Tag Archives: missional church

Anabaptism 101 (Sermon Series)

Hello blog readers!

This past Sunday I finished preaching through an exciting 6-week sermon series entitled Anabaptism 101 at Christiansburg Mennonite Fellowship (CMF) in Virginia, where I’ve been pastoring since the first of the year.

The series focuses on the historical roots and current convictions of Anabaptism. As many of you know, I didn’t grow up within an Anabaptist tradition. And since half our congregation didn’t grow up Anabaptist, this sermon series seemed like a good place to begin as pastor.

 

Here is a brief outline of each message in the series:

  1. Beginning of a Movement—A general overview of key persons, events, and issues that led to the “radical” 16th century Anabaptist movement. What does “Anabaptist” mean? Where does the name “Mennonite” come from? Where is Anabaptism going today?
  2. Radical Discipleship—The Anabaptist view of discipleship in detail. What does it mean to follow Jesus? Did Jesus really expect us to follow his teachings from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7)? What is so different about the Anabaptist view versus the popular evangelical view?
  3. Word Made Flesh—The Anabaptist view of the authority of Scripture, and a Christo-centric hermeneutic (interpretation) of the Old Testament. Do Anabaptists hold a high view of Scripture? What is so different about the Anabaptist view of Scripture versus the popular evangelical view?
  4. Church as Kingdom Community—The Anabaptists saw the church as a missional, counter-cultural family of Kingdom citizens. What is the meaning and purpose of baptism? What is the meaning of communion? Why live a simple life? What does it mean to embrace “the other”?
  5. The Politics of Jesus—The most controversial and oft-misunderstood aspect of Anabaptism: non-violence and the politics of Jesus. In what ways did Jesus resist empire? How far do Anabaptists take Jesus’ message of peace and reconciliation? How do Anabaptists understand church & state? How subversive is the NT?
  6. Triumph of the Lamb—Answers to the most common objections concerning the non-violence of Jesus. Didn’t Jesus come to bring a sword? Didn’t Jesus tell his disciples to buy swords? Finally, does the portrayal of Jesus in Revelation contradict the Jesus of the Gospels? How will the way of the crucified Lamb conquer evil in the end?

You can download and listen to each message by visiting our sermon archive. We will be archiving all sermons on the new church website once it is up and running. Please stay tuned for that.

There was Q&A after each message, but you can only hear it following the Triumph of the Lamb. Our small groups are going through The Naked Anabaptist for further discussion and study. If you’re looking for a good overview of Anabaptism, or Neo-Anabaptism, check out Murray’s book.

If you have questions or comments, please let me hear them here at the blog.

D.D. Flowers, 2014.

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Are You Making a Difference?

Difference Makers: An Action Guide For Jesus Followers (Grand Rapids: BakerBooks, 2013) by M. Scott Boren, Foreword by Scot McKnight

Scott Boren writes, “Most difference makers have more in common with George Bailey than the heroes of The Avengers.” Just ask the folks in good ole Bedford Falls. One ordinary life can make an extraordinary difference!

If you’ve ever felt like you’re not making a difference where you live, or you’re just not real sure how to engage your neighborhood and community for Christ, then I believe that Difference Makers can help you and your church.

Difference Makers is written in forty short chapters that can be read as a 40-day study or in larger sections. Each section concludes with a suggested activity. There is even a study guide at the end that includes an icebreaker, focus Scripture, and discussion questions. It’s ideal for small groups.

Difference Makers offers practical ways for making a Kingdom difference in your local neighborhood and community.

Do you struggle to know how you can bring change around you? Does it seem like you don’t have any extra time in your schedule? Do you feel like you’re all alone and the task is too daunting? Get this book!

One of my favorite chapters in Difference Makers is ch. 16 on Paying Attention to the Spirit.  God is always at work around us.

“The Spirit moves, but reading what the Spirit is doing requires that we pay attention to the whispers and nonverbal cues. By simply being attentive to the mystery of what God is up to in those around us, we discover the hidden ways that redemption is being woven into the fabric of life” (p.88).

Difference Makers challenges us to look beyond the surface in order to think in a “deeper” way when it comes to our neighborhood.

