Saturday, November 25, 2006

Emergent Church Issues

Just took a great class on the emerging church. Here's some provocative quotes from the week:

We have a church in North America that is more secular than the culture. Just when the church adopted a business model, the culture went looking for God.... Just when the church began building recreation centers, the culture began a search for sacred space. Church people still think that secularism holds sway and that people outside the church have trouble connecting to God. The problem is that when people come to church, expecting to find God, they often encounter a religious club holding a meeting where God is conspicuously absent. It may feel like a self-help seminar or even a political rally. But if pre-Christians came expecting to find God--sorry! They may experience more spiritual energy at a U2 concert...
(Reggie McNeal, The Present Future, 2003)

"People in a postmodern culture have never been told that at their very essence they suck."
(Mark Driscoll, leader of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, talking about our gospel of self-actualization in the consumerist church of today)

"A generation of churches have chosen to keep their traditions and lose their children."
(Comment during a video)

Lest you think this was all a bunch of reactionary trend-stuff, I want to mention that this class gave a balanced and pastoral approach to the emergence of a new kind of church and I found it very inspiring and I hope everyone gives good thought to where the church is going in the next 10 years because there are some potentially great things in store if we open our eyes and our hearts and our minds and seek to be "missional communities ... consisting of followers of Jesus who are seeking to be faithful in their place and time." (Gibbs and Bolger, Emerging Churches)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

All Time Top 10 Movies

Well, for a change of pace ... here's what I'd call the top10 films of all time. Actually, instead of trying to mix and mingle the popular movies with the downright profound (and more obscure) films I'm going to do this as two separate top fives.


5. Fletch

What did you think this list would be? Can't comedies be great movies? Sorry, this one still makes me laugh, and I've seen it over 20 times. I suppose there are a lot of other great comedies I could name, like Tommy Boy or Naked Gun, but this one actually tried to be a movie with a plot and as far as that goes it did "a pretty d*mn good job if I do say so my d*mn self, thank you." (That's a line from the movie by the way, and somehow, like every other line, Chevy Chase makes it funny). Ok, seriously now...

4. Raiders of the Lost Ark

This is on the American Film Institute's top 100 all time and so it is recognized as a great film and for me it was like the pinnacle of my childhood movie viewing and was a favourite for me for years after. A lot have tried to do what it did but none have come close. Probably everyone has seen it so I don't have to say what's so good about it.

3. Misery

This one is frightening, but strangely quite wholesome. I mean, there is some violence and weirdness to it but the scary part is that it is all too realistic. Nothing occult or gory. Just plain scary. A shrill of terror goes up my spine still as I think about it. Fantastic movie with basically two characters. Very well done. Very underrated movie. Not on anyone's top 100 film lists that I've seen but deserves to be.

2. Dead Poet's Society

I never see this on film lists, so I'm probably off base here. But this movie itself has become an icon in the thinking of so many people of my generation. It certainly has had maybe a bigger role in shaping who I am than any other movie I've ever seen. I'm not sure how, but I just know it made an incredible impression on me. Again, many copycats since, but none compare.

1. Twelve Monkeys

I just realized that there should be some M. Night movies on this list, but whatever, they are in a league of their own. 12 Monkeys is in a weird genre. Sort of an apocalyptic thriller I guess. But it combines elements of the Fugitive, Outbreak, and One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest as well. Only it does it all edgy and different and the three main characters played by Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt, and Madeline Stow are just so well done. Christopher Plummer is in it too, and since Sound of Music should probably be on one of my lists its nice that I can have in here somewhere. I love this movie.


5. Through a Glass Darkly

I have to confess that I am not worthy to compile a list such as this since I have only scratched the surface in my viewing of foreign and obscure films. Jeff C or Dave McG are the guys to check with. I just watch what they tell me too. However, I've seen a few now, and this one by Ingmar Bergman is just amazing. Its about a family. There is a plot and a point to it but really it is just about the rleationships of this Dad and his son, and his daughter and her husband. The first 20 minutes I though constituted a masterpeice.

4. Tokyo Story

Again, this one is about a family, except in Japan. What is amazing to me is that for some reason I underestimated how much Japanese people were just like North American people. The family dynamics in this film are almost painful to watch, but Ozu, the director, makes it all very beautiful to watch and lulls you into thinking there will be no climax. But there is. And along the way, every scene is a work of art.

