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A new faith:

How to use this document: the document is open to critique and thoughts, so please add your pieces
in a colour so that people can see which sections are new and haven’t been read or are new. Currently
purple denotes new sections, and orange changes within the existing document. There are sections for
Jesus, Structure, values, postmodernism, visual identity and leadership - please add new one’s that you
think are relevant or change these one’s if needed.

Definition of Terms
Fundamentalism: an exclusively literal view of the Bible, definitive moral codes
based on the Bible as authoritative.
Modernism: a period of time, generally spoken about as encompassing the rise of the
scientific method, Technology, a belief in progress and ultimate success for human
beings. It began with enlightenment and continues today, but is perhaps being
replaced by postmodernism.
Evangelical: a certain brand of the protestant church movement, relating to a certain
(conservative) view of the Bible and faith. Emphasises the authority of the bible,
personal conversion,etc.
Liberal: This can be political and social, or theological. In theology it means relative,
no ideas of personal salvation, always on the fringes of society. Politically it refers to a
liberal democracy.
Myth: can mean a fairy tale. Myth in this document refers to those supernatural
elements of life that make life meaningful. Spiritual significance is vital here for our
discussion. See page 6 for further discussion on this point.

Who we Are
We are a community of people who are interested in finding a faith that is part
of and interacts with the postmodern world that is developing around us in
Johannesburg, South Africa. We, as postmodern people, have each come from a
different church or religious tradition and have embarked on a journey together
to find a new faith or way of doing “church” in this new context. “If I begin
growing very far beyond what my community allows me to know, I need to
persuade my community to think with me, or else find or form a new
community.” - Brian McLaren

As such we are postmodern (but will learn from modernism where appropriate),
post-protestant (We are not protesting Catholicism, post-evangelical (we are
still considering the question of how one connects practically and spiritually
with God), post-Christian (In the sense that we do not like the label and all it
represents) but we are not post-Jesus or post-God. This document represents
the beginning of a journey to find a new kind of faith based on Jesus of the
Bible, but without the formal institutional church and its dogma. We may
borrow from the church if we find this necessary or helpful to our journey. The
end goal of this process is to develop a new kind of faith for a postmodern
person living in Johannesburg, South Africa and perhaps we will learn
something that will be able to be transplanted to other venues if the culture
will allow. We welcome all who identify with the values in this document to
journey with us and learn with us from the ride.

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Our Values
We have begun a list: As a group of people we are about God (God of the Bible,
Jesus), Honesty (the need to be yourself and who you are, which is accepted
and openly interacted with), community (a place for caring that begins with the
person and who they are as important), moral ownership (each individual is
held to their own system of moral values), respect for diversity (amongst
individual values, personal stories and histories), interaction (that it is
important to interact over who we are and how we are living out the values
that we speak about. The communal is as important as the personal). Un-
coerciveness (honesty and openness are important where the person’s own
journey is valued).

Respect and practicality - what you believe is real and this guides the way that
you act. As a person you are coherent and whole, and there are not a
conglomerate of multiple schizophrenic selves that are acceptable for specific
situations. This is the general logic behind contemporary people - that they are
honest about themselves. Spirituality is part of your self concept and is
acknowledged as part of who you are as a being.

Jesus
In a way we are creating a new Jesus (a historical sign that we are placing new
meaning on, and so Jesus becomes a new sign), which we need to be careful of,
cos its the same Jesus, re-understood and this re-understanding is without the
dogma and fundamentalism of the modern Church. The Jesus in the bible would
perhaps not lead the church today because the church today has added so
much dogma and prescription around who Jesus is, that it has ended up
missing the person. As a group of people who are dissatisfied with the
fundamentalist ideology, we are trying to re-understand within our context, a
Jesus that we think (subjectively) is closer to the historical person without all
the baggage. We are contemporary people, and are thus not aimed at existing
only for the sake of being counter culture, but are within our culture and need
to exist as conscious individuals with a spirituality that is real and interacts with
the rest of our lives, and so will counter culture if need be, or will exist within
the prevailing culture with the goodness it has to offer as well.

Within this new understanding and new context Jesus does need to be talked
about. He is the centre of our interactions (a quiet modern idea, but still an
important one). Within this interaction over Jesus it is hard to not be like
church… to not be seen as this group who is trying to hang onto something in
the past that we just don’t want to let go of. Church is not for us inherently part
of our culture and existence, which we cant let go of. Postmodern people also
have access to a lot of info, and they need knowledge and reason, but also
myth… and we are not sure how to do that in a way that works for the post-
modern individual without just taking it back to the modern method.
Postmodern people have seen how reason is limiting but is NB to us in specific
ways, but are also looking for the myth that reason stole away from us. The
goal is then to be open about spirituality in an honest way within our
contemporary context. Its not about the perceptions that we or others have,

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cos we can’t always control those. Maybe we can get over these by building a
new faith on relationships rather than trying to form a new (anti or counter)
identity through marketing etc. It’s more about the atmosphere.

