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Guest Post: The Future of Church

I’m extremely proud and grateful to host a guest post from my wonderful, brilliant husband, Matt Cavanaugh.  In addition to the privilege of being married to me, Matt is a musical composer, avid hiker, and lover of all things REI.  He holds a masters in Worship, Theology, and Art from Fuller Seminary as well as undergraduate degrees in psychology, theology, and church and ministry leadership from Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, IL. Find more from Matt at his website.

God created us each with purpose in mind. It could be purpose as in singular or purposes as in plural. But we’ve been created with — what I believe scripture would support — a ton of intention. (Is there a person who has read Jeremiah out there who can give me an “Amen”?) Not only do we have a purposeful existence, but we also have a purposeful time and location.

I believe that we are living at a very important point in Church history. We’re coming out of the Seeker/Modernist movement and a shorter but important Emergent/Postmodern movement… and now we’re in what I’d consider an idling spot. If we are talking about cars, we have our car still on but at a red light, awaiting a green to move forward and go to the next place.

And so I ask… what is this next spot? This next movement/evolution/step?

Is it the pendulum swinging back towards the more conservative movement (ala Neo-Reformists like Piper, Driscoll, etc…)?

Or is it more progressive?

Or, to think more multidimensionally, is it not a question of more liberal/more conservative or progressive/regressive but instead an entire paradigm shift?

God created us at turning point, and I believe that each of us has a role that requires our integrity and intention. God’s purposes are great for Creation; I believe that (and hope you do too!), and we have been invited to play a part in this wonderful drama of God’s world.

What is your role? I’m not necessarily talking Strengthfinders 2.0 or Myers-Briggs but instead your ROLE. How is/will God use you to further the growth and development of the Kingdom? How will your existence be important to the further unveiling of God’s heart and Plan? (This is not rhetorical… I really would love to hear your answers!)

What might be God moving us towards next?

I have a feeling that the next movement will have to do less with theology and more with physical and emotional socialization. Our world is becoming more isolated physically but more social in a digital sense. I anticipate seeing this trend further, where church (and The Church) is becoming more about what is convenient for our busy schedules. I anticipate people’s spending less time in chapels and more at home with virtual socialization. Maybe someone will figure out a way to create increased digital social community, more developed and fulfilling than what we have already.

How would this more digital and physically isolated experience of the community of God affect our body theology?

Regardless of what the future holds, know this: You have purpose. I have purpose. God is purposeful. Let’s be intentional as we play our part in the future of Church.

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Friday Forward: Guest Post on Letting Go

Tammy Waggoner is a recent grad of Fuller Theological Seminary. She enjoys writing about the things that affect her life and ministering to women who have been abused. She is a trailblazer in this area and enjoys helping other people understand the complexity of sexual abuse as well as helping survivors get freedom and true healing.  For more from Tammy, check out her ministry, Fractured Wholeness, and read her blog.

On Wednesday, Tammy shared about having a healthy body image by letting go of lies we believe about ourselves in response to Monday’s post, “Against the Flesh, Part 1.”  Now she’s back today to share her very own Friday Forward exercise with you lovely readers.

One way of letting go of lies and self-hatred and believing the truth is to get out post-its and a pen. First write down the lies. If you have a cross at home or at church put the post-it on the cross and ask God to take it. If you don’t have a cross at home or at church that you can use then rip up the post-it and as you do ask God to take this thought from your mind and to never let it in again.

Then (no matter if you have the cross or have torn up the post-it) ask God to show you or tell you what the truth is. Close your eyes and wait. If you have trouble hearing God pray this prayer with someone else in the room and ask them to listen for God’s truth as well. Once you hear the truth or are told the truth by someone else write the truth down on another post-it (I like different colors for lies and truth but use what you’ve got) and put the post-it somewhere you will see it daily. Ask God to remind you of this truth every time you see it.

I have done this activity or prayer in my ministry before and it is interesting how once the post-it was left on the cross and the truth was said aloud the lie could no longer be remembered. There was freedom in leaving it on the cross and the truth had already begun to sink in.

Letting go of self-hatred and the lies we believe about our bodies can open us to the freedom of loving ourselves and seeing ourselves as God sees us.

So, how’d it go? Come back and share your experience in the comments below.

Guest Post: Inside Out

Tammy Waggoner is a recent grad of Fuller Theological Seminary. She enjoys writing about the things that affect her life and ministering to women who have been abused. She is a trailblazer in this area and enjoys helping other people understand the complexity of sexual abuse as well as helping survivors get freedom and true healing.  For more from Tammy, check out her ministry, Fractured Wholeness, and read her blog.

This post is in response to Monday’s post, “Against the Flesh, Part 1.” In this post, Laura talks about the lies that people believe about their body. I had mentioned to Laura that if we want to get freedom from the lies, we need to not only understand where the Bible stands on such issues but also acknowledge and dig into the root of such issues.

Society tells us what the ideal body image is and until recently, with the influx of plus size models, that was size 0 without curves or blemish. Who really wears a size 0? Even plus size models are the ideal at size 14. As a woman with curves I have had to embrace my curves and really step into that but society alone is not to blame.

How we see ourselves on the outside is directly related to how we see ourselves on the inside.

Some people’s insides are damaged or broken. As an abuse survivor I can tell you that I have some distorted views of my body. My body reacted to abuse when my mind was screaming that it wasn’t right. My body let me down and in some instances I am plagued with ideas that my body is bad.

