September 18, 2007

Fall '07 Semester in Swing

The fall semester is full throttle right now, so I thought I would take some time to share what I'm taking and reading.

Principles, Methods, and Strategies: I think that anyone desiring to be involved in local ministry here in the states should be in the mission concentration at Truett. It's only here that we read books that really get you to think, and our discussion usually take place outside of the box, teetering on revolution every day. I'm enjoying this class much more than I originally thought I would. Outside of some articles on missionary roles, we are reading:

John Nevius- The Planting and Developing of Missionary Churches
Jonathan Bonk- Missions and Money
Thomas Kuhn- The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
Roland Allen- The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church

Biblical Themes and Theology: in this class we are picking up a new hermeneutic for reading the Bible- primarily missional. I'm preparing a paper on "Reconciling Economics," a biblical look at reconciliation and economics.

Jonathan Wright- The Mission of God
David Smith- Mission After Christendom
Harry Boer- Pentecost and Missions

TnT 3 (Texts and Traditions): This class is one of the reasons I came to Truett. Although, I must admit that Truett teaches theology historically by reading the primary sources, I am disappointed that my teacher this semester is a systematic theologian. Therefore, we are reading the primary sources, but these sources are structured around the Apostles Creed.

Karl Barth- Dogmatics in Outline
Wolfhart Pannenberg- The Apostles' Creed in Light of Todays Questions
Joseph Ratzinger- Introduction to Christianity
Hans Kung- Credo
Roger Can Harn- Exploring & Proclaiming the Apostles' Creed
we are also reading some Moltmann, Schleiermacher, Achetemeier, and Zannoni

Scriptures 4- Somehow in one semester we are going to cover the New Testament from Romans to Revelation. This class is reading intensive to say the least. I am doing my research paper on Paul and his relationship to Israel in Rom. 9-11.

Raymond Brown- An Intro to the New Testament
Meeks and Fitzgerald- Norton's The Writings of St. Paul
David Horrell- An Intro to the Study of Paul
Jouette Bassler- Navigating Paul
Richard Bauckham- The Theology of the Book of Revelation

As you can tell, this semester is quite reading intensive. With that said, I do have a few other reads I am trying to get through for myself that may or may not happen.

Levitt & Dubner- Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
Either Thomas Friedman' The World is Flat or The Lexus and The Olive Tree
Since are not reading much of Multmann, I plan on working through one of these on my book shelf: The Crucified God, Theology of Hope, or The Trinity and the Kingdom
And lastly, maybe to pick up for our Bible Study- Walsh & Keesmatt- Colossians Remixed

September 17, 2007

Worship as Solidarity

I've been mulling over worship the last few weeks, ever since Brian McLaren visited Truett to talk about the challenge of radio orthodoxy. In the hour discussion, Brian shared some lyrics from this song.

Then a week later I read in Jonathan Wright's The Mission of God that mission creates praise and vice versa. And tonight I read Sally Morgenthaler's article over at Allelon. She sums up her experience with worship evangelism, which she can be rightly called the initiator or innovator of this movement. In grief, she admits the church has become narcissistic and misuses worship as the chief means of getting people inside the walls of the church building. As she described the perception of a nonbeliever experiencing this worship evangelism, I was struck by this quote,

No sad songs. No angry songs. Songs about desperation, but none about despair. Worship for the perfect. The already arrived. The good-looking, inoffensive, and nice. No wonder the unchurched aren't interested.
The church has become insulated from reality by its own worship. In Romans 12, Paul urges Christians to worship. He does not say that we should gather on one single day and allow nonbelievers to gather to us. He does not say that we should spend all our time, effort, and money on a single event for adore and praise God. He does not say that we should seek relevant songs or tunes. No, instead Paul says that worship by being transformed, living our lives as a sacrifice. A sacrifice! Now, if you allow me to pull this out of the "spiritual" talk of daily quiet times or prayer times into reality; I think Paul is saying that we must go into the world, into our communities, into our neighborhoods and seek solidarity. For most of us, that means opening ourselves to the grief and suffering of those who don't have their lives together. That means giving up our self-referential, self-sustaining, narcissistic, consumeristic lifestyles in order that others may be experience wholeness.

Most nonbelievers will find Sunday morning worship at most churches irrelevant and probably annoying. Who can fit into this picture of continual happiness and praise? Is there any room for the suffering? Is there any room for the pain of the world? Is there any room for the grief and tears shed over those who don't yet know God?

So, what do we do with Sunday morning worship? Do away with it altogether? No, connect it with reality. We realize that worship is a time for Christians to be transformed for God's mission, not a time for happiness or comfort. This should be a time of discomfort sometimes, lamenting the pain in the world as well as the weakness of the church to meet it. Then, and only then will true praise for God flow, since it is here that we meet God. In our weakness, seeking to find him in his strenght among our neighbors, communities, and nonchurched.