The Out of Bounds Church: Learning to Create a Community of Faith in a Culture of Changeby Steve Taylor
What's Going on Out There? Author Steve Taylor takes trips to the edge of the church envelope and sends us back what he's finding inside the emerging church around the globe. From the revival of ancient spiritual practices to the rise of multimedia, each of his posts sketches a view of the body of Christ in wild flux. Topics include: birth; pilgrimage; community; creativity; DJing; and leading and following.
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the out of bounds church? Learning to Create a Community of Faith in a Culture of Change Copyright 2005 by Youth Specialties Youth Specialties Products, 300 South Pierce Street, El Cajon, CA 92020 are published by Zondervan, 5300 Patterson Avenue Southeast, Grand Rapids, MI 49530.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Taylor, Steve, 1968-
The out of bounds church : learning to create a community of faith in a culture of change / by Steve Taylor.
ISBN 0-310-25904-5 (pbk.)
1. Christianity and culture. 2. Popular culture--Religious aspects--Christianity. 3. Missions. I. Title.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version (North American Edition), copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.
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I sit on the fault lines of a cultural shift. In my right hand, I hold a video remote. In my left hand, I hold the gospel of Jesus. I am born for such a time as this. So are you. Ours is the task of communicating this gospel in an age of change. Ours is the task of following Jesus into the future of this cultural shift.
Last century, Karl Barth wrote that the task of Christian communication was to sit with the newspaper in one hand and the Bible in the other. Last century.
Th at was when 'gay' meant happy and the Berlin Wall marked East from West. Last century. Th at was before multi-media, the Internet, and virtual reality. Jesus and the Bible have not changed---both have captured my heart. But the world I sit in looks totally di. erent than it did even ten years ago. Th e future of faith looks increasingly fragile.
Press PLAY In 1968, the year I was born, Franco Ze. arelli produced a . lm version of Romeo and Juliet. Ze. arelli realized that while Shakespeare's ancient text had not changed,
the people reading the text were totally di. erent. It was time to focus on historical literature through the lens of a contemporary context.
Th e 60-second cinematic introduction to Zeffarelli's Romeo and Juliet is one long, slow, camera pan.
From a distance, the lens casts its gaze languorously over a city. Th e viewer is allowed a detached distance from the a. airs and passions of that city. A lone male voice speaks over a soft, orchestral lilt. Slowly a horse and cart emerge from an ancient city gate and clip their way across the screen.
fault lines of a cultural shift:
I like the image of cultural eras as tectonic plates---
they're usually quiet below the surface.
We don't necessarily notice that they're holding up our society every day. Then they start moving, and the effects are dramatic.
The culture has moved under society's feet,
under the church's foundations. We're in a whole new place,
from the ground up and even deeper.
---Kelli Robson on the big screen:
Romeo and Juliet,
directed by Franco Zeffarelli, Paramount Studio, 1968.
on the big screen:
William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet,
directed by Baz Luhrmann, Fox Home Entertainment, 1996.
Beyond Romeo and Juliet
20 The Out of Bounds Church Rush ahead to 1996, less than 30 years later, to Baz Luhrmann's cinematic version of Romeo and Juliet.
Luhrmann, too, realized that while the ancient text had not changed, the audience had. Once again it was time to mix the old with the new.
Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet is set in Verona Beach, a modern city of guns, money, and greed. Th e
125-second cinematic introduction starts with static and channel sur. ng---welcome to the world of multi-media.
A TV appears center screen and the news announcer, a black female, speaks---welcome to the celebration of the ethnic and the edge. Th e camera zooms the detached viewer into the TV and plunges down two lines of apartment blocks---welcome to a shift from objectivity to immersion. Text and image are mixed with an explosive soundtrack. Images . ash by: a statue of Jesus, city scenes,
helicopters, advertising, police around a body, newspaper headlines. Flames engulf a newspaper---both image and text---telling of the Capulets and Montagues---welcome to ancient text amid a cultural shift.
Two directors, two movies, two cultures, one text. Both movies tell a story that has been told (and contextualized) for centuries. Yet in these two versions of the same story, there exist cues about the times in which---for which---they were made. Not just the trappings of the culture, mind you, but its very essence.
Culture is like the air we breathe. Without it we would die. It lies all around us, unrecognized and unmentioned. And then, every now and again, air becomes a talking point---when my city has a pollution warning, when I am forced to study air at the university level, when my breath clouds in deep white billows in front of my face on an icy morning. Th en I think about air. In the same way, the culture shifts between Ze. arelli's era and Lurhmann's have come so subtly that we may not necessarily notice them until some director pops them up on a movie screen in such an extraordinary way that we can no longer ignore them.
When I think about the cultural 'air' in which Luhrmann contemporizes Romeo and Juliet, I . nd four setting Shakespeare free: Luhrmann's fi lm deeply affected me.
I've watched it, on separate occasions,
with each of my three teenagers. It fi lls me with hope because Luhrmann understands what so many Christians don't---that you don't have to change the story, only its setting.
When you have a story about riches and rivalry; love and lust;
friendship, fi ghts, and faith; about young people making their way in a confusing world---what do you need to change to make it relevant?
Luhrmann doesn't add to Shakespeare, he sets him free. It's the same for our story---all the power is there in the ancient texts; we just have to learn to set it free.
---Gerard Kelly Beyond Romeo and Juliet 21
clear marks of the postmodern culture: fragmentation of fast/cutting, individual pick-and-mix lifestyles, tribalism,
and the ethnic edge.
Fast/cutting and fragmentation Fast/cutting is a . lmmaking term for the rapid cutting between one image and the next. Fast/cutting is the mainstay of much contemporary video communication.
It is a feature of Luhrmann's introduction of Romeo and Juliet---a montage of city scenes, people rioting, and images of Jesus. Graphics and text . ash by, juxtaposed and . eeting.
Fast/cutting also shows up in the use of sound bites in the news. Studies show that the average length of a sound bite has decreased from 40 seconds in 1968,
to 8 seconds in 1996.2 Th e way in which we are given information has changed, and therefore the process of thinking about that information has changed. In every way, we have moved from Ze. arelli's slow single-shot pan to Luhrmann's rapidly moving juxtaposition of text,
sound, and image.
I often show the introductions to these two versions of Romeo and Juliet to groups wanting to explore cultural change. After we watch the introductions, I have the groups list the changes, not just in the .
Meet the Author
Steve Taylor is the founding pastor of Graceway Baptist Church (www.graceway.org.nz), in Ellerslie, New Zealand. He is completing a PhD on the emerging church and has a Masters in Theology in communicating the cross in a postmodern world. Steve receives requests to supply spirituality resources and to speak in UK and US.
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