Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sully Notes 4 | Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional Part 3 of 3

Emmaus City Church Deep Church Sully Notes 3 Jim Belcher Worcester MA Acts 29 Church Plant

Sully Notes 4: Books in 25 minutes or less

Sully Notes are more than a book review. They are meant to provide you with direct quotes from some books I've read in the last year, so you can get a taste of the overall theme of the book and then begin to chew on what your life might look like if you applied what you read. 

Here are links to the previous Sully Notes books:

And here is the link to the previous post in the Sully Notes 4 Deep Church series:

Part 2 Protest, Reaction and the Deep Church: Chapter 8  Deep Preaching

"What we tended to get every week was pretty common in churches – three points and a poem, someone once said. ... the problems ran deeper than just lack of dramatic movement. We were exhorted to love Jesus more, live more faithfully, avoid the world and serve obediently in the church. This kind of preaching tended to be moralistic and legalistic. We were told what to do but not where the power comes from to do it. The call to obedience was positive and negative – flee the world and serve God. I remember someone summing up the message of this kind of preaching with, 'You suck, try harder.' ... I discovered this type of preaching produced two kinds of people: (1) Pharisees, who were proud that they were pulling off the Christian life, or (2) dispirited dropouts, who simply gave up because they could not live up the high expectations. Often, however, people kept living the way they wanted but kept attending church because it made them feel better about themselves  – at least for that day. The preaching, though, was not leading to real transformation.– pgs. 141-143

"In 'The True Foundation' (a chapter in Martyn Lloyd Jones' Spiritual Depression), he says ... once we become Christians we ignore our justification – that we are saved by grace, through faith, on account of Christ – and focus on obedience, sanctification. We stop preaching the gospel to ourselves and keep trying to live the Christian life. But we can't live up to the ideal and get discouraged, maybe even depressed. ... Only when we preach the gospel to ourselves – our justification, our adoption, our union with Christ, our participation in the kingdom of God – will we have the power and motivation to obey. We need grace to be saved, and we need grace to obey. ... this view of justification and sanctification has been called the indicative and imperative. The indicative indicates who we are in Christ through his saving grace. The imperative of the gospel impels or empowers us to obey God's command as an act of gratitude for the new life that we have. I came to realize that the Bible was filled with this pattern of teaching and preaching – the indicative of new life, followed by a life of service in God's kingdom, the imperative." – pg. 154

"According to Eugene Lowry's The Homiletical Plot, traditional preaching tends to be deductive; that is, it makes three points and sets out to prove them using logical arguments, illustrations and application. But this takes all the drama out of the sermon. It is like revealing the climax before seeing the movie. Once you know the conclusion, all the tension, the myriad twists and turns, and the surprising reversals of fortune are missed. The sermon lacks homiletical drama. ... Lowry proposes sermons that follow the natural flow of a dramatic story – problem to solution. In every text of Scripture the author is addressing a problem – whether it be sin, idolatry, suffering or the seeming absence of God. Then the author hits us with the solution, be it forgiveness, union with Christ, the kingdom or the providential care of our heavenly Father. Like a good story, the Bible dramatically presents the problem, slowly demonstrates its power to undo the main characters and then takes our breath away with the sudden turn of events that shocks us with unexpected grace. Lowry calls this the 'aha' moment in the sermon. Along with the biblical characters', our lives are suddenly and dramatically turned upside down by the surprising grace of God. Once transformed by this grace, we are free and empowered to live differently. The indicative leads to the imperative. The Heidelberg Catechism saw this movement as 'guilt, grace, and grateful living.' These steps are the key to a good story, central to the Bible and at the heart of great preaching, which is relevant, gripping, gospel-centered and inspiring. This pulls an audience in as full participants, like the best novel or movie does. ... Neither traditional nor emergent preaching consistently provides this in its sermons – and thus it is hard to avoid legalism. A Christ-centered homiletical plot is centered-set preaching. Our goal is not to set up boundary markers to keep Christians safe or to keep those who don't agree with us out. Rather, we preach Christ in every text, laying out and analyzing the human condition through Scriptures and experience, and exposing the radical, shocking grace of God that enters our situation, transforms us and empowers us to live differently. Thus we do not spend much time preaching against the world – we have enough worldliness inside of us for sermon material. We don't exhaust our energies preaching the need to try harder, live better and be more holy without first exposing our inability do so apart from the transforming power of the cross and the resurrection in our lives. Anything less is legalism – which ends in pride or discouragement. ... the Well is the gospel – the continual preaching of it through Word and sacrament, the announcement of Jesus' kingdom, and a grace-transformed community witnessing the power of this new life in the world." – pgs. 155-157

