Tuesday, February 28, 2006

FORGE intensive part 1

The first night of the FORGE intensive we had the honour of hosting Ash Barkers book launch. His new book entitled "Make Poverty Personal" was for sale for the first time. It was great to have John Smith give an intro to Ash, he followed the theme of social justice through the bible, and talked about how it was such a refreshing thing to see younger people like Ash continuing to bang the drum of mission to the poor.

Unfortunately I had to go a bit early as it was a goodbye dinner for my friends that I have been meeting with regularly reading through the gospel of John. They are going back home to America, and I will miss them a lot. It was a miraculous meeting, as my wife and I had taken in their cousin years ago when he had no where to live. And then I wind up becoming friends with them through my jiu jitsu training, only to find out almost a year later that we had lived with their cousin. I missed Ash's speach, but felt it was right to be with my friends that night.

Saturday morning I heard Allan Hirsch give the foundational talks for the FORGE intensive. I always love hearing Allan teach as he builds a theology, and a history for the things I have learned by trial and error over the years. This time I really keyed in on one word.


The idea that most of the time when people come to faith we not only invite them into our world, and culture, but in so doing we extract them from their own culture. This essentially takes them away from the people they are most naturally able to connect with, and share their new found faith with. Most studies show that at about the three year mark, most Christians have no more non Christian friends.

This reminds me of my own story. I needed to leave the culture I was a part of. I was part of the punk rock culture in my city, I was also a part of a group of bullfighters, that was like a second family to me. The problem was I could not continue in my walk with Jesus amidst this subversive culture. It was actually good and right for me to be extracted.

But only because there was no one open minded enough to join me, and support me within it. This was why I made it such a point to join those that I was discipling in their own context. To give them the strength to walk away from things like drugs and sexual temptation, but still be among their friends that also needed help walking out of a lifestyle that was very destructive.

It was a very good session for me, and judging by some questions, was pretty influential with our new interns as well.

the rev


Rebecca said...

Rev - I have no experience with this, as I grew up in a Christian family and "rebelled" by joining a church that was far more conservative than the one I grew up in. Huh.

Do you think that there are ever occasions when people need to be "extracted", to get out completely?

Anonymous said...

I 've heard some people told to leave the church and have a good time! Speaking for myself, I never really had anything to leave, apart from addictions and conpulsions, and self indulgnet values. ( most of which im still battling) And when I joined a small congregation, and started reading the bible for the first time at the age of 23, I discovered that people in the church arent that much different from people outside it.

Matt Glover said...

Sorry to have missed the weekend Rev. Spent it in the hospital with my boy - severe asthma attack...

Anyway, I like your honesty (again). Sometimes extractional is necessary as some cultures are destructive.

But looking at the life of Jesus, we find an extractional approach quite often. Peter was taken out of the fishing community. Matthew out of the tax collecting community and so on. I guess you could say it was done so they could be equipped and then sent to be part of the community once more. My understanding of history, however, suggests they never quite fitted back in ever again...

But then there is the guy who had Legion cast out of him that was sent right back to his community without even spending a day with Jesus.

Perhaps mission and discipleship is more context dependant than we realise...

Jon Owen said...

Bec there totally are situations that people need to be released from that are not life giving.

If more people extracted from "above the line" an re-connected with the poor "below the line" in "below the line" neighbourhoods, like Ash Barker does in the slum he lives in then there would be a chance for the birthing of a third community.

This community may be the perfect context for discipleship to emerge, where both the "leper" and the "tax collector" can both exist: THis 3rd place does not fit in either world yet has the mutual love and challenge to authentically grapple with both.

Does that make any sense?

Rebecca said...


Jon, I was thinking more of situations like drug addiction, but yes, I think that we also need to be extracted from being 'above the line'.

For me the challenge is this: how do I connect both with those who are "above the line" and those who are "below the line". How do I find that "third place" you speak of?

I'm a lawyer, presently in a commercial law firm in which I'm very comfortable (in a good way, not a complacent way!). I could write pages and pages on this, but briefly, a challenge for me is crossing the divide between the various worlds I find myself in. There have been times when those who I hang out with "below the line" have walked past me in the street and failed to recognise me because I was in a suit - they would never fail to recognise me in jeans and a t-shirt, but the reality is that this mode of dress is completely inappropriate for my environment. Not only am I required to dress in ways which may make me more inaccessible to those 'below the line', but it's an incredibly expensive way to dress - if you're my size (small!), it's damn near impossible to find a suit that fits for under $500. I'm finding ways to get around this, but the fact is still that one of the worlds that I exist in sets boundaries that I struggle to comply with given my value system.

Of course, one solution would be to escape that system all together - but what if we feel that we are to be incarnate among a certain group of people? The logical extension of working away completely is becoming a hermit somewhere...

I 100% respect and support the stuff that Ash Barker is doing, but I truly believe that not all of us are called to do that. I used to - but Christ is for those 'above the line' too - my personal struggles have led me to wonder: how do we respond to the Gospel's call to the margins, without compromising the proclamation of the Gospel to those at the centre?

