New Denver Church is part of the Ecclesia network of churches, and this week I’m here in Washington DC for our annual national gathering. Here’s the focus of this year’s gathering from the website:
Our focus this year is on how our churches can function as centers of reconciliation, where we learn through the power of the Spirit to live as one reconciled family of God across racial, economic, and generational lines.
I’ll share my notes from the conference, but my standard disclaimer applies – these were the thoughts that captured my attention but may or may not make sense taken out of context. If you have questions feel free to leave a comment or contact me.
- “We are masters of getting people in chairs to listen to someone talk. If that changed the world then we’d have done it by now!”
- “God wants to use you…like toilet paper – to clean up dirty people.”
Rhythm Church, Miami, FL
- “I want to be part of an insurrection. We talk about revolution, but that doesn’t seem to be God’s plan. A revolution is when a large group rises up and takes control. An insurrection is when a small pocket of people choose to live in defiance of the powers that be.”
- Too often in evangelical world we compare ourselves to others and value “success” over faithfulness.
Community Transformation Q&A
- “Tension is good as long as there is resolution and reconciliation.”
God’s Spirit and the Ecology of Life
- American Christians have wed the idea of subduing the earth and capitalism/consumerism.
- Epiphany – literally “A voice from above.”
- At the end of the day, every decision we make has impact on our world. Literally our theology shapes the land.
- What if we observed our church as an ecosystem?
- Where do we get our theology of creation care? Many start w/Gen 1-3, which is good. In Isaiah (3, 11, 42, 48), he talks about an ox and a lion lying together and a child picking up a snake when the Messiah comes. This is a complete sense of reconciliation between enmities. This is the NT perception about the presence of the Holy Spirit – people who were enemies are reconciled.
- Ernst Heckel developed the idea of ecology. His notion of ecology (from the Greek “oikos”) came from the NT’s picture of the house of God. He saw the earth as one big household.
- Gaia Theory – Argues that the way humans have thought about the earth for thousands of years is wrong. The longstanding belief that individual parts are disconnected, and you can impact one without impacting the other. The Gaia Theory argues the opposite – that the earth is connected and affected by everything else. If you destroy one area, it affects a completely different area.
- “All of us have science that we love, and we have science that we hate.” The evidence of what we see happening to our earth should trouble us as a Christian. A species goes extinct every hour.
- Our churches function this way. Someone in our church cannot be addicted to pornography and not affect others.
- What are the little things in our church that change everything? (e.g. Sabbath)
- “Any theology that does not serve the church is the highest form of idolatry.” -Barth
- Three important ideas about ecology and the church:
- In the church, everything is interconnected.
- Refuse to have a “justice list.” Instead as a church seek to find God’s justice in everything. Every church can’t do everything, but you can live in relationship with God and address any forms of injustice you encounter. Justice will change your bank account, show up in your living room, etc.
- We always choose to be a church of reconciliation. The Holy Spirit is the “Go between God.”
How do we live with the tension that we can’t do everything? Paul’s understanding of the body of Christ is that we live our gifting and leave room for others to do the same. Understand the justice issues you are called to address and leave room for others to do the same.
Evangelism for the Rest of Us
- Continuum of Service vs Evangelizing
- Breakthrough, Believing, nothing, Blessing
- Evangelism has become discerning what God is doing in people’s lives and joining him in that.
- Our communities exist to draw people toward Christ.
- Luke 10 – “People of peace” passage
- The power of God is open to me. Am I open to that power?
The Millenials and Generation Z
- Millenial Generation, George Barna’s estimation:
- Stressed – Most protected (helmets, car seats, etc0, most “wanted” (in an age of pervasive birth control)
- Spiritual Sense
- The first truly “plugged in” generation (digital natives vs. digital immigrants)
- Digital immigrants have to learn technology and are never quite fluent.
- Digital natives understand technology innately.
- Technology is a great divide of generations. It may be the biggest divide between the Baby Boomers/Busters and Millenials/Gen Z.
- Millenials/Gen Z have spent their entire lives surrounded by technology. These kids think and process information fundamentally differenly than their predecessors.
- Other Characteristics
- Consumerism – They like to buy, but they are particular about branding. See the rise of Apple. They like experience. Going to the Apple Store is an experience; Best Buy is not.
- Passionately Tolerant – (Possible counter-trend: bullying)
- Experience oriented – In learning they don’t just want to be told; they want to experience it. They will consume experiences more than things.
- Family oriented – They really like their parents. In some ways maybe even in unhealthy ways.
- Mobile – If a job doesn’t provide the experience they want they will quit to find a better experience.
- Not quick to trust – The people they trust the most are their grandparents. They will give you a chance to have their trust, but if you blow it, then it will be difficult to regain trust. They value truth and integrity.
- Potentially civic-minded – This has not yet played itself out, as they are at most in their mid-20s. A possibly mitigating factor is the problem of student-loan debt.
