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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Revolution Conference and Other Ramblings

I have been following some of the lead-up to and after-effects of the recent Off The Map "So you say you want a revolution" conference.

I am really struggling to understand where some of these guys are at. I read Jim Hendersons book "AKA Lost" about 6 months ago and really enjoyed it - I found it refreshing and used parts of it as a basis for some evangelism workshops I was running. I have also been a lurker and sometime-commenter on the "Conversations at the Edge" blog over at Off The Map.

The thing is I don't really understand where these guys are going. I don't understand a lot of the stuff I read there or a lot of the comments made by the Off The Map people and the people that operate their various blogs. Some of it seems really good and they have given me loads of ideas for reaching out and fresh (albeit American) perspectives on modern culture, but other stuff leaves me frowning (here's one example of a wrinkle maker).

Here's a link to a blog post at the Resurgence site by Gary Shavey from (I think) Mars Hill. He makes some comments on the "Revolution" conference and casts a few more shadows over what is actually going on there.

I am interested, in particular, in trying to understand the difference between the Emergent/Emerging church. It seems like the Brian McLaren side of things (the Emergent?) is what I would call quite theologically liberal and in not what I would see as a positive way.

I am quite possibly going to be at a conference with Brian in May next year and would like to know where all of this fits before hand - forewarned is forearmed - not that I am going to make any trouble! I Just want to know what to expect.

I have Brian's book The Church on The Outside waiting in the pile of reading next to my bed. It's the next in line and I am looking forward to seeing what he has to say. Someone told me it's his best (it's also his first book I think).

Anyway - I'm struggling to get my head around where these guys are coming from - here's another example of something from Conversations at the Edge. It seems like they are throwing the baby out with the bath water and making God into a narrow 2D, "god of my own understanding", and this disturbs me. I've managed to restrain myself and haven't commented - yet :) ....

I'll probably end up writing a bit more on this issue and in particular this post (the one linked to above) at "Conversations...".


Jay said...

1. loved your post. very thoughtful. thanks for raising questions without screaming! :)

2. i share some of your concerns.

3. i'm also friends w/ these cats and work with them on they are wonderful people by the way.

4. i'm not totally clear on what bothered you about the two posts you listed. i'm assuming the first bothered you b/c of jim's quote. (and it bothered me too. i'm not sure a standard protest is the way to speak out.)

and in the second case, you have to consider that helen is a former believer and borderline agnostic/atheist; so that post is actually REALLY encouraging. although, maybe it was the hell part that of the post that bothered you.

at any rate i'd like to know what bothered you about them.

5. again, enjoyed the post greatly.

The Creature said...

Hi Jay and thanks for the encouragement and the questions. I will be checking out when I get a chance.

Q. 4) Yeah - I am not sure waving signs at a pastor for driving a mercedes is the best way to get your point across. I have to say I was a little disappointed in Jim for this comment - regardless of what you think of mercedes driving pastors. His emphasis in AKA Lost was leading people to change gently, not being too quick to give your point of view or ramming your views down their throats. Completely the opposite to what he is proposing here - it kind of smacks of one approach for non-believers and another for believers.

Re. the "COnversations ..." comments, I am never really sure where Helen's coming from (and I don't mean that in a negative way - I just really am never entirely sure where she's coming from!). My main point of interest was in the discussion surrounding the Bible and how we can "know" God. The hell part - well I didn't even get that far. I think hell is a tough topic for most of us, but if we throw the bible out completely we are never even going to get close to understanding hell.

I am not wanting to belittle or berate any of the commentors to that post - it just seems that someting is really lacking somewhere and I am really not sure how fruitful the discussion really is for anyone - least of all Meg. I was also wondering where Meg was going with the Brian McLaren comments. I don't know much about Brian and am trying to find out a bit more about him (even though I may not be going to the gathering anymore as I have just found out how much it is going to cost and I can't afford it!) but if her comments are representative of Brian then that kind of takes my concerns to another level completely. But that is probably another story.

