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I love Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of John 1:14,

The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighbourhood.

This is the season we sing of the coming of the new born King – Immanuel, God with Us.

The shocking concept that the creator of the Universe comes as a babe to be with us — to be in our midst — he moves into, and grows up in our neighbourhood.

And when he grows up, he is accused by both the religious authorities and the occupational rulers of conspiring to overthrow their power — conspiring with his disciples.

Coffee Chat Discipleship Conspiracy

Conspire, as stated in the previous post, at its latin root means to “breathe together”. Jesus and his disciples in deep relationship with one another, ‘conspired’ — they ‘breathed together.’

Discipleship, in its truest sense (as practiced by the One we claim to follow) is life lived together in conspiracy — ‘breathing together.’ There is an intimacy that is not reflected in the Western pedagogical sense of classroom with teacher/pedagogue, and multiple students listening at their desks.

Jason Blair tweeted this, this morning:

American discipleship has a lot of ‘talk’ and ‘study’ but not a lot of ‘do.’ Why do we expect anyone to listen to us, and why do some?

I often read of pastors/church leaders conducting Sunday morning “discipleship classes.” I believe they are mistaken. Perhaps these are catechism classes — which some might be shocked to know I believe are important.

But. Discipleship cannot be taught in a classroom setting, it can only be caught from lives lived together.

As “discipleship” begins to replace “missional” as the subject du jour, I think it critical we look at how Jesus discipled.

And ask him to help us ‘conspire’ to build his kingdom.

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And it wouldn’t be Christmas at the Kinnon abode without a little Rob Mathes Music – When The Baby Grew Up

Discipleship is Conspiracy

kinnon —  December 9, 2012 — 6 Comments

Conspire: to breathe together.

Discipleship is conspiracy — lives “breathed together.”

Lord of the Flies Religion

kinnon —  January 26, 2012 — 24 Comments

I woke up early this morning with my brain still buzzing about the latest from Seattle’s answer to the Western church. And in that buzzing, was the sense that what I had been reading was a modern-day retelling of the book, Lord of the Flies.

The stories here, here, here, and here are stories about power and control. They are stories about young men being taught that to be a leader in the church means to be hard, strong, quick to judgment, domineering, and at all times, in control. Nietzschean will to power is the driving force. And if you won’t be led, they will do everything in their power to destroy you, vainly believing that they are following Jesus in Matthew 18.

This is what happens when a young man becomes a Christian and then starts his own church without ever having been effectively mentored by an older-in-the-faith person. This is what happens when a new believer with a charismatic personality and practiced stage technique is never properly discipled and ends up with significant church authority.

But here’s the rub. The leader of this church is part of the neo-reformed tribe… or is that team. And yet that tribe or team, so quick to judge and respond to anything they think is outside the realm of their understanding of Christianity, is strangely silent as lives, perhaps thousands of lives, are damaged by a truly undiscipled leader. (The size of his church does not provide him with a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free pass for his actions, as only an ahistorical student of humanity would believe the number of one’s followers justifies one’s actions.)

DA Carson and Tim Keller accepted what appears to be the forced resignation of James MacDonald from the neo-reformed Gospel Coalition because he was associating with TD Jakes—believed to be a Oneness Pentecostal. (There is a letter floating around the interwebs that unpacks this. I won’t link to it here.)

But where do they stand on the actions of Mark Driscoll?

I realize that Driscoll is not a member of TGC. But. He is a part of their tribe/team. Driscoll is a Council Member of TGC (as pointed out by Deb in the comments.) So… when one of TGC stars, Kevin DeYoung, can write thousands, if not tens of thousands of words at the drop of a hat, on any particular topic that offends the Gospel Coalition world — is it fair to surmise that Driscoll’s actions are not problematic for them.

To further my point, I’ve noticed that most of the reviews of Driscoll’s book, Real Marriage by the neo-reformed have been almost obsequiously fair. (This doesn’t apply to Tim Challies’ review of the book but I would suggest that Challies is more neo-fundamentalist than he is neo-reformed.) Yes, most of these neo-reformed reviews have had issues with certain sections of Driscoll’s book but they can’t quite bring themselves to say, “Don’t buy it!” or, at least, “This isn’t a complementarian position — it is simply misogynist.”

