Want to meet a number of key missional leaders all in one place for a reasonable price? Wondered what missional was all about? Come to Biblical Seminary on October 10th (THIS FRIDAY) to hear Scot McKnight(Jesuscreed.org), Tim Keel, Darrell Guder, and the ever stimulating, even controversial Brian McLaren (along with some local greats as well) do plenary talks and break-outs on a number of related topics. It costs $75 for the day or $40 for the evening. The size will not be too large so you can expect to have actual conversations with some of the leaders. The event is capped by installing our very own theologian, Dr. John Frankeas the Lester and Kay Clemens Chair of Missional Theology.
Check out this link for more info: https://webmail.biblical.edu/exchweb/bin/redir.asp?URL=http://www.biblical.edu/pages/connect/franke%2520installation.htm
This post is prompted by a sermon I heard last Sunday. Duane Davis, student at WTS preached a wonderful sermon on Hebrews 11:8-22 and Abraham’s journey to the promised land. During the sermon I thought of this application to my own Seminary’s quest to teach and train missional church leaders and counselors for the 21st century. A little background: not everyone has been happy with our move to reach the emerging leadership of the emerging church. The emerging church has been willing to criticize sharply the prior evangelical style of church. In their effort to try new things, some emerging leaders, writers, etc. have tried on theological positions that run counter or at least perpendicular to conservative Christian doctrine. Because we at the Seminary haven’t led with our criticisms of emerging church, that has led some to criticize and attack us. One criticism has been the challenge that the emerging church and Biblical Seminary don’t know where they are going. We’re on a journey that can only lead to heresy and rejection of the Gospel–or so it is thought by some. Enter Hebrews 11.
Notice that Abraham travels with much uncertainty. He surely knew that God called him (at least he knew this enough to leave all his family and homeland at an elderly age) and so he went expectantly. I wonder if he grew tired of saying, “Here, Lord? This looks like a good spot. No, you want me to keep going???”. I wonder if he second-guessed himself. But Hebrews does tell us that Abraham did look expectantly to one thing: heaven (v. 11). In fact, the promise of heirs the number of sand and land was never fully realized in his lifetime. As Duane reminded us, he even had to buy some land to bury his cherished wife. Even at age 100, he had yet to receive the promise of Isaac. Then a few years later he is asked by God to sacrifice Isaac.
We who have the entire canon seem to forget that we too do not know where God is taking us. We have a clearer picture of heaven and clear calls to seek and serve God’s kingdom. And yet we do not know exactly to what God is calling us to. We, like Abraham, may try to bring about God’s promises (these usually lead to bad consequence). God is faithful none-the-less. Unless He returns, we too will not see the full promise delivered.
So, in answer to those who ask whether Biblical Seminary knows where it is going, I say no. We don’t. We do know that God is faithful, the land is foreign, we own nothing, but we trust in his goodness both now and in eternity. We seek to live faithfully in worshipful service to God and in loving our neighbors as ourselves. It would be more comforting to think we had it all figured out. It is tempting to do so since that would make our vision planning much easier. In fact, it is tempting just to say we have it all figured out. That would be more attractive to students and donors. But, we believe a more faithful response is to ask the Lord to send us into the harvest and use as as He can.
One last point. Our lack of knowing just where we are going is not to say we have NO idea nor to say all viewpoints are valid and everyone’s expression of faith is good. Those interested in knowing more what we do seek and believe are welcome to check out our President’s “Missional Journal” at http://www.biblical.edu/pages/resources/missional-journal.html
My bus trip around Philadelphia yesterday got me thinking again about comfort and how we use our desire for it to shape where we worship. When we went to Bethel Deliverance Church, we saw a church that started in a motel suite. They were able to squeeze 60 in the space. Neither the outside nor the inside was much to look at. When they had more than 60, they put them in other rooms and piped in video and sound through security cameras. Not sure how long the church continued in that fashion, but it was for quite some time.
One of the DMin students asked how this church kept people coming since the facility was so poor. His assumption was that suburban folk wouldn’t stand for that kind of issue. The pastor said that the church was primarily conversions to Christ and not transfer. #1 they didn’t know anything else, and #2 it was the Word they were hungry for. Some 20 years later, this church still remains an evangelistic and sending congregation.
How much does comfort play into your church decisions? Style? Space? Demographic? Content?
My church began in the 70s and for many years was like this. Somewhere, I think it lost its cutting edge and became more comfort seeking. Now, our facility isn’t much to look at, but somewhere I think it became a church body looking to be comforted and discipled than to be sent. I love my church and the leaders are doing everything they can to resurrect the sending part. But, until we folk start wanting to be uncomfortable, they are going to be frustrated in their goals. And I have to not point the finger to others. I want to be served–frankly–and need to contend with my me-centered desires.
Being an academic has certain perks. I got to participate in one of them today. A DMin cohort is in session this week and part of their class was a tour of Philadelphia to see what God is doing in and through the church. We left early this am on a Hagey bus (donated I hear, thank you Hagey!) and traveled to an African American church on Cheltenham ave. This church started very small in the 80s, meeting in a motel suite. Slowly, they were able to rent more and finally buy the property and several more. I’ll write more soon about this church and how it handled the congregation in some uncomfortable building situations. I was convicted at how comfort (me) focused I am. The church has a tremendous evangelism program. Next we travelled through a good chunk of North Philadelphia (West of Broad) to see Eric Mason at 16th and Diamond (Epiphany Fellowship). This pastor and his congregation are seeking to reach and redeem the hip hop culture and be a presence in N. Philadelphia. We then traveled through a lot of N. Philadelphia: Feltonville, Kensington, and through the Latino populated parts. We ate at a muslim owned business (kabobs) and heard from Rev. Luis Centano (Wyoming Baptist) about his many ministries that are an asset to the community and to the Philadelphia police force. The biggest presence in this area is the Jehovah’s Witnesses and then the Mosque. We saw lots of poverty and lots of people making a way despite being abandoned by everyone, including the police and city.
We then traveled back in time to Bridesburg. This is a very white section of the city cut off (by I95) from most of the city. Very Irish Catholic. We visited a young man who has opened a coffee shop and church (real life cafe) that meets in the shop. His story is quite an interesting one. I dropped off the tour at this point and took the train home but the rest of them continued on to Tenth Presbyterian Church to hear about their center city ministry.
The best part of this tour? Hearing Bill Krispin narrate our trip and share his 42 years experience with the entire city. This man has walked the streets and knows what is happening. His call to us is to do what business does: read the environment and learn what God is doing in the city instead of being 5 years behind. If you ever get a chance to do something like this with a person who knows your area, be sure to do it. You get to see what God is up to and not just the problems.
My previous entry mentioned the missional movement in the evangelical church. In some ways this movement is best understood by its two main questions: (1) What is the mission of God? (2) What is our part in His mission? Or put more bluntly as Gary Haugen did at a recent AACC conference (talking about God’s response to injustice), “Are Jesus and I interested in the same things?”
Well, what is our part? Unbelievably, we are plan A in fulfilling his purposes in the world. Here’s my 3 core statements that describe our part of the mission:
a. to glorify God and enjoy him forever in the kingdom of heaven, first here on earth and then fully in heaven.
b. to extend the kingdom boundaries (a la Ezekiel 47) in order to participate in the healing of the nations through reconciling, binding up, loosing, feeding, clothing, and preaching the new good news.
c. to live righteously in exile (Jeremiah 29) for the benefit of all peoples (for their peace and comfort) and as lights shining on a hill giving glory to God (Matthew 5:14)
What else would you want to include in your top 5?
What do we have in our actual, lived-out top 5 that ought NOT be there?