Competition and other selfish pursuits  

Posted by Kenny Payne

I teach at a Language Institute in Gorlovka, Ukraine that has several buildings spread across the city. Recently I was at the main building to place an advertisement for a class I am teaching and I saw an interesting sign. It read - "Main building, main people!" It really got me to thinking.
The various departments of the Institute are highly competitive with one another, obviously to the point of absurdity. This is their "normal stance" - to compete with other faculties at the school. Yet once a year they change their focus and enter a national competition. During this time there is a strong sense of unity among the departments at the Institute because they want their Institute to be the best in the country. Intramural strife becomes inter-collegiate battle.
Curiously there does not seem to be a time in their calendar when they recognise that their struggle is not against other faculties at their Institute, or even with other Institutes and Universities in their country, but against the ignorance which education seeks to diminish. Perhaps "Main building, main people" is a slogan that simply perpetuates the ignorance and hands foolishness an easy victory. What would it look like to replace that sign with one that says "Preparing ourselves to join the fight against ignorance" or "Spreading knowledge and good will."
Too often Christians are like the students at my Institute. We fuss and fight with one another as if that is our divine calling. We are just like the early disciples who continually asked Jesus and each other, "Who is the greatest among us?" (Everyone already knew the answer to that question before they asked it, by the way). We congratulate ourselves on being like James and John, who saw a man driving out demons in Jesus' name and commanded him to stop - "Because he was not one of us!" (It is extremely ironic that this event occurred shortly after the disciples failed to drive out a demon!) Jesus had a consistent answer to these questions and actions - "Get over yourselves and start serving others."
Jesus the loving servant - now there is a pattern that is worth following.

More than Morality  

Posted by Jake Kaufman

This note is for those who have doubts, who have struggles, who have fears and questions; and for those who have been left behind from their faith communities because their thoughts and views are considered to be taboo, heretical, lofty, or just plain crazy. Maybe together we can discover a new depth to our faith…maybe, together in our journey we will find that there is more to God than we have ever imagined.

For many, the Christian faith has become equivalent with leading a moral lifestyle, a lifestyle which is rooted in 1950 America. Faith is less about adventure, conflict, and freedom and more about pious abstinences; such as abstaining from alcohol, controlling the radio station and popular music, and removing ourselves from anything or anyplace that bears any semblance to a secular culture. This is not a new concept or habit, but has been lived out from the foundations of organized religion.

While this may seem like a harmless practice, and may even have some roots in good intentions, the fact remains that those who buy into this system of faith are completely missing the point of the Jesus life. To reduce faith to a culturally moral lifestyle is to remove Jesus from the equation in two ways: (1) I can lead a moral lifestyle without God’s counsel, intervention, or discipline, and (2) this reduction automatically makes the teaching of Jesus elementary at best, and irrelevant
at worst.

There is within us all a hunger to taste a grand scheme to life. All of us have a yearning for life to be effective – for our breaths to make a difference, our hands to create a lasting thing, our minds to produce lasting results – all to say that our lives have not been merely lived out, but that they have been experienced, important, and meaningful. The message of Jesus while on this earth was a direct relation to that yearning. His message was there is more to this life than just existing. There is more to religion than just ritual, tradition, and new styles of worship. There is more to sin than just doing something bad. There is more to forgiveness than just a relieved feeling in our guts. There is more to sacrifice than just giving something up. There is more to relationships than just surface level conversations. There is more to conflict than just arguments. There is more to compassion than just mission trips and service projects. There is more to holiness than abstinence.

The message that sentenced Jesus to death, the message that brought humiliation to the dark forces when Jesus arose from the dead is: There….is….so….much….more.

There is so much more because there is God. The King has come and made His home among the dying. He is here. He is present. And He is able. So then, the answer for those who are entrapped in the ritual of their tradition, the answer isn’t to quit the faith or find a new one, but rather to awaken their hearts to a new perception and understanding of their Creator. The answer for churches who are struggling and declining in this new season isn’t to create new programs and logos, but to journey together into a new understanding of the Father and His dream for creation. The answer for the searching unbeliever isn’t to just join a faith community in the hopes that a magical transformation will alleviate all their fears, doubts, and concerns, but instead the answer is to authentically pursue God and follow His leading.

May we all awaken to the glory of God in such a way that we are completely satisfied in only Him.

the weight of the Uninspired...  