David Fitch asks the question whether Driscoll is an outlier or an actual representative of the North American neo-reformed position. Might I suggest, that with crickets being mostly what we hear from this camp/tribe/team in regards to Driscoll, it appears he’s a representative. And that makes me profoundly sad.

Or, to return to the title, the island is on fire but where are the adults?

UPDATE: Read Wade Burleson’s post from today - Our Problem Is Authoritarianism and Not Legalism and then my buddy Jared Wilson (of recent TGC fame and fortune) from last November, 5 Leadership Signs Your Movement is Dying. And make a point of reading Fitch’s gentle caution in the comments, please.

The Mac team they were all in one building and they eventually got to one hundred people. Steve had a rule that there could never be more than one hundred people on the Mac team. So if you wanted to add someone you had to take someone out. And the thinking was a typical Steve Jobs observation: “I can’t remember more than a hundred first names so I only want to be around people that I know personally. So if it gets bigger than a hundred people, it will force us to go to a different organization structure where I can’t work that way. The way I like to work is where I touch everything.” Through the whole time I knew him at Apple that’s exactly how he ran his division.

John Sculley on Steve Jobs from Cult of Mac.

UPDATE: I add this David Reimer supplied link below but think it's important enough to put it at the top of this post: Top Ten Reasons You Should Quit Facebook

UPDATE 2: The always brilliant Dr. danah boyd, Facebook and “radical transparency” (a rant)

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Facebook is a business. Nothing wrong with that.

But.

The business they are in is monetizing us – our thoughts, wants, desires, internet wanderings, connections, networks… you get the drift.

MarkZuckAllYourDataBelong2Me-1.jpg

My desire for privacy is something they will do whatever necessary to get around.

Because.

My privacy inhibits their ability to make money.

It would seem that Facebook makes a privacy promise and then breaks it – or at least finds a new way to get around it. Only further to anger their more intelligent subscribers.

Today they are in meetings to find a way around the latest firestorm their "privacy" settings have created.

Trust me. It's truly about finding a way around – not about protecting your privacy.

They aren't meeting about how to make their customers happy. It's all about how they can stop people from whining and complaining about them simply trying to monetize us.

Because.

All we are is marketable data to Facebook.

And that's why, as soon as I post this, I'm deactivating my Facebook account. I'm tired of getting Zucked.

Gone.

Bye, Bye.

So Long.

But not fair well.

I wish Facebook a fate worse than MySpace.

UPDATE: Diaspora* is an interesting response to Facebook. We shall see what comes of it. (And yes I did donate a little bit of money to their cause. Fools rush in and all that.)

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If you are confused by my post then please read these posts:

Facebook Follies, A Brief History

Why I Left Facebook

Jeff Jarvis' My Facebook Problem and Yours

Getting Zucked

Top 10 Reasons You Should Quit Facebook [via David Reimer]

My Shortest Book Review Ever

kinnon —  April 28, 2010 — 2 Comments

YourChurchTooSmall-sml.jpg

I’m reading John Armstrong’s Your Church is Too Small. You should be too.

(Oh, and I bought four copies and gave three away to our Theo Pub group. Make that two. Barry paid too much for his copy.)

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Longer review coming later.

I’ve been away from blogging for a rather extended period. And I do have more important things to write about than this. But earlier in April, Moody publishing sent me a review of a book for which they said, “Feel free to post this review on your blog” or I was welcome to contact the publisher for a copy of the book to review myself.

Bizarrely, the review is written in the first person, but no author is quoted as writing the review,

Ten years ago, I made a huge mistake. I can picture the table where I sat in my high school cafeteria. I quickly found myself in a heated conversation about Jesus with my new friend, who was Jewish.

I would have been 44, ten years ago, and I certainly hope I wasn’t sitting in my high school cafeteria then. By doing a google search, I was able to discover that Jenna Levon was the actual author of the review, though that info wasn’t available in the email or the attached Word document.

