Thursday, December 28, 2006

advent after Christmas

I am almost finished with Kester Brewin's book, The Complex Christ, Signs of emergence in the urban church. It just came out in the US under the title, Signs of Emergence. Kester is from the UK and writing in and from the UK experience but reflecting upon trends he sees as crucial for churches emerging in a post-Christendom and postmodern culture. (Not Emergent churches that have been typecast but churches that are emerging out of this unique cultural shit and time.) He uses James Fowlers stages of development to talk about how the church needs to develop or evolve past its enlightenment, rationalism of naive simplicity (Stage 3), characterized by Fowler as "loyalists with deep convictions, yet critically unexamined". Many Christians and churches never move beyond this stage of development. He is calling the church to move into Stage 4 where we realize that faith and truth is more complex than previously understood. This stage often leads to "dark night of the soul" kind of experiences where doubt and uncertainty reign. Many churches since they themselves have not moved through this stage, often cannot handle others within their community who are going through it. Brewin sees the church as a whole moving into Stage 4, due to the cultural shift from modern to postmodern and the shift from a centralized Christendom church status to a mariginalized post-Christendom status. Our place in the world is not what it has been and were are experiencing dislocation. The hope is obviously that one 9and the church) moves through Stage 4 to Stage 5. This according to Brewin and Fowler this is a place of deep simplicity, a place where one realizes the richness, ambiguity and multidimensionality of truth and faith. This conjunctive stage (5) allows one to hold opposites together in a single frame, it is what some call a dialectical tension. Though we cannot force people or churches to move from one phase to another we must create space for that movement and allow for diverse developmental stages within our churches. If we allow for this it will necessarily change the organization of our churches which Brewin sees to be essential for our missional context of postmodernism and post-Christendom.

And here is the beauty that drew me into this book. The first chapter is about a hopeful waiting - Advent. It is incredibly rich. He calls the church to wait. I love this because it as an activist doer it challenges me to my core!! Listen:

"We will be required to wait. To be acted upon gently and gracefully and peacefully. Shaped, not crushed; guided not dragged... The task is urgent but if our response is to be anything more than another flash in the pan or botched attempt to become culturally aware then we must avoid haste... Genuine change cannot be about haste, or about playing for time. It must involve the depth of us, and must have something of us in it... In other words, for our own health, we need change to occur not at revolutionary speeds demanded by power-wielding dictators or company board rooms, but at the evolutionary speeds of the empowered human body... If we are to transform the whole [church] and truly alter the very nature of things for good, then the mode of change can not be revolution, but evolution. A gradual development over a long period of time... The perception of the new step will come to those brave enough to stop dancing the old... We fear that if we stopped for a week, a month, a service, a moment we might appear forgotten, or lose our momentum... We must be brave enough to stop if we are to see change... In other words our structures must serve us not us serve our structures... We must bear fruit, Christ tells us. But outside our genetically modified globalized supermarkets, fruit trees only bear fruit once a year and then their branches are stripped of leaves in the cold winter of advent... The Church is destined to live in a perpetual advent as we wait for Christ's return... No matter how impatient we get as a society, with processing speeds rising and our whole cultural velocity increasing ever faster, we cannot speed up pregnancy... We must have the courage to stop. To prepare the ground for the new and wait."

What a breathe of fresh air!!!!!

What is hard about the waiting of this advent?
What are you seeing and hearing in this period of waiting?


Sarah Louise said...

I thought I left a comment.

Anyways, what I said was YES! Waiting is so important!!

Thank you for writing about this.

marlaena said...

merry christmas bj!

first - loved the typo in emergent and emerging paratheses!

second - someone from our leadership team gave me a chapter to read in m. scott peck's book, a different drum. the chapter is patterns of transformation and he talks about 4 stages:

Stage 1: chaotic, antisocial (undeveloped spirituality)

Stage 2: formal, institutional (attached to the forms or traditions of spirituality)

Stage 3: skeptic, individual (active questioners and truth seekers)

Stage 4: mystic, communal (acknowledge unknown and seek to move deeper into it).

Movements between the stages are likened to conversions with the most challenging being the movement from stage 2 to 3. many try to or at least desire to skip over stage 3 because of the "dark night of the soul" it may bring about.

anyway, fascinating stuff . . . and thanks for the quote at the end! the contemplative / listener loves it!

marlaena said...

the first couple sentences of the quote made me think of ephesians 3:20 from the message:

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.

Bret Widman said...

Hey Wood! I saw you sight and thought I was looking in a mirror! I'm a 42 year old pastor, have 4 kids, and have just been assigned the great task of starting something "new" in a church that is 104 years old. Wow! Anyway, your words (even your bio) encouraged me that we're on the right track. So, thank you. Bret Widman

Randi Henderson said...

Hi, BJ. Good stuff. I've found myself slipping through similar thoughts, but triggered by the Christmas/Epiphany sliver of time. Preposterous things we are being called to do, somehow seem possible, even if "slippy". Follow a baby turned insurrectionist with my WHOLE heart and mind and soul and strength? Hmph. But not into a program of action. Into a way of living in the heart of God. I just listened to a lecture Gene Peterson gave last spring and I was mesmerized by his tag line - you can lay hold of the Jesus truth, but if it's not in the Jesus way, you won't have the Jesus life. Do the right thing, in a wrong way, you're gonna miss the mark. That whole waiting, patience thing is PART of the mix in doing things the Jesus way - though not all of it. For me, it's that balance thing - again - that comes knocking me for a loop: the right blend of delicacy and robustness, a faith life that is both sweet and fierce, living confidently in the moment with hopeful expectancy in the promises of Christ. Long enough rant for today ~ Randi Henderson