Posted by Michael Rhodes

I hadn’t been to this particular place in a very long time and I knew what to expect, but it was worse than I thought. Its’ tiredness had become exhaustion and its’ usualness had become a grind. My little ten minute speech earned some smiles, handshakes and a “thanks for that”, but the weight of that room seemed to cloud around me with an “is that all you got” smirk on its’ face. I went away a little different, it stayed the same.

I am not looking for hype. Hype is easy to find, but somehow in some Christian circles (churches, universities, camps…) it seems that creativity, expression and ingenuity have become suspect. While we could undoubtedly compile a long list of theological and ecclesiological conclusions that have fostered this distrust, here is my take on one.

We have more than compartmentalized that which is spiritual by saying it is only these “things” and not “those.” We have taken it hostage and placed it in a secure location guarded by men in suits, with high walls and typically a steeple. I believe this has sincerely been born out of our desire to control it. We want to control it because we can’t trust others with it. We fear that if what we call spiritual were to be open-ended to some degree then anyone could do with it as they pleased at anytime. So it has been stripped down, disarmed and assessed. Some have got it down to 5 acts while others go a little further adding in sub-points, but the distinction between what is “spiritual” and “everything else” is made clear. In this type of environment, creativity, expression and ingenuity are the exact things that could corrupt a sterile, hushed and controlled spirituality. Those things are fine when it comes to the “everything else”, but in regards to “spirituality”, creativity, expression and ingenuity create concern and apprehension. That day in that room, I felt the heaviness of human beings fed a regular and bland dose of so-called spiritual practices.

In the midst of Paul dealing with more “missing of the point” from some early followers, he makes a statement that is packed with freedom and possibility. He tells them that neither side of their argument has any value. He tells them that the only thing that avails, has value, or matters is “faith expressing itself (or working) through love.” That statement is bursting with potential. Those that would rather keep spirituality tied up are afraid that a free spirituality is a dangerous one destined to foolishly slide down a “slippery slope.” Conversely, I truly believe that anyone with honest intentions in following this way of Jesus can with some time and work find their way in it. They will undoubtedly make mistakes, but the power of their mistakes is not like the power of His grace (Romans 5:15-16) and the piling up their mistakes cannot overtake the piling up of His grace. (Romans 5:20) The fear we often articulate of allowing each of us the freedom to “express his or her faith in love” is not one I am buying into.

Jesus calls us into this new beautiful way of living full of graciousness, mercy, redemption, sacrifice, and justice. These things have no boundaries and are not only found in church. As I have said in a previous blog, His goal for us is not to hold worship services according to some preordained pattern. We are called to something much bigger than what is typically included in “going to church.” We are called to live in a new kingdom now finding ways to bring graciousness, mercy, redemption, sacrifice, and justice to this world full of bitterness, revenge, selfishness and injustice.

Yet we will never even begin to move in the direction of this goal if people are not freed to explore it…freed from restraining conclusions that serve better as reference points in the past instead of “periods” marking the end of discussion…freed from our current paradigms that teach us how to be observers rather than engagers…freed from overemphasizing bible classes, worship services and church programs to the neglect of bringing the solutions of the kingdom of God to the problems in the kingdom of men. We are created beings made by a Creator and given the ability and responsibility to create. Yet we are not following our own whims on this exploration. We believe in His Spirit, His essence in us moving. Maybe His creativity through us can dream up that possibility. Maybe His expression through us can communicate that love. Maybe His ingenuity through us can solve that problem.

I often wander what Jesus would say to those limiters of freedom who leave no room for individual faith expressing itself through love outside of their predetermined acceptable practices. Probably the same thing he said to the Pharisees who were concerned by the actions of the sinful woman who through her creativity gave even more meaning to the tradition of washing feet and expressed her faith through love by doing it with her tears and hair.

A "Dark" Perspective...  

Posted by Adam

Last week, Zondervan sent me a book in the mail to consider for review. I'd never heard of the book, but the title grabbed me immediately. It's called, The Sacredness of Questioning Everything, by David Dark. I have heard of the author, but I've never really read anything by him before and really didn't know that much about him. Imagine my surprise when I read the following in the first chapter:

"In no small way, I think I owe my ability to hear and interpret stories to my Granddaddy Dark, a farmer, minister, and a math professor with precise ideas concerning the way the parts of the Bible all add up into the irrefutable, always logical word of God. He saw no use of musical instruments in the New Testament accounts of the early church, so worship services he conducted did not use them. It was rumored that he once broke with a congregation when a kitchen was added to the church--there was no mention of attached cooking facilities in his King James Version.

