religion. It acts as the chaplain to society. Itï¿½s quite dull and doesnï¿½t have much to offer by way of radical commitment to community, relationship and counter-cultural values. The Ecclesial church seeks to be incarnational – the presence of Jesus in the world. Itï¿½s emerging primarily in the city – reclaiming the neighborhoods through neighborhood house churches. Think of planting a church in the neighborhood where Eminem grew up. This is where the younger evangelicals are headed. Most suburban churches are either traditional or pragmatic and serve the middle and upper class. There is a place for that, of course.
5) Some prominent evangelical authors are suggesting that postmodernity poses a threat to Christianity which can’t survive without the ideas and values of modernity. How do you respond to that?
These authors are probably addressing the philosophical, ethical, and spiritual relativism. And they do so in the old rational way of defending ideas. Godï¿½s Kingdom is not the Big Idea, itï¿½s an embodied reality. This is why the church must become increasingly counter-cultural. It must embody the Kingdom in its neighborhood and call people into a new way of life. Actually, I welcome postmodernity. It is the antithesis of Christianity. Maybe these leaders fear postmodernity because it challenges a faith that has become culture-dependent. Break from modernity and become free to be Christian in a counter-cultural way. Then there are revolutions that demand we rethink our style and mentality – i.e. communications, science, globalization, to name a few. These revolutions are not a threat to the faith. They are a challenge. They demand a thoughtful engagement, not a counter movement (such as a retreat into modernity, for example).
6) When you look out to the future, what do think the North American evangelical church is going to look like 25 years from now?
It is really anybodyï¿½s guess. Because the church always interacts with culture and because we cannot predict cultural change its very difficult to say. Letï¿½s say that terrorism continues to be on the rise, that militant Muslims continue to dominate the scene, penetrate most of the world and engage in hostilities. The people who will be able to deal with this situation the best will be those committed to a counter-cultural Christianity. Christianity will be less national, less culturally formed. It will be smaller pockets of communities in neighborhoods. The church will focus on people, not buildings, on community, not programs, on scripture study, not showy worship. Biblical symbols such as baptismal identity and Eucharistic thanksgiving will take on new meaning. The church will be less concerned about having an eschatology and more committed to be an eschatological community. This kind of community will reach out to a broken world to offer healing of broken lives and service to the pour and needy. Denominational barriers will break down, racial barriers will disappear, a new equality between men and women will appear. By turning their backs on the politics of churchmanship people will restore the politics of Jesus. I already see this happening in ï¿½seedalï¿½ form among many younger evangelicals. Perhaps God is preparing this generation for a time of persecution and the collapse of the world as we now know it.
7) As you travel around and see a lot more of the church than many of us, what things do you see that concerns you and what things give you hope?
What gives me hope is the younger evangelical as stated above. What concerns me is how satisfied the traditional church is with its enmeshment with modernity and how proud the pragmatic church is with its market success, business orientation and entertainment worship Obviously there are exceptions. These are some fine traditional and pragmatic churches that are honestly wrestling with the emergence of the new world. And there are some twenty-somethingï¿½s who want to make their mark in the traditional and pragmatic communities. The lines cannot be clearly drawn.
8) Any words of encouragement to churches wrestling with the transitions you mentioned in the book.
Jordan Cooper [in an earlier conversation] told me about a church struggling with their identity and said the church is using The Younger Evangelical book as a ï¿½guide to discuss and shape where they are going.ï¿½ He said ï¿½it has been a great experience for them.ï¿½ Most churches need information that provides a clear understanding of the issues and how they are addressed by the traditional, the pragmatic and the younger evangelical leaders. These differences are significant. The book provides a way to quickly understand the issue and states with equal clarity the theological persuasions that inform the choices churches make. The book isnï¿½t full of easy answers because we live in a complex world. But the book helps people work through the ambiguities and provide clarity and hopefully unity of direction.
a.) The Younger Evangelicals: Facing the challenges of the new world. (Baker, 2002) can be purchased through your local bookstore or by calling the Institute for Worship Studies at 630-510-8905. $16.00.
Watch for my new free newsletter starting in January and continuing monthly on www.ancientfutureworship.com
Dr. Robert E. Webber is the William R. and Geraldyn B. Myers Professor of Ministry at Northern Seminary in Lombard. Il. He is also the President of the Institute For Worship Studies and Professor of Theology Emeritus at Wheaton College, Wheaton, Il. Dr. Webber has lectured on worship in nearly every denomination and fellowship, and has authored or edited more than twenty books on worship including the eight volume work, “The Complete Library of Christian Worship”. His most recent books include: Planning Blended Worship (Abingdon, 1998), Ancient-Future Faith (Baker, 1999), and Journey to Jesus (Abington, 2001). You can find him on the web at www.ancientfutureworship.com.
