YOUTHFULNESS & Bonhoeffer’s quote examined by Scot McKnight regarding the lure of focusing on the youthful spirit rather than the Holy Spirit.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in 1930 …

“Since the days of the youth movement [referring to the German Youth movement in the late 19th century] the church has been more obsessed with the youthful spirit than the Holy Spirit.”

What Happens to Church Ministry When…?

by Scot McKnight, Jesus Creed, 10/27/14.

What happens to ministry, then, when we turn the pastor from the giver and the audience as receivers into the pastor as a kind of mentor or guide for the congregation to discover God at work in their life as they really live it? This is the question Andrew Root thinks is at the heart of Bonhoeffer’s own ministry to youth (Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker).

This question transcends youth ministry. This question leads us from Sunday as performance to Sunday as worship; from the pastor as didactic performer to the pastor as, well, pastor and spiritual mentor. It leads us in some ways to the vision of Eugene Peterson.

To move on from where we were in our last post Bonhoeffer moved on from Barcelona back to Berlin to do his second dissertation (Act and Being) but his supervisor (Seeberg) kept DB from doing a study of child and youth, though he smuggled in some theology of youth at the end.

Off to Union he went and at Union in NYC he came in contact with Abyssinian Baptist church where he became a Sunday School teacher for youth, and is right here that Root sees Bonhoeffer’s great contribution to youth ministry as a theological turn in youth ministry. DB moved from the phraseological (which he saw throughout the American church, which was mostly NYC and Union), to the real. Here is how Root captures it, and it leads to this question: which of these expressions capture what we need to learn?

In youth ministry the theological turn is a turn into the real; it is the seeking divine action in and through the concrete and lived experience of young people. Bonhoeffer’s experiences in New York provide a great lesson for those us of seeking the theological turn in youth ministry today. It shows us the negative so that we might move into the constructive. We hear that the theological cannot become the phraseological and that we must take every step with our young people to avoid all loose phrases that are not bound in their experience of wrestling with God. To fall into the phraseological blinds us, as youth workers, from seeing the concrete humanity of young people and helping them see the humanity of others. “Youth ministry can so often overlook the reality of the suffering other, avoiding the challenges of reality in favor of safe programmatic language, settling for a drive toward religious socialization.”

The theological turn in youth ministry does not simply use the language of theology or religion. Rather, the theological turn in youth ministry seeks the living revelatory encounter with Jesus Christ (the real, as Bonhoeffer says). And Bonhoeffer’s New York experience not only gives us the negative, a warning to stay away from the phraseological, but also pushes us into the constructive and practical. Watching Bonhoeffer, we see how forms of art (like the [Negro] spiritual for him) capture the deep expressions of others’ concrete and lived experience. Bonhoeffer’s own youth ministry, which moved from the phraseological to the real, from the abstract to the concrete, from theology to the theological, involved inviting young people to reflect on art (deep expressions of pathos) as an introduction to young people themselves doing the theological, seeking God in the midst of their own deep questions and experiences.

Bonhoeffer was not trying to get young people to like art, to become fans of the spiritual, but was inviting them to step inside it as a concrete articulation of the human experience, to dwell in the experience for its corollaries to their own concrete and lived experience of Negroes, to seek the God who suffers the experience of exclusion. He wanted them to seek God’s act and being in and through Jesus Christ within the experience, to speak of the presence and absence of God within the concrete and lived as the way of doing the theological.

During his time in Harlem, youth ministry remained and even deepened as Bonhoeffer’s ministerial focus. But as such it also became more integrated. Bonhoeffer took his rich theological conceptions of sociality and Stellvertretung and pushed further into the concrete. The spiritual and Harlem helped move in this direction. Even his classes at Union, the classes he was reluctant to take when arriving, turned him to the practical. As a doctoral student in Berlin, Bonhoeffer had been drawn to practical theology courses, and at Union he found that such practical theological classes moved him into further reflection on youth work (85-86).

Read more at … http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2014/10/27/what-happens-to-church-ministry-when/

KINGDOM & Scot McKnight: The 4 NT basics of the kingdom and when they do (and do not) relate to social work.

by Scot McKnight, “Secularizing Kingdom,” Pathos, 11/15/10.

