New Waters S1 | Bonus Episode 2
New Waters S1 Bonus Episode 2 | Spirit-Led Course Corrections: How Well Are We Listening?
In this bonus episode, we’re taking a deeper dive into some of the topics explored in Season 1. We're sharing some outtakes, side conversations, and even additional ideas and observations that for many different reasons didn't make the final cut of Episodes 2-6 (we’re skipping the first episode, which was featured prominently in our previous bonus episode). So if you haven't listened to those episodes yet or missed a couple along the way, we highly recommend going to check them out first.
*NEW* Find discussion questions, show notes, and a full transcript of the episode below!
+ Discussion Questions
Use this discussion sheet to continue the conversation in a church or small group setting.
+ Show Notes and Resources
- The Lausanne Movement
- After You Believe by N.T. Wright
- Donald Miller on the Church (a follow-up interview with Relevant Magazine as the original article no longer exists)
- Peter Berger (sociologist and writer on secularism)
- New Waters on Instagram
- New Waters on Twitter
- New Waters on Facebook
+ Full Episode Transcript
REGAN: Hey New Waters listeners, welcome back. This is Bonus Episode 2 and the official wrap-up of our first season. I hope that we've given you some new things to think about and increased your ability to have healthy conversations with others around faith and the church, no matter what cultural and spiritual waters you may find yourself in. Season 2 is coming soon and kicking off in October 2019. But before that, we'd like to end off this year with a deep dive into some of the topics that we've already been exploring. We're going to share some outtakes, side conversations, and even additional ideas and observations that for many different reasons didn't make the final cut of the official six episodes. And speaking of those episodes, the previous bonus episode was actually the original Episode 1 that we later re-tooled and re-recorded. So we won't be sharing any more from that one this time. What we're going to do is expand on the topics and themes covered in Episodes 2 through 6. So if you haven't listened to those episodes yet or missed a couple along the way, I highly recommend pausing now and going to check them out first. So we'll be here, waiting patiently for you until you're done. If you're still with us, I'll assume that you're all caught up, or you just don't like people telling you what to do. Either way we're going to move on. As we wrap up this first year together, I'd like to thank each of our Season 1 participants for the time and energy they gave to this project. Also their vulnerability and willingness to put themselves out there like they did. They were insightful and loving conversations but also now conversations that are recorded and accessible at any time with a simple swipe or touch of a button. As I said last time there are hundreds of thousands of podcasts but this is still not an easy thing to do, and to do well. If you've appreciated this group as much as I have, please give them a shout-out and tag one of them on social media or contact us through our website at newwaters.ca. These shout-outs and encouragements will be especially meaningful as some of them will be stepping away from the table in this next season and making room for others to join the conversation. Now you can continue following along--some of them are writing and doing collective learnings on the website as well as interacting with each other's pieces. Also check out some future live experiences that we're hoping to do over the next few months. Again thanks for spending time with us and continuing to learn what it means to be the church in Canada in these new waters. And wherever you are right now, in the car, at work, or working out, get settled in however you need to, and I hope you enjoy one final hour with Lee, Dom, Josh, Joanne, Vijay, and Nathan.
VIJAY: So I think I'll just start with... well, we talked about culture in the past but this isn't actually about culture. This isn't culture as in exterior to the church, but just the water we're swimming in, is primarily more about the individual than about the community. So maybe I'll just throw it open and say that the orientation or the lens through which we see everything--faith, work, life--is an individual and not a communal lens. And then I'll just through that out to you guys and say, you know, agree or disagree?
LEE: So, one of my things about this is why is--like, why do we think that this is really so bad?
VIJAY: It's not, it's not inherently--
LEE: It's what we are, it's who we are. There is all kind of stuff in more family-centred cultures that is dysfunctional too...
VIJAY: To me it's not that this is inherently bad; it's different now than it used to be...
LEE: See I want us to hit that tone, because if all we do is crap on individualism, it's like first-off, I'm not that against individualism. I see that there's problems in it, but I frankly go it's the water we're swimming in and it kind of works for me, mostly. And, the other thing is is that yeah we can just sound like a bunch of old ladies who are just like...
VIJAY: Okay, so can I just throw it out there and say, this is different than in the past. Do you guys see this? There are some things about--this is just the water we're swimming in, it's neither good nor bad--it's just where we're at. Do you guys see this?
LEE: Well there is good and bad in everything.
VIJAY: Well what do you that is great about it and what do you see that has actually sort . of changed things for us, so we can have an open conversation about it. So I'll set that up at the beginning.
LEE: Sorry for being cranky.
DOM: No, that's a good point.
VIJAY: Well yeah, that's in my notes. It's not bad, this is just -- it is, and it's actually enhanced... there's certain aspects of the gospels that are now richer because of it.
DOM: ...because of consumerism?
VIJAY: Well, not consumerism.
DOM: No, but I'm trying to get the point like, because your point of individualism is that individualism mixed in the potion with marketing and consumerism is a beast that we've never seen before. So I don't know how it's like oh, it's not that bad...
LEE: Well, Vijay talks here about how it's helped people become more self-reflective, it's helped us become more actualized as human beings in many ways.
DOM: Consumerism doesn't do that.
LEE: Not consumerism; individualism.
DOM: But I think in our culture, what's unique is that individualism is fuelled by a type of consumerism which makes it into a monster.
NATHAN: No, I think it's the other way around that consumerism the resposne to individualism.
JOSH: Yeah it's utility, right? The idea of the utility of the individual like, what's going to be my most beneficial choice that's going to increase my sense of satisfaction is capitalism as a whole. The anthropology of a human being is from an individualistic sort of way of thinking. It's kind of chicken or egg right? The chicken or the egg is the question that's worth thinking about.
LEE: Well capitalism, things like capitalism, consumerism, hedonism, are all individualism run amok. But that doesn't mean that there isn't merit in the value of the individual, and you know, us celebrating the need for the individual.
DOM: Yeah, I think the most ideal definition of individualism for sure can be beautiful, it's balanced, right? I'm just saying that all of consumerism is built on a model that says, "You need to not be happy with what you just bought because in the next month you have to buy a new thing."
LEE: Of course it isn't! That's not what I'm talking about though.
DOM: But I'm just saying our culture...
LEE: That isn't even my point whatsoever. You're way off!
JOANNE: But where individualism is a detriment to Christian community is that my tastes, my preferences, my desires will rule.
