Tuesday, November 22, 2005

up/rooted.west update from November 21

Hey everyone!

Those of you present at our November gathering last night can testify to a stimulating and productive conversation about how discipleship and spiritual formation happens within communities of faith. And those of you not present really need to drop back in some time. We miss you! And we especially miss the valuable insight and experience that you each bring to our discussions.

As with any good discussion, the thread weaved all over the place and sparked potential rabbit trails that could have used a good 8 hours each for further discussion. We started off the night asking four questions:

1. What does it mean to "make disciples"?
2. How has disciple-making/spiritual formation happened in the churches?
3. How do we see spiritual formation happening within scripture?
4. How has spiritual formation happened in your own life?

We began with some discussion about the differences between evangelism, discipleship and spiritual formation, and how these have perhaps been neglected or done poorly or well within the modern church. This led us briefly into the question of whether or not large, institutional, highly programmatic churches are the best vehicle for encouraging discipleship and spiritual formation (more on that later). We also talked about whether spiritual transformation is something that we can even affect or whether it is entirely the work of the Holy Spirit.

Mentoring and modeling was one area of discussion that we kept returning to. Biblical models of Christ and the disciples or Paul with Timothy, Titus, etc. seemed to point to a rabbinical style system of people doing life together and learning how to live in the way of Jesus by watching the example of others. We talked some about the difficulty of finding mentors, especially for women who are pursuing a ministry calling and can't find too many other women leaders in the church to learn from, and also for those of us being led in more emergent directions and not finding many older Christian mentors who are willing to go with us down that path.

Another dominant theme in our conversation was the fact that for most of us, significant spiritual transformation has happened most obviously during those times when we have been a part of an intensive missional community focused on a very specific ministry goal - e.g. a camp staff, a mission trip team, a ministry team within a church, etc. We talked about the value of being forced to spend large quantities of time with the same people and being focused together on a single purpose with those people. Many of us longed to make those kinds of experiences the norm for the daily life of the local church, but we wondered how that could happen, especially within a suburban culture where everyone is isolated and over-scheduled as it is. How do we create "monastic" communities that are not isolated from their culture and surroundings, but that at the same time live in a counter-cultural way to over-busy and overly individualized suburbs around us? What would that look like in an existing church, a multi-church ministry (like Emerge), or a brand new church plant like mine in Yorkville.

I for one came away from our discussion with renewed passion and some new ideas and directions for my own ministry, and I hope that others did as well. As we talked about what some of these ideas would look like in practical church settings, our conversation turned to what exactly is the mark of a healthy church, and how church growth ties in to church health. We decided that that should be the topic for next month: CHURCH HEALTH & CHURCH GROWTH.

I hope you'll join us next month on Monday, December 12 from 7-9pm at Wheaton College as we discuss those issues.

See you then!

Mike Clawson
up/rooted co-coordinator

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Next up/rooted.west gathering!


That's the next topic of discussion at our upcoming up/rooted.west gathering on November 21. Let's talk about questions of discipleship, spiritual disciplines and practices and how local churches can effectively engage in the hard work of transforming the lives of real people. How have you seen it done, effectively or not, in the churches in your past. Come to share experiences, stories and strategies for the emerging church.

We're meeing at the PHELPS ROOM in the BEAMER CENTER at WHEATON COLLEGE from 7-9 PM on MONDAY, NOVEMBER 21.

For directions to Wheaton College go here:

For a campus map go here:

I hope to see you all there, both our newer friends and especially you old timers who didn't make it last time! :)


Mike Clawson
up/rooted.west co-coordinator

Friday, November 04, 2005

up/rooted.west update

Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ!

For those of you that were at our October 24th meeting of up/rooted.west, I just wanted to send you this recap of our discussion and let you know how much I enjoyed hanging out with all of you. And for those of you who weren't able to make it, I wanted to keep you in the loop on what we've been talking about, and hopefully wet your whistle a little bit to come and join us next time. :)

As you know, this meeting was our first time in our new location in the Beamer Center at Wheaton College. We were joined by a good number of first timers from Wheaton College and the surrounding community. It was also great having food and drink and ice cream readily available once more for our gatherings!

The topic this past week was "WHAT IS THE GOSPEL?" and we began (after a much too lengthy introduction to up/rooted and the whole "emerging church" conversation by yours truly) by brainstorming how we have heard the gospel summarized or explained to us in the past. As you'd expect, common to most of us there was the idea that gospel is about "trusting in Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior for the forgiveness of your sins so that you'll go to heaven after you die." The next question then was naturally, "If that's the gospel, why then don't we see it explained that way in scripture itself?"

This led us into good discussions about the true fullness of the gospel and what it's really all about, especially in terms of being called into service of God, and in announcing the "kingdom of God". Many seemed to especially resonate with the lament that contemporary evangelicalism has seemed to make the gospel into a consumer commodity, and that our churches are offering
salvation as a kind of economic transaction. We have packaged and marketed the gospel in order to "attract" people, but the worry seemed to be that in the process we may have lost our vision of what it is we are actually "selling" (or whether "selling" is even the right metaphor at all). This led us into discussion about the nature and purpose of the church and what it should be all about in the first place.

While more was said than can be effectively summarized here, towards the end many excellent and provocative questions were raised by Tory Schalkle about the emerging church movement and it's attitude towards questions of inclusivism/exclusivism, of church structure and government, of doctrinal boundaries, etc. Though we ran out of time to discuss most of his points, his concerns did help us choose our topic for next month. I'd invite you to join us MONDAY, NOVEMBER 21 to discuss the question of "SPIRITUAL FORMATION AND DISCIPLESHIP WITHIN COMMUNITIES OF FAITH". For those of you who were there this past week, I wanted to also give an apology and a disclaimer. First, up/rooted is intended to be a discussion and my role is simply as a facilitator. However, I personally think I did way too much talking this time, and my intention is not to play the part of "professor". So, I implore you all, if I end up talking more than say 20% of the time next meeting, please just slap me upside the head or something. And, on a related note, I need to also give a disclaimer that my personal opinions, whether about the gospel, or inclusivism/exclusivism, or church structure, are simply my own and are not necessarily representative of everyone involved with up/rooted. In conversation at our gatherings, I am simply one more voice among the rest, and the things I say are no more the "right answers" or authoritative position than anyone elses. Our hope is to encourage free and open conversation, not to simply indoctrinate everyone into some kind of new "emergent" way of thinking.

So anyhow, with all that said, I want to remind you one more time that we're meeting again Monday, November 21 from 7-9 pm in the Phelps Room in the Beamer Center at Wheaton College to discuss "Spiritual Formation and Discipleship Within Communities of Faith". Can't wait to see you there!

Mike Clawson
up/rooted.west co-coordinator