March 14, 2012 Permalink
12 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.
In the Presidential election of 2008 I became convinced that something had irrevocably changed. Pointed political rhetoric is not new. Excessive villainizing of the “other” is not new. But never before had I seen such a divisive, partisan spirit at work within the Church. It was mother against daughter and father against son. For the community of the baptized, the sign of our fellowship was no longer the Eucharistic meal. Baptism and communion took a backseat for a new Shibboleth, where the litmus test was now whether or not you had the right political positions. I was still on Facebook then, and people’s Facebook walls were like civil war battlefields.
I do not easily or sloppily throw out charged spiritual rhetoric toward angels and demons, but something about the atmosphere felt eerie to me. That lines were being crossed for the people of God we would not easily come back from, and that something more sinister was at work than we could rationally conceive. It had nothing to do with particular politicians or political parties or even the new realities of social media. It transcended technology and ideology. And what came back to me over and over again was the Apostle Paul’s phrase “the spirit of the age.” Something deeper and darker than charged political discourse, a disposition of blaming and condemning that seemed to be getting into our bones. It was getting down deeper than any part of us than even the Spirit of God could seem to touch. Something that animated us with fury.
To be very clear, I do not attempt to discourage Christians from political action. I am the sort who believes that the kingdom of God is a radical alternative to both right and left, that articulating a clear and consistent kingdom ethic would probably get you in trouble with most everybody. Hence I would prefer to see Christians in politics operate in a way that subverts all the traditional alternatives more creatively. But even within the conventional boundaries, I am always sympathetic to people’s desire to put their faith in action–even when it leads them to care about diverse or even divergent “issues.”
And yet there is the specter of the spirit of the age, the spirit of this world order. It is not a “right wing conspiracy,” it is not a “leftist socialist agenda.” It is a biting, blaming, angry force that is more determinative in our relationships than the baptism. I understand that there is place for anger in prophetic witness–I have been shaped by the Old Testament prophets. I understand that there are injustices that should rightly move us. Yet in a world accommodated to perpetual outrage, I wonder if tenderness is not a more conspicuous witness. I wonder if there is anything left so odd as genuine kindness.
It is the spirit of the age that makes us hellbent on being “right.” It is the kingdom of God that is heavenbent on making us merciful. When we operate according to the spirit of the age, we are utilitarian enough to use any means necessary to get our point across. In the kingdom of God, means matter because the medium is the message. To put it more simply, we don’t just proclaim the cross of Christ, we live cross-shaped lives. Thus it is not just a matter of whether or not we are right but whether or not we are loving. Getting the words right, the idea right, is secondary to having a heart that is enamored with God and broken for others.
I continue to think the demoniac in Mark 5 is the mascot for these times, because he like us was beholden to a legion of voices–all of whom shout for our attention, all of whom demand and coerce. A vast choir of dissonant voices competing for our attention. They are terrestrial voices, and yet they serve the purposes of the one Scripture calls “the prince of the power of the air.” Some are conservative, some are liberal. And yet in so many ways they are the same, because they are so unlike the voice of love that calls us out of the fog and into the peculiar virtue of compassion. What could be more tragic than for the people of God in our broken political sphere to become nothing more than another loud voice? Voices whose tone and tenor are not broken by the interruption of grace, voices that are indistinguishable from the rest save for the fact that we use Bible verses and the name of Jesus to reinforce our claims?
Compassion. Kindness. Humility. Meekness. Patience. These are other-worldly virtues that are exist under the order of another kingdom and another King. They are the markers of a new way of being human, a way the world knows not–a world where forgiveness and peace orient our lives. And yet these other-worldly virtues can be made manifest in this world order, this kingdom can come down to the people of the earth. The message of this kingdom cannot be proclaimed though in the spirit of the age. Even if we get the doctrines right, the ideas right–it won’t matter if we just become another angry voice.
March 13, 2012 Permalink
This is the kind of post that demands multiple disclaimers, starting here: I am first and foremost a part of the kingdom of God that knows no denominational or ecclesial barriers. One of the reasons we say the apostles’ creed regularly at Renovatus is that I want our congregation constantly reminded that we are part of one catholic (universal) Church, so much bigger than our local body or our tribe. But that being said, in the words of Dr. Steve Land, “There is no such thing as a generic Christian.” We all have a particular context and social location within the body of Christ that marks us (including non-denominational Christians who claim to “just love Jesus” and “just believe in the Bible.”) It just so happens that I was planted neck-deep into the Pentecostal tradition, with a grandfather and father who are Pentecostal ministers.
