Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Are We Ready?

Most of us, at one time or another, have put a lot of energy into trying to preserve long-standing forms and institutions. In my own case, I have been drawn to seek revitalization in my local Meeting and in my Yearly Meeting, as well as in wider bodies, like Friends United Meeting. These are institutions that have been around much longer than I have, but, though it is easy for me to take them for granted, they cannot continue to exist and operate without our time, energy and financial resources.

And it is right that we give these time-honored institutions some of our attention. We should seek the Young Quakers Plotting Goodnessrevival of our established fellowships and institutions. These churches and organizations have nurtured so many of us, given us a place to learn to listen to the still, small voice of Jesus in our hearts and, in obedience to him, to translate our faith into action. Our established institutions have  benefited, and continue to benefit the spiritual growth of so many. There are still many hearts to be reached within the frameworks of our established fellowships, and lives can be changed by engaging in the struggle for growth and forward momentum in the religious communities and structures that we belong to.

At the same time, I believe that if we focus most or all  Hip-hop in Quaker meetinghouseof our energy on resuscitating stagnant or dying institutions, we risk failing to re-contextualize the Gospel to emerging generations. Just as in Jesus' day, there are many of us who have the form of righteousness - who follow all the procedural rules to be "church people" - but who are not radically submitted to Christ.

The truth is, if we are under Jesus' present leadership, we are in for some radical changes. He has new wine for us that will burst many of the old wineskins that sustained and strengthened prior generations. We are in a new cultural context in the post-modern West, and we are being called to engage with this new situation.

We can't yet say what form these new, contextualized expressions of the Gospel will take; they will come in  many different Sign at New City Friends, Detroit, MIshapes and sizes, based on local circumstances and the purposes  of the Holy Spirit. For our part, we must make a decision to be obedient to Christ's guidance, even if it shakes things up, threatening the established way of doing things.

Are we ready for radical faithfulness?

A Few of God’s New Creations:

Capitol Hill Friends (Washington, DC)
Freedom Friends Church (Salem, OR)
New City Friends (Detroit, MI)
Old Town Friends Fellowship (Baltimore, MD)
The Underground Connection (Fountain City, IN)


Greg Waddell said...

Good article. You wrote:

"If we focus most or all of our energy on resuscitating stagnant or dying institutions, we risk failing to re-contextualize the Gospel to emerging generations."

Exactly right and, sadly, this is happening all across America. I'm wondering if old denominational differences are being replaced by newly forming alliances that are forged by a common understanding of the need for this kind of recontextualization.

Anonymous said...

What about recontextualising Christ himself? Dom Aelred Graham, a Benedictine monk, once said that he was more interested in the religion OF Jesus than the religion ABOUT Jesus. So many of the new "emergent types" are willing to let go of a lot, but they still tenaciously cling to Jesus as the "one and only Lord". I think Christ would speak to modern folks with greater power if he was portrayed as some articulating a way, rather than being the way. What say you to this Micah?

PS I enjoy your blog

Mike L.

Micah Bales said...

Hi Mike!

Thanks for your thoughtful questions. My experience of Jesus is that he not only taught about God and about a way to be in relationship with God, but that he in fact embodies who God is.

In some mysterious way that I don't claim to understand, I believe that the Word became flesh in Jesus and - as Eugene Peterson puts it - "moved into the neighborhood." Jesus is amazing to me for his embodiment of God's love, mercy, wisdom and strength. What is even more incredible is that, though he had the power to overthrow empires, he emptied himself, taking all of our hatred and violence upon himself so that we might be healed.

I don't think that Jesus taught a path that can be understood apart from him - I think that he himself is the message. In his life, I have seen who God really is, and I am challenged to live my life in obedience to him.

This is what I can say from my own experience of Jesus. What do others think?


forrest said...

If we look at this rightly, "the gospel" is the context that everything else should be subject to...

and the trouble we're having with that is: old & new [mis?]understandings of what that means are in conflict with a society that generally rejects any form of it. Our semi-Religious Society has had no effective defense against the greater society's attacks-against & subversions-of religion; very few of us have escaped falling into ways of thought that work to divert us from Christ.

Whatever you+ can improvise and/or borrow that helps you "love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength" should be just fine, yes? I do wish you success!
Hmm, You've just added a comment before I could post this, asking "What do others think?" So-- Okay, for me it's like this: God has always 'forgiven' and worked to reconcile with humanity, and Jesus' life&death was the way God found to communicate this to us. So Jesus is much like a letter-from-God (but so are we, sometimes!) Close?

Steve said...


Robin M. said...

I get the point that new wine will require new wineskins, but I don't want to have to dig a new winecellar every year. I think these new meetings/worship groups are a good example of finding the balance.

Tony Breda said...


Great Blog! i like the wine skins post. Pipe Creek Friends in Union Bridge MD are hosting Warrinton Quarterly meeting and are in need of a speaker. I think you would be quite good and wonder if you are available either 11/20 saturday or 11/21 Sunday after Meeting for Worship. We camp out, enjoy a fire, dinner, music and speaker saturday then have Meeting for Worship, speaker and Meeting for he Quarter's Business Sunday. Give me a call if you are interested in speaking or just want to join us for a visit anytime. Tony Breda 443-340-5495