Tag Archives: Ministry

Start a revolution if you want…

This post concerns a “conversation” that has been happening within the church for a while called variously emerging church, missional church, emergent and maybe some others. I have been involved in it for a number of years and therefore feel passionate about these issues. If this seems too esoteric and tangential to a theology of food please feel free to skip this post.

Third, I bet you’re not disappointed with Shane Claiborne. That’s because, to this point, Shane has made the very noble decision to live a chaste life, and he has committed his whole self to an irresistible revolution. Meanwhile, most of the founders of emergent are raising children and paying mortgages and coaching YMCA t-ball. Martin Luther King didn’t coach t-ball; neither did Ghandi. Start a revolution if you want, but that’s not a price that I’m willing to pay.

The above is part of Tony Jones’ response to a growing chorus of voices saying they are disappointed with Emergent Village. Just to be clear this is about the organization, not the amorphous movement some call “emerging church” which cannot be attributed to Tony (or anyone else really). Tony has many good and important points to make in response to his critics. In fact, I agree with pretty much everything else he says. However, this paragraph made my jaw hit the floor.

After reading through the comments, it seems that the main issue people have with this comparison to Shane and his book is that it makes them feel guilty and not everyone is called to his radical lifestyle. I have previously taken on this issue in my post Relocation and Reorientation. I don’t think Shane or others in the new monastic movement would claim that all faithful Christians must follow their example. However, I will reiterate that the witness of those living out radical lifestyles (families too by the way) in following Christ both 1) criticizes the complacency and cultural accommodation of the rest of the church and 2) invites us into new ways of being the church in the world.

Far from creating a singular model, these radicals both inspire and challenge us where we are to live out our faith in more radical and subversive ways. Some commenters pointed out that they shouldn’t feel guilty for their lifestyles. I agree that what we do where we are at matters more than what someone says we should be doing.

However, my missions professor was fond of pointing out that “when everything is missions, nothing is missions.” The call to follow Jesus is a radical one and it should question our consumptive lifestyles and the way we allow the culture to organize our lives (including mortgages and T-ball). You can follow Jesus anywhere, but following Jesus means something particular. It does not condone our lifestyles or our culture. It calls us to a new way of being and living that is an alternative vision for the world. This includes a better balance between family and ministry, but it does not mean less radical.

If mortgages and T-ball are really what’s holding us back from embodying the kingdom, then those things need to be sacrificed. We must be willing to pay that price at least.

Too try and tie it back into the purpose of this blog, many young people and families are willing to trade their suburban lives for the farm life. Some have said that we will need 50 million new farmers to create a local/regional food system in North America. We will need people to buy that food and do other things. So, not everyone will become farmers, but many many more must if we are to move forward. The same could be said of the church. Many more will need to live out radical lives like Shane and others to bring the church into balance.

What can the rest of us do where we are to support those with such a call? What can we do to incorporate more radical practices into our lives where we’re at?


The Long and Short of It

Tonight I am teaching at Meadow Oaks Baptist Church where I’ve been a member for about 4 years. I am teaching about my journey and calling toward agricultural missions and understanding the role food plays in our lives, globalization and justice. This is a pretty concise summation of why food is so important, my theology of mission and how food fits into God’s mission for the world. By concise I mean I had to cut a whole lot of important stuff out. Luckily I have a wife who listens to me ramble and tells me which parts to cut and which parts don’t make sense. So this is both very long for a blog post, but too short to say everything I wanted.

The full text after the jump.

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You Have Heard it Said

The sending of rain is an event greater than the giving of the Torah. The Torah was a joy for Israel only, but rain gives joy to the entire world, including animals and birds.

Midrash Psalms 117 (second century)

This shocking statement is rooted in an appropriate understanding of the missio Dei, mission of God, as all-encompassing. Israel was chosen, not for its own sake, but the sake of the whole world. It is only when our understanding of God and creation is rooted in the breadth and scope of God’s mission that we begin to grasp what we are for. Only then do we begin to see the world around us properly. There is not an inside and outside to God’s mission or reign. Nothing is beyond the scope of God’s mission. Only with that understanding does the above quote make sense.