But near the end of his life, my grandfather spake unto my father a saving word that was handed down to me. Seated in the car with my father, he observed that all the straight lines he'd drawn in the sand concerning what God wanted and What the Bible said were drawn because, as far as he could tell, this is what the Lord had spoken. 'But,' he told my father, 'if it ever turns out that I'm wrong about these things, any of it, move on.'" pg. 15

I do not know for certain that Dark has roots in the Restoration Movement, but it certainly "walks and talks like a duck", doesn't it? (UPDATE: I got a chance to ask Dark about this via facebook. His grandfather was a math professor at Lipscomb once upon a time!). I'm only about a chapter into the book, and I plan on posting a full review on it later. I am, however, already finding a ton of resonance with the thinking that Dark is presenting here. Here are a few snippets for you to mull over and interact with (if you like):
"It is only when we're blessed by a feeling of finitude that we can begin to perceive the holy, that sense of a whole before which our limited understanding is dwarfed." pg. 22

"Religion is born out of questions, not answers. Only a twisted, unimaginative mind-set resists awe in favor of self-satisfied certainty." pg. 22

"More humility might characterize our talk of God if we believe that the whole truth can never be entirely ours and that our attempts to nail God down are always well-intentioned human constructs at best, and idols at worst." pg. 23

"When we don't speak agreeably to someone with whom we disagree and don't know how to ask questions because we think we already possess most answers, we're practicing bad religion." pg. 23
Please feel free to interact with any of the above quotes, as I'd love to hear your thoughts on them. I'm not sure where else Dark is going in this book, but the first chapter, in many ways, is a beautiful articulation of where I feel I "am" right now.
AE

Choosing to Err on the Side of Grace  

Posted by Adam in , , , ,

Within the last couple of decades, many in our fellowship began to rediscover the concept of grace. In my opinion, this was a fascinating and much needed conversation that didn't go far enough. Many of us moved from a version of Christianity that often devolved into an earned and maintained salvation, to a version of Christianity that received salvation as a gift...that can often devolve into a subculture of entitlement, who's mantra is "I don't have to!" It never occurred to us that the question we were seeking to answer, might actually be a poorly framed question, suggesting a limited selection of anemic answers. We didn't notice that we were simply selecting the other side of an inadequate coin. We focussed on what grace freed us from, but stopped short of exploring what grace freed us "to".

Biblically, grace seems to be a proactive, transformative reality. It is a gift, but it is a gift that, once received, must be reflected and modeled to the rest of the world. As Scot McKnight suggests in his book, Embracing Grace: A Gospel for All of Us, once we embrace grace, we are to become an "embracing" people who exhibit grace toward the other...precisely because it is unmerited. It is less a benefit for members of a club...and more a new reality that they have bought into. To accept it for myself and refuse to extend it to others betrays both the gift of grace and the Giver. Don't just take my word for it, Jesus actually has quite a bit to say about this in the gospels (i.e. his comments on forgiveness after "The Lord's Prayer" and the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant...just for starters)


It's usually at this point that the fear impulse kicks in. What if we're wrong? This is the fear that haunts those raised in our tradition. Let me clear it up for you. We are. We have 3 pound brains and we dare to speak of an infinite God. When asked if he would fellowship a "brother in error", Fred McClure used to routinely respond "I don't have any other kind. We're all in error on something." N.T. Wright regularly begins his lectures by saying something to the effect of "I'm wrong about roughly 1/3 of what I'm telling you. I just have no idea which 1/3 that is." And thank God for His grace that washes over sin and "error" as he is actively working to form me into the image of His son...into the future where His dream for me and the world are reality.

The Bible is quite clear that the measure of judgment we apply to others will be applied to us. While I highly doubt that the Bible's concept of judgment is as equivalent to the American judicial system as we tend to presuppose in these discussions, the implications are hard to miss. We are going to be wrong about some things, but if, when it comes to judgment, "the measure I use" will be "measured to me", I want to "err" on the side of grace.
AE



Inside the Restoration Studio  

Posted by Matt Wilson

Two things:

1) I have linked to a book that might be interesting to someday discuss. If someone has read it and would like to comment, I would be interested to hear some thoughts on it.