Jesus has both historical and mythical significance. “The reason that I (Dale)
am on this journey is that I believe in the spirit and person of Jesus, but in
different ways than the church where I have developed most of my concepts.
These concepts are obviously extremely closely tied to my worldview as
effected by my experiences and knowledge. I believe that a lot of postmodern
type values are reflected in Jesus’ worldview, and then there are others that
probably aren’t. I believe that Jesus was firstly about people, all kinds of
people.

The existing religious structures at the time of Christ (the Pharisees) valued
people for right thinking and right action, thus for subscribing to the ‘right’
values and way of living out these values. Jesus seemed to counter this, and
valued people for who they were. This doesn’t mean that he didn’t want people
to progress, but didn’t disregard the person’s current status and position in life.
When Herod came to power, he instituted a class system that ended up being
largely capitalistic. People were not valued for the skill that they had (as a
carpenter or fisherman, but for the value of that skill within the new system of
economics. Herod brought into place a system where certain skills were more
valuable. Here people had to pay huge amounts of tax to the government, and
were thus held into their weak societal positions. Jesus fought against this
objectification of people to cash value (Ian: Careful of anachronistically
inserting communist values into the theology of the bible).

Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God, which was in direct contrast to the literal
and physical kingdom of Herod, which was driven by fear and power. Jesus’
Kingdom seems to speak of liberation from these types of control, where value
is on the individual’s personal spiritual life with God. My point is that Jesus
cared about the people and their struggles. These days surely we should care
about the people and their diverse struggles as individuals.

Structure
One of the things that the church did in structuring itself was to define itself
against culture, and in that way was defined by culture, which ends up having
nothing to do with God but only with an organisation and ideology that is
motivated by being a-cultural. “One of the things that I (Dale) am
uncomfortable with in extremist liberal Christian movements is the focus and
end point of culture as all important, and thus still in defining God. For me
culture is naturally important within a postmodern context, and this culture is
made up of socio-economic, socio-political, philosophical ideas that either work
or don’t within my faith. Postmodern people are thoughtful and do think about
their actions, there are reasons behind actions. Postmodern film is an example
of media and actions that are very well thought out to affect certain responses
that are internally critiquing culture and the way that culture is dealing with
issues, or interacting with itself. Surely faith and the values that that faith
comes to surely lead an individual to believe in values that will at times counter

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culture, and will at other times unite with cultural shifts. I believe that context
is all-important in any understanding, and that Jesus is about specific things
that are closely tied to the context in which he existed and is interpreted
within.

We want to guard against these hidden agenda’s of changing people to believe


whatever we or others do. Our space needs to have values encoded into its
structure which are all open values, and are not prescriptive but a result of the
postmodern context: openness, respect, honesty, diversity, individualism,
creativity, spirituality, connection, interaction, etc. In this way these values do
not need to be stated as rules that others must adhere to, but exist naturally in
the context around us and that the church acknowledges and bases itself
within. I (Dale) think that people do want these values to work, especially in a
democratic post-apartheid South Africa (a Context which is not postmodern
only, but a very unique mix of pre-modern, modern and postmodern). One of
the things that I’ve (Dale) never enjoyed about the movements that I’ve been
part of is that the event is always separated from the meaning. If a poet read a
poem, that poem could only be understood if you understood all the philosophy
behind the poetry, like you could never just arrive and see the intentions or
values that were inside of the poetry, there was always some external meaning
that made sense of the event. The thing that I didn’t like about that is that the
event was subverted to the philosophy and became unimportant within itself…
it always felt like a weak manifestation of something underneath it…always
trying to express that but never really doing it. I also didn’t like the way that
there was always this structure that you needed to understand that was
controlled by some other source who’s values were not evident or openly
known. Any event within a postmodern society must have values and
something within them that doesn’t require external justification. Values need
to be open, and simple so that this doesn’t happen.”

Central to the structure is the way that it grows and is lead. There is always a
group of people who are running a community, and this can feel like a ‘back
room’ where all the decisions are made and the way forward decided on. This
document is open to anyone from the group and so the direction or thought of
the group is open to anyone. Since this place is about defining our values and
ideology, only certain people will be interested in it, and want to interact on
that level. Below are some basic thoughts that will be discussed a little more.
These are some of the focus groups that could possibly be formed if there was
an interest in them as an important part of the community.