  1. What is positive and therefore calls for a response of support (e.g., a local battered-women’s home)?
  2. What is a natural part of life and therefore calls for redemption and use for God’s kingdom (e.g., vacant buildings that resulted from a recession)?
  3. What is unacceptable and therefore calls for subversion (e.g., hungry, undocumented families)?
  4. What is negative and therefore calls for active resistance (e.g., sex slavery)?

And in ch. 20, Paying Attention to the Routines, Scott writes:

“While books, sermons, and concepts about God’s love can be helpful, we become difference makers as we listen to God and pay attention to where he is at work in the routines of life. And as we pay attention to these routines, the life of making a difference gets inside of us. It becomes more and more who we are” (p104-105).

Scott reminds us all that what we do really counts for the Kingdom, more than we know. His book will encourage you to seek out ways to make a difference as Jesus followers motivated by a sincere love for others. This is a book you will want to read and discuss with others in community.

M. Scott Boren has been working with churches to help them develop effective community through small groups for more than twenty years. He is a trainer, consultant, and founder of The Center for Community and Mission.

Scott has authored Introducing Missional Church, Missional Small Groups, and The Relational Way. He shares life with his wife, Shawna, and their four children. They currently serve at Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, MN.

Scott can be reached at www.mscottboren.com.

D.D. Flowers, 2013.


Creeds & the Local Church

I’ve been doing some thinking about the difference(s) between dogma, doctrine, and opinion when it comes to the local church.

Simply put… it looks like this.

  • Dogma — Irreducible beliefs of the Christian faith. What do we say about Jesus?
  • Doctrine — Historical or traditional beliefs on a plethora of theological issues. What sets us apart?
  • Opinion — Debatable issues that you’re free to agree or disagree upon. What do you think?

I agree with these three distinctions (leaving room for some overlap), but how do you determine what belief goes where in these categories? And is it possible for a local church (pastors & elders) to proclaim a certain view as “doctrine” but leave room for members to disagree? I think so.

One thing is for certain, this is a task for folks in community together and those who are willing to wrestle with it. That’s an invitation.

Two Ways of Dealing With It

Let me first address two common ways of dealing with these issues, and then I’ll share my working thoughts.

Group One — “Give me Jesus, not your divisive doctrine.”

Some of you know that I spent about five years meeting in homes and interacting with a network of “organic” churches. I had some great experiences. However, many of the folks I ran into sought to downplay the role of theology and creeds (statement of beliefs) for fear that it is divisive and characteristic of the beastly institutional church.

They have a point. Beliefs can be divisive. But I don’t think the answer is to avoid the need for a creed, or set Jesus against doctrine.

So, I’m saying that I know people that don’t seem to think that worrying about dogma, doctrine, and opinion really matters. In their “opinion” (catch that?), we should just wander about in nebulous fashion and refrain from any organization—church practice and theology included.

This group is imagining that there is not a systematic theology at work in the members of their group or church. It doesn’t need to be posted on a church website or posted on the wall of their meeting place, it’s alive in the hearts and minds of the saints there.

A fellowship may not discuss what they believe openly or form a statement of faith by consensus, but it’s at work among them.  Avoiding the obvious need for a creed of theology, mission, and vision will lead to a certain death. That’s if the church even gets off the ground in the first place.

You can’t escape a “theology of the people” who have decided to band together for Kingdom purposes.

Trying to do so will lead to division of another sort. Once more proving that reactionary thinking and practice is not the answer.

I suppose this groups believes that if you stay away from labels and systems of thought that there will not be any division or controversy. They must think this reflects a purer stage of the NT church.

Back when there weren’t any problems, right?

I respect the desire to not be needlessly building walls of separation between saints. I’m all for that. But I can’t espouse the idea that having a statement of belief (creed) is damaging to the church.

In fact, I believe it is healthy and necessary.

Group Two — “Let’s get back to the basics… of the 4th century.”

Then there are other folks who are rightfully fed up with sectarianism in the church but believe that we must stand firm on some basic theological truths about Christ. They believe we should only stick to the ancient creeds in our attempts to articulate the essentials of our faith.

I grew up a Southern Baptist. The SBC has a very lengthy confession (Baptist Faith & Message) dealing with just about every issue under the sun (OK, I’m exaggerating a little bit). Needless to say, I didn’t grow up reciting the Apostles or Nicene Creed. I regret that.