2) I thought it would be interesting to post some quotes and see what discussion comes from it (the quotes were found on a Google search and this blog).



“We will not hearken to those questions which gender strife, nor discuss them at all. If a person says such is his private opinion, let him have it as his private opinion; but lay no stress upon it; and if it be a wrong private opinion, it will die a natural death much sooner than if you attempt to kill it.” -Alexander Campbell-

“I have tried the pharisaic plan, and the monastic. I was once so straight, that, like the Indian’s tree, I leaned a little the other way. And however much I may be slandered now as seeking “popularity” or a popular course, I have to rejoice that to my own satisfaction, as well as to others, I proved that truth, and not popularity, was my object; for I was once so strict a Separatist that I would neither pray nor sing praises with any one who was not as perfect as I supposed myself. In this most unpopular course I persisted until I discovered the mistake, and saw that on the principle embraced in my conduct, there never could be a congregation or church upon the earth.” -Alexander Campbell-

I think these quotes bring to light a few things worth discussing especially with these quotes coming from one of the great thinkers and shapers of this movement. Also, how do these quotes change or come into light from a Post-Restorationist perspective?

mw

Change Agents!  

Posted by Mark in , ,



Let me give you just a peak into my childhood.

The church I grew up in was pretty dang conservative. Without going into unnecessary ruminations over things long since gone, one particular concept in this church has sparked my interest as of late. It’s the two words that struck both anger and fear into the hearts of even the most staunch and legalistic.

“CHANGE AGENT”

Beware the accursed label for, much like a pirate’s “Black Spot”, once it has been given to you, you will wear it to your grave. Because the church brotherhood I grew up in believed that the church was perfect and fully “restored” to the pristine blueprint of the New Testament (is there only one model of church in the NT?), anyone who attempted to change the model or expression of how church was done or developed was labeled with attempting to derail the entire holy experiment. For this particular group, “be-holding the pattern” was of utmost importance, and anyone to varied from this pattern was heretical.

It is ironic how God brings people to terms with their own terms. Over the last few years, “change agent” has become a life goal of mine, and I pray regularly for “change agents” all over this continent. Not just the church needs changing either. I’m praying for change agents who change the world. For scores of people who, with eyes fixed on a completely different culture, subvert the culture they’re working undercover in.

I’m hoping to partner and network with as many change agents as I can in Chicago. I think the church is in deep need of change; maybe the supposed “pattern” of the New Testament is about change anyway! What I mean is - wasn’t Jesus a change agent? Weren’t his followers agents of transformation that eventually swept across an Empire stuck in its ways? Isn’t the Kingdom of God itself an agent of change?

Where would this world be today if more of us refused to sit back and let things rot as they are? Why is complacency revered? Why are whole systems built on the assumption that no one will have the gumption to do something about the wrongs they see? When will there be justice? When will there be creative life bubbling over into the church? Our schools? Our homes? Our government? We desperately need change agents to break the pre-conceived “blueprints” and perfect ideas of our world.

Change agents were chided and run out of town in my church growing up - but I say we kick out the squatters. This world is a changin’.

Post-Restoration Sightings #1 (and thoughts on the previous post)  

Posted by The Metzes in , , ,

It's very interesting to me that we haven't been able to find a place in the ancient-future emphasis in the emerging/ent church. I mean, that's right up are alley. I am fascinated how often I am reading material (non-Restoration material that is) and find blatant first-century appeals - however, the appeals are different than Restoration pleas. It seems that our restoration fathers focused on their understanding of the "forms" of church and reinstating them. They were ecclesiologically driven (which most of the current conversations have been), but a renewed christological emphasis is needed, and hopefully, beginning.

While they (the leaders in our movement) probably would have been quick to say, "We need to do what they did" we limited that (extremely?) to what they did in their worship gatherings - often misunderstanding their gatherings to be pretty much like ours already. I think one of the biggest flaws in the Restoration mentality (besides believing that we had already put the theological puzzle together leading to a theology of defense and protection - thanks Dr. Hicks), is how we limited our understanding of church to the four walls of buildings. I don't think this was the case at first - however, it became such an ingrained part of our movement, that it is difficult to isolate that from some of the more positive elements. This particular issue, you have hit on, I believe, is at the crux for us in understanding who we, as the Restoration Movement are/can be in a postmodern, experiential world.

