Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Neo Pentecostalism

A few events over the summer have gotten me thinking a lot about this great movement sweeping the globe right now. For those of you that have no clue what I am talking about let me briefly explain.

Defined... Or at least described
The largest and fastest growing religion in the world is currently Christianity. The fastest growing sect/denomination/movement (insert your favorite term here) within Christianity in the world today is something most scholars are calling "Neo Pentacostalism" or "Neo Charasmatic." This is a hard term to define for several reasons.
1) Most people/churches who are part of this movement do not claim this title.
2) These churches look very different from city to city, country to country.
3) Many of these churches still go by their former name (Baptist, Community, Bible, even some Catholic churches, although this is rare).

There are a few things that are true of all (maybe I should say most) New Pentecostal churches that can help us identify these groups.
1) A very high view of the gifts of the Holy Spirit and of the Holy Spirit himself.
2) A very high value is placed on evangelism.
3) They believe they are a "New Testament Church" in the since that their beliefs and practices are largely based off of the book of Acts and the outbreaking of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Hence the name.

My Intentions
Ok, so by now you may have a few of these churches in mind, or maybe (highly likely) you are even a part of one of these communities of faith. Let me make my intentions very clear. I am not here to advocate for or judge against any particular faith community or movement. My intention in writing this is to help paint a picture of what I have observed, experienced and researched myself in order that some may learn something that may help themselves or someone they know live deeper into the heart and life of King Jesus.

Ground Rules
So anytime there is a big movement in any given religious group there are positives and negatives. If you don't believe this you might as well stop waisting your time with this blog. All movements are started by or at least managed by people. People have flaws. Movements have flaws. It's simple math.

The Good
It's always good to start with the positives.
1) An amazing number of people are coming into relationship with Jesus through this movement.
2) People in this movement take their faith very seriously. They are very bold about their faith.
3) People in this movement are finding thriving community through their church families who are part of this movement.
4) The Spirit is often manifesting himself in amazing ways in these communities.
5) There is a very high respect for the Scripture in this movement. Particularly in the book of Acts and in some of the Old Testament prophets writings.

I think most of us could agree that these are all very good things that this movement has brought to so many people. I for one am thankful for these things.

The Bad
Like I said, there is good and bad in every faith community. Lets just be honest and own it. (See previous posts to see how I have owned my faith traditions failures and successes.)
1) There are a few significant leaders in this movement that hold way too much weight in what happens in faith communities across the US. This also trickles down from the US to other nations due to missionary efforts. If we look at recent history we see that movements like this that had one or 2 central charismatic leaders typically crumble and leave horrible aftermath that Christians will be trying to cleanup for generations to come. (Think Kip McKean) I pray that this does not happen, but I dare say that no one man should ever hold as much of a burden as Bill Johnson out of Redding, CA does. I often hear young people talking about Bill Johnson as if he was the next best thing to Christ himself and talking about his church in Redding as some sort of Christian Mecca. It is hard to see anyway that this can end well. Again, I pray I am wrong because if I am not, things will get very ugly.
2) All too often a sense of pride finds it's way into these circles. This pride is largely based on the manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit. Those not experiencing the manifestations of the Spirit are often ostracized and made to feel inferior to the others. This leads to individuals either leaving the community to find a place to belong elsewhere or faking a manifestation in order to be accepted.
3) The Holy Spirit often is given more attention than Jesus himself. This would grieve the Spirit deeply. Everything he does is about pointing back to Jesus. He never draws attention to himself, but only to Jesus.

Closing Thoughts
So here's what I hope you can take away with you.
1) Stay humble. What you believe now probably isn't exactly what you believed 5 years ago and it's probably not exactly what you'll believe 5 years from now. It's possible that you are wrong. So be humble and know that your way of doing things is not necessarily the best way of doing it.
2) Be cautious of people who like to start ministries titled "insert name here ministries." Its an easy to see marker that they are struggling mightily with pride. Don't blindly follow anyone.
3) If the people around you talk about the Spirit more than Jesus, gracefully remind them that Jesus is the King and all of life in His Kingdom is about loving, honoring and serving Him. The Spirit's job is to help us do that better than we could on our own.
4) Let's all get along. It was Jesus' dying wish on the cross that we all live in unison with one another. The least we can do is give him that.

Grace and Peace.

