19 November 2009

What If Jesus Meant All That Stuff?

Shane Claiborn shows up in the most unusual places... among the poor, among the disenfranchised, among the homeless, in the pages of Esquire...

Here is his apology to the non-believers for not being more like Jesus! Click here to see the article...

What If Jesus Meant All That Stuff?

17 November 2009

Who is equal to such a task?

A few Thursdays ago, Phyllis and I were on the road late in the evening. It was the day of the Ft Hood shootings and we were unsure of what was going on. So instead of listening to good praise or jazz or 60's music on our satellite radio, we tuned in CNN for four hours on the interstate. It kept me awake while Phyllis dozed and helped me get a grasp of what was happening in Texas.

Now a few weeks later most of us are still unsure of why this happened, but the ideas of terrorism and Islamic jihad, fatwa and Muslim extremism keep floating around. The shooter was a Muslim and we know how Muslims are, right?

So I've begun to think about all the Muslims I know. Most American Christians don't know a Muslim. They might have neighbors who are Muslims, but they probably don't know them, have never been in their homes or had them in their homes. But that's no big deal. Most American Christians don't know the Methodists or Catholics that live down the street. (Not that Methodists or Catholics are not Christians… you know what I mean.)

But I know Muslims.

I know Muslims because I lived in the Middle East and in Africa. And the "kinds" of Muslims are as diverse as there are "Christians." All shapes, sizes, theological interpretations and extremes. I know Muslims who did the hajj (the expected at least once in a lifetime pilgrimage to Mecca) several times but were totally secular otherwise eating pork, never attending mosque and hanging out with infidels – Christians – on a regular basis. I know some Muslims that are "cultural Muslims" in that they have no sense of religion, but because they were born in an Islamic family in an Islamic country they are in their minds Muslims. And I know some very devout praying-five-times-a-day and to the mosque on Friday Muslims. And I know even a few radical Muslims who despise Americans and Christians – in that order.

But I also know some Christians. And I know that they run the gamut of beliefs and practices. I know some fundamentalists who are more American than Christian and are angry about everything. I know some liberal thinkers that embrace Islam as another possibility to know god. And I know folks all in between these extremes.

Some of my friends use King James Bibles exclusively; everything else is just a perversion. Some are addicted to New American Standard, but without the passion of the KJV only folks. I know Christians who speak in tongues and believe that those who don't are running on 3 cylinders. And I know those who see glossolalia as totally demonic. And even some who think it's a psychotic condition of people who are one brick short of a load.

Christians – like Muslims – come in all shapes and sizes.

And I know church people who when it comes to Muslims, want to nuke-em-til-they-glow and let God sort out the remains.

And my concern is that we as followers of Jesus must do our best to look and smell like Jesus. In my thinking that's what it really means to be a follower of Jesus: modeling our lifestyle and philosophy of life after Him, His Words and example.

Paul writes to the church at Corinth: But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task? (2Co 2:14-16)

The big challenge is in understanding who we are as Christ's ambassadors and walking it out in love and humility. Our life is found in being the sent people of God and living our "sentness" in compassion and mercy smelling like Jesus everywhere all the time.

And like Paul I ask, "Who is up to this task? "

16 November 2009

What about Jesus and culture?

My friend and former student, Bill Fiesser wrote me,

“Hey Glenn had a thought today and wanted your opinion. If another culture calls God by a different name but is taught access to that God comes through His son Jesus is that a disservice to the people of that culture?”

I answered:

Bill, if I understand your question – and I’d really like to hear your thoughts and what provoked the question – whenever we bring the good news of Jesus into a culture, we actually do honor to the people there. Especially when we do it right by being culturally sensitive.

In different languages god has a different “name.” But his attributes and personality can be very different along with his names. Zeus and the plethora of Greek gods are very different from the creator God of the Bible. Kali – a Hindu deity – is very different from the merciful divinity we see in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. So we can say all gods are not created equal! (I’m not saying god is created… you know what I mean!)

