Wednesday, November 29, 2006

purple church

Hey y'all! I've been admiring your blog for some time and am very excited to be contributing here :) Thank you John for the invite. You can learn all about me here.

Introductions aside, I thought I'd just dive right in.

From Jason Clark

Our churches need to recover, and explore the right brained aspects of post-modernity, but must not make the same mistakes of modernity by abandoning the left brained. I keep talking about the need for a ‘deep church’, instead of a patholigcal reactionary post-church, and I supect a ‘deep church’ will recover, revive and nurture the right brained, whilst holding on and using the left brained.

Our churches need to be structured, intentional communities of programmed mission, that are simultaneously places of play, surprise and exuberant creativity. In fact I think the postmodern turn is not about a false dichotomy between these categorisations, but the opportunity to see them as synthesised and synergistically working together.

note: I'm using the terms modern and post modern fully realizing that they are very broad and overarching terms covering a lot of ground. So bear with me and try not to get offended if you feel I'm painting you with a broad brush. Remember, I'm a "recovering modernist" myself ;)

I have to say, when I read this, the first thought that came to mind was "yup, that's a modernist speaking" *smirk* But, truth be told, when the rubber meets the road, I agree with Jason here in many ways. I think the old, tired and overused axiom applies, "don't throw the baby out with the bathwater".

The history of the Church is rife with bathwater moments. We've had many a baby land head first, sacrificed on the ground of "church progress".

And since I love word pictures, analogies and metaphor, here's another. I was listening to the Relevant Magazine podcast yesterday, and in a moment of clarity amidst a joking interchange, they stumbled onto what I think is a very good analogy.

The Church has given itself a black eye. We lost sight of the mission of Jesus somewhere along the line, getting benched with individualism, phariseeism, egotism and many more "isms" from which I will spare you for now.

In America, we became entrenched in politics and we married our western morality with our faith and married that with our politics and have, over and over again, punched ourselves in the face with the ramifications of those choices.

Some of what we have done "worked" at the time, and no doubt, even the things that weren't the best idea, were used by God. But many of our methods and philosophies were just plain off base and ill advised.

This "eye" has become infected and as a result, we have lost depth perception. The one eye is healthy and strong and in all accounts should be able to function on its own. But it too lacks depth perception without the health of the other eye. It sees only what it's looking at, and it looks only at what it wants to see.

Several things need to happen. The good eye needs to help the infected eye become healthy by sacrificially giving and serving - even if it means occasionally giving up its "right to be right". And the sick eye needs to work with the good eye to become healthy again, skimming off the infected yuck that has built up over time and restoring itself so that they can both work TOGETHER to move the church on into the next era.

And there's the rub.

I was chatting with a gal on Sunday who is experiencing many "light bulb" moments in regard to ministry and mission in this "age" and we touched on this very subject and both agreed that the postmodern, by their very nature, are more willing to extend a generous orthodoxy and work with the modern than are the modern to do so with the postmodern...not always, but more often so.

But assuming for a moment that both "eyes" and everyone all along the spectrum is seeking not only a generous but deep orthodoxy and exploring what that means for orthopraxy, I would actually suggest something a little bit different than simply a side by side saunter into the future of the modern and postmodern.

I'm going to step out on a limb and theorize that a completely different Church is going to "emerge". It's not going to be red (the far right brain), it's not going to be blue (far left brained) and it isn't going to be red and blue side by side, I think it's going to be purple (both mixed, something totally different) .

So the trick then, as missional minded leaders (modern and postmodern alike) step out to construct not before seen "ways of doing church", is that we make a choice to be purple instead of red without blue, blue without red or an impotent compromise of the 2 side by side (which, in my experience simply leads to lots of shadow boxing...talking about black eyes)

This is going to require tricky navigation for a season. Those of us in the postmodern thread are going to have to be very discerning in regard to when to speak up and how to say things, when to lay low and back down and when to just sit on those things we feel burning in our bones.

Those in the modern thread will have to do the same. Without both giving of themselves, it won't work. Humility, teachability, honesty and communication to the n'th degree is required. It's going to suck sometimes, and sometimes, one or the other is going to want to give up; but without forging on, we will get mired in the chaos of transition...and that would be a tragedy to trump all tragedies.

So are you ready? Do you think it's possible? Can we create a new and more effective Body of Christ that better glorifies the multifaceted beauty of our Living Lord?


Molly said...

I *hope* it's possible!!!!!
(great post, Mak)

John Lynch said...

Okay, I'm convicted.

I'm so eager to get out of the traditionalist trap I've been in my whole life that I haven't given much thought as to how I might stay connected or reconnect with folks still rooted in the institutional worldview.

Truth of the matter is, I think I might even look down on them sometimes. "Poor things." my heart whispers. "They don't know which way's up." (I'm slapping my hand even now.) I know... sin, pride & self-rightesouness... but so subtle in me that it's not as easy to spot as it sounds.

So what are our options? I think I'm a pretty "purple" thinker, but how can I & others serve as bridges to all the red & blue boys & girls of this world? ...especially when it seems like we don't even share a common vocabulary?

Makeesha said...

I too share the tendency to look down on the poor modernist sods plodding through the muck and mire of ineffective and outdated modes of ministry and outreach.

I'm not really sure John, these are the questions and obstacles I have a heart to tackle. It's tough to do so online but sadly, it's the only way we have to connect...until we all move to a shared community somewhere...which, by the way, I would LOVE to do.

Makeesha said...

John - the common vocabulary is huge - and notice how I said that the modernists have to be on board too...and that's where we struggle the most. David (my hubs) mentioned that another problem is that once a modernist is willing to work with a postmodernist, it makes him postmodern ... I guess, in a simple way, one small step is when both "sides" start working together. That alone makes us a little purple.

