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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Let's imagine a creative future with God and each other together. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Convergence Christianity, missional church style Part 1 of 4

Perhaps you've heard of "convergence Christianity?" If not, head over to this blog to get a sense of what it is from Eric Elnes, who coined the idea, and is working to see how Christianity is converging these days.

Convergence Christianity, as Dr. Elnes describes it, comes about as people have discovered a way of being Christian that leaves the baggage of a tradition behind while carrying with it the resources needed to sustain the journey. In his work he has seen mainline Protestants who journey with God who take with them a concern for systemic justice, a deep passion for liturgy, and an appreciation of diversity while leaving behind a scorn for deep study of the Bible or ignorance of spiritual and faith-building practices. I know of what he means. I remember once being part of a staff, and asking that my title be "Pastor of Christian Formation," and my supervisor said he didn't think anyone would know what that meant. As it turned, he was right...

On the other hand, Dr. Elnes points out that those who come from a more evangelical, perhaps even fundementalist, background are also out in the wilderness on the journey. Unlike their mainline counterparts, these folks pack resources of deep personal engagement with Scripture, feverent faith practices, and ardent concern for clarity while leaving behind a scorn for the environment, or a negative judgement against those whose creation differs from them. I remember a friend of mine who once said that the hardest part about having me as their pastor was not that I didn't understand Jesus, but that he didn't understand how I could do it without believing he walked on water...(what can I say? It's a gift. Hand of God.)

I have to say, as I hear and see Christians across this country continue to worship, pray, study, and serve, Dr. Elnes does have a point. People do seem to be converging. People of various backgrounds, people of diverse experiences, people of different polities and governances, do seem to be agreeing on a lot. There is great social work being done, homelessness is being worked on, the environment is being stewarded. There is great convergence. From my perspective, especially as one who works in the missional church, there are some great convergences of our own to highlight, and how the missional church may well merge into the stream that is this Great Convergence Dr. Elnes talks about.

Before we head into this discussion in the wilderness, it might be helpful to see what we take along, what we leave behind, in our missional church way of being. In other words, what is missional-church faith? (For a full treatment of this idea see my essay "The Missional Congregation in Context" in the book The Missional Church in Context, ed. Craig Van Gelder {Eerdmans, 2007}). The three major thrusts of the missional church, in my way of being, are:
                                                        1. A deep appreciation of the world in which we live
                                                        2. A deep trust in the power of forgiveness
                                                        3. A deep engagement with those not like us
If these three ways of being are active and present in your life and in your congregation or place of ministry, you have a great shot at being missional. You could add more to the list if you'd like, but I'm a minimalist, and on this journey I want to travel light.

The number three is not happenstance, as I believe these three ways of being and living coincide with God's  ways of living and being in relation to the world. Just as the Triune God appreciates, trusts, and engages humanity and the cosmos, so we as humans in that "image of God," also appreciate, trust, and engage what God has given us. How do you appreciate, trust, and engage in your neck of the woods? How does your relationship with God coincide with how you live in the world God has given you?

May your tables be full, and your conversations be true.

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