I almost forgot, Brad Boyston has done an excellent review of the book too.
Relevant Magazine’s interview with Leonard Sweet.
[RM:] I want to know about the “wussification” of the church, as you call it …
[LS:] I’ll give you one example of it: Street evangelism. You think about a typical street evangelist on a soapbox, with some kind of megaphone and he’s handing out tracts. I mean, Wesley and some early Methodists in the late 18th, early 19th century invented street evangelism and they would attract these huge crowds; people were getting converted and there were these huge revivals! We do it today and it drives people away! It’s not turning people to Christ, it’s driving them away from Christ. Why? It’s the wussification of the church, and the wussification of the church’s mind and mission.
In the 1790’s, a book was equivalent to one month’s salary, so people didn’t have books. And they didn’t have literature in their homes. So pamphlets and tracts were the cutting edge hardware of the 18th century. Literally, a book is one month’s salary, and you’re on a street evangelism team giving out books and tracts and pamphlets. Well, hello! In the 1990’s the computer was equivalent to one month’s salary! And here we are still giving out tracts, which our ancestor’s did, but if we were doing what they did, we’d be standing on street corners passing out Palm Pilots, PCs. You want to talk about crowds that would wait in line and listen to what we have to say? Now, of course, that hardware would have to come with spiritual software. The early street evangelists just didn’t have pamphlets, they had chapters from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, or Fox’s Book of Martyrs, or Thomas A Kempis’ Imitation of Christ. So you just don’t pass out Palm Pilots, you put Bible software on them, if you’re passing out PCs, you put the whole Scriptures in there! We’re such wusses! We’re still passing out tracts. I mean, in the men’s room they put tracts on the urinals. And this is evangelism?! Who’s gonna pick it up? It’s the wussification of the church’s mind and mission, and it’s embarrassing. Let’s do for our day what our ancestors did for their day ï¿½ is that too much to ask?
Q & A with Dallas Willard
Interview with Dallas Willard from Relevant Magazine.
Through Jonny Baker’s blogging and involvement in such things like the Worship Labyrinth and Grace has given me and others a new perspective on what worship and church can look like. He was also cool enough to do a short e-mail interview. You can find out more about him from his blog at http://jonnybaker.blogspot.com.
1) Can you define for us what “alternative worship” is?
I think steve collins definition on www.alternativeworship.org is probably the best short version I’ve seen – church created by your own community for your own community in your own culture
2) What do you think the future is for media in worship?
If I’m honest I think we are likely to get an abundance of powerpoint presentations with headings for talks and maybe a picture thrown in and churches will be feeling ‘cool we’ve got multi media worship’! Whereas in reality as far as I’m concerned nothing has changed. The issue we face is much more about the need for creativity than technology or particular media. There is a dearth of imagination in how we create worship. In the UK at least when I go to a church I can pretty much predict the format, songs, how many times they’ll be sung, content of the sermon etc… And it’s very one dimensional. The range of expression and media for worship should and could be so much wider and more creative. Of course having said all that I’d love to see more artists let loose in the church – photographers, painters, DJs, VJs, video installation artists, web designers, flash animators etc etc… But without trying to squeeze them into the worship box that already exists. The whole thing has to be reimagined rather than tweaked by introducing a few new things.
3) What are the main differences that you see in the North American approach to worship compared to what you have seen in England?
1. One of the key differences is that we don’t have as many people going to church! So what?! Well… The reason I think this is significant is that for youth ministers in the UK they haven’t got kids in their church so they have got to be missional – go and find them where they are and build relationships. By and large these kids have no desire to engage with church. So the youth minister has to get creative. The pressure is on as it were. It’s self evidently a mission situation. Out of this kind of situation some really creative and imaginative churches and worship are growing. That’s not to say the Uk doesn’t have its fair share of dull worship and churches – we’ve got plenty! But I think the church in the UK is blessed with some fantastically creative services, churches, youth ministry and mission projects. In contrast to this the church in the USA (interestingly I think Canada is probably more like the UK context) hasn’t had to go outside its own doors. There have been plenty of people showing up. This may be beginning to change but the pressure isn’t on in the same way. This has also meant that there has been a much more developed Christian subculture which in my humbly opinion is incredibly problematic. It has the net result of shielding people from engagement with the world and frankly much of the art being produced is sugary sweet and lacking an edge. I know there are pockets of great ministry and emerging churches and so on that are very exciting but this is an overall difference I see.
Another one is that we Brits are cynical and we’ve got to being pretty negative about church. I have found some of my visits to the USA and Canada refreshing because people are positive and upbeat. They enjoy church and will throw themselves into it.