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The leadership is central not in its hierarchical position but in that it brings
together the other elements and creates the space for these elements to exist
as required. There is in fact no hierarchical position, and the above is not listed
in order of importance at all. It is just a proposal of some elements that might
be important within our context. The way that these elements are formed is up
to the individuals that constitute the different groups. So there will be no arts
group, or no activist group unless there are people who want those groups to
exist since those elements are important to them within their journey. Some
people are activists and this is as a result of their spirituality, and others are
artists within their spirituality. There is however no value within arts unless
there are people to create, and so there will be no arts unless these people
want there to be. The structure is thus largely undefined and serves the needs
and purposes of the people within the community. At the moment (March 2007)
there is only a think tank because the people involved are interested in forming
something new for specific reasons. These people are however also interested
in other areas (such as arts, and social investment), and so will be a part of
these when they exist, or will perhaps make them exist in the near future. The
organisational structure is thus extremely flat, and each element is important
within itself, but ties back to the entire community as the starting point for
interaction and formation.

Within this structure individual responsibility is central to the working of each


focus group. There are no requirements until the individual engages within
whatever element or group. If an individual is going to be part of a specific
group, it is hopefully because they care about those elements, and so are
committed to making the element work - commitment is important to this type
of loose structure working.

The central elements of the community are spiritual content, community and
relationship, and within this the activity or arts are found. The community is
thus interested in spirituality, connects over this and expresses this in some or
other activity or interest. Within this structure there is the constant tension
between continuity and innovation. A community exists because of shared
values and interests, and thus needs an element of continuity, since these
values need to remain consistent on some basic level, whilst also open to
change. This openness to change is vital in our context, and for any group it is
important to be moving, but at the same time have this element of continuity
within that movement. The other tension is thus innovation of ideas, and a

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group is caught between these two where both are important to movement. If
there isn’t a fluctuation between the two, the community falls apart and splits
into micro parts that are not at all connected, or becomes static and seems to
die. The focus groups need the commitment of the individuals involved in order
to keep this tension in some sort of loose balance.

Practically we should initially strive for one big meeting a week: Maybe a stand
up comedy vibe, a facilitator or whatever. The events need to be connected
through theme’s or some other unifying factor. In the space there is a social
aspect (sharing food etc). There are areas for prayer, worship, meditation etc.
This is informal, and then the communal event brings the collective together to
focus on a point of common growth or interest. Relationship becomes the driver
for the discussion and the people in the front. A key concept is spiritual input
and that this is coherent with the personal journey. I (Ian) believe that we
should have no more than 2 meetings a week per person will prevent burnout
for individuals.

Postmodernism
Postmodern people are regarded as spiritual, but are also educated and
conscious of their current position of general chaos in the world. The church is
anti-liberal and anti-postmodern, but postmodern people are looking for a faith
that is real but fluid and unprescribed. Those things can exist together in a bit
of a tension: faith and fluidity. Faith (in the modern sense) is seen as a
prescriptive system that is external to their lives. Faith (in the postmodern
sense) is rather derived from an internal consciousness of God that leads to
faith. Postmodern people are perhaps “spiritual not religious”, which often ends
up not meaning nothing at all. “Spiritual not religious” often has no thought
and meaning, and so we need to critique this cos its not thought out. Our
community is about caring for people as we interact throughout our spiritual
journeys. Within our specific South African context we are a ‘new’ country
entering into a globalised world where the general consciousness is
postmodern, and that the community exists to realise and embrace this
consciousness in a real way. The discussion isn’t “what is postmodernism?”, we
are postmodern and we need a faith in this postmodern culture. So who is Jesus
in this context?

The postmodern world-view is respectful: a plurality of opinions, where


investigation of alternatives is an open question - the result is come to by
reason, knowledge, information, experience. Apply knowledge, experience,
practicality, myth, (both objective and subjective) to find answers to the
questions at hand. Assumptions are important to forming the basis for a
reasonable argument, which is made up by both experience and knowledge,
which are interactive and valid. There is a mixing of the irrational and the
rational, the informal and the formal where validity is formed through this
interaction and is produced in the honesty of the individual living out these
values.

Modern culture expects the latest in technologies, ideas, science and media,
and on a superficial level it finds these elements important. It tried to

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exonerate the latest in arts, whilst postmodernism tries to integrate art of all
ages into a single meaning, where meaning is central rather than whether it is
communicated through the latest technologies. At the same time the
postmodern is only interested in the expression of some form of content, and
that can be blended together into a whole bunch of different mediums, where
meaning is connected in a holistic way. This is quiet hard to do, and needs a lot
of work, but within meaning there is a journey and some life change. There is a
need in people for more than reason, knowledge and the modern, people need
myth and can only make sense of their lives in a meaningful way.

