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Beyond Extraction

17 April, 2003 3:28 PM

Did you know that in Kazakstan be known as a �Muslim� identifies one with the Kazak community but to be �Christian� identifies one with the Russian community. The questions, �Who are you?� or �What is your religion?� relate to the issue of which community do you belong.

Many of us have a familiarity and a comfort with the concept of Jews who follow Jesus. The early believers retained their identity as Jews and continued to worship in the temple courts (Acts 2:46). They were part and parcel of the Jewish community but had encountered Jesus. There was never any issue of them retaining their Jewishness from Paul or others. If asked �what was their religion?� they would have in all probability have answered �We are Jews!�

Yet there remains a complete misunderstanding of this position by so many modern-day believers. To cease to call oneself Muslim in many contexts would be to say to others I have abandoned this community. This is not our desired outcome. Our desire is that people from within the community of Muslims are ardent followers of Jesus and relate effectively to their community. Well that is mine anyway.

One issue that emerges here is how broadly can this principle apply?
Living Room is focused on the inner north of Melbourne. The area abounds with people who would identify themselves with a community of social and environment action, a community of alternative spirituality or a community of diversity in culture and music. To identify themselves with a Christian community that has a global reputation, rightly or wrongly, as often belittling these things is a major social barrier.

Is our mandate to have these people switch their community of identification? Did Jesus want Jews to cease being Jews? Did Paul want Gentiles to change their community identification to Jewish? No way! Paul in fact was very clear in his instruction to new believers to remain part of the community of which they were part of. (1 Corinthians 7:17-24)

In mission contexts I have a belief that the term �Christian� is often unhelpful to the cause of mission and even unbiblical. I cannot see any compulsion upon us biblically to label ourselves as Christians nor to compel new believers to do the same. Why would we allow them to loose connection with their natural communities and so minimise the potential for transforming Christ movements within them? That is not my calling.



Some interesting thoughts here, thanks Rob.

Can I ask a question though? One that I ask of myself in my connection with the Church.... why then are you involved with the 'living room'?

Phil » 17 April, 2003 5:53 PM

Thanks Rob. Add to what you have said all the negative connotations that have developed around the label "Christian" (mostly because of the behaviour of said Christians) and you've reminded me why I hate the term.

Beyond that, though, you've asked some good questions. How do we differentiate the label we use for our "community associations" versus our "belief system"? Can we? Do we even try? Will this help clarify our identity, or just confuse people?

Mike » 17 April, 2003 10:31 PM

Ooo. I likes it. Have you read Dave Andrews' Christi-Anarchy? Has a lot to say on this very subject.

JJ » 18 April, 2003 1:05 AM

I just skimmed the article and have a little more to say. Though she does sound a little disillusioned, there is a piece of what she is saying that I hear truth in. Incarnation, as I see it, can't mean only becoming exactly like the culture you are in, because that would forget the fact that God has also given you something to bring. In the past there has been such abusive emphasis on "what we are giving them" that we might tend to swing too far over to the "what can they offer me" side of things, being the pendulum swingers that we are. But it seems it is the sharing, the give and take of your culture and theirs that creates the community that seems to give God such joy.

JJ » 18 April, 2003 1:14 AM

K. Sorry. She said that at the end of the article... Heh...

JJ » 18 April, 2003 1:15 AM

what is "the living room"?

Bushra » 18 April, 2003 3:58 PM

We do need a new paradigm of belonging. I've been revisiting this subject since our small community is so strongly networked, and we are all involved in multiple communities. Yet ... our reference point and closer support is a group that meets every two weeks or so.

Perhaps Hieberts idea of centered sets vs bounded sets can help. Jim Peterson in "Church Without Walls" relates Hieberts ideas. I have posted an excerpt and a link on my main page...

Len Hjalmarson » 21 April, 2003 1:14 AM

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