Thursday, November 26, 2009

August 09 Meeting

"... the preeminent social model that defined the Christian church was the strong-group Mediterranean family. God was the Father of the community. Christians were brothers and sisters. The group came first over the aspirations and desires of the individual. Family values -- ranging from intense emotional attachment to the sharing of material goods to uncompromising family loyalty -- determined the relational ethos of Christian behavior"

Eleven of us gathered at Laura’s Cuban restaurant on August 4 to share a meal and continue our conversation about emerging and missional church and what it means to us.

First, Anthony told his story about how he became interested in the emerging church and how he joined us at our table. Anthony is a professional musician, a multi-instrumentalist, and wants his music to bring healing, or at least to help people to forget their troubles for a while. Anthony graduated from college in the late 90s and worked as a school teacher until 2005. He became a Christian in 1980 and has been involved in church in some form since 1981. His experience with church too often has been about churches being hung up on collections, and manipulation by clergy. He saw some of this “behind the scenes” while traveling with an “evangelist/prophet.” He is also disappointed with how Jesus has been portrayed to the world, in ways that don’t center on loving God with all our heart, soul and strength, and loving our neighbor as ourselves. And he sees an absence of meaningful discussion about what the scriptures really mean about “loving…ourselves,” in a godly way.

Anthony yearns for truth and fears that too many Christians, often as taught by institutional churches, stay in the foyer of God’s house and don’t fully enter in to God’s healing, intimacy, nourishment and passion. He says that we can see Jesus’ passion when he overturned the tables of the money changers in the temple. And we can see that church is not just a building, which it too often mistaken for. In all of this, we can see that something’s not quite right. On the other hand, Anthony, who is a New York Italian, takes a lesson from Southern European families as an image of the Kingdom of God. He is inspired by Revelation 3:20 where Jesus invites us to have supper with him. And that this is a form of intimacy which God and we crave. Anthony says, “We’re always asking God to do stuff for us, but He is lonely.” Jesus came to restore what was lost in the garden, intimacy with God and with one another, as deep as the passion between a man and woman. God’s all about relationship and too often we go through the motions and forget the passion.

Finally, Anthony is concerned that a lot of us are Christians because “we’re afraid of going to Hell.” And because of fear-based religion, we wind up sometimes missing the life here and now that God calls us to in Acts 2:42-47 to care for one another’s needs out of love.

John agreed that there is too much emphasis in the church on money and that this reflects the same over-emphasis in American culture. Steve. F. added this phrase for how we keep score: “nickels and noses and Bibles brought.” And Kathy said you have to have money if you need to maintain a building and pay for “stuff.” Ann said we have to remember the foundation we’re built on, which for her is Jesus, and that there is a danger of us becoming a bitching club. And she asked what are we? Tom talked about the struggles of important Christian movements and the importance of being willing to re-think church. Because of what Anthony shared, he wants to be his friend. He wants to meet Jesus, not a pastor on a movie screen. Robin M. said that we are not “a church” per se, but when we gather we are church. He agreed that it is important to re-think what it means to follow Christ, and he asked how the conversations over the past year have impacted us?

Michelle said that feels free to be herself and follow the Spirit without worrying about what preachers or co-congregants will think. She is tired of church politics and wants to be about the business of doing God’s work. And she now enjoys going to different gatherings. Steve F. came to meet people and make friends, and he has. One of the most important take-aways has been not having to focus on “who is in and who is out,” but that where we are headed is more important. Revelation often occurs over a long period of time. Jim said that he feels that he has been “emerging” for the last 15 years, that the most important aspect is making disciples, and that he has found that missing from this group. Deb said she felt the Holy Spirit drew her to the group. And what she has found are people who work with the homeless and are missional in other ways. She finds that the people here live what others talk about. She shared about her prison ministry and how “organic” church there impacts lives. We ended by sharing stories about how God has acted in our lives in miraculous ways, and there was some working out of our understanding of the source of that miraculous power since Pentecost.



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