Monday, March 12, 2007

McLaren in Malaysia

On March 3rd and 5th, I got the chance to meet and converse a bit with American pastor-teacher-author and spokesman of Emergent Village, Brian McLaren. He was invited by our mutual friend and Malaysian pastor Sivin Kit to stop over in Malaysia on his way to Australia. (That's Brian and Sivin in the photo.)

I’m glad I went to the conference and the dinner that Sivin and several others organized. I listened closely to Brian’s provocative talks, interpretations of Scripture, and wide-ranging stories. I wrote elsewhere that his approach to theology and evangelism intrigues, inspires, and troubles me, all at the same time--which is, I think, the kind of reaction he is hoping for from pastors like me (I’m only five years his junior.) I found Brian to be very down-to-earth, approachable, and eschewing of any VIP treatment. He genuinely wants to interact and learn from others--especially in the "two-thirds world". This is refreshing. I also appreciated the insights of the several Malaysian church leaders and thinkers who engaged him in public conversation.

Brian’s visit prompted me to hurry and read one of his many recent books before he arrived, A Generous Orthodoxy, and to look again at Reinventing Your Church, his first book. I bought that book (now republished as The Church on the Other Side) back in 2004 as part of a small bundle of books for the elders of our brand new church to read and discuss. And in 2006 I bought A Generous Orthodoxy to see what all the fuss was about regarding Emergent ideas and Brian McLaren. When I heard he was coming to KL, I thought I should at least go ahead and read what I bought! Maybe I could ask an intelligent question. (Turns out I did a lot of listening and thinking and processing instead.)

What attracts me most about Brian and the whole emerging church movement is the combination of humility and passion--humility expressed through listening in conversations with Christians and non-Christians about truth and ultimate reality, and passion expressed in reaching present and emerging generations with the Good News of Jesus through patient and serving relationships.

I don’t necessarily agree with everything Brian writes or says, but that’s ok. The conversation can sharpen us both, if we’re willing to listen to one another and keep conversing, rather than shut down too quickly and lazily label the other as an opponent. Too many of us Christians operate this way over theological, political, and moral issues.

Thank you, Sivin, and thank you, Brian, for your “quiet revolution of hope”. I believe Jesus is calling us all to be revolutionaries in His cause--to participate in passionate actions and humble conversations for the purpose of world transformation. And all the while, we must stay in intimate connection with Jesus lest we get off track. "Thy Kingdom come, Lord, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."


Sivin Kit said...

Todd, thanks for such an encouraging post. And your input has been wonderful. I like your humble and engaging approach too ...and about your idea on a mobile library, we need another lunch to "plot some goodness" on this matter :-)

Todd Nelson said...

"Mobile library" or "pastors book exchange" -- whatever we call it, I look forward to borrowing and sharing. :-)

And when you're rested sufficiently, let's get a small gang together for lunch, absolutely. I know a good restaurant in our new meeting place (Chinese Chamber of Commerce building on Jalan Ampang.) You may know the franchise, D'Tandoor. I'll buy!

Glen Woods said...

Just browsing through. I spent a week with Brian at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon, USA in 2004. I agree with your assessment. He was a great source of encouragement to me, as well as a source of challenge.


Glen Woods