The Functional Church Blog

koinonia * kerygma * diakonia * marturia

“Kenosis” is a theologically charged word that is loaded with hidden meaning … for me.

Posted by functionalchurch on 2011/02/11

Kenosis is a theologically charged word that is loaded with hidden meaning. It appears in Philippians 2 and is used to describe the way in which Jesus humbled himself. It says he “emptied himself ….” Of course the question is always put from the perspective of Jesus: of what did he empty himself? I don’t know how many discussions that I have had related to understand this concept of “emptying.”

Today I had an insight. The context of the passage is not focused on defining for us exactly what it was that Christ emptied himself of. The context is actually a question: Of what will you empty yourself?

What is your understanding of kenosis? What needs emptying in your life?

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Posted in christian life, discipleship, jesus | Leave a Comment »

Sometimes I Wish I Had A Magic Wand

Posted by functionalchurch on 2011/02/03

In the popular series of movies Harry Potter, I observed an interesting phenomenon. Every time a character wants to perform some mundane task, such as packing their clothes, closing curtains, etc., all they do is wave their magic wand and the task is instantly done. To be honest, this seems a little bit cool. I mean who wouldn’t want to be able to finish those tasks in such an easy and painless way? I would probably use it for washing dishes and washing the car.

But then I got to thinking about my own relationship with God. Why doesn’t he give me that power? Why can’t I, who have been a part of his family for my whole life, just wave a wand (or perhaps just say a prayer) and have whatever it is instantly done? Of course, some of us have experienced God’s power in this way but this experience is by no means universal.

There must be something in those little tasks that God still wants me to experience. There must be something about washing the dishes, sweeping the floor, packing my clothes, or washing my car that somehow helps me in my relationship with God.

It reminds me of a line in the Star Trek movie Insurrection where one of the characters says something like, “We believe that when you make a machine to do a man’s job, you take something away from that man.”

What do I take away from myself when I try to find the easy way out?

What times do you wish for a magic wand? How can doing that thing yourself help you relate to God in a richer way?

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Can a Church be Functional without a Building?

Posted by functionalchurch on 2011/01/08

It shouldn’t surprise you that I have a Google Alert set up for the term ‘Functional Church.’ I just like to see how the term is used in general on the web & try to gain some insights on how to improve on the concept.

All sorts of results come in. Some of them are expected and relate to the ministry & mission of the church. Others are less expected such as the job offers from Falls Church, VA that include the word ‘functional’ somewhere in the text. The most telling, however, was the one that referred to the smallest ”functional church’ in the world (which I have also written about here) somewhere in the American Midwest that has room for the preacher & 2 guests. For them functionality is defined by the usability of the structure for a typical Sunday-morning service.

It got me to thinking: Is it possible to be a functional church without a building to meet in or is the meeting place an essential part of a functional church?

I have been involved in all kinds of churches. The first church I pastored had no facility of our own. Rather we rented from a local school. We always perceived that something was missing because of that. We tried to develop programs to bring people into that facility each Sunday. The church I’m presently involved with is 2000m2 sitting on prime real estate on one of the most strategic corners in one of the largest cities in the world. We are presently trying to develop cell groups to bring the church into the community. It seems like we always want what we don’t have. Go figure.

My friend David Drake expressed this tension in his struggles on how to balance the two. I can’t find the exact quote now but in essence he said that while he loved small groups he found that people were more interested in the Sunday event. This he attributed to the fact that we are all anticipating the time when every nation under heaven will worship God together in heaven. What he is saying is that we naturally crave the corporate meeting & that’s a good thing.

So how do I wrap this all up. Part of me wants to say that the meeting place is secondary and that as long as we do ministry/mission right we are ok. But then Dave’s idea creeps in & says, ‘But we naturally crave the corporate thing. Go for it!’ Seems to me he has a point.

So now we come to you. What do you think? Please leave a comment below.

Posted in church, church impact, David Drake, ecclesiology, leadership | 1 Comment »

Cultural Dependency & Systematic Theology: At Odds in the Search for Emancipation?