Over time we develop a tendency to see the things affecting the church as primary and whatever affects the rest of the world/creation as secondary (and often inconsequential). The truth revealed here is that we have gotten it backwards. The entirety of God’s creation is primary and the people of God exist to serve the world by participating in God’s mission, the presence and coming of God’s intended order for creation.

This is an ongoing series exploring Teachings on Creation Through the Ages. Quotes are taken from the article of that name in The Green Bible.

Holistic Management

The Agroinnovations podcast had a two part interview with Allan Savory on Holistic Management. As I listened to Savory talk about holistic goals rather than mission or vision statements dots started connecting in my mind. As I learn more about facets of sustainable agriculture, I make more and more connections to the church, ministry and theology. In some ways I think we can learn a lot about organization and life by looking at nature and reflecting on why and how things work. As Savory talked about holistic goals this is where my mind wandered…

Savory describes the way land management adopted certain approaches to organizing its life and work. It assumes that its methods are correct and measures for their success or failure. In holistic management land management begins with the question, “What do you want to accomplish on this land?” a very missional question. In this paradigm you assume failure and measure for your goal.

The church (as with most organizations and institutions) usually assumes that its methods are correct. It measures only for success or failure. How many members are there? Are we growing? How many conversions? How many programs do we have? The goal is defined by what is measured. So, unwittingly we become slaves of what we measure. A more holistic approach asks first what is the goal, or telos, of the church.

What would be a holistic goal for church X? Would it always be the same (for land management it is very context specific)? What if we assumed failure? What would we measure differently or at all in order to assess our progress towards this holistic goal?

How would our churches look and feel different if we took this holistic approach to managing the business of church?

I find it interesting that perhaps the church as well as farming could learn a lot by returning to observing nature more closely. I’m hoping to highlight more of these connections as I make them in the future.


In Search of Life

I blame the election and all my conservative friends for distracting me from my passionate pursuit of a theology of food. As numerous people suggested at Slow Food Nation ’08 the issues of this election and agenda of both candidates (health care, economic reform, and climate change) will all inevitably run into the issue of food. So, perhaps those conversations should have been happening over here.

If you care, here’s an update on my journey towards my ethical food fetish. If not… move on. Nothing to see here.

My wife and I continue to wrestle with our plans for the future. I graduate from seminary in December. Our goal is to somehow live at the World Hunger Farm for a year as interns to gain practical skills and knowledge, as well as connections, for our future. However, this internship comes only with a place to live and food to eat (very good food mind you). We own a house and have two kids. It quickly becomes apparent how easily we all become embedded in the American way of life without a second though to its implications.

For us this is about living out the gospel as we understand it in the most holistic way possible. The process of trying to save money for a year, downsize our material possessions and prepare to sell our house has been enlightening to say the least. We have become acutely aware of our “stuff” and how much of it there is. It also brings out all of our assumptions about what is necessary and what is luxury. Just because we have a particular standard of living in this country, (single family detached housing, two cars, etc.) does not make it necessary.

On top of all of this I just finished reading Missions and Money for a class and was very challenged. While the Bible does not condemn people just for being wealthy, it certainly judges those who live in affluence strictly for their use of that wealth. Jesus goes so far as to say that it would be easier for a camel to saunter through the eye of a needle than a wealthy person find God. And why should they? They don’t really need God, do they? What pierces the heart is realizing that I am the wealthy whether I like it or not.

To bring it back to food… A lot of people don’t want the solution to our problems with food and economics to involve sacrifice. We can simply spend our way out of the problem. Or we can harness the power of the consumer and economic self-interest. The truth is that our problems (like most) cannot be solved without sacrifice. This is the way of the cross. This is the way I hope to live out the gospel with my family.