Now, I don’t see anything particular nefarious in this. Other than there being either a profound lack of understanding of the blog world – bloggers write because they actually have opinions on things – or a belief that we are desperate for content. In my not having blogged for a significant period of time, perhaps the Moody folk were just trying to help.

Do you think Moody sent the writers at Christianity Today the same offer? Or do they hold them in higher regard? I’m just wondering.

For more of my opinions about blogging and publishers, read this, please – as well as Jordon Cooper here.

To suggest I was surprised by some of the reactions to my previous review posts on McLaren's A New Kind of Christianity would be disingenuous. I expected push back from folk who are Brian's fans and I certainly got it. What was disheartening, however, was the level at which some responded. One person called me "mean and nasty" and said she would side with McLaren simply based on how I wrote – somehow likening McLaren to Martin Luther King and William Wilberforce – she didn't like my sarcastic tone. (I'd suggest her hyperbole filter was broken.) In response to that comment, a friend emailed me to suggest I "might win the battle, but lose the war." Mean, nasty, war, battle – really?!

Now, there is no doubt that I responded strongly to McLaren's book and there is little need for me to rehash my points. But the fact that so many people, many who had yet to read the book, found it necessary to defend Brian rather than discuss the points of my argument – to suggest that I simply "misunderstood him" rather than being willing to discuss the points raised – to label me as a conservative rather than engaging with me as a somewhat sentient human being – suggests that we have lost the art of vigorous debate and only want to engage in what we have labeled "civil discourse." But really what we mean by that phrase is "we need to be nice to each other, talk to each other gently and never tell the other person they're wrong – 'cause that just wouldn't be nice, you know."

As an aside, I found it indicative of the problems in this discourse that a "reviewer" on Amazon gave Brian's new book a five star rating even though they had yet to read it. "I really feel that I have to make comments even before I read the book. Reading the book will not change the content of this comment." [emphasis added] At least the person is honest enough to tell us that reading the book will not change how they will feel about it.

Scot McKnight wrote a strongly negative response to Brian's book that was published at Christianity Today's site last Friday (February 26th.). At one point he dismissed the cornerstone of Brian's thesis, the Greco-Roman soul-sort narrative,

McLaren's soul-sort narrative is a caricature of a narrative that no responsible thinker really believes or teaches in the bald, insensitive, and barbaric ways described in this book. It's a caricature of Romans 5. [emphasis added]

Now, one can choose to read that as Scot being "mean and nasty" by the strength with which he makes his argument – or one could accept that this is a noted University Professor, speaking from within his field of expertise who is frustrated by the fallacious nature of McLaren's thesis and dismisses it out of hand. Although Scot and Brian are friends, Scot is not concerned about Brian's "feelings" here because he is vigorously engaging with Brian's argument.

Scot has invited people at Jesus Creed to discuss his CT review but felt it necessary to say this,

I like Brian, and I think Brian is a good man, and I think he said important things that we evangelicals need to hear, but what I think of Brian as a person is not the same as what I think of his latest book: A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith. So, I'd appreciate it if this review does not turn into a "I like Brian" or "I dislike Brian" contest. The issue is what he has written. [emphasis added]

virtuerebornTomWright.jpg

My wife, Imbi is finishing Tom Wright's new book, Virtue Reborn (published in North America by HarperONE as After You Believe by N.T.Wright) and will be doing a review here in the next week or so.

As is normal for us when one of us reads a book we find particularly interesting or challenging, we read select parts to the other. Imbi read the quote below to me late Saturday evening – finding what the Bishop of Durham says therein particularly appropriate to the present discussion,

