Review of “Kingdom Triangle”–Part 2

Now we continue with Part 2 of my review of “Kingdom Triangle” by J P Moreland. The second half of the book presents Moreland’s three-part solution to the problems facing the church, and this is where the book takes its name “triangle.” The three legs of this metaphorical stool are 1) the recovery of knowledge, 2) the rennovation of the soul, and 3) the restoration of the Kingdom’s miraculous power. Last time (see Part 1) I reviewed the first and third “sides of the triangle.”

 

Spiritual Disciplines

 

This brings me to the second suggestion; the rennovation of the soul. By this he means learning to practice “spiritual disciplines” in order to transform our character. Unfortunately, spiritual disciplines are groundless in the Bible and we are warned that they are useless. But first, let us consider his argument.

 

First, he takes Romans 12:1, Romans 6:11-13, Colossians 3:5, and 1 Timothy 4:7-8 to be passages about our physical bodies and how we should use our physical bodies to engage in physical actions that bring about sanctification. Here’s how he gets there. He says that “flesh” in these passages means “the sinful tendencies or habits that reside in the body and whose nature is opposite to the Kingdom of God” (p. 151). So the sin nature is in my physical body. For example, he asserts that anger is often in the stomach, gossip in the tongue, and lust in the eyes (why not in the penis?). According to Moreland, the solution is to engage in spiritual disciplines. A spiritual discipline is “a repetitive practice that targets one of these areas in order to replace bad habits with good ones” (p. 153). As a metaphore he uses tennis, in which bad tennis habits (your “tennis flesh”) are cured by submission to a tennis instructor and practice that strengthens better tennis habits and thus “tennis righteousness.” I am not making this up! Moreland advocates the typical spiritual disciplines of engagement (e.g., study, worship, service) and abstinence (e.g., solitude, silence, fasting, and sacrifice). One example of how this works, and a specific recommendation, is the practice of “affective meditation in our hearts.” This means we should 1) focus our attention on our physical heart muscle until we discern some negative emotional feelings in there 2) bring a new positive emotion from memory in order to mediate on it instead and stick it in the heart, so that we can learn to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart” (Proverbs 3:5).

 

As an aside, he also writes some other nonsense about “the brain in the heart.” I am a cardiovascular psychophysiologist with research interests in the relationship between emotions (e.g., depression, anxiety, and anger) and heart measures (e.g., heart rate variability). I know this literature fairly well, and I can assure you that the heart is not the location of emotions, nor is it thinking for itself. As a clinical psychologist with interests in cardiovascular behavioral medicine I would caution you not to focus your attention on your heart because there is a decent research literature on perception of bodily sensations in relation to the cardiovascular system that suggest this is not reliable. For example, you can’t feel high blood pressure—that’s why it’s the “silent killer” and also part of why people won’t take their high blood pressure medication. Furthermore, there is an important subset of individuals who suffer from non-cardiac chest pain for which they present to the physician with scary cardiac symptoms in the absence of any diagnosible heart disease. Focusing on frightening physical sensations is precisely the kind of thing that intensifies and prolongs problems like non-cardiac chest pain (and panic disorder). Treatment of non-cardiac chest pain includes getting people to stop focusing on these physical sensations! So focusing on the physical heart muscle in order to try to feel what is going on there is possibly harmful.

 

But back to the logic of his argument; Moreland is wrong. First of all, Moreland takes Romans 12:1 out of context. He asserts that “presenting our bodies to Christ” means exercising parts of the body to become less sinful and more Christlike. Rather, the passage starts with ‘therefore’ which refers back to Romans 1-11, and the context makes clear that Paul is writing to believers to remind them that the entire world is condemned (Jew and Greek) but that we have now received the astonishing gift of grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and can be justified before God and declared righteous. What is our response? The metaphore in Romans 12:1 is the thank offering, which is a burnt offering in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, we are the offering our entire selves, given freely to God in thanks for what he has done for us. That’s our reasonable act of worship. This is not at all the same as exercising to become sanctified.