"(Our) goal is to offer the congregation the life-giving power of living water via the redemptive drama that runs from Genesis to Revelation. ... (we) draw them into the text with in-depth analysis of the problem in their lives, be it unbelief, discouragement, idols, temptation or heart rebellion, exposing these idols and preparing their hearts to hear Christ and how his redemptive benefits supply our every need. The more (we) do this, the more people see this drama in the Bible for themselves and are able to recognize the categories of creation, fall, redemption and the kingdom running through every story, chapter and epistle of the Bible. It is an empowering way to preach and teach that takes the priesthood of all believers seriously, freeing them from a wrong and unhealthy dependence on the preacher as the keeper of insights. They are able to read Scripture and interpret it themselves. As they are built up in the Word, they are able to minister to each other and to me." – pgs. 158-159 

Chapter 9 Deep Ecclesiology

"(In John Miller's Outgrowing the Ingrown Church), he diagnoses how churches over time become ingrown, focused on institutional survival and maintenance. Miller says a church slowly becomes a 'religious cushion,' where people come to hear a message and be reassured that their doctrine is correct and other churches are wrong. Church members are no longer interested in missional Christianity, that is, being sent out into the world to be salt and light. They want safety, not challenge; security, not risk. ... God's vision for the church is one of thrilling mission, not one of ingrown tribalism. ... This was the kind of community I wanted to start and lead – one that was rooted deeply in the gospel of forgiveness and compelled by God's mercies to become a people of compassion to those outside the church." – pgs. 162-163

"The traditional church accuses the emerging camp of syncretism, of selling out to worldliness. The emerging church accuses the traditional church of irrelevance, of becoming tribal and uncaring to those around it. Each side claims to be biblical. ... As Miraslov Volf says, both sides pick what they want out of the Bible to back up their views. And because of this, neither wrestles with the history of the church and what the past two thousand years can teach us about the nature of ecclesiology ... Bible + Tradition + Mission = Deep Ecclesiology. ... tradition and history act as checks on our views of the Bible and the world. If we neglect this vital history of the church and God's faithful working in it, we are bound to repeat the mistakes of the past. Instead, we need to learn from the mistakes, be recalibrated by the wisdom of the past, and work out what it means to be the church today in light of the Bible, mission and tradition." – pgs. 172-174

  1. Balance: The Great Tradition (and the best of the inherited forms of the church) teaches that the body of Christ is called to be both institution and organism. Having been brought into the faith by the saving work of God through Christ, tradition calls us to take our place in this community. ... membership is important for all ages. We take our membership promises seriously. Part of being a member is submitting – for the love of others – to certain laws, structures and leaders. All healthy communities, even families, have laws, structures and leaders. We have not been afraid to embrace the church as institution. Our life together requires love, and love demands certain laws, whether informal or formal, to be adopted to bless the community. Although most of these laws are not vital to our salvation, they are necessary to maintain the love and unity of the community. Thus they are adopted voluntarily by all members for the benefit of the community. ... the church is also organism. We once were not a people of mercy, but now we are a people of mercy (1 Peter 2:10). God's mercy and his call upon his people to help renew his good creation lead to an outward stance toward the world. We are not only a people called into something – the institution – but we are called in order to be sent out on mission to renew the world. The history of the church calls us back to this important balance. When we don't keep these two aspects of the church – institution and organism – in perspective, our ecclesiology gets out of shape and we enter unhealthy territory."
  2. God calls leaders: "Deep ecclesiology learns from the Great Tradition that officers – elders and deacons – have been an essential part of the church from the start (Acts 14:23). ... we want to be organic and missional, and we want the priesthood of believers to be a reality. But at the same time we realize that no local church can survive long and stay true to its calling without explicitly recognized leaders and offices. The long history of the church bears this out. ... elders are called primarily to do four things: (1) guard the integrity of the Word and sacraments and their gospel message, (2) protect the unique, God-given vision of this particular local church, (3) train people to be coministers, and (4) exercise godly discipline when needed. ... As a pastor I realize how hard it is to confront someone in habitual sin. But I am called to the task, usually with tears. People today don't want to be held accountable. And they certainly don't want to be disciplined when they do something wrong. But for the good of their souls and the community, we have to embrace the challenge of godly discipline, both informal and formal."
  3. Worship as a means of grace: "Along with what it teaches us about the offices of the church, tradition reveals that the church is not just a voluntary society but an actual means of grace. The ancient church tells us that although worship occurs seven days a week, there is something special about the weekly gathering on Sunday. What is it? Enabling grace for our growth in the Christian life. As we consistently remind our people, the public reading and preaching of the Word play a special role in feeding, empowering, correcting and inspiring them. The sacrament, as an ordinance for the whole community, conveys the real presence of Christ and powerfully speaks of unity. The Lord's Supper is the visible expression of the Word, which is to feed us, energizing us like spiritual fuel for the long journey ahead."
  4. Cultivate tradition: "The Great Tradition helps us think about how biblically and missionally informed institutions pass on the best traditions (1 Corinthians 11:2). ... It reminds us that Christianity is greater than the individual, that our salvation is more than therapeutic, the the church is, as Calvin said, literally 'the mother of salvation.' The Christian life, which so desperately needs the depth of tradition, is impoverished without the institutions to guard it and carry it on."
  5. Tradition is profoundly relevant: "There is a depth in the ancient church that is very up to date. The deeper we sink our roots in tradition – the entire Great Tradition, including parts that challenge our idols – the more resources we have for life today. ... (The) church is biblical, missional and embraces the best of tradition." – pgs. 174-178