Part of our difficulty in the Christian world of late Western modernity has been that the mind, the faculty of thought and reasoning, has become detached. As happens if you have a detached retina in your eye, when you're thinking becomes detached you stop seeing things clearly. "Thought"and "reason" seem to have been placed to one side, in a private world reserved for "intellectuals" and "academics."(Note for example, the way in which sports commentators use the word "academic" to mean "irrelevant" as in "from now on the result of the race is academic.") Furthermore, we often speak of our thoughts as if they were feelings: in a meeting, to be polite, we might say "I feel that's wrong", because it sounds less confrontational than saying, "I think that's wrong". Similarly, perhaps without realizing it (which itself is a sign of the same problem!), we sometimes allow feelings to override thoughts: "I feel very strongly that we should do this" can carry more rhetorical weight than "I think we should do that" since nobody wants to hurt our feelings. As a natural next step, we allow feelings to replace thought processes altogether, so that what looks outwardly like a reasoned discussion is actually an exchange of unreasoned emotions, in which all participants claim the high moral ground because when they say, "I feel strongly we should to do this", they are telling the truth: they do feel strongly, so they will feel hurt and rejected if people don't agree with them. Thus reasoned discourse is abandoned in favour of the politics of the playground. (2010 SPCK, Virtue Reborn, Pg 134) [emphasis added]

No doubt there are many who read my reviews who "feel" that I reacted in a "mean and nasty" way to Brian. Again, there is no debate that sarcasm is a voice I often use at this blog. That being said, isn't choosing to simply react to that voice rather than engage with the points I've made – in some cases rather well, might I suggest :-) – exactly what Wright is talking about?

I think it's great some of you like Brian a lot and believe him to be a very nice man. I wouldn't debate that point with you for a nanosecond. But it is not Brian's character or personality I have "done battle with" but rather the ideas in his book. Ideas, might I add, that say some pretty "mean and nasty" things about those who disagree with those ideas. (And I back that statement up with actual quotes and page numbers in the previous reviews.)

Randy Alcorn points to this John Stott quote from Stott's The Cross of Christ,

The kind of God that appeals to most people today would be easy-going in his tolerance of our offenses. He would be gentle, kind, accommodating. He would have no violent reactions. Unhappily, even in the church we seemed to have lost the vision of the majesty of God. There is much shallowness and levity among us. Prophets and psalmists would probably say of us, "There is no fear of God before their eyes." In public worship our habit is to slouch or squat; we do not kneel nowadays, let alone prostrate ourselves in humility before God. It is more characteristic of us to clap our hands with joy than to blush with shame or tears.

In a 2nd Sunday of Easter sermon, one of my favourite preachers, Fleming Rutledge describes Job's response at the end of his story. She preached this,

…if God had answered Job in the way that we would expect, with soothing explanations and comforting reassurances, then the answer to the question, Is there a God beyond what we can imagine? would have to be, No. Anyone can imagine a God who does what we expect. The reason that so many people have complained that God’s answer to Job is no answer at all is that they want a God who fits their preconceptions. Job, however, is manifestly satisfied. The God who is really God has come to him and has revealed himself as the one who was already present, already at work before there was anyone to imagine him. God is the author of creation; the creation is not the author of God. This was revealed to Job by the living voice and presence of God’s own self. That was enough.

There is a wonderful link between the passage from Job and the Gospel lesson this morning. The disciple Thomas was not interested in hearing what the other disciples had to say about the Resurrection. Very much like Job, he refused to be satisfied until he got a personal response from the Son of God. If he didn’t get one, he would not believe. When Jesus therefore came and stood before him, Thomas hushed up in the same way that Job did, and for the same reason: God had revealed himself from a domain beyond the grave that Thomas could not have imagined for himself. The living Son of God had appeared to him personally,. Thomas’ response is the pinnacle of Christian affirmation, spoken in the highest language of the Bible: My Lord and my God. [emphasis added]

I am as guilty as anyone of wanting to worship a likeable God, a God I can understand. But that is not the God whose thoughts are not my thoughts and my ways are not His ways. The distance between His ways and mine; an order of magnitude beyond my comprehension. God cannot be put in a box or described in a book. He is.

I am reminded of the children in C.S. Lewis' The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe who are afraid of Aslan when they first hear of him. When Lucy asks if he's "safe," Mr. Beaver replies, "Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he is good."

The incomprehensible God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit we Christians worship is anything but safe. But. He is Good!

I got up this morning and read a few RSS feeds while wondering if someone had wrapped a steel band around my chest overnight and tightened it while I fitfully slept. (A whingeful way to say I have a chest cold that has taken up residence.) In the reading of said feeds and comments on certain posts it became evident that there is a tendency to call Brian McLaren a wolf in sheep's clothing.

