Monday, October 24, 2005

While reading through The Shaping of Things to Come, among other things, I've latched on to the idea that the church needs to become less attractional and more incarnational if it is to have a helpful impact on the world. The days of tightly produced musical and drama programs, slick advertising campaigns, and sermon series that supposedly address what real people are dealing with are coming to the end of their effectiveness. Instead, we ought to incarnate (Greek = "enflesh")the life and work of Christ in our lives. Figure out what that looks like within our local contexts, whether they be urban, suburban, rural, cross-cultural, foreign, etc.

In my own ministry arena - on the college campus, I've been seeing the reality of this scenario. Being new to this, I think I've got a little bit of objectivity, but here's what I've witnessed. On the campus where I work, the bigger organizations are the ones that give grab bags full of books, CDs, bumper stickers, and toothbrushes away during welcome week activities. They're the ones with rock bands and light shows during their weekly worship services. In some cases, they're the ones in which students are encouraged to conduct dorm room Bible studies. The smaller campus clubs put up tables in the student union, with banners saying who they are, with a whiteboard that has some profound quote about life on it, asking students to write their comments on it.

Coming into this environment, I knew that some things were going to need to change. And after a few months, I'm more convinced than ever. I'll fully admit to having played the attractional game here. Nice banner printed, good looking flyers, food/water giveaways during move-in and welcome week, parties, big plans. At this point, it's not working. We're only four or five weeks in to the first quarter of the year, and I'm already about to shut down our current plans and just quit trying. Instead, I want to ask our staff and the few students we do have, "What does it look like to be incarnational right here?" Does it mean joining other campus clubs that are focusing on good issues like an environmental group and integrating our mission with theirs? Does it mean changing our gathering times and places to be more fluid with the life of a college student?

I'm not just looking for another way of trying to meet peoples' needs. And, the reality of our situation is that the majority of the people on campus are middle class white kids. So basically, it's not too terribly far off from church planting in suburbia. Meeting their "needs" may just be another way of selling out to consumerism.

Back to the book mentioned above, the answer would seem to be working on the social networks our students are already in. Strengthening them, and adding purpose/mission to them, and being available when people begin to get caught up in those nets - sort of the way a first century Palestinian fisherman would. Still way more questions than answers around here.

posted by Steve at 5:06 AM
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spirit farmer data

I'm Steve Lewis. This used to be my blogging home. My online home is now at When this blog was my active online home, I lived in Seattle. Now I live in London, UK. I follow Jesus (poorly most of the time), worship simply, read a lot, watch culture, go to school, listen to music, write, enjoy art, and drink a lot of coffee.
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seattle spots

victrola coffee
zoka coffee
university of washington
church of the apostles
quest church
sanctuary church
shoreline vineyard

sites i visit

off the map
nt wright

a few of the blogs in the feedreader

jason evans
joe boyd
kevin rains
alan creech
chris marshall
bill bean
eugene cho
jordon cooper
dwight friesen
john chandler
amy palmer
ryan bolger
rudy carrasco
ryan sharp
sings in the sunshine
rick bennett
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karen ward
alan hirsch
dan kimball
petey crowder

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colossians remixed
africa unchained

i finished reading it - 2007

generation me
jesus and the restoration of israel
god's continent
globalizing theology
gustavo gutierrez: essential writings
jesus and the eyewitnesses
garlands of grace
twenty poems to nourish your soul
the black swan
dancing in the streets
made to stick
signs in contemporary culture
hit the bullseye
the politics of jesus
readings in christian ethics
toward old testament ethics
the kite runner
principles of conduct
velvet elvis
the irresistable revolution
they like jesus, but not the church
the great omission
charisma: the gift of grace, and how it has been taken from us
the starfish and the spider
a perfect mess
the world cafe
the new faces of christianity
leaving church
journeying in faith
the creed
transforming mission
metaphors we live by
foolishness to the greeks
personal knowledge

states i've spent time: 2007

british columbia
oh yeah, denmark, too

i wrote it

managing conflict in the 'new world'
music review: over the rhine
film review: bonhoeffer
music review: fighting jacks
film review: the passion of the christ
how reality tv changes lives
the best tv article you've ever read
corks & caps: a wine lover's story of change
america's idols
random, disorganized thoughts about life after the katrina disaster
missional . . . plain and simple
on becoming post-gnostic

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