Monday, October 29, 2007

They Like Jesus But Not The Church

This is the first book that I have read by Dan Kimball, a pastor of a church for emerging Christians in Santa Cruz, California; it probably won't be my last --- BUT, I struggled with many of his theological conclusions.

The first third of the book was right on target. Dan challenges us to listen to those in the emerging generation (under 35) because for the most part, they don't like the church. What is fascinating is listening to the voices of that generation that he shares with us --- that may be the most important part of the book. The other thing that he does really well is remind all of us that we are living in a post-christian era, helping us to understand what that looks like, and gives us some basic tools to bridge that divide. For those two things alone the book is well worth it.

On the annoying side, Dan is constantly trying not to piss off the evangelical wing of the church. He apologizes over and over again, and it gets annoying. At some point we have to say, this is what I believe, this is why, and I am sorry if you disagree --- instead of trying to sooth them over and not get them angry.
The thing that I am going to take from this book is found in a box on page 20 and is really his theme. The church must stop having a mission team and recognize that we have to be missional 24/7.

Throughout this book, you will see the term missional. To be missional is more than just to evangelize. Here are some ways of thinking of this term as the underlying philosophy of this book:
  • Being missional means that the church sees itself as being missionaries, rather than having a mission department, and that we see ourselves as missionaries right where we live.
  • Being missional means that we see ourselves as representatives of Jesus "sent" into our communities, and that the church aligns everything it does with the missio dei (mission of God.)
  • Being missional means we see the church not as a place we go only on Sunday, but as something we are throughout the week.
  • Being missional means that we understand that we don't "bring Jesus" to people but that we realize that Jesus is active in culture and we join him in what he is doing.
  • Being missional means we are very much in the world and engaged in culture but we are not conforming to the world.
  • Being missional means we serve our communities, and that we build relationships with the people in them, rather than seeing them as evangelistic targets.
  • Being missional means being all the more dependent on Jesus and the Spirit through prayer, the Scriptures, and each other in community.
Where I differ with Kimball is what that looks like in the 21st century. Parts 2 and 3 drove me crazy. I would live to sit down with Dan and really here his thoughts. His explanation of how the church is a bride and not a boy's club was a cop out. His understanding of of the church being homophobic is right on --- his solution was ridiculous. But the two "issues" that he addressed that were downright stupid was his understanding of the church being the only way, and his understanding of scripture. His diagram on pages 173 - 175 show no real understanding of other religious traditions. And his attempt to try and pretend that he really isn't a fundamentalist just shows how crazy the church can become.

Despite all that --- I would still recommend the book, especially if you are farther to the "right" than I am, I think you will get a lot out of it. But even if you are more progressive than me, there are still many things of value to be found within Dan Kimball's work.

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