I have experienced a refreshing lack of takeaways and best practices over the last couple of days here at NPC. Refreshing, because I would have to filter any of those take-homes through another lens or two anyways, and I find myself moving further and further away from an industrialized notion of church as structures, programs or practices. We are the Church, and I have experienced a strong narrative thread throughout NPC to redefine, refocus and reimagine who we are as the called out people of God.
In the morning session, John Ortberg drew heavily from the wisdom of Dallas Willard to share several principles, or “treasures,” that we all need to thrive in ministry. Ortberg quoted Willard as a sort of refrain throughout the session:
God’s aim in history is an inclusive community of loving persons with God as the primary sustainer and most glorious inhabitant.
As we think of moving forward in the journey ahead of us, we long to see God at the center. As Richard Twiss said during the afternoon panel session (with Tony Jones, Danielle Shroyer and Dan Kimball) on the missional church, it is the Missio Dei (the “mission of God”) that forms the basis for our understanding of community and mission as a church. God, Himself a perfect community of mutually submissive love in the Trinity, reveals what it means to be the people of God in community and what it means to be sent out as the people of God. Tall Skinny Kiwi has some more insight into the Missio Dei here.
Richard Twiss is a native American theologian, pastor and author. My wife and I went to speak with him briefly after the session — his vast life experience and gracious wisdom spoke deeply to us. His words about the inherent postmodernity of the Native American experience — in particular, the circular versus linear way of thinking — has a particular resonance with us as Asian Americans. We shared with him about the lack of people further along the Way in our Korean American communities and how his story gave us insight and guidance. He told us about a gathering at which he spoke in Toronto, hosted by a Korean Canadian congregation for First Nation believers, that it was the Korean people who were weeping at his words about discovering identity in Christ. Jesus doesn’t wipe out our ethnicity, but shows us a new way to be human — in Christ, I can become truly Korean American, truly human. It is difficult for me to express the freedom I found in today’s brief encounter, and I believe this has such powerful implications for the future of our little congregation and the greater Asian American church.
In the evening, NT Wright brought to the convention a massive Gospel that joins together a beautiful vision of heaven and earth. It will probably take me weeks to wrap my head around everything he shared, but I experienced a serendipitous convergence of ideas once again through his words — the idea of participating in the mission of God in the world He so loves. He reminded us that, as the people of God, we must re-embody the great story of God in the world, not retreat back into Enlightenment subjugation or be crushed under postmodern nihilism. We must live in a world where new things are possible.
Wright’s exposition of Ephesians was marvelous — we are God’s workmanship and we are His poem (as we read the Greek in this passage). Sometimes it is art that brings the message home more clearly — and we are called to do “good works” that will amaze the world and reveal to the world the coming together of heaven and earth, that show the principalities and powers of the world that Jesus is Lord and they are not.