Monday, May 09, 2011

The Inevitable vs. The Choice

Context is really inevitable isn’t it? You can choose your context to be sure. Regardless of where you are in life you are simply in a context. This is a fact of life you cannot escape. This seems obvious and overly simplistic. Yet it is key to understanding where and how to move and interact with the world.

Some contexts you get to choose, others are chosen for you. A baby is born into a particular context. I was born in the United States of America. Dallas, Texas to be more specific. Even more so, I was born to Clint and Belinda Bunch, an upper-middle-class, white, well-educated, republican, Christian, Church of Christ family. This is not the context I choose. I was simply born into it. There is nothing I can do to change the fact that I was born into the Bunch family.

My friend Tony was born into a very different context. Tony was born in the South Bronx. He’s not sure who his dad is, and to be honest, his mom isn’t sure either. He imagines he looks like his dad, because he looks nothing like his mom. He was born to a lower class, single-mother, atheist family that was just trying to make ends meet and help her son survive in a dangerous school system. Tony didn’t choose his context. He was simply born into it. There is nothing he can do to change the fact that he was born into the Williams family. What a strange world we live in. Some people are just lucky I guess…

Yet there was One who had the opportunity to choose His context. And it should be obvious which one He would choose right? Clearly He should choose the Bunch family. If you get to choose one, go with the Bunches. Am I right? Yet the One I am discussing, didn’t just get to choose to be a Bunch or a Williams. He had the opportunity to choose any context He wanted. Not bad huh?

Being that this One happened to choose the 1st Century AD to be born, you would think He would choose to be Caesar right? I mean, if you’re going to choose you might as well go big.

For some odd reason, He didn’t choose Caesar. He didn’t choose any royal family at all. In fact, He went the way of an illegitimate child of teenage girl who couldn’t afford one night in a motel. Why would He choose such a life? I mean, I’m no genius. But the answer is really clear that you’ve got to go with Caesar on this one!
One must wonder what Jesus of Nazareth was thinking when He choose Mary. He must have had something special in mind. Surely He had to have had a trick up His sleeve. The truth of the matter is, Jesus chose to intentionally place himself in the specific context of an unwed teenage girl so that he could best show his love to the world. It is out of the lowest class on earth that Jesus chooses to enter the world, because it is a sign of a new Kingdom coming. A Kingdom where everything is backwards and Jesus is King. The first are last and the last are first. Mourning is turned into dancing! Weakness is strength! The blind can see and the lame dance the streets all to the glory of the Most High King!

This is Good News for the poor! But what about me? I was born into the Bunch family. It was a context I didn’t choose, but if everything is backwards in this new Kingdom then that means I’m last.

Yet maybe all contexts aren’t chosen for you. After all I am an adult now. I choose where to go to college. I choose who to marry. I choose what job to take. Now, maybe a lot of these decisions were effected by the context that I did not choose, but that doesn’t mean I can’t still choose a new context, a new Kingdom.

In this new Kingdom all of the citizens are madly in love with their King. They radically abandon the ways of the world in order to pursue relationship with Him. They put all of their effort into becoming like Him in every way. As a follower of Jesus, intentionally placing oneself in a specific context that will best allow them to show their love for others is often over looked. We weren’t able to choose from birth, but as adults we are able to choose our context.

So the question becomes, will you choose to be first, or last?

Thursday, May 05, 2011

How to renew the Church?

“The renewal of the church will come from a new type of monasticism, which has only in common with the old an uncompromising allegiance to the Sermon on the Mount. It is high time men and women banded together to do this." -Dietrich Bonhoeffer

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone 4

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Action/Waiting Room Ethics

Two weeks ago my little sister got very sick so I took her there around 9:30PM. She is better, no worries…

Most of the time we were waiting was fairly inactive. There were several things I noticed as I looked around. I noticed a few husbands taking care of sick wives. A mother with her grown daughter. A grown daughter with her aging mother. A few families, one of the members was sick and the rest showed up. No one seemed to be by themselves. Until one man walked in alone.

He was a rough looking Hispanic man in his late 20s. About 5′8” 200 pounds, he looked like he used to be an athlete, but obviously wasn’t anymore. He seemed to have been hardened by the neighborhood that he may have grown up in. Wearing baggy jeans and a dirty tanktop to show off his many tatoos. His head was shaved clean and he had a swollen and bleeding eye. I assumed this was why he came in…

He started pacing back and forth in the room. He must have been trying to keep his cool by the look of anger on his face. A few minutes went by and another lone woman walked in and made a B-line to the phone that sat on a side table. She quickly picked up the phone, sat down and began to dial a number, making sure to keep her head low. The Hispanic man noticed her presence quickly and his anger was brought to rage at her sight. He started yelling profanities at her and telling her to leave quickly. The security guard behind the glass moved over to the window quickly to observe, but she seemed frightened herself.