This is not fair.

Let me explain why.

(And note, I began writing this post in my head long before I knew about Brian's response to my previous posts – I don't subscribe to Brian's RSS feed. This is not a quid pro quo – and I fully intend on writing a response to Brian's response to my response and expecting your response. I trust you will see that I want to be responsive. I think I just channelled my FuturistGuy friend, Brad.)

In my unpublished, much-too-long response to Brian's book, I wrote what appears between the lines.

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My wife, Imbi and I were introduced to Brian's writing shortly after his book, A New Kind of Christian came out. The book scratched us where we itched. Imbi had grown up in the church (an ethnic Baptist Church in Toronto) and I had come to (or perhaps come back to) faith as an adult in 1982. Imbi and I have engaged with the church as lay leaders (for want of a better term) from about a year after we were married (in 1983), until 2005.

Brian's first in the New Kind of Christian series, along with Leonard Sweet's Soul Tsunami, were like fresh cold water after what felt like years in a dry and thirsty land. Bruce Cockburn has a song that captured our angst with the church at that time.

There must be more… more…
More songs, more warmth
More love, more life
Not more fear, not more fame
Not more money, not more games

[More Not More – Bruce Cockburn ©1980]

We felt that the church had gotten sucked into the star making machine. Leaders seeking more fame, more money, playing more games. A church that had become one more big box store offering to meet your consumer-driven spiritual needs. Len Sweet's Soul Tsunami promised a reformation of transparency in the church and Brian's book promised a Christianity more rooted in Christ, more relational, more engaging, more real.

Imbi and I met Brian in the flesh for the first time in 2006 at an Allelon event in Boise, Idaho. It was the first time we had heard Brian live. He's a gifted public speaker; warm, gracious, fabulous voice, funny, serious and engaged. We interviewed him for a book written by a mutual friend. Brian does gives a good interview.

We next heard Brian when he was in Toronto in the Spring of '07 for an event @ Wycliffe College where Imbi was working on her Masters in Theological Studies (which she completed last year).

At that time, Brian also spoke at a Resonate event at the church where Darryl Dash pastors. We videotaped that event and Imbi later interviewed Brian in Darryl's office. Brian had been away from home for a while, was very tired, and yet he was gracious, as ever.

Imbi commented that her sense of Brian was that he was a real pastor. Even when strongly questioned – he listened to the questioner. He never shot back – but rather, attempted to honestly hear what the other person was saying and then responding appropriately. I felt Brian was unfairly attacked in a blog post the next day written by someone who had sat quietly at that event and I responded here. (As an INFP myself, one would think that I'd have a bit more grace for someone who didn't feel comfortable asking questions in a public space and though I still don't agree with the level of his original attack, I do now think that writer was on to something.)

My last time with Brian was in the fall of 2008. I shot an Allelon video about his book, Everything Must Change. In the conversation before the shoot, Brian was definitely ticked by some of the attacks he was getting from former friends who did not have the courtesy to talk to him directly. (He had every right to be ticked as he'd travelled extensively with the person who was now relentlessly attacking him – without speaking to him directly.)

Brian talked with me about my People Formerly Known as the Congregation post which had created its own blogstorm – and he was particularly taken with my son Liam's response.

Brian would tell you that his primary spiritual gift is as an evangelist. (As he tells the folk at the 2009 Episcopal Church General Conference here. Episcopal Life News Report here.) My understanding from friends is that Brian was used by the Spirit to help many people come to a place of knowing Christ as their savior in his years of active pastoral ministry and since. This is nothing to sneer at.

Brian grew up Plymouth Brethren, a rather strict expression of evangelical Christianity. As he tells us in ANKoChristianity (Pg 3) and in the above TEC General Conference sermon, he at one point considered going into the Episcopal priesthood. Instead, a bible study group ended up turning into a church – after Brian had received his BA and MA in English from the University of Maryland.

A writer at his core (I would suggest), Brian began to write about the church. Increasingly frustrated with an evangelical expression of church that ignored social justice, the environment and seemed most focused on getting people across the line to salvation and then teaching them how to live "Their Best Life Now," Brian began to ask important questions. A New Kind of Christian (again, the first in his NKC trilogy) put Brian on the map for a lot of us.