LEE: You can't have healthy community without high value on the individual.
NATHAN: I agree.
LEE: Unless we have high value on each individual, you can't have a healthy community.
DOM: It's true. But you're defining community with a healthy understanding of individaulism.
LEE: Well you can't get to health without having a high value on the individual.
DOM: I'm just saying we don't know how to be the ones who define individualism for people in the healthiest way because consumerism has a lot more power in fuelling what individualism looks like.
NATHAN: Let the quiet guy dive in here with the two guys yelling at each other. Here's...
VIJAY: Now people are listening.
LEE: Guys, forgive me. I get too animated sometimes. I'm sorry.
NATHAN: Well here's the, here's how I see it unfolding--is that the elevation and the rights of the individual and the awareness of our own needs and the dignity that we now each have for those, as if these need to be satisfied somehow... I would say that's an inherent, God-given impulse for a human being to honour the individual. The problem is consumerism is the narrative that says okay, so you're feeling these things and they actually do deserve to be met, your needs do deserve to be met. Here's the narrative that's going to meet those. And that's the problem with consumerism: it doesn't actually meet the need. The church narrative we believe actually meets the need. So the impulse isn't wrong for my needs being satisfied, my wants being satisfied--that impulse isn't wrong, the direction we take to satisfy those things is wrong.
VIJAY: I think what's beautiful about the gospel is it celebrates both the individual and the community at the same time. Like I remember hearing someone, you know when Isaiah confronts, like sees, the Lord in Isaiah 6, he isn't absorbed into the Borg of the Consciousness, right? Whereas like Eastern religions that say we're all moving toward the Supreme Consciousness which is going to absorb and obliterate distinctions, right? I think that the metaphor of the body--and I mean, it's more than a metaphor--this idea of both individualism and community. Whereas in cultures where community is valued, the rights of the individual are put aside to the detriment of the individual and the community. So, I think I'll set it up as sort of good and bad and say you know but I think that what's beautiful about the gospel is we see words like interdependence and even the Scriptural metaphor that is used of the body which is both communal and individual, and spiritual gifts being... like, so one of of the great revelations for me in teaching through spiritual gifts two years ago, really for the first time was--maybe it's obvious, maybe I'm late to the party--but you cannot know your spiritual gifts without the community. You can't even begin to say, "I think I have this gift" until you've been in community. The community needs to say, "Nathan, every time you preach, God is doing something."
DOM: And the gift is not for you.
VIJAY: No, the gift is not for me so I don't possess it.
DOM: Yeah that's why I'm saying consumerism says gifts are for you. The gospel says no, gifts are for the community.
VIJAY: I don't want to bring in consumerism until later because I think if we talk about it, it's a black hole. And we start talking about it in the light of, this is inherently negative without people being able to say, you know, what's the New Testament vision of community, and whatever, how does that work. And okay there's things that work against it, in terms of where we are, and there's things that have made it more important now than ever. And there's the fact that somebody can for sure come to a church and say this doesn't fit what I want, okay that's bad.
DOM: Not according to Lee. We should just offer them what they need. Maybe that is fine.
VIJAY: No, it's not that, it's going okay but somebody taking a personal ownership over their own faith journey and understanding the voice of Jesus to me uniquely and my uniqueness as essential to the body is really good.
11:04 VIJAY: Every church at every point in history needs to say, what are the particular ways in which the gospel needs to redeem us at this time. And I think one of the things is recognizing... so I remember Donald Miller blogging about this a couple of years ago like, I don't need to go to church cause I go online for great sermons and I listen to Hillsong.
DOM: Or Andy Stanley cancelling Christmas services and saying it's more important to hang out at home and I'm like wow.
VIJAY: Well, we do that too... guys, want to tune into a really interesting sermon about Jesus and the woman at the well? Stay home from church on December 31st!
NATHAN: All the heat over here.
JOSH: Do we want to make the point then that individualism, we want to highlight in part of this conversation what Lee you were pushing back at.
VIJAY: I don't want to calculate it. I'm going to open it up, and I think it's good what Lee is saying. Let's talk about both. Like let's not say... I don't want to start it with this is bad, what do we do, oh no, so like both I think is good.
REGAN: The gold, where it's going to come from, is what you started with: you know, individualism in community, right? The unit of the body in the body. There's so much in Scripture that shows the importance of who you are in the greater picture...
VIJAY: Cause I would love to get to the place in this bit of the conversation: how do sacraments play a role in reinforcing this idea for people. The uniqueness of the personal reception of God's love for me personally and yet as I receive, as I share one loaf, as I am baptized into one body...
DOM: You can't baptize yourself.
VIJAY: No, and I go under the ground, in a sense I die to self, and I'm raised not only to Christ but... DOM: So maybe we have to help people understand the difference between the self and individualism. Like you're dying to self, but we're not dying to individualism. Some of that is special.
VIJAY: Yeah, like the self isn't obliterated. Like that's the uniqueness of the self, and the uniqueness of the individual is preserved after contact with the Holy One. Like, Isaiah doesn't disappear, he's still there.
REGAN: Yeah, like Christ IN you.
VIJAY: Yeah, we see it in the fuller expression of the church. So yeah, I would love to get... because I think there are some practical things... I remember even two years ago we were talking about our sacramentality, like we don't just... how we've envisioned of the only two we have left, you know, in the Protestant church. And just these private, spiritual practices. Even the way we pass the plate. This private moment of repentance... nobody knows, search your hearts... So, anyways I would love to get--cause as a listener I'm going oh yes, this is helping me figure out.
DOM: So Lee would you say then consumerism, would you agree with this, I'm curious... is consumerism's biggest problem that it destroys something about the self? It makes us get lost in an economic system where we don't even know what we want. We should just keep buying! Just buy. Don't worry about what you really want. We'll tell you what you want. Is that its shadow side?
LEE: Well some of that is full of shadow sides.
DOM: Which is different than individualism--cause individualism is a good thing. It's the self that's the challenge.
LEE: Consumerism is like the outworking of... it's individualism run amok; it's hyperindividualism.
DOM: And marketing milks that.
LEE: Yeah, and maybe I pushed too far too hard... cause like... we're having two conversations here, but ah...
