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Earl Marshall

Month: November 2007

Community vs Communitas

I have been reading "Exiles: Living Intentionally in a Post-Christian Era" by Michael Frost while on vacation last week.  I just finished his chapter on "luminality" and the difference between community and communitas.  What a wonderful reminder that as followers of Jesus community is not our end goal and that achieving community is more a result of pursuing mission together.

I am a huge fan and proponent of small group life.  I believe it is a small group of followers of Jesus  who have the potential to achieve the longing that many of us have to experience biblical community, care, and friendship together.  And yet so few seem to reach that milestone.  Very few ever get to the share your life level of relationship.

Perhaps this is because we have made the group and a sense of community the goal instead of communitas where mission is the goal.  Think of a hockey team attempting to win a championship, or soldiers thrown together in war, or . . .  These small groups of teams on mission together forge strong relationships, bonds that are very strong. 

Jesus call on our life is to follow him.  When we follow Jesus together we embrace his mission to reach as many as possible with the news of Jesus’ kingdom, living and taking the whole gospel to whole people.  When we are on mission together we will find that we will share life together.  Community is not the goal mission is. 


Fellowship Convention

I spent Tuesday (November 6) in Hamilton at the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches convention.  I went primarily to hear John Kaiser’s (president) vision address that morning.  I was going to comment on Tuesday but I really needed a couple of days to reflect.  Here is what I am thinking right now . . .

Our denomination/movement is rooted in autonomy.  John Kaiser’s vision seemed to reinforce this.  The National Convention is autonomous from the Regions which serve autonomous local churches.  Independence reigns!  Seems to me that no matter how good the vision the national president communicates there is still lots of room for disconnect because of autonomy.  I am still perplexed as to my perception that the Regions are not somehow accountable to the National structure.  This all seems so confusing.  No wonder many churches who are part of the denomination do not feel connected to the denomination.

My own autonomy is a problem.  I found myself a few times asking the question, "does this really matter?"  I am pastoring in a church north of Toronto in a very self contained community where I have very little connect with broader denominational ideas and plans.  I find myself engulfed in community and regional ministry concerns and not thinking about how I can help a specific denominational movement forward.  Is that right or wrong?  I am not sure.  I do know that I would like to give back to a missional movement.

I am just not that denominational.  Don’t get me wrong I love hanging out with my colleagues and I love talking about how we can reach Canada with the gospel.  I do embrace much of what President Kaiser has presented  as relevant and necessary.  I am glad for a sense of accountability for our church (albeit very loose) through a denomination.  Perhaps this is a sign of my age and the overall decline in denominationalism in North America.

These are my reflections.  I love my heritage and I am intrigued with my own personal feelings.

The Truth Project

Just got back from Focus on the Family’s Truth Project seminar at Rexdale Alliance Church.  I attended last night and this morning (yes I left early . . . no particular reason except that is what I do and Sunday is coming) for a few reasons.  I used to teach a Christian worldview course a number of years ago and I have been asked to do so in Jamaica March 2008 (honest, really I am teaching while I am there).  I, like Focus and others, am concerned with the disconnect between what we say we believe and if we really really believe it is true for our lives.  There continues to be faulty thinking behind our praxis.  Lastly, I was just really intrigued to see how Focus would present worldview in a postmodern world.

Here are some of my observations:

  • The content and presentation is great.  The DVD set is worth looking at and has some really helpful information.  I love the fact that they have made it small group based.  The material should stir up good conversation.
  • The presentation is modern and anti postmodern.  This is problematic.  I find this troubling.  The underlying assumption is that postmodernity is wrong and needs to be corrected.  I found the response of the audience to numerous video clips where individuals expressed opposing point of views telling.  One such video clip was of a minister in a universalist church attempting to explain truth like a cathedral’s various windows with light streaming through each and how that the light (truth) is different depending on which window you are watching.  This was met with laughter from the audience.  Perhaps this was nerves but I think it expresses an "out of touch"ness on behalf of evangelicals.  If we find this hard to believe maybe it is because so many of us are not in touch with our neighbours, co-workers, and family members. 
  • In the midst of multicultural Canada there were very few, if any, individuals of ethnicity.  Is this a reflection on Focus, evangelicalism in Canada, or what?
  • I think the content is excellent although it will definitely need to augmented for a postmodern audience.  I found this especially true in the discussion on what is truth.  The relationship of God is truth and truth as propositional truth needs to be explored in more detail.  In particular the questions of epistemology will need to be answered.  What does it mean to have hope that because God is absolute truth that we may be able to find truth and yet on the other hand to have enough humility knowing that we are the one’s God has left to discover the meaning of that truth – and dare I say – prone to getting things wrong.

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