Leadership
“I’ve (Dale) been thinking a bit about some stuff that we are learning at varsity
about organisations, and how in the past (closely tied to modernism), the org
was seen as a container and defined, as a site where communication was to
happen for specific goals and with a specific intention. Theorists are now
equating communication and organisation as one and the same, where
communication becomes the central driver to an org, and without
communication the org does not exist. Its structures are derived from the
communication that happens, and this was defined and hierarchical in modern
times, however within the current context this process is a lot more open. The
point is that this communication happens on multiple levels, not only the
corporate or leaders voice. The leader or controlling voice is still important in
certifying that the values and intention of the org is collaboratively produced,
so that the intention is a product of the communication rather than the guiding
factor. Since this com happens on so many levels it needs to be authentic,
which our process is, but the point is that it shouldn’t only be at a nominal
level: “we are an open space with an open critique”, but on other levels of
communication (interpersonal, sub conscious) these values are not lived out,
and so become only nominal.”

We do see a role for leadership. We see leadership as facilitators or coaches


rather than dictators, where responsibility of leadership is shared by all in the
community. I (Ian) see 3 levels of involvement in our organization:
Facilitators(leaders), Supporters and Participants. (No members).

Some Questions arising from the values:


What do we mean by the term “Myth”?

Myth is generally defined as a narrative that has metaphysical and


transcendent value in terms of its spiritual implications. Here the bible is story
that in some way informs as well as affects our current reality. The myth
therefore allows or tells of ways that physical (limited) reality can be joined to
the spiritual, and thus a different way for physical reality to be viewed. This in
essence gives meaning to life that is beyond our logical limitations and enters
into the divine space, or tells of a divine space. “I (Dale) believe that life
without myth is dull and bland, and that this myth thus gives meaning to life in
a way that life perhaps does not have on its own. People however need a story
to believe in, and this story for us as a spiritual community, will largely be
influenced by the narrative of the Bible and its content. Modernist intellect and

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logic has stolen away this myth and its value for culture, but I think that the
postmodern person largely desires this myth since it has a different value to
reason”. “...whatever the status of the gods - human beings are more than
their material circumstances… We try to enter this dimension by means of art,
rock music, drugs or by entering the larger-than-life perspective of film. But
there is something unbalanced about this adulation. Myth must lead to
imitation or participation, not passive contemplation. We no longer know how
to manage our mythical lives in ways that are spiritually challenging and
Transformative." (Armstrong).

How should small groups operate in this FutureFaith


No Idea?

How do we re-introduce spirituality as a regular part of life?


By always speaking about it as a part of life, and letting people interact in
whatever ways they want to. The idea of people taking ownership and having a
spirituality that they bring into as well as develop within our community. I
(Dale) don’t think that we have these prescriptive or defined ways of having a
spirituality, and so as people enter they take on a journey into finding how to
do this with us, rather than us selling it to them. Their existing spirituality is as
important to us in answering this question…hopefully there is an existing
spirituality. Do we believe that life is spiritual, or is it seeking spirituality that
brings about spirituality?

“I (Dale) don’t believe that life is necessarily naturally spiritual, but that a
person needs to become conscious of spirituality as a (defining) part of life and
that this is a non-linear journey in which a person grows in maturity, but that
this growth is directly linked to the individuals life as a whole. Life and
spirituality are not separate, and so the individual needs to make spirituality NB
in forming their concept of self and choosing for this to be guide in their
journey. So if a person has an existing spirituality, the community is about them
as people and about providing a space in which spirituality is worked out
specifically, but this is not a closed system in which other parts of their life are
also NB.

Are we creating new rules or should faith be fluid – where are


the limits?
“We are definitely creating new rules, such as our values of openness and
diversity. These become the new rules by which we play. If a conservative
person had to argue against us they would probably be shot down. I’ve (Dale)
seen this done before, and didn’t really like the outcomes, since it wasn’t done
with care or love for the person. I’ve seen it done the other way too, where the
person is still NB, and it does work, but at the same time I don’t think that we
are a community that will be comfortable with fundamentalist ideologies. If
fundamentalism helps people who come to the group then it could be an
interesting interaction!