14:39 DOM: What I'm saying, and what Lee and I were talking about and obviously I love you and on most of this, we agree, but our people, who we love, are trying to follow Jesus, are influenced every day by a skewed understanding of the individualistic mindset that they then bring into communities of faith and then they expect the church to be like Wal-Mart. "So what are the services here, that are going to help me with my kids?" And we're like, oh wow, how do we even counteract this?
VIJAY: So, here's what I'd like to do. So as we unpack it... Don't worry you'll both get to talk in the podcast. No but like okay how does this affect how we read Scripture? Is one of them. And then how does this affect our ecclesiology, like the way we see church. So I think some of those comments are really important in that. So I think one of the answers that I'd love to see come out as we talk about reading Scripture is that we'd see both. We actually see both. In a sense we see the redeeming of both--maybe it's a bit simplistic but the Western hyperindividualistic, the nonWestern hypercommunity/family dynamic, both of which hint at the gospel. Some of the stuff you're going to talk about in your podcast on the gospel, like the next layer to me... We think of the church as like a byproduct of what we get after salvation, right, as opposed to something that is inherently wrapped up in the gospel. That the gospel invitation is an invitation into community. That we are baptized, Paul says, into a body that, to your point, that the family of God is part of the offering that God makes to us. The good news is you are not alone. The good news is you have been reconciled to God. The good news is you are no longer slaves, you are adopted sons and daughters. So I think that aspect of the gospel--because we probably won't touch on that as much in your thing, I would like to get to that, going okay so, if that's true, what does that mean for the way we read Scripture, what does that mean for the way we do church?
17:01 JOANNE: So my tradition had always been this traditional gospel, right, we start with people are sinners, the consequence of sin is eternal death, Christ paid the price, we need to confess a personal faith in the saving work of Christ, that we will be saved and have eternal life in heaven. That's sort of been...
DOM: You have the ticket.
JOANNE: Right. The physical is bad, the spiritual is more important. Our souls are more important. Things like, feeding the hungry... like if their soul dies who cares if you feed them or not. That whole thinking. And the earth is going to burn up eventually. And so in this last number of years, as I've done my Master's, I just think like how did we come to the conclusion that is the gospel.
DOM: How did that happen? I just think one of the things I'm struggling with is I don't think we should call this "The Fuller Gospel," I think we should just call it "The Gospel." It's almost like giving credence to the other version. No, the other version is just not the gospel. It's just kind of a, I mean there's a lot of words for it...
VIJAY: I think that your Kenya story is really good.
DOM: Yeah, it's powerful.
VIJAY: And I think also what you mentioned about the Phillipines. I mean you think about thousands of churches and none of them are helping the poor... what did we tell them the good news was?
DOM: Well I think we know what we told them, Vij. Like we told them that the great rallying cry of Luther and some of the Reformed tradition is that we're justified and yet we're still sinners. Transformation is not part of the salvation message. Being saved and going to heaven is how salvation works. And now we're saying, how come people are not being transformed. And we say, cause that's not what we've been taught that the gospel does. I mean, it's the great--you know, I don't want to get into a theological idea--but it's like we're similtaenously justified and yet we're sinners. So salvation is a declarative statement about our status before God. Period. And now we're saying hey, how come people are not being transformed? I'm like, because we never told them that's what the gospel does. And now we're being like crap, I think that is what the gospel does. You know like, that part.
JOANNE: And even the whole salvation work of Christ and the idea that original sin had implications not just on our relationship with God but our relationships with one another, the way we treat one another, and even the way we treat the earth, the environment. And so even part of the the Lausanne movement is saying look, we need to care about creation, we need to steward it. Like, the Scriptures are talking about how much God loves his creation and how intimate He is.
DOM: But why are we doing to do that if it's just going to burn up and a new earth is going to come?
JOANNE: Okay, so those difficult passages, like in 2 Peter, right? It talks about how all this will pass away. Is all the narrative of Scripture about redemption and reconciling and restoring what was broken with original sin?
DOM: I agree, but I'm just thinking about what we should do when we record this...
VIJAY: Well you should ask the question.
DOM: Yeah, like what do we do when people say like, "Yeah, I just stand on the authority of Scripture."
NATHAN: Who we're probably speaking is is people who would agree with everything that we're saying as of secondary importance. That's what keeps it from being the full gospel. Like, of course, Joanne, all these things are important, but let's not put it on the same level as atonement. And I actually think if you're going to talk about the fuller gospel then actually what you do justice-wise is just as important as those things. So for me where I've encountered the opposition is that at our church we have a rhythm each week, an upside-down party rhythm. In the "up" we focus on the spiritual stuff and being relationship and the "down" is service and "the party" just celebrating the whole thing and it's kind of this soft liturgical pattern that we have. And, people think the important week is the up one. And we talk about needing to fire on all cylinders, because it's an incomplete gospel unless you are. So I would like to see that come in there is, please understand this is somewhat controversial for you, don't skip through this episode, because we're saying that the fullest--the stuff we're talking about with justice, and shalom and all--is as important as making sure the 7-year-old says the right prayer at Bible camp.
JOSH: Instead of a fuller gospel, we could say the full expression of the gospel.
LEE: The "proper" gospel!
VIJAY: Cause I think some of the things that need to be said I think are that what does it mean when it says in Acts that Paul stayed in that place for two years arguing persuasively for the kingdom. Right? Like, and the gospel of the kingdom. And the resurrection of Jesus, it says. And like, Jesus talking about this gospel of the kingdom and how basically this idea of the gospel as the sin-removing solution is not really found in the language of Jesus. And what do you need two years for to argue for the kingdom, and how do you see the Sermon on the Mount as part of the gospel Jesus was preaching? So I think some of that we need to camp out on.
DOM: And some people will hear that right away as, "You're just talking about a type of moralism." Like I heard a popular preacher and they'll remain nameless, but popular, just talk about how, "You know, I've heard for so long people talk about being like Jesus who goes to the prostitute and embodies the love of God to her and I'm here to tell you, you are the prostitute. You're not here to be Jesus. You're here to remind yourself that you're the prostitute." I mean that is the lens of people and we're being like wow, this is what we've created. I mean, there's a Frankenstein there, and we're feeling like it's moving and all of us are like, guys, I think we created this.