- Humor is extremely important to them. They are incredible consumers of humor, but they also gravitate toward people who are humorous. If someone is funny that makes them someone they want to be with. The problem is that not everyone is funny.
- They understand that spirituality is a part of life and are interested in experiencing that. So they are open to spirituality but also fickle. They are syncretistic. They may be Christian, but they may incorporate other practices from other religions into their faith. “Soul Searching” – study done of 5000 Christian kids. When researchers dug deeper what they found was “morally therapeutic deism.” So, yes they may be “spiritual” but they probably don’t have a clue what it means to really be a Christian.
- The characteristics of Generation Z (The Adaptives, Generation “Fat”)
- Might be the most physically inactive generation ever
- Technology, redux. Technnology will be about collaboration and productivity.
- Unlike millenials, they may be more self-directed. Less dependency on their parents. Although, there is an interesting counter-trend. Parents seem obsessed with “how do I keep my kids entertained.”
- They may have a different view of privacy than previous generations. They may not even care about privacy in the same way.
- Value of extreme racial diversity and value pluralism.
- New views of education. Questions arising around new approaches to higher education that will affect this generation.
- What Gen Z likes (or will like)
- Internet, social media.
- Sharing on social networks. Croudsourcing, solving problems together.
- Online shopping.
- Mobile video.
- What they will never experience:
- Being lost without a map.
- Resolving a dispute without Google.
- Searching for change to make a phone call.
- Deciding which travel guide to leave home.
- Having nothing good to watch on TV.
- Checking prices with a travel agent.
- Waiting for the bank statement to arrive in the mail.
- Never have to balance a checkbook.
- They will never miss a date or meeting, because they can instantly get in touch with the other person.
- They will never have to worry about forgetting a coupon at home.
- They will probably never go on a truly blind date.
- What are the threats/opportunities?
- How can virtual relationships measure up to face-to-face relationships? These tools enhance relationships instead of replacing. Ultimately the technology is good. It’s different, but it’s okay. Just because generations have differences in how they relate doesn’t make one wrong. Technology is an opportunity.
- It changes things. For example, youth retreats – not banning technology but limiting its use.
- Kids bring their desire for experience into the church. They want to experience God, not just hear about him.
- In a world where everyone is talking, the art of listening is in decline. Yet those who listen are more valuable than ever.
- Tillich says that the first act of love is to listen.
- How can we tell when people are listening?
- Posture – leaning in, eye contact, nodding,
- Asking probing questions.
- Restating what someone says.
- How do you feel when someone listens to you? Valued, loved. Conversely, when someone doesn’t listen you feel like the person doesn’t value or love you.
- What are some ways you can demonstrate you’re listening?
- Body: body language (posture, head leaning in), nodding, facial expressions, eye contact, mirroring (replicating, intentionally or not, what the other person is doing), wandering eyes (if your eyes wander, come back to the eye contact)
- Words: Verbal markers (uh-huh), clarifying questions, affirming comments, restating information
- Mind: Absorption, self coaching (“don’t think about your response”, think “don’t say anything”), Note taking
- Intuition: Observation of their body language, what are they not talking about
- Remember the 80/20 rule. Try to focus on listening 80% and talking 20%.
- Closed: Yes or No – Do you agree? Is it okay to move on?
- Open: What is happening at your work now? What is the Lord saying to you about your decision?
- Directive: What is your plan to raise money? Which team member is causing problems?
- Emotions: What feelings do you have about your decision? What emotions do you have when twhen you think about marriage?
- Who, What, When, Where
- Why: Ask non directive questions to avoid questioning motives.
- Statements that provoce reflection: Tell me more about…What else is going on…Say more aobut that…
- Change actually begins by asking questions. Questions provoke dialogue, and dialogue leads to change.
A Community Reconciled Through the Spirit
- Isaiah 11 – A picture of enemies reconciled to one another.
- Mark 16 – Weird verse about handling snakes. This is a picture of the power of enmity disarmed in Christ.
- Story about 2 atheists visiting his church, “Two Atheists Go to Church” blog,children served communion.
- “The Lord’s table is so beautiful. Who am I to check the guest list” -L’Engle
- The Spirit (ruach) hovering over chaos in Genesis, on leaders in Judges, over Mary with Jesus. This same Spirit falls at Pentecost and the church is born. As the Spirit was on Jesus, it is now on the church.
- The Holy Spirit isn’t the third wheel of the Trinity. We need the Spirit because we are really bad pastors. Only the Spirit can change.
- Concept of the “demonstration plot” from Wendell Berry – the place where farmers tried out new equipment and farming techniques. This is the church – a place to try and experiment and discover how the Spirit will work.
- “Jesus returned with his scars. Even Jesus ministered out of his pain.”
- We seek revenge with a gun…or a blog. Jesus uses resurrection.
- “We are not called to be born against. The kingdom is bigger than us. The Spirit is big enough to work through the pastors you can’t stand.”