Posted by functionalchurch on 2010/11/14

A lot of my work involves finding solutions for economic problems. Quite often I am that solution (at least on a short-term basis). But we haven’t found a long-term solution yet. We do teach on Capacity Building at SEATS but some things I have been reading lately have made me wonder if we are on the wrong track. Recently I have been thinking about the following questions and ideas:

If cultural & economic dependency are linked (as per Ali Mazrui), what does that say for teaching systematic theology cross-culturally? Since theology defines church culture, must it then be developed by those within the culture so as to not contribute to cultural dependency? Is it just adding to the problem? Is developing Asian Theology then the key to eliminating economic dependency in Asian churches?

These questions came as a result of reading my Dad’s Master of Education thesis from 1990. Kind of makes me wish I had read it earlier. Referencing Mazrui, Dad makes the statement “that cultural autonomy can be achieved through a strategy of domestication, diversification, and counter-penetration.”

Examples of this strategy (with comments) as applied to my cultural setting might include:

1. Use local language. SEATS training is conducted in a blending of English and Tagalog so perhaps we are going in the right direction here.

2. Connect to other Asian churches/cultures. SEATS itself is cross0-cultural but we haven’t been able to really link up Filipinos with other Asian church groups at this level. This will allow Asians to have more voices in the conversation than simply westerners.

3. Diffuse Filipino values into the mission. This, as pointed out in the thesis, is already on the way to being accomplished since there are a large number of Filipinos in Canada and Filipino churches working with the BGC Canada. Early in our career we even had a Filipino director of Global Ministries. His influence was definitely felt in our movement, even though he later moved on to other things. SEATS itself has a completely Filipino board. One idea would be to allow other Asian board members to help fill out the conversation and bring balance.

In your opinion, what is the best answer to this problem?

Posted in capacity building, christian life, cross-cultural, leadership training, missional, missions, pastoral training, philippines, theology, transformation | Leave a Comment »

Questions Regarding Milk vs Meat

Posted by functionalchurch on 2010/09/24

Sometimes the Bible talks about spirituality in terms of food. The idea is this: new Christians, like babies, need milk. Eventually, however, as they mature, they need meat. Take, for example, the following verses:

  • I Corinthians 3:2: I gave you milk to drink. I didn’t give you solid food because you weren’t ready for it. Even now you aren’t ready for it
  • Hebrews 5:12-14 By now you should be teachers. Instead, you still need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word. You need milk, not solid food. All those who live on milk lack the experience to talk about what is right. They are still babies. However, solid food is for mature people, whose minds are trained by practice to know the difference between good and evil.
  • I Peter 2:2: Desire God’s pure word as newborn babies desire milk. Then you will grow in your salvation.

Here is my question: When do we start feeding ourselves?

When a baby grows old enough to start eating meat, they put it into their mouths themselves. Is it the same with disciples? Do we eventually start feeding ourselves?

A few more questions: Is is proper to say “I’m not being fed by Sunday-morning sermons”? Is that what sermons are for? Erwin McManus made the statement: “My job isn’t to feed the Christians, so they can feed the sheep. My job is to make them hungry so they can feed themselves.” Does McManus accurately reflect the truths of milk vs meat?

So what if I am not being fed? Does that mean I need to feed myself — that I have graduated to the next level of maturity where I find my own food and feed others?

Does anyone have any answers for me?

Posted in christian life, christianity, church, church impact, discipleship, Erwin McManus, personal impact | Leave a Comment »

Truthtelling: The Ethics of Negotiation

Posted by functionalchurch on 2010/08/26

“Is it ethical for a police hostage negotiator to promise to the hostage taker whatever his demands are, even if there is no intent to meet those demands?” I was shocked to hear this question from a Senator investigating the Manila Hostage Crisis. “What if,” the senator went on, “the hostage taker appears to have some mental issues and we need to save the hostages. Shouldn’t we just lie to him so that he lets the hostages go? Then we can arrest him and say, ‘Sorry, we did it for your own good’” (paraphrased).

It reminds me of a story I heard about comparative religion during my University days in Saskatoon. Two boys are in a house playing. The father, who is outside, sees that the house is on fire. He yells to his boys to get out of the house so they will be saved. One boy runs out immediately. The other, however, is enjoying playing so much that he ignores his father’s call. Finally, in desperation, the Father, appealing to his son’s love for fun calls out, “Come outside! There is a parade passing by!” Of course the boy runs out and is saved from the fire. What disturbs me about the story is the lie.

