Should a Local Church aspire to be “Real” and “Cool”?

Pope Urban II at the Council of Clermont of 10...
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I appreciated some of the concepts presented by The Perils of ‘Wannabe Cool’ Christianity in the Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago. Here is a sample from the article:

“As a twentysomething, I can say with confidence that when it comes to church, we don’t want cool as much as we want real. If we are interested in Christianity in any sort of serious way, it is not because it’s easy or trendy or popular. It’s because Jesus himself is appealing, and what he says rings true. It’s because the world we inhabit is utterly phony, ephemeral, narcissistic, image-obsessed and sex-drenched—and we want an alternative. It’s not because we want more of the same.”

I resonate with the desire to experience a faith community that is real and not cool. It doesn’t even have to be cool, if it is real. A local church should strive to be real and authentic. Represent who the community actually is in any communications, remind people of who you want to become in every gathering of the people and always seek to become like Jesus.

Are Jesus’ miracles true?

Christ healing the sick by Gustav Dore, 19th c...
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It seems that this question has most to do with how one interprets the Bible. Scripture is inspired by God and paints a picture of God’s character, God’s action and God’s people.

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that all God’s people may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” 2 Timothy 3:16-17, TNIV.

Scripture is the written Word of God that reveals the personal Word of God, Jesus Christ. The good news and truth of scripture can be a source of faith. As such, scripture becomes authoritative and normative for the Christian life.

So what does this mean when it comes to Jesus’ miracles? I believe that Jesus miracles are true and historical fact. They point to the reality that Jesus is God in the flesh and that He has control over all creation. However, my faith does not rest on the historicity of Jesus’ miracles.

Behavior Change in the Church

One of the goals in the mission of the church is changing behavior.

Making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Making a disciple of Jesus Christ means that one wasn’t before. It also means that there is something that sets apart a disciple of Jesus Christ from someone who is not.

Sometimes the change in behavior comes before a change in heart. For example, a neighbor who gives to a neighborhood food drive before ever being present with the church who organized the event.

Sometimes change in heart comes before a change in behavior. For example, an individual who responds to an evangelistic event at the local park and seeks out connection with a local church.

No matter what one’s spiritual development looks like, there will always be a change in behavior.

“But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do” (James 2:18, TNIV).

Thanks to Behavior Change Made Easy (Sort of) for inspiration on this post.

KS West Dreams for the UMC

At the young adult clergy booth at the Kansas West Annual Conference, participants were invited to add a post it note sharing dreams for The United Methodist Church. The responses were (in no particular order):

  • Be Bold
  • to no longer support abortion
  • All means All..
  • Love God. Love people.
  • Relevance
  • To respect & value young clergy
  • AC is all Twitter
  • 1. Prisons close for lack of business; 2. Ignite your ministry where the flame meets the cross; 3. Put your faith to work where the flame meets the cross.
  • Social Revolution!
  • Wow we have met our church budget and it’s only July
  • Our whole church invites our whole town to VBS
  • Economic and Environmental Justice; The church as a prophetic voice.
  • That we would dream More!
  • Relax
  • Transformation of the world through Jesus Christ
  • Recruit young people!

My Vision for the United Methodist Church

I have been thinking a lot about the United Methodist Church, including the Top 5 Reasons I Stay in The United Methodist Church earlier in the week.

My vision for the United Methodist Church is that:

  • Every church or charge will have at least one new member join by profession of faith each year.
  • United Methodists will be known in their community by the practice of their faith and care for their neighbors.
  • Every church or charge that needs to close will do so graciously and generously.
  • Each United Methodist will take seriously the call to offer Christ to those who have not received the good news.
  • Each United Methodist will be committed to the denomination only to the extent that it is effective for making disciples of Jesus Christ.
  • No United Methodist will hold so tightly to the past as to prevent following God’s active spirit.

Check back tomorrow for ideas about how this might happen and feel free to share your vision.

Response to Who is Jesus to you?

I received an email response to the post, Who is Jesus to you? from Adam, a Resurrection attender, and thought it was well worth sharing with you. With his permission:

Andrew, I think this is an interesting question, but so is your answer:

“Jesus is my Lord and Savior. He continues to teach me about what it is like to live as one of his followers in a kingdom that is not of this world, but is coming into the world.”

I think this is very similar to what most mainline Christians (including myself) and especially those who grew up in “the church” would declare. However, I would throw out these questions:

  1. What is a “Lord” in modern terms and vernacular? We don’t have Lords anymore.
  2. What is he a “Savior” from? A big ravine? Democrats? Republicans? Stupid people?

So in short, perhaps this needs to be modernized. So we say that he is our CEO and saves use from our sinful wrong lived lives???? Just a thought.

iCampus – What about the incarnation?

This is a series of responses to questions about an internet campus from a previous series of posts. Do you have any other questions? Feel free to leave them in the comments and I will try to respond to each one. Thanks!

Matt Judkins offered this comment at LifeChurch.tv Internet Campus – Not (3 of 8) about a month ago:

Interesting. I think this begs a question about the nature of community within an online/virtual Church campus. We all know that community can form online. The question is this: what kind of community is it? Is it partial community that never materializes? If we follow a God who chose to self-reveal by incarnation, “in the flesh,” what are we to think about a virtual community that never incarnates?

What would be the nature of community for an internet campus? These are great questions and ones that give me the most hesitation when thinking about an internet campus. The best case scenario that I have in response to the first question is that persons would gather with others to worship together as a part of the internet campus. If a group of 6 to 12 or more met regularly with an internet connection and worshiped together there would be a physical community of which they were all a part. This would be preferable to individuals worshiping as a part of the internet campus on their own. However, even individuals in a room with a computer by themselves would be entering into a community of which they would not otherwise be a part. I think that community can exist online and as Clif reminds me – the potential to connect with others in this way has never before been possible in history.

What about the reality of God’s revelation through the incarnation? This question touches on an understanding of God and on an understanding of what it means to be the church. I would not want someone’s experience of church for their entire journey of faith to be as a physically alone individual as a part of an internet campus (see the previous question and also the question from a previous post – What about the sacraments?). I do believe that the people of the church should gather physically, but not necessarily all the time. God came to us physically once in history in the person of Jesus Christ and continues to be with us in the non-physical presence of the Holy Spirit. I believe that the Holy Spirit would be at work connecting those worshiping as a part of an internet campus.

I know that I need to keep thinking about these questions and I have The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture: How Media Shapes Faith, the Gospel and Church waiting for me at The Well Bookstore when I get back to church tomorrow. I also have on my list to read Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. Do you have any other resources – online, books or otherwise – that might be helpful in considering these questions?

What do you think about my responses? How would you respond to this question?