 

Second, the sin nature (i.e., flesh) is an aspect of our human nature that we inherited from Adam as part of being human beings. The “flesh” is only one word the bible uses to describe the sin nature, and others include “the sin which indwells me” (Romans 7:7-25), “heart” (Jeremiah 17:9), and “outer man” (2 Cor. 4:7-18). The Greek word “sarx” is translated flesh, and although it can refer to the physical body (Galatians 2:20), it is also used in ways that do not refer to the physical body. For example “flesh” is used to refer to human accomplishments in Philippians 3:4.

 

Thus, the sin nature is all-encompassing, and a false dualism suggesting that the sin nature resides solely in the physical body and not in the rest of a person is mistaken. In fact, this view sounds like weird mysticism, and is strangely similar to a view typical of gnostics. The gnostic heresy that John addressed in 1 John included the idea that the body is bad and the spirit is good, so anything the body does is irrelevant (e.g., orgies). Moreland says the badness is in the body, so the body has to get reformed. But, the flesh described in the bible doesn’t map onto parts of the body as Moreland suggests. Take as an example Paul’s words in Galatians 5:19ff  “Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing, and similar things.” Where in the body does murder reside? It could reside in the hands and feet if you’re Bruce Lee, and perhaps the trigger finger if you’re Dirty Harry. Where in the body would sorcery reside? So, the works of the flesh do not map onto body parts or systems, as Moreland implies when he says that the flesh is “the sinful tendencies or habits that reside in the body and whose nature is opposite to the Kingdom of God” (p. 151).

 

Another problem with Moreland’s argument is the fact that rightousness does not replace the sin nature by getting into the body through exercising these parts of the body. There is not enough time here to discuss the theology of sanctification (it is complicated), but self effort does not work, and in fact is offensive. Galatians 3:2-3 says “The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? Although you began with the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by human effort?”  That is, sancitification is by grace through faith, just as salvation. Good works, even when repeated and prolonged, do not sanctify.

 

In fact, targeting the physical body to produce righteousness is a wrong-headed idea. If targeting the physical body were a good approach to sanctification, then the Buddhists and other religions would have a great strategy. Some forms of Buddhist meditation involve the “body scan” in which people meditate on their physical bodies in order to search out any uncomfortable physical sensations. They are then trained to maintain a passive awareness of these sensations in a non-judgemental manner. Another popular body-centric technique is progressive muscle relaxation, in which muscle groups are alternately tensed and relaxed in order to reduce body tension and relieve stress. Then there’s physical exercise such as cycling, which should do wonders for any unrighteousness residing in the legs, buttocks, and abodomen. The thigh-master would be helpful of course, and perhaps the spiritual discipline of hanging out in the dark could relax the eyes to prevent lust. Obviously, none of this produces sanctification or lasting character change of a Christian nature. On the other side of this argument, why are so many spiritual disciplines unrelated to parts of the body? What part of the body does frugality strengthen, fortify, or relax? What about submission? Fellowship? Study? If a spiritual discipline is “a repetitive practice that targets one of these areas in order to replace bad habits with good ones,” then the commonly practiced spiritual disciplines should involve using specific parts of the body.

 

Of course, the most important objection is that spiritual disciplines are not commanded by the bible. Bob DeWaay of Critical Issues Commentary tackles this point in earnest (http://cicministry.org/commentary/issue91.htm). He pionts out that Dallas Willard’s primary text supporting the practice of spiritual disciplines, which is Matthew 11:29,30 does not actually teach that spiritual disciplines should be practiced (from Willard’s The Spirit of the Disciplines). He also notes that even Willard agrees that spiritual disciplines are not found elsewhere in scripture. Furthermore, DeWaay reminds us that “they had ascetics in Paul’s day and he rebuked them”  (Colossians 2:20-23). This passage is worth quoting here in its entirety:

 

“If you have died with Christ to the elemental spirits of the world, why do you submit to them as though you lived in the world? ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!’ These are all destined to perish with use, founded as they are on human commands and teachings. Even though they have the appearance of wisdom with their self-imposed worship and false humility achieved by an unsparing treatment of the body – a wisdom with no true value – they in reality result in fleshly indulgence.” (Colossians 2:20-23).

