Wednesday, February 28, 2007

JACKIE PULLINGER: NON-CON 07?

Some of you know I've been planning a "Non Conference" for a few months now.

Others of you know that I've even set up a basic website here:
http://www.non-con.com

The rest of you may have read about where the idea came from and what makes the Non-Con so different...(It's basically a conference for people who never want to go to another conference again...like me).

Anyway, from the beginning, I knew that I wanted to include Jackie Pullinger in our Non-Con if it was at all possible. She's one of my heroes and having her at our gathering, leading our conversations about compassion, the heart of Jesus for the poor, etc. would just be amazing.

Of course, she's very busy with her work in Hong Kong, she rarely travels to the States anymore, and...uh, did I mention she lives in Hong Kong?

Yeah...

So, today I received a reply from Yvonne, Jackie's assistant, that she would be getting back to me regarding her availability.

As far as I'm concerned we'll schedule the Non-Con depending on when Jackie can join us. The rest of the details can either fall into line behind this schedule or they can wait until the next one.

More details soon at
http://www.non-con.com

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

THE PARADOX OF PAIN

Paradox of Pain by Keith Giles

I'm most aware of God's Mercy when I'm in touch with my pain.

His Grace is most amazing when I am aware of my sinfulness.

When I am suffering, do I seek God's face? Or do I only seek my own comfort and escape from pain?

There are times when God reminds us of our mortality, and we often take offense at this.

"How could He let this happen?"

We forget that our life is only a vapor, that our lives are like the grass of the field.

But when we come to Him for mercy, we are quick to remind Him that we are made of dust.

-kg

Thursday, February 22, 2007

PART 2 - Scott Bartchy Interview

NOTE: This is the second part of the 2-part interview with UCLA Professor Scott Bartchy conducted by Keith Giles

PART 2-

Scott Bartchy is a scholar, professor, writer and historian. He has spent a lot of time studying the early Christian Church. His studies have resulted in a personal paradigm shift that has impacted the way he personally looks at Jesus, the Church, and the practice of the Christian faith.


Having spent several years on the conference speaking circuit, Bartchy soon abandoned the business of faith for the more practical, and appealing, practice of the faith.

PERSONAL JOURNEY
Bartchy’s personal spiritual revolution came when he was attending a church-related liberal arts college in eastern Tennessee. “I had some great teachers that one year and I was preaching at a church full of farmers, mostly, in the early sixties when the Cold War had really set in. People were holding Christ Against Communism Crusades and things like this. So, the elders in my church asked me if I would preach a sermon against communism. I was still idealistic enough that I thought I’d rather preach for something rather than against something so I literally stumbled over Matthew 25. I had never paid much attention to it before. I had never heard a sermon on it. I had gone to church-related undergraduate schools and had never heard of this passage before. So, I decided to preach on that text and the elders and the rest of the people came to me and said they had no idea that was in the Bible. I never did preach that sermon against communism,” he says.

In his classes at UCLA, Bartchy will often take the Religion section of the Los Angeles Times and hold it up for the class to look at. As he reads aloud the advertisements for slicker worship services, dynamic youth ministries, and other goods and services offered, he points out that the early church would never have participated in anything like this. They were too busy caring for the poor and loving their neighbors and living out the Gospel to put energy and money into attracting newcomers. Most students are stunned. Some of them wonder silently about how we got so far away from what Jesus originally intended.

WHAT WENT WRONG?
Bartchy contends that Constantine’s apparent conversion to Christianity in the fourth century, and his subsequent liberation of the Church from persecution was less a blessing and more a curse in disguise. Bartchy contends that Constantine’s brand of faith became polluted by his misunderstanding of who God really was. “How much more can you begin to add in before your idea of God has become imprinted on the historical Jesus? Did things get distorted with Origen? I don’t know yet, exactly what that tipping point was,” he says, “But what I do know is that the title of this book I might write one day is ‘The Betrayal Of Jesus At Nicea’ because I think the irony is that, at the point where Jesus is said to be ‘God of God and Light of Light’, at least from the point of view of Constantine himself, the God they were talking about was no longer the God that Jesus had been talking about.”