I don’t feel like we are specifically excluding any groups, although some groups
will not be interested in our space. At the same time though, we are specific

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about what we are interested in, and so the aims are focused. I think that faith
is fluid for each individual as they enter and exist as a part of the community,
where the community becomes a place for dialogue (whatever form or way
that communication happens for people). There are rules though about this
dialogue: it is not prescriptive, must exist within a framework of interpersonal
care, must in some way be related to the person and their faith journey, this
journey is about Jesus etc. For me none of this is bad, but does define specific
boundaries between which interaction happens and so creates rules for that
interaction. I think that there are limits to these rules because they don’t all
play nicely together, and at times will need to be specifically fluid to allow for
movement. Because of this fluidity there will be different perspectives on what
is spiritual, and this will at times not be appreciated by all the people involved.

How do we distinguish ourselves from Church without becoming


Anti-Church
Our similarity with church is that we are interested in Jesus and the Bible. I
(Dale) think that that’s about where it ends on a foundational level, and that
some stuff will emerge again in our structure such as the idea of small groups
(which I think is a very Christian idea, and so could feel “churchy”). I’m not sure
that I even like the idea of structured small groups, although I think that the
elements of interaction will be rad. I like the concept of groups forming out of
necessity rather than structure, where people can form these types of groups if
they want to (although they might need to be part of a structure cos of these
groups being vital to the organisation).

I think that we avoid becoming church through sticking to our values. We need
to be open to taking what is good from church and using it to help us form our
spirituality. The problem is that we are defined by church, since we are building
concepts that contrast church, and mainly what is visible within church (such
as structure and ideology and values and culture etc). So we build off of ideas
that don’t work currently and alter them. In some ways we are a reaction to
church, which can be unhelpful, and we need to begin thinking differently
about that. “The aim of the community (for me Dale) is to help people journey,
and interact over that journey, and so not to be anti church but to use the
church as a basis for seeing how other people do it, and how it does or doesn’t
work and why. Anti church sentiment is an easy option, but seems to not end
up being about God or spirituality. I feel that values need to formed honestly for
what is good (democratically) and if that means adopting parts of church, then
so be it, although I would always be skeptical cos of my journey.”

Worship
Here we need to deal with the issue of group interaction with God. After some
discussion, we have discovered that we have a range of views here. Questions
that concern us are: How do we allow worship to happen without being
coercive of the crowd? How do we get away from the misconception that
worship is singing? How do we run a group exercise, when different people find
different things helpful in connecting them with God such as a walk in the
forest, lighting a candle, painting on a canvas, digging a field, helping a poor
person get food on the table? The church has focused on singing, reading the

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Bible, and praying. Huge amounts of time, money and sweat are spent on
vibing-up the music. Is this important to God or just to us?

I (Ian) feel that we need to allow the secular and sacred to coexist in any
setting that we use for worship. We must allow activities to occur without
requiring everyone to participate. We must use all of the arts at our disposal
and will need to develop guidelines for this to happen.

Perhaps some of the following will be helpful:


1.There must be some spiritual content
2.Our group is about Jesus
3.We must not become far removed from normal life
4.Rough language is ok only if there is a clear purpose in mind.
5.Blasphemy is not ok (This spurred a huge debate as to how we arrive at
this point)
6.A respect for a diversity of beliefs
7.Facilitators must aim to facilitate participant’s journey with God or to God.

Prayer
There have been a huge variety of means and methods of praying that have
been practiced by followers of Jesus over two thousand years. What is the
purpose of Prayer? Why does the church single out prayer and worship
separate from other activities? What bias does this introduce? Leading prayer
in the context of future faith will be difficult until these and other questions
have been answered.

The Bible
I (Ian) believe that we should have divided the Bible into 3 Testaments or
divisions and not 2: The Hebrew Bible; The Messiah; and Messianic Community.
It represents in human words, the story of God’s interaction with man, written
against the context of the Ancient Near East and using metaphors and
language of the writer in each case. The Genre of each text is important. If it is
drama, it should perhaps be acted rather than read! Some is story and should
be told as such. Context must be understood as the Ancient cultural context,
the context of the writer, the context in which he or she sets the scene and our
modern context. Without a thorough knowledge of each of these contexts,
misrepresentation will occur. The bible is also Myth in the sense of using
spiritual truth to make sense of our world. Some passages are copied from
other texts and even other religious traditions. It’s purpose in our community is
to help people find faith in God and discover principles to develop their moral
values. This must occur with thought, faith and a supportive community to
encourage spiritual growth. We are on a journey to forming an alternative view
of the bible, and want to have discussion around this view. On this journey we
want to be cautious of jumping to extreme conclusions. A literal view of the
bible is highly unsustainable within our context, but a liberal view is equally
unhelpful.

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