VIJAY: Yeah, but I think we need to sort of have some conversation theologically around this. Otherwise people are going to go, oh Joanne is just saying we should also care for the poor and like, isn't that what it also means to be like Jesus, like what would Jesus do, kind of thing. Which is not what you're saying. You're saying like what is bound up in this idea of the good news story is that God is redeeming the world. And how, N.T. Wright says this world isn't going to end and burn and the next one is going to come, it's like we're in the overlap of the ages, where with the resurrection of Jesus, the new world has begun, and we're living in between both. The decline of one and the building of the other. And the way that they get a taste for heaven, the new creation, is when they see it in us imperfectly, incompletely...
JOANNE: Living out gospel/kingdom principles...
24:02 DOM: One of the great marks of the church from the beginning is that it's catholic. There is something universal, unifying, not that everybody is the same, that has always been part of the church. And when we hear "catholic," we tend to think "Roman Catholic," but the word "catholic" as in the great, universal church. But what is it about this season we find ourselves in where people just don't freaking care about that.
JOSH: What do you mean they don't care?
DOM: They don't care about ... Their brand of truth trumps the care for Christian unity. It's like I don't like my brother. I'll give you like a family example. So let's say I'm in my family and I don't like my brother enough to be like, if he's going to stay in this house, I'm moving out. That's what our family is like. Instead of saying no, he's my brother and although it bugs me to see him because he stole Dad's money and Dad's car, I'm going to stay in the house--I'll sleep in the basement, he'll sleep upstairs, until we can work this out, like that's a different image and a lot of the feelings I'm getting early on is people are like, "We don't care about unity! We care about the truth." And what they mean is like, we're right because we believe in the authority of the Bible. Where we're saying when did we lose unity as a value? Like when did that stop mattering?
NATHAN: My favourite editorial cartoon is from a leadership journal like 200 years ago probably, and it's a church membership class. A guy is at the whiteboard and he writes "the cross" on the thing and he writes a little arrow and there's a little church and another little church and another little church and then eventually it's like, it almost reflects all 25,000 different Protestant denominations, and it's not all on this whiteboard. So he circles one and says, "Welcome to Membership Class at Whatever-Whatever Church. You're here to understand why we're right." And the visual representation of that kind of hubris, it's so absurd. So clearly, it's just a stupid cartoon but it shows I think every thinking person how absurd it is to continue to come at something from the place of epistemological hubris. So that makes me think something else is going on. People either don't know how to think--they've but taught what to think or they don't know how to think--cause if you know how to think you're going to have some humility about it.
DOM: Do you think that part of the other challenge is that somehow we've believed that if the Spirit is here, we all agree. The fact that we don't agree is a sign that one of us is not listening to the Spirit. Because we have a view of the role of the Spirit as if he is somehow the magical unifier. The reason he is a Comforter is because we're going to disagree. I'm comforted that there's something bigger that we belong to. So like, I'm comforted by the Spirit because at this point I don't know if I fully see this, but I trust the family. Like is that missing in our pneumatology to say, just because we don't agree doesn't mean that the Spirit is not here.
LEE: You make a good point. I think there's truth to that.
DOM: The Spirit sometimes brings conflict so he's like I'm going to comfort you, but you're going to have to trust me.
VIJAY: It's not uniformity.
LEE: But you can't have unity without conflict. Because if we all agree on everything, well that's unity but it's like until unity is tested, and until we actually have to come in contact. And then say I love you, I love you, I love you, even though we disagree. There's really some very important issues. That's when you find out if you have unity or not. It's when you disagree. You don't know if you have unity until you find some good conflict and then you'll figure out if you have unity or not.
27:42 DOM: I think that one of the things we're testing for the first time is that years ago, if we had disunity, let's say we had a fight in our family, there wasn't another family to go to. I still after a while had to come back to my family and be like, I have to deal with you guys. I'm still upset or whatever. Now the Internet has created digital networks.
VIJAY: Not only that, they're listening in like massive, copious quantities of podcasts from wherever that are feeding this... oh yeah, I was right, and I'm going to bring all of this to my elder, or to my pastor.
DOM: This is new territory for us!
VIJAY: Yeah, like we're listening to one stream of thinking and so we come to our pulpits like that. And it's irresponsible to the body.
NATHAN: We're still saying in a certain way that what is at the centre isn't strong enough to pull us there. Because in my context when you've got momentum in mission and people feel secure, you don't actually have a lot of theological concerns or issues. And if you've got that traction or that momentum of this is who we are--I'm not talking about a mode of distraction from something real--I'm talking about the kind of momentum that comes when you're actually focusing on something real. Then, it's like this chaff, which is a strong word for theological conversation, but so much of it simply is because it takes you away from the things that unify you. So if you are happy and secure and on mission you're actually not Googling the latest heresy--and was there a flavour of that in Nathan's sermon on Sunday? I should Google this. If you've got something going on inside of you that is pushing you past that, it's not going to happen.
DOM: What if this is a challenge around the fact that denominations are about to find their last wave? I mean, denominations in their history existed by their distinctives. Like, we need to tell you how we're different. You're going to pick our denomination because we're not Pentecostals. You could go to a city and find a Pentecostal church on the corner, a Presbyterian church, an Anglican church, Baptist Church, and this is how you know what church you should go to, you use distinctives. And the new movement that is emerging is, "We don't want to know how you're distinct. We want you to tell us how you're the same. We want you to tell us how you're united. Tell us how you're similar to Catholics. Not how you're different. Tell us how you're similar to Muslims. And there's this wave of a generation inviting us to tell them how we're the same, and we're like we don't know! We exist... our whole roots are founded on telling you how we're different. And now we're like crap, we don't know the answer to that question. And I think that's the crisis of this denomination, of every denomination, and their schools are a sign of it--that's why their schools are hemorrhaging. Tyndale, all schools are the same way...
VIJAY: Some of the stuff I think that is impossible for us to do as a denomination is actually very achievable as a local church. There are certain things that we can do as a local church... but still there's still... it's like, various circles of community. Like that's never going to go away. You may say yeah, how those lines of community are defined may be changing, but this idea of the subsets of community is not going to go away.
DOM: But the leverage goes away.
NATHAN: I do believe that there is some folks who don't want to actually think about what's going on there. They don't want to go beyond the "I'm right, you're wrong" kind of thing, but there's others whose discipleship path has led them to a place where that is actually how they approach an issue. What is the role of a denomination or a pastor to help somebody think in a way that actually poises them for unity instead of division, where you actually have to take a stand on this stuff. You can't just let it be.