According to Bartchy, the major shift in the Christian faith of today and that of the early church took place under the rule of the newly converted dictator, Constantine. “We’re still trying to get out from under the cloud that he put over the Church,” he says. “Basically, Constantine decides in the fourth century that he’s going to become the sugar daddy of the Christian faith because there have been four waves of attempts to get rid of the Christians up to his reign, which involved fierce persecutions. So, if you and I were alive at that time we would have all known somebody who had been under persecution by the Empire. Constantine shows up and says he’s going to stop all of this and, of course, we have to wonder how else he could have done this without God’s Spirit being at work on his heart? Be careful, though. I would caution you not to believe him until he puts his sword away. Personally, I don’t think Constantine ever got it,” says Bartchy. “I don’t think he ever really understood Jesus.”

To Bartchy, one of the most fundamental ironies in the history of culture occurred at the Council of Nicea. “This was the first time the leaders of the Christian movement are called together for this big ecumenical meeting. They’ve been doing fine for hundreds of years without having any such meeting, but Constantine wants to know who wears the white hats and who wears the black hats.

So, Constantine calls all of these people together and he makes the first speech, stating namely that Jesus is the very same essence and substance of the Father. Nobody had ever talked that way before, but he wants an ideology, he wants unity, he wants to tie the Empire together, which has been divided. He makes sure that Christians are the glue that hold it all together and he wants what they think about God to be united.”

One of the things that’s largely not known is that Constantine himself was already a Monotheist previous to his conversion to Christianity. “He’s not leaving Polytheism to become a Monotheist when he decides to become favorable to the Christians. Before that he worshipped one God whom he was willing to call, along with the other traditional names of the high God, either Zeus among the Greeks, or Jupiter among the Romans. But Zeus and Jupiter are both kick-ass gods. In any case, that’s who he worships and so when Constantine stands up and says that Jesus is God he’s saying that Jesus is the son of Zeus, a kick-ass god. We still haven’t recovered from this. That’s why we still have people thinking it’s appropriate to kill people in the name of God,” says Bartchy.


HOW DO WE GET BACK?
If Bartchy is right, and the original essence of the Gospel that Jesus came and died to proclaim has been diluted, how can we ever hope to recover the essential power and truth of the Gospel for today? “I’ve asked myself numerous times what it would take to bring a restoration of this original concept of the Gospel to the modern church, about five thousand times,” he says. “I think what I am sure of is that a model is worth a thousand or more words and that our preaching is about a hundred years ahead of our action. So, I think we have to model it out. We’re not going to get young guys who’ve been corrupted into thinking that in order to be important or successful they’ve got to build a church building. I don’t think we’re going to be able to persuade those people not to do that. But what I think we can do is to do more of what I think Jesus did, which was grass-roots work.” This sort of grass-roots work, in Bartchy’s mind, begins in the home, not ironically, where the early church itself began and flourished. “I think there needs to be more networking between the house church movement. Some people respond to that and say it’s pretty fragile and you know, they’re right. It is pretty fragile. Not to go back on what I said earlier, that it can’t be stopped, but it can die out and then flare up again later. It has to be based on the quality of the interpersonal relationships between the people of God and we have to have ways of life that maximize the possibility and the necessity of these quality, interpersonal relationships that the Holy Spirit has been trying to get us into.”

THE POWER OF DEFINITION
In the American Church, there are two words that are used over and over again that are not very well-defined and therefore people can pour into them whatever meaning they need.

Those two words are ‘God’ on the one hand and ‘Salvation’ on the other. Bartchy believes that we need to return to a fundamental agreement about the definitions of these words. “So, do we mean by ‘God’ what Jesus meant? Do we mean by ‘Salvation’ what Jesus meant? Is ‘Salvation’ saving your spiritual butt, or is it salvation from meaninglessness, despair, from being a part of the people who opress others? I think salvation is a daily matter. I think what Heaven means, at least to me, is that some of the struggle that I’m involved in against so many people in powerful places, who live by a completely different set of values, is going to be over, and I’m going to have a chance to relax and play more music and talk with more friends and read all those books I’ve never had time to read and not spending all my time fighting against the principalities and powers.”

In the second chapter of the book of Acts, verse forty-two, its says that “The Lord was adding daily those who were being saved”, who were in the process. There’s two different ways, in the Greek, two different tenses, of putting things in the past. One is just like saying it happened and it’s over, and the other is about things that are ongoing, which is the imperfect tense. It’s imperfect because it hasn’t finished yet, so it’s an ongoing thing, in the Greek. That’s the tense you have in this passage which underscores the concept that salvation is a process," he says.

