8/18/2004

Reimagining Spiritual Formation pt 2

Well, as promised (much later, but it's been a tough job finding time to assemble my thoughts the way I thought I could, and even then it's way different than I thought...)

This is from the relationships as spiritual formation chapter...

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At Solomon's Porch our desire is to form friendships where we are invited into each other's lives with a level of trust that allows for spiritual formation. We can learn from one another because we have proven ourselves trustworthy.

Some people will be concerned that this view of knowledge is too relativistic, as though all ideas are open for reconsideration at the whims of those who are offered those ideas. But the truth is, that's really how belief works. We all have held beliefs that worked quite well in one setting but failed miserably when we tried to transplant them. This is often the case with students who enter college or adults who move to other countries. Sometimes it happens in the face of tragedy, where all that we thought we knew is thrown down. All that we learn after that point of reorientation will partner with the new situation - and, disconcerting as the experience is, our beliefs will change.

This malleability of our beliefs isn't bad. In fact, there is considerable good to the challenge of living a faith that's based on more than information and that is connected to the frailty of our humanity. In our community we've found that this understanding of belief actually helps us take risks by keeping us open to ideas we haven't had yet. It's a beautiful thing when, during our Bible discussion group, someone responds to an idea with, "I never thought of it that way!" The sense that spiritual formation is happening in that moment is palpable. What's more, it's often traumatic to be forced to question something we're not ready to question - but when we accept that everything is questionable at one point or another, we are more ready to at least talk through those questions.


"Malleability of beliefs", "keeping us open to ideas we haven't had yet." Both ideas that cut right across the grain of fundamentalist belief. There, everything is concrete and questioning is forbidden, or at the very least strongly discouraged. It may be tolerated in the "weak" but never in pastors or elders.

So here's one very positive facet of the emerging church - the ability to question anything and everything.

Here's another snippet...

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There is, for some, an even greater risk involved in becoming co-(re)creators in the world. In the three years since Solomon's Porch became a reality, I've had more conversations than I can count about the emerging church and why it's seen as a threat to the evangelical way of life. Most often, the concern I hear is that the "postmodern" church has no sense of Christian tradition, that it wants to scrap everything that's come before and make something new. Maybe that's true in some churches that call themselves "postmodern". But what I've seen in the emerging , post-industrial church is a desire not to ignore what's come before us, but to be informed and inspired by it as we create ways of living in harmony with God in our time The great risk of the church is not in losing our traditions; it is losing our ability to reimagine.

I really don't know what to do with the approach to faith that tells us all the answers have been discovered and we are simply to apply these to our lives. I don't know how we are supposed to worship with songs, prayers and confessions created for other times and places. And I really don't know how to live out an understanding of the gospel that says I don't have a part to play in what God is doing in the world. Creativity is at the center of God's image. It is how we see God and talk to God and fins our hope in God. I can't figure out any other way to respond to God's (re)creation of the world, to God's invitation that we join as co-(re)creators, than to live as creative people.


Really great stuff, especially the sentence I made bold.

The Gospel is all about participation, and if we choose to participate only by being sheep, what's the point? There's nothing wrong with tradition unless you really don't understand the tradition and how and why it became a tradition. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people are unwilling to do the work and so tradition becomes slavishly following the rules - the rules someone else came up with - usually a long time ago. This is true for every branch of the church - evangelical, mainline or cult.

The truth is most people want to be told what to do. It makes life simple. The two fastest growing religious groups are fundamentalists and mormons and the biggest thing they have in common is a burning desire to control other people and tell them what to do. They probably see it as a benign control (it's for your own good...), but it isn't.

It seems to me the emerging church is in some part (at least in the US) a reaction to this. But the true vanguard of the emerging church will have a hard time keeping the ball rolling because the more people that jump on board, the more they're going to want to be told what to do. There are already hints that this is happening at the Emergent conventions as emergent goes mainstream.

Solomon's Porch are doing the right thing. They are being "the church" where they are at and they are designing it to use the skills and talents they have at their disposal.

If only we all did...

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