These are my notes from the third and final day of 3DM’s Denver Mission and Discipleship workshop. As with my previous posts from day one and day two, if these notes don’t make sense or you want to hear more you can click here to download the audio from this session.
Overall this was three days well spent. As is often the case, the information that was received was helpful, but what was even more helpful was the conversations that took place over lunch, in between sessions, and in the intentional huddles created by the conference organizers. The more I hear from 3DM the more I appreciate their humble and open-handed approach to helping the church get better at understanding how God shapes disciples and how we as leaders can partner with him. They emphasize over and over that they have simply developed tools that may be helpful in that process. They constantly push against people who want easy answers or a simple process to implement. Through all my years in ministry I have heard so many people pushing their system, and I have even been guilty of pushing a system on people myself in the past. I guess that’s why it’s refreshing to encounter people who say, “Here are some things we’ve learned and some things that have been helpful to people we’ve worked with. Take what works and use it how it makes most sense.” So as you read these notes, remember – these concepts are just tools that may or may not be helpful in your context. As the old saying goes, “Eat the fish, leave the bones.”
Session 3, Mike Breen
- “I’ve rarely been as concious of the significant spiritual battle over a city as I have been in Denver.”
- Hebrews 12:26-13:7 – The message of Hebrews was written into an environment of threat and persecution for the church. In the face of this strong opposition the writer of Hebrews encourages that Jesus is greater than any power they will face. This was a time of seismic shifts and enormous change.
- We similarly live in a time of seismic change. Literally. There are more recorded earthquakes during our lifetime than any other in recorded history. This text is therefore for us as well.
- In a time of social and cultural earthquakes, do we function as victims or the rescue team?
- ** Mike’s depiction of the cultural earthquake that shook the foundational institutions of life in the west. Just listen to the audio **
- Church attendance in Europe fell off precipitously after WWI. America has not followed suit as rapidly, but sexual scandals have rocked the perception of the church in America – Catholic and Protestant. Some people perceive the institution of the church not just as irrelevant but dangerous.
- The foundational institution of the extended family has been shaken and destroyed by mobility of modern life. People hoped that the concept of the western nuclear family would be enough. But waves of feminism and sexual revolution have shaken the institution of the nuclear family to the ground.
- If you were a cultural anthropologist, one of the primary artifacts you would look at to understand modern culture would be media. What are these artifacts speaking about? They speak about the loss of something. Twenty years ago the most popular TV show was Home Improvement – the last stand of the nuclear family. Just a few years later, this conception of family gave way and Home Improvement gave way to Friends and Seinfeld. Today we see a re-emergence of the conception of extended family in popular shows like Modern Family.
- What does the Bible indicate should be our response in the face of the earthquake? Our first response should be compassion. “Keep on loving each other as brothers. 2 Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. 3 Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” (Heb 13)
- What is behind the prevalence of personal and sexual disorientation? People in an earthquake are disoriented. They don’t need a rescue team to judge their disorientation. The Bible is clear about God’s intent for human sexual orientation. But people in our world who suffer from disorientation need compassion first, not judgment.
- After showing compassion, the next thing that is needed is community. A rescue team needs to bring victims to a place to receive shelter and sustenance.
- Mike’s discovery doing ministry in England was that if they could re-create the experience of extended family, people would gravitate to it. People are hard-wired to be drawn to this experience.
- ** Wal-Mart/Coke commercial. “Joy to go around” – An expression of the value of extended family **
- After community, when they begin to regain some sense of stability, people need a connecting story. They need to understand how their story connects to a larger story.
- Years ago in a discussion with his staff Mike said he thought the next wave in music would be hip-hop and new country. He made that prediction, because he felt people needed stories. Hip-hop and country are people telling stories. If people don’t feel connected to a story they will adopt the story of others, by claiming the icons and markers of a culture or story.
- We have a story. A great story. The story. The story of God. If we learn the storyteller’s skill, people will listen and identify with the story. When you listen to the story, you place yourself in it and identify with one of the characters in it. Our story gives people identity, as children of God who are part of his great story.
- If you have been in an earthquake, the maps don’t work anymore. Likewise in the aftermath of a cultural earthquake the maps of culture and ministry that have been given to us by seminaries and religious institutions don’t work. When the maps don’t work, we need a compass.
- Discipleship is our compass. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. What people need is a compass to find him.
- How do you connect people to the grand narrative outside the context of the church? Discipleship happens when you connect the text (Scripture) and context. Taking someone’s context and applying the Bible to it – revelation, interpretation, application. If you switch those words, it is where you connect Word to flesh – incarnation. “The best Gen X could do was clear the rubble of the cultural earthquake. That’s why their first response is always deconstruction. Millenials look at the rubble and want to build something with it. If the connecting story has old and new components, it is more compelling.”
- How do you think about the rise of interest in eastern philosophy and religion? In response to the earthquake, people look to find something compelling and solid. Eastern religion seems stable and is an answer, a connecting story.
- How do you develop the craft of storytelling? Listen to the best storytellers available. They are usually comedians. Don’t worry about the content; focus on the craft. Stories have a beginning, middle, and end. Tension usually arises in the middle and is resolved at the end. Comedy relies on the unexpected humorous resolution. Documentary “Comedian” by Seinfeld.
- What do you do when people reject compassion and go back to the rubble? Peter asked Jesus a similar question about forgiveness. The answer was simply, “keep doing it.” Our identity is the rescue team. It’s who we are.
- Does the existence of an extended family that holds influence work against this idea of the church trying to create one? Find the influencers within that community and connect with them.