CHALLENGING THE MODERN CHURCH
Bartchy wants to challenge the modern church to look itself in the face and ask itself what it’s actually communicating with respect to the words ‘God’ and ‘Salvation’. "What I mean is, to do something that was hard for me to do initially. Something that happened to me when I was in Grad School, as I was seeing people who were coming to Jesus and at first they were really hot, and after a year they were pretty tame," he says. "What happened was they looked around and found out that the words didn’t have the same meanings within the church that they first thought. Just like little kids, they watch what the grown-ups do when they use certain words and they figure out what things really mean."

It was a course in the Sociology of Religion that helped Bartchy to re-think some of the cultural aspects of the Christian Faith in a critical way. "This course didn’t just rearrange the furniture in my head, it put me on a different boat. Finally I was forced to say, in order to be an honest human being, is that for any religious institution, what really counts is what actually comes out at the end of the pipe. I had to ask myself, ‘Is this good for people or not, is this fantasy land?’, and I have to have the courage to look at the answer and not look away from it. Can Christianity be used in such a way to make you sick? Absolutely. Can it be used to turn you into an enemy of God? Yes. But people don’t want to admit that. They have a very magical idea of the words that if you just say the right words then of course everything is going to come out alright in the end, even though it’s not coming out alright now, you just continue to act like it is."

This University course challenged Bartchy to either sacrifice his intellect on the altar of faith or to admit the truth about his faith. "I didn’t think faith meant trusting blindly, it means believing that Jesus is right about God and not anybody else," he says.

As a professor in a secular university, Bartchy has students in his office all the time who ask “Do you believe in God", and his answers always stun them. "I say, with a smile on my face, that I have no idea what they’re talking about. What I can tell you is that about 80% of what passes in the American media and in public life with the name of God in it, I don’t believe. I’ll be glad to hear who you affirm God to be and then I’ll tell you if I believe in that or not. But at the highest level, the big question is, “Does the Church believe about God what Jesus does and if so then why aren’t we spending our money differently, why aren’t we treating people better, why are we not known as lovers instead of as judges?” and these are questions that have dogged me all my life," he says.

**

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Must. Watch. This.



I always show this short clip from the end of the film "The Big Kahuna" as an intro to my workshop called "The Gospel: For Here Or To Go?" (and there was a six-part series of articles that sprung out of those workshops too..but I digress).

The set-up: Young kid is a Chrisitan on a business trip with Danny DeVito and Kevin Spacey. They all work for the same company. The kid had a chance to save their company (and all their jobs) by closing a sale with a huge distributor. Instead he took the opportunity to share Jesus with that same Company President and lost the sale, and their jobs.

What follows is the scene in this clip where (at the very end), Danny DeVito delivers one of the MOST powerful monologues aimed directly at the modern American Christian...and he hits the target square.

Watch this and then show it to your friends.

Powerful stuff.
kg

Monday, February 12, 2007

NON-CON 2008 ...slowly forming

I've started an intriguing conversation online with a fellow in the UK who is interested in possibly helping me to host the "Non-Conference" I've been slowly putting together in the back of my mind.

He's helped me to think through a few of the elements which, had he not contacted me to ask me the questions, I might not have taken the time to type out. That's worth whatever comes of this.

For those of you who are new to this concept, it grew out of my recent realization that I am personally not a conference-goer...and yet my job for the last three years has been to convince others that they need to part with their cash and spend a couple of days at a conference.

Ironic, no?

So, I began to ponder upon what sort of a conference I would actually like to attend. What would that look like?

Out of these musings there came the idea to create a "Non-Conference" of sorts. We'd advertise it as something "For someone who never wants to attend another conference in their life", and with that as our starting point we'd begin to "deconstruct" the usual conference experience into something worth spending time and money on.

FRANCHISE?
One recent idea came to me when the guy from the UK showed interest and that was, "What if I put together a basic template for how to do this so that anyone, anywhere in the world, could sign up and host their own 'Non-Con'?"

Yes...indeed...why not?

KEEP IT SMALL:
By definition I want our "Non-Con" to be small. One friend confided in me that she often feels lonely at a large conference. I agree. We'll keep things small and interactive to increase the dynamic of conversation and community.

I think, at this point, I will charge for the event but it will be limited to just exactly 100 people. No more than that. I want to keep it small on purpose and even 100 is pushing things a little, maybe 50...but it means our "large gatherings" are still manageable and our smaller discussion groups can be more diverse.

