Losing Our Focus?

Cedar Park’s listening process has revealed that for some, a tension exists between the personal and social implications of the gospel. This tension prompts us to wonder where the church’s focus should be. Additionally, the constellation of large-scale crises we are facing (e.g. global pandemic, climate change, racial injustice, housing affordability, etc.) has led some to question the role of their faith and the church in engaging these critical issues. At the same time, many North American Christians are reevaluating some of the historical emphases of evangelicalism. Many are also leaving evangelical communities. The #Exvangelical and #LEAVELOUD hashtags are evidence of this phenomenon.

In response to the questions that have been surfacing both inside and outside Cedar Park Church, we have created a study series called Losing our Focus? which is based on a series of essays written by Pastor Lee. This series will examine how we understand the Christian life (i.e., discipleship, salvation, worship, evangelism, social justice), the history of evangelicalism, and what shifts might be necessary for the church to make in order to follow Jesus more faithfully in our time. All those who have questions, concerns, or are simply curious about these issues are welcome to attend.

Format

Each session will take place via Zoom. Approximately, one week prior to each meeting, participants will be emailed an essay to read in preparation for the Zoom meeting. During the Zoom, participants will be broken up into small groups of 3 people. Those who wish to attend the sessions with a partner may join under one Zoom user. However, couples may want to consider signing in separately if they would like to hear from a wider variety of people. Once in small groups each person will share a passage from the essay that struck them and why they found it compelling. As each person shares, the others will practice listening. After 15 minutes, each group of 3 will be joined by another group of 3 and each person will share with the others what was meaningful to someone else from their group. This way we practice listening to others and sharing our own thoughts. Then the small groups will join the main session where each week, a featured speaker will offer an extended personal reflection related to that week’s essay. Afterward, anyone will be welcome to share their own reflections on that week’s topic.

Each week will build on the previous sessions, so participants are strongly encouraged to attend all five sessions if possible.

Schedule

Wednesdays 7:00-9:00 pm

  • May 5
  • May 12
  • May 19
  • May 26
  • June 2

Registration

Click here to register for this learning opportunity. Registered participants will be sent an essay one week ahead of time. Contact Lee if you have any questions about this series.

I. Introduction & A Brief History 

Session 1 offers an introduction to the five-part series and traces the history of evangelicalism – a Christian movement that has shaped how millions of Christians understand the Christian life. At the end of the essay are 3 questions. Participants will be asked to share a response to question 1 in their small group. Folks will have an opportunity to share responses (if they wish) to questions 2 and 3 in the large group. 

This essay is the most academic of the five. Although it may not be the most entertaining read, the history that is presented is important for us to understand as we seek to faithfully follow Jesus today. Don’t worry, after this week, there are more stories! 

essay 1 – Further Reading

Heart Religion: Christian Belief and the Process of Introversion (40 min read)
This paper by Mike Simpson examines the philosophical and societal pressures that led to the interiorization of Christianity for many Protestants around the world. The essay starts on page 26.

Excerpt from The Great Reversal: Reconciling Evangelism and Social Concern (4 min read)
In this excerpt from his book The Great Reversal, evangelical sociologist David Moberg suggests that evangelicals have often tended to respond to social issues with suspicion. In this passage, Moberg describes a typical pattern of judgment, inaction, followed by eventual engagement.

Suggested Books
Worship is a Verb by Robert Webber
You Are What You Love by James K.A. Smith
Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Warren
Every Moment Holy by Doug McKelvey

II. The Helpful

Many Christians around the world frame the Christian life in terms of having a personal relationship with God. Although this limited frame does not represent the totality of what it means to be Christian, it does centre certain vital aspects of the Christian life. Essay II, beginning on page 27, acknowledges the helpfulness of this frame and celebrates the goodness of that which falls within it.