Chapter 10 Deep Culture

"Emerging churches, contends Steve Taylor (author of The Out of Bounds Church?), are trying to break with the dualism that posits a sacred realm (church) and secular realm (world and culture). This is a good goal. I appreciate that he rejects the sacred-secular dualism, which cordons off the world (evil) from the church (spiritual). This has led the church to be isolationist, inhospitable to postmodern seekers, arrogant and judgmental. In effect, the church is irrelevant to postmodern culture. ... Though the Bible rejects worldliness, it does not condemn the world, which, of course, includes God's creation ... Turner says, 'confusing these two usages can lead to disaster. Some strict fundamentalists in the traditional church show disdain toward creation and culture, and yet in doing so become proud, arrogant and uncaring. What is ironic is that they become worldly in the very way the Bible condemns and yet are not worldly enough in the way the Bible commands. We are told to be in the world not of it. People like this are often of the world but not in it.' What is the solution? Regaining a more biblical view of creation. Taylor correctly calls the church to recapture a biblical view of the world which allows us to engage culture in a way that honors God's calling on our lives – to be missional, or what Jesus calls 'salt and light.' Creation, although marred by the Fall, is still good and worthy of redemption. Since God has not given up on his good creation, neither should we.– pgs. 185-186

"As I read much of the emerging literature on culture, I got the sense that their view of creation is still too narrow, mostly focused on the private sphere that touches music, art and film. In other words, they don't recover enough of creation. They do not carry their view of creation into the political, social and economic realms. ... Though they believe a common consensus in art, poetry and music can exist (and thus they affirm these areas), they don't see the same possibility in the spheres of politics and economics, which they see as much more affected by the Fall and principalities and powers. ... The traditional church, particularly those of the free-church tradition, tends to be culturally pacifist, in part because of a faulty view of the biblical word for world and also because of an unbiblical fear of contamination. But the Bible calls us to be in the world but not of it (John 17:6-19). There is a place for critiquing culture, but we are called to also create it. And we are called to affirm good culture when it is created by nonbelievers. The traditional church struggles with this, not wanting to affirm culture outside of the church. By only stressing a negative view of culture, it forces Christians to retreat more and more into their own enclaves. Ironically, as Christians are discouraged from creating culture on their own, they lose their ability to discern what is good and bad in the world around them, and they succumb to consuming culture uncritically. In the end, they look no different from the world." – pgs. 188-189

"The inability to come up with a common consensus on moral issues hinders both the traditional and the emerging church. On the one hand, it leads the emerging church (with the exception of Brian McLaren and a few others) to avoid entanglement in politics and the state and to focus on the private aspects of the church and culture. On the other hand, this lack of common-grace consensus causes the traditional church to ignore the realm of culture. In summary, the traditional church is pacifist in the area of culture but not in the realm of politics, and the emerging church is pacifist in the realm of politics but not in the realm of culture. Both sides suffer from the lack of a comprehensive view of Christ and culture that treats the private and public realms in a consistent manner." – pg. 190

