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Heart Idols Saturday, March 31, 2007 |

Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC, does such a great job of preaching in a way that uncovers the idols of my heart. I am really indebted to him for helping me see how the Gospel of the Kingdom is my greatest source of hope, joy and freedom. Here's a great outline from Keller from his blog that helps to identify the potential idols of the heart:

Idol: COMFORT (Privacy, lack of stress, freedom)

Price We Will Pay: Reduced productivity
Greatest Nightmare:
Stress, demands
Others Often Feel:
Hurt
Problem Emotion:
Boredom

Idol: APPROVAL (Affirmation, love, relationship)

Price We Will Pay: Less independence
Greatest Nightmare:
Rejection
Others Often Feel:
Smothered
Problem Emotion:
Cowardice

Idol: CONTROL (Self-discipline, certainty, standards)

Price We Will Pay: Loneliness; spontaneity
Greatest Nightmare:
Uncertainty
Others Often Feel:
Condemned
Problem Emotion:
Worry

Idol: POWER (Success, winning, influence)

Price We Will Pay: Burdened; responsibility
Greatest Nightmare:
Humiliation
Others Often Feel:
Used
Problem Emotion:
Anger

I really identify with the idols of power and control. Maybe it's my competetive nature, or desire to succeed, but I have to be wary of that idol creeping up. Actually, I can see myself in all of those idols. Both Keller and J.I. Packer talk about the concept of "preaching the gospel to yourself." They got that idea from Richard Baxter, a Puritan pastor who taught the practice of "discoursive meditation," which simply means discoursing, or preaching, to yourself in meditation. I think it's an important practice in battling the idolatry of the heart.

What idols do you identify with?

Why community and mission aren't easy - pt. 5 Tuesday, March 27, 2007 |

Let's continue looking at a barrier to missional community - individualism - and it's effect on mission:

James Smith notes that “modernity is characterized by a deep individualism that isolates us from one another, sealed up in our little egos or private spheres” (Smith 2006:56). Our primary identity, however, should be that of a covenant community. Inagrace Dietterich attests to what happens when we as a community do not utilize our prophetic voice in speaking out against this individualism:

“If the dualism of… private/public… is uncritically presupposed, the biblical images of the corporate nature of the Christian faith… and of its mission to proclaim and embody the new ‘society’ of the Kingdom of God will be profoundly undermined, distorted and misrepresented” (Hunsberger 1996:354)

Notice that Dietterich stated that the nature of the faith and the mission will be undermined. This is another way that individualism lures us away from missional community, namely, through the bifurcation of mission and community into two separate paradigms, two separate elements and two separate events.

In Transforming Mission, David Bosch points out that “it is the community that is the primary bearer of mission” (Bosch 1991:472). To separate mission from community and community from mission is to distort our communal identity. Even worse, it inherently assumes that mission can be accomplished alone.

Also, if the vehicle for mission is not community, then the support, encouragement, identity, and structure for mission quickly evaporates. And you are left at best with mission junkies who, with an individualistic (and hedonistic, I would say) perspective, jump from one missional event to the next without any kind of communal relationships, accountability, and support. At worst, this bifurcation of community and mission engenders apathy, thereby further deepening the alienation that occurs by virtue of individualistic isolation. Because of the Trinitarian nature of God, Darrell Johnson highlights the fact that “the three great disciplines of discipleship – worship, community, mission – cannot be separated, because they are grounded in the Trinity” (Johnson 2002:69).

Catch up on the "Why community and mission aren't easy" Series:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4


Bosch, David Jacobus. 1991. Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

Hunsberger, George R. and Van Gelder, Craig.1996. The Church Between Gospel and Culture: The Emerging Mission in North America. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co.


Johnson, Darrell W. 2002. Experiencing The Trinity. Vancouver, BC: Regent College Publishing.

Smith, James K.A. 2006. Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism? Taking Derrida, Lyotard and Foucalt to Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group.



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Why community and mission aren't easy - pt. 4 Monday, March 19, 2007 |

Let's look again at an incredible barrier in the West to missional community - individualism. Christopher Kaiser is key here in understanding individualism, and therefore its ramifications. He gives us this definition:

“By ‘individualism,’ I do not mean self-reliance or independence of mind and action… What it means to be an individual is a matter of social definition – the definition of one’s self in relation to others…Traditional individuals understood themselves and related to others primarily as members of a group… Modern individuals will have none of this. We painstakingly differentiate ourselves from our families, our upbringings, and our job.

…the societal world… is perceived as something external, even alien, to us” (Hunsberger 1996:95,96)

With this kind of individualism comes an inherent sense of alienation from the communal. And alienation engenders isolation. James Smith notes that the “modernist isolationist understanding of the human self has often crept into the church” (Smith 2006:56). This individualism, and therefore growing sense of alienation, can greatly affect our context by luring us away from understanding and applying what it means to be a missional community. This creeping effect of individualistic isolation is a cancer to missional community.

But how should we respond?


Hunsberger, George R. and Van Gelder, Craig.1996. The Church Between Gospel and Culture: The Emerging Mission in North America. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Smith, James K.A. 2006. Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism? Taking Derrida, Lyotard and Foucalt to Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group.


