Emergent Brethren » 2010 » February

Archive for February, 2010

Books / Readings

Thy Kingdom Connected

The other week I received the book “Thy Kingdom Connected: What the Church can learn from Facebook, the Internet, and Other Networks” by Dwight J. Friesen from the Ooze Viral Bloggers. I get a book about once a month, read it, and then post my thoughts on this blog and also on the Ooze Viral Bloggers site. It’s a great deal. I get free books out of it, and all I have to do is write about the books.

The book is about Network theory and what the church can learn from it. I’m not sure exactly what I was getting when I chose the book. Maybe I expected more “practical” applications to Network theory. As a church planter I am looking for ways of using things like Facebook, Twitter, and the Internet to interact with people, get the word out about Veritas, and develop missional opportunities. After adjusting my expectations about a chapter into it, I began to connect with alot of what Friesen was getting at.

The three biggest connections that were helpful to me were the Bounded Set/Centered Set discussion, the chapter on Network Ecology, and the discussion about Christ Commons and Christ Clusters.

The discussion on Bounded and Center sets reminded me of the same theme in the book “The Shaping of Things to Come.” A Bounded set is all about boundaries. Therefore making it easy to determine who is in and who isn’t. Alot of the times with Bounded sets within the Christian community there are clearly defined lines of what makes a follower of Jesus, and alot of those things are, in my opinion, peripheral issues. Things like what political party you belong to, whether you smoke or drink, what you “look like”, etc.. A Centered set however is all about direction. It’s about orienting around a center or “hub”. It doesn’t matter how close to the center you are, it matters if you are moving toward the center. And so for the church, with Jesus as the center, or “hub” we need to be a centered set, encouragiing people to move toward the center.

Hopefully Veritas is the kind of place that lives out a centered set instead of a bounded set. He want to focus on the center (Jesus) and help people make their way towards the center. To orientate their life toward movement toward the center and not the other way. That is not to say that we don’t have ideas what makes a follower of Jesus. We just don’t focus on alot of external things that people can too often get hung up on.

This is what Friesen says about missional communities and centered sets, “The centered paradigm has some clear advantages for thinking about spiritual formation because it focuses on what is central while allowing for porous boundaries. The centered paradigm helps Christ followers orient themselves in terms of who God is as revealed in Christ. And the issue is not external boundaries but movement with the Holy Spirit toward Christ. The centered paradigm still maintains a distinction between being a Christian and not being a Christian, but its emphasis is not on maintaining the external boundaries in order to preserve personal purity in order to ensure that one is “in”. Rather, the distinction is for the sake of cluster identity. Centered paradigms also allow for and encourage variation among Christians. All are seen as being on different paths along their Christ-centered journeys, and that’s a good thing.”

Next time I’ll look at the chapter on Network ecology and the idea of being closed while at the same time being open. So this looks to be a 3 part blog on “Thy Kingdom Connected.” Hopefully I’ll do the next two blogs before I leave for Deep Creek Lake in Maryland for some Snowboarding on Thursday.

Spiritual Formation

It’s Time for Lent

Today is “Fat Tuesday”, the day to party hardy before Lent begins. In our group Bible study last night, I enjoyed this definition for Lent: The purpose of Lent is to prepare our hearts for receiving God’s love, culminating in Easter. In order to be able to “Grasp!” the love of Christ, we must first release our grip of what is taking its place (false idols that temporarily use to meet a need). Thomas Aquinas said, “Every affirmation is also a relinquishment.” What is God inviting you to release for a season to recognize His love in a greater way?

Does your church do anything for Lent? I know that some congregations almost ignore this season of the church year and others dive in, including the use of purple cloth for vestments.

Last night, I asked the question at our community group Bible study, “Have you ever given anything up for Lent?”. I was surprised by the responses. Our group is made-up of people who grew-up in different churches. The large majority said, “No.” They didn’t find the idea of sacrificing something to be of any particular interest or much value. One person who has practiced it also suggested that in addition to giving something up for Lent, one could try putting something on. For example, trying a new prayer discipline.

I’m curious to hear what some of your past experiences have been and what you find most meaningful. Is anything being planned for your congregation for Lent this year?

Blessings to you!
Jeff

Books / Readings, Church Planting, Decline/Growth

Evaluating your Faith Community

I have been wading through the dense work that is “Thy Kingdom Connected”. I am struggling to figure out how the thoughts, words, and philosophy works itself out in my context. I am still working on that and will be for a while if not for as long as I’m alive. But as I sit here in Starbucks reading I came upon a great quote regarding how you evaluate the effectiveness of your faith community. And this has helped me, because last week I was struggling alot with trying to evaluate the community and was always coming back to the same old metric of numbers. Here is what I just read that is so helpful. Read this, ponder it, and wrestle with it.

“To determine how your church is doing, don’t gauge it by the individuals in your church, or even in comparison to what other churches are doing; go to God’s bigger narrative. How is your local faith community participating with God in God’s dream for the re-creation of heaven and earth? How is your church participating in the flourishing of God’s dream of abundant life for all?”

And so I need to ask myself, “How is Veritas currently participating with God in God’s dream? And how can Veritas begin to participate with God in God’s dream?” Those are two great questions that I will be wrestling with and also asking others within Veritas what they think.

I’ll be blogging later this week with more reflections from “Thy Kingdom Connected.”