When it comes to relationships inside and outside the Church, every believer brings a multiplicity of presuppositions. We of course bring our backgrounds and experiences, but we also bring philosophies we've been taught and have accepted. Some believers think true Kingdom leadership will just be one big, hippie drum circle! Have we considered every philosophy we've been taught critically in light of Jesus's Way? If we were to compare our assumptions of how relationships should work with the teachings of Jesus, the example of Jesus, and the way the early church applied his Way, how would our presuppositions hold up? My suspicion is that many Westerners, particularly US Americans, would find that their expectations don't match up with those of Jesus. In this brief post, I'd like to consider a few concepts: democracy, egalitarianism, and hierarchy. My guiding question is: What does Kingdom leadership look like?
I've got tons of hipster friends, but you've probably never heard of them. In fact, I had hipster friends before calling them 'hipsters' was cool. Back then they were just geeks, misfits, the kids who didn't fit into any of the cliques in high school. I knew a lot of them, but back then they didn't think they were "cool." In those days the definition of "cool" was to be part of the in-crowd—the "preps," the "jocks". Labels like that raise the hairs on the back of histers' necks. Then, one day, culture shifted, and the more different you were, the more "cool" you were. Suddenly, it wasn't "cool" to be defined by a category like "preps" or "jocks". In fact, it became "cool" to put labels like that in "air quotes". This shift resulted in a generation that sought to break out of every box, to not let anyone else define them. Even as I write this, I can hear the hipster voices disagreeing with my version of their hipster origins. The last thing they want is someone else telling them were they came from. The problem is, that generation simply created a new box in which to fit. As a church planter, my interest in this group begins with whether hipsterism is beneficial or detrimental to the Jesus movement called the Church.
The only way to truly understand the will of God, or God's written word, is by obeying Jesus.
Scholars can spend their entire lives mining the depths of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament for its truth without satisfaction. Devout believers routinely wrestle with "knowing God's will," yet remain disappointed. Neither academic analysis of the Scriptures, nor soul-wrenching angst, can illuminate God's will or God's word more than simple obedience of Jesus's teachings.
This thought is so simple it may be dismissed out of hand. How could simple obedience serve as a tool to illuminate God's will or God's word? At least part of the answer can be summed up with two ideas: 1) The Superiority of Experiential Knowledge; and 2) Faith as Relational Trust.
Humble Beast artist, Propaganda, who has had some recent internet fame from his viral video poem "G.O.S.P.E.L." 1, recently released a full-length hip hop album entitled "Excellent" (available for ****FREE****!!!). While the entire album is worth a listen, one track in particular is making waves all over the evangelical blogosphere. 2 Why? Because a black, Christian hip hop artist dared to denounce the racism and slave-owning of Puritans—the darlings of Neo-Calvinist folklore. [gasp!] And several of Propoganda's points are powerful!
Here's a little taste:
Pastor, you know it’s hard for me when you quote puritans.
Oh the precious puritans.
Have you not noticed our facial expressions?
One of bewilderment and heart break.
Like, not you too pastor.
You know they were the chaplains on slaves ships, right?
Would you quote Columbus to Cherokees?
Would you quote Cortez to Aztecs?
Even If they theology was good?
It just sings of your blind privilege wouldn’t you agree?
Your precious puritans.
…and, some more:
Oh, you get it but you don’t get it.
Oh, that we can go back to an America that once were, founded on Christian values.
They don’t build preachers like they used to. Oh, the richness of their revelations.
It must be nice to not have to consider race.
The Gospel isn't a get-out-of-hell-free card. The Gospel is about far more than just no longer feeling guilty. These are reductionist caricatures of the Gospel. The Gospel is grander, thicker than these inadaquate facsimiles.
The Gospel is the declaration and demonstration that God's kingdom is breaking into this world through the birth, the life, the ministry, the execution, and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah—and that it continues through the Holy Spirit's work in and through the movement of Jesus's disciples we call the Church. The Gospel declares and demonstrates that the Jesus who was crucified, died, and was buried is now alive, lives forever, and rules over all the governments of the world, over all the presidents, over all the prime ministers, over every billionaire and every mogul. That Jesus the Messiah is the Lord who rules in a way unlike any earthly reign—a reign that is perfectly merciful and perfectly just.