JOSH: I think the big difference is a theology that does not place love and commitment to relationship above being right.
JOSH: I mean what it comes down to is this moral sense that my theological, doctrinal rightness is more important than love and relationship with people, which should be our highest theological sense of rightness. But theological sense of rightness--the relational aspect of it--has been replaced with a series of doctrines because we are a traumatized people. Because we've got 25,000 expressions of our trauma. Every single time we've divided, we've lost bits and pieces of our family and they've been ugly. People have literally and violently died over some of these divisions. Nations have fought nations and hacked each other to pieces over theological difference. That's European history right there.
DOM: Years ago, I was watching this kind of football coaching show on TV, and they interviewed this college, this group of junior players who get drafted into the NFL, and they were interviewing the coach and they said, "Some of these young university players, they've played in front of a hundred thousand people before they even get to the the NFL. Like they're playing in front of bigger crowds than they ever will even when they're professionals. So they're coming in with huge heads, they're getting contracts from Nike, they're... like why would you draft one of these cocky young players and how do you help them integrate into your team?" And what the coach said was so powerful. He said, "As soon as they get on our team we teach them a very simple principle--that the name on the front of their jersey will always be more important than the name that is on the back of their jersey. And if they forget that, they're off the team." And I thought, that's exactly what it means to be part of a real family. We don't teach that anymore. Like where do you learn that?
NATHAN: Why is it easy for some people to agree to disagree and others don't. And so if it is simply a matter of someone needing a different approach, that maybe what doesn't matter is being right--maybe that's not the highest value for God. Then here's the kinds of things that you could do with a person like that. Still not agreeing with you, but how do you move them. And I think we can move into, if they've got that appropriate humility, and a teachable spirit, then here are some things we can actually do with them. And then so I wouldn't mind taking a dry run at those a little bit.
33:57 JOSH: The question that I wanted to start with, I think, is rather than "What is discipleship?" generally, I wanted to start with the idea that I think we all would agree that discipleship involves some sort of relationship, and personal relationship and connection with Jesus, like literally to follow Jesus, right? But then most of us also in church contexts understand that this has to somehow...
DOM: What do you mean by that Josh, like I just don't understand... what do you mean we all just assume that discipleship, like you can be a disciple of anything, you don't have to have a personal relationship with Jesus.
JOSH: So let's... when I think of the word "disciple" I think of something opposed to just "conversion."
DOM: An apprenticeship model.
JOSH: No, so just the idea of making a decision to believe in Jesus is different from making a decision to follow Jesus. And then, it's not just a download of information. Sometimes in a more traditional setting, discipleship, Christianity 101 in my church, equals 12 weeks of doctrine just basically downloaded into your brain. And so my response to that is to say, discipleship involves more than just a transfer of information, and discipleship is more than just getting someone to agree to believe that Jesus is Saviour and Lord, like cognitively. But this is about entering into relationship and following, literally you are a disciple of this person. You are one who follows. And so there's this relational aspect to it. But then there's also, because we are in churches, a programmatic element to this, that oftentimes our packaging that we put into discipleship to offer people comes in the form of a program. So rather than saying no, we want to toss all that stuff out, baby with the bathwater kind of thing, because you know, programs are eww, but the reality is that most of us operate in places where people understand the language of programming. So how have you lived in the tension between trying to introduce discipleship as a personal relationship with the living God, with Jesus, and the packaging, placing that kind of an understanding of what discipleship is in a structure like a program.
REGAN: So Nathan, when we were in Calgary, you had a great phrase, "I just feel like it just kind of happens accidentally." You had that phrase "accidental discipleship." In those moments no matter how many times you've been part of something or programmed something, you find that the best discipleship models that you've seen have been these unique, Spirit brought-together relationships.
DOM: Is that like the model Jesus gave us? Or...
REGAN: No, he just said, where he's seen the most...
NATHAN: Yeah, that speaks into what Josh is talking about, about the programmatic side of it. When you're following somebody, you're always in proximity to them, and you don't always know which moments are going to be formative. And you find that with your kids. In some sense they're all our disciples and so you're like, I've got this moment now with my son, a three hour drive, and here's the things that I want... that's not actually the stuff that's going to matter to him. He's going to catch something just by being there that's actually a lot more formative for becoming like his father than most of what I've articulated.
JOSH: So how do you translate that into being close to Jesus and having unpredictable moments when you get formed by him?
NATHAN: That's the question.
DOM: Well I think one of the things is, we have to be careful because in the New Testament, Jesus' formation model happens through other people. So when we tell people, oh, you're going to be a disciple of Jesus, they're like, but I don't see Jesus. Like this insane, what are you talking about? That's why Paul's like follow me, and do what I do, and in that you're going to get a glimpse of what Jesus is doing in us, and that's discipleship. So I think that at some point we have to articulate something about that because it's not discipleship, following an invisible guy.
VIJAY: And I think like, sort of realizing, at any point in my journey, there should be some people who are ahead of me that I can identify whose lives I'm trying to imitate. And then there's probably some people with me, that I'm kind of brothers and sisters with, and there's some people coming behind me.
JOSH: Like Barnabas, Silas, Timothy...
VIJAY: Yeah, and I don't want to necessarily think of it only from a model standpoint but if we think about it through relationships, that's just the dynamic. And if at any point I can't identify, like if at any point one of those groups is missing, in my life, something's wrong. Like if I can't identify peers, like Dom I think one of the challenges you're having because of where you are, is a sense of loneliness. Like we were comparing our stories in terms of where I was leading and where you were leading, some similarities, but the difference would be I felt like I had a community around me that was close enough of peers, that I could call... or if I'm saying, "I'm a new believer, there's nobody coming behind me," well that's not true. Like there's a sphere of influence that you have in your wake. So I think there's that, going like concretely can I identify who those people are. And I think it's important.
DOM: And I think there's this catchphrase in our churches, like don't follow me, follow Jesus. Like almost saying that I can wash my hands--I don't have to live or practice a way of life that others can--not that's it's perfect...
VIJAY: Or you fear of even saying, like, look at my life, because there's like nowhere where we should follow people or make an idol out of pastors.
DOM: But Paul had no problem saying that at all.
VIJAY: Right! That's a dynamic.