 

So, accoring to scripture, activities that would be indistinguishable from today’s spiritual disciplines look like they would be a good idea, bu they actually are without value and are merely human inventions. In fact, they are worse than benign meaningless activities, and rather have the potential to cause real harm (“result in fleshly indulgence”).

 

The problems associated with spiritual disciplines are numerous, but they include the fact that they are:

 

·        Legalistic, amounting to a Christian self-help program when the Bible is clear that we cannot help ourselves.

·        Unbalanced, elevating self-indulgent practices (e.g., solitude, silence) to equal prominence with critical teachings of the bible (e.g., committment to the body of Christ, sacrificial service).

·        Distracting, letting Christians off the hook when they’re doing self-focused navel gazing even though they neglect the clear mandates of Jesus Christ (e.g., make disciples). People can feel that they are making real progress by having spiritual retreats despite doing little actual service for the Lord.

·        Non-relational (e.g., silence, solitude) when the Bible clearly emphasizes love relationships in the Body of Christ.

·        Formalistic, when the scriptures condemn religious formalism. For example, Jesus taught against formalism on many occaisions, including the famous “Lord’s prayer” passage which has somehow been converted into religious formalism by many religious people. In fact, prayer is not a “spiritual discipline” at all, but rather communication with a real person.

 

What about sanctification?

 

In all fairness, I have only poked holes in Moreland’s argument for spiritual disciplines, without offering anything to replace his theory of sanctification with something else. Having a strong theology of sanctification is important because Moreland is right that the American church is in crisis, a crisis that includes a very low level of sanctification among most American Christians. We need to be very clear about our part in sanctification, God’s part, and how this process works. That will have to wait for another discussion. One purpose of this book review was to point out that learning to practice spiritual disciplines is not the right path to sanctification. I hope that this criticism does not detract too much from the rest of Moreland’s book, as his analysis of the decline of Christianity in America has much to commend it. I would still recommend this book, with the exception of his recommendations regarding the “rennovation of the soul.”

Daniel went to college…

Where in the Bible is there an example of kids going off to college? Well, there are none (the modern University didn’t exist), but there is one example that has some interesting parallels. Daniel and his friends were forcibly marched about 800 miles from Jerusalem to Bablyon in about 605 BC to start a three year program of study prior to entering the job market as employees of the royal family. Daniel recorded these experiences in Daniel 1.

 

Their program of study would have been entirely religious (see http://www.xenos.org/teachings/ot/daniel/dennis/dan1-1.htm for my source material). They would have been studying the Bablyonian gods, magic spells, and all sorts of bizarre (to 12-16 year old Jewish boys!) subjects. They would have had powerful incentives to do well in their studies. Being in the employ of the King would mean money, women, power, and all the trappings of power. The catch is that they would have to play along. They were hostages from Israel, and they had the threat of death hanging over their heads if they rebelled, juxtaposed against the lure of worldly success if they got with the program.

 

This is not that different from the dilemma facing every Christian frosh on campus. Our culture holds the promise of worldly success for those who get their degree. It’s the institutional culture of the university, it’s the mantra of our western materialistic culture, and unfortunately it’s the same message that kids family’s pound home. Naïve Christian parents put enormous pressure on their kids to “make it.” It’s so seductive and it appears to make so much sense. The alternative is to be a “failure,” who rejects the values of the University (the bastion of secular humanism, raw materialism, unbridled hedonism, and many other destructive isms!). Don’t get me wrong–I’m not saying to never study and to intentionally fail out of school. But rather, are you pursuing worldly success or going in as a warrior to rescue the captives?

