Monday, May 02, 2005

A new kind of Christian

... keeps his word, unlike my promise to blog about Brian McLaren's book of the same title when I read it last month. MK reminded me of my transgression so I'll make an introductory comment beyond the half dozen or so brief references weeks ago. God's timing remains ever mysterious to me. When it seems he tarries, I can lose patience with everyone else. But when His timing is clear, WOW. Nothing compares. Such was my experience with ANKOC. McLaren takes his readers on a journey toward a new wineskin paradigm of relational, post-modern ministry that I found eerily familiar. Reading ANKOC felt like friends of mine and I had been found out; like someone had tapped our phones or stolen our hard drives or recorded our conversations and wrote a book about them. That's not to say that any of us ever articulated thoughts about "postmodernism" in quite the same way as McLaren does. Frankly, I didn't even know for sure what that term meant or how it was relevant before examining the book and previously discovering my so-called "emerging church" brothers and sisters in cyberspace. (Rudy's blog was recently identified as a top-ten emerging church blog. Here I am friends with a so-called "emergent" thinker and had no idea for years.) But the concepts resonated profoundly with many of my own experiences and provided a constuctive framework for examining discontentments with American evangelicalism. For example, the timing of the the read for me personally couldn't have been more divinely orchestrated. Completing the book on the train-ride to work on the particular Friday morning when I finished it prepared me for what turned into an emotionally tumultous week that began that very same afternoon. Around 4 pm, I got called for an emergency meeting about an unconventional (my term for "postmodern") outreach project that is very dear to me. It had been quashed, summarily killed by well-meaning, "modern" Christians that I have to believe meant no harm but were woefully ignorant of the dynamics of the community the outreach engaged. I was furious. At least part of me was. The other part was amused at the irony of the moment. Sitting in the office listening to all the reasons why things had so abruptly changed course, I chuckled inside because the conversation could have come straight out of the ANKOC. Had McLaren scripted this? McLaren obviously hadn't but I believe God had. For completing the book when I did prepared me not to react the way my grassroots instincts demanded. Instead, the bearer of the bad news and I agreed not to make any hasty decisions and figure out next steps on Monday. In the meantime on Sunday night, my son grabbed one of his dozen or so David and Goliath books from his bookcase that we hadn't read in months. This particular version is noteworthy mainly for its bizarre artwork, which aesthetically I really don't like. Yet that artwork grabbed me. At the point of the story where King Saul agrees to let David confront Goliath but then demands that David wear Saul's ill-fitting armor, the silly illustration captured exactly how I felt! On Monday, we agreed to make one last appeal for our slingshot methodology, inspired by David's response to the king. By God's grace, the stone hit its target and a "modern" Goliath had been slayed, while a "postmodern" dream was resurrected. MK and Bob, feel free to reply to this or totally change topics, but I'm eager to read your responses to the book.


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