And almost every culture and religion has a supreme Creator. I was once in India and was asked, “Where does God live?” And in this question my host (who had a whole “temple” of gods in the corner of the room) was asking where the Creator God resided.

And every culture – even our “home culture” – contains parts of the good, the bad and the ugly! Some vestige in culture is derived from the imago dei – image of God – other elements are purely demonic and some are just neutral and pragmatic.

The Gospel is not about someone named “Jesus” and someone named “God.” He can be called Yesua, Yesu or Jesus. And even the “name” “God” is an English word from the German word, from the Indo-European word from the Hebrew word… So the terminology is not as important as the relationship and the story. In the Gospel of Jesus, we bring the news of a superabundant loving God who bridges a gap between Creator and creation by becoming a man. We bring honor and dignity to the society by giving a story of God’s redemption of His world.

We serve people, families and cultures when we bring the story of Jesus. We do them a disservice when we hold good things to ourselves and don’t share.

Make sense?

02 November 2009

Coupla Things…

Last night, Phyllis and I were in a "Newcomers" meeting at the church of which we've become a part. It's a pretty unique church in it's philosophy of ministry – turning seekers into servants – and it actually meets in a multiplex movie theater. The theater begins selling tickets and showing the movies at 11:30, so we're in and out for two services beginning at 8:30. When you come in, you're assaulted by popcorn smells and huge posters of the current movies that are playing. (Recently we met in the theater playing "Zombieland" daily except when we were there, and a few months before the children's church met in the "Drag Me to Hell" theater. Irony.)

But we were at the Newcomer Café last night and I found it interesting to hear the new folks explain how they came to the church and what they found "attractive" after they came. The majority of the newbies came because they found the church in the internet. That's right, they moved to town, Googled "churches" and came to the one in the Rave Theater. One couple with two small children did begin attending because they saw the portable sign on the road between the Starbucks and the new Buffalo Wings place. And since they were late for the Lutheran church said, "We can make it on time here," so they wheeled in and stayed.

But I'm pretty amazed at how many people found the church through the internet. They found the church through Google!

Now our church has a rocking interactive website complete with audio messages, etc. But it is a true sign of the times, that developing a website for churches is important. And tell the truth, most church websites are outdated and pretty – can I say this out loud? – crappy. They don't tell much and because they don't get many hits are low on the Google search totem poll. One of the leaders whipped out her iPhone and right in the meeting Googled churches in our fair city and sure enough, number one in the search was our very church.

Churches don't have great websites mainly because they're expensive, not just to set up, but to maintain and keep current. But I'm just saying, if you want to let people find you, do a good website.

Of course a good way to get people to a church meeting is to actually be out among people. Like at work or school or Starbucks and develop a relationship and invite them. One newbie had actually done that, inviting a young Catholic classmate (who sat behind me yesterday morning and cried during worship) to come with her. She kept saying last night, "It was just awesome. I've never been in anything like this before."

Also, there is a neat article here regarding the amazing impact of social networking, both online and otherwise.

I'm convinced that although we attempt to think linear with things happening in 1-2-3's, real life happens in "systems." Networks develop into tribes which develop systems that interact with each other. Somehow we're all just learning and getting our heads around the idea that life and church and community's not just about cause-and-effect proceeding like a line of dominoes painstakingly set up and then tapped by a finger, it's about complicated relationships that intertwine and become networks and systems.

The universe is made up of interacting individuals, families, social groups who cause things to happen. Influence is important. According to the article, it seems to work with obesity and other "norms" for networks. When we as salt and light truly influence for good, it goes beyond where we are for at least four degrees, too.

Also, this weekend I read Donald Miller's latest book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. Pages 189-206 are some of the best marriage advice I've ever read. Don (whom I think is still single) is transparent and profound as he explores in these two chapters the mystery of human relationships. I read these chapters out loud to Phyllis and Jane last night. The hardback price is worth it for just these seventeen pages alone.

I wish I wrote as well as Donald…