It’s exciting and encouraging to read about all the new things that God is doing in really small ways through ordinary but oh-so-radical people all over the place.  We can’t replicate these communities, but we can learn from them and be inspired by them to go out and do our own thing that God is calling us to, so we can be part of the new thing God is doing in the world, through the church (however you want to define that these days).  I think the most important part of the new streams is networking, letting people know what God is doing in our small ways to continually encourage and support  each other.  Exciting stuff, for sure!

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Sine writes, “Entrepreneurial innovation is lying latent in many young people” (296).  This is why youth ministry and Christian education are so important.  Now I’m no youth pastor, anyone will tell you that.  But I am so supportive of anyone who is gifted to speak into the lives of high school and college students who are being shaped and formed by the world around them.  New scientific research on the brain (I just learned in my sex class a few weeks back) tells us that the pre-frontal cortex (the part of the brain that thinks, makes decisions, and judges) undergoes a second pruning phase in the teen years that can last until age 25!  In case we didn’t already know, those years are vital for our development as cognitive, healthy human beings.  Talk about unmined resources.  Giving students the tools and empowering them (and coming alongside them) can totally reshape the vision of the church for ages to come.  Go youth pastors!

I love Sine’s advice: “Begin really, really small” (277).  As a Presbyterian, I’m trained to think in programs.  I want to shift everything at once and put everyone on a new path.  That’s, of course, not the way do to things that stick.  God works slowly, through process, through journey, through relationships that build over time.  If we want this thing to stick, this new thing that God is doing, this ushering in of the new kingdom here and now, we’d better start with this really small thing, this mustard seed that will (like the stubborn weed it is) take over the world.

These titles are so repetitive. Anyway, I was telling a friend the other day how reading Bonhoeffer changed my life.  I was so upset at not getting into the class I wanted that I couldn’t care less about the class I was forced to take in its place, Ethics of Bonhoeffer (with Stassen, if you get a chance to take it, DO!).  I didn’t even know who Bonhoeffer was.  But I’d been struggling with what it means to be in community, what is community for, what is the church, how do we do church, is church community, is community church, etc.  And the first book we read was his famous Life Together.  Couldn’t have been more perfect.  Community is absolutely essential to the Christian life.  We are relational creatures! (Told you I’d say it again!)  We need each other; we long for intimate connection with someone with skin on.  It’s how we’re made.  I love the stories in this chapter and in Claiborne’s book.  So many ways to do community!  What a joy!

I really struggled with this chapter.  Again, I am not a numbers person, and money stresses me out.  But I just don’t understand what the issue is with tithing.  I get that people use it as an excuse or a cop-out.  That’s valid.  But I don’t think the solution is to withhold your tithe from your church in order to distribute it yourself elsewhere.  Churches depend on giving just like any non-profit, and without tithes, people will lose their jobs.  My family members will lose their jobs.  I don’t think the solution is to quit tithing.

I am challenged by Sine’s statement, “Jesus really was an extremist in his whole life, and those of us who have decided to follow him need to consider becoming ‘extremists’ in our whole lives too” (225).  It’s so much more comfortable to be moderate.  But I don’t want to be a comfortable Christian.  Comfortable Christians have stopped moving forward; they grow stagnant and breed mosquitoes.  I want to be moving always forward, toward God.  If that means being extremist, or dare I say, radical, then I’ll have to figure out what that means for me.  But you better believe I’ll do it, and you better come alongside me, because it’ll be too hard to do by myself.

Now here’s a challenge the seminaries need to hear: “If we are to hear the full counsel of God, we also need to start reading what God is saying to the global church in the twenty-first century through leaders in Africa, Asia, and Latin America” (210).  I know there are a few classes at Fuller that have these kinds of books on their reading lists, but I’ve not read hardly anything from these places.  How great a deficit we experience by not mining all our resources.

I went to Haiti for a week in college. We traveled all around the Port-au-Prince area to visit schools run by Christian individuals, interviewing teachers, principles, and even some of the kids who could speak English well enough. Our goal was to raise awareness about the good that was happening through education in Haiti and the great need for more support, financial and prayerful. Educating a child, giving a person the ability to think, speak, and act for themself–that’s a beautiful thing, an empowering, life-giving, world-changing thing. Since writes, “If we can enable people to have a greater voice…they can fashion their own local solutions to many of the economic challenges they are facing” (200). Education, the ability to communicate, to articulate one’s thoughts and beliefs, ideas and plans, and the means to put them into action–that’s the future. That’s way better than math.

I just do not understand economics.  I’ve never been a numbers person.  Give me words, and I’m there, but numbers!  I don’t know really how to help raise up the poor from their poor-ness or how to help the vulnerable middle keep from going under.  All I know is that God provides.  God wonderfully and magnificently and miraculously provides, and I cling to that promise.  Claiborne talks about coming to Calcutta with no idea where he would sleep or what he would eat.  But he went, expecting God to provide, and God did!  I get that these issues are important, and I get that people can be boosted up and provided for and all this…but it’s just not my heart.  Money is just not my heart.  People are my heart, but money…I’ll leave that to the math guys!

When Sine writes, “We also need to model a less driven way of life in which we are much more present to God and those with whom we are in community” (157), I immediately thought of PIHOP, the Pasadena International House of Prayer behind which I and my roommate now live.  I’ve been seeking God in new ways since I moved out to California, and I finally began to find God at PIHOP.  The people there amaze me with their commitment and pursuit of God.  It’s so peaceful there, and the people involved spend enormous amounts of their day/week in prayer and worship together in this little room, squished between businesses on the busy Lake Ave.  I’ve learned by watching these people how to be present with God and also present with community all at once, moving easily in and out of earnest worship to greet newcomers or attend to the homeless who come in from the street looking for water, first aid, or maybe just attention.  In my busy, busy weeks with classes and work and many extra demands, I find myself drawn to PIHOP for the “less driven way of life” to find peace, if only for a moment in my busy schedule.

I began to feel physically ill while reading this chapter, absolutely overwhelmed with the amount of excess and waste that comes out of the extraordinary means of some people, mostly in the US and Europe.  Even those who do not have excess are being caught up in the MORE MORE MORE MORE MORE of our society’s cultural messages.  Sine writes that the middle class “increasingly derive our sense of identity, self-esteem and even our life purpose from our success in the marketplace of more” (149).  Remember the Olympic medalist Lauren Williams (who lost her race, by the way)?  Big house, big truck, big dog.  Is that really what life is about?  Is that really what we want to define us?  Is that what people see when they look at us, not our Christian values and God-driven love for people, but our STUFF?  Is that what WE see when we look at others?

I’m not a big fan of extended metaphors.  That being said, I do think this chapter had something to offer in the way of being concerned about creation care.  I know “being green” gets a lot of hype and has its stigmas attached, but since working at the bookstore and being around people who really, really care about the environment in a theological way, I’ve come to respect and understand a lot more about what it means to care about this world God has given us to cultivate and care for.  It’s part of being a good steward of our resources to take care of the world around us, or at least to care for our immediate environment and make eco-friendly choices whenever possible.  I think “being green” has become too political an issue in the church, when it’s not really political at all.  It’s just common sense that part of a Christian’s call is to be responsible and honor God in ALL things, even the way we get rid of our trash.