This is my personal blog. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the congregations I serve.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wild Goose 10. Bolz-Weber, Rollins & Anderson.


Nadia Bolz-Weber.

            Bolz-Weber appeared at the Coffee Barn venue, where presenters were asked to tell their own personal stories.  And hers was fascinating.  Bolz-Weber is tattooed, funny, articulate, and impassioned about both the faith and church-planting, in particular her own community. 
            She said that we’re all simultaneously sinner and saint (she’s a Lutheran).  God is always coming to us.  No one climbs up to God by their own efforts.  The Bible is important because it bears Christ into the world.  Christ is at the center, and there are concentric circles radiating outward.
            Liturgy is a gift: we receive it and pass it on.  She is perhaps surprisingly enamored of traditional liturgical forms, as we saw in her Bluegrass Liturgy earlier in the festival.
            She finds it an apt description of the Christian journey that we are “commuting from who we are to who the church is.”  Her own story reminded her of Mordecai’s words to Esther: “But you were born for such a day as this.” 
            To start a church you have to realize that you won’t get anything out of it for a while.  Her own situation is that the denomination pays half her salary.  In return the denomination gets to benefit from the creativity and inspiration of the church.  The church benefits from “church tourism” and visits from seminarians.
            She says she only experienced love and support from “the mother ship” of her Lutheran denomination.  (Imagine that!)  If denominations are interested in starting new churches they need to give them an education and money and then trust them.
            Boz-Weber doesn’t know if it possible for a traditional church to be evolved.  But the key would be to read your context!  The culture is changing so rapidly that it will not be the same in 5 years.  “’Jesus bids you come and die’ (Bonhoeffer) will never be big in the marketplace,” hence faithful and committed churches will always be small.
            The mindset has to be anti-excellent and pro-participation.  They started with 3 or 4 people who did everything.  The ethos is zero-obligation and high commitment.  People become committed when they realize they are trusted with things.  Finally, you need to take prayer seriously.

Peter Rollins and Vince Anderson.

            Anderson sat behind a piano; he reminded me of a bearded, Christian Tom Waits.  He sang a song, “Living on the Halleluia Side.”  Rollins spoke between musical offerings. 
            There is a devil in our churches that we say does not exist: pride, self-righteousness, judgment.  How many of us participate in a system that denies doubt and professes certitude?  What material and liturgical practices do we use?  We’re all playing a game even though we know it isn’t true.  The people get a little security and assurance.  But what if we took the security blanket away – church, liturgy, theology?  We materially enact certainty to avoid the reality of doubt.  The role of the minister is to believe on your behalf.  Same with most church music.  Vicariousness is pervasive, as is transference.
            Liturgical space and acts need to reflect our suffering.  Express the darkness, or it will come out in destructive ways.  Anxiety is already there: what we need is the bravery to acknowledge it.  How do you express your own brokenness so it speaks to the brokenness of others?  Often we want someone to solve our suffering – but what we need is a community of suffering: where that brokenness is expressed liturgically.
            Rollins and Anderson have a plan.  They are going to hire a bus and go through the Bible Belt, asking people to bring their doubt to the surface.  Rollins calls it “pyro-theology.”  Doubt is really a sign of courage.  We need to experience the unknowing.  For an alter call he suggests a declaration of doubt.  The church should be the place to go to experience unknowing.


2 comments:

Stephen Geiger said...

’Jesus bids you come and die’ (Bonhoeffer) will never be big in the marketplace,” hence faithful and committed churches will always be small.

Does this idea make sense?

"So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls." (Acts)


But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand."

I don't know too many people who would call three thousand or five thousand people a small church?

Stephen Geiger said...

>> The culture is changing so rapidly that it will not be the same in 5 years. “’Jesus bids you come and die’ (Bonhoeffer) will never be big in the marketplace,” hence faithful and committed churches will always be small. <<

Does this idea match the church's experience? ... in Acts we see:

"So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls."

"But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand."

The original thought seems to suggest all large churches are unfaithful or uncommitted. I suppose that could be true in some cases, but as a generalization I have trouble wrapping my head around how one comes to such a conclusion?