(Oooh, I'm am sounding evangelical today!)

So yes - your post makes complete sense to me!

KenOath said...

Much as been said about sharing the gospel with those on the margin - this is what the Rev is involved in, and he seems to be seeing positive results.

But what about those other people - people in professional workplaces where Bec is? I've not heard of anyone's experiences sharing the gospel with the middle-classes, the comfortably-off employed people. I suspect that this is a much more difficult exercise. Does anyone do this with any success?

Rebecca said...

KenOath...I don't know what you mean by "success", and I'd be hesitant to claim it anyway - but most people in my workplace know that I'm a Christian, and often ask me questions about the stuff I do with people who live on the streets, are curious about my position on various political issues...people have been supportive of me taking long lunches or similar to attend speaking engagements, and have been interested in my beginning theological studies this year.

There's a well-known Muslim in my workplace who is equally supported.

One of my colleagues at recently said, "Bec, when the f*** are you going to invite me to your church?" *cough* I certainly didn't see that coming!

I have to say that the most difficult thing is dealing with the judgmentalism of some of the Christians I find myself in community with. I once had someone ask me what I was doing over summer - when I said I was working in a top tier firm, they said, "Well Bec, as far as I'm concerned all lawyers are blood-sucking parasites on society." I kid you not - word for word (how you could you forget? It's emblazoned on my brain!) If there's one thing that makes me angry, it's the assumption that if you wear a suit you're not committed to the poor or to the Earth, and if you dress like a feral you are...

end rant. ;)

KenOath said...

Bec, I look at generalisations like that as more a sign of inner emotional conflict on the part of the utterer rather than any meaningful insight into the object of the comments. Anyway, just because one is a christian, doesn't mean one has developed maturity in life. From what I see, the way christianity is practiced by some people would shield them from having "character building" experiences in the real world. T

Jon Owen said...

Great Points Bec,

They aren't really answerable easily. Seriously, you should come over for a cuppa with me and the missus to talk about it! Seriously!

My dad is a lawyer and for many years I struggled with this. Yet, I have come to see how he grapples ( a word he would NEVER use!) with staying authentic to the gospel and the workforce - it involves having to set boundaries that he will not cross though.

My sister works in Human Relations and she can see almost complete incompatibility betwen it and the gospel, so I guess there are tensions that have to be addressed.

Yet, we are called to be salt and light everywhere also, so how do you go about it: currently it sounds like your life is totally polarised, you are either in the corporate world power suiting or
track suiting on the street, that must take its toll(?)

Yet supporting the YOUs of this world is just as important as supporting the Ash Barkers of this world.

Just rambling! Come over and check us out, Rev will tell you that we won't bite!

The Rev said...

The UNOH people are all nuts Bec, whatever you do, don't visit them!!!


I think my work with the poor and marginalized gives me an authentic voice to speak to those higher standard of living people. Keep doing what you are doing Bec. And can you buy me an Armani suit? I need it for my art gallery openings!!!


the rev

rivertribemike said...

some good points from bec. i'm not questioning your calling specifically, bec, but from a general perspective, the thought that concerns me, is that incarnational mission to the middle classes and elites seems to be well and truly over-subscribed, whilst mission to the poor and marginalised seems to be the calling of a very select few. My reading of Jesus teaching and the Word generally, suggests to me that the balance should be the other way around

ben said...

Some really great comments here - really appreciate what everyone has had to say!

I think I'm right in assuming that 'the line' here is the poverty line and we talking about the haves and have-nots - yeh?! Whilst I agree intensely that we need to reach out to the poor and that is the heart of the gospel, I don't feel like those lines can so easily be defined in economical terms.

Is it possible that it is more about the poor in spirit (well maybe not more but also). This is seen of course in the tax collector - who obviously wasn't short of a quid.

Now admittedly the vast majority of the haves in australia are intoxicated by the whole material pursuit and do not "need" Jesus. But of course there are those who's internal 'God' hunger reaches a maturity and finally a desperation sets in that must be filled. I have been meeting pastorally with a young professional recently who is desperate for genuine Christ centred relationship and community. He has expressed overwhelming gratitude of my spending time with him. He has a poverty of relationship and community and a desperate hunger for God and those relationships.

I think it could be said also of the poor that there are many who are just not ready to accept or even want to consider the gospel. Then of course there are those who are internally desperate for jesus - as well of course as simply needing food and shelter.

Does this make any sense?

Sorry - have just realised that we are talking about extraction...sorry for getting off point.

Peter and Paul were both seemingly fully extracted never to return huh? This is seen in the fact that Peter was sent to the Jews and Paul to the gentiles.

I watched (for the first time) the cross and the switchblade movie this week. Have read the book and went to a conference with Daivd Wilkerson etc but first time to watch the movie.

Something that struck me was that David didn't become a gang member - to reach them. He didn't don a red jacket, adopt a new york accent etc but just stayed the country preacher - and with love, grace, prayer and tenacity reached people that were polar opposites to him.