Thanks again for your questions. I hope I have answered them ... without getting too bogged down in details!

Jim Henderson said...


Thanks for sharing your concerns with sensitivity. I dont want to appear to defend our stuff since I know that good people often end up disagreeing and we have to be fine with that.

Probably in the same way some people would describe you as conservative (even though you know that relative to "real" conservatives you are actually pretty moderate)you probably would describe myself or Brian as liberal (when we know some real liberals.

I am equally unable to fully explain or defend the random post you grabbed off one of our blogs about protesting a pastor with a mercedes (which was really a joke but apparently not a well communicated one). You need to understand that I say things I dont deeply care about at times juts to provoke people to think about more important issues. being misunderstood is one of the risks I am willing to take. Of course I dont care whether or not a pastor drives a mercedes but I do care that they know they are driving one and that others will also notice and take it into account when they talk about money.

I'm afraid that other than that I am unable to offer you much assurance of being better than you have characterized me - our work with non believers takes us to places that most Christians simply find too far off the map- that is the way it will have to be since I would rather be misunderstood by the found than by the missing.

Again - thanks for the kindness and obvious restraint you exercised in your critique and questions about our little org

The Creature said...

Hey Jim - Thanks for dropping by and for commenting. I'm actually quite excited you took the time - as I said earlier - I'm a fan.

Thanks also for explaining the "mercedes" comments. It did trouble me - I saw the comment as sitting in contrast to the line you take in "AKA" and elsewhere. At the time I originally read it I was struggling with some "attitude" towards the more traditional congregations I was experiencing from certain sections of the Emerging church and thought that perhaps this was something I was seeing from Off The Map as well.

For the record I am generally not pro pastors (or any church leaders for that matter), driving around in luxury cars.

You said: "You need to understand that I say things I dont deeply care about at times juts to provoke people to think about more important issues"

I dig this - but I think a little context can go a long way. The "joke" certainly didn't come across in the post I referred to. But again, maybe that was something beyond your control.

Re. seeing you and Brian as liberals - I guess I wasn't chucking you in that box - having read AKA Lost (which is a fantastic book and has helped me to help many others in the way they approach evanglism and I have even performed some "Lost Interviews" of my own) and other stuff you've written on the web, I was sure you were heading down a great road. With Brian - unfortunately (as Scot McKnight points out in the post I linked to) most of what I have read comes from rather extremist sources. This is why I guess I have been asking the questions I have of him. He is an extremely influencial player in the EC and so I want to know everything I can know about him. I guess I have kinda labled him "liberal" at this juncture, but I am happy to allow my "liberometer" to adjust. I am actually really hoping that I can get along to the Amahoro Africa conference in Uganda next year which Brian will be attending. I would love to meet him and have an opportunity to talk to him personally about some of this stuff. Not sure if I'll get there though as the costs involved are pretty stiff.

You said: "or work with non believers takes us to places that most Christians simply find too far off the map

Me too - and I hope you keep going there. The kind of change your advocating is incredibly important to the future of the church.

Maybe we can get you over here in Australia at some time (I'm serious). In the meantime, and I hope you don't mind (too bad if you do) - I'm going to keep pinching your ideas and putting them to work for the Kingdom in my backyard.

Thanks again for dropping by - I'm chuffed - it's not every day I get to exchange with the author of one of my favourite books!

Helen said...

Hi Andrew, I was very interested to read your write-up about Off The Map.

Thanks for your comment too, Jay. I enjoyed meeting you at the conference!

Andrew, as far as beliefs are concerned I'm not sure where I'm coming from either. So I can see why you're not sure!

Off The Map seems to attract people who are hanging onto Jesus by a thread and when I see them I want to say "Here's a way to think about God which might help". Because I've been there, at that place of desperately wanting a way to think of God which made me able to believe God actually was someone I could like and would want to hang out with.

