We develop theology in our context. The urban context generates an urban theology. Being in the urban environment and living in a community with a high level of poverty has led me toward a theology that has taken on more of the language of God caring for the poor and the marginalized and Jesus as the suffering servant who understands pain and rejection. I am learning the language of the Exodus that is so prominant in the African American church and I am noticing more than ever the multiplicity of Scriptural passages that reference justice for the oppressed. Christian praxis in the city requires theologial reflection. I think that is done best in community.
I have been wanting to start something like a L'Abri in the city. Those of us who are old enough to remember will recall that during the 60's and 70's Francis Shaffer would invite people who were seeking to make sense of God and culture, to join him in a chalet in the Swiss Alps to sit around the fireplace and talk about the intersection of theology and contemporary thought. I think we are in a similar place in the church right now and we need to have lots of theological discussion and reflection. I am sensing that many younger people don't have a container to put theological thoughts into and some who have learned a "systematic" theology are finding their theological framework being dismantled and they're not sure how or if to reconstruct it. Now is a great time for us to have more conversations about God.
I think the emerging church movement is bringing good conversation, but I am also concerned that some are moving away from Jesus and the power of His death and resurrection. I was listening to Doug Pagitt from Soloman's Porch on the Emergent Podcast yesterday. They were talking about the "Centered Sets" approach to understanding the Church. I have used the concept in my Wheaton classes because I like the notion that we don't always know who is in or out (of the faith). What is important is that we love people where they are and point them toward the Center, which is Christ, to urge people to turn toward and to be in the process of moving toward Christ wherever they may be in their journey. The gospel is good news. Jesus laid down his life to buy us freedom,freedom from the bondage of sin and freedom to live a new, vibrant, abundant life. So we urge people to come toward the center where they find love, peace and freedom in Christ.
Anyway, in the podcast, they suggested it would be better to consider the importance of "Relational Sets". I have also heard it labeled as "Network Sets". Basically, what I heard them saying is that we are all connected and it is the love that matters. There was no mention of Jesus or of Christ being the center. While I enjoy "out of the box" discussion and I don't feel I have to agree with everything someone says to learn from what they have to say, I am concerned that some in the church, in their reaction to certain facets of the traditional church, might actually throw away any faith in "The God Who Is There".
At Breakthrough we talk alot about reweaving the fabric of the community by buiding a network of support around everyone who comes our way and that these relationships are reciprocal and we all grow in the process, but at the heart of that network is faith in Christ. The network/relational approach works to restore people to right relationships with one another when God is lifted up as the head and the one who brings us together in unity.
From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Eph 4:16I think we need to develop space for people to talk about these things. I wish we could get a big house in the city where people who are searching and questioning or who are wanting to learn more about God's concern for the city and the poor and justice, could come for a month or two and stay and we could have guided study and discussions open to the public.
What do you think?