One more note, we can make the same mistake today, and I'm as inclined as anyone to make it. Today we are much more apt to read into the life of Jesus and the church this radical message and life of action and social justice. We can see the life of Christ and the early church and make it all about this. (Even as I write this, I am tempted to castigate myself - but he hung out with Zaccheus, Abraham, Moses - all the patriarchs were extremely wealthy and powerful). However, this seems to be as incomplete as the other (while, perhaps, closer to the center).

In the coming weeks, I plan to post "Post-Restoration" sightings from books and works that I am reading. The most recent dose came in ReJesus by Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost. I was amazed how often they made the plea: "Look at the first century church!" (Really, they were more focused on Jesus and their understanding of living out their faith in him). They even suggest that we should empty our theology and make it less complicated and closer to what the early church fathers adhered to - wait a minute, that's what I've heard my whole life. Here are two of the most visible leaders in the missional church movement stealing our thunder! With that said, here is the first installment of "Post-restoration Sightings."

Alan Hirsch & Michael Frost
"Missiologically speaking, it is also essential that we travel lighter than we have in Christendom in the past. We believe we need to be as theologically unencumbered as possible so that we may more approximate the way the early Christians understood their relation to God." (p. 136)

Wow . . . I wonder what they would say about "No creed but the Bible"?

Validity of the Restoration Plea?  

Posted by Phil in ,

If you've run in Restoration circles (whether being born into it, or catching up on the conservative side through online lectureships, like me), you've probably heard about the Restoration plea on which a lot of the fundamental aspects of our movement have been founded. The basic idea is that if the 1st Century church can somehow be restored in form, then the results of the early church will be replicated.

I can't speak for everyone who reads this blog, but I would bet that most of us see the logical fallacy behind that, i.e. results don't always follow a replicated form, especially if that form is replicated 1800 years later, since the world manages to change some in that time.

So is the Restoration plea sill valid today? If not, are there aspects of it that are?

So if the Restoration plea is not a valid one for the 21st Century, what are we trying to do? Do we start with a blank slate and create organic communities out of a desire to worship the Risen and Saving Christ, and seeking to emulate him in word and deed?

Or do we become "like the other nations," adopting their methods and manners in congregational structure and hope that people like our children's ministry enough to stick around until their kids graduate?

Theology and Pop Culture...an experiment  

Posted by Adam in , , , ,



I am embedding an episode from the current season of the television series "House". I know that some of you (Matt Wilson) don't like the show, and some others might be offended by some of the language or content. I went online and watched this episode after my friend Chris Thompson told me about it. One of the things I enjoy about the writing on this show is that they tend to allow complex issues to be complex. This episode deals with faith, worldviews, and even a little philosophy. If you can find the time, watch the episode and then either a) post your reaction/theological reflection as a blog post if you are a Co-Author on this blog, or b) post your reaction/theological reflection in the comment section of this post. I hope some of you find the time to participate because I think it might be interesting. I'll post my thoughts later in the week.
AE

Translucent Church Leadership  

Posted by Phil in

One of the things I like best about Churches of Christ is our denominational leadership structure.

We don't have one.

Each church is autonomous (pretty much) and has the ability to make decisions within itself. We're not bound to denominational strictures or fiats. Within a fairly loose set of doctrines, the individual congregations are not governed by a larger denominational body, but by elderships within each individual church. Which is where the fun comes in.

Through the latter part of the 20th Century, elderships were viewed almost as a board of directors. They were appointed for life (typically chosen by the other elders) and had basically unquestioned power of the church and its direction. This is still pretty much the case in more of the traditional churches of Christ. The shift that was happening in more progressive churches was from a director to a shepherd. And I think this is a very, very helpful shift.

Instead of being viewed from "on high," the elders lowered themselves into a position of guidance and counseling, while still acting as leaders. And the leadership styles went from being opaque into more of a translucent. As opposed to just giving directives, elders talked about why decisions were being made.

This is a style that I think really functions well, especially in the 21st Century. People like me (whether of my mindset or generation) don't want opacity from our leaders, we want to know why decisions are being made and that they've been thought through. We also want our opinions to be considered and heard, whether or not they're adopted or not. I think we would love complete transparency from our leaders, but recognizing that that's not always a possibility, we'll settle for translucency. We want to be assured that we're being led by people who love Jesus and want to be like him in their leadership, and will guide people to be disciples. I feel like I'm at a church where we have that, even if I don't always agree on how to do that.

