Emergent Friends of NW Arkansas

Friday, October 13, 2006

Planning a gathering

Greetings to all!

Several people have connected with the Northwest Arkansas cohort and we are in the process of planning a small gathering of people with a heart to explore the ideas church in our emerging culture that will most likely meet up in Russellville. No date has been set, so I am looking for input about that as well as topics that might be of interest to get us off with a running start.

Please jump in here if you have ideas or want to get involved. You can also e-mail me: sandy@acts-vision.org


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Topic 2: Missional living in our culture

One of the things I feel I run into quite often is a mindset that the only way to reach the culture with God's truth is to invite people to accept what we believe and then ask them to model "us" or some "image" we personally have about what a Christ Follower looks like. I spoke with a missionary friend in Japan about this and he shared that in the japanese culture such a method would be fruitless. This encouraged me to dig deeper.

I personally have come to see things differently. I have come to a realization that since God made us each unique and different, why would I expect all His children to look like cookie cutter images that MY mind fashions? I have therefore begun trying to look for the "inside" heart of a person. If I see a person who seems to (or admits to) not share the faith I have in the one God of the universe, I first try to understand what obstacles there are between their heart and God. Then I pray for wisdom as to how to begin breaking Satan's hold down. I have found that most often in the missional model the first step is to join them on their journey and just love them!

So the question: "If we are going to join people where they are in their journeys, how do we know how deep 'in the world' we can go/be and still remain not 'of the world'?" A side question might be: "Do you find this a problem to balance in your life?"
Living the life, loving the Journey...

Welcome Back Topic 1!

With the start of a new school year I am hoping we all can renew our hopes to reach out and gather together those who desire to connect in discussion about what it looks like to be missional here in Northwest Arkansas.

The first of two thread topics I will post is:

"The uniqueness challenge entitled Northwest Arkansas. Where should those of us with a desire to reach the emerging culture focus our missional energies?"

Well, lets get some thinking going? Where are you on this topic?


Thursday, April 13, 2006

Targeting? Should we?

I have tried to express my thoughts about this to leaders before and have not been able to explain myself related to the Biblical call to do this. The word can bring up so many negative connotations. I appreciate Rick Warren for explaining it for me:

"Pastor, who specifically is your church trying to reach? Odds are if you aren't targeting specific segments of your community, you're not reaching people as effectively as you could. Although God has called the Church to share the Gospel with every segment in society (emphasis mine), he has specifically shaped your congregation to reach particular groups. And, as your church grows, you'll have opportunities to reach even more groups. But you need to start with a target." To read the rest of the article:

My heart is poured out to see this happen better here in Northwest Arkansas. Even though I have only lived here about 3 years I have been a regular visitor and traveler in the state since the late 1960's with family in NWA as well as Hot Springs and I recognize the changes that particularly Northwest Arkansas has experienced.

It seems we have not connected well with that change as far as reaching people with the message of the Living Christ in the changing culture. Northwest Arkansas is blessed, as is much of the south, with a large group of people raised in the traditions of the church. This is a wonderful asset and I believe a comfort to many who have relocated to this area. I would challenge however that we as the Church (as a whole) appear to have allowed this asset of our culture to permit us to fall short of our call to be real Jesus in real people's lives here in Northwest Arkansas and beyond. Even though Rick speaks of "targeting" as a starting point for small churches, perhaps it could (should?) remain as part of the underlying vision. A church, perhaps, cannnot be all things to all people...but Christ can!

A friend serving in Japan seconds my thinking on the importance of being Christ and meeting the culture to be effective. I am not so sure that following a similar missional path in North America is not the answer. My friend Brain said, "Our mission work in Japan has forced me to jettison Western ideas of Christianity and go back to the Bible and consider the simple essence of the Gospel (emphasis mine) and of the church. I’m finding that when we strip away the cultural baggage we inadvertently bring with us the Gospel readily transcends culture and starts influencing people, even here in Japan. There’s a movement afoot among some forward-thinking missionaries (guys who are a lot smarter than me) around the world that sounds a lot like emergent thinking."

Trying to think like a missionary, I am sure there are people who will disagree with me, but I feel called by the spirit to ask...

Have we as the churches here in Northwest Arkansas allowed our area's affluence to negatively affect our connection with our most natural place of outreach, our community? Please note that I am well aware of some outstanding outreaches, so my question is more about are the leaders helping the current body of believers really connect with community. Are we consistently working as the body of Christ to build loving relationships between the various sub-cultures of our area? Secondly, are leaders helping their flock to recognize their blessing of affluence and learn to maximize it's potential? Can we make a difference in a particular way BECAUSE of this special gift that we are not doing now?

Thinking like this and coming to an understanding with God about what He wants me to do is what has drawn me into the emergent conversation. It is my sincere hope that more and more believers would begin to search for the movement of the Holy Spirit in their daily lives and allow it to empower them rather than wait to be fed by the teachings of the institutional church. The emerging movement that would happen would change the world!

What do you think?



Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Next Gathering Info...

What a unique place Northwest Arkansas really is. What contrasts exist right here in our midst. Just a small drive through the countryside of Northwest Arkansas will show you a variety of landscapes and the people who inhabit them. No, this post is not a geography lesson. It's about the human aspect seen on such a trip.

Looking deeply for truth, it's the honesty of one's response to the view. The response that might go from the "ooohs and ahhhs" that flow readily when one is viewing a tract of half million dollar golf course houses...all green and landscaped to perfection to the "gasps and tsks" uttered when one encounters the obviously still lived in "remains" of a single wide trailer that should have been abandoned years ago. We live in a land of contrasts. Northwest Arkansas.