I’m here not only by tradition but by choice, despite my lifelong lover’s quarrel with the Pentecostal movement. I’m in in, and it is in me. It reminds me of when Stanley Hauerwas was asked why he at the time was still Methodist despite his robust and frequent criticisms of the United Methodist Church. “I’ve just always believed you stay with the people who have marked you,” Hauerwas said, and that pretty much sums it up for me–though I do find plenty to love about our quirky tradition.
Doing an unusual amount of travel in the last month, I’ve had the opportunity to see different expressions of the movement a lot as of late. In Germany, I spoke at the Church of God’s European Theological Seminary, and had the opportunity to experience the unique community of students there from 16 nations. I was able to experience the multi-cultural, multi-ethnic Solid Rock Church in Ireland led by my friend Nick Park, the overseer of the Churches of God in Ireland. And last week, I was humbled to be around a truly remarkable cross section of Pentecostal leaders and scholars from around the world at the Converge21 conference in Virginia Beach, VA.
Thus I continue to have a ringside seat to see the unique gifts at work within the Pentecostal movement. Not unique in that they are not accessible to other parts of the body of Christ, but unique in that their distinct gifts are cherished gifts that can bring renewal to the global Church. I am so encouraged not just by the charisms but the creativity I see among young Pentecostal believers. And yet for all the ways that the movement continues to re-shape the face and character of global Christianity, I find that Pentecostal Christians (at least in my North American context) are especially reluctant to drive the kind of robust theological conversation we most need, settling instead for a reactionary posture to other segments of the body of Christ. To be more direct, I was amazed at how many of my colleagues in recent weeks have commented that they feel like the younger resurgence of Reformed Christianity impacting young Pentecostal leaders. It is fascinating (and a bit alarming to me) to see us consistently swept up into conversations within a Protestant framework that allegedly the Pentecostal movement has kind of already blown up! In a session I led last week, Dr. Cheryl Johns said it well: “Pentecostals still seem comfortable being the icing on the cake, when we ought to be baking the cake.” (I am of course partial to any analogies that involve cake)
Case in point: a couple of weeks ago I wrote an entry in response to Mark Driscoll regarding women in ministry. I wrote it not because of any particular interest in or dislike for Driscoll, but because that is one of the issues within the body of Christ I care about most deeply and feel most required to speak into.. It is the most widely read blog entry I’ve written, and its been especially encouraging to hear from women in ministry around the world who felt they were well represented. I have had no second thoughts or regrets about anything I said in the piece per se, save this one overarching problem I have with myself: that by writing it at all, I fear I somewhat entered into that peculiar evangelical airspace in which everyone seems to be reacting, positively or negatively, to what is happening in neo-reformed world. I do not wish to express undue negativity towards my reformed colleagues. I think they have their place and their contribution to the larger body of Christ. I just don’t think so many of the important conversations within the American Church need to be shaped by a monolithic voice.
One of the reasons I felt the need to respond initially was that I felt that on that issue, as well as a host of others, the distinct vision of Pentecostal spirituality was largely underrepresented. I consider the modern movement to be the third great historic movement in Christianity, neither Catholic nor Protestant but an entirely different way of being with God in the world. As Land notes, global Pentecostalism operates both in continuity and discontinuity strands of Christianity in a variety of contrasting ways. (As I have argued elsewhere, I personally think that if comparisons are to be made, Pentecostal spirituality is if anything perhaps more fundamentally catholic in character than it is Protestant—but that’s another story for another time.) For the purposes of this piece, I just think it should be established that Pentecostalism provides a very different approach to spirituality than Protestantism in any form (Land argues this brilliantly in his landmark Pentecostal Spirituality: A Passion for the Kingdom). It is not, as popularly conceived, garden variety of evangelicalism with the addendum of speaking in tongues (and maybe divine healing), though Pentecostals have done more villainy than any of their critics ever could in feeding this reductionist approach. Because we like sitting at the big table with other evangelicals, we have been happy to play down our differences so that we can have a seat within the Protestant conversation.
We do this because we have a rather brazen inferiority complex. Pentecostals were birthed on the wrong side of the theological railroad tracks, persecuted from virtually all sides from the beginning of the movement for our emotionalism, apocalyptic urgency, and radical deconstruction of racial and gender barriers. Since we have superficial commonalities with other fundamentalists, that’s where we’ve sought acceptance. In our need for acceptance, we have softened the more edgy and more interesting contours of our way of understanding God, church and world, minimizing our potential to be a renewal movement for the entire body of Christ. There is really no one to blame but ourselves for all of this, and I could go on for days about the maddening tendencies towards self-sabotage that are so pronounced within the movement itself, especially in North America.