DOM: And that's what we kind of need to work out of. I have this saying I use in our church, I've used it before in a sermon, and I say think of one person who comes to mind who is about 10 years older than you, that you would love to be like 10 years from now. And I gave everyone a chance to think about it. And I said, put your hand up if that person comes to mind. And so many people are like, I don't have that person. I don't know who that would be. So I'm like there's a crisis, right there. I'm like thinking there's not one person that's 50 years old that I want to be like, that's in my church. So I'm like no wonder people are not able to follow Jesus. Because we've said don't worry about it, you don't have to find that person, just look at the Lord. But he's invisible! Like it doesn't make any sense.
VIJAY: So you should bring this up.
40:27 JOSH: At the end of the day we need to be able to paint this for a pastor in a semi-pragmatic way, of like well, you know, follow Dom. How many possible people can actually follow you...
DOM: Yeah my structure pragmatically is really my team. Like at some point, my kids, and my staff...
JOSH: So the average person coming into your church will never really be able to follow Dom.
DOM: Not in close proximity, like people on our staff. But there's other people that they can follow.
JOSH: Well that's the thing. So how have we thought about what the other people look like. Because we can't be available to all 200 or 300 or however many hundreds of people you have in a room. And if you're trying to pitch this idea that it's about this relationship and proximity and journeying with somebody... what does that tangibly look like?
VIJAY: We talked about it in terms of culture, community and curriculum. And that culture is first and the culture piece is: who are the identifiable few: who is ahead of you, who is with you, who is coming along behind you? That's culture. That you have a cultural orientation with those ahead, with and behind. Community is, how are you going to organize yourselves around that. Like how is this going to look in your daily life. Like what role do groups play, what role do... And then curriculum is the third piece and it's not unimportant, but in that order, it's not, you don't lead with curriculum, you lead with culture and community.
DOM: That's like a small programmatic model. But it's not heavily programmatic.
VIJAY: Yeah, and once you have a culture that you're constantly trying to... well then you can throw some fodder into it...
JOSH: So are you able to then able to ask someone, Vijay, are you able to ask someone in the pews, like who do you think of when you think of the word culture, like do you think they would be able to respond? Is that a thing that they've picked up?
VIJAY: So the level to which this has distilled would be our home group leaders. We've said, this is what we're asking you to do. We're not asking you to be facilitators, we're not asking you to teach curriculum. We're asking you to be people in relationship with others. And we've said to them, you know, the people in your group, are going to be some that you're going to call forward, and there's going to be some who you should call forward to be with you in this and we will disciple you. Like, we disciple only the people in home groups who are leading in some way, and that's kind of... so, they would know that, and the rest of the people, no, I wouldn't say that that's something...
JOSH: But they would identify their home group leaders as someone who is part of that culture.
VIJAY: Yeah, they're meant to! And in the places where it's worked.
DOM: We did that too. And I found it fascinating, after a debrief with some of our home group leaders, they were like, "Can we just do a Bible study?" Like can we just teach them. And it was--not that Bible studies are bad--but it's almost like they didn't know how to be people that others could... I said can you just call someone during the week and say how are you doing, can I pray with you, is everything ok? It's almost like, I teach them a verse from the Bible. And I'm like, we don't need you to do that. It's challenging right? Because of some of the questions you're bringing up, right?
NATHAN: I'm still living in the "accidental discipleship" term, remembering where I was going with it. Because I think for a person listening to our podcast it will be a cool contrarian position to keep coming back to.
DOM: But it never happens accidentally.
NATHAN: Oh it does. It always happens accidentally.
DOM: Moments do, but...
NATHAN: But in this sense you're always being discipled, every moment of your life. So someone coming in with an intentional discipleship model for the next four years, all they're coming in with is a whole bunch of buzzwords. That we're going to have this and this and this, and everyone's going to have someone in front of them, and everyone's going to have someone behind them. But then four years later here's the new discipleship model.
DOM: No but Nate what you're saying is that once you decide to follow Jesus, that after that it's accidental how he forms you. I'm just saying that it's not accidental to make the decision to want to be a disciple. That's important. It's not like yeah, you might bump into discipleship. No, you're ready to be discipled. Now what happens after...
44:19 NATHAN: Our board had to fill out a form a few years ago and it asked "What is your disciple-making process?" We were like, we don't have a clue. Are people becoming like Jesus? Absolutely. All over the place. We actually do have a fair number of people who people can be like, yeah in 20 years I would definitely settle for being like so-and-so. How has this happened? Well we actually don't know! Now we could after the fact, figure it out. So part of discipleship, especially with the spiritual disciplines is... you have the link between discipline and discipleship. You can be like, I don't actually know how this is going to form me, when I fast, and I don't know when this is going to come in handy, but the Master's doing it, so I'm going to do it. So that accidental part of it is this is going to kind of... I don't actually know. There's a mystery to it. I need to be disciplined and there's an intentionality there.
JOSH: So you're using spiritual practices to create space for the encounter.
VIJAY: But how it happens and how they're connected is a mystery.
DOM: And that's okay, that's beautiful.
VIJAY: And why in one person's life it seems to set just them on fire and in another person's life it seems like they're just retreading the same ground. That's what you're saying. When you say, I don't know.
NATHAN: Yeah because everyone is in the same environment. Everyone's got the same opportunities. Some people are saying I'm diving in, some people are saying, I'm not and realistically how many hours are you going to be discipling somebody.
REGAN: Okay, so this is good conversation...
LEE: Yeah, we should be taping this!
REGAN: We are, we are taping it.
LEE: I think this is better than the stuff we do afterwards!
46:05 VIJAY: This is the perfect topic for the old crochety Italian. "New emerging trends for Christianity are not good."
DOM: We're doomed, we're doomed. Yeah I think I'd love to hear some of your thoughts. Some of this stuff is a bit provocative. The idea that comes to mind that I would love for us to bounce around is the idea that we're dealing with disruptive types of change. Vijay reminded me of something where you know I just talked about this Spirit-empowered life without you know, the real disruptive ways that the Spirit changes the church every time the Spirit moves. There seems to be this belief that when the Spirit enters the church or does a new thing, whether it's revival language or whatever, it's like everybody's just going to get along. The Spirit equals peacefulness. This peace. Everybody is going to be united and everybody is going to get along. It's going to work and yet, in the early church, we see a move of God and then in the next few chapters, conflict!
