Everything here represents my own opinion and not the opinion of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection or the United Methodist Church.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

A New Kind of Christian - Book Review

The following document is a part of my 2007 Goals. I would enjoy hearing your comments and feedback. Enjoy!

Conard 1

Andrew Conard

The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection

2 January 2007

A New Kind of Christian

In this paper, I will attempt to summarize some of the central themes of A New Kind of Christian, by Brian D. McLaren, and reflect on the significance and application to the United Methodist Church and the local church to which I am currently appointed, The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

A New Kind of Christian Christian theology, discipleship and ecclesiology during the current time. McLaren asserts that a shift in worldview is currently taking place among certain cultures. This shift is from a modern worldview to a post-modern worldview. The era of the modern worldview began around the year 1500 and the era of the post-modern worldview began around the year 2000. Worldview encompasses many aspects of culture and society and has a deep impact on the life and practices of Christians living in the era in which a particular worldview is dominant. The times of transition around 1500 and 2000 both involved changes in communication technology, scientific worldview, epistemology, transportation technologies, economic system, military technology, and an attack on dominant authorities with defensive reaction.1 The implications that a change in worldview has for Christianity are primarily addressed through ongoing conversations between two of the characters in the book, Neo and Dan. The first person quotes below are from the characters of the book.

The transition that took place around the year 1500 was a transition from the medieval to modern worldview. While addressing a group of students, Neo emphasizes the effect that worldview has on Christianity:

To the Christian culture of medieval Europe, none of you today could be considered real Christians. True, you might say that you believe in Jesus and that you follow the Bible - but that would sound like nonsense to them if at the same time you denied what to them was essential for any reasonable person to accept: the medieval worldview, which was the context for their faith.”2

McLaren asserts that a similar conclusion can posited for the transition from modernity to post-modernity. In some communities of faith, the modern worldview has become so much a part of the Christian life that the worldview is understood as essential to faith in Jesus Christ. Christians have always lived their faith in specific times and places. It is the responsibility of Christians today to find practices that that are true to the gospel and also relevant in the world in which they are living.

I firmly believe that the top question of the new century and new millennium is not just whether Christianity is rational, credible, and essentially true (all of which I believe it is) but whether it can be powerful, redemptive, authentic, and good, whether it can change lives, demonstrate reconciliation and community, serve as a catalyst for the kingdom, and lead to a desirable future.”3

Application for The United Methodist Church

I believe that the topics and themes addressed in this book have application and relevance for The United Methodist Church (UMC). One applicable theme is the importance of an ecclesiology that is appropriate for the present time.

I want you to invest your lives not in keeping the old ship afloat but in designing and building and sailing a new ship for new adventures in a new time in history, as intrepid followers of Jesus Christ.”4

It is more important to explore and begin to implement systems and structures within the denomination that will be effective in the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ. This is more important than spending time and energy on maintaining current structures. “Maybe you do both - create incremental improvement of your existing services and at the same time innovate by creating new ways of ‘doing business.’”5 This is important at both the denominational and local level.

Another key theme from A New Kind of Christian that is applicable to the UMC is recognition of its existence among other denominations.

The traditional churches will have to do one thing about their traditions, if they want to retain them: they will have to relativize them. They won’t be able to enforce them as being right, necessary, or biblically mandated; they will rather simply offer them as elements of their church culture that have meaning for them.”6

The UMC is a part of the church of Jesus Christ that spans many denominations and understandings of the practice of faith. It is important for the UMC to offer a humble approach to living as a disciple of Jesus Christ. This approach involves: Wesleyan theology, balancing social and evangelical gospel, a particular concern for the poor and other distinct understandings and practices.

Application for The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection

I believe that the topics and themes addressed in this book have application and relevance for The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection (Resurrection). McLaren writes, “We would expect that the best modern churches in history exist today, right at the time when the modern world is passing, much like the world of the horse and buggy in 1910.”7 I believe that Resurrection currently exists as an excellent modern church that is in transition toward being in mission and ministry within and to the postmodern world.

I believe that Resurrection has great potential to be a catalyst for change within the United Methodist Church toward being a church in focused on mission and making disciples of Jesus Christ in a postmodern context. This will be accomplished through intentional action to reach those generations that are not currently being effectively reached.

Additional Quotations

  • Our interpretations reveal less about God or the Bible than they do about ourselves.”9

  • What a relief to have a third alternative - to read the Bible as a premodern text, emerging from a people who believed that truth is best embodied in story and art and human flesh rather than abstraction or outline or moralism. We relieve the biblical writers of having to conform to modern expectations.”10

  • I would say stop counting conversions, because our whole approach to conversion is so, I don’t know, mechanistic and consumeristic and individualistic and controlling. Instead, I’d encourage us to count conversations, because conversation implies a real relationship, and if we make our goal to establish relationships and engage in authentic conversations, I know that conversions will happen.”11

  • A tangent - talking about God for pay always threatens to work against really loving God … So getting paid to love God can make it hard to love God. That’s why I believe that whatever new kinds of Christian spirituality and spiritual formation may be about, they should focus on the practices “done in secret” that no one sees.”12

  • Now stop speculating about hell and start living for heaven!”13

  • So salvation is joining God’s mission instead of trying to live by our own selfish personal agenda.”14

  • The issue is following Jesus, joining him in his adventure and mission of saving the world and expressing God’s love.”15

  • Spirituality focuses on the “holy” part. But it is not just about individual spirituality (as was the case in modernity, where everything was privatized, atomized, individualized). The spirituality itself is communal. … In these ways, through private and communal spiritual disciplines, we become unique, holy people.”16

  • As to your question, when people draw a small circle that excludes me or those I love, I try to draw a bigger circle that includes them.”17

  • Whichever path you choose, go to the front edge, the curl of the wave, the wild frontier, and throw your life and efforts there. That’s where we need you!”18

  • Community means that we create a place of belonging where people can learn to believe the good news, belong to a community that is learning to behave (or live) by it, and become (together) a living example of it.”19

  • But in my thinking, both spirituality and community flow into mission. Mission is the “apostolic” dimension of the church - “mission” and “apostolic” simply being Latin and Greek ways of saying that we are sent.”20

  • That suggests to me that we would make our church services less about preparing to do something spiritual at home on their own and and actually doing something spiritual here and now.”21

  • The church doesn’t exist to satisfy the consumer demands of believers; the church exists to equip and mobilize men and women for God’s mission in the world.”22


McLaren, Brian D. A New Kind of Christian. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001.

1 McClaren, A New Kind of Christian, 29-31.

2 McClaren, 34.

3 McClaren, 154.

4 McClaren, 38.

5 McClaren, 148.

6 McClaren, 147.

7 McClaren, 43.

8 McClaren, 29-31.

9 McClaren, 50.

10 McClaren, 159.

11 McClaren, 109.

12 McClaren, 117.

13 McClaren, 126.

14 McClaren, 132.

15 McClaren, 132.

16 McClaren, 155.

17 McClaren, 158.

18 McClaren, 164.

19 McClaren, 155.

20 McClaren, 155.

21 McClaren, 121.

22 McClaren, 157.