At YWAM – Day 2

Today started out really difficult, and ended up really sweet.  I really had a hard time dragging myself to prayer, and to be honest I didn’t feel like I got that much out of it.  I went back afterward to take a nap (which was great).

This afternoon I got to tour the base, meet a lot of awesome people, and see many of the amazing ministries that are packed into this little city.  I can’t believe how many world-changing ministries are right here almost within walking distance.  Part of teen challenge is here, one of the biggest YWAM bases, Mercy Ships, Teen Mania, Keith Green’s ministry was here, and probably some others I am forgetting.  YWAM’s facility here is huuuge.

Then I got to meet with Chad, Jeff, Jack, and Andy Adam who are a part of the SSL SST program.  For any Grace Revolution people who read this, you will get to know the SSL SST program very, very well.  It was an amazing plan of God to meet with these guys.  I hope he has a lot in store for this.  It is my great prayer that He does.

Just now my fire alarm started going off.  I have no idea why.  It wasn’t any other rooms, just mine.  I had just gotten out of the shower, and it must’ve been the heat.  Scotty ended up coming over here, and he happened to be one of the bigwigs in YWAM over church planting.  He is in charge of the church planting in a whole slew of South Asian countries.  We had a chance to talk and pray.  His good friend was there and he is a member of the Tyler Vineyard.

Here is some video from the day.

My apologies to Adam and SST for getting the names wrong.  I was pretty tired when I wrote that.

Contextualizing the Gospel -Part 2

Neither of these church responses is appropriate, of course.   When a missionary takes the message of Jesus into a completely unreached people group, he must find a way to connect that message to their cultural and world viewpoint.  This is no easy task for the missionary.  Much of the way the life of Christian faith is lived out in a particular culture is not actually essential or biblically derived.

Many churches would make speaking in tongues an essential part of the Christian life, for instance.  While the Bible clearly talks about speaking in tongues, and Pauline letters mention it as a great gift of the Spirit, but no where does the Bible mention it as an essential.  Despite this fact, there are many Christian groups who would take my last statement as a fighting challenge.

It is easy to pick speaking in tongues as an example, but there are myriad ways that we Americanize our faith, and communicating that faith involves a stripping down of the gospel to its essentials.  If we truly believe that this is the word and will of God, then our cultural baggage is nothing but Astroturf lining the best of fairways.  The message of Jesus doesn’t need our cultural additions.

We cannot help adding these additions, though.  When any culture accepts the Christian faith, it makes it its own.  Korean Christians have a practice of prayer whereby all the members of the church pray out loud simultaneously.  It creates quite a holy ruckus.  It is good.  It is holy.  It also sounds weird to our western ears.  It is a Korean expression of Christian faith.  But Koreans can not hope to force Americans to accept their prayer style as necessary to being Christian.

This seems obvious, yet the Church in America sits as the American culture has been radically redefined over the last 40 years, hoping to contextualize American culture to our faith, instead of doing what any missionary would do and contextualize faith.  I think that part of the reason has to do with a general assumption that America is a Christian country.  Many people seem to subconsciously equate Americanism and Christianity.  The klaxon call is to not let the sinners take over our culture, and fight a cultural war to prevent this.  Of course, it is important to encourage our government to support healthy morality, but this is not a battle that the American Church should make our front line.

Instead, we should be seeking to contextualize our faith into the changing landscape of cultural America.  We should be finding out where people meet, what people want and need, the cultural touchpoints they have.  Once we do that, we can use these areas as introduction points, our cultural carriers of the message of Jesus.  This will be difficult for the Church to do, but it is absolutely necessary. -Ryan

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Contextualizing the Gospel -Part 2

Neither of these church responses is appropriate, of course.   When a missionary takes the message of Jesus into a completely unreached people group, he must find a way to connect that message to their cultural and world viewpoint.  This is no easy task for the missionary.  Much of the way the life of Christian faith is lived out in a particular culture is not actually essential or biblically derived.

Many churches would make speaking in tongues an essential part of the Christian life, for instance.  While the Bible clearly talks about speaking in tongues, and Pauline letters mention it as a great gift of the Spirit, but no where does the Bible mention it as an essential.  Despite this fact, there are many Christian groups who would take my last statement as a fighting challenge.