VIJAY: Yeah I mean you have Acts 6 and then you have Acts 10 and then you have Acts 15. So like all of them were marks or results of the Spirit coming and things are happening, and now they're having to figure out systems of care, and Gentile inclusion, and major conversations.
DOM: We don't know what to do, people are not being fed, we need a council. So are we ready for the Spirit to do that? Or is the Spirit already doing that and the church is actually not welcoming that kind of disruptive way?
JOSH: Yeah I think we have a lot invested in the way things are, and if you want to mess those systems up, if you want to change how we get paid, or you want to change how a church looks and feels or if you want to change whether we have walls or not, how we gather, and when we gather, those kinds of things begin to make people uneasy because we actually rely our sense of security and rhythm more on those things than we realize.
DOM: It seems like that look or that outlook is pastoral and leadership-centric. It's how we feel as leaders because our world is unstable. But I think that people who are not pastors feel this too. It has nothing to do with not being paid. It's like, I don't know what to do with my kids who are asking me new questions about faith and the only narrative we have is when kids or the next generation pushes back against the way we understand our faith-- it's like they're backsliding. Well maybe they're not, maybe they're helping us revisit, re-articulate what Christianity has had to do from the beginning. And it's touching a strand of our culture that is also starting to say, well we're into spirituality, this is great. And we don't really know what to do with that.
NATHAN: There it is, there it is. So we're naive if we think that what we've been praying for won't look something like this where in a post-religious culture, how are we going to advance, how is the gospel going to advance, without displays of power.
JOANNE: Exactly, with signs and wonders.
NATHAN: Yeah and you look at Jesus' mighty deeds and the apostles and the whole New Testament is just rife with these displays of power. So the texts that Vijay mentioned, these sort of pivotal points in Acts, they're surrounded by these kind of--for some, ambiguous signs--for many, troublesome signs--but for many watching what happened this is captivating. So you can't talk about spiritual empowerment and the Holy Spirit and disruption without engaging with some of the supernatural stuff that's going to disrupt...
DOM: But aren't we kind of... because if we leave it at that, Nate... because I agree with you in some sense, but aren't we started to paint a picture of the Spirit and the way the Spirit works in the Christian faith as equated with signs and wonders and confronting the powers in that way. Because I feel in some ways that we're going to head down a path where we're going to have to keep fuelling this. And in my understanding, in the most simple way, is that when the Spirit moves in the life of the church, the earliest church, the Spirit is given to the church for the sake of others and in some ways some of these moves are really us-centric, like God healed me, God is healing my church. Well the Spirit comes for people to hear the gospel in their own language, for others to experience the power. So the Spirit is outward, it has an outward sense and a lot of this is us looking at an internal way the Spirit works, which he does, but my fear is we're going to get stuck in this narrative of the Spirit is going to heal us and heal me.
JOSH: There's an old fight that I'm hearing in the sub-tones of a lot of the comments and reactions, and it's this old intellectual vs. anti-intellectual... we don't want to fall into that trap. You know what I mean, to just sort of cariacture different things. And I don't think signs and wonders has to be anti-intellectual or that dealing with sexuality is not a Spirit-led exercise, to talk through the complexities of what it means to be human and what is our theological understanding of it.
LEE: I mean, I agree. I love your point. That's as much us sort of engaging with the Spirit by having the courage to sort of let's teach on these things, let's engage intellectually because the Spirit works in our intellect, in our mind, as much as he works in our hearts and our experience. But I think sometimes we may be--and I don't, this is a generalization, maybe it's fair--is that we have this sense that in all of the debate and struggles we have to make with these decisions. Somehow if at the end of the day we can all come to the altar and encounter the Spirit everything will be fine. And it just doesn't work. And it just goes back to the first church, your point Dom, yeah they were met. They met the Spirit just as real and powerful as anyone but it didn't take away some of the stuff they had to figure out.
DOM: Yeah I mean maybe we can just turn a little bit on this. This is really at a time where it's about to converge on this narrative that we hear a lot of. And in my context, in Quebec, there is a sense that the word secularism is everywhere. You write something and the word secularism is in it and it's like it's going to sell something. And yet we're realizing that the way secularism has been defined for years has been wrong. And so maybe just give me 30 seconds to just frame that. The theory of secularization that was proposed years ago by leading sociologists was this simple--and Lee you can add to this, you're probably aware of like footnotes or authors--is that as the world gets more modern, more robust, more intellectual, more advanced, religion will slowly phase itself out. So like, less and less religion, and sociologists wrote about this. Peter Berger who is kind of a leading sociologist wrote about this. And people kind of embraced this theory as a valid theory until a few years ago when new research was being done and people started realizing in a very simple way, we were wrong. Secularism is not just pushing religion away, it's changing how people are religious. And so Peter Berger, who passed away a few years ago, actually wrote a resposne to his early research by saying I think we missed this. And the quote that he shares is that we don't live in a secular age meaning secular with no religion, we now live in a pluralistic age that is fuelled by spiritual questions. And that in some sense is exciting for the church because we know that landscape, the pluralistic world, but I think we don't know how to develop a proper defence against that world, because the thing is we're not dealing with just atheists anymore. Atheism would have been like, people are not Christian so here are the points why you should believe in God.
JOSH: The fight our leaders came out of was a materialistic world vs. a spiritual reality. And we were the spiritual people who understood that there's more than just what we see feel and measure, but now everybody's got their own spirituality and that kind of makes us feel like well we're not special anymore, or what are we offering that the other person isn't offering, they're getting healings, they're getting free, they're getting self-actualization by going to this guru in that little...
DOM: All of that. So I'm just curious about what you think, like what are some of the steps the church is going to have to take, because I think we've prepared people especially in leadership roles to tackle the first secularization and we have all these principles and books about apologetics which I think is dead, and we'll talk about why I think those categories are finished. And we're like wow, the old secularism that we hoped for would have been so much easier for us. So, but for some listeners some of that will feel academic. Like yeah, secularization is a big word, what does that mean. But on the ground it really feels like the people who come to our church, who are going to come into our offices, are going to be highly engaged with a kind of pluralistic worldview.
LEE: Part of the way the church approaches that, and this is simple missiology, is you know, it's newer thinking.
DOM: For our listeners, Lee, what is missiology?