I know our elders at Otter Creek are pursuing that and I am grateful for their leadership. I hope they continue be as transparent as they can be, guiding the congregation to look more like Jesus, both on a corporate and individual member levels.

Living (Not Solving) the Mystery  

Posted by Kenny Payne

Mystery. The very word seems like an invitation. Paul speaks of mystery as if it is a marvelous thing – a way of entering into the purposes of God. For Paul this long awaited mystery is simple to state, if not to comprehend – it is Christ in you. (Colossians 1:27 NIV)

Those in the wake of the restoration movement in North America probably have a love/hate relationship with mystery. We crave to be engaged in the mystery that is God, yet we long to “solve” the mystery and settle into certainty. In Bible class as a child I gladly entered into the mysterious world of the Bible – hearing stories that quite simply baffled the imagination and pushed the edges of credibility. I was much like the little boy in the following story…

A child leaves Sunday school and is asked by his grandmother what he learned in class. He said, “The story of Moses leading the people out of Egypt.” When grandmother asked for details, the little boy continued. “Well, they got to the edge of the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s army hemmed them in. So Moses called in the Israeli Air Force to lay down some cover fire and the Navy to send boats for a rescue.” Surprised the grandmother asked, “Is that really what they taught you in class, son?” The little boy replied, “Well, that’s not exactly what they said, but if I tell you their version you would NEVER believe it!”

I was taught that God most certainly was a wonder working God – but only back in those days. It struck me as strange that God suddenly changed his operational methods after so many centuries, but I could swallow it because my larger culture denied any activity on the part of God – in the unlikely event that God even existed. It was a bizarre experience to hear people try to explain how God loved to create everything from nothing, to send powerful wonder working prophets, to display his incomparable power in the life of Jesus and his disciples, and then to claim that God suddenly stop doing anything that was detectable by our senses. It made me immediately question whether we should even pray. I was told that God still works “providentially” – whatever that means – to answer our prayers (but just to be safe do not expect too much).

With the next breath I was told that I should read and believe my Bible. And on every page I bumped into outrageous claims about what God had done, was doing and was planning on doing in the near future. I was encouraged by Jesus to have faith, because a person with faith as small as a mustard seed could effectively say to a mountain – “Go throw yourself into the sea” – and it would obey. I was told by Paul that God can do more that I “could ask or imagine.” And I felt a yearning in my heart to develop a “holy imagination” that simply allowed God to be God without trying to get all the answers lined up and codified.

In our fellowship that was a difficult place to sit, because we tried diligently to chart and graph everything – to domesticate God to a size that anyone could understand. The only problem with all those efforts was that God refused to be domesticated. God is a wild, unpredictable and powerful God. All attempts to domesticate God simply end in idolatry. Better to take Scripture at its word and join the journey with the God who calls but is always a mystery to those who answer that call.

A New Episode!  

Posted by Phil in , ,

It actually happened! Against all odds and general not getting things done, Adam and I recorded a new episode of the PostRestoration Podcast! And it's available here, http://postrestorationist.podomatic.com/entry/eg/2009-03-04T22_01_43-08_00, and hopefully through iTunes soon again, if it's not already.

In this episode, we discuss some of thoughts based on the Christian Chronicle article about Churches of Christ in Decline, found here http://www.christianchronicle.org/article2158685~Church_in_America_marked_by_decline.

We look forward to hearing your thoughts and interacting with you both here and/or on the Facebook page.

peace.

Phil

Old High School Pictures, Puberty, and a "Post Restorationist" Perspective  

Posted by Dan Jones

I will never forget when my wife, Meghan, found an old high picture of mine at my parents house. It was slightly embarrassing at the least. I am sure that there are many that can resonate with having to identify with a very awkward time captured in a nice little photo, for our loved ones to see.

How awkward could it have been? Let me just put it this way, I had spiked hair that had way too much gel, a nice layer of oily skin on my forehead, braces, and a goofy version of facial hair that is known as peach-fuzz. I think it was fair to say that I was a disaster at best. So as my wife gazed at this picture of me, then her eyes gazed at mine, I knew exactly what she was thinking. She was probably attempting to understand how that could have been me!

I tried explaining to her that my eyes haven't changed that much, my hair is still brown. I also explained to her that I haven't gained too much weight, and if you look closely you can still see what you see in me today. I don't think she bought it. As of a matter of fact, she explained jokingly (at least I hope) that if she would have known me in high school, things between us would be much more different.