Yet even given all of this, the fact remains that on the ground, this renewal movement is sweeping the globe. It isn’t sweeping the blogosphere or the evangelical coffee tables quite so much, and that is not really an indictment. Those circles are predictably white, North American (and not always that interesting). I do not think Pentecostals should be so preoccupied with what is going on in these circles as to be distracted from making their own distinct contributions to the body of Christ and set the agenda for theological conversations they are uniquely qualified to further.
A couple of days after I wrote that piece I took my staff to watch this year’s Elephant Room seminar, put on by James McDonald. I went largely in support of my friend Steven Furtick, who handled himself with great grace and humility. There was a lot to like about the tone and tenor of the conversations that day (yes, even from Mark Driscoll). I appreciated the warm, conciliatory tone that underwrote robust theological discussions. I appreciated the inclusion of slightly more diverse voices from across the body of Christ. It was less focused on the young restless and reformed, and while of course there were no women present (that would have gotten a really stern letter from the little high Jedi council of the gospel coalition I bet), there was more racial diversity. There were many reasons to be encouraged. Yet my central critique remains thus: that given the theological backgrounds of key figures, the neo-reformed/baptistic circle still really set the agenda for the kind of conversations that were being had.
That’s by no means all bad, mind you. It is just fine to have a theological dialogue that, while incorporating some other voices, is largely representative in tone and scope to one part of the body. I have no complaint with that, only frustration that Pentecostals are so beholden to such forums and never attempt to drive or steer these conversations ourselves. Perhaps it is as natural as the fact that Reformed people, more systematic by nature, are more intentional than we free-wheeling Pentecostals in our approach to such things.
I like the Reformed guys fine enough. I’m fine for them to have their gospel coalition and even their gospel coalition Jedi council. I do think that in posturing themselves as the arbiters and guardians of truly orthodox theology, they can be smug and self-referential, but Pentecostals can also be (and often are) smug and self-referential of course. The neo-Reformers can have a new Vatican if they want to. I just don’t think it has anything much to do with me. Since I see the Pentecostal movement as no more Protestant than it is Catholic, I have no reason to feel any particular kinship to say, John Piper than Pope Benedict. (While Pope Benedict hasn’t been the friendliest to the charismatic renewal within the Catholic Church, I actually find him to be a far more interesting and nuanced theologian for that matter-but of course I have room for both.)
I just wish Pentecostals would step up to the plate and be as bold and creative and provocative as people of the Spirit ought to be, instead of just following these guys around and carrying their bags—that’s all. I though the Elephant Room was a great event. And I’m sure TD Jakes can rest a lot better at night knowing that Mark Driscoll offered him the fist bump of fellowship after quizzing him on the apostles’ creed. (Because between the two of them the honorable and generally gaffe-free Jakes is the one who needs to be asked hard theological questions?! Naturally. Now I have permission from Protestant white people to listen to Jakes preach without guilt. Thanks for that guys!)
The Pentecostal movement is not just the future face of global Christianity, it’s the present one. We produce great leaders, great preachers, and I’m sure much to the surprise to some of the Reformed Jedi, great scholars. If we aren’t doing the same thing in the blogosphere and the coffee table or the pages of Christianity Today, that’s not a major tragedy. But what would be a tragedy is that if young leaders within our movement neglect the resources within their own tradition in order to emulate those outside of the tradition—especially if its motivated by a theological inferiority complex and a desperation to be accepted. We’ve got a unique, particular message that not only the world but the Church in these times desperately needs to hear. I think its high time we start saying it instead of stumbling around in Saul’s armor, not trying to convince cherished brothers and sisters who need our distinctness that we are actually just like them.
Pentecostals don’t just need to be contributing, they need to be conducting. We need to be driving instead of just glad to be along for the ride. We are long past the days where, feeling shunned by the Protestant establishment, we should walk around feeling lucky to be invited to anybody else’s party. (There are an awful lot of metaphors flying around here. I may feel guilty about that later.) We’ve got our own party and we are baking our own cakes. People who make a claim to be people of the Spirit should be among the most creative voices in the Christian world. Too many of the conversations that are dominating the landscape of North American evangelical Christians are either redundant or asking the wrong questions. I am by no means presumptuous enough to assume that Pentecostals have all the right questions or answers–we need the whole Church. But I do think we have some of them. At the very least, we’ve got interesting claims because we are an odd people. And in the increasingly monolithic caricature of Christianity in North America, I think our oddness is called for.