One day I was listening to a message about how wonderful it would be to be in heaven with Jesus one day and I thought "this is what is true of me: I would love to be with my FRIENDS forever. But I'm not sure enough who Jesus is to know whether I want to be with him. I'm not sure if I'd care whether he's there as much as I'd care whether my friends are there". Ouch - it seemed so heretical to even think that! But it truly was how I felt.

When I encounter atheists, I want to say to them "I understand. So many things about religious belief make no sense to me."

Basically I like connecting with people and Jim noticed that and that's why I ended up helping with the Off The Map blogs. Because one of the things we hope to do on them is encourage people to practice connecting with those who are different from them.

Many Christians would agree that being able to connect with people different from us is a necessary step in evangelism. So we see what goes on on our blogs as potentially helpful to Christians who want to share their faith with others effectively.

Our Ordinary Attempts blog mostly consists of stories sent in by people sharing what is happening as they go out into their world and try out the principles in AKA Lost. Since you liked the book, you might enjoy reading some of the stories there.

It's encouraging that you've found some helpful ideas on our site. It's also encouraging to me, believe it or not, that you are questioning and disagreeing with various things you have read on there. Because we love to see people thinking about stuff.

What disappoints me is people who won't even look at our site for any length of time because their theology red flag goes up immediately and they leave in search of 'safe theological territory'. How will they ever be able to connect with people different from them for the purpose of sharing their faith, if they can't stand to be in an environment where people have different beliefs?

Anyway, I hope I didn't 'overtease' you about your photo - you're a great looking guy! Feel free to jump in and voice your opinion in the God of second chances discussion, or any other discussion on our blogs, anytime you want.

And - thank you again for your kindness to Ron on our blogs, for offering support and a listening ear to someone currently in a place which is not supportive of what he believes God is calling him into.

The Creature said...

Thanks Helen - and I just want to say I do appreciate what you are saying. It is important to be able to ask questions.

You said: "Many Christians would agree that being able to connect with people different from us is a necessary step in evangelism. So we see what goes on on our blogs as potentially helpful to Christians who want to share their faith with others effectively.

And I agree with this as well I just feel at times that things go a little too far - and I could be wrong - but it is my experience that there comes a time when we all have to accept some core truths - what they used to call the "not negotiables". Now if we pick and choose which bits of the Bible we are going to believe and model God based on our own desires or wants or needs I think we are going to find it very hard to work out what is going on. (I think I can recommend a book called the Trivialization of God - the dangerous illusion of a manageable deity by D.W. McCullough. It's been years since I read it but I think it deals with the dangers of turning God into something manageable and conforming - which is pretty much what the conservative/traditional church has done but also what we all as individuals are prone to doing).

I don't accept a notion of a fickle God - and that is too often the kind of God I am left with if I accept the extremes of conservatism. It's not like God isn't going to accept you because of how you dress or do your hair or how many tatoos you have. But Jesus said "I am the way, the truth and the life" and that strikes me as important.

"The way" says to me there are many different routes one can take, but Jesus is the correct one. "The truth" says we need to listen to what he has to say - in a world where there are lots of claims to the "truth" his is the safe bet. "The life" - well, without Him we can't know life. This is the thing so many are seeking after and are not neccessarily finding in conservatism with all its unscriptural judgements - but if we bypass Jesus "truth" claims, they aren't going to find it through us either.

I could go on all day here - and maybe I will pick this up over at Conversations. I feel that you might be chucking the baby out with the bath water. Throwing the bible out because it has been misused by others in the past.

Helen, I appreciate your nature. I have never found you to be anything other than a gracious host at Conversations and I think, in many ways, you and I are a lot alike.

Thanks for listening to me and taking my criticisms at face value.

God bless!

Helen said...

Thanks Andrew. Again I appreciate how you voice your concerns with respect.

I think you have rightly identified a core issue for evangelicals - i.e. if we are not clearly saying "this is the TRUTH" are we being irresponsible?

I've posted links to this and your follow up post here on our revolution conference blog:

I'm a questioner by nature