Saturday, July 31, 2010

BC and Back Again

Just got back from our vacation in BC. I presented two workshops at the Vineyard National Gathering - The Ladd Who Lit the Fire and Theology Pubs: Postmodern Hermeneutics. Both went really well and there will be slides up (at some point) on our new Thoughtworks website. In the first session I presented on Wimber's read of Ladd's Kingdom Theology. The big insight for me was how Wimber saw our relationship to God's reign as one of obedience. Obedience is a huge cornerstone in Wimber's theology and I think it is a brilliant approach to understanding the Kingdom of God as a dynamic expressed reign. Of course you can't spend an hour talking about the Kingdom without doing Kingdom ministry - so we spent the last half hour practicing our obedience, listening and responding to the King. The second session was different. I did a short presentation on Theology Pubs and how they work, then as a workshop we had one... actually two. Mark Taverner of North Langley Vineyard helped me out by leading a second group due to the large number of participants (Mark is a pastor and thinker I really respect, and he has a huge passion for our topic - Post-Modern Hermeneutics). I set up the pub by talking about how we would discuss Post-Modern Hermeneutics, including my own suspicions about the term post-modern. Then we made circles and chatted. What I had hoped for happened in my group - we had folks with completely different ideas able to have a conversation which didn't devolve into a debate. I was really happy with how it went. Also I was happy that the model seemed to strike a chord with many of the participants, they saw how it could open up conversations that are no longer possible with traditional evangelism approaches. Not that these theology pubs are overtly or even covertly evangelism outreaches, except that they allow us to engage in public theology, that is theology in a public venue where we don't expect to have all the answers. The evangelistic thrust is in the fact that it presents a face of the church that evangelicals haven't been good at showing - letting our faith seek understanding. I think such conversations actually lay aside the modernist quest for certainty that has been so problematic.

For our vacation we camped around the province in an old '77 camper van. It was totally Scooby Doo. At one gas station I emerged to have folks flashing me the peace symbol! Nice. We saw tonnes of deer (a few dead ones too unfortunately) and even a black bear on Vancouver Island. We marveled at Cathedral Grove. My wife and oldest daughter learned to surf. We swam in many rivers and lakes - some quite frigid. We bathed in hot springs, that was really nice. And we roasted hot dogs (gluten and dairy free was not easy to find!) over camp fires. So much fun.

Despite all this, I'm happy to be in my own bed again. Just wish I could get to sleep tonight.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Vineyard Family

We were at the Vineyard National Gathering in Penticton, BC. Such an awesome time! I love gatherings like this, it reminds me again why I love my Vineyard family so much. I was asked to teach a couple of workshops - one on Wimber's reading of Ladd and another modelling theology pubs using the topic of post-modern hermeneutics. Both were very well attended and really went well. I loved the experimental worship night we did, I think Dan Wilt started a tradition for us four years ago, thanks Dan. And when we left the park Larry Levy was announcing a baptism. So cool. I made lots of connections that I will treasure, and lots that I will continue through the web. There are so many cool God hungry people in this movement, it is a privilege to be a part of it!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Review: The Holy Spirit is Not for Sale

J. Lee Grady is not, by his own admission, a theologian. But he is an observer from within a movement and his observations are worth engaging with. The reason I start where I did is that his theological analysis is not very well done. This leads to some problems in his suggested solutions to the problems that his beloved Pentecostal movement faces. Despite the lack of a compelling self-critical analysis - he does make a good case that something has shifted and allowed the movement to be characterized by what Grady might call false spiritualities. He is calling for a reformation of sorts, part return to the first passions of Pentecostalism and part new passion for personal piety.

A couple notable new ideas, at least for old school Pentecostals, are the recognition that the Spirit's activity is not restricted to the Pentecostals and the ways in which even Pentecostal practice/theology has pandered to enlightenment individualistic ideas. His critiques are often good. Where he goes with them, not always so. He seems to hold the same fear of intellectualism that prevents Pentecostal theology from improving (thank God that there are so many great Pentecostal intellectuals coming on the scene these days - there is much to be encouraged about in this area) and he also seems to hold a truncated version of the gospel missing that this individualistic gospel is part of the problem that he has noticed.

On another side of it, I come from Pentecostal roots. There are things that I really love about my Pentecostally-formed spirituality. Grady's stories reminded me some of what I loved about that. The passion for God's presence. The desire for a holy life in God. The passion to see God's love transform people all around me. These are good things. Grady is right to lament their weakening in Pentecostal experience. I think some of his suggestions are worth a deeper reflection. Perhaps that is the best place to put this book - Grady starts an honest and hard conversation that Pentecostals must have to move forward. In this he does a real service to the Body of Christ.