On the surface, we see our churches thriving. But have we supped with the woman at the well? Have we encountered the real Jesus in a way that really sends us scurrying off to tell our WHOLE town...or only to share it in our "group" (who have already heard the news)? Who beyond the gathering of believers (and their glorious bildings) is benefitting from the tithes and offerings we bring? Do we schedule our annual mission trip to a foreign land because we are sure God is calling us to prepare ourselves for dedicated service to the people of that land...or just because it is easier and cleaner to serve one week among people we do not know rather than to serve year round amongst people of our community?

These are all thougts that might be flowing through your mind. If they are, I would challenge you to be willing to consider...

Am I emergent?

It's really just a word...one leading the way to promote open discussion about the church in our current times in history. Join us April 25th from 7-9pm at the Pontiac Coffee House in Springdale to ponder these things and more!

In addition, join us in getting creative as toss around the ideas for making a presentation that can be shared with local groups... "Real Jesus: The Emergent Missional Church in NWA."

See you all soon!


Sunday, March 19, 2006

Just a note... I would still love to hear a conversation started on the topics from my article below.

My recently extra busy life kept me from exploring the March issue of Next-Wave and realizing that my submission was accepted for the March issue!

Check it out at: http://www.the-next-wave-ezine.info/issue87/index.cfm?id=10&ref=ARTICLES%5FCULTURE%5F180

Hope to see some new faces at our conversation gathering on April 25th, 7pm, at the Pontiac Coffee House in Springdale


Thursday, March 16, 2006

Exciting News!

It's official...Emergent Friends of NW Arkansas is a designated Cohort with Emergent Village.

What does this mean and why is it "exciting?"

For many of us the journey toward (and into) the realm of spirituality in our lives where we are becoming aligned with a missional lifestyle that God is calling us into...And away from set patterns that of "church" that perhaps has provided us comfort for years, is challenging and disquieting. Having a community (local and beyond) is a great comfort.

Remembering the words from Hebrews...We persevere with a passion...

The Race of Faith

Hebrews 12:1 "Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

Exciting to me....What about you?


Friday, February 24, 2006

A Modern Parallel?

What follows is an essay I felt inspired to write the other day. If anyone is interested we could visit this comparison when we meet on Monday night as a conversation starter.

Comments welcome


A Modern Parallel?
by Sandy McCann

Today as I listened to, felt and appreciated the power of my GM V-8 engine I was overcome with a feeling of sadness for the diminishing state of the American icon, General Motors. I do not claim to be an expert about such events in the business world but I am moved by the sinking feeling of loss as I observe the responses bordering on desperation flowing out of South East Michigan and into other areas with automotive ties.

As I thought of this I became suddenly aware that much of what is going on in the world of the North American automotive industry is a hyper speed version of what has been happening over the last few decades as the established denominational churches in North America navigate the same cultural changes.

Watching the increasing focus on survival in both the corporate and UAW camps and the apparent lack of willingness to do a real world assessment of the culture and reconcile to work together is bringing great discomfort. Both sides rely on chosen leaders who want the best for those they lead. Both sides want the company to succeed and they think they have the answer. However the global market of 2006 will never be anything like the past dominance of the big three American brands so a new paradigm is needed to allow the automotive business to emerge.

Reflecting on the apparent desire to avoid change seen in these challenges in the automotive industry, one can understand how painful it is for the organized church in North America to accept similar changes, live the new paradigm, and to emerge from the past, a past to be proud of.

The way local congregations/churches have traditionally cared for their membership could be compared to the unions of the automotive industry. Protected and gathered into community with like minded people, life was good. A look at the drop in union membership over the last 15 years or so should be the taken as a symptom of the cultural shifts, a shifting that leaves many people sadly neglected and estranged from what they had put their hope in.

As leaders strive to keep things the same (often in well meaning pursuit of God’s direction) amongst the local bodies of believers throughout America that we call church, they are potentially neglecting people who have hearts to be part of God’s purpose. Those people perhaps do not yet carry the “union card” of faith in God, but there also are a great number who have just been “idled” and need to be recalled to the work the Master designed for them.

My personal passion for these “idled workers” was stirred when my two oldest children we “laid off” by a youth group that only desired to assist those who already knew their place on the team. I am trusting God that my now grown kids still have their cards tucked away and that God will help them find them at the right time so that they might rejoin the team. I would like to join God’s movement to facilitate that event.

In a world filled with broken homes, drugs, violence, and so many other hurts it seems that having questions about God should be considered the norm. It does not seem to take much imagination to think that churches should seek those with questions and lead them to the One with all the answers. Jesus welcomed questions. His answers were often posed as questions back to those who had asked. It appears that Jesus led people to seek God in order to find His answer to them personally. Jesus gave colorful answers even though those of His culture living under the law might have felt they wanted black and white. Color is designed by God, and should be embraced.

First, speaking for myself and probably many others of the baby-boomer generation, it’s hard to not want the relative safety of the past we grew up with. Not to deny the flaws in the old ways, but it’s hard for some of us to shake off our wish that North America could return to a time of implicit Christianity in our communities, where people loved and believed in God because those that led them loved and believed in God. You accepted the process of believe, belong, behave, because that was just the way it was. This world God designed, however, is about change; how we approach it needs to reflect God. In the past, we bought American cars because we believed in American engineering and American workers. I still do, but I recognize not everyone around me does any longer. Churches like the unions of the past were the right thing for the culture of our past. Are they the right thing for now? Change is hard.