Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The New Conspirators: Creating the Future One Mustard Seed at a Time

Tome Sine takes what he sees as a new wave of Christian practicioners and seeks to communicate what ties them together as they develop a share in the people of God. He organizes his task into five pertinent conversations. Each one would be worthy of expansion, but his overview of the movements will be a valid primer for understanding this aspect of renewal within the church.

Conversation One: Taking the New Conspirators Seriously

In this introductory chapter, Sine takes time to introduce the new players on the stage. He identifies four “streams”, the emerging, missional, mosaic, and monastic. It isn’t until near the end of his description of emerging that he makes any kind of attempt at characterizing the stream. For the bulk of the section, emerging would be identified with any type of new church understanding, which is a category too broad to be useful. Gibbs and Bolger’s definition is used, and is helpful, that emerging churches are those communities that practice the way of Jesus within postmodern cultures. Missional, it is pointed out, is less of a specific distinction and more of a broad descriptor for other church models. Mosaic intentionally incorporates the dynamic of cultural diversity within the global neighborhood. Monastic are those communities that dismantle the individualism of modernity and replace them with alternative models for life together.

Conversation Two: Taking the Culture Seriously

This section identified the realities that make this era in human history distinctive from the recent past. First in his discussion is the implication of living in a post 9-11 world, where the western world, and America especially, is forced to try and understand other cultures globally. This diversity in global cultures challenge the assumption of the superiority of the Western worldview, including ideas of Christendom and the role of the church. Second is the role of the “imperial mall”, as corporations compete for market domination. A striking image is what the author describes as marketers seeking to colonize the imagination of youth, planting the future for their profitability.

Conversation Three: Taking the Future of God Seriously

This chapter attempts to unpack the eschatological expectation of the dominant Western church and reframe the future action of God. Most notably, God’s action makes a move from being event-oriented (apocalypse) and life-centered (having pertinence on actions today). This renewal effort permeates the new groups as they find meaning in social justice, social responsibility, and the practical expressions of faith. The imagery used is to see humanity’s response to God being a “homecoming” back into the way that God made possible through Christ.

Conversation Four: Taking Turbulent Times Seriously

Given the importance of the present from the previous chapter, a sense of urgency rattles the ethics of these groups. The author identifies different areas of brokenness which different economic strata are faced with. His categories are the global rich, vulnerable middle, western poor, and global poor. I appreciate his effort at identifying both struggles and benefits of each position, rather than simply sanctifying one end of the spectrum or the other.

Conversation Five: Taking Our Imaginations Seriously

This final chapter could just have effectively been placed first. The author reminds the reader that creation is being renewed by God, and a key aspect of that creation is the imagination of his people. By thinking beyond the bounds of our tradition, each reader could be a part of a new movement of God’s people. The author invites the reader into the conversation to decide how to live a faithful life in community in the pursuit of God.

This chapter was probably the most pertinent to my ruminations on my future project and life in the church. I want to be a part of a community that is continually reevaluating, revisiting, reimagining what and how it can reflect a part of grace and truth to its community.

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