The Rev said...

David lived in their neighborhood with them, suffered along side them, and would have looked rather silly in a jacket. Nicki Cruz continued to minister to the gangs after his salvation, and lead many more to the Lord than David did over the years.


Peter was a Jew, stayed in Judea his whole life, I don't really see how he was extracted. He was extracted from his job, but not his culture. Paul, was not either, he stayed with his culture until he was sent as a missionary to others, not the same thing.

the rev

Rebecca said...

ooh, this is all good stuff.

Jon, I'll shoot you an email later today. :)

KenOath, I totally agree - and ironically I've often noted that while my earning capacity might be higher (not yet, but one day!), my spending is often lower than that of those who have concerns about where I've chosen to work. I've got a mate who's a very succesful lawyer in a top tier firm, and has managed to do it pretty much entirely in op shop suits (admittedly he takes them to a tailors to get them altered so they look better, but still!)...he wouldn't define himself as a Christian, but I have incredible admiration for his ability to live out his values in a way that is socially appropriate to his workplace without being compromised by that.

Jon, yeah of course it takes its toll...but I don't think I'm alone, either. There's plenty of people in the corporate sector - people of faith and people who would probably describe themselves as secular humanists - who are struggling with this stuff. It disappoints me that those who are more obviously living out their commitment to social justice, green issues etc, are so quick to judge and therefore marginalise those who need their support most!

Towards the end of uni, I became quite convinced that going to work for a church organisation, or an agency that works full-time with the poor, would be something of a sell-out for me. I stress that this has absolutely NO implications for anyone else - this was just my personal confiction. I felt quite strongly that I needed to grapple with certain things, at least for a while. It's quite likely I'll end up in the community sector later, but I felt quite convicted that I wasn't supposed to be there yet.

Ben - in my experience there's a lot of "haves" who desperately want to connect with the "have nots", and are desperate for some sense of greater meaning than they already have, so I agree with you there. However I also 100% agree with Mike's point that contrary to what Jesus' model demands, incarnational mission to othe middle classes is over-subscribed, while mission to those on the margins is neglected.

So I end up back at Jon's notion of "3rd places" - I strive towards balance through my involvement in Urban Seed...it's not enough for those "above the line" to simply throw money at "a problem", or to sit on boards etc, which is what many of us tend to do. We need to be there on the ground, building community with those that are on the margins. When I'm walking back to work from court in my suit, and I stop and chat to someone who's obviously having a rough time, and the more senior lawyers I'm with end up entering the conversation...for a moment I feel like we've created one of those 3rd places - a Kingdom space. :)

Rebecca said...

oh and rev...I might be able to buy you an Armani suit if I'm still here in 10 years time!! I wish that I were in a position to now, but alas, us junior lawyers don't get paid anywhere near as well as most people think!!

Rebecca said...

Jon...I can't find an email contact for you, but if you go thru to my blogger profile you'll get mine.

The Rev said...


I love how you are acting as a bridge between these two groups. I am proud of you, you may be working in the money world, but you are trying best as you can to live in the netherworld :) Keep it up.

the rev

Rebecca said...

Rev - that is so affirming. Thanx - it isn't always an easy place to be, especially when you hang out with a lot of activists!

KenOath said...

A life pattern that occurs for some people is spending years, decades, in a commercial sector job accumulating valuable experience and then using that in a voluntary capacity after assets have been built up, kids have left home, etc. You never know where you'll be in thirty years time, Bec, but a strong probability is that you'll bring hugely valuable and much appreciated experience to whatever you do.

ben said...

Rev, you know what - confession - I've heard people say that Peter was sent to the jews and paul to the gentiles but have never really thought about the biblical account of that too much. I have always assumed that when we look at Peter being used to reach Jews that those Jews are all well educated - at least in the torah etc while he is a less than intellectual burly fisherman type bloke.

As I am writing this I am trying hard to think of any evidence to suggest that Peter isn't really smart??! I just may have assumed a lot of crap!! Certainly wouldn't be the first time.

I guess the underlying tension in me here is that I don't think you have to be an ex-drug addict to reach a drug addict or ex prostitute etc. Now I absolutely believe that someone who has this life experience has a massive head start in being able to relate etc. But at the end of the day, we are all human and subject to the human condition. One thing that has really smacked me in the face the few times that I have been blessed to minister in asia and the pacific is that ultimately we are all the same!! We all want love, security, purpose etc.

Not sure if I'm making any sense.

The Rev said...

you are ben, and yes God can use us wherever we are at. I do think it is impossible to pidgeon hole God.

I know God extracted me for a season, but I was allowed to go back, and was accepted back. Ultimately my goal is to see people find Jesus, and bring His kingdom into their lives.

as that is the goal of many Christians, it doesn't do a lot to fight over things. I do think that the emerging church is right to question these things however, for ourselves, not neccesarily for some other reason.

the rev