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Church future lies in thinkers on the move

One of the leaders of the emerging church movement Brian McLaren. Photo courtesy of World Vision Australia and Thumbnail
AUTHOR, PASTOR, and leader of the emerging church movement, Brian McLaren visited Australia in October to challenge people to think about their faith and its relation to the world.

As a guest of World Vision Australia, Mr McLaren spoke on a range of topics including some of the main issues he sees facing the church in today: the prosperity crisis, the equity crisis, the security crisis, and the spirituality crisis.

Whilst speaking at a breakfast to church clergy and leaders Mr McLaren focused on the importance of intelligent thinking and questioning in the church. He said that he was continually asked the same set of questions by people on their way out or on their way into the church.

“What seems to happen is that often, highly committed people … have a growing sense of disillusionment and a growing set of questions that they either aren’t allowed to ask or, when they do ask they are completely disappointed by the answers.

“So there is this very significant movement out of the church and often from some of our brightest people,” he said. “The people coming in have a remarkably similar set of questions and these are the speed bumps they need to get over before they are ready to come into Christian faith.

“The questions people ask on their way out and on their way in are having a profound affect on the renewal of our faith.”

In his new book A new kind of Christianity, due for release in Australia in February, Mr McLaren sets out to inspire people to discuss the following 10 questions.

The first question is: what is the shape of the biblical narrative? “We have been answering that question the same way for about 1600 years”, he said.

“My personal belief is the way we have been answering that is not with a Christian answer but with a Greco-Roman answer.

“We are at a point … where we have to rediscover a Jewish and Christian answer.”

The second question asks: what is the Bible and what is it for? He said one of the top three questions asked is: “How can you believe in a book that is so full of violence?” Closely related is the third question: whether or not God is a violent God.

Mr McLaren said in America the people most supportive of torture (like that inflicted by American soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison) are “evangelical Bible-believing Christians”.

The next questions are: who is Jesus, why does he matter; and what is the Gospel? He then looks at what we are going to do about the church.

The seventh question certainly resonates with many churches all over the world: “How do we engage with issues of human sexuality without descending into fruitless and divisive arguments?”

“I strongly believe that our arguments about sexuality are the tip of the iceberg to a far larger issue of anthropology,” he said.

Mr McLaren stated the theory of Eschatology, the end time and purpose of the world, had the greatest separation of thinking between theologians and people in the pews. “Eschatology shapes every-thing we say and do,” he said.

The ninth question is how do we relate to people of other religions? Finally he askes how we discuss these questions without killing each other?

“I hope people will see how grappling with these questions becomes formative to the Christian faith,” he said. “The failure to grapple with these questions will hasten the demise of certain sectors of the church.”

Photo : One of the leaders of the emerging church movement Brian McLaren. Photo courtesy of World Vision Australia and Thumbnail