I also need to charge something to cover at least one keynote speaker for the weekend, and for our shared meals together.

PROMOTION:
The promotion will be mostly grass-roots. I've gotten fairly good at using the internet and pulling favors from various friends around the 'Net to get a lot of promotional mileage out of a little bit of marketing moolah.

THE DREAM TEAM:
My "dream team" would include Jackie Pullinger, who lives in China, and Dr. Scott Bartchy who teaches at UCLA which is just up the road. Both of them have the fire-power I'd want for a conference like this...and by that I mean they have the ability to speak the hard-core truth in ways that often offend people but usually they hit a nerve because they are on target..and that's exactly what I want for the "Non-Con". I want people to be challenged and to go home from this changed and affected...and ready to change their world in the same way.

Right now I'm optimistic that I could get David Ruis (I've already done 2 local conferences with him in the last 2 years and he's awesome). I also think I might could get Greg Russinger from The Bridge in Ventura to help me out.

WORSHIP LEADERS:
Worship leaders are still a toss-up. I'd love to have Matt Redman (who wouldn't?) or Tim Hughes (again, yes..but..?), and if I could get either of them to agree to something this intentionally small, (which would be the easy part), I'd have to fork over the cash to get them here from the UK (which would be the hard part).

Locally, of course, the options are better. Chris Lizotte is local, and a friend. David Ruis, already mentioned, is also a great worship leader. I also know guys locally who are not "famous" but who are especially gifted and more than capable of leading us into a great time of corporate worship...guys like Brandon Ezell and John Thomas.

WHAT WOULD IT LOOK LIKE?
Day one of the "Non-Con" would involve everyone driving up to the location, signing in and receiving their temporary tattoo (instead of a hand-stamp or wrist-band). Then they'd take a grab-bag of goodies and a folding chair from off the rack by the front door and head into the open room.

TENTATIVE SCHEDULE OF THE WEEKEND:
FIRST SESSION- DAY 1, 9AM
In the center of the room would be a single chair, a microphone and a music stand...probably an acoustic guitar and a small table too.

People would place their chair in a make-shift circle around the center chair and (hopefully) people would begin to talk to each other as they waited for things to begin...(and we might have to dream up some creative discussion starters...like "What tattoo did you get?" or something...).

Eventually our worship leader would come to the center and lead us in a short opening prayer. Others would be invited to pray too as we get ready to worship and to discover what God has for us this day.

SESSION 1- KEYNOTE SPEAKER 1, 9:30AM
After a few songs of worship we'd invite our keynote speaker up. Let's pretend it's Jackie Pullinger (hey..it's my dream ok?)..and after about 20 minutes of blowing our hair back on issues of justice and compassion for the poor in our own city and street, we'd open things up for reaction and questions from the floor. Jackie would respond and our dialog would continue for about another half hour.

WORKSHOPS 1- 10:30AM
After this we'd take a break and people would be able to choose from one of several different workshops lead by practitioners on issues of social justice/compassion, missional life, spiritual disciplines, the arts and the poor, Poverty in the O.C., or spiritual formation as a way of life...(I've already got several great people in mind to lead these discussion workshops as well. Most are friends of mine who are already living out these values in extraordinary ways...more on this aspect later).

LUNCH BREAK- 11:30AM TO 2:00PM (Shared meal together with everyone)

"WORSHIP SERVICE" - 2:00PM TO 4:00PM
After lunch everyone would show up to one of four different "Worship Service" projects around the city. These would be opportunities to let our "Worship" become our "Service" to others. (I've done this at 2 different conferences in the past and these were always the best parts of the weekend for everyone involved).

DINNER BREAK - 4:00PM TO 6:00PM
(Free time. Eat on your own or with a friend)

DAY 1- EVENING CELEBRATION SESSION - 6:00PM
Our evening session will be opened again by a short prayer where everyone is free to pray out loud and bless our evening celebration.

TESTIMONY TIME - 6:15PM
We'd kick things off by allowing people to share a little about what happened during the "Worship Service" segment of our first day. This would be allowed to go for about an hour or so...we'll play it by ear.

SESSION 2 - 7:00PM
Let's pretend that Dr. Scott Bartchy is our keynote now. He'll blow our doors off with a snapshot of what "normative Christianity" was like in the first three centuries of the early Church for about 30 minutes and then we'd all ask questions and give response. This will rock.