3. Winter Light

Ingmar Bergman's dad was apparently a pastor, and so when he did this film about a priest it was quite personal. Apparently he and his dad together did some of the preparation for the movie and debated how to end it. This movie is one of the few to look sympathetically (at least I think it does) at the behind the scenes life of a pastor/priest. Its very real and honest. This could be the bridge for many a discussion, this movie, but I'll leave it at that. There is a long monologue in this one by the leading lady that is really quite an incredible peice of acting.

2. Remains of the Day

This was a beautifully crafted and wonderfullly acted film and I'm not sure why it isn't on other film lists. I have touted it for many years and had no success in getting anyone to watch it so I guess it is just plain boring. I think it such a good story and so well done and I am just a sucker for Anthony Hopkins. Besides, the scene with him standing in the rain (if you watch it you'll know it when you get there) just really affected me and made the movie different and so good at the same time. Following up on Dead Poets, this movie has really shaped much of my approach to life since. Crazy to talk of a movie that way I suppose, but its true. Anyway, this one is highly underrated, in my books. Maybe because its audience expected it to be like other American movies.

1. 2001: A Space Odyssey

Watched this again last night and man is it an incredible film. I actually fell asleep part way through and picked up again later so I know it will put a lot of people to sleep. But if I was to name the top 5 scenes of all time probably 4 of them would be from this film. The monolith's appearance, the monkey playing with the bone, the monolith photo op on the moon, the showdown with HAL: these sound almost silly but are truly astounding scenes. And its like 22nd on AFIs film list so I know I'm not alone on that one. A masterpeice.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Why You Need to Read "The Younger Evangelicals"

I've been reading a book called The Younger Evangelicals by Robert E. Webber. From the start it talked about a transition between generations and put a sort of artificial dividing line between them at the birth-year of 1975.

I struggled from the outset with this book because, well, I was born in 1975.

I was born in modern clothing, and though I reacted negatively to the church when I came of age, I was then "converted" in Bible school and for all intents and purposes put on the clothing of the traditional church. In time I also took on the clothing of the pragmatic church (ie. the worship-driven, seeker-sensitive model). But I can tell I was born in 1975 because while this made sense to me I always felt like there was still further to go.

The Younger Evangelicals is telling me what I've felt all along. It's not that I'm smart. Its just uncanny and amazing to find that so many my age and younger are way ahead of me and yet are articulating what I've had such a hard time putting my finger on.

Webber says:

The younger evangelical is interested in building organic Christian communities, not huge Wal-Mart churches that deliver a full range of Christian consumer goods.... [When given the option to plant "Gen X" churches within the existing ones, however, they are increasingly] uneasy with the "church within a church" approach. This younger generation wants the widom of other generations; they don't want to be separated out as a group with characteristics they "will grow out of and graduate from". Instead, writes Zander, Xers have "the very characteristics that the church ought to grow into."... It is interesting [though] that for the most part younger evangelicals are committed to start-up chuches. Many existng churches, most perhaps, still function in the modern established pattern and are fearful to take the kind of risks it takes.... [and the younger evangelicals] feel the investment of time it takes to change an existing institutional church is hardly worth it.

This is perhaps where my age separates me a little from those younger than me. I feel it has to be worth it. Maybe I have a bit more faith in my predecessors, but I don't want to be a church planter. However, I wonder if my predecessors will have any faith in me, let along those younger than I.

I am not interested in dissing the older generations, partly because I have to look at myself and see that I am part of them, and I like a lot of what they gave me. After all, they are the ones getting me to read these books! Let's give credit where it is due! But there is a definite need to move forward, past modernity. Take the good, leave the bad. The rationalistic, conversion centered approach is waning in its ability to communicate the Christian story with clarity or conviction today. We need to progress, or, to put it in the terms of the younger evangelicals, we need to regress--get back to our roots, recover the ancient Chrisitan tradition, and embody it in a new day and age.

If too many churches are too afraid to go forward with the younger evangelicals then I fear that in twenty years we will be relegated to the sidelines of Christianity or even cease to exist altogether. I share many of the same fears of the older generation about some of the new trends in theology and practice, believe me, but I am less scared of it the more I understand. And (maybe because I was born in 1975, I don't know) I share the vision of the younger evangelicals. So I'm stuck in the no-man's land. I understand the reservations but I also understand why people are leaving in droves.

I read a book like The Younger Evangelicals and I can imagine my denomination the Christian & Missionary Alliance being revived for an exciting new chapter, one that is much like its first. After all, our founder AB Simpson was all about this stuff.