May 30, 2006
Before entering ministry, Shane Hipps had a career in advertising developing multimillion dollar communication plans for brands like Porsche. It was during his time in advertising that Hipps gained expertise in understanding the power of media, technology, and culture. He left his lucrative career abruptly when he saw it as promoting a counterfeit gospel. Today, Shane Hipps serves as the Lead Pastor of Trinity Mennonite Church in Phoenix, Arizona. His new book, The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture: How Media Shapes Faith, The Gospel, And Church (Zondervan, 2006) is the confluence of his two professions.
Whenever we in the church debate new methods of communicating the gospel, or alternative ways of doing church it ends in a predictable turn. There is a point in these conversations when a person, hoping to end the debate once and for all, says "The methods must change as long as the message stays the same." So it would seem as long as we preserve the unchanging message, any method is fair game. This serves as a kind of evangelical rally cry for methodological innovation.
If they are feeling particularly sophisticated, they may go on to explain that, "Our methods, in and of themselves, are neither good nor evil, it is how we use them that determines their value."
Continue reading The Gospel According to Electronic Culture: What if the medium really is the message?...
May 25, 2006
In part 2 of his post, Tony Jones addresses emerging church critic extraordinaire Chuck Colson. Colson sees the Emergent conversation as a threat to traditional Christian understandings of the "truth." Jones responds by discussing the interdependence of truth and community - the essence of the Emergent Village conversation.
I thank the many commenters for thoughtful and, generally, gracious comments, and I want to respond in a bit of a roundabout manner. If you can bear with me, I think I can speak to the concerns of many.
Yesterday I received my latest copy of Christianity Today. I look forward with some ambivalence to the even-numbered months' editions because they contain both the columns of my friend, Andy Crouch, and of despiser-of-all-things-emergent, Chuck Colson (and his amaneuensis and, it seems, proxy church observer, Anne Morse). Colson has had a burr under his saddle about the emerging church for some time - for instance, in his last column he equated the emerging church with namby-pamby praise music (as he was bemoaning how many Christian radio stations are dropping his daily commentaries).
Continue reading Is Emergent the New Christian Left 2: Tony Jones takes on Chuck Colson and "true truth"...
May 23, 2006
In December, Brian McLaren was arrested along with 115 other activists while peacefully protesting the federal budget that he believes unfairly treats the poor. As one of the most visible participants in Emergent Village, McLaren's increasingly outspoken political views has some wondering - is Emergent a new camp for Christian liberalism? In this post Tony Jones, the national coordinator for Emergent, responds to critics by championing Emergent's conversational purpose and celebrating the group's diversity.
I read a lot of blogs, my wife and friends say too many. And some of those blogs are deeply critical of Emergent Village, a decade-old friendship that has, after my family, become home to my most important relationships. My Emergent friends, old and new, love Jesus and are robustly grappling their way into God's future. It seems to me that the two most important commitments that we in Emergent share are 1) we are ultimately hopeful about God's future, and 2) we are committed to moving forward together, as friends.
What continues to surprise me is how dangerous some people consider this friendship I'm in to be. If you take some of these blogs (and books) seriously, those of us who make up the Emergent Village are a great threat to the Christian church - we have undermined doctrine, truth, and church life. The fact that we're discussing theological items that have been previously deemed "undiscussable" is considered grounds for labels like "heretic" and "apostate."
Continue reading Is Emergent the New Christian Left? Tony Jones responds to the critics...
May 18, 2006
Unless you've living in a cave in Tora Bora you know that The Da Vinci Code movie opens this week. Early reviews have not been kind, but that hasn't deflated Leadership editorial coordinator Elizabeth Diffin's excitement. Elizabeth believes enjoying Dan Brown's novel is not contrary to her faith, and asserts that The Code has actually strengthened it.
I have a confession to make: I am a Christian and I liked The Da Vinci Code. At the risk of being called a heretic, I'll admit I'm a fan of the novel.
I read The Da Vinci Code last fall, and although it was recommended to me by a strong Christian friend, I can't claim any holy motivations for reading it. I was looking for an entertaining and quick read; Da Vinci fulfilled those needs. No, The Da Vinci Code is not a great work of literature. It obviously doesn't measure up to Shakespeare or Dostoyevsky. It's pop-fiction, an amusing book for when you're at the beach or working a slow bank window (as I was).
The thing is, The Da Vinci Code is fiction. Dan Brown's cryptic statements at the beginning of the book notwithstanding. It's right there on the cover in all caps: A NOVEL.
Continue reading Liking Da Vinci, Loving Jesus: confessions from a Christian fan of "The Code"...
May 17, 2006
Andy Stanley, pastor of North Point Community Church, is interviewed in the current issue of Leadership on his leadership style. Highlights from the interview were posted on Out of Ur in March. Stanley defends the incorporation of secular business practices in the church - a philosophy of ministry that has fueled evangelicalism for the last 25 years and pollinated megachurches across the fruited plains. But church-as-corporation and the pastor-as-CEO have come under increasing criticism, and Stanley has felt this heat.
In the interview Stanley says:
One of the criticisms I get is "Your church is so corporate?" And I say, "OK, you're right. Now why is that a bad model?" A principle is a principle, and God created all the principles.
Honestly, are we really to believe that the mere existence of a principle is the same as God advocating our employment of it? The flawed logic here reminds me of Greg Fokker's assertion that "you can milk just about anything with nipples," and Robert De Niro's rebuttal, "I have nipples, Greg, could you milk me?"
Continue reading Is Ministry Leadership Different 2: a response to Andy Stanley...