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Why community and mission aren't easy - pt. 3 Friday, March 16, 2007 |

One way that individualism lures us away from missional community is through our own values and systems. The way that we cultivate the spiritual disciplines sometimes encourages individualism. I never, ever thought I would say that there is a hidden danger in encouraging people to have a daily, personal time of devotion to God that we call the “Quiet Time.” But if done at the exclusion of a communal experience of the spiritual disciplines, it can be distracting at best and detrimental to community at worst.

Wow... there, I said it. Christopher Kaiser notes that Modernity’s goal is the “relegation of the divine to private, inner experience” (Hunsberger 1996:83) at the expense of the public, corporate and, I would even say, the communal experience of God. Paul Heibert goes so far as to say that “Christianity in the West… has been privatized, relegated to personal piety” (Hunsberger 1996:147). When the pursuit of God becomes merely a privatized, inner pursuit, there is a part of community, and a value for community, that dies with that.

Heibert later asserts that the “erosion of the church from being a covenant community, along with its transformation into a crowd, club or corporation, has made Christianity a spectator sport or a business activity” (Hunsberger 1996:148-149). Far from being the inviting community of fellowship once described in the book of Acts, the privatization and individualization of Christianity has profoundly distorted our communal identity.


Hunsberger, George R. and Van Gelder, Craig.1996. The Church Between Gospel and Culture: The Emerging Mission in North America. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co.


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Victor Choudhrie blogging Wednesday, March 14, 2007 |

Victor Choudhrie, a Church Planting Movement guru, is blogging. This is one of the guys we in the West should listen closely to.

From his training website:


"Victor Choudhrie is a cancer surgeon by profession. He is a senior Fellow of the American and British colleges of surgeons. He quit his job as the Director (CEO) of the Christian Medical college, Ludhiana in Punjab, India in 1992 to take up full time Church planting ministry in central India. His wife Bindu is also in full time church planting ministry, equipping women to be house church leaders and trainers. God has blessed this ministry abundantly. Large numbers of grassroots level leaders have been trained who have planted thousands of house churches all over India as a result."

Shift Happens Monday, March 12, 2007 |

Don't let the cheesy powerpoint fascade fool you, the link below is a powerful collection of some of the global trends that will affect us most in the next few decades:

http://www.glumbert.com/media/shift

[ HT: Bob Roberts ]

Easy way to do justice globally Tuesday, March 06, 2007 |

Kiva is a non-profit company that connects micro-finances loans to the working poor around the globe. It's a great way to take a small amount of money and help others. Here's what they do:

We let you loan to the working poor
Kiva lets you connect with and loan money to unique small businesses in the developing world. By choosing a business on Kiva.org, you can "sponsor a business" and help the world's working poor make great strides towards economic independence. Throughout the course of the loan (usually 6-12 months), you can receive email journal updates from the business you've sponsored. As loans are repaid, you get your loan money back.

We partner with organizations all over the world
Kiva partners with existing microfinance institutions. In doing so, we gain access to outstanding entrepreneurs from impoverished communities world-wide. Our partners are experts in choosing qualified borrowers. That said, they are usually short on funds. Through Kiva.org, our partners upload their borrower profiles directly to the site so you can lend to them.

How Kiva works:


Step 1: Choose a business
The businesses on our site are always changing. They are being uploaded by our microfinance partners around the world. You can find a new business on the home page or on the Businesses 'In Need' page.

Step 2: Make a loan
When you have selected a business, you can make a loan using your credit card (via PayPal). You can loan as little as $25 at a time. Checking out is easy and safe because of PayPal.

Step 3: Receive journals and payments
Periodically, you will hear back from the business you sponsor. Partner representatives (often loan officers) write directly to the website to keep you informed on the progress of the business. If you choose, you can receive these via email.

Step 4: Withdraw or re-loan
When your Kiva loan is repaid, you can choose to withdraw your funds or re-loan to a new business.

Connect with Kiva here...

Why community and mission aren't easy - pt. 2 Thursday, March 01, 2007 |

I recently took a survey of several leaders in our church and asked them to name what they think is the greatest barrier to community. Do you know what the overwhelming response was?

Individidualism.

The “autonomous self” is closer to home than I imagined. Extreme individualism has done more damage to community and mission than could ever be imagined. And in beheading community, we have inadvertently killed the means for justice and compassion. Yet the heart still yearns for justice…and community.

N.T. Wright, a modern-day C.S. Lewis and apologist for the gospel, recently wrote a book called Simply Christian. Meant in many ways to mimic the apologetic tour-de-force of Lewis’ Mere Christianity, Wright was intentional and strategic in how he planned the content of the book to address the concerns of the postmodern mind. And of all the subjects he could have chosen to begin his book, do you know which one he chose? The issue of justice.

Community and missional living are not just two separate “Christian events” in which we participate, they are Siamese twins. They are two inseparable values, two inextricable forces which were meant to be wed together. “And what God has joined together, let no man separate,” could be quoted here to express the importance of their union.

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