A lie is the opposite of trust. Why did the boy trust the father enough to come out when he said there was a parade? Because of trust. I can assure you, however, that once the boy realized his father had lied to him, a little bit of that trust was gone. Next time, the father wouldn’t be so lucky.

It goes the same for hostage negotiations. In reality, you are not just negotiating for the current crisis, you are also building trust for the next crises that come along. Otherwise, why will any subsequent hostage-taker even bother talking to negotiators?

Posted in conflict resolution, leadership, marturia, philippines, transformation, truth-telling | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

The Media’s Role in the Manila Hostage Crisis – Updated 25 Feb 2011

Posted by functionalchurch on 2010/08/26

For many years in the Philippines there was no freedom of the press. In fact, even nowadays, there are a disproportionate number of killings of media-related people here. Needless to say, this has created a culture, especially among the media themselves, of protecting at all costs the freedom of the press. These freedoms are now being called into question.

If you have been anywhere near media lately you will be aware of a recent tragic event in the Philippines. A few days ago, a former police officer took a bus full of Chinese, Canadian, and British tourists hostage. The story does not have a happy ending: 10 people are now dead, including the hostage taker. Not only did the hostage taker lose his life but another 9 hostages lost their lives as well. (I won’t get into the fact that trying to prove your innocence in one criminal activity by engaging in another criminal activity just doesn’t work.)

One group that has been blamed is the police. And of course, watching the events unfold it is hard to see how they were really unable to deal adequately with the situation. Of course, my comments are of the typical armchair variety (meaning that it is far easier for an inexperienced, not practitioner like me to “know” how it could have been done better even if my knowledge has no basis in fact!) At the present time the police have taken responsibility for their share of the debacle and are taking steps to ensure they learn from their mistakes for next time. But this post is not about the police.

Another group that has been blamed for the tragedy is the media. The media was very eager to show the events as they unfolded. In fact, I didn’t know what was happening until I began to review my twitter and facebook feeds. I was able to read the play-by-play of the events. Finally I turned on the TV to see what was really going on (albeit after the fact) and was able to take my pick of any channel showing live footage of the event. In addition to that, members of the media were in direct cellphone contact with the hostage taker at different stages of the crisis.

The problem is this. There was a TV on the bus. Yes, it is true. The hostage taker was completely and totally aware of every move the police were making towards him! If he needed another angle, just change the channel and see what is happening there. It’s like he had his own personal security system watching from every angle, keeping him safe. Conceivably, the SWAT team’s assault would have gone better if the hostage taker was not so well informed about their actions.

When asked, President Aquino said that he didn’t order a news blackout for two reasons: 1. The people would complain that the government was trying to hide something. He promised transparency in all issues and this is one of the results. 2. The law prohibits him from declaring a news blackout.

So what do we do? An incredibly newsworthy event is unfolding in front of us. The media is tasked with giving us the news. We all watched the events unfold on TV, Facebook, and Twitter. The police need to do their job and save the hostages and hostage takers.

Living in a society is not an issue of rights. Does the press have the right to freedom? Yes. Do the hostages have the right to be saved? Of course. Does the hostage taker have the right to be heard? Yes. So rights are not the issue.

Living in society is an issue of responsibility. The media has a clear role in the building of any nation. This role sometimes means not availing of a right so that some other right can be used. For example, in a hostage situation, the media need to recognise that the hostages’ right to live supersedes the media’s right to immediately broadcast. The people of nation also need to recognise that the hostages’ right to live supersedes their right to be immediately informed.

The issue here is really the use of “Live” coverage and it this issue that needs to be addressed by the taskforce President Aquino has set up to discuss the parameters on the coverage of crisis situations. What are the options?

1. Allow the media to record all events as they unfold for playback later on. Periodic statements and updates could be broadcast on a timely basis, ensuring that the integrity of the negotiations is maintained.

2. Have a delay in the “Live” feed of several minutes or hours. This would allow on the scene events to unfold without the news getting out to the hostage taker.

3. Have one feed that all news outlets share, similar to what happens at the Olympic Games. That way camera angles and scenes broadcast could be live edited to prevent information from flowing too freely at times when they should be less free.

What are your thoughts on this issue? What suggestions would you have for the media in crisis situations?

UPDATE (25 Feb 2011):

The Hong Kong government is currently conducting its own inquiry into the event. Here is what was reported today by the bus driver:

In a statement read out during the inquest proceedings of the Hong Kong court, driver Antonio Lubang said the tour guide was shot when Mendoza became enraged after seeing on live television his brother’s arrest.