March 7, 2012 Permalink
I don’t recall when I had ever felt healthier, stronger or more greatly used by God in ministry. In every single sermon, meeting, phone conversation and really any encounter with another human, I felt like I was absolutely on fire. I was in that unique place of feeling yielded and used, that place where humility and confidence collide in a way that can only be attributed to the Holy Spirit. In our time together, my friend (and elder at Renovatus) Jim Driscoll was telling me just how powerfully he had seen God using me. He also commended me because he felt like, while God was in fact at work through my preaching ministry, I was allowing myself to be human in between (i.e., honest with God and others, not pretending to be Superman) rather than just becoming addicted to the adrenaline of those moments. But then he said something that surprised me. He said that as I continue to God’s anointing and call on my life, that he hoped I would not become too lonely. That this was one of the chief markers of being used by God, a correlative loneliness that seems to grow alongside even gracious gifts.
I didn’t think much about it at the time, because I did not feel particularly lonely in that moment. But I have come to believe there are unique afflictions that go along with being used by God (in and outside of vocational ministry), that are not only not contrary to His gifts and anointing, but almost prerequisites for them. And I do believe loneliness is one of those blessings/afflictions. It is a deep, aching thorn in the flesh that is not healed from healthy marriage and vibrant friendships, because it is not intended to be fully healed. I have been deeply moved by the writing of Henri J.M. Nouwen about the role (constructively) of loneliness in the life of the minister, of how necessary it is to allow one’s loneliness and wounds to be used by God rather than buried and concealed. I am aware that Nouwen’s context was unique in that he was a celibate Catholic priest. But at least as far as I can tell, loneliness is universal for all of us. It is not unique to pastoral ministry, but perhaps unique in intensity. If we are to speak with authority to lonely people in a lonely world, we must be acquainted with the sorrow of loneliness for ourselves. That’s ministry 101 as far as I’m concerned.
I no longer feel odd that, even given a network of great support, there is something insular, withdrawn and isolating that lives inside me. I could not be used of God without it. It drives me to need Him and to need others. In the face of all my temptations to independence, it keeps me dependent. No matter how mightily I may feel used by God or how significant the victory is, it keeps me needy.
People tell me sometimes they see a certain transparency and vulnerability in my preaching and leadership, and of course that is much appreciated. But for me, that requires no effort, no courage, no special humility–it comes from a deep awareness of just how weak and powerless I am apart from God. No amount of great sermons or books written or good works performed will ever be able to overcome the depths of that profound loneliness. Strangely enough, being used powerfully by God at times does not make me puffed up, it ironically makes me feel weaker. When I see God doing something good through me, I become all the more aware of how alien that goodness is–a complete gift of grace that does not originate from me.
The challenge of course is to keep that loneliness before God, offering it up as a gift rather than allowing it to isolate and debilitate me. I am ever aware that this legitimate gifting, this anointing that brings so much grace and life to others, also creates a black hole in me–a vortex of need. It is too great and too heavy for any person in my life to bear exclusively. My favorite fantasy film since childhood is The Neverending Story. When the little boy (Bastian) travels to the mystical land of Fantasia, it is being ravaged by a force called “the nothing.” It is difficult to describe. The only thing that we really know about the nothing is that it is a sort of blackness that swallows up everything in its path, a consequence in a sense of a lack of imagination. For me, the phenomenon of loneliness in ministry is much like the nothing. With it come the real fear that this vortex of need, the neurosis required of people crazy enough to hear from (much less speak for G0d) would swallow up the people around me.
What I’ve learned is that the loneliness of the called life cannot be eradicated (and probably is not supposed to be), it can be only managed. Channeled rightly, offered as a sacrifice to God and for others, it is a resource for hope and healing. Turned away from God, it is tornado in a trailer park. For people who understand ministry as just another gig or merely a religious form of leadership, this probably sounds strange or unduly dramatic. But if you know anything first hand about the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the undomesticated one–it probably makes sense to you. The same anointing that will take you to the highest heights of ministry and miracles will take you to the depths. Climbing Mt. Sinai to be with God will make you delirious with joy, but can also make you plain delirious. Being used by God on Mount Carmel like Elijah will allow you to share in the delight of seeing God move, and it will drag you down below the juniper tree where you beg God to let you die.
