A week or so ago I saw on a blog where someone asked Brian McLaren what church or denomination he would recommend. (Yes, that Brian McLaren, whom our fundamentalist and hard-core Calvinist friends consider the Anti-Christ). Brian responded with a list of 5 issues important to him in choosing a church. I think this is one fantastic list. I wish I had written it myself. I am copying it from his blog at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/brianmclaren/2014/01/qr-which-denomination/
A List for Choosing a Church/Denomination:
1. Hand/Mission: Is this denomination more oriented toward maintenance, self-benefit, or the common good of the world? In what ways is this denomination practically expressing its commitment to join God in bringing blessing to the world? Is the denomination more dominated by tradition/the past than by mission/the present and future.
2. Heart/Spirituality: Does this denomination promote personal and communal encounter with God, the neighbor, and the other and enemy, or is it preoccupied with correctness, numbers, politics, and institutional maintenance or aggrandizement?
3. Head/Theology: Does this denomination create space for vibrant theological reflection, imagination, and investigation? Or does it suppress theological curiosity in order to unquestioningly support a predetermined set of conclusions? Does it expect the Spirit to continue to guide us into truth?
4. Backbone/Structure: What kind of support and accountability does this denomination provide to support its staff and members in mission? How nimble and flexible is the structure?
5. Open arms/Ecumenism: Does this denomination wall itself off from other Christian communities, and other faith communities – or does it use its structure as a bridge to facilitate collaborative relationships? And is this denomination interested in welcoming me?
Every year before he goes back to college my oldest son and I go backpacking somewhere for two or three days. This year we climbed the West Rim Trail of Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon/ Pine Creek Gorge into the Natural Area and then packed down to the creek and camped under the hemlocks beside the stream. Juvenile Common Mergansers, a bald eagle and perhaps the nicest smallmouth bass I’ve ever caught were some of the creatures we shared the Gorge with.
Each year we take along a couple copies of a recent theology book and have a blast reading it simultaneously laying in the tent at night and talking back and forth about it. This year we took N.T. Wright’s Simply Christian, a book that’s been out for quite some time, but which Tanner had never read. I heartily recommend it: it’s one of the best introductions to what we really mean by Christian spirituality for the postmodern world. Wright is the leading New Testament scholar on the planet, an Anglican who has been at the forefront of both Pauline and historical Jesus research for more than two decades.
As we were soaking up the extreme beauty of the Gorge we talked about the bizarre Left Behind version of Christian eschatology in which they imagine God abandoning His good creation – the earth – and destroying it. “Why would anybody be attracted to such an ugly and disheartening story?” I asked my son rhetorically as we stood in the creek. We commented what a joyful addition to our lives the biblical doctrine of the renewal of all things has been for us. That is, the Bible teaches that, rather than betraying it, God intends to renew the world, healing Creation of all its ills – and all of the mountains, rivers, dolphins, bluejays, wildflowers et etc will still be around for us to thrill to enjoy in the Age to Come. What a better, more Gospel “Good News” story than the toxic, twisted Left Behind plotline.
In the next blog I’ll cite the biblical references for the healing of all Creation.