What is Happening in the Middle East is NOT a Sign of the End Times [Jon Huckins]

I’m away from the blog this week, and I’ve asked my friends to fill in. Here’s a post from Jon Huckins. Jon is part of Nieu Communities, one of the most innovative Christian organizations around, and the co-author of Thin Places: Six Postures for Creating and Practicing Missional Community.

Jan, Ruby, and Jon Huckins

Through my work in co-founding The Global Immersion Project, I have spent significant amount of time over the years cultivating relationships among both Israelis and Palestinians as we partner together in cultivating a narrative of reconciliation. As is often the case when we approach a people or place with the hopes of being/bringing the needed change, I have been the one most changed by my friends and colleagues who reside in the Middle East. Behind so many of the subconscious stereotypes and prejudices I had acquired earlier in my life I began to experience the richness of friendship and brotherhood among people I had previously “known” only through the latest sound bite.

Something I have learned in the classroom of real life relationships with Jews, Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land is that our theology in the West has direct implications for the everyday lives of those in the Middle East. Often ignoring the remarkable movements of peacemaking, reconciliation and collaboration that are sprouting like mustard seeds of hope across the Holy Land, we often choose only to make note of the violence, discord and disintegration of the region.

Why is that and what theology might we be allowing to consciously (or often subconsciously) own our perspective on the events in the Holy Land?

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Some Honest Talk about Labels (Emergent, Missional, Etc.)

I was interested to see the above video, promoting the new book by my friends David Fitch and Geoff Holsclaw. It was particularly interesting based on how they used some terminology in the promo video. They repeatedly used the terms “neo-Reformed” and “Emergent” as opposite poles, and they used their own preferred term, “missional,” as the middle way between those two erroneous options.

What was most intriguing to me is that I first met both of these guys at an Emergent Village Cohort. Indeed, Geoff ran the Chicago cohort for many years — it was, under his leadership, one of the strongest cohorts in the country. Meanwhile, Fitch was injecting his own missional-Anabaptist theology into the emergent movement in a powerful way. Fitch has gained an audience for his theology in large part because of his generous engagement with the emergent movement.

In other words, these guys are among the most responsible people for the growth and development of the emergent movement, from which they are now trying to verbally distinguish themselves.

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There Are No Thin Places

Thin Places – Chapter 2: Submerging from The House Studio on Vimeo.

So, I said something at a conference a few weeks ago, and Steve Knight captured it in his notes and blogged about it. For years, I’ve been talking about the fallacy of the “sacred-secular” divide. It’s made up. It doesn’t actually exist.

I say this because God is ever-present, everywhere. God isn’t more some places and less in other places. God is, in the classic sense, omnipresent.

Now, I’m being a bit hyperbolic. Traditionally speaking, a “thin place” is what Celtic Christianity calls a spot where heaven and earth seem to touch, a spot where this world and the next seem to have next to nothing separating them. So, it’s not really about where God is, but where we sense God.

A quick Amazon search shows that “Thin Places” has become a hot title of late. With the rise of interest in Celtic Christianity has come the inevitable co-option of the term by evangelicals and mainliners, and it looks like there have been about a dozen books with this title in the last decade.

The latest, as Steve points out, is an entry by a couple guys from Nieu Communities. They’ve written a book that, according to the video above, advocates bar-b-ques as thin places. I’m all for that. I love BBQ.

At first blush, one might look and say, “Ugh. There’s another group of hipster missional Christians appropriating a classic Christian concept and bending it to their own purpose.” That’s what I first thought.

But then I reconsidered. If they’re advocating for deep spiritual attention to the presence of God, not just on Iona, but in a neighborhood BBQ, then that’s exactly what I’m advocating as well.

In other words, pay attention. God is already where you are.

Ten Missional Myths

A couple weeks ago, Steve Knight took notes during a talk I gave at the Funding the Missional Church conference, and he’s posted them on his new Patheos blog, Missional Shift. Here are the first 5; click thru to Steve’s blog to see the rest, plus my theological reflections on “missional.”

10. Missional is trying to put the conventional church out of business — Not so, says Dr. Jones.

9. Missional is anti-denominational — Many of us were surprised to hear Tony say this, but he clarified his personal position: “I am anti-denominational, for theological reasons.” But what Tony thinks is not what typifies all of the missional church, thank God! (grin)

8. Missional is a new way to “do church” — “Missional is a thorough-going theological re-evaluation, a thorough-going rethinking of church, what it means to be a disciple of Christ. … Everything should be re-thought in view of missional church.”

7. Missional has a spokesperson — Tony affirmed the broad spectrum of theological voices in the missional church conversation, which is the philosophy of this blog, as well.

6. Missional doesn’t appreciate church history — “Missional is more of a pastiche, a mosaic, a re-appropriation of church history in a different kind of fashion.”

Read the rest: 10 Myths About the Missional Church.

More on Missional

I wrote my post, “Which Missional Church?” last week in order to further hone my thinking on the matter.  It succeeded.  Not only are there  many good comments on that item (see particularly the comment by Craig Goodwin, whose forthcoming book is excellent), I also heard back from others via Twitter and Facebook.  Based on the responses there, I’d like to amend the two camps I laid out last week.

First of all, on Twitter, David Fitch objected to being put in the same camp as Ed Stetzer:

I guess I hadn’t been paying close enough attention, because David wrote his own taxonomy of the missional church on his blog the week prior to my post (please forgive me that in my dissertation writing haze, I have fallen way behind on Google Reader).  He says there are three missionals: the anabaptists (of which he is one), the reformed (Driscoll, Acts 29), and the pragmatists (Kimball, et al).

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