EVENING ARTS INTERACTIVE - 8:00PM
I always love to have a time for people to respond to what they've seen and heard artistically. It doesn't matter if you're not an artist. We just want everyone to take the time to share their "notes" on the things they've learned and experienced throughout the day in some form or another. We'll have a large room set up with paper, paint, brushes, even video cameras and live online blogs for people to post their thoughts for the rest of the world to see and share in.

END OF DAY ONE- APPROXIMATELY 10PM
"THE BURNING"- One aspect of the "Non-Con" I'm personally excited about is the "Burn our Christian Crap" segment. This is where people can come and bring a symbol of their participation in the great Christian Materialsm Machine (i.e.- A Carman Cd, a "Lord's Gymn" tee shirt, a piece of "Jesus Junk" plastic, etc.). Together we'll burn our Christian Crap and make a statement about our intent to separate ourselves from the "Safe" version of Christianity where we try to create a Christian Version of the actual world around us. Maybe we'll all sing "Stairway to Heaven" during this part? Maybe not...

HARD-CORE MOTEL:
One friend suggested to me that we could offer some "hard-core" attendees the option to sleep the night in a nearby park along with the homeless. They could bring their own pillow and sleeping bag and together some of us (even the leaders who were up to it), would make our way after dinner to the local park and hang out with the homeless to sleep the night with them. For the rest of us there would be a hotel option, of course.

SECOND DAY OF "NON-CON 2008"
DAY 2- SESSION 1- 9:30AM
WORSHIP/PRAYER- (20 MINUTES)
KEYNOTE/INTERACTIVE- DAVID RUIS (30 MINUTES TALKING & 30 MINUTES INTERACTIVE)

WORKSHOP SESSION - 11AM TO 12PM
*Again, a series of interactive workshops taught by actual practitioners on topics of interest

LUNCH BREAK - 12PM TO 2PM (Shared meal time together with everyone)

"WORSHIP SERVICE" - 2PM TO 4PM
*This one will be different since it will involve all of us, all together, doing one single act of service as a group of people. Detail as we move closer..

DINNER BREAK - 4PM TO 6PM (Free time. Eat on your own or with a friend)

EVENING SESSION - 6PM
PRAYER/WORSHIP (About 20 minutes)
KEYNOTE ADDRESS - Greg Russinger (30 minutes talking, 30 minutes responsive)

ARTS INTERACTIVE - 7:30PM TO 10PM

LATE NIGHT PANEL "MASSIVE DISCUSSION" - 9PM TO 10PM
*I dream that this will be one massive discussion with Dr. Bartchy, Jackie Pullinger, David Ruis, Greg Russinger and also some of our practitioner/workshop leaders like Jarred Rowland, Crissy Brooks, Becky Zaragoza, Mike Burns, Lo Loughner, Scott Laumann, Heather Wright, etc.

**These are the basics of the sort of conference I would want to actually attend. These are people who have challenged my life and my faith. These are people who continue to live out the Gospel in meaningful, effective ways.

Slowly...slowly the elements allign for the first ever "Non-Con" here in Orange County.

How cool would it be if we could eventually create a "template" for this and then anyone who wanted to could host and launch their own version of the "Non-Con" in their own city?

I can't wait to see what develops on this as things move forward...

Peas,
Keith Giles
**

Thursday, February 08, 2007

New Bible Removes Words Of Jesus On Money & Poverty

**Thanks to David Ruis for bringing this to my attention.


Controversial new Bible cuts out difficult gospel passages

A new Bible translation is causing controversy after it cut out difficult parts surrounding economic justice, possessions and money.

The new bible version, released by the Western Bible Foundation in the Netherlands, has created a storm by trying to make the Christian gospel more palatable.

According to Chairman Mr. De Rijke the foundation has reacted to a growing wish of many churches to be market-oriented and more attractive. "Jesus was very inspiring for our inner health, but we don't need to take his naïve remarks about money seriously. He didn't study economics, obviously."

According to De Rijke no serious Christian takes these texts literally. "What if all Christians stopped being anxious, for example, and started expecting everything from God? Or gave their possessions to the poor, for that matter. Our economy would be lost. The truth is quite the contrary: a strong economy and a healthy work ethic is a gift from God."

The foundation wanted to "boldly go where no one else has gone before" by cutting out the confusing texts.