 

Well, what did Daniel do? He refused to eat the meat and wine from the King’s table. Now don’t be superficial on this—I’m not warning you to avoid drinking too much in college. That’s far to mundane an understanding to be the parallel I’m trying to draw. Rather, eating the meat/wine would have symbolized receiving any power/success from the Bablyonian Gods. In contrast, boring veggies and water didn’t carry this connotation. So they refused—took a counter-cultural stand against the values of the Bablyonian Empire. God totally backed up Daniel and friends. This theme was repeated through the rest of Daniel. Daniel in the Lions den, etc.

 

The point is what are you going to do? Are you ready to take huge risks in order to stay faithful to the Lord? Are you ready to sacrifice success in order to get busy with God’s work? Are you already planning to win the people around you instead of quietly condoning your peers’ enslavement to the university (and ultimately the world system)? Do you trust the Lord to have your back when you’re doing His work?

 

And here’s the kicker—Daniel and company remained faithful despite having been marched naked for 800 miles as hostages taken in war. They would never see their homeland again, or any of their families. Their lives as they knew them were over. Their new “home” must have been strange and terrifying. They had it much worse than any Christian freshman at a secular university. So surely we can take a stand.

 

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people. It trains us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, as we wait for the happy fulfillment of our hope in the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He gave himself for us to set us free from every kind of lawlessness and to purify for himself a people who are truly his, who are eager to do good.” Titus 2:11-14

Review of “Kingdom Triangle” by J P Moreland–Part 1

Today I being a review of “Kingdom Triangle” by J P Moreland. I know I said I would talk about how the university in America went from “Christian” to “secular.” I still intend to, but it’s taking time to get through the materials I’m reviewing to prepare. Meanwhile, I’m putting up this book review.

 

 

J.P. Moreland, Kingdom Triangle: Recovering the Christian Mind. Renovate the Soul, Restore the Spirit’s Power. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007. www.kingdomtriangle.com

 

 

“Kingdom Triangle,” J. P. Moreland’s latest book, has received high praise. It was awarded the 2008 Christianity Today Book Award in the category of Spirituality. It has been reviewed favorably elsewhere, and the jacket cover includes endorsements by Chuck Colson, Lee Strobel, and Ravi Zacharias. Kingdom Triangle represents something of a “magnum opus” for this distinguished Christian philosopher and defender of the faith. In responding to the news that his book received the award from Christianity Today he said “…I believe it is my most important book to date and I have never felt God’s leading in writing a book more than with Kingdom Triangle.”

 

The book is written in two parts. Part 1 is a lament of sorts, an analysis of the decline of Christianity in Western culture. He explains the shift from Christian Theism to naturalism and then to postmodernism, along with the effec that these shifts have had on the church and on our society. This part of the book looks somewhat familiar for those acquainted with his body of work (e.g., Scaling the Secular City). He is echoing some of the same problems noted by other leading evangelicals, and there is no doubt that the church is in fact facing a crisis in the West. I can wholeheartedly recommend this part of the book to any thinking Christian. You may find it a bit dense and heady, but you really should stretch yourself because his analysis is penetrating and insightful. Understanding how to respond to naturalism and post-modernism is critically important for evangelism and ecclesiology (e.g., the emergent movement misunderstands post-modernism).

 

The second half of the book presents Moreland’s three-part solution to the problems facing the church, and this is where the book takes its name “triangle.” The three legs of this metaphorical stool are 1) the recovery of knowledge, 2) the rennovation of the soul, and 3) the restoration of the Kingdom’s miraculous power.

 

Anti-intellectualism renders the church defenseless

 

The first point is absolutely spot-on, and he has made this case forcefully in another work (Love God with All your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul, 1997, Navpress). In case anyone doesn’t believe him, consider the message of The Call to Seriousness: The Evangelical Impact on the Victorians, by Ian C. Bradley (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co, 1976). One theme of this earlier scholarly work about the history of the church in England is that anti-intellectualism in the church helped lead to the death of the evangelical church in England. That the church in England is nearly dead is beyond dispute, as the strong church of the 19th century (that ended the slave trade!) has eroded away almost completely. The great-great grandchildren of the evangelical church in England are simply not Christians, and all of Europe is clearly post-Christian. When I was in England in the early 90’s the Christian leaders there told us “the church in England is lean.” The same fate awaits us, as the American church has been very anti-intellectual and now we see somewhere between 75-90% of children raised in Christian homes abandoning their faith. This is because the church is unprepared to defend the faith against naturalism, post-modernism, and other attacks (e.g., materialism) that ignorant youth find so appealing and beguiling.

