Sunday, September 25, 2005

Future Trends #7: Mystical Connection to Historical Roots

As a generation, the postmoderns seem to be less and less satisfied with cerebral engagement than with a connection with the eternal. I feel this tension as a child of Enlightenment faith where every doctrine and belief submits to the idol of reason. Not reasonable? Then it can't possibly be true. And so we remove every mystical (mysterious), unknowable aspect of our faith away from our people. Now, anyone who knows me understands that I hope that we all would seek to love the Lord with all of our minds. I am not for stupid or lazy faith. Too many Christians today simply don't want to spend time or the energy it takes to study the Scriptures and theology to know what we should believe. They mark it up to "those things that we will never understand." Well, God did not give us a faith that is impossible to understand. He wants us to use the brains that He gave us to learn about Him from the Word He gave us. So, I am not a fan of stupid Christianity. But I am a fan of mysterious Christianity. There are many things that we cannot explain and will never fully understand in this life. I like that. It makes some people nervous - especially those who have bought into rationalism to the point that nothing can be experienced unless I can make it reasonable to my mind. Reason is not sovereign - the Triune God is sovereign. And He works in mysterious ways.

The reconnection with the mystical parts of our faith is intriguing to many Westerners who have grown up in a scientific culture. We desire to know the ancient faith of so many who went before. One thing that this desire for the mystery of God will drive (in my opinion anyway) is a reconnection with the historical roots of Christianity. Most of pre-Enlightenment Christianity has much to teach us today about experiencing the mystery of God through the Word and the sacraments in community. A couple thoughts lend themselves to this conclusion. First, more Christians will realize that the church of Jesus Christ survived for 1500 years without the printed Bible. This will show us again the priority of studying the Word in community and learning our theological framework within the boundaries of the church (immediate and historical). The drive to push our people to read the Scriptures on a daily basis will be connected with a deep desire to experience the living Word as He shapes us in community. The creeds will even make a comeback in some circles as a desire for historical orthodoxy increases. Second, more Christians will realize that the modern church has lost its sacramental identity. Driven more by fads and perceived needs of lost people, the church has lost its place for the Christian as the connection between the heavenly and the earthly, the eternal and the temporary. The church of the future will reembrace a high view of baptism and the Lord's Supper. Look for a new practical theology driven by mystical views of ancient practices.

There you have it; expect more connection with ancient communities of faith through their confessions, practices, and sacramental theology. It is coming.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Future Trends #6: Elder-Rule

Sorry for the delay on my posts. Starting school has slowed down my personal blogging.

I believe that one of the sharpest trends to shape the future church will be the elder-rule model. Most young ministers that I know who have grown up in congregational-rule models are done with them. There are still many questions about authority that the church will struggle with in the future (say between full-time staff and lay-leadership), but I see growing unanimity in young leaders away from a committee and congregational-led model.

The Scripture talks about elders (also called overseers) several times, but without much specificity as far as how they function in the practical leadership of the church. In the book of Acts, the apostles called qualified men to serve as deacons to take care of the physical needs of the people so that they could focus on their calling - praying and teaching the Word. Most scholars agree that there is enough ambiguity in the NT to allow for different models of biblical leadership in the local church. However, the key issue of ecclesiology that the NT does address is the supreme leadership of Jesus. He is the head, the real senior pastor. Therefore, the main question for the church is how to best follow Jesus' leadership as its head. The most startling reality is that men who desire to lead the church in following Jesus must first know who Jesus is and understand what he is trying to accomplish through his church. This requires a great deal of knowledge and wisdom concerning the teachings of the Bible. We need to find godly men of character who know the Scriptures and are obeying its teaching to show us how to follow Jesus.

Our generation is done with the model that says everyone is in charge of the church. Everyone in the church is not in the same place spiritually. Honestly, some are more mature than others. This is why Paul tells Timothy to make sure that the elders are not new converts. We need to find those men of faith who have been following hard after Jesus for a good amount of time and get behind their leadership. Jesus commands quality elders in His Word, and the church will limp along until we grasp this idea. The church of the future will begin to shape itself around following men who are following hard after Jesus.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Random Thoughts

As you probably can tell from the last week, I'm not sure personal blogging is going to excel during the school semester. I have so much to write about (mind is racing with new things), but time is at a premium right now. I thought tonight I would just recommend a few blogs that I am reading for your consumption if you have a few extra minutes.

The first is by Sandra Glahn who is my creative writing prof at the seminary. Her writing is specialized in the areas of reproductive issues and sexuality. She is a wonderful writer. You can read her latest work at http://aspire2.blogpost.com/.

The second is by Brent McKinney, who was my youth pastor a decade ago. He is a very authentic person, and I enjoy checking in monthly to see what is happening in his world and with his family. His oldest daughter turned fourteen this week - I used to make up bedtime stories for her when she was four. I'm getting old. You can read his stuff at http://mckinneyfamily.blogspot.com/.

Happy reading.