So Day 1 of the NYWC if complete… here are some thoughts.
I spent the late afternoon in a seminar with Jim Burns that talked about conneting with parents. This is something that I know is important – all the research shows that parents are still the single most important factor in the faith development of a person. But what was helpful was that Jim gave us a concrete list of things and ways to try and be more family friendly. It wasn’t a six week teaching program, it was an attitude. From newsletter to attending social events, to involving parents, etc. I left there with a good list of things to try depending on my own circumstances.
This evening’s keynote speaker was Tony Campolo. I’ve heard Tony speak now three or four times (one at GA in 2001, once or twice at Grove City, and now here). There are too many good quotes to list them all but here’s the one that really stood out to me:
“I am as conservative as the Word of God and as Liberal as the Love of God.” I’ll leave it there.
Tony, in his own unique way, was able to take the role of prophet and doing it well. Well does not mean making everyone happy – I am sure there were many who were unhappy. I noticed a particularly dull clapping when he said the following:
“It’s always better to get your eschatology from Jesus than from Tim LaHaye”
I was clapping quite loudly – but otheres weren’t as impressed. Anyway, I thought Tony did a fabulous job. Part of the reason I was so excited about coming this year was the general session speakers as so far Kenda Dean and Tony Campolo have not dissapointed.
I think the biggest difference for me this year as comapred to last is that this year I am done looking for models. Last year I came to the NYWC in a real state of transition and disarray because my own sense of call was unsure. I was pretty sure I wanted to do youth ministry once I finished seminary but I wasn’t sure, and I wasn’t sure if this whole “emergent/emerging chuch” thing was something I could hang my hat on and get involved with or not. Now, a year later my sense of call to youth ministry is as strong as ever, and my belief that emergent/emerging/whatever you want to call it is a valuable conversation/movement within church today. It’s not the perfect fix, and I’m not sure I’d call it the next reformation, but there is good coming from it. Personally, it has changed how I do ministry in some important ways.
The other thing is that this year I am beyond myself. This was a tough process for me that begin at the end of my middler year of seminary and still continues – I do not need to listen to everyone and figure out if they’re right. I can sit, listen, and glean and take what I can. I’ve figured out that I can nuance every since person I ever listen to speak – but it’s a waste of my time. Don’t get me wrong – I still listen carefully to people and am still quite confident in my own theological views, but I’ve learned to put them second and to listen first. It’s not that theological differences don’t effect methodology, they absolutely do. But, you can learn from everyone – and I often learn more from those who I have sharp disagreements with. Last year I had a worse case of theological arrogance than I do this year (although compared to what I used to have, last year was a huge improvement). I’m not saying I’m Mr theological humility now – I probably wouldn’t be writing this paragraph if I was that humble.
The other difference this year is that I’m not a first-timer. The sheer mass of youth specialities, the options, the schedule, is daunting. There is so much you can do and so many people you can listen to that you get lost in the midst of it. This year there are great workshops I’m not going to – because I went to something like them last year or because I imagine I’d agree with what the speaker has to say. Today Dan Kimball did a seminar on “The Importance of Theology for Youth Ministry”. Sonds like my kind of session! Except that, I already know it’s important – so while I might find myself affirmed, I’m not like to learn a whole lot more. Tomorrow (or the day after) Tony Jones is doing “What is the Emerging Church and What Does it Mean for Me?” Again, I’m sure it’ll be a great seminar, but I’m not going to it. I would have never gone to “Partnering with Parents” last year – but I did this year and I am very glad I did.
I’ve also had a good time at the bookstore here. I went through two rounds of purchases today but am not promising I won’t have another trip or two. Probably the book I’m most looking forward to reading is Doug Pagitt’s “Preaching Re-Imagined”.
Okay, that’s enough for this post. Off to call my dear wife and then to bed.
