Friday, January 23, 2009

social pulpit | social god

Johny Baker does a great job of framing the importance of technology around the political influence Barak Obama has been able to effectively cultivate. Baker suggests that Obama gets it because Obama is native to the culture of communicative involvement through this technology. You can check out the rest of the article here.

But what is of particular interest to me are some underlying theological connections as it relates to who we are as church as extensions of the very nature for who God is.

The listening church as I'm calling it, the church as "table ministry" or "church in the round" as Letty Russell suggests from the early '90s, is not merely a technique that individuals learn for the potential of membership acquisition within church community itself, nor as the place where people come and just sit passively listening to the expert resident theologian. Rather becoming a listening community as church is learning to form, in a new way, how we engage in the world as church.

What this listening looks like is to engage beyond our familiar denominational tribes in new ways around learning the richness of Christianity over the two thousand years of Church allowing voices to speak like the ancient celtic faith, Eastern Orthodox faith and the monastics. Equally church needs to make space for listening to those who opt out and find no home within our communities. It is these places that will expand our engagement of church through the act of listening. In essence the challenge and change for church life in its very engagement as a people of God will be through the act of listening, and the act of listening as participating in the very life and way of God.

There's a lot of talk these days about the phrase "the world is flat" that Thomas Friedman coined. This flatness is occuring through these emerging online networks as opportunities to have a voice in ways that previously people weren't able to have prior to this form of technology.

And so when we ask the question "what is God up to?" we need to realize that this move may be creating significant openings for us as God's people, to get on board with, not only what God is up to, but equally who God is as a social, holy and divine, community.

For me, the challenge for being church stems from being the presence of God at work in the world through the very way we engage and embody this holy presence with others. The listening church will then learn skills for what it looks like to better engage as God's people making more and more room for more and more voices at the table, discerning together what God is doing in the world and in us too!

I think some of these initial skills are:
*learning to make space for the different opinions of others
*learning to live with ambiguity
* asking ourselves 'who's not at the table who could or should be at the table?'
* learning to listen as community, not merely individuals, and taking that communal practice to the streets to be lived out from our insolated and isolated spaces we've grown accustomed to.

This is the point: the listening church doesn't use listening as technique for some market ploy to get people into church or to bore people to death by mere passivity to listening to the resident expert. Rather the church is the very space of allowing listening to convert the church itself as well as seeing this practice for what it is as the very participatory work for engaging with God as life itself to the world.

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