… Sit down some afternoon — maybe today — and look up all the “kingdom” references in the New Testament and you will see the following major ideas:

First, kingdom refers to a redemptive society. Second, one must “enter” this redemptive kingdom society by repentance and faith and obedience to Jesus. Third, kingdom society and Jesus are so closely connected one has to say that there is no such thing as “kingdom” apart from relationship to Jesus. Fourth, no one uses the word “kingdom” in the NT for “social” justice that is not connected to kingdom people of Jesus or connected to the fellowship of his followers — the Church.

The best example of “kingdom” work in the entire Bible is Acts 2:42-47, and there the kingdom people, in the context of a local fellowship (church), were making the kingdom manifest. The place to begin with kingdom work is to take care of the society of Jesus’ followers.

But somehow this equation of “kingdom” with “social” work, especially as distinguished from “church” or “spiritual” or “evangelistic” work, is precisely what has happened in our culture. We have all kinds of people who want to do “kingdom” work but by that they mean “social” justice — and by that they mean helping the poor, building homes in Haiti, creating wells of water in Africa, ministering to AIDS victims in the world, showing support for Palestinians in the Middle East, or running for political office. These folks have done the unthinkable: they have secularized the kingdom of God.

Let me say this clearly: each of those activities is good and godly; each of those actions is noble and ennobling. But none of those actions are “kingdom” work unless they are done in the context of the redemptive society of Jesus, and that means more or less in connection with the Church of Jesus Christ, who is Messiah and Lord.

One could say such actions “extend” the kingdom society of Jesus to others; I’m fine with that. But the fundamental idea here is that if we want to talk “kingdom” let’s talk what Jesus actually says about kingdom…

Read more at … http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2010/11/15/secularizing-kingdom/

WOMEN LEADERS & Women who were the point persons/leaders in many early house churches

“The Elect Lady” by Scot McKnight, Pathos, 9/21/17.

Not often observed in the conversation (ahem, debate) about women in ministry is 2 John, a letter addressed by John (according to traditional scholarship) to a woman who is the leader of a house church.

…Women were the point persons/leaders in many early house churches: Chloe (1 Cor 1:11), Lydia (Acts 16:40), mother of John Mark (Acts 12:12), Nympha (Col 4:15), Prisca and Aquila (Rom 16:3-5; 1 Cor 16:19), Philemon, Apphia, and Archippus (Philemon 1-2), and perhaps Stephana (1 Cor 16:15, 17) [from p. 3, from his wife Aida Besancon Spencer’s study].

Read more at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2014/09/18/that-elect-lady/#OBQt5oIiGz6dbf3Z.99

WOMEN LEADERS & Why the Elect Lady of John 1 is Probably a Church Leader

“The Elect Lady” by Scot McKnight, Pathos, 9/21/17.

Not often observed in the conversation (ahem, debate) about women in ministry is 2 John, a letter addressed by John (according to traditional scholarship) to a woman who is the leader of a house church. The whole text immediately follows so you can read it, with important expressions italicized (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2014/09/18/that-elect-lady/#OBQt5oIiGz6dbf3Z.99)

…Yes, in church history some have argued that the “elect lady” of 2 John is the church itself and not a female leader. But William David Spencer, in his final piece as editor of Priscilla Papers (28.3, 2014, pp. 1-4), has devoted some space to showing that in fact it is far more likely that the “elect lady” is the church leader of a house church.

1. 2 and 3 John are close enough that few question the same authorship, making parallels between the letters especially important.

2. Inasumch as 3 John’s address is Gaius, who is clearly the leader of that church, it follows that the “elect lady” of 2 John is most likely the same at “her” church. Some speculated her name was “Electa” or “Kuria” (from the Greek of 2 John 1).

3. The use of “children” in the Epistles of John refers to church members. The lady must be distinguished from the children and, therefore, the “lady” cannot be the church itself.

4. By calling them “your children” the “lady” functions as the pastor of those children, much as Gaius does in 3 John. To call the “lady” the church as a whole, then, fails at the simplest level of language.