Anytime I talk about something like this, I’m afraid those who do love me will panic or want to know whats wrong or think I’m on the brink of suicide. But I am not, and I don’t even write this because I feel especially lonely today. Nor do I write it as a complaint about the life I’ve been given, which is so profoundly blessed. I rather acknowledge loneliness, not only as a universal human experience, but a particular occupational hazard that comes with the good life I’ve been granted. Accepting that this doesn’t exactly make it go away, but it does enable me to at least rest in the fact that I am not crazy.
At least no crazier than anybody else who thinks they hear the voice of God and speak on His behalf on a regular basis. If you’re not a little bit crazy, you may not be called by God. Or maybe its the calling itself that makes you a little bit crazy? Either way, recognizing something of the loneliness that is part and parcel of life with God (and its usefulness) is the first step toward managing it well.
March 1, 2012 Permalink
For the last year, I’ve been part of the commission on discipleship convened by the Empowered 21 USA cabinet. Empowered 21 is a movement that is an initiative that is bringing together the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement. Right now, I’m at Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA for Converge 21, a joint conference between Empowered 21 and the Society for Pentecostal Studies. As one of the framers of the manifesto on discipleship, today I debuted the document in a session here at Converge21. I’ve been very much encouraged by the response we got today as our commission looks now to work out these ideas strategically through Empowered 21. Now that we’ve made the document public (though it is still a bit of a work in progress), I wanted to share it with you here:
A Declaration by the Commission on Discipleship
A Commission constituted by the Empowered 21 USA Cabinet
Spirit Empowered Discipleship is a dynamic process of union with Christ, transformation into His image, and participation in His mission to restore all creation (Missio Dei), actualized and evidenced by the presence and work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer, in the fellowship of the church, and in the experience of scripture.
With keen awareness of the age in which we live and the challenges that face the Christian community, we who sign this declaration do so as members of one of Christianity’s fastest growing movements: the Pentecostal/Charismatic tradition. We speak for ourselves and do not serve as representatives of our denominations, schools or organizations. However, we speak out of our rich and multi-faceted tradition and desire to express what we see to be the heartfelt cries of a worldwide movement that is facing both challenges and opportunities for witness in the twenty-first century.
The purpose of this declaration is to address the urgent need for authentic, Spirit-empowered discipleship in the twenty-first century. We believe discipleship is the central challenge for our movement as we traverse the uncertainties of our time. We say this with respect for those who have paved the way, but we are also keenly aware of the need for radical departure from the business as usual approach to our task. In light of our high calling toward the reconciliation of the world and the beauty of a new creation we offer the following affirmations, assessments, confession and call toward authentic discipleship.
We affirm the faithful witness of anointed teachers, who have labored sacrificially in the Word and in prayer so that Scripture might come to life through Sunday School classes and small groups around the world.
We affirm the richly textured, experiential Spirit-led worship that has not only incited appropriate response to the presence of God, but also deeply initiated our congregations into the reality of daily life with God.
We affirm the sense of community that has been fostered in both small and large Pentecostal gatherings, as it has marked the Spirit’s presence in our midst alongside tongues of fire—as it was in Acts Two.
We affirm the liturgy of testimony that has ordered our worship experiences from the beginning of the movement, the first-person accounts of salvation, sanctification and Spirit baptism. These stories continue to embed the individual stories of the people of God into the broader story of our life together with the saints throughout time and space.
Pentecostals and Charismatics are not immune to cultural influences that emphasize a personal spirituality void of commitment to the core traditions of the Christian faith. As the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement moves further into its second century of existence it is critical that the movement reclaim as its core identity a vision of the Christian life marked by Spirit-filled communities of faith engaged in the ongoing mission of Christ.
Current trends suggest that if we do not achieve this renewal in identity and purpose we will cease to exist as a people marked by the presence of God. In short, we have failed to make of our children and of our converts Spirit-filled disciples of Jesus who can effectively communicate the full-Gospel of Christ to the next generation. This failure flows out of fundamental shifts in our core values and identity.
First, The Pentecostal and Charismatic church has at times lost its eschatological urgency in mission and its longing for the full realization of the reign of Christ. As a result we have distorted our understanding of the Spirit-filled life to center on personal actualization and abundance. This loss has shifted the underlying meaning of the Spirit-filled life from union with the Triune God in His mission toward His creation to one of privatized experiences. The disciples we are making are empty of a sense of call and divine purpose for existence.