 

Miracles

 

The third side of the triangle is supposed to be the controversial part of the book, as Moreland advocates for the abandonment of “cessationism” (the theological viewpoint that the exercise of miraculous spiritual gifts such as prophecy, healing, and speaking in toungues has ceased). Rather, he asks Christians to become “naturally supernatural,” which is to grow in your ability to see/discern/celebrate the supernatural (i.e., miraculous) action of God on earth today. As evidence he cites examples of miracles and also the alleged link between miraculous events and the growth of the church in other countries. I do not think that this section is that controversial or alarming to me or my friends at NeoXenos (http://www.neoxenos.org). Although I’m not about to become a “Third Wave Evangelical” (referring to a resurgence of belief in and celebration of supernatural manifestations of the Holy Spirit after the first two waves of the pentacostal and charismatic movments—see John Wimber’s Power Evangelism and Power Healing), I think that stuffy institutional Christians are often biased against the possibility (and reality!) of the miraculous working of the Holy Spirit in the world today.

 

People in the evangelical church tend to get the rap for being cold, stiff, boring people who deny any kind of experiential or miraculous aspect to our faith. I think that partly this is a reaction against the weird, creepy, fake, fraudulent and often fabricated experiences and public displays of the pentacostal and charismatic movments. Parts of the Catholic Church are also given to claiming weird supernatural events at times (“the virgin mother appeared in my taco!”). However, a person on the front lines of ministry, like JP Moreland, who has been a pastor, church planter, apologist, and generally tireless statesman of evangelical Christianity, is going to see spiritual activity. We should not be surprised. I have seen the Lord work, and I have seen the efforts of our adversary as well. Although there are dangers of over-emphasizing spiritual experiences in the lives of Christians (e.g., drawing principles from narrative biblical texts where didactic portions would be more hermeneutically appropriate, judging Christians who do not appear to be having miraculous experiences to be “less spiritual”), growing in spiritual discernment is a good idea (Philippians 1:9, 1 John 4:1-32; Thes. 2:9).

 

More later

Next time I’ll consider the last side of the triangle. As a preview, I’ll say now that there are some very objectionable parts of this book. However, we need to discern the good from the bad, and I would recommend the book to a thinking Christian with good critical thinking skills. The points I want to make now are that many people would benefit from reading part 1 and sides 1 and 3 of Moreland’s triangle. Young people in particular are vulnerable to the insidious evils of our culture and the wreckage caused by anti-intellectualism in our church.

What we are facing

“We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the field God has assigned to us, a field that reaches even to you.” 2 Corinthians 10:13

Our Field

Paul reminds us, albeit indirectly, that God has assigned to each Christian worker or leader a field of ministry. The mission field for FEBA Team is the University. In order to be successful, we must understand the opportunities and challenges that our field of ministry presents. So let us consider the state of Christianity at the beginning of the 21st century in America and among young people.

I believe that we are all living in the end times, and that in America we are seeing the slow decline of western civilization. Our quality of life is going to slowly degrade, as the world measures quality of life. Energy and health care will get more expensive, money is too tight to mention, and time will get more and more pressed

I believe that the disintegration of the family has left in its wake generations of damaged people who are not able to form and maintain healthy relationships. Education is not what it used to be. People are getting more and more stupid and ignorant.

America is post-Christian

Against this backdrop, we are seeing America become a post-Christian nation, much like Europe. The new face of Christianity in the 21st century is not white, which may surprise self-focused Americans. The Church is growing in Africa, Asia, and India, but it is shrinking in the USA. For example, in 1900 China was not in the top 10 countries with respect to the number of Christians. In 1990 it moved up to #3, and by 2050 it will be #2.