Earlier testimonies at the HK court inquest indicated Mendoza was initially friendly toward the hostages.

However, he became enraged when he saw on a television set inside the bus the arrest of his policeman brother.

What else can I say? The media cannot remain blameless in this tragedy.

Posted in leadership, marturia, philippines, transformation, truth-telling | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Pondering Matthew 5:42. Is Jesus serious?

Posted by functionalchurch on 2010/07/26

Pondering Matthew 5:42. Is Jesus serious about this? Do you have any thoughts?

I mean it’s not like I disagree with Jesus or anything but this verse tells me something that I not only don’t really want to do but even conventional wisdom tells me is wrong. Here is the verse according the the God’s Word translation:

“Give to everyone who asks you for something. Don’t turn anyone away who wants to borrow something from you.”

Here are a few thoughts:

1. If I did this I would have a lineup outside my door (literally).

2. What about the money I need for my own needs or even better for my family’s needs? Is Jesus telling me to give my money away when asked and then to ask others when I need money?

3. How inclusive is the list? Is it just money or does it apply to other things like my car, my house, my office, my tools, etc.? Is there a line that needs to be drawn or is it always “all in”?

4. What about the whole “give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day; teach him to fish and you’ll feed him for a lifetime” thing? Is that just a cute way of getting out of my responsibility?

I guess I can take the typical discipleship talk of denying myself and taking up my cross and following him daily but that is still pretty abstract. When it comes to my wallet, that is pretty real.

What has this verse meant for you? Do you even include it as part of your becoming more like Christ?

Posted in christian life, discipleship, jesus, truth-telling | 2 Comments »

Building the Kingdom: Essentials vs Non-Essentials (Part 2)

Posted by functionalchurch on 2010/07/24

A few months ago I wrote about the concept of Essentials vs Non-Essentials. At the end I expressed frustration about not having enough time in class for closure on the issues raised. Yesterday we had that closure in class.

The issues related to Essentials and Non-Essentials are quite often fought out in the issues on the periphery of our belief. That is, the battles waged in this area in our churches are primarily fought over non-essential practices as opposed to essential beliefs. The class did  an assignment  that called on them to list their core beliefs as disciples of Christ — that is the things that are absolutely essential to their life as Christians, the kinds of things that if they were not there would cause them to walk away from the group. I was mildly amused to see that the issues they considered to be core were almost exclusively theological in nature: Who is Jesus? What is the Church? Ordinances. etc. There was very little practice listed.

Which led us to the discussion of core beliefs and core practices. Of course, we all need to have core beliefs. But I just can’t survive on core beliefs. At some point those core beliefs need to come out — I need to show them in my actions.

For example, I remember watching a show called Venture on Canadian TV about 20 years ago. One episode hightlighted a new company that had developed a machine for turning garbage into potable water. The scene has stuck in my mind forever of the inventor of the machine holding a glass of water that had come from his machine. He proudly declared the water to be safe to drink. However, when asked by those present to prove his beliefs with action — in other words to drink the water — he refused saying, “I prefer wine.” Guess what? I have never heard of that machine again. Why? Because even though the inventor’s core belief was that the water was pure, his core practices did not include actually drinking the water himself!

Of course, I am not saying that everybody’s practices needs to be the same but that we find unity in the beliefs we share together. One issue that has come up in our faith community lately is how the practices that older Christians have relate to the practices that young Christians have. If we focus on the practices themselves, we will be divided. But if we focus on the core beliefs we can be unified and support a variety of legitimate core practices.

As a Theology teacher this truth strikes home for me. I must reexamine not my beliefs, but my practices so that my beliefs will be proved true in the things that I do.

How about you? Do your practices align with your beliefs?

Posted in christian life, christianity, church, church impact, conflict resolution, cross-cultural, ecclesiology, leadership, leadership training, transformation | Leave a Comment »

SEATS School of Ministry starts in a few

Posted by functionalchurch on 2010/07/11

SEATS School of Ministry starts in a few hours: We’ll be finishing up Essentials vs Non-Essentials http://ow.ly/29JAp

Posted in church impact, cross-cultural, ecclesiology, kingdom of god, leadership, leadership training, pastoral training | Leave a Comment »