So Ben Myers has posted a top 20 list of the books that have most influenced him… so I thought I’d come up with my list of top 20 most influential books. I am going to exclude the bible from the top 20, not because it hasn’t influenced me but rather because it’s in a whole different category
- Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics – IV/1-2 (These two books completely shattered my world during my first two years of seminary as they opened my eyes to a whole new way of thinking theologically)
- Tony Jones, Postmodern Youth Ministry (The best book on Youth Ministry as it doesn’t offer a model, but rather things to think about as one does ministry)
- Andrew Purves and Charles Partee, Encountering God (I’ve only read it once but given that I took a total of 10 classes in seminary from the authors their thoughts have shaped how I think)
- Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics III/4 (While not as influential as IV/1-2 this volume on ethics helped me understand how ethics can be intensely situational yet rooted in the command of God. It also reinforced my belief that in ministry its more important to teach people how to think, rather than what to think)
- Andrew Purves, Reconstructing Pastoral Theology (I took the man for six courses… need I say more?)
- John Franke and Stanley Grenz, Beyond Foundationalism (I read this book during my last year of seminary and I finally felt that I had found my place in the theological spectrum. This book also helped me understand how eschatology integrated into the day to day life of the church as the “orienting principle” for the church’s mission)
- John Franke, The Character of Theology (Similar to the book above, this prequel of sorts helped me get a grasp on how to think about the theological task in a postmodern world)
- Jurgen Moltmann, The Crucified God
- Jurgen Moltmann, The Trinity and the Kingdom
- Jurgen Moltmann, Theology of Hope (I didn’t discover Moltmann until late in my seminary career, but two of the professors who I learned the most from in seminary were shaped by him. While often at odds with Barth, I found him challenging and enjoyed the fact that he stretched me to think of categories in different ways)
- NT Wright, The New Testament and the People of God (I’m actually in the midst of reading this one, but while I was in seminary and dating Renee long distance I used to spend hours in my car driving back and forth. NT Wright has more free audio available online than anyone else I know so I used to listen to his lectures off of my iPod. Wright helped me get inside the bible the world of the bible and to better understand Jesus’ intensely political message without simply collapsing it into either left wing socialism or right wing moralism)
- Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace (I read this book at the end of my time in college and while now I probably wouldn’t get much out of it, I remember really be challenged and yet refreshed by the concept of the discipline of living in grace)
- Doug Fields, Purpose Driven Youth Ministry (I’ve read this book twice – first while I was just out of college and again while I was in seminary. While Doug and I aren’t on the same page on everything, it’s given me a helpful way to think about ministry
- Athanasius, Against the Arians (I haven’t read the whole thing, but read significant parts for classes and papers. Really shaped my understand of the atonement as Christ’s whole life, not just his death)
- Cornelius Plantinga, Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be (I only read a short except from this book, but it’s a phrase that I’ve found so apt at describing the world that it’s become a hallmark in nearly every sermon I preach or lesson I teach)
- T.F. Torrance, The Christian Doctrine of God (I feel bad putting Torrance down this low on the list because he should be higher, but alas. This book was my first serious attempt at working through the Doctrine of the Trinity)
- John Calvin, Institues of the Christian Religion (Ditto for Calvin, he shouldn’t be down this low. Once I left seminary I realized how much his understanding of the church and it’s sacraments had shaped my own)
- David Bosch, Transforming Mission (Read this book for Missiology and am still being challenged by it)
- Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society (This book should be required for every person planning to do ministry in at least the United States)
- Brian McLaren, Generous Orthodoxy (McLaren, like Wright, has shaped me more through his lectures that I’ve listened to than his writing, but I read this book in the midst of seminary and came to a greater understanding of how he thought
- Stanley Grez, A Primer on Postmodernism
- Alister McGrath, Scientific Theology
- Dan Kimball, Emerging Worship
- The Book of Confessions of the PC(USA) – Particularly The Barmen Declaration and The Confession of 1967
So there you have it. The numbering isn’t really right – Bosch and Newbigin would definitely be higher on the list. But, what this list proves is that I’m (1) A total dork (2) Shaped heavily by the Post-Conservative/Neo-Orthodox Reformed tradition
This week I’ve spent most of my free time devoted to reading Dan Kimball’s book, Emerging Worship. I first got to know Dan’s work last fall at the National Youth Worker’s Convention when I attended two of his seminars and was quite impressed. I especially liked the way Dan handled sticky issues that he raised in the “Emerging Questions: Questions Emerging Generations are Asking” or something along that line. He was honest, straightforward, but fair. I clearly remember him raising the issue about the role of women in worship leading:
Dan: Now how many of you are in churches that ordain women? (about a third of the hands – including mine – go up)
Dan: Now how many of you are in churches that don’t ordain women? (about two-thirds of the hands go up)
Dan: Okay, now one of you is wrong, but regardless within the parameters of your theological understanding of the role of women you need to find ways to have both men and women involved in the leadership of worship at your worship gatherings.
