Sunday, October 14, 2012

Tangible Kingdom Part 2: Barriers to Incarnational Community

This is the 2nd part of a summary of Matt Smay and Hugh Halter's book, "The Tangible Kingdom."  As a side note, Hugh Halter spoke some much needed truth to me today, which I might blog on later.  The 2nd part of this book describe the three interconnected circles that constitute the life of their church; communion, mission and community.  "Communion represents 'oneness' - those things that make up our communal connection and worship of God.  Community represents aspects of 'togetherness' - those things we share as we form our lives together.  And mission represents 'otherness' - the aspects of our life together that focus on people outside our community.  We believe that whenever you see a group of people who find a rhythm or balance among communion, community and mission, you will always find the Kingdom.  It will be tangible."

There are three barriers to this type of church life:
INDIVIDUALISM - "a deep-seated Western-Modern bias that fights against commitment to anything that doesn't directly serve our individual interests.  Most specifically, this relates to our interaction with people."  This individualism is expressed in everything from watching too much tv to having your kids in too many activities; any over-indulgence that keeps a person from having enough margin in their life to live on a mission.  "We win out over individualism by discipling togetherness, through gentle confrontation, and by eliminating spiritual services that allow people to remain autonomous or invisible."

This barrier keeps us from moving from communion to community. 

CONSUMERISM - "the belief that I can't help others until I help myself, that my own wants and needs trump the needs of others... Church can be a huge consumer trap.  We provide large, comfortable worship centers, encourage pastoral staff to give us everything we need spiritually, and, at the end of the day, we don't have any money or time left to extend blessing and resources toward 'mission.'"

This barrier keeps us from moving from communion to mission.


MATERIALISM - "this is not all that different to consumerism, but it is more closely related to the struggle of Sojourners to tangible be a blessing in the world.  For example, often, when Sojourners enter into our Tangible Kingdom vortex through community, they've found friends and are moving toward faith, but they still haven't adjusted their lives toward God's blessing in the world.  Because they have had little focus on God or personal stewardship, they are weighed down in debt and the extra work that is required to keep up.  Whereas consumerism holds some aspect of entitlement ('this church should provide... this leader should provide...') materialism is simply about wanting stuff."

This barrier keeps us from moving from community to mission. 

"The more we do 'together,' the less INDIVIDUALISTIC we'll be.

The more we become 'one' with Christ, the less CONSUMER ORIENTED we'll be.

The more we do for 'others,' the less MATERIALISTIC we'll be." 

In his workshop today, Hugh Halter said that at their church, they define discipleship as primarily being a"non-individualistic person," a "non-consumer," a "non-materialistic person" and a "non-religious (pharisaical) person." 

When asked whether they define discipleship in positive terms, Hugh said that they sometimes refer to discipleship as taking on the fruit of the spirit or being on a mission for God.  Usually, however they stick to these "un" definitions because they are so effective at confronting the pharisaical self-centeredness of most Christians.  Hugh defined a Pharisee as someone who knows a lot of stuff but doesn't care for people and can't interact with the world.  

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