And perhaps a third difference is that the relationship between Christianity and politics is different – I think younger UK Christians are more politicized. They’ll be concerned about globalisation, trade issues, and so on and that will be incorporated into their worship in a way I haven’t encountered in the USA (again Canada may be different). Clearly there are notable exceptions to this with people like Tom Sine and Jim Wallis. I’m aware these are gross generalisations and it is a much more complex map than I am making it out to be.
4) Can you describe a little what you saw and learned at Greenbelt this year?
Greenbelt has been very significant for me personally in my own journey of faith. It’s kind of like home base – I love it! It manages to blend a mix of being an arts festival, being part of the global church with a strong concern for justice, along with a depth of worship and spirituality that engages the soul. I help organise the worship for Greenbelt so it’s actually a pretty busy weekend for me and I didn’t get to much outside that part of the programme. A few of the worship things that were exciting were :
Installations – there were a couple of venues with installations for people to interact with. This is definite trend in worship that’s been pioneeered by alternative worship groups to incorporate installations/stations as part of a worship service. But the quality was wonderful. As an example you can see Arable Parable on www.smallfire.org (see my blog for a direct link). We also ran a series of shrines around the site – this was an experiment but groups that had agreed to produce a shrine came up with brilliant things.
Alternative worship – in the UK there are lots of festivals where the worship consists of bands singing Soul Survivor type songs – these are very popular so I’m not knocking them, but we have tried to create space for something very different to that at Greenbelt. And I guess it’s become a bit of a home for alternative worship. So we had a whole venue given over to groups from round the Uk running services. The level of effort and creativity that goes into these is breathtaking.
Club worship – lastly to mention is that another experiment we tried was doing a slot in the dance/club venue each night. Some of this was more successful than others but it felt like a really worthwhile journey to go on so I’m sure we’ll push it forward.
5) You have a reputation for being very creative. What feeds you and gets your ideas flowing?
That’s kind of you! I get fed and sparked by all kinds of things – films, music, art, Greenbelt, books, travel, magazines, blogs, meeting other creative people, being curious. Often creative ideas come from seeing something in one area and applying it in another context so I get sparked when I am outside of my own area. Or they come in conversation with others – Grace planning group is a wonderfully creative environment for example. I think you also need a context or an outlet for your creativity – often this is a problem in worship as so many churches don’t really want anything outside of the box, so a key is issue is creating space where people can experiment, take risks and be creative without being jumped on or criticised.
6) What’s Proost upto these days?
We’re busy (well busy for a small homegrown independent label that doesn’t employ anyone!). We have the following on the go – A new CD ‘Old Hymns In Dub’ that has just been released. It’s not even up on the web site yet (which is also done by a volunteer!), but should be soon. This is 10 instrumental versions of old hymns like Amazing Grace or When I Survey, but done in a very different way – pretty laid back beats, heavy on the bass, a lot of chords stripped out to give it the right vibe. It’s a worship resource really but also makes a good background CD for a dinner party. There’s also folder of mp3s with a guide vocal so that you can work out how to sing with the tracks. I am very pleased with this.
A Labyrinth Cdrom – folowing the popularity of the web site a lot of people have wanted the online labyrinth (www.labyrinth.org.uk) as a Cdrom so we have got round to it and are including a series of lessons for groups using the themes of the labyrinth/prayer path. This will be out by the end of October.
The other big project I have been working on is a boo which will be a collection of pieces from various alternative worship groups. It will have a CD rom of images, video loops, mp3s and so on tucked in the back. This isn’t on Proost but we are going to release an album of new alternative worship songs at the same time. The book and album will be called ‘alternative worship’. I am more excited about this album than I can tell you – the material is fantastic. That’s scheduled for January. Once we’ve done all that we want to think about a second Grace CD….
7) What have you read lately that has shook up your worldview and stretched you in new ways?
I’m reading some mission stuff to get me into the swing for my new job. I got this gem over the summer of a handwritten story of a friend of my wife’s parents documenting his travels as a missionary early this century to the Congo. Just amazing the challenges and risks that they took! And I’m reading a book called ‘Rwanda: the land that God forgot’ that is the story of four generations of one family who worked as missionaries in Rwanda. I also couldn’t put down an issue of ‘evangelical missions quarterly’ (the only issue I’ve ever seen of it). This issue focused on indigenous worship and was inspirational stuff – so much of it is so relevant to developing worship
in our own contexts.
I am rereading ‘The Wizard of Earhsea’ books by Ursula Leguin with my 10 year old son. They are fantastic, be in my top 10 if I had one.
8) Your favorite online hangouts?
Life is to short to find many, but discovering the world of blogs has been a great adventure. And now when I do discover some I can add a link on my own blog!
Bob Costas interview on Larry King Live about Major League Baseball and the possibility of the strike.
An interview with Eugene Peterson in the Christian Century.