5. Women were the point persons/leaders in many early house churches: Chloe (1 Cor 1:11), Lydia (Acts 16:40), mother of John Mark (Acts 12:12), Nympha (Col 4:15), Prisca and Aquila (Rom 16:3-5; 1 Cor 16:19), Philemon, Apphia, and Archippus (Philemon 1-2), and perhaps Stephana (1 Cor 16:15, 17) [from p. 3, from his wife Aida Besancon Spencer’s study].

Read more at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2014/09/18/that-elect-lady/#OBQt5oIiGz6dbf3Z.99

KINGDOM & McKnight + Stroope on “Why Do Christians Speak of ‘Mission’?”

by Scot McKnight, Pathos, 4/7/17.

Michael Stroope has a full scale analysis of the Christian usage of the term “mission” and terms associated with it, like “missionary” and now today the very happy, fuzzy term “missional.”

His study is called Transcending Mission... The big book has three essential points:

(1) to figure out why the Bible has so little use of the language of mission, and never does “mission” occur,  and then,

(2) to examine where we picked up this term “mission.” 

(3) His third point? Get rid of mission language and reframe our calling with kingdom language.

He contends the term enters the Christian vocabulary through pilgrimage traditions that soon become colonialism and imperialism and territorial conquests. He locates some of it in the Jesuits and esp in the 1910 Edinburgh Mission Conference.

Instead of mission language, Stroope proposes “kingdom” language. Ah, kingdom, but what does kingdom mean? (That’s what I’m asking as I’m reading him. I have my Kingdom Conspiracy in mind of course.)

Mission is contested language that requires continual promotion, defense, and revision, as this vocabulary is supplied language to the Christian tradition. When mission ascends to the status of sacred language, it can eclipse the kingdom and thus limit our view of Gods reign and muddle our ability to participate in his kingdom. The language of the reign of God, on the other hand, expresses an abiding theme throughout the Bible that culminates in the message of Jesus. When discovered and embraced, God’s reign forms us into pilgrim witnesses, who, though weak and afflicted, are liberated to live alongside and love those we encounter along the way. 358

He contends “kingdom” reorients us to be witnesses and pilgrims of the kingdom. His view of kingdom is largely that of GE Ladd with some NT Wright.

As language enters vocabulary, integrates with thought, and becomes the content of communication, it changes the way one sees God, it shapes identity, and it determines actions. Kingdom language prompts those who follow Christ to live as pilgrims who give witness to the coming reign of God. They are not called missionaries, and their life purpose is not named as mission. To supplant the structures of thought expressed in Scripture with the language of a modern tradition is to underestimate the power of God’s kingdom to change the world through witnesses and pilgrims. 376

Kingdom language is the better choice of language, because it is rooted in revelation, includes all types of believers, prioritizes formation of life, expands possibilities, underscores the place of the church, liberates from Christendom assumptions, and points to the Spirit’s work. 376

What of the church?

Kingdom language recognizes the place of the community of faith in the activity of God. Some view the church as the problem or an impediment, so they advocate a “kingdom orientation” rather than a “church orientation,” as if we must choose between the two. For sure, the church is not the kingdom of God, but the church, as the body of Christ, exists in the world to speak and embody kingdom values. As a community of people being transformed into the likeness of Christ, the church is able to witness to Christ’s teaching, life, and death. By the very fact that people surrender personal desires and their agenda to live alongside others, they offer a counterwitness to the pervasive individualism of modern life.

The themes of my Kingdom Conspiracy are God/Jesus as king, the king’s rule by way of redemption and governing, the people of Israel and the church who are the redeemed/governed people, the king’s instructions/law and the king’s location and sacred space. The above paragraph could have been expanded to see even more vitality to the relationship of kingdom and church and actually support most of what he is saying.

As for replacing “mission” with “kingdom”? I’m for far more stringent and rigorous biblical theology, which Stroope is doing. He’s right on the history of the term “mission” being something that has taken over, though some of what is meant by “mission” surely is involved in “kingdom” so that I’m not sure I’d make as big a difference. However, he’s right when speaks to the framing issue: which term we use matters immensely, and kingdom is the term to use.

