Archive for February, 2007

Reflection for Monday Week 9

February 28, 2007

I really appreciated Prof. Bolger’s lecture on Monday. Not only did I enjoy the content, but I really respect how he is so open about talking about the class format. It was good to hear his reasonings for the structure, as well as see that he really values and respects the input of the class. I really appreciate him.

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Reflection for Wednesday Week 8

February 26, 2007

The class format was really appreciated today. I think it was good to open up a time for discussion and/or working on our papers. I found it really helpful. I also enjoyed hearing from both the TAs. It was a good change of pace and interesting to hear their perspectives and explanations on kingdom of God and other relevant topics.

Reflection for Monday Week 8

February 21, 2007

It really helped to have our peers read our case studies and critique them. I was wary about this project, but then looking back I realized that all our in-class writing assignments and reflections played a crucial role in developing my ideas and think things through.

Reflection for Wednesday Week 7

February 19, 2007

I’m having a hard time deciphering between Trinitarian and Kingdom. Both seem to have the same ideas and emphasis, just using different language. Perhaps I am missing something. When working on the case study in regards to these two different perspectives, I found myself writing the same ideas.

Case Study

February 19, 2007

It is evident among Christian circles that God cares for the poor, and that we are called to care for them as well. Yet the kingdom of God is so much more than just the middle class “helping” the poor. How do we reconcile the two classes, especially in a the confines of a Christian homeless shelter?

Everyday, in places like the Union Rescue Mission, God’s word is made flesh as good-intentioned, middle class Christians are overworked to fight the plague of poverty and homelessness that have infested most of our cities, like Skid Row, LA. These Christians are cooped up in offices, separated from the very people the are trying to help. There is a major disconnect between the homeless and the employed in these missions. Relationships that are formed are based on a helper-helpee dynamic. This leads to further burnout and unbalanced and empty relationships. The homeless are not given the dignity and respect of being seen as equals. How do we bridge this gap? How can we empower the homeless, give them dignity, and help them take ownership over their problems? How can we make the power struggles that lie within the confines of a mission, more egalitarian?

The kingdom of God looks nothing like this model. Jesus would not drive into the parking garage, blind to the homeless sleeping on the street, then go up to his office. Jesus would build real friendships. He would know people by name instead of talking about “them” and “the homeless.” Each person is a name and a face. The kingdom of God looks like unity amongst all people of the shelter. The kingdom of God embodies peace and justice and community. Transformational ministry occurs in the lives of both parties when they are able to engage in real friendships, real relationships, instead of a disconnect and isolation between the floors where the homeless live and eat and the floors where the workers eat and work. A better community needs to be fostered. An egalitarian body needs to emerge.

Power struggles and separation are not only a tension between workers and the homeless, but also amongst the homeless themselves. There lies a tension between those in the program, those who are in volunteer positions, and those who are just there for emergency shelter. Pride and identity stem from these distinctions. Even more distinct lies the divisions between the security and staff and the homeless, as well as these groups versus the full-time employed. Division and competition are fed instead of harmony and well-being through unity of the body of Christ. Several measures have been taken to promote change. Employees take time to eat lunch and chat with the homeless in their cafeteria instead of eating in the office lunchroom. Security guards wear plain clothes instead of uniforms and are becoming friendlier to the homeless. News programs are played in the homeless guest room, instead of dumbed-down comedic movies. These small steps are making a huge change in making the atmosphere more kingdom-like. Much more needs to be done.

Much more needs to be done in the spiritual formation of both parties, as we begin to understand each other and become a part of the body of Christ.

Reflection for Monday Week 7

February 14, 2007

Relating the core principles of the emerging church has made an great impact on me and what the kindgom should look like. It’s interesting in how my views and beliefs on methodology for the poor has changed in years. In high school, I was always thought that working with the poor should be a privatized matter, through building relationships and individual aid. Then I began to look at structures and systemic problems and how their effects cause poverty and how we need to set up programs, etc. While I still believe that, I no longer see the government and programs as a change agent. I am going back to the idea that it is truly the church, small communities and individuals that can bring about transformation.