Now, I read the book through the lens of my then evangelical-charismatic perspective of the church. (I would simply identify as a Christian today.) To the best of my understanding, Brian was writing from within the broad swath of evangelicalism at the time. Sure it was a shot across the bow of the Institutional Evangelical Church – but, I dare say, the IEC needed it.

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I will end the excerpt there or it will be much too long, again.

I have not properly given adequate time to reading Brian's response to my previous posts (which I will do and then respond in a later post) but I need to reaffirm my obvious response from my previous posts to Brian's book, A New Kind of Christianity:

[ Warning: Hyperbole Alert ] In this book, I don't think Brian has thrown the baby out with the bathwater, I think he's thrown the baby out after saying it was illegitimate to begin with and the water was really poison. [ End Hyperbole Alert ]

I think Darryl Dash most aptly critiques the book,

…this is not a minor tweak of Christianity. It is a repudiation of the church’s understanding of God and the gospel. It really is tearing up the contract and starting all over again. McLaren says we’ve got the whole Biblical storyline, as well as our ideas of God and Scripture, all wrong. He’d rather be an atheist, he says, than believe in the God that many of us think is found in the Bible. You don’t get any more basic.

That’s what makes this book so hard to critique. Supporters of the book will say that I’m critiquing it from a Greco-Roman mindset, using the Bible as a constitution text rather than as a community library. So my criticisms will be expected. McLaren’s proposals go all the way back to the level of presuppositions, and unless you share his presuppositions it will be like complaining that the color red isn’t blue enough. Fine, they will say, but it wasn’t meant to be blue. He’s not only giving us a new version of the Christian story, but he’s making it very difficult to critique his new version using the resources of the old one. But I’m simply not convinced that he’s made the case that he thinks he has.

Like McLaren, I believe we need to honestly examine our beliefs and practices, making corrections even when it’s costly and uncomfortable. I believe that every generation needs to rediscover the gospel. But unlike McLaren, I’m not ready to toss the creation-fall-redemption storyline, or think that I’ve moved on from the God of Genesis 4-6. I’m simply not ready to say our old understanding of the gospel is wrong. We may need to rediscover it and be changed by it, and grow in our understanding of it. But that’s different than tearing up the contract and starting all over again.

So, if you are still tracking with me, back to what I state in the title – even after everything below the line above – calling Brian McLaren a wolf in sheep's clothing is neither fair nor accurate.

Brian has not approached the church from the outside with a desire to kill it – the move of a wolf – he has grown and framed his thesis from within the church. He is one of the sheep, with a pastor's heart (I still believe mostly – though more on that at another time), who has seen how much we've botched up the "faith once delivered" and has become more and more frustrated. But in that frustration, with an honest desire for his brothers and sisters in Christ to wake up and smell the coffee, Brian has swallowed whole what N.T. Wright calls the 4th Myth of Christianity;

(That) Christianity as we know it is based on a mistake. Mainstream Christianity is sexist, especially anti-women and anti-sex itself. It has aimed at, and in some places achieved, considerable social power and prestige, enabling it to be politically quietist and conformist. This, I find, goes down especially well with those who are escaping from either fundamentalism or certain types of Roman Catholicism. [emphasis added]

So let me end this by saying, though I think Brian's theory of what ANKoChristianity should look like is heretical as Alister McGrath would define it in his new book, Heresy – I will not scream "Heretic!" at Brian from the ramparts. I will not call for his head to be removed from his shoulders. I will not even say that he is not still my brother in Christ.

I will say however, "I understand your anger and frustration brother, and share much of it. But you've lost the plot. Elvis has left the building. There is no there there. It's time to come home. It's time to sit down with evangelical theologians like Wright and McGrath and let them help you understand that what you propose is not new at all. In fact, it is not dramatically different than what the Council of Niceae was defending the church from, when they first sat in 325 to discuss Arius' understanding of the faith. The net result of which did not actually benefit Constantine. There is no doubt that you can get an audience with them. Please do it. And again, Brian, please come home. We still need you."