Saturday, April 21, 2007

Interview with JJ the Smu!

John Smulo is going to be joining us for the conference God for People Who Hate Church in a couple weeks. He will join me on a discussion panel as we talk with some local Neo-Pagans to discuss what they believe, and practice, and how they have been treated by Christians. There are not too many people as likeminded, and understanding toward developing relationships with the Neo-Pagan community as John. I can really track with this guy, and have been pleasantly surprised by his progressive, and intelligent thinking. I had you consider sending some support to JJ the Smu a few days back. If you like what you see, go here to support John Smulo. John also runs a site called Missional Apologetics.

So I asked John if he would do a quickie interview for me. Here it is:

PHIL: Give us a sense of your background in ministry. You've spent time in Australia, you've pastored, taught in Bible College, and worked with New Religious groups. Describe some of these experiences for us.

JOHN: I’ve taught at Morling College in Sydney, Australia. I was also the Founding Director of the School of Apologetics at the Centre For Evangelism and Global Mission at Morling College. I miss this a lot. I found it a supporting environment to explore creative evangelistic and apologetic approaches. I’m currently teaching at Capitol Bible College in Sacramento, California. It’s a very different environment compared to Morling, but I’m enjoying it and it’s a privilege to be able to teach.

I’ve been a pastor in Australia and the US. This has been a source of joy and pain for me. I’ve increasingly transitioned from traditional churches and pastoral ministry to more of a emerging missional church context. I’m currently at the initial stages of planting a church.

My work with new religious movements has especially focused on Pagans and Satanists, which are quite different from each other. This has involved the blessing of making a number of friends in both communities, and the opportunity to be involved in speaking at events such as Pagans in the Pub. I’ve also focused my writing in these areas, and sought to develop missional apologetic approaches that interact with Satanism and Paganism.

PHIL: Have you had any experience with severe misunderstanding, rejection, or mild persecution in your dealings with New Religious Movements, such as Neo-Pagans and Satanists?

JOHN: I’ve not only experienced severe misunderstanding, rejection and persecution from fellow Christians because of my friendships and involvement with Pagans and Satanists, I still continue to. The ironic thing is that overall I’ve experienced far more support, and very little criticism, from Pagans and Satanists. Some have even been kind enough to put up portions of my work on their websites. At times, they’ve done this even when its somewhat critical. I think that we’re able to have open and productive conversations when there’s mutual respect.

PHIL: What are your current hopes for evangelical Christianity in its relationship to New Religious Movements, and how do you see yourself helping make these changes come to pass?

JOHN: My hopes are somewhat low for evangelical Christianity in its relationship to New Religious Movements, and only mildly optimistic for those who associate with the emerging church. We have to overcome a significant part of church history that has been antagonistic to people of other faiths. We also have to overcome largely negative apologetic methodologies that typically create barriers instead of bridges. What I am optimistic about, however, is the fact that each of us can make a difference in this regard by loving people like Jesus did, using our ears more than our mouth, and seeing people through God’s eyes rather than our stereotypes.

As for how I see myself helping to make positive changes come to pass, I think that the best I can do is work with like-minded people such as yourself for change, while continuing to build healthy relationships with people of other faiths.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Relevant Magazine Article

The online version of Relevant Magazine published a short story of mine today. It is called "Beyond the Pall." Initially the story ran on my blog Square No More. The editor who covers the Life Section told me earlier today that it would run in a couple weeks, but the head editor read the story today, loved it, and bumped it up to today. Wow, that's pretty cool. So, check it out at this link here, and leave a comment, because editors love articles which get comments. smile, smile, smile - that was a pre-emoticon action.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Quickie Interview with Tony Jones

God for People Who Hate Church is coming up May 4-6. Tony Jones will be one of the voices here at the event, so I asked Tony a few questions. Here are the questions, and here are Tony's answers. Of course, since he's coming to Salem, I thought I'd senstize him with a question of a Witchy nature.

Phil Wyman: I've read numerous critiques about the evangelistic effectiveness of the Emergent Conversation. Critics have suggested that Emergent is either redefining, or perhaps even doing away with the Great Commission. What's up with Emergent and evangelism? or perhaps better put, what's up with Tony Jones and his ideas about the Great Commission?

Tony Jones: Well, I'm all about making disciples, and it seem to me that was Jesus' concern, too. And that is a way of life that Jesus called people into, not simply saying a prayer, led by a guy on TV. I've even baptized some folks in my day! What I do reject is arguments about "effectiveness" of evangelization and discipleship, since that's a modern value that has been superimposed on the gospel. The gospel is not effective, it's scandalous.

Phil Wyman: Here at The Gathering in Salem, Massachusetts, we are concerned with the reputation which "church" has developed in the eyes of those who stand on the outside looking in. We are also concerned about those who have been abused by the wrong practices of churches in the recent past. Do you have suggestions for bridging this divide of offenses?

Tony Jones: I think we're accountable to God for our local incarnation of the church. You are responsible for The Gathering, I'm responsible for Solomon's Porch. Just because someone gets E Coli at a Taco Bell in California doesn't mean that you never ea[r] at a Taco Bell again (although I question the sanity of people who eat there!) -- so folks shouldn't hold it against The Gathering because other idiots have ruined other churches. People who disparage your church because of the failings of others.

Phil Wyman: You just sat down in a cafe for a bite. Someone plunks themselves down next to you. You look up and see a large man in a black cape, with an oversized silver pentacle hanging around his neck. In striking up a conversation he numerates a long list of the evils of Christendom both recent, and historical. He finishes his diatribe, and looks at you. How do you respond?

Tony Jones: I guess I ask him where is the perfect religion and how can I join? Religion is our fallible, human attempt to articulate who God is and how we relate to God. Often, we suck at that, to be sure. But Christianity is also full of earnest saints who've done great good in God's name. I'll put our saints up against our sinners anyday.

Interested in being there May 4-6, and seeing Tony in person? Check out more about the seminar at the website for the The Gathering.