“We don't use them anyway! There's no single Christian selling his possessions and giving them to the poor."

***
The cool thing is, this is all being done to bring attention to the fact that we don't really obey Jesus' teachings on caring for the poor or submitting our finances to God.

I love this sort of thing!

-kg

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Interview: Scott Bartchy- Part 1

*NOTE: I happened to re-listen to an excellent cd of a talk that Mr. Bartchy gave at the MOMENTUM '05 conference the other day. It re-invigorated me on several levels. Then, just today, Mr. Bartchy emailed me to ask me if this interview we did ever got published. Here is part one.
-kg
**

SCOTT BARTCHY- THE “NOISE” INTERVIEW (Part One)
by Keith Giles

Scott Bartchy is a radical. He believes in a subversive system that embraces those on the fringes of our society and seeks to establish a new way of life that goes against the status quo.

Kind of like Jesus.

Bartchy, currently the Director of the Center for the Study of Religions at UCLA, notes a great gap between the original, early form of church in the first three hundred years of Christianity, and the modern concept of doing church today. “The biggest difference I see would be that those who became the followers of Jesus (in the early church) were convinced that Jesus was right about God,” says Bartchy. “They weren’t debating whether or not he was God, but simply said that if you’ve seen Jesus, you have seen God. As Jesus said to Phillip, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” (John 14:6-11)

A SINGLE QUESTION
For Bartchy, the difference between the modern church and the original church is summed up in a single question; “Was Jesus right about who God is?” Bartchy notes, “The earliest followers of Jesus believed that he had the authority to change the rules and to define how the God of Israel is to be thought of.”

So, what is it that Phillip and the other disciples had seen Jesus doing that would inform their ideas of who God is? “First of all they’ve seen Jesus at a wedding, turning water into wine. They’ve seen Jesus at the temple healing a man born blind, and addressing the question of whether or not sin is the cause of someone being born blind, or being sick. Jesus says that it’s not anyone’s fault, but it’s so that God might be glorified,” says Bartchy. “Phillip has seen Jesus comforting Mary and Martha, who are his personal friends, and raising their brother Lazarus from the dead, and of course he’s seen Jesus take the form of a servant and wash the feet of his disciples. Jesus says, if you’ve seen that, you’ve seen the Father.”

Bartchy is quick to make a distinction between the assertion that Jesus is God and the more radical concept that God is like Jesus. “Now, the profound irony of this is that Jesus is named after “Y’Shua”, or “Joshua”, Israel’s dominant warrior who fought the battle of Jericho and lead the children of Israel on numerous conquests. He (Jesus) is saying that the God of Israel isn’t acting that way anymore. Jesus is saying that the God of Israel loves his enemies and he’s not going to kill anybody.”

While much of what the media portrays concerning the “Religious Right” in America deals with the overtly political, Republican, Pro-War version of the Christian Church, Bartchy sees things a little differently. “I really do think that people are so eager for Christ to return today because they don’t like what he did the first time. They still want a kick ass God. They want a divine legitimation for what was done to us at 9-11,” he says. “That’s the only way I can understand how so many people in the Church are in favor of attacking Iraq, or killing people, or whatever. They certainly don’t believe that Jesus is right about God.”

But, the early followers of Jesus, Bartchy contends, did believe that he was right about God. “And for that reason they blew off Temple religion and the whole idea of priests and programs, and the like. They rejected the idea that what God really wants is to be served inside a church building rather than on the street. If Jesus is right about God then it means there are no more Holy Places, and for the first three hundred years Christians didn’t have any Holy Place other than their own homes where the churches met. So, they focused primarily in their relationships with each other because that’s where the Holy Spirit was manifested, in the very people who followed Jesus.”

“SAVE YOUR BUTT RELIGION”
The disconnect, so to speak, for Bartchy comes in the methodology of the modern church which has become so fixated with amassing large numbers of people, establishing political alliances and building larger facilities rather than simply acting out the compassionate example of the founder of the movement itself. “I think the big difference I see is that, today, the church isn’t really believing the same things about God that Jesus himself did and acted out,” he says. “That’s why the success of the Church today is seen not so much in doing the kind of things that we’re told that we’re going to be judged by when Jesus does return to judge us, as seen in Mathew 25, concerning whether or not we’ve clothed the naked or fed the hungry or visited those in prison, etc., and apparently doing so simply because this is the kind of people we have become.”