“Book Review.” Fitch, David E. 2005. “The Great Giveaway.” Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

February 12, 2007

David Fitch has his Ph.D. from Northwestern University. He is a pastor at a church in Long Grove, Illinois, called Life on the Vine Community of the Christian and Mission Alliance. He is also an adjunct professor at Northern Seminary where he teaches ministry, ethics and theology.

Evangelicalism has “given away” being the church in North America by giving church duties to exterior groups outside the church or compromising so that functions of the church are no longer recognizable (:13).

Whether it be big business, parachurch organizations, psychotherapy, consumer capitalism or other modern maladies (as stated in the title), the modern church has lost ownership over its church-ly duties, as well as having the ability to really influence people and make disciples.

Fitch takes a close look at the modern church and its maladies through 8 main segments. He defines success; Evangelism; Leadership; The Production of Experience by looking at practicing worship; The Preaching of the Word; Justice and how we understand it; Spiritual Formation; and Moral Education.

Through each of these segments, Fitch is able to make clear the problems of modern-day churches in North America and how we can become more Christ-like through some changes.

The most radical thing that Fitch does here is to show that what we, as modern North American Evangelicals, have deemed as evidence of success, may just be complete failures. He illustrates this well when talking about the large church that has so many members, but no one is keeping these people accountable. The pastor marries couples who were living together prior to marriage and have no plans of attempting to live a Godly life. Those that need counseling are sent to psychologists outside of the church. Thousands of cards that claim people have made decisions for Christ are coming in, yet no lives are changed and no disciples are formed. What is wrong with today’s churches?

I liked how he addressed that perhaps larger churches should split off and church plant instead of creating larger buildings. This is the same problem at Union Rescue Mission where I am doing my case study. The main issue I am encountering revolves around too much infrastructure and bureaucracy. While these things are needed, it is only because it is the largest homeless shelter in the country. With much power comes great responsibility, so there lies a lot of issues and time and management concerns.

Through my reading and research, I have begun to conclude that holistic ministry based on relationships is really the only agent for true change. Small teen centers, emerging house churches, and intentional communities appear to have the most influence over a person’s life. I ask the same question that Fitch asks of the church? Why are we so afraid to break apart? I believe pride, power and control issues are the factors here. We all need to take a step back and look at what we are doing on our Christian communities and really evaluate if this is what Christ had intended.

Reflection for Wednesday Week 6

February 12, 2007

It was really helpful to go over the 9 characteristics of the emerging church, as well as define the differences between emerging and emergent. Media attention and criticism by many mainstream evangelical camps has given me a skeptical view of this new wave of Christianity, so it has been good to study and see what a positive influence it can have.

Reflection for Monday Week 6

February 7, 2007

I find it amazing and crazy that people need to write books and do research saying the best way to minister to people is live among them: have parties of Christians and non-Christians, join the soccer team, go to their clubs. The whole time I kept thinking, isn’t it obvious?  It’s called living life! Yet, modern Christianity has warped into such a weird subculture, that Christians don’t know how to get out anymore. We’re scared of non-Christians and their activities. We hide away in church buildings, separate schools, and organizations made just for us. There is something terrible wrong here. I remember going to my Christian college. For the first semester, my faith struggled. I remember asking “So if we are all supposed to be Christians here, then who are we supposed to be a light to?”  The scary part was most people seemed comfortable there. I’m not saying there is not a time for great fellowship and relationships among us, but if that’s all we have then we have missed the point entirely.

Reflection for Wednesday Week 5

February 5, 2007

I really enjoyed hearing the discussion and lecture on the emerging church. For some time I have been hearing mostly negative opinions coming from the conservative evangelical camps about the emerging church, Yet, I think if it is touching lives, then who are we to judge. I was interested to hear about England’s pub and club culture, and how the church has become culturally relevant to reach people. I don’t see the harm in that, unless someone who is in that culture has a problem with alcoholism or sexual addictions, in that case, I can’t see the environment being conducive to much change in the person’s life.