Monday, February 13, 2006

Olympic Milennials

Did you notice that during the snowboarding competitions this week, most of the athletes were pulling iPod ear buds from their ears at the end of their run? It's a digital generation, and they are used to multiple inputs all at once. TV, computer, IM, mp3's... all going at once. Interesting.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Eliminating the Middle Man

You can pick up Garth Brooks' latest CD at Wal-Mart for a mere $11.88. But only at Wal-Mart. Why? Because Garth has done what so many in the digital era have done: they've cut out the middle man. Instead of Garth giving up a share of proceeds to a distributor and production company, he produces the album himself and works a distribution deal directly with Wal-Mart. Don't feel like going to Wal-Mart? Then just log in, download the album, and load it to your iPod.

Man! Isn't technology fun! Well, it's also scary.

You see, the church has functioned as a middleman for a long time now. Beginning with the rise of the institutional Catholic church in the 4th century, the church became the middle man between people and God. Want to know the Bible? Go see the priest. Want absolution from sin? Go to confession. Want to serve? The church will guide you. Want spiritual guidance? Listen to the preacher. Want fellowship? Attend the church picnic.

But our digitally wired children are likely to cut the middle man. Already, I'm a few clicks away from some of the best preaching in the world. Everything in my seminary professor's head is a few clicks away on the internet. Spiritual guidance? Just drop by Barnes and Nobles, watch Oprah, or attend yoga. Want to make a difference? Call the Salvation Army or Habitat for Humanity.

Community is our only hope. The internet, online sermons, and Oprah cannot substitute for face to face, loving relationships. Worship cd's cannot replace the incredible God-sense that arises out of worshipping together. And the church can serve as a vital link to the needs of the community.

We can no more afford to think we can survive as middle men. We have to become serious experts at creating deep and abiding community. Unfortunately, we're more aware of the problem than we are polished with solutions. It looks like the church has some reinventing to do.


Deconvert: to disavow a previous conversion experience so that a new way of thinking/believing/living can take shape.

Well, that's my attempt at a definition. I first heard the word at a Reggie McNeal conference this week, and it's a word that - the more I ponder it - creates in me an entire new way of thinking (I'm being deconverted, I guess).

Deconversion is what Paul experienced on the road to Damascus. Before Paul could be converted to Christianity, he had to be "deconverted" from Pharisaical Judaism. Before Jesus could plant a new life in him - a grace-filled life of free communion with Jesus - he had to be untethered from a religion of artificial morality and outward regulations. Once deconverted from the Pharisaical code of 600 plus steps to a perfect religious life, the way could then be open to enter freely into a liberating and dynamic dance with Jesus. His new life was so full of transforming joy that he could rejoice in his imprisonment, relish in claim to be the world's worst sinner, and accept a painful thorn as a sign of God's loving presence.

Deconversion is what we need. It's what the church needs. Christianity is often "churchianity." Christianity has become "religion" again. Attending services, serving committees, counting members, voting Republican, dressing correctly, acknowledging creeds... all of these things have been added to the faith. We've taking the fundamentals of Christ-following and added our own set of rules to ensure we are really pleasing God. As McNeal said, "We aren't like the Pharisees; we is'em."

Several times in history, when Judaism and Christianity became to outwardly religious with little heart, people have risen up to change the church's direction. What only a few revolutionaries could see ten years ago, many young leaders are seeing now. It's becoming clear that the church of tomorrow will make some major shifts. Future believers will simply live out the gospel with other believers, embracing accountability over a cup of coffee, sharing life together beyond small groups, and engaging in mission activity without filtering through the organized church. If this seems confusing, then the confusion merely show much "deconversion" we need. What we're describing is Acts 2 stuff! It's the early church being reborn!

I've been deconverting for a while now, working out [literally working to the outside] the "joy" of my salvation. And the great part is, I'm rediscovering just how thrilling the walk with Jesus can be.