Thursday, May 30, 2013

This is the Generation

I was born in 1973, which puts me smack in the middle of Generation X.  People in the church used to talk about Generation X and wring their hands about how we were going to be reached for Jesus.  That didn't last long, because frankly, we're a relatively puny market segment compared to the Boomers before us and the Millennials after us.  So at some point (pretty much after 9/11), the Western church's attention shifted to the massive cultural shifts occurring in the wider world and - to put it bluntly - how it was going to survive.

As a charismatic / evangelical, I've attended more than a few meetings where it was proclaimed from the stage that "This is the generation that will..." see Jesus return, set the church on fire, or merely change the world.  In the 90's it felt good to be a part of a cutting edge generation (Gen-X) that everyone thought would see and do all of the above.  But as time went on, it was obvious that it would likely be none of the above.  Jesus tarries, the church is still finding its way, and the world has a lot of changing to do yet.

Author Jeff Gordinier says that "GenXers are doing the quiet work of keeping America from sucking."  Maybe there is a corollary to the current state of the church.  "This is the generation that will..." quietly act as a bridge between the unfulfilled projects of the previous generation and the starry-eyed dreams of the next.  Maybe it will also be the generation that will stop telling the next one that they are the generation that will...well, you fill in the blanks.

As we go about planting a church again in South Florida, it is very important to me that we cultivate an environment that values wisdom and experience as much as youth and passion.  I want us to encourage the young and honor the old.  The real future of the church does not rest in one generation's ability to "get it right".  Rather, it is seeing a multi-generational, multi-ethnic church get in line with God's kingdom and work together for his glory.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A Movement of the Kingdom

In my last post, I described how Amber and I are in the process of calling together a core team to plant a new missional church in Jupiter.  In reality, this looks more like us praying and waiting as the team responds to God's call.  It really is a waste of time to try and make these things happen.  Patience is a fruit of the Spirit after all.

In the meantime, we have been preparing for the first few months of learning, planning, and worshiping together.  I am jealous for this time of incubation.  It is not going to be a long time - maybe three months total - but enough to establish a strong foundation for what is to come.  One of these foundational concepts will be that of movement, specifically what makes a movement of the kingdom.

Early on in my introduction to missional church scholarship, I was corrected on theologically sloppy phrases like, "Building the kingdom" or "Advancing the kingdom".  With the exception of one controversial statement of Jesus that has been interpreted in a variety of ways, the primary language related to the kingdom in the New Testament has God acting and us receiving.  Our participation is vital, but secondary.  In a similar manner, I think it is sloppy to talk about building a movement of the kingdom.  When movement language is thrown around relative to the church, I want to respond like Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

Britannica defines a social movement as a "loosely organized but sustained campaign in support of a social goal, typically either the implementation or the prevention of a change in society’s structure or values. Although social movements differ in size, they are all essentially collective. That is, they result from the more or less spontaneous coming together of people whose relationships are not defined by rules and procedures but who merely share a common outlook on society."  The emphasis of movement is on its collectiveness, spontaneity, and idealism.  People join a movement not because it has all the answers, but because it asks the right questions and tells a compelling story.  A movement is sustainable only if its members can continue to walk the tightrope between organization and freedom, commitment and openness.

So a movement of the kingdom is not built, planted or launched.  But an environment can be created where an alternative story - the kingdom of God as the answer to our yearnings for a hope-filled and just world - has the chance to take root in a group of people.  In this environment and among these relationships, a movement of the kingdom can be received and nurtured.  I have this hope for our church, that it is the kind of soil where the seeds of a kingdom movement receive the nutrients and care necessary to grow into a healthy forest.