The Gospel is the power of God to transform individual lives, entire households, and whole communities. The transformation the Gospel produces always looks like Jesus; it always looks like an innocent man receiving a God-forsaken, criminal's execution in the place of the very people who were murdering him. The transformation the Gospel produces always looks like the forces in this world that hold people down, rob them of their God-given dignity, and seek to destroy them being overpowered by Jesus's Cross-shaped love.
It always looks like New Life, New Creation, New Vision, and ultimately a New City where God will dwell with humanity once again in undisrupted love and oneness—where there will be no more war, no more violence, no more pain, no more sickness, no more disease, no more oppression, no more injustice. There will only be perfect peace, perfect wholeness, perfect shalom. That's what heaven on earth will look like.
In statistical, scientific, and measurable analysis, the policy and law-enforcement practices that have been produced by the myth that drugs are society's number one threat form a system of oppression for black Americans in particular and are therefore racist. Despite full knowledge of this fact, many who benefit from the prison industrial complex, or gain political advantage from talking tough about drug crimes, do little or nothing to correct or stop it.
There are more blacks under correctional control today—in prison or jail, on probation or parole—than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began
As of 2004, more African American men were disenfranchised (due to felon disenfranchisement laws) than in 1870, the year the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified prohibiting laws that explicitly deny the right to vote on the basis of race
Over 1 Trillion dollars ($1,000,000,000,000) has been spent on the 'War on Drugs', yet drugs are no less accessible, used, sold, or potent
Black Americans constitute 13% of all drug users, but 35% of those arrested for drug possession, 55% of persons convicted, and 74% of people sent to prison
One of life's most prominent patterns is the pattern of passage. At many different times in our lives, in many different ways, we all pass through from one status to another. This process has a discernible pattern.
First, there is an Initial Status. In this phase, there is stability, equilibrium. This is "normal" life.
Next, we encounter separation. This can be a trial, a crisis, or an opportunity. In some way distance is created from our "normal life" (Initial Status).
After the separation occurs, we find ourselves in a precarious phase. We haven't yet attained a new status, but we have left our previous status behind. This is the 'betwixt and between' phase called "Liminality". This phase can be confusing, but it is also the place of discovery.
Then comes the Rite of Passage. At some point in this transition from one status to the next, there comes a demarcation point—a point at which we cross over to the other side. This is often commemorated by a ceremony or a ritual (i.e. a "rite").
The person who undergoes a Rite of Passage must overcome a challenge. They also must have new knowledge imparted to them from elders who have passed through themselves. Finally, they are granted the new status.
When an intiate gains new status they can then be re-integrated back into the community—now with a new identity. This is the "Return" transition.
The final stage of a passage is the new status. In this phase, a person accepts new responsibility, leadership. Once one has passed through, they are now equipped to usher others through. They are now an elder.
The granting of the new status does not magically make a person worthy of it. Instead, the initiate now must live into her or his new status.
One person will undergo many passages in their life. Each is like its own quest. Let us pass through well.
My wife and I have owned six silver vehicles in our adult lives. Six! When most recently we were shopping for a new minivan to transport our three children along with ourselves, there was one color that was off the table. There was no way we were buying another silver vehicle! I never realized how many other maroon Kia minivans there were in the world until I began driving my own around town. Now I see them everywhere.
We tend to see what our eyes are tuned to see. And we tend to ignore what we have been trained not to see.
"I love the smell of napalm in the morning. You know, one time we had a hill bombed, for 12 hours. When it was all over, I walked up. We didn't find one of 'em, not one stinkin' dink body. The smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole hill. Smelled like... victory. Someday this war's gonna end…"
There is no better way to trigger a vivid picture in a person's imagination than with the use of smell, because our sense of smell is powerfully and directly linked to our memories.1Smell has the ability to transport us back to an experience, including exactly how we felt. Decades later, the moment we smell grandma's cookies baking, we are instantly transported back into her kitchen, a child again, feeling safe and loved—just like it was yesterday.
The apostle Paul knows this power to conjure emotion through smell. That is why he masterfully exploits this fact to illustrate the impact of the early Jesus movement in a letter to a group of Jesus's followers who lived in a first-century Greco-Roman city.
"Thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task?"
Theological Graffiti is the offical blog of T. C. Moore @tc_moore ...a Jesus-disciple, husband, father, urban church planter @NewCityCovenant, designer @NewCityPro, teacher, student, and friend. Discussion is welcome, so long as it is conducted in a spirit of charity. First and foremost, this blog is for self-expression—then community. More About.Me