May 15, 2006
In recent posts we have debated the importance of "image" in advancing the ministry of the Gospel. Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz and other books seeking to build a bridge between Christianity and those raised in a post-Christian context, was interviewed by Leadership last year. Miller is unimpressed by attempts to spin the faith as "cool" and how our culture has turned love into a commodity.
How do you react to ministries that try to present Christianity as being cool and hip?
Miller: There are many problems with trying to market the gospel of Jesus, not the least of which is that, in itself, it is not a cool or fashionable idea. It isn't supposed to be. It is supposed to be revolutionary. It's for people who are tired of trying to be cool, tired of trying to get the world to redeem them.
I attended the Dove Awards and was brokenhearted. I saw all these beautiful Christians, wonderful people, with this wonderful, revolutionary message of Jesus, who, instead of saying, "Look, fashion doesn't matter, hip doesn't matter," were saying "World, please accept us, we can be just as hip as you, just as fashionable, only in a religious way."
Continue reading Donald Miller Isn’t Hip: a gospel for people tired of trying to be cool...
May 11, 2006
In this final installment of his interview on hell, Brian McLaren provides more insight into how he understands the teachings of Jesus, and offers five suggestions for rethinking our traditional understanding of hell.
Let me offer five suggestions on how we could re-approach this subject by looking at the Scriptures in a fresh light. After all, my opinions aren't worth two cents compared to what the Scriptures actually say. First, I'd suspend the common assumption that every time the word judgment occurs in the Bible, it means "going to hell after you die," or every time the word save occurs, it means "going to heaven after you die."
Second, I'd encourage people who say, "Well, what about Matthew 25:41?" or some other specific passage to also pay attention to the reasons those passages give for people experiencing those negative consequences. Jesus never says, "If you don't believe in a particular theory of atonement . . ." or "If you don't accept me as your personal Savior by saying the sinner's prayer . . ." then you'll experience the lake of fire. That's not what he says. I put a table in the book that tries to help people attend to what the texts actually say, and in case after case, they simply don't say what many Christians commonly say they do.
Continue reading Brian McLaren’s Inferno 3: five proposals for reexamining our doctrine of hell...
May 8, 2006
In part one of this post, Brian McLaren and Tony Campolo tried to deconstruct the traditional evangelical view of hell. Here, McLaren continues to outline his view as neither universalism nor an exclusivist understanding of hell. And he pushes us to reconsider the questions we pose versus what Jesus really says.
McLaren: Tony [Campolo] and I might disagree on the details, but I think we are both trying to find an alternative to both traditional Universalism and the narrow, exclusivist understanding of hell [that unless you explicitly accept and follow Jesus, you are excluded from eternal life with God and destined for hell].
Tony is presenting the inclusivist alternative. The fact is, many people who claim to be exclusivists are actually inclusivists and they don't know it. For example, if you ask them if they believe all babies who die before or shortly after birth go to hell, they'll say no, that children who die before the age of accountability are included in Christ's saving work. They'll say the same for people who are mentally incompetent, and so on. So really, strict exclusivists are rather rare.
My approach is a little different. Although in many ways I find myself closer to the view of God held by some universalists than I do the view held by some exclusivists, in the end I'd rather turn our attention from the questions WE think are important to the question JESUS thinks is most important.
Continue reading Brian McLaren’s Inferno 2: are we asking the wrong questions about hell?...
May 5, 2006
No contributor to Out of Ur has elicited more responses than Brian McLaren. Part of McLaren's appeal is his courage to rethink long-held evangelical assumptions and call the church to shed the baggage of modernity. Brian's critics, however, accuse him of throwing the orthodox baby out with the modernist bath water. In this interview McLaren discusses his view of hell and judgment, and explains why some have mislabeled him a universalist. Part one of this post also features fellow prophet Tony Compolo.
Brian, in your book, The Last Word and the Word After That, you focus heavily on "deconstructing" the evangelical view of hell. Some critics think your deconstruction has moved to the point of your embracing a "universalist" position. Are you a Universalist?
McLaren: No, I am not embracing a traditional universalist position, but I am trying to raise the question, When God created the universe, did he have two purposes in mind - one being to create some people who would forever enjoy blessing and mercy, and another to create a group who would forever suffer torment, torture, and punishment? What is our view of God? A God who plans torture? A God who has an essential, eternal quality of hatred? Is God love, or is God love and hate?
Continue reading Brian McLaren’s Inferno: the provocative church leader explains his view of hell...
May 3, 2006
The upcoming issue of Leadership deals with "Consumerism and the Church It Creates." We asked Spencer Burke to write about his journey from being a megachurch pastor to spiritual guide of an online community (TheOOZE.com). Below is a brief excerpt. The full article will appear in Leadership's July issue, along with some of the best of your comments about how we live out the nature of the church today.
When I gave up being a teaching pastor at a Southern California megachurch eight years ago, people around me were perplexed. After all, as jobs in professional ministry go, working at Mariners was a dream--big building, big budget, big salary. What wasn't to like?
Maybe I was burned out, they reasoned, but I'd be back. I was bound to get over my ministry midlife crisis eventually, right? But when months turned into years and I still hadn't been added to anyone's payroll, more than a few eyebrows went up. I kept talking about this online community, TheOoze.com. Sure, it was an interesting idea, but hardly a career move.
When I was leaving Mariners, the buzzword was relevant. It's what every church was striving to be, by changing their music, their marketing, even their ministry philosophy. Today, church leaders are still pursuing relevancy in order to reach more people. When those efforts don't pan out as expected, church leaders are quick to blame "consumerism." The problem? People. They want too much, and they're never satisfied.
But is that really it?
Continue reading Spencer Burke on the Church that Consumerism Built--and Why I Fled...