I think the missionologists statistics are a bit misleading, since they rely on self-report of Christianity. People in America claim to be Christian at very high numbers (50-70%?), but that is an overestimate. If you count the people who actually attend church on any given Sunday, the number is more like 20%, and will be less than 10% by 2050 if current trends continue. This includes all the main-line denominations with nominal members, and the number of evangelicals is even less.

In conrast, there are powerful disincentives for the Chinese to claim to be a Christian (China is still one of the 10 worst places to live as a Christian in terms of persecution). Therefore, I believe that China will pass the USA in terms of the size of the Church, if it hasn’t already.

Young people don’t like Christians

David Kinnaman, the president of the Barna group recently wrote a book entitled “unChristian.” In this book he describes the slipping image of Christianity among American youth. Among people 16-29 years old, there is a greater degree of criticism toward Christianity than was expressed by any previous generation. As the table below shows, only 3% of non-Christians aged 16-29 have a “good impression” of evangelical Christians.

I think that FEBA Team and NeoXenos belong to the category of “Evangelicals” rather than to “Christianity,” since that would include many program-based institutions like the old-line denominations (e.g., Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran). Therefore, most young people do not have a positive view of what we stand for and what we are trying to do!

Percent of non-Christians ages 16 to 29

Christianity Evangelicals

Know of/aware of N/A 57%

Have bad impression 38% 49%

Have neutral impression 45% 48%

Have good impression 16% 3%

It is certain that we will face opposition, persecution, and other problems as we launch FEBA Team. The impression people will have of us will be negative, and will include many stereotypes about Christians. In the table below Kinnaman describes the impression of Christianity that young people do have:

Percent of non-Christians ages 16 to 29 who said each image describes Christianity “a lot or some”

Anti-homosexual 91%

Judgmental 87%

Hypocritical 85%

Old-fashioned 78%

Too Political 75%

Out of Touch 72%

Insensitive 70%

Boring 68%

So we will constantly be asked why we are “anti-homosexual.” We will be considered judgemental, hypocritical, old-fashioned, political, out of touch, etc.

Unfortunately, negative views of Christianity are not confined to non-Christians! Even people who describe themselves as “Christians” essentially don’t like Christians! Amazingly, half of young churchgoers said they perceive Christianity to be judgmental, hypocritical, and too political. One-third said Christianity is old-fashioned and out of touch with reality. So we should be very careful about asuming that any one who claims to be a Christian is actually an ally or supportive of our efforts. Many of those coming from “Christian” backgrounds are in the process of rebelling against their faith.

Young people abandon their “faith”

Christianity is in sharp decline among young people in this country. A couple years ago the Barna Group came out with a study in which they reported that a majority of twentysomethings – 61% of today’s young adults had been churched at one point during their teen years, but are now spiritually disengaged. According to the survey, only 20% of twentysomethings have maintained a level of spiritual activity consistent with their high school experiences. According to Barna, another 19% of teens were never significantly reached by a Christian community of faith during their teens and have remained disconnected from the Christian faith.

So, apparently about 60% of people in their 20’s “lose” whatever meager faith they had during their teens. I tend to believe that many of the 80% of twentysomethings who claim to have attended church during their teens is a greatly inflated number. I really doubt it. This includes every conceivable form of “church” and does not require any consistency in church attendance or even the most limited commitment to a life of faith. Nevertheless, whatever limited interaction children and high school students have with the church is lost after college.

College is a “last chance” for most

An important counterpoint to this observation is the fact that college, during which many students are abandoning their “faith” (or constructing a new personal post-modern syncretistic faith?), is the last good opportunity to win a person for Christ. Most people who receive Christ do so by their 18th birthday. About 64% of people who report that they are a Christian received Christ during their childhood or highschool years. However, another 13% of current Christians accepted Christ between 18-21 years of age, and another 23% accepted Christ after age 21.