This awkward phase is an amazing time of transition. Puberty, as the text books call it, is a sign of emerging adulthood. And how cool is it to experience the ups and downs, the joy and frustrations of so much change. I will never forget when my voice could not decide to stay deep or not. It was an experience to see my spotted peach-colored facial hair come in. It was also absolutely frustrating to tame the oily skin, to harness desires. The excitement of it all came with mixed emotions and a lot of self examination.

I would like to think that I have emerged out of puberty as more of a whole person. I sometimes look back and cringe at my old pictures, while still having fond memories. The ultimate satisfaction of the puberty process, isn't so much the process, as it is what I've become because of it.

I am very proud of my Restoration heritage. It brings me such joy to see the spirit of this movement, where it all started, and where it is going. With my whole life, rooted in this movement, I am very much aware of the areas that absolutely frustrate me in many ways. With that said, there is much I am excited about as well.

I am tempted to say that the Restoration movement is in some sort of puberty stage. There is a natural tension and joy within our movement because of the transitions, not only within our culture, but within our churches as well. I feel very blessed to be living in such a time of self-examination and progress. With this, there will be pains and frustrations. But even more then this, it is a time of great hope within our movement.

I am still coming to grips with the "post..." terminology and theology that is floating out there. To be honest, I don't know if I ever will understand the complexity of these conversations. I, myself, still believe I am in this "puberty" stage in Jesus. There is still a lot to be learned. With that admission, I would be happy to share my limited knowledge and thoughts on these conversations.

I want to thank Adam Ellis for introducing me to a whole new world within our heritage. He is a powerful witness to the hope of an emergence of a "Post Restorationist" perspective. I would also like to thank him for the opportunity to share within this context.

Let me end with this.

As we dust the old restoration photographs and peer into the eyes of the the church today, let us find hope in our high school snap shots. It is powerful what can be done through awkward times of transition. But just maybe, God will allow us to see a glimpse of what it means to enter in adulthood. If we look closely, I am confident we will begin to see glimpses within this forum as we share and discuss together on what exactly does it mean to be apart of a Post-Restorationist perspective.

-Dan Jones

It's a condition more than a position  

Posted by thepriesthood

When I first heard the term "Post-Restorationist," I had already been primed by the likes of Brian McLaren, and other articulate authors, to resonate with such a label. Thanks to Adam Ellis, the word has given many of us a sort of leverage point from outside the box that allows us critically examine the stuff of Restorationism that has shaped us, and to somehow jettison the bad, but appreciate and indeed carry forward all the good we find therein. And to re-appropriate the words of Peter Rollins in describing the "emerging church," to be Post-Restorationist is more of a condition than it is a position. It goes without saying that there is no "Post-Restorationist statement of faith," but we do find ourselves having learned so many of the same lessons from our past, having so many of the same conversations today, and excitedly dreaming new dreams of a hopeful future for the church in her many contexts.

I leaned heavily on Adam's term "Post-Restorationist" in a paper I wrote for Stone-Campbell Movement historian Dr. Doug Foster at ACU, which was entitled "Stone's Hinge: The Return to Primal Restorationist Impulses in Post-Restorationist Church Plants." In that paper, I attempted to define what I intended by the label "Post-Restorationist." I offer it here, hoping that this small piece will allow folks with the condition known as "Post-Restorationist" to better locate themselves.

Without argument, the Churches of Christ departed from Barton Stone’s way long ago and pursued the “hard style” of the “radicalizing” Campbell. Yet there is of late a sense of return—whether intentional or not—to propensities more aligned with Stone. This “Post-Restorationist” movement can be witnessed most clearly in recent church plants moving beyond the Churches of Christ heading. Before pursuing such interconnectedness, however, we will move toward a definition of “Post-Restorationist.”

Writer Brian McLaren, himself raised in a strand of Restorationism (Plymouth Brethren), contends, “Beneath these squabbles over distinctives, one nearly always finds an idealism among restorationists.” It is that idealism that McLaren believes should be preserved, while the “less helpful static” should be jettisoned. Post-Restorationists seem to be capturing this (dis)continuation of Restorationism. The Post-Restorationist, as blogger and doctoral student Chris “Fajita” Gonzalez puts it, has “moved from a theologically loyal position in relation to the Restoration Movement to a theologically critical and explorative position” which Gonzalez argues was modeled by Stone and Campbell within their own initial movements. Avid blogger, youth minister, and wordsmith Adam Ellis coined the descriptor “Post-Restorationist.” He defines it best by adapting Dallas Willard’s take on “Post-Evangelical”:

Post-Restorationism is by no means ex-restorationism. There are, of course, ex-restorationists, and even anti-restorationists, but Post-Restorationists are Restorationists, perhaps tenaciously so. However, Post-Restorationists have also been driven to the margins by some aspects of Restorationist church culture with which they cannot honestly identify.