My wife and I attended a Methodist church for a year and we deeply benefited from the recitation of these ancient creedal statements. The recitation of creeds in worship is a healthy way of reminding everyone in attendance of what brings them together and is forming their new identity as members of the universal church.

Hear me out. I like reciting the ancient creeds, but I do think it’s important to remember that the Apostles & Nicene Creeds (4th cent) were written against their own contextual issues of heresy and debated ideas of Christology in the church from ages ago.

Let’s remember the ancient creeds and recite them together in our churches. I’m cool with that. I think there is something deeply beneficial that comes with this practice. But I submit to you that a healthy church will continue to wrestle with dogma, doctrine, and opinion in every age and culture.

The local church can do this by amending the ancient creeds to better address our 21st century issues and challenges.

It’s necessary for a church that wishes to be a relevant organism seeking to make a Kingdom impact in every culture and context. Our evolving world demands it. We must not be afraid to speak to, for, and against issues of our time. We must move forward with courage.

Finding a Third Way

If you follow this blog regularly, you know that I have intentions to plant a church in the near future. I do this with fear and trembling. It’s not gonna be easy, but I’m convinced the Lord wants it.

The church today is fragmented in many ways. And I don’t wish to add to the problem by doing more of the same. But a new church plant is gonna require some line-drawing when it comes to dogma, doctrine, and opinion.

For example, some issues of “classical” theology, especially as it relates to our view of God in Christ, need to be revisited in order to reflect a change in the 21st cent church—a church that presently finds herself forced to accept views about God which contradict the revelation of God in Christ, or leave behind belief in a good God altogether.

The church that humbly professes the better view of God in Christ is being a faithful church, not a divisive or dogmatic church.

If we don’t speak up about these matters and courageously hold our ground against competing views that undermine the revelation of God in Christ… what good are we? What Gospel are we proclaiming?

There are other issues related to our culture and context that should be addressed in our creeds. We can’t afford to avoid these issues.

Some positions will need to be taken in response to culture, most others in response to misguided Christians propagating views about God and his sovereignty that don’t look like Jesus. It will require us hold positions that may not be popular, but are necessary to maintain the centrality and supremacy of Christ for authentic faith and practice.

Here’s what I’m saying… what may have been considered “opinion” or a non-essential in one generation can move into the realm of accepted doctrine worthy to be included in a church’s creed and statement of faith if it is needed in our response to bad theology and pagan culture.

The creeds of the local church should move forward in every cultural context, though never away from Christ who is eternal in the heavens.

The way forward affirms the importance of beliefs, expands on matters critical to our confession of Christ, and is willing to draw necessary lines in order to be faithful to the Kingdom.

This third way looks like Jesus Christ of Nazareth—Truth for the church and culture, saturated in love and grace for every age.

D.D. Flowers, 2013.


Q&A with Pastor Greg Boyd, Part I

Greg Boyd received his Ph. D. from Princeton Theological Seminary (1988), his M.Div. from Yale Divinity School (1982) and his B.A. from the University of Minnesota (1979). He was a professor of theology for 16 years at Bethel University (St. Paul, MN).

In 1992, Greg co-founded Woodland Hills Church, an evangelical fellowship in St. Paul. He is also president of ReKnew.org. Greg is a pastor, theologian, and author of more than a dozen academic and popular books.

Some of his books include, Letters From a Skeptic: A Son Wrestles with His Father’s Questions about ChristianityThe Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus TraditionIs God to Blame?: Moving Beyond Pat Answers to the Problem of Evil, and the best-selling book The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power Is Destroying the Church, which led to a New York Times front-page article and several television interviews.

In 2010, Greg was listed as one of the twenty most influential Christian scholars alive today. He continues to challenge evangelicals with his theological ideas and Kingdom vision. His work is an inspiration to those evangelicals that believe a revolution is needed in the church.

Greg is a pioneering Christian intellectual and church practitioner. He is helping to bridge the gaps between the church & academy, faith & reason, theology & science, as well as confession & mission.

I asked Greg if he would be willing to share his Kingdom vision with my readers. He was gracious enough to answer some of my questions about his ministry at Woodland Hills and talk about his upcoming books.

The Q&A will come in three parts. Enjoy!
___________________________________________________________________

Hey Greg, thank you for taking time out to talk about your ministry at Woodland Hills, and to give us a sneak peak of your two upcoming books.