"One of the best insights I have come across in building a third way in the cultural realm comes from Abraham Kuyper. I learned from him that the church is both an institution and an organism. Kuyper says that the church as institution is called to preach the Word, administer the sacraments, discipline and disciple its members, build community, elect elders and deacons, form presbyteries and synods, reach out to the world in mercy, and celebrate Christ. The church as institution realizes that only people radically transformed by the grace of God can live differently. In this sense, the church presents a radical alternative community to the world. ... The church as organism means Christians are called not to hide behind walls of their distinct community but to take their new hearts, minds and perspectives into the surrounding communities as salt and light. As Kuyper contends, the believing community, gathered around Word and sacrament, must radiate 'beams of faith's light into the realm of common grace' into education, art, science, politics, business, economics and the marketplace. The concrete expression of this life of Christian discipleship, organically growing out of changed lives in the church, is 'manifested through the rich voluntary associational life of a nation's citizens.'" – pgs. 191-192 

"Kuyper saw the institutional church as the place to educate its people to be shalom makers. Christians learn not only to live as servants to the world but also to speak the language that enables them to communicate, work together and build a city of shalom with those outside the church. ... The church's goal is to train believers in the language of common grace so that they can work with nonbelievers for the shalom of the city in every area of life. ... as members of the institutional church we see ourselves as cultural 'aliens,' modeling a radical, alternate way of life. But as part of the organic church, we are 'residents' who live in the world, creating culture and working with others through common grace to bring shalom to this world. When held in balance and maintained, this duality has a powerful effect on the church and culture." – pgs. 192-194

"We recognize that we will have no impact on the culture if the institution is not strong. This means preaching the Word and administering the sacraments faithfully and consistently. It means taking discipleship – what Dallas Willard calls the great omission – seriously. We have regular discipleship classes on the foundations of the faith. We teach, exhort and organize for community in our weekly community groups that discuss the sermon, pray for one another and carry one another's burdens. We strive to be a church of mercy to our community through a myriad of avenues. And all of these wonderful core commitments are undergirded by a mature, mission-oriented elder board and deaconate. These institutional priorities go a long way in engendering a distinct people who think, act and live differently from our surrounding culture, but at the same time remain deeply hospitable to the stranger in their midst. But along with all of these noble things, we also realize that the institutional church is responsible for training its members to seek the shalom of the city – to be culture makers and transformers. ... Each year we teach a semester-long worldview class, which addresses what it means to make culture. We have a yearly marketplace ministry banquet to challenge business people to think Christianly. We hold invitation-only salons for the cultural gatekeepers of our county to influence the way they think and create. We sponsor lectures, hold debates and conduct dialogues on culture to educate our people and to pique the interest of the nonbeliever. ... Along with exhorting our flocks to be 'salt and light' we encourage them to fill God's creation with godly culture." – pgs. 195-197 

  1. Keep the gospel of forgiveness and the kingdom at the center: "The only thing that sustains, renews and energizes a group is the power of the gospel. Jerry Bridges says we need to preach the gospel to ourselves every day, reminding ourselves that we are more sinful than we ever thought possible, but the gospel is more amazing than we can ever imagine. If this is true for the individual, it is even truer for a community. Nothing breaks apart community faster than selfishness, pride and hurt feelings. Only the gospel can break through and sustain a community built on forgiveness, reconciliation and other-centeredness." 
  2. Band together to live more intentionally and to experience profound community: "Create an environment that is exciting, hospitable and warm. Along with praying for one another and sharing the burdens and joys of life, use the time to discuss that week's sermon not to be critical of what was said but to work hard at applying God's Word to your lives."
  3. Become missional: "Begin reaching out in mercy. Along with enjoying and caring for one another, begin to reach out to people in need. Spend time understanding how God calls his people into his family in order to send them out. He did this with Abraham, Joseph, Jonah, Daniel and Jesus' disciples. Learn to serve out of gratitude. Let the gospel compel you to care for others in need."
  4. Become a shalom maker: "Be someone who seeks the peace of the city through your vocation. Begin to understand your calling. Can you imagine how different the world would be if each Christian understood his or her calling and passionately pursued it every day?" 
  5. Become a deep worshiper: "Root yourself in the ancient fathers. Study the history of hymns. Go deeper in your understanding of the Lord's Supper. Become a better worshiper. You will find that the more you are excited about worship as a means of grace, the more others around you will be too."
  6. Reach out: "Invite people into the community. Don't put up unnecessary boundaries. Make them feel that it is safe to attend, to hang around and ask questions. Let the love of the community draw them to the Well. Include them in the life of the church. Start new groups for them, host them at your house, and encourage them to belong."

Next post: Gospel-Centered Discipleship | Sully Notes 5: Part 1 of 3

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