In Matthew 25 Bartchy notes a profound undermining of the modern apocalyptic rapture scenario depicted in most, if not all, Christian literature. “Yes,” says Bartchy, “The son of man is going to come on the clouds to separate the sheep from the goats. But one of the most fascinating things to me about those sheep is that Jesus identifies them as such because they have been visiting those in prison and they’ve been feeding the hungry, and Jesus says, ‘If you’ve done it unto the least of these, you’ve done it unto me’ and the sheep say, ‘Hey, we didn’t have any idea we were doing it to you’, which is to say, they are doing it because of their new nature, they are doing it because of what they have become as followers of Jesus,” he says.

“The second bunch in this scenario are into what I like to call the ‘Save Your Butt’ religion. These people say, “Hey, if we’d have known it was you buddy we’d have done it” but only in order to save their own butt, not because of who they actually were.”

For Bartchy, what’s missing, sadly, is an emphasis on being a people who are transformed by the Gospel and who embody the example of their Lord. “We have preachers who come onto the campus today at UCLA down by what we call Bruin Walk and those guys all preach a version of the ‘Save Your Butt’ religion. They ask, “If you would die tonight where would you be?” So, it’s still a matter of appealing to the narcissism of the American public. It’s not an invitation to become a part of God’s new people,” says Bartchy.

HERE AND NOW
Even though Bartchy spends most of his time instructing college students in the historical events of a fledgling movement several thousand years ago, he holds a very immediate passion that burns in him to this very day. “Now, what I’m saying then, is not only is Jesus right about who God is and what God is trying to get done, it’s that it’s supposed to be done here and it’s supposed to be done now. Jesus did not teach his disciples to pray, “Take me to heaven when I die”, what he says is, “Your will be done on Earth, as it is in Heaven”, in the here and now. What we’re supposed to be praying for is for Heaven to come here, rather than for us to go to Heaven. Now, I do believe that Heaven is the bonus at the end of the road,” says Bartchy, “But there I’d be on the same page with the apostle John, or with Paul who held that Eternity was a quality of life, not a quantity of life. It was a quality of life that begins here.”

Rather than focus on the typical questions of faith that surround the discussion about who God is, or whether or not He exists, Bartchy feels that the fundamental question begins with whether or not we believe that Jesus is right about who God is. “I find people saying that what I need to say is that Jesus IS God, but the reason I’m reluctant to put it those terms is that people give themselves permission to define God as they please. So, God is whoever they say he is, in the Freudian sense that he fulfills the projection of your desires. So, people define God they way they want and then they make Jesus fit into that,” says Bartchy.

“People tell me that they believe that Jesus is God, and yet they’ve never read the Gospel of Mark from beginning to end, or even the Gospel of John. They may have a formal understanding of the book, but they don’t know what’s in it. In any case, the Jesus that you read about in the Gospel of Mark has a program, Pardon me, Mel Gibson, but there’s only one and a half chapters that deal with his execution, and then there are a few verses that have to do with his resurrection,” he says. “But there are twelve to thirteen chapters that have to do with his program. His program is everything I’ve been talking about so far, it’s the Kingdom of God. It’s everything that Jesus anticipates should be done here and now on this planet by his people. I know the literature of the early church up until the time of Constantine backwards and forwards and I don’t see any evidence there that the appeal being made to people was about ‘If you died tonight would you be in Heaven’. The appeal was to come and be a people of God.”

GOOD QUESTIONS
The questions on the minds of the earliest followers of Jesus reflected more practical concerns of a faith for the here and now. ”Instead of asking people the sort of salvation question we always hear, the early church asked people to consider things like, how would spend your money, how would you treat people, how would you respond to that person who just called you an asshole yesterday, and how would you deal with the real world stuff?”

“Because the church today hasn’t asked this question,” says Bartchy, “ It ends up thinking materialistically and since we’re so fragmented from each other we can’t imagine that we might help each other when we get older, the world plays on our fears. It seems to me that if a church was a real church they’d have their own social security program. Indeed in the early church that was how they got their reputation, it was that they cared for so many people.”

As Bartchy speaks, the chasm between the faith of the early church and that of the modern church begins to grow wider and wider. “None of the current signs of success in the modern church can be found in the New Testament. When the people laid their offerings at the disciples feet it wasn’t so that they could build a bigger building or give the disciples a salary increase.”