To admit that the first time was hard but now I know that my body was not to blame. Do you blame yourself for attraction? Do you blame yourself farting? Our bodies, made in God’s image, have natural functions that we cannot blame ourselves for.

Poor body image is directly related to self-hatred. I hate myself so I also hate my body. Women who have been abused spend lots of time trying to hide their bodies, the idea being, “If I can become ugly or invisible no one will try to take advantage.” This outward need to become hidden is sad but when this is broken it is beautiful to watch.

In my ministry I have seen women go from wearing all black and covering their bodies from head to toe to wearing bright colors and new cuts and no longer hiding behind dark clothing but stepping into who they actually are. It is the rewarding part of my job and my ministry. Watching women come out of the shells they have hidden behind is awesome.

How you view your body is directly related to how outside forces have told you to view your body. What did your parents tell you about your body? Often parents who scold their children when they catch them masturbating instill in them the idea that their genitals and their sexual drives are bad.

What did your first boy/girlfriend tell you about your body? What happened in the locker room in middle school? What have past dating partners told you?

Each person we interact with tells us something about our body and we take that image in. Sometimes we are lucky and the people in our lives nurture our love of our bodies but often times we are not as lucky and each interaction further distorts our body image.

So how can we possibly see beyond our distorted body images? It takes time, a good support system full of loving people who see us as we actually are and a loving God to guide you along the way.

Letting go of lies and self-hatred takes time and is not a quick process but it is totally worth it.  Letting go of self-hatred and the lies we believe about our bodies can open us to the freedom of loving ourselves and seeing ourselves as God sees us.

A Woman’s Place

It’s Blast from the Past Week on Holistic Body Theology.  Here are some of my theological reflections from a class I took on “Women in Church History and Theology” at Fuller Seminary.

First posted April 20, 2008

First impressions of Ephesians 5 and 1-2 Timothy

After my initial reading of Ephesians 5 and 1-2 Timothy, I conclude that women led varied lives depending on their economic and marital status. In Ephesians, married women are encouraged to submit to the authority of their husbands as they would to Christ and to respect their husbands as part of the union of two into one flesh.

In the Timothy letters, the emphasis is on the widows. The young ones are encouraged to get remarried so that they will be too occupied with household tasks to fall into gossip and idleness. The old ones are encouraged to mentor the younger ones and can only receive aid if they have, in a sense, proved themselves worthy by a lifestyle of service, submission, and obedience. Concerning corporate worship, women regardless of marital state are encouraged to be modest, submissive, quiet…and fertile? I never have discovered how to interpret 1 Tim 2:15.

My impression, then, of the lives of women at this time is that women were expected to submit to male authority, behave with modesty and decorum, and serve with hospitality as part of running a good household. They were not expected to take up authority themselves, abandon or neglect their duties, or behave or dress indecently.

But the fact that women are being put in their place in some of these passages implies that some women perhaps were teaching or asking questions or neglecting household tasks or gossiping among themselves or any number of other expressions of their new-found freedom in Christ that shocked and appalled observers both within the Christian community and outside of it. There seems to be an effort in the letters to recall women to (or to remind them, lest they forget, of) proper etiquette that would bring honor to both themselves and their husbands or families and would keep them from bringing the shame of the world on the early church as it struggled against the world’s accusations and persecutions.

A Woman’s Place, metaphors, and symbolism

Osiek and MacDonald, in A Woman’s Place, concern themselves largely with cultural and social context in exegeting these texts and other references to women in the New Testament. Interestingly, the authors spend time exegeting the Ephesians text as an extended metaphor for Christ and the church, insisting that the metaphor would have been clear to the early readers or listeners. They label the passage “an important socio-political statement” rather than a concerted teaching on the roles of men and women in marriage (120).

The use of marriage is symbolic, not necessarily prescriptive, and certainly reflects an ideal that cannot be realistic in our fallen world (125). Moreover, the authors argue that the text is a central pivoting point for the themes of the letter, marriage serving as a useful conventional metaphor (121). The text turns the convention of marriage on its head: “The husband is head of his wife as Chris is head of the majestic and heavenly church. Human ‘wifely’ behavior within the church becomes an indicator of the community’s dislocation as an apparently conventional but nevertheless heavenly body” (127). Thus, in taking the passage at face value, we miss the point.

Literal interpretation vs. historical-critical method

Growing up in the evangelically conservative South, I was taught as a general rule that the Bible was to be taken literally, its texts at face value, and its every word as the infallible authority of God. Now, I believe in the authority of the Bible, but its literal interpretation has fallen short of my understanding of who God is and what it means to be a child of God.

I appreciate Osiek’s and MacDonald’s effort to take a more holistic approach to the texts by both reading them in conjunction with each other and by considering at length the cultural context of the day as a lens through which to interpret the issue of women. They broaden the older scholarly perspective by including what the text does not say, what has been left out or assumed concerning the daily lives of women.

The metaphorical interpretation is an interesting approach to the problem of Ephesians 5. I am not sure that I could hold an audience long enough to explain such a position with those who expect a quick, two-punch sound bite or proof text. Nevertheless, the interpretation is a useful reminder that texts should not always be taken at face value or as prescriptive when they are just as likely meant to function as literary or as descriptive.

This approach, both to the Ephesians text and in general, does make a significant difference in the reading of scripture because it (at the risk of using a buzz word) liberates the text from its pigeonhole and consequently liberates women from relegation to the older understanding of “submission” and “authority” as ordained by God to keep women under the proverbial thumb of their men.

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