I was impressed. Anyway, part of my job at Hampton is to work with turningpoint, which is our “modern” worship service. It, in both style and content, is different from our contemporary and traditional services and is a service intended to reach out to those who are unchurched or have stopped attending church.
As I read Dan’s work I realize that he is coming at “emerging worship” from a very different perspective than I am. He is “emerging” from a traditional evangelical setting where the form of worship where as I am “emerging” from a more traditional reformed style of worship. While there are some commonalities between these two styles, there are also some major differences. Here are some of the common themes I see
1) Both traditional evangelical and traditional reformed emphasize one-way communication: In both traditional settings it is largely the worship leaders speaking to the people.
2) Both traditional evangelical and tradtional reformed emphasize the people worshipping in unison, albeit in different forms. Traditional evangelical tended to do this through unison singing while traditional reformed uses hymns and liturgical elements (call to worship, unison prayers, etc.)
3) Both traditional evangelical and traditional reformed emphasize up and down motion. In both settings you pretty much were either sitting down or standing up, and that’s it. On occasion, you might come forward to respond to an altar call (traditional evangelical) or taking communion by intinction (traditional reformed)
4) Both traditional evangelical and traditional reformed emphasize the message as the central part of the worship service.
5) Both traditional evangelical and traditional reformed emphasize auditory communication over other forms, although traditional evangelical moved toward limited visuals sooner.
However, there are some key differences.
1) Traditional evangelical did away with many “churchy” elements. Traditional liturgical pieces (call to worship, unison prayers, etc.), the church calendar (Advent, Lent, Ascension Day, Christ the King Sunday, etc.), crosses, pews, communion tables, baptismal fonts, organs, stained glass, candles, processional/recessional, bulletins, robes and vestments, etc. went away. The traditional evangelical worship space looked very similar to a school auditorium rather than what is traditionally thought of as a “church”.
2) My wife pointed out that traditional evangelical worship placed a high value on energy – more upbeat music is maybe the easiest place to see this.
Now one thing I am not doing is saying which of these two forms is better. I grew up traditional reformed and know many people who that form of worship has been essential to the growth of their faith. In the same vein, I know many people who grew up in traditional evangelical circles where that form of worship has been essential to the growth of their faith. So I am not saying one was/is right and one is wrong, I’m just pointing out where I see the differences.
So what it seems that Dan is suggesting is largely a recapturing and transforming of some traditional reformed elements (greater emphasis on the sacraments, a return to the church calendar to give a sense of history, crosses and other visual symbols of the faith) meshed into a shift in values toward a community planned and driven worship gathering. Also, Dan suggests a big emphasis on multi-sensory elements that engage all the senses. So, more visuals, taste, touch, etc.
I guess what I find so interesting about the emerging conversation is how a lot of it appears to be traditional evangelicals reclaiming that which we’ve (traditional reformed) have always had and reinventing it into something fresh and newish. This isn’t to say that what is being done and suggested in emerging circles is just traditional reformed with a new face (that’s not true – the multi-sensory piece isn’t not part of traditional reformed worship)
The question that I wrestle with is what those of us emerging from traditional reformed circles do with those things that to so many have become symbols the past which is marked by dry and rote worship.