A Date with NECF Research Commission

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*Updated: I respaced the paragraphs after realising how unpleasing to the eyes they are – the medium is the message*

Thanks to Alwyn for being the faster one to post his thoughts here on NECF-EMO Chat and David-hedonese sharing his feelings on That’s Not ‘Generous’…

I’ll start by trying to work on a Disclaimer πŸ™‚ first:

Disclaimer: The views on sivinkit.net do not represent the opinions or positions of Bangsar Lutheran Church, the Lutheran Church in Malaysia & Singapore or Emergent Malaysia. The views represented here are solely the personal views of the author. Please contact me via email at sivinkit@gmail.com if you have any problems with any of the content.

Now that wasnt too hard …

And I shall begin with a story …
Actually, I wanted to go and play frisbee during a break at the recent NECF Youth Workers Consultation 2005 but then I landed up in “conversation” with Siew Foong from the NECF Research Commission and we had a fruitful discussion on a wide variety of issues ranging from Brian Mclaren to the state of pastors in Malaysia, etc.

The next thing leads to the leads (in terms of emails) and we’re sitting with the commission members for a nice cup of coffee having a in my opinion a stimulating dialogue (by the way I enjoyed the lunch conversations too where we talked about the latest craze on apostles – I’ll leave that for another day).

Anyway, prior to the event on 16 November 2005, Saturday morning. I asked for some questions to spur the mind to focus a bit more … and the following came back under the theme “”Church and Christian Living in the Postmodern World””:

1. What does it mean to be an authentic Christian/church?
2. What is the true role of self? Does right living means denial of self?
3. Is the Church being irrelevant?
4. should Christian conviction (belief) be secondary to compassion?
5. Does current theology restrict rather than free?

Came across the phrase ‘postmodern Christian,’ it may be referring to Christian living in the postmodern era, or Christian with postmodern ideas or something else, regardless what are the opportunities for evangelism and provisions for authentic Christian living in these pomo ideas? “

To start with we had some prelimary introductions (there were Alwyn, Kia Meng, Yew Khuen- the non-blogger- and myself from Emergent Malaysia – a informal network .. a young friend who claims to be a modernist came along to add spice!) and then trying to share how we landed up (or fumbled into) being called Emergent Malaysia. πŸ™‚

The facilitator felt we were spending a little too much time on “us” rather than what we thought and what were our concerns then we went into loads of free flow discussions revolving somewhat to the questions above.

I actually did a Mindmap of ideas but didn’t manage to go through the, systematically as the conversations, back and forth clarifications and responsed were very dynamic. I think a lot centred on question 3 as we also tried to warp our minds around another question is how we viewed “Malaysian evangelicalism”?

Here are some areas and comments that surfaced in no particular order: (Someone/Another one = NECF commission or observer, one of us = take your guess who?, I = definateoly me .. I own up!) :

– Someone said that we didn’t come with an agenda to sell anything or to provide solutions but just to share what’s on our mind and how we are dealing with it. This is absolutely *grin* true …
– Another one encouraged us by saying it’s good to see younger folk wreslting with issues about being and doing church in our generation.
– One of us shared how the “gospel” he was introduced to left him dry and beign shown a wider vision of the “Gospel” (here names like NT Wright, and Jacques Ellul, and Renι Girard came in)
– someone noticed the words like “conversation”, “missional”, “praxis”, “story” etc. that keep popping up and asked how does that relate to where we are and what we’re doing.

– one of us talked about the “mode” of discourse and how we tend to favor a more “conversational” approach as opposed to a more top down lecture style and how that reflects the predisposition to listen first …
– I was suprised when the name Pannenberg came into the discussion πŸ™‚ Brian McLaren was mentioned less than 4 times, Dallas Willardat least once πŸ™‚ Stanley Grenz a couple of times, Kevin Vanhoozer,/a> and Michael Horton definately at least once. Sneaked in Robert Jenson’s name at the end when we are asked to widen our reading *grin* I think I mentioned Luther and Lesslie Newbigin here and there (maybe a little too much Luther from me until I had to do the Benediction!)

– At some points I felt that there were obvious differences in the way we view how we should look at the state of the Malaysian church especially when it related to the emerging younger generation. There was a sense of “us vs. them” where as I would have prefered (1) a more “we” approach (2) seeing the wider picture of our existing church cultures – from leaders to families, etc.
– I also shared my frustration with the lack of integration of theology, spirituality and ministry from the perspective of a pastor … too much “talk” tends towards mere discussions on methodology.

– Someone asked whether the way we are questioning the status quo of popular youth ministry methods is abnormal and the majority actually don’t even ask these questions.
– one of us shared .. at times we do feel alone .. but the there seem to be others who are on the same journey .. perhaps we are a minority (no stats to show for this one .. just a gut feeling)
– Someone gave affirmation that at least there are some among us who are “thinking” and “wrestling” with issues in a more reflective manner – and the Agora was mentioned side by side with Emergent Malaysia in the same sentance πŸ™‚ .

– someone mentioned we shouldn’t throw away the old language … one of us replied we are not …
– one of us talked about the need for propositions and not denying it but seek to see and present how the story is encoded in the proposition.
– one of us talked about theological boundaries and then the centred set and bounded set terminology cropped in a little.
– one of us talked about how the “gospel” could be misused to oppress ..
– Someone mentioned the threats we are facing increasingly these days and talked about urgency.

– one of us πŸ™‚ tried to bringout the difference between a sentence and proposition.
– Someone highlighted the effects of modernity and how he’s come through bruised and tired of modernity.
– one of us mentioned the consumerism we see in the church today.
– Someone clarified that ours is a cultural critic.
– I shared how as a pastor I operate with a variety of languages … and different levels of discussion and even though I enjoy times like this where stimulating back and forth conversations which as more than one syllable words come up .. most of the time while being aware of this I talk more “normally” in a church setting. I think I mention Francis Schaeffer somewhere here.

– we mentioned postmodernity in passing here and there but interestingly and thankfully (IMHO) it wasn’t the main thing in our discussion.
– there was talk about the Gospel being embodied, there was also talk on how we “perform” the Gospel, there was mention of the wider catergory of “witness” in relation to “evangellsm”
– one of us shared on how many sermons in the pulpit has little relevance to the week from Monday to Saturday. Or often being good at work is merely a means to hook others to Jesus by having a change to “evangelize”
– Someone mentioned I may not be able to find a job in a megachurch (and that was a compliment!) hehehe
– There’s lots more … I’m getting a little tired typing.

Overall, i felt it was a good meeting … and there were very encouraging affirmations from all quarters. The facilitator congratulated the research commission for their best behaviour (I wonder why?). As for me, I think those of us who so called represented “emergent malaysia” did well in honestly sharing our thoughts.

It was a nice date… there was laughter, some heightened excitement here and ther, some flatter moments where patience was required, there was a genuine effort to listen and understand, some good moments where thoughts and concerns connected, other times we flew by each other … after being in a variety of settings in my personal experience this was one of the more memorable ones I’ve been part of.

after that, a decent lunch … and some extra overflow of conversations (as usual) nice to catch up with old friends and new.

Nothing fancy … I think we might have some “dates” in future maybe in different forms and different ways.

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