It may seem as if a good number of people accept Christ as post-college adults (23%). However, consider that “after 21” can include 50 or more years. Yes, some people do receive Christ in their 70’s and 80’s. But for every year that a Christian worker toils to win the lost, the odds of winning someone over age 21 is pretty low. In comparison, only three years are represented in the 13% of 18-21 year olds.

If you assume 50 years transpires after 21, and you round up a bunch of 71 year old Christians to ask, the odds them having accepted Christ in any given year during college are 9 times as great as their odds of having accepted Christ in any given year after age 21. The older people get, the more difficult it is to reach them. This does not mean that we should not try, but rather that we should take the most of the opportunities that the college years afford.

Christianity in the University

So this is what we face. In God’s providence he allowed us to live into the 21st century, and our field is not the rapidly growing Church of Asia or Africa (unless we become overseas missionaries!). We are here in Northeast Ohio, watching Christianity decay in America and among young people. FEBA Team will try to establish a beach head of the Kingdom of God in a hostile place.

The University brings together young people from all over our mission field and collects them in a concentrated space. But, the University is perhaps even more hostile to the gospel than the areas that surround it. Finishing this line of thinking will have to wait for another time. In a future blog, I will describe the state of Christianity in the University.

FEBA Forever

Welcome to FEBA Forever! Insights from the Forward Battle Area. This is my first blog. Starting FEBA Team has really compelled me to start blogging. Please see the NeoZine Article: “Viral Church” for some background (neozine.org).

Here is an edited excerpt:

FEBA stands for “Forward Edge of the Battle Area.” The writers of the New Testament sometimes used such military language, and it’s a helpful way to illustrate the idea of moving forward. In the military, it is not unusual for special reconnaissance assets to operate significantly forward of FEBA. They often operate deep behind enemy lines, but not always in uniform.

Our DMT is assembling its own FEBA Team to launch a bush group at KSU this fall. The team includes Joel, Kathryn, Dar, Kyle, Kate, and Jeff. There was a delay launching a new college group and ministry house among the incoming freshmen at KSU and UA. Apparently they’re planning to live at home, save money, get hungry, pass classes, and serve in WORD. It will probably grow very unpleasant to remain in a high school group during their first year of college, but we’re building a launchpad by sending our most available workers and leaders into the campus to reach people now.

This “Bush Group” may only be a small beginning, but reinforcements will soon arrive in 1/2009 with Keith and the others. In the meanwhile, let’s leverage our existing opportunities to begin planting yet another home church!

First, however, the leaders of “The Falls Project” (Joel, Dar, and Kat) need to pass along responsibilities to their current cell groups. Our home church plant has come to fruition, since there are plenty of young professionals, couples, and soon-to-be families to sustain home church growth for decades. People are settling down, getting houses and trying to have babies, but we can never lose focus of the need for authentic Body Life and discipleship-ministry. Outreach may become more difficult, but new leaders see new ways to overcome obstacles. Most exciting of all, nobody is consigned to sitting “on the sidelines” as spectators while others get all the exciting spiritual opportunities.Everyone can be a starter.

Future blogs are already planned. Some will be more spur-of-moment reflections on happenings related to FEBA Team, and some will be more substantial ‘articles.’ Look for the following topics in the near future:

 

What We are Facing: I’m planning to write about the state of Christianity among young people in America at the beginning of the 21st century, so that we can appreciated what FEBA Team faces as we move onto campus.

 

From “Ivory Tower” to “Dark Tower:” I want to write an essay describing how the University went from a stronghold of “Christian Scholarship” to a post-Christian wasteland like Sauron’s Dark Tower in Mordor from the Lord of the Rings. It is a sad tale.

 

“Why I do not attend Christian Faculty Conferences:” inspired by the approach taken by Paul Meehl in his famous “Why I do not Attend Case Conferences,” this will be a diatribe against three themes in the typical efforts of parachurch ministries targeting Christian faculty. They are; “academic integration,” spiritual disciplines, and “kingdom theology” applied to the university.

 

Welcome to FEBA Forever…leave a comment.