Just as Barton Stone was in some sense driven to the margins in being eclipsed by Campbell and his followers, likewise Post-Restorationists find themselves on the fringe of their heritage. Paradoxically, it is my thesis that there is an identifiable return to primal Stoneite impulses in Post-Restorationist church plants, and such a departure from the label “Church of Christ” in these church plants may actually be a faithful recovery of the vision upon which Churches of Christ originally built their identity.
For the complete pdf file of "Stone's Hinge," click here.

Tyler Priest also blogs at http://thepriesthood.wordpress.com and looks forward to connecting with more Post-Restorationists.

Launching A New Blog  

Posted by Adam in , , , , ,

Welcome to Post-Restorationist Perspectives! Several years ago, my friend Phil and I launched a podcast called Post-Restorationist Radio, and were surprised at how many people seemed to resonate with such a perspective. We did the podcast for a while, but then took a 2 year hiatus due to the general craziness of life. (In the meantime, we also launched a facebook group). We are in the process of relaunching it as "The Post-Restoration Podcast", and have already recorded the first episode. This blog is an attempt to provide people who find resonance with this conversation an outlet. I'll be posting here frequently, but I'm also inviting several of my friends to be contributing authors as well. If you would like to be a contributing author, please email me with the text of your first post, and I'll add you.

To my knowledge, I coined the term "Post-Restorationist" a few years ago in a blog post. By way of explanation, I am re-posting it below." Welcome to the conversation.
AE
Thursday, October 07, 2004

The Post-Restorationist

My religious tradition (the churches of Christ) is a part of what has historically been known as the American Restoration Movement. It was a movement dedicated to both unity and "the restoration of 1st century Christianity." Interestingly enough, the term "Restoration Movement" was not used by either Campbell or Stone (founders/leaders of the movement) and was applied in retrospect to describe it by others. Campbell prefered to think of it as a new or continuing reformation. Campbell, however was a thoroughly modern fellow, and truly believed that if everyone would simply put aside their preconceived ideas and approach the Bible objectivly, they would all reach the same conclusions on key issues. There is much that I admire in both Campbell and Stone, but I believe that human beings simply do not have the ability to approch things with complete objectivity, nor were the scriptures written that way.

I recently have been thumbing through a book called "The Post-Evangelical" by Dave Tomlinson. In the introduction, Dallas Willard says "To correctly appreciate this, you have to start with the realization that what Tomlinson calls post-evangelicalism is by no means ex-evangelacalism. There are, of course ex-evangelicals, and even anti-evangelicals, but post-evangelicals are evangelicals, perhaps tenaciously so. However, post-evangelicals have also been driven to the margins by some aspects of evangelical church culture with which they cannot honestly identify."

There has always existed some confusion over whether or not churches of Christ are evangelical or not. The best answer seems to be "sort of." However, this comment resonated with me as I read it. I realized that it kind of sums up my feelings about the restoration movement and restoration thought. It's like I told a friend of mine a while back when he asked me "What are you still doing here (in the churches of Christ)?" I believe in the movement. I believe in the spirit of continuing reformation that Campbell and Stone bought into as opposed to crystalizing their beliefs (or the agreed upon beliefs of the majority of the churches) at any given point. I disagree with the modern/Enlightenment based assumptions of the "Restoration Movement" such as unity based on total agreement of the meaning of the scriptures in matters of (arbitrarily chosen) core doctrines. I also would say that instead of the forms of the 1st century church, it is their spirit and ability to redeem and subvert the culture they existied in for the kingdom of God that needs restoration. Forms are almost always relative to context. So, here I stand as a Post-Restorationist in an awkward loving relationship with the movement that has nurtured my faith since I was born, desperatly wanting it to live up to its potential, unwilling to settle for the mediocrity, compromise, and lethargy that its founders and indeed Jesus himself would not have settled for, and unwilling to leave it to an anemic and pathetic fate.