It is easy to pick speaking in tongues as an example, but there are myriad ways that we Americanize our faith, and communicating that faith involves a stripping down of the gospel to its essentials.  If we truly believe that this is the word and will of God, then our cultural baggage is nothing but Astroturf lining the best of fairways.  The message of Jesus doesn’t need our cultural additions.

We cannot help adding these additions, though.  When any culture accepts the Christian faith, it makes it its own.  Korean Christians have a practice of prayer whereby all the members of the church pray out loud simultaneously.  It creates quite a holy ruckus.  It is good.  It is holy.  It also sounds weird to our western ears.  It is a Korean expression of Christian faith.  But Koreans can not hope to force Americans to accept their prayer style as necessary to being Christian.

This seems obvious, yet the Church in America sits as the American culture has been radically redefined over the last 40 years, hoping to contextualize American culture to our faith, instead of doing what any missionary would do and contextualize faith.  I think that part of the reason has to do with a general assumption that America is a Christian country.  Many people seem to subconsciously equate Americanism and Christianity.  The klaxon call is to not let the sinners take over our culture, and fight a cultural war to prevent this.  Of course, it is important to encourage our government to support healthy morality, but this is not a battle that the American Church should make our front line.

Instead, we should be seeking to contextualize our faith into the changing landscape of cultural America.  We should be finding out where people meet, what people want and need, the cultural touchpoints they have.  Once we do that, we can use these areas as introduction points, our cultural carriers of the message of Jesus.  This will be difficult for the Church to do, but it is absolutely necessary. -Ryan

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Contextualizing the Gospel -Part 1

One of my most-discussed topics on this blog has been the life of faith in a post-Christian America.  The most read section of this blog is the Church Tech section, about the use of communications technology within the church.  These two topics are not disconnected, though.  Any new culture necessitates new ways of communicating the message of Jesus.  Radical societal changes create a new culture.  Thus, the Christian message must be re-contextualized.  In order to understand the methods of communicating that, we must first truly understand the basic reasons behind this.

The difficulty is that the Church in America has largely missed addressing the massive changes in culture over the last 40+ years.  In some ways, the Church has insulated herself against these changes.  While the community is seen as increasingly ungodly, many Christians have banded together into Christian ghettos.  Over time the Christian culture has changed independently of the culture around it.

A great example of this has been seen in worship.  In the 1970’s the Church in America started to adopt the musical styles of the larger American culture.  In a relatively short amount of time the Church changed its worship style from the hymns of the last thousand plus years to the more modern praise songs.

A natural result of a more exuberant worship style was increased movement in worship and raising of hands.  Churches needed a way for its members to see the words of these new songs.  Songs were being frequently added to the musical canon, and older ones were being removed.  This was not conducive to printed hymnals.

As technology increased and prices dropped accordingly, churches began to display these words with overhead/slide projectors and more recently, video projectors.  So, visiting the average church in America on a Sunday morning, one will find a group of people clapping along to the music as they sway and sing at a digital projection of words and video.

This isn’t greatly different from a rock concert, but people staring at projectors with one hand raised as they awkwardly shuffle their feet is its own beast for sure.  While this has evolved in Church, the larger outside culture has grown into a greater variety of musical expressions depending on genre.  A rap concert might have a crowd packed tightly with people jumping and arms swaying, while hardcore and punk fans are moshing in the pit up front.  Although it has been modernized, Church music still looks and sounds very different than its secular counterparts, but for new reasons.  While the culture evolved, church culture has evolved too, but separately.

A second response to the changing culture has been for the Church to cling to the methods of the past, refusing any changes at all.  Many of these churches look to the glory days of the 1950’s when the sanctuary was packed.  Either because of political forces within the church resisting, or as part of a poor growth strategy (similar to keeping your Member’s-only jackets in hopes it’ll come back in style), these churches have tried to keep everything museum-quality.

In these churches one can find the only places in America with pews and pipe-organs.  Deep Maroon carpets and green pew hymnals sit locked eternally in 1962.  The pride of these churches is their history and they give even vocal approval of the fact that they haven’t evolved, as if the gospel itself is encapsulated by the accumulation of dust.   -Ryan

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Pictures of Galveston after Ike

These pictures were taken in May of 2009, during the Vineyard National Conference, about 8 months after Ike. A lot of these pictures were taken through my car windows as I drove. The quality isn’t great, but it shows just some of the devastation.