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Open Source Church

I just started reading The Open Source Church yesterday – pretty timely to find this book after completing my thesis The Open Source Lectionary. “Open source” is definitely in the air. One of the points author Landon Whitsitt makes well is the free nature of the Gospel: the Good News of Jesus Christ is free and sets all free. You cannot put a price on the Good News. You give it away for free – or rather, God gives it away for free, and we pass it on, freely and openly. Whitsitt re-imagines the church through the lens of the open source concept: what is a church like where everyone is free to share Jesus in any way to any one at any time, with the only limits being the basic boundaries of Christian faith and loving action?

Ironically, yesterday I also received some literature from the International Association of Scientologists. No, I am not interested in Scientology; I don’t know how I got on their mailing list. I know so little about the organization/religion that I will not here critique it, but simply note two points based on the material I received. First, Scientology is very much focused on knowledge. It feels rather Gnostic, with a standard set of books and recorded lectures by their founder, science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, which Scientologists are expected to read and master. In their “Churches,” Scientologists have “course rooms” in which students are expected to “fly along with swift duplication and full comprehension” as they participate in “the Golden Age of Knowledge.” Scientologists advance along a set course of study and attain different levels “on the routes to knowledge.” An Ideal Org(anization), according to the material, “is a living representation of LRH and his legacy, with every function in place per policy, every post manned, every hat worn standardly.”

Now, the contrast with an Open Source Church could not be greater. I am not interested in knocking down a straw man, but simply noting that in Jesus’ beatitudes in Matthew 5, as well as the whole prophetic tradition, it is the poor, the oppressed, the marginal, who are blessed, not the possessors of knowledge. The Gospel is foolishness to the wise, says Paul. Following Jesus is not a matter of possessing secret knowledge but rather a relationship: not intellectual believing but relational beloving.

At the same time, there is something to be said for organized curricula of faith formation. In many Christian churches, Christian education virtually stops at the end of middle school. While I would never want to be stuck with a “closed source,” static curriculum of Christian education, there are biblical, theological, and practical basics that every Christian should have opportunities to explore – freely, openly, and communally.

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Writings

3 Areas of Exploration

As I begin/continue my long term continuing pastoral education, I am focusing on three interrelated areas: the Bible/biblical theology, theology/Christian worldview, and ecclesiology/church life. I will move between these three areas of study freely. All of them have a practical focus for upbuilding Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd as a Christian community. Here is how I envision the perichoretic quest today.

First, the Bible and biblical theology is the foundation of Christian life and reflection. Scripture rightly understood and embodied is an essential element of this ongoing project of exploring a biblical worldview for praying, preaching, teaching, and leading. I now have a couple good current study Bibles, which are a pleasure and privilege to read. There are also some good recent books on biblical theology which I plan to read and reflect on as I read Scripture. For the summer and perhaps into the fall I am tentatively planning on preaching some of the primal stories of the Old Testament, plus I have focused more time and energy on the New Testament for several years; so an exploration of Old Testament theology is a good place to start. (Starting in Advent – December – I may begin a Year of John for Year B of the lectionary, so New Testament theology and Johannine studies will be good to pursue in the fall). There is no better guide to the Old Testament than Walter Brueggemann. I just finished Brueggemann’s Journey to the Common Good, so I’ll start with that book. Another of his more recent books is Old Testament Theology: An Introduction. Although I will refer to his earlier magisterial Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy, I will focus on the later and more general work.

Second, theology and the continual (re)formation of a Christian worldview is an essential movement of the quest. Theology steps back from the Bible and more intentionally relates Scripture and our contemporary world. The goal is for one’s imagination and conversation to be shaped by God’s word and a relatively adequate perspective on the world. This movement encompasses philosophy, history, economics, sociology, and politics, just to begin. But the goal is not to be overwhelmed by too much information, but to glean the best in theological thinking in conversation with other areas of inquiry.

Third (but neither least nor last), the life of the local Christian community in the intersection between the Bible and the world is my special focus. A common name for the followers of Jesus in the book of Acts is not Christianity but The Way. More than a body of intellectual beliefs, the Christian faith is a way of being in the world, a way of life, a following after our Rabbi and Lord Jesus, a mission. This is the movement upon which I will especially focus, since as someone has said, it is more effective to act our way into a new way of thinking than to think our way into a new way of acting. In this movement of growing our life together as the body of Christ, I will focus on the Christian faith practices in our congregation for the love of God and our neighbors.

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Toward a Biblical Worldview for Preaching

Well, I have finished my D.Min. in Biblical Preaching thesis – it is online at www.opensourcelectionary.com. As I was writing it, I realized that biblical preaching is a never ending challenge, a goal one never accomplishes once and for all. Biblical preaching is a lifelong vocation, living at the intersection of the local church, the world, and Scripture, moving from the congregation’s context to Scripture and back again in a continuous cycle.
A particular challenge for the working preacher is to stay connected to the world of biblical and theological scholarship after seminary. Certainly, no one can stay abreast of every current in scholarship, much less a full time pastor. And yet, we are not thereby absolved of responsibility to continue to be formed and re-formed as biblical preachers, reading not just our same old study Bibles and same old commentaries (and falling back on our same old Internet resources), but continuing to learn and grow by staying connected with the great cloud of witnesses, past and present. How can we stand on the shoulders of giants in our preaching if we don’t even know the giants? How can we have a fresh perspective on Scripture if we don’t look refresh our view?
Lately, I’ve been doing more reading of biblical and theological works. However, I have a tendency to read and then move on, without much reflection. So, as old fashioned as it may seem, I am going to blog again: blog about forming and reforming a biblical worldview for preaching and faith formation. It’s nothing earth shattering or unique, of course: a preacher’s public journal. Beyond that, I am not going to give any specifics, but simply try to write regularly as I read and reflect. It’s the reflection that’s a challenge.