Thursday, November 12, 2009
Listening to Miroslav Volf at Luther Seminary
Last Friday and Saturday I had the opportunity to attend the Missional Church Consultation organized by Luther Seminary in St. Paul. The title of the Consultation was “Created and Led by the Spirit Planting Missional Congregations.”
Luther Seminary has done these consultations for a number of years—this one was the fifth. Last weekend they shared four lectures and other small group experiences. To read a copy of the lectures go to luthersem.edu/mission/consultation/essays and type in the password “planting.”
I am still learning about what it means to be a “missional church.” This conference helped me in my understanding of what this means.
By far the highlight of the conference was listening to Miroslav Volf speak. He teaches theology at Yale University.
He started out sharing that he wakes up at night thinking about our culture and his part in the culture. Some highlights for me were the following comments:
“What our culture has come to believe is the importance of human flourishing
Humans have always sought some form of experiential satisfaction
Religious culture was built around trying to resist this basic human instinct and of human drive”
“Culture has become the managed pursuit of pleasure instead of a sustained effort to live the good life.
It’s not simply the pursuit of pleasure—it’s the managed pursuit of pleasure
We work out; we work hard; We maximize utility as we see it—instead of seeing ourselves as living the good life
“Most of the church is organized around a very secular understanding of human flourishing. It’s almost as if the pastors didn’t believe in the gospel. The gospel doesn’t claim their lives or imagination. The pastors had to put fake jewelry around the gospel.”
“People are either takers, givers, or traders
Takers—we are so consumed about ourselves that we are willing to take.
Traders—I want something back when I give
Givers—I want to give more than I receive.
“we are a culture of traders and not of givers. We want something back for the gifts we give.”
“If we are traders it’s hard for us to appreciate grace.”
This last point on takers, traders and givers especially resonated with my experience of people, in particular Minnesota people. It’s hard for us to accept the FREE gift of grace that we have been given. We want to turn grace into a transaction.
I was especially inspired about his ideas regarding gifts and immediately ordered his book, “Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace.”
I look forward to reading the book and writing about it on this blog.