LEE: Just the idea of the mission of the church and the theology behind the mission of the church. This is typical of anyone reads missional church literature has encountered this idea and it's this idea that we have to believe that God is at work in the person's life or in the context long before we ever get there. And again that doesn't mean that we show up and it's like oh, there's a church here. It's messy, it's weird, it's not Christianity 101. It's all kinds of different stuff but you know part of the way that we respond to this pluralism that we live in is to believe that God cares about this world, he's at work in people, and as we show up part of our job is to try and figure out where God is already at work and how do we join him in that work.
DOM: It's almost like when God shows up he always surprises the world and the church at the same time. It's like, I've always felt that. Like when he enters the scene, he's like I love you guys. You know a bit more about me than they do, but you're both about to get rocked. And then the incarnation happens.
JOSH: God is actually always subverting his own people. Whether it be the prophetic voice, or whether it be Jesus, or whether it be some of the issues that were coming up in the early church and having to think differently about race and culture. I mean, we're human and we're prone to being stuck in a certain way we've found that we works. And the Spirit has to say, let go of those structures and those things, because I'm doing something different. I feel like for me as a pastor, my primary role now as I teach the gospel is also to enlarge people's imagination. Because there's these certain well-worn kind of tried-and-true onramps that the church has used to get people into the kingdom and we need to realize that that's no longer going to hit the majority of the folks who are in our communities.
VIJAY: Like what, what would be some of the on-ramps.
JOSH: You know, like having an outreach program where somebody gets up and winsomely presents something after some good music might not attract or be helpful for certain people. Or talking on certain topics dealing with some of the old science-related issues, or dealing with certain you know, like, ways of thinking about the historical accuracy of the Bible or of Jesus might not tickle the kind of itches that people walk into church with these days.
DOM: Yeah like basically I think Vijay mentioned this in another podcast but I think that I'm learning that the church is busy answering questions that no one is asking. Like we're answering questions that make us feel like we're confident, we know how to defend the faith, and I'm like, who's asking that question.
VIJAY: So it would be good to talk a little bit about what do you think those questions are, like what are those questions people are asking? Because I think part of what we want to do with this is just sort of explore the complexity...
DOM: And part of it is we don't know what those questions are because we're not in close proximity with people with those new questions. We're just telling you what your questions should be and they're like well, we don't care about that.
NATHAN: Yeah there's this image that pastors used to get mileage out of, where life's a puzzle, you've got all these pieces, but you don't have the box to know what life is supposed to look like. So here's the Christian picture and you'll find that the pieces fit. But now we're speaking into a reality where there's as many puzzle box pictures as there are pieces. So you can't do it the same way. But the Spirit's disruption, when it comes, is that it effectively bumps the table and all that's left is what's necessary but we don't get to choose what that is.
DOM: It's a great image of what's at stake. I think one of the stories that often comes to mind around this issue of new waters and a new way of talking about faith in a world that's newer than we've ever seen before is when my kids started learning Tai-Kwon-Do. My boys were excited, they wanted to be like the Karate Kid, they wanted to study martial arts, so they end up learning this new kick. And I didn't go to the class that evening and they come home, and they're like Dad, we need to show you something new, it's like this spinning kick. And I'm like great guys, that's going to be great. So I get there, and I say you know what Dad's gonna do? I'm going to go there and I'm going to hit you, and you do your kick. So I go, and my son's like, no Dad, you can't do that. You have to hit me like this. And I'm like, what do you mean, I have to hit you like this? He goes no you've got to hit me like this but do it slowly and then I'll spin. So he's telling me all this and I'm like no one's going to hit you like that. This is the worst mechanism ever! And I'm like that is exactly what apologetics and our framework of the world has been. Like how come you didn't tell me that people would have guns and a knife? And they don't do kicks like that. And so I was trying to encourage my son without telling him like this is a joke. And I think I'm feeling as though, in my role at least, in Quebec on the frontlines that a lot of the conversations are like we have this narrative that there's nothing new under the sun you know those catchphrases we use in church like there's nothing new, which means like, what's been done has always been done, there's that verse in Ecclesiastes and I think about how we use that verse so out of context to say we don't have to change. And I'm thinking imagine when the incarnation happens how many rabbis when to Jesus and said this is impossible, there's nothing new under the sun in Israel and Jesus is like yes there is, my friends. Like the resurrection had never happened. That's something new under the sun. So we've used this category.
VIJAY: It's also dismissive of people's viewpoints and the complexity of the world into which we're speaking. I remember hearing Gordon Smith, he was talking about worship and he said what are we saying when we sing, "Our God is greater, our God is stronger... "When we sing songs like that, is that playing into our own need... what kind of gospel are we proclaiming when we say my God is bigger when we say my God is bigger than your God and I think apologetics to some degree, like not to beat on that, can fuel Christians to say yeah, this is how I know why I believe. And so I come out of that seminar with a bit of a bigger stick than when I walked in, right? And I'm thinking... It plays into a little bit of the we have the truth and the imperalism, the thing that is in all of us to want to be right and to be like now I can...
JOSH: Maybe our posture, our stance needs to shift from we're the expert, waiting for you to come to me with this felt need for spirituality and then we're going to deliver all the goods that we've got in this six-week package thing because we're ready. Rather we take the stance of a learner, somebody who comes in listening, who is investigative, who is curious because there's something in this that's true, that's Spirit, but I don't quite know what version of this. It doesn't fit into any of the textbooks I went into school looking at so rather than dismissing it or rather than saying I'm threatened by this, I want nothing to do with this, we need to come in with some security as opposed to insecurity saying if I'm not the expert then I want nothing to do with this.
LEE: That's really good. So what are the questions, I don't know. I really don't. I wish I could list, it's this and this. And maybe it's more individualized than it ever was before. I think that sometimes the most evangelistic thing we can do is listen, which again goes against everything we were trained to do. The way I was trained was evangelism was me delivering a message, it was me speaking and delivering a message. Whereas now I think evangelism is mostly about listening.
REGAN: The New Waters podcast is brought to you by New Ventures, a ministry of The Christian & Missionary Alliance in Canada. Today's episode was produced and edited by me, Regan Neudorf, and our theme music was created by Dad vs. Son. If you'd like to continue the conversation with us, follow @newwaterscanada on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram or check out newwaters.ca for additional resources, collective learning, and info about upcoming live events. Thanks for listening and joining Jesus at work in Canada as we love the church and learn to think differently with curiosity, hope, and wonder.