the word conspirator apparently comes from con-spiritus which means to go with the spirit, at least according to karen ward's endorsement of tom sine's new book the new conspirators: creating the future one seed at a time. so being a new consiprator sounds like a good thing!
it's a great book - i really enjoyed it. it's vintage sine really combining all his passions that have woven through his writing over the years -
- a love for mission and new stuff especially the edges of what younger leaders are creating,
- powerful critique of the western dream of the good life,
- a stunning ability to think out of an alternative imagination as to how christians might dream and live out a dream of a different kind of good life shaped by the kingdom of god,
- an ability to read the times and future with a global perspective,
- a love for the poor and broken,
- a passion for great parties,
- and a wonderful vision of the future healing of creation when christ returns,
- and plenty of ideas and encouragements for how to join in practically one mustard seed at a time
how can you go wrong with those themes? i have tracked tom through the original mustard seed conspiracy, wild hope, living life on purpose and other writings, as well as catching him and christine speak at greenbelt, blah... and other places over the years. i have no idea how old tom is - maybe in his seventies now? but what an inspiration. i really hope i can be that full of energy and passion and love for the new things god is doing and offer a bit of wisdom when i hit those mature years...
so what's new? well tom maps the current new things happening with a mapping of four movements whose edges are blurred and overlap - emerging, mosaic, new monastic, and missional and he is enthusiastic about them all (i agreed with shaine clayborne's hesitation in the foreword that the book runs the risk of making some of us young tykes look too good, better than the reality - but what a refreshing change!) weaving stories he has gleaned into the mix. he does carefully issue a few challenges on the way - for example he loves the creativity in emerging church but wonders why it tends to get focused on worship and church rather than taken outside the walls. he also wonders if those of us who like the postmodern world haven't got our imaginations too shaped by the consumer dream of cool - these are great challenges and need to be responded to.
he follows the opening section mapping the new conspirators with conversations about culture and what the future challenges might be. woven into this is a view of god's future that is wonderfully inspiring. in much the same way as i enthused about tom wright's book a while back, this book also lays out a vision of a future for the earth that is healed when god's kingdom comes. one of the things i have always found challenging and inspiring about tom and christine is their imagination. in the face of the consumer culture and the busyness and drain on resources so many of us face they suggest communal responses in relation to housing, resources, and neighbourhood. it takes courage to take these on board, but this is precisely the kind of imagining christian communities should engage in. in fact the last section of the book, taking our imaginations seriously, was definitely my favourite - story after story and idea after idea are laid out so that you can't help feeling that as tom puts it all of life is a design opportunity to be co-creators with god. at the end of it, because the whole approach is inspired by jesus' story of the mustard seed where something grows from a tiny seed, you think that even i could do something really really small and see what happens...
i actually hope groups of people read this book and talk about it because i feel the real challenge of working out how to live out of a different dream to the consumer one is something that is just so difficult to tackle on your own...
if you are in the US you can get the book for only 10 dollars in april from the mustard seed associates website. tom and christine are in the UK in the autumn doing a few gigs - nearer the time i'll blog about them once they are finalised. but they are definitely booked to do something at cms in oxford on 25 september which i'm looking forward to.
i'll end with the paragraph from the book that for me captured the essence of sine and i am going to be using the phrase the empire of the mustard seed i suspect as a result...
when jesus began teaching he made it clear that his new empire would be unlike any empire the world had ever seen. it came on a donkey's back. it's imperial council was comprised of a handful of unemployed fishermen, a couple of IRS agents, a prostitute and some hangers on. jesus demontsrated how to wield his imperial power by washing feet, telling stories and playing with kids. jesus' empire is based on the absurd values that the last should be first, losers are winners, and the most influential in the empire should clean the toilets. members of the empire are instructed to love their enemies, forgive their friends, always give twice as much as people ask of them and never pursue power or position. jesus insisted that those who are part of his empire shouldn't worry about finances, but simply trust god. the resources to run this empire were basins, towels, and leftover lunches. this empire also developed a reputaion for constant partying - almost always with the wrong kind of people.
seriously is this any way to run an empire? imagine what would happen if you ran a political, economic or religious institution with these bizarre values. clearly it wouldn't have much of a future. these values might even get the leader assassinated...