UNSTOPPABLE
“One of the things that Jesus does, in contrast to all of the other teachers, including John the Baptist, was to say that we don’t have to wait for God to kill anybody. We don’t have to wait for Tiberius to be knocked off his throne, or for Pilate to go home, we can start living according to the rule of God right now and all they can do to us is to kill us, but they can’t stop it,” says Bartchy.

“Out of the conviction of Jesus being alive after his crucifixion, what we call resurrection experiences, they know that they can’t be stopped and I don’t think that it can be stopped. As a secular historian on the outside and as a follower of Jesus on the inside, I would say it cannot be stopped,”he affirms. “Now, sometimes the gears grind really slowly, but it can’t be stopped. We can be blocked by sin or by oppression or by dictatorship or by injustice and the like, but all I can say is in the midst of that there is still hope.”

END OF PART ONE-

It's time for the church to listen first...talk later

CONVERSATIONAL EVANGELISM CONFERENCE - MARCH 9TH & 10TH, 2007
*LEE STROBEL *TODD HUNTER * BRENTON BROWN *GARY POOLE *MANY MORE!

more info:
http://www.conversationalevangelism.net/cec/

At RockHarbor Church in Costa Mesa

For the Missional-minded...
kg

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The [Subversive Underground] Forum

As sort of an experiment I've opened a new online forum to have more open dialog about the issues covered on my weekly e-newsletter called [subversive underground].

We'll talk about Social Justice, Missional Life, Organic Church, House Church, Spiritual Formation, and even the Arts, Media and Culture...actually whatever you want to talk about.

You are welcome to join in the discussions on
the [subversive underground] message boards.

To join our discussions, simply go to
http://forums.delphiforums.com/subversive1/start

The [Subversive Underground] Forum is part of Delphi Forums. If you've never used Delphi Forums before, you'll need to go through a quick registration (so you can post messages). It only takes a minute and it's FREE!

Hope to see you there,

Peas,
Keith Giles

Monday, February 05, 2007

SIMPLE TEST?

Test your Bible knowledge
Mark answers below “True” or “False”

1- Because Eve was tempted by Satan and ate the apple, sin entered the world.
2- According to Scripture, Samson was a super strong, physically muscular man that God used to judge the enemies of Israel.
3- Jonah the prophet was swallowed by a whale because he refused to go and preach to the people of Nineveh.
4- The city of Sodom was judged by God because of the sin of homosexuality.

*The answer to every question is "False".

Want to know why?

1) Eve did not eat an apple. Well, ok, the truth is she probably ate hundreds of apples in the Garden, but none of them brought sin into her heart, or this world. If you read the Bible, you'll see that she ate of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil...not an apple tree...those were ok to eat from.

2) This is one of my favorite ones. Samson is never described in the Bible as being a physically large or muscular man. Ever. Go look it up. It's not there. What you WILL see is that the Phillistines were very, very puzzled as to how Samson could perform such amazing feats of strength. You WILL see that they were so confounded by his strength that they began to search for the secret of his strength...because it was not obvious to them by his appearence. If he looked like a muscle-bound body builder do you think they would have been scratching their heads and wondering what the secret of his strength was? No. They would have assumed it was because he was a muscle-bound hulk.

3)Jonah was not swallowed by a whale. If we read the Scriptures we'll see that "God prepared a great fish" to swallow Jonah. So, a whale is not a fish. The main implication is that God created a special fish specifically to swallow and hold Jonah alive inside for three days without being digested. Either way, it was not a whale.

4)Another misconception I love to destroy is the concept that the sin of Sodom was about sexual practice. We might make an inference from what we see in the account of its destruction, but the clearly stated "Sin of Sodom" is found in Ezekiel 16:49-50 where God tells us "Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were proud and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen."

So, according to God the "Sin of Sodom" was arrogance, pride, gluttony and a lack of concern for the poor...and oh yeah, right at the end he does add "did detestable things" which could also contain those sexual sins, but the specific sin mentioned involves pride and a lack of concern for those in need in need around them.

My point for listing this quiz is that, first I wanted to demonstrate that many of us believe things about the Word of God without actually knowing what it really says. Secondly, I posted this list as part of last week's [SUBVERSIVE UNDERGROUND] and I promised my subscribers that I would provide them with the specific answers to why each of the statements in the quiz was "False".

So...be careful what you accept at truth or fact. Go to the source. Study the Word of God yourself to be sure of what it says.

My work here is done...

kg