Second, the Pentecostal and Charismatic church has lost too much of its sense of existence as a holy, inclusive community. Privatization of religious experience has morphed our worship services into events aimed at personal spiritual enrichment and entertainment rather than occasions to encounter God’s Sovereign, convicting, transforming presence. All too often we gather to feel better about ourselves more than to give glory to our Savior. This move toward emotional indulgences has co-opted the call of God for us to break through barriers that divide us within the Body of Christ.
Given early Pentecostals viewed Pentecost as the breaking of barriers, they addressed race, gender and ethnic concerns. Once derided for such integration, we are now more segregated than ever. Our segregation also includes social, economic, and generational divisions.
Third, the Pentecostal/Charismatic church has followed the pattern of other Christian movements away from the Scriptures and sound doctrine. Our people are Biblically and theologically illiterate. Once known as “People of the Book” who craved sound doctrine, we have come to be derided as those gather around teachers “having itching ears.”
Fourth, the Pentecostal/Charismatic church has become self-serving and void of a sense shared mission and personal holy vocation. Though we celebrate the availability of the Spirit for “all flesh” and subsequent equalization, we often fall prey to a compartmentalized or dichotomized theology of vocation. The Spirit as the great equalizer creates the possibility of the priesthood and prophethood of all believers and thereby should enable all of our lives, for church ministry to family life, from jobs and careers to our engagement of communities, local and global.
We confess that we have adopted the values of a culture of narcissism, consumerism, materialism that promotes self-gratification as the supreme end of life. We have failed to disciple believers to be ministers of the cross. We have turned a deaf ear to the call of Jesus: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)
We confess that we have failed to honor the Bible as Spirit-Word, a living reality that is God’s very presence with us. Instead, we have adopted fundamentalist approaches to the Bible. These approaches, while emphasizing the truth of the Word, fail to honor the active presence of the Holy Spirit in the text and in the community that reads the text.
We confess that like David attempting to wear Saul’s armor, we have adopted generic discipleship curriculum, believing that the addition of lessons on the Holy Spirit would make the curriculum “Spirit Empowered.” In doing so, we have failed to teach our children and our grand children the contours of a Spirit-filled life.
We confess that we have failed to honor the disciplines necessary for authentic discipleship. At times, we have become satisfied with little or no transformation. On other occasions, we have overzealously sought miraculous intervention as a short cut rather than develop practices rooted in Scripture and observable by previous generations to posture us for transformation.
We have failed to cultivate the gifts and fruit of the Holy Spirit in both corporate and individual existence. We have not born witness to the dynamic, activating experience of Spirit baptism to our children, nor the holiness of heart and life that this experience demands. As a result, we have given the next generation an impoverished understanding of the Spirit-filled life.
We confess that we have failed to incorporate our children into our worshipping communities. By needlessly segregating them we have removed children from the life of the churches, the gifts of the Spirit and testimonies of previous generations. We have also kept the gifts of children away from the adult community, and in doing so, impoverished our corporate life.
We confess that we have focused on the maintaining of established programs at the expense of authentic missional discipleship. We have failed to distinguish between the mission of the church and the programs of the church. We have thus failed to create new structures necessary to implement mission in a post modern world.
The Call toward Authentic Discipleship
We commit ourselves to cultivate a cruciform culture, making disciples who will share in the cross of Jesus so they might participate fully in the resurrection power of Jesus.
We commit ourselves to recapture the Bible as Spirit-Word, embracing the active presence of the Holy Spirit in the text and in the community that reads the text. We will allow the Word to lay claim on us as experiential reality, rather than laying claim on the Word as if it is ours to control.
We commit ourselves to the pursuit of God’s empowering presence in Spirit Baptism and to the full scope of the Spirit Empowered Life so that our dynamic belief in the Spirit of God might inform and shape our discipleship process and resources.
We commit ourselves to the ancient disciplines/practices of the Church that make gradual but lasting transformation into Christ-likeness both possible and sustainable. We commit ourselves to both the experience of God’s presence and the long participatory process of spiritual formation.
We commit ourselves to cultivate both the fruit and gifts of the Spirit, respectively. We commit ourselves to bear witness to the dynamic, activating experience of Spirit baptism to our children, and the holiness of heart and life that this experience demands. We commit ourselves to give the next generation a fully-orbed understanding of the Spirit-filled life.
We commit ourselves to integrate children fully into our worshipping communities, embracing the continuity of the story of God across the generations. We commit ourselves to be our *grandmother’s Church and our great grandmother’s Church, a Church that brings reconciliation between the young and old.
We commit ourselves to authentic missional discipleship, not mere discipleship programs.