I also theorize though that there are going to rise up "purple apostles"...I'm excited to read Hirsh's new book and see what he says about the apostolic.

John Lynch said...

Sweet words, sister... especially about working this out in shared community. It's our heart too! And this stuff is too communally & relationally tied to be effectively scribbled out on a napkin in the solitude of a midnight Denny's. That's one of the reasons we're moving to Phoenix this summer... to get connected to some like-minded, like-hearted people who are hungry to live the Christ life in all it's beautiful, terrifying, & rewarding fullness.

Anonymous said...

Hungry and Thirsty said: So are you ready? Do you think it's possible? Can we create a new and more effective Body of Christ that better glorifies the multi-faceted beauty of our Living Lord?

Jesus said so along time ago. I'm with you and not with Jason Clark. Jason misses the mark but you are on the right track and if we are to create a new thing it will require a lowering of our defenses and a willingness to hear God speak and a desire to follow His purposes that have never changed.

Great post! Do we have enough courage to give up for Jesus? Time will tell.

Anonymous said...

John said: So what are our options? I think I'm a pretty "purple" thinker, but how can I & others serve as bridges to all the red & blue boys & girls of this world? ...especially when it seems like we don't even share a common vocabulary?

Bob Carder: The worse bridges are often missed because they require risk to travel and even survive but they lead to such beauty and peace.

John - leave the road "most" traveled and join with many who choose the road "less" traveled. I'M OUT OF THE TRAP AND LEADING OTHERS INTO THE FREEDOM OF DOING THINGS HIS WAY.

I've joined with God in leading a disciple-making movement without the modern retraints of past and present. If you want to be set free leave her. Only as leaders take the risk and leave what is not working by getting back in line with God's purposes (Matt 28) will they ever see a new way.

You don't have to miss what Jesus is doing in America if you are willing to be a part of something new and rejuvinating and full of new Christ followers who will pay the price without the trappings.

Maybe it's not even purple! I like not knowing what it will look like because then it is God who is doing it. We'll just have to wait and see.

John Lynch said...

Mak wrote:
"This is going to require tricky navigation for a season. Those of us in the postmodern thread are going to have to be very discerning in regard to when to speak up and how to say things, when to lay low and back down and when to just sit on those things we feel burning in our bones."

Aleta & I are in a small group with a bunch of people from Willow Creek Community Church (Bill Hybels). This is so hard. Not only is it difficult to be quiet, but when it's time to talk, I have real trouble explaining what we're talking about in a language they'll understand.

I'd love a script for speaking "Incarnational / Missional" to Moderns. Or better yet, a prerecorded explanation by James Earl Jones I could carry around with me. Then whenever I find myself in a difficult communication situation, I could play his powerful, yet strangely calming, voice as it explains the life Jesus commanded & demonstrated.

Until then, I'll take a script. Got one?

paul said...

I think the best thing we can do as a script is not set up it up as modern vs postmodern and all the jazz that comes with it. Personally i'd say we both have so much in common that maybe we should focus on that first, start with the very broad arc of the story and i would argue we are always on the same page...

Fundamentally we are all followers of Jesus - so maybe we need to reflect some of Jesus teaching about loving each other and actually modelling it - it's never easy loving people we think we disagree with but if we focus on the common elements of our faith, the mere christianity if you will, we realise that maybe that difference is more about style than substance? So if we agree lots and forgive often when we focus on our differences with an attitude of superiority we might, by being christ-like, just make it as christians...

Makeesha said...

John - I like the recording idea hehe.

it is hard. I don't know about script but I know that I was transformed when it hit me one day to treat the modernists in my life like non Christians. To meet them where they are at and try to move toward understanding patiently and respectfully.

paul - that's all well and good but not always "enough" if you're speaking in terms of leaders from 2 eras in the same church....esp. if "they" have no intention of seeing it your way.

Overall, I find that in a practical sense, it helps to ask a lot of questions that get them to think and allowing them to reciprocate.

paul said...

Mak, yes you're right and I agree with you. i wonder how important it is to see things the same way? Given my life that would be a miracle for everyone to be on the same page as me at the same time...
maybe we don't have to see things the same way to get along? Maybe its God's way of asking me how much will i love and bother with someone who doesn't see the same as me?

John Lynch said...

Good word, Paul. Loving past differences is a killer challenge for all of us. I also find myself remembering that old saying, "Agree to disagree." I'm good with that on one level... but on another level, I don't want to ever be satisfied with disagreement. Jesus said He's after unity in Spirit & in truth from His people. The epistles echo that with exhortations to being of "one mind" & "one heart". What a deep place God has called us to in His Truth & Love filled existance!

Makeesha... you're brilliant! The idea of speaking / translating to modernists as I would speak & translate to unbelievers is AWESOME! Not that they're unsaved... but that the communication style is strikingly similar. Thanks for this!

Makeesha said...

John - glad that helps :)

I was reading God Laughs and Plays (review on my blog) and he was talking about fundamentalists and their language and such and it literally hit me like a lightning bolt. And all these thoughts also came of a teaching I did about Jesus and his encounter with the woman at the well and how he worked slowly and carefully to tear down her barriers so she could "hear" what he was saying. And it was just a complete epiphany for me - and a total "DUH!" moment too.

I love teaching Christians and wrestling with scripture and all that but I find that I get much less frustrated with non Christians and tend to enjoy their company much more and the conversations I have with them are so much more productive....I do think a lot of that is because I have unrealistic expectations of Christians and realistic expectations of non Christians.

I have had few chances to put this into practice but I do think it was the Spirit that zapped me with the we'll see.

paul said...

grin, just apply being missional to moderns ;)

Good luck!