The woman wouldn’t say a word, and didn’t budge, trying to make her phone call. The man grew louder and angrier. He started to yell for the security guard to remove her. It was at this time that he had his back to me and I could see the real reason he came to the ER. He had a golf ball sized gash in the back of his head, covered in blood.

The security guard appeared to be in shock. She didn’t know what to do so she just watched in silence, as did everyone else in the room. When he saw that the security guard wasn’t going to meet his demands he took matters into his own hands. He grabbed her by the hair and raised her up out of his seat. He then began to shake her head and tell her “get the f*$# out of here!”

When I saw that the security guard was not able to do her job I stood up in her defense. My blood was boiling, similar to the way it is now as I recall this event. I stood up, looked him in the eye and said, “You let go of her!”

He quickly moved all of his anger from the woman to me. He started yelling profanities at me, asking if I wanted to “take this outside.” I could think of no words to say that would be helpful. So I simply stood my ground and looked him in the eyes. I had already succeeded at my task anyways. The woman was not being harmed anymore. As he continued his threats 2 security guards came around the corner and escorted him outside.

Afterward several strangers asked me to recall the story from my perspective. So I preceded to tell the story over the next few hours to my new friends in the ER.

Its situations like this that call one to question things like, when is it wrong to be meek? When is being a peacemaker better? Or is it ever? What would I have done if the man had attacked me? Or if he hit the woman? Would I have moved in physically then? Was Jesus a pacifist? Or would he have stepped in physically to defend this helpless woman if things escalated?

Life is tough.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

What is the Emerging Church?

The Emerging Church is a fairly hot topic in many evangelical circles these days. This topic brings more childish banter out of the religious far right than any almost any other I can think of. I must also be fair to say that, those on the religious far left have used this expression of church as a sort of covering for an "anything goes theology."

Both are equally unhealthy. The Emerging Church is tough to define. Even the more prominent leaders of this emerging movement have a tough time defining it. I am by no means an authority on the subject. But it is a movement that I have been paying close attention to for the last 4-5 years. I have also been participating in a few expressions of church that most would define as “emerging” in the last year. Using both personal experiences and research I will attempt to briefly define the "Emerging Church" at the end of this post.

Let me tell you about a few of my experiences first...

I lead a monastic community in Edward’s Hall made up of 10 freshman and sophomore’s that have committed to a monastic rule that we developed together. This rule includes: daily time in silence/solitude, reading the sermon on the mount 3 times a week, fasting weekly, daily time in conversational prayer, weekly meeting with monk brothers, a soul friendship (church of 2 or 3), and bi-weekly coaching.

I am also part of a simple church that started in August. We meet together in each others home. Eat a meal together with the Lord’s supper. Each person has an opportunity to share their hearts with one another and say anything else they would like to share with the community. We then have a time of listening together and then we usually spend some time encouraging and building one another up. It has been amazing to become part of a community that not only shares several hours once a week with each other, but is deeply invested in one another’s lives on a daily basis.

Given my experience in these forms of “emerging church” and many readings of other’s experiences I would like to give my best shot at a definition. Here it goes...

“The Emerging Church movement is a conversation centered around reforming Christ’s Bride by blending ancient traditions with Post-modern cultural expressions in order to become a community that represents the Gospel of Jesus, and the life of a particular local.”

What do you think of this definition? Or maybe a better question would be, what do you think of the idea of this kind of church?

Monday, February 07, 2011

The Conversation Continues

I’m having a difficult time keeping up with this blog after all. Largely in part to my newest hobby. You can check that out at Bunchphotography.blogspot.com I am really having a blast capturing the beauty of the creator on camera.

However, I do have a renewed plan for keeping up with this blog, as I feel it is vital that we speak to the issues I am beginning to address here... AND several of you have encouraged me to do so. I’m glad that you feel these topics are important. I do too, and I want to continue to help articulate what I know many of you are experiencing and feeling in the church today. Stay tuned… and please keep the conversation going through the comment section.