I must say that I’ve been personally impacted by the work you’re doing in the church today, and I think many evangelicals need to hear and understand your vision for the Kingdom of God.

I recently featured your book The Myth of a Christian Nation in a blog series of five books offering a new Vision for 21st Century Evangelicalism. Your 2004 sermon series The Cross & the Sword was the foundation for this book.

What is the core message you set forth in your sermons and in your book? 

Greg Boyd: Thanks for the invitation to dialogue, David. I appreciate your passion for the Kingdom and your desire to see Evangelicalism freed from its cultural imprisonment.

Well, the core message of my sermon series and book is simply that the Kingdom of God is not merely the best version of the kingdoms of this world. It’s a Kingdom that is “not of this world,” as Jesus said (Jn 18:36).

As the incarnation of God, Jesus perfectly modeled what it looks like for God to reign over a person’s life. So you can always tell where the Kingdom is present, because it always looks like Jesus.

Individuals and groups under the reign of God manifest the kind of humble, self-sacrificial love that Jesus demonstrated in his life, and especially in his death, when he freely offered himself up on behalf of the very people who crucified him, praying for their forgiveness with his last breath.

To the extent that individuals and groups lovingly sacrifice for others the way Jesus did, the Kingdom is present. To the extent that they don’t, it’s not. It’s really that simple.

Obviously, no nation, government and political party has ever looked anything like this. Indeed, given the power-dynamics of our fallen world, I don’t believe any nation, government or political party ever COULD look like this. And this is why we should never identify any nation, government or political party as being the kingdom of God, or even as a means of bringing about the Kingdom of God.

It’s also why we should never think any nation, government or political party is more “Christian” than another.

The Kingdom that Jesus inaugurated is altogether unique, and I believe that everything hangs upon God’s people keeping it unique, set apart, or “holy.”  The minute we start associating the Kingdom with nations, governments or politics, we water it down and compromise its distinctive beauty.

It’s my conviction that the job of Kingdom people is to live a Jesus-looking life that CONTRASTS with the world and thereby offers people who have open hearts an ALTERNATIVE to all the kingdoms of this world.

How has Woodland Hills Church changed as a result of this message? 

Greg Boyd: It seems to me that Woodland Hills turned a corner when I first preached the “Cross and the Sword” series.

While we lost around a thousand people as a result of this series, it helped us acquire a sharper vision of the Jesus-looking Kingdom we are called to be citizens and ambassadors of.

We’ve thus grown increasingly aware of how thoroughly American Christianity has been co-opted by American culture and how radically different the Kingdom is from what most Americans identify as the “Church.” Along the same lines…

we’ve come to a greater realization of how challenging it is to make authentic disciples out of American church attenders. 

This has in turn motivated us to explore strategies to help people wake up to the way they’ve been conditioned by things such as the individualism, consumerism, materialism, hedonism and triumphalism of American culture.

And its motivated us to put in place courses to walk people through this process and eventually get them plugged into missional Kingdom communities in which they worship, minister and share life with others in meaningful ways.

I’d also add that over the last five years Woodland Hills has increasingly come to see itself as a resource center for individuals and groups around the world who are waking up to this distinctive vision of the Kingdom.

So what would you say to those who are worried about the outcome of the presidential election?

Greg Boyd: I’d simply encourage them to place their trust where their trust ought to be: in JESUS. He is the King of all kings and the Lord of all Lords, and his Kingdom will last forever and ever!

Presidents, political parties, governments and nations come and go, but Jesus “is the same, yesterday, today and forever.”

While we should expect pagans to think that the future of the world is in their hands — this is why they seize whatever power they can to try to control how things unfold — children of God are called to place their trust completely in him and to aspire to be faithful to his call.

We are called to crucify ourselves, which means we are to die to living out of our own self-interest, and instead seek only to love, serve, and bless all people, including our enemies.

So long as we think it is UP TO US to fix the world, we can never love and bless those who oppose us.

Only when we realize that we are called to be faithful in living a Jesus-looking life while leaving all outcomes to God can love our enemies and refrain from violence the way Jesus commanded us to (Lk 6:27-35).

Q&A with Pastor Greg Boyd, Part II

D.D. Flowers, 2012.


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