Read more at … http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2017/04/07/christians-speak-mission/

BRIDGES & Not Walls

by Scot McKnight, Pathos, 11/15/16.

Bridges not walls. I am convinced that, as Christians, we are called to build bridges not walls. This doesn’t mean a wishy-washy lack of conviction, but an approach that sees the others as human beings created in the image of God – often as brothers and sisters. I fail in my calling as a Christian and a scientist if I fan the flames of conflict rather than seek to lead people into understanding. I also fail if I allow wall-building to pass unchallenged… (Gal. 5:13-26, 6:7-10) …

We tend to put a lot of emphasis on acts of the flesh such as sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft … drunkenness, orgies, and the like, often skipping over the central part of the list. But this is the part that is hindering our witness today … hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy. I have not heard anyone among my non-Christian colleagues accuse Christians of debauchery and drunkenness; the most common complaints come from the middle group: hatred, discord, selfish ambition and the like. The impression is not of a people shaped by love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control or of a people who are marked as those who do good to all people.

Far too often we invite people to come behind our wall rather than building bridges that heal.

Elsewhere Paul writes “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:17-18)…

Read more at … http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2016/11/15/bridges-or-walls-rjs/

THEOLOGY & Scot McKnight on Ecclesiaphobia

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “In my research into emerging and fresh expressions of the church in both North America and England, I have witnessed what Scot McKnight calls ecclesiaphobia. Here is a good introduction to the concept, along with some important concerns.”

by: Scot McKnight, 7/6/15.

In a few of his many writings Roger Scruton wags his finger at the deconstructionists, and he’s concerned especially with Foucault and Rorty and in some measure Derrida. He calls the concern oikophobia. (See his A Political Philosophy or The Need for Nations.) Oikophobia is a Greek term, composed of house/household and fear, and the term is thus used to describe rejection of all things local and home-ish, that is, that which is Western, traditional, the supposed hegemony of bourgeois culture, and what amounts to a Western sense of economy.

To one degree or another the oikophobes become anarchists. Anarchy, by definition, is oikophobia.
Oikophobia, it can be said with utter candor, in the hands of some — I have my eye on a few authors and supposed leaders of the church who in one way or another believe God/Jesus has left the house — has become ecclesiaphobia, a fear of all things connected with the institutional, traditional church. In fact, both terms are suspect: institution and tradition. It must all be done away with, we — I now speak in their mindset — must start all over again, we gather our crowds of the discontented, and then we pretend (for that is all it is) that the institution and the tradition are dying so let’s join in what will be when it will be and we will be its true priests and prophets (most are males.

For sure, some ecclesiaphobes claim they love the church and that is why they are oikophobic ecclesiaphobes, but the fact is that they (1) love only the church constructed in their own mind of idealism and (2) snarl at most or all institutional or traditional forms of the church. Indeed, they are rejecting 99% of the church in the world. The hubris can be breathtaking.

First, we and they only got to the social tolerance and acceptability of their accusations on the basis of the oikos and the ecclesia as it existed in that traditional and institutional form.

Second, ecclesiaphobia operates structurally with a series of denials: it…
(1) nullifies the church is to operate on the basis of the Biblical tradition of Wisdom, made manifest in Christ and in the history of the church through an ongoing accumulation of theology-in-praxis that becomes both the resource and the guide to present and future decisions,
(2) diminishes Scripture as the origin for all theological reflection,
(3) quenches the Pneuma of God (God’s Spirit) over time — that God’s Spirit has been at work in the entire history of the church — as a fund of wisdom and divine guidance or discernment,
(4) minimizes tradition as another fund of theology-in-praxis-over-time and thinks instead starting anew will become a better tomorrow, and
(5) it fundamentally veers in its arrogance from the judgment of the universal, catholic church in the world and believes itself either as the vanguard of where the church ought to be or as so wise that it need not listen to the wisdom of the church universal.

To sum this up, the ecclesiaphobe has denied the sacredness of the church, or put differently, the sacredness of the history of the church. The enviornment of the ecclesiaphobe is de-sacralizing of the past. What gives them energy is belief about the future church.

Read more at … http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2015/07/06/ecclesiaphobia/