Mike Cope's blog

Thursday, September 08, 2005

As soon as you can, get your hands on Seeking a Lasting City: The Church's Journey in the Story of God. ACU Bible profs Doug Foster, Randy Harris, and Mark Love have written this incredible book, which describes the church as "a story-formed, story-living people." My hope is that people would read it . . . and then suggest it as a study guide for Bible classes . . . and then decide to purchase a copy for every leader of their church. This is ecclesiology at its best--helping us to anchor our understanding of the church in the story of Christ. Here is a sample from one of my favorite chapters, "The Church Outside the Gates": "The church in a post-Christian, postmodern, postdenominational world is the exilic church, the missional church, the prophetic church, the marginalized church, the church of the cross that stands outside the city gates. They are all embedded in our story. While their specific confluence in our time and place may be unique, that's true of the church in every time and place. No church is exactly like any other. "This reflects the wisdom of God and the genius of the Gospel; its story is always the same story, its good news the same good news, its church the one and only church. Yet within this framework, God is constantly creating us anew for the sake of his kingdom work in the world. The church doesn't accommodate to the culture in order to grow. It grows because it follows Christ to the place of service and sacrifice outside the city gates. In this, it is radically counter-cultural, affirming that this is not our home. "But the church can only have a counter-cultural message if it is deeply engaged in culture. The church subverts the worldly values of culture while it is in the world, actively and genuinely serving the lost. What we often take for a counter-cultural stance is simply irrelevance. When the church is irrelevant, it does not subvert the darkness of culture; it simply stands aloof from it." - - - - A couple of the authors are fellow Highland members, and as I read their excellent section on leadership -- about how the greatest need is for "saints" who pray, mentor, and guide -- I gave thanks again for the elders with whom I serve. These are men of compassion and courage, well formed in the Christian story. I know of no other group with whom I'd so quickly entrust my family's spiritual health.


  • MC, I've got it ordered!
    Thanks, brother!


    By Blogger David U, at 9/08/2005 07:35:00 AM  

  • can one order the book on Amazon? or is there a better place to get it?

    By Blogger jimps, at 9/08/2005 08:09:00 AM  

  • That's a jaw-dropping passage.

    It seems that you have an embarrassment of riches at Highland. My advice: be careful whom you allow to come out west to College for the ZOE Conference in '06. We may not let everyone return home.

    By Blogger Thurman8er, at 9/08/2005 08:38:00 AM  

  • We're talking about the other side of the Foster/Love/Harris excerpt on my blog right now. Take a look.

    Thanks for the book suggestion, Mike.

    By Blogger Steve Jr., at 9/08/2005 09:21:00 AM  

  • Just fyi...

    For any one in Abilene who wants to help someone who has evacuated from New Orleans there is an immediate opportunity. Her name is Christine Jackie Johnson (She goes by Jackie) and she has just gotten into town and enrolled at ACU over the weekend. ACU is providing her education. She is 18 and living in Gardner Dorm room 258. She literally came with the clothes on her back. A friend of mine delivered clothes and other things to her this morning from a group of us who all work together -so I don't know what else she might be in immediate need of, but she said ACU was taking good care of her. We are hoping to stay in close contact with her. Perhaps you could send her a card and tell her you were praying for her and were here to help if she needed anything, or perhaps invite her to your home for a meal? If interested you can send mail to her at:

    Send to:
    Christine Jackie Johnson
    ACU Box 28188
    Abilene, Texas 79699

    (P.S. They have not set up her Box # at ACU so the Campus Center said to use the above address for the time being).

    By Blogger Michelle, at 9/08/2005 10:16:00 AM  

  • Michelle,

    Just make sure she gets registered with FEMA so she can benefit from the federal funds allocated to the displaced. She can do this through the Salvation Army.

    Danny Mercer

    By Blogger Danny Mercer, at 9/08/2005 10:46:00 AM  

  • Great thoughts from those gentlemen, and I'm glad they added a cautionary comment against defining counter-cultural living as disengaging from culture. I would go even further and propose that seeking to live counter-culturally itself can lead us astray as well. Following in Jesus' footsteps should be our goal, not living counter-culturally. Is following Jesus often (usually) against the grain of culture? Of course. No brainer. But I think we'll hit the mark more often if our language and emphasis is more about imitating Christ and letting the chips fall where they may in relation to our culture. As well-intentioned as the emphasis is, there is nothing intrinsically noble about counter-cultural living. Yet our language in churches these days often suggests that there is. Just a word of caution!

    By Blogger Mark, at 9/08/2005 11:02:00 AM  

  • Mike,

    Last week Mark Love came and introduced the book to our Wednesday adult class at Minter Lane. I started chapter 1 last night. What strikes me about these two views of church are the attitudes born out of our approach to church. A church that views itself in terms of its structures becomes nervous, judgemental, and seeks the status quo. A church that views itself as the unfolding of God's story in the world feels a sense of mystery, is excited about new possibilities, anticipating what God might be up to next in the story. Structures and propositions didn't give birth to the church, the Gospel of Jesus Christ gave birth to the church. It is only in rooting ourselves in the unfolding story of the Gospel that our churches today will be rebirthed into the people of God.

    Grace and Peace,


    By Blogger Danny Mercer, at 9/08/2005 11:06:00 AM  

  • Mike-
    This is your cousin, Nichole Langham, your uncle Ralphs oldest granddaughter. I was wanting to ask you if your mom had a blog. I noticed she left me a comment on my blog spot and I clicked and it said that it could not find copingtoday.blogspot so I was not for sure. I enjoy reading your blogs. Hope you and the family is doing good!


    By Blogger Nichole, at 9/08/2005 11:46:00 AM  

  • Ah, Nichole. Haven't seen you in a long time . . . but I got to hold you when you were a little girl!

    No, my mom doesn't have a blog, YET. She should, though, because she has an Erma Bombeck touch. :)

    By Blogger Mike, at 9/08/2005 12:19:00 PM  

  • I've been waiting to get this book since they taught that class at Pepperdine.

    By Blogger Big Mike Lewis, at 9/08/2005 12:33:00 PM  

  • In re-reading the superb quote from Seeking, I had an epiphany.

    When many Christians read passages like, "The church in a post-Christian, postmodern, postdenominational world is the exilic church, the missional church, the prophetic church, the marginalized church, the church of the cross that stands outside the city gates", they see it as a nice statement -- cliché maybe -- not to be taken literally.

    I disagree with those people. I think the church (in structure and identity) is supposed to actually be marginalized and out of the public eye. I heard Erwin McManus say the other day, "Do you think churches started putting 'church' on their signs when non-Christians couldn't recognize them as such anymore?" Powerful words. He reminded me (via my iPod) that the first believers didn't attach the name "Christian" to their group -- the secular culture did.

    We need to empower those among us who would go to the margins to meet lost and broken people where they are, people who would ideally wake up one morning months after an initial meeting and realize, "I've been touched by the church, and they didn't even tell me they were church. Wow."

    By Blogger Steve Jr., at 9/08/2005 02:37:00 PM  

  • Thanks so much, Michelle. What a great story. Maybe she'll show up in my freshman Bible class!

    By Blogger Mike, at 9/08/2005 06:27:00 PM  

  • It is very amazing what people will do for those they do not even know. You have some good people working with you in this world! Everyone deserves the best. Thanks for informing me about your moms blog, that she doesnt have yet! It was nice to hear from you! Hope all is well!

    By Blogger Nichole, at 9/09/2005 08:13:00 AM  

  • Check out what Barna is saying about the future of the church.

    By Blogger Steve Jr., at 9/09/2005 01:18:00 PM  

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