Thursday, October 18, 2007
On a completely different plain exists other people’s perceptions of your life. For example, we all have people in out lives who see us up close and personal (spouses, friends, family, com-workers etc.). However, although they see our lives, they are not living them, they are only watching them. No matter how close someone is to you, they cannot live your life, because they cannot think your thoughts, dream your dream, etc (that’s kind of a big NO DAHHH). But, they can be affected by your life, and their life can affect yours.
On a third plain we see that our lives are truly global. Your life will inevitably affect the course of human events. How you ask? Let’s imagine together.
One afternoon you decided to stop by the grocery store to pick up some Twinkies and beer (don’t knock it till you try it). On the way into the store you reach into your pocket to find your wallet, and accidentally run into a man who is obviously in hurry and not paying attention to his surroundings. Through the process he drops his grocery bag and spills its contents all over the floor. You apologize and move on with your shopping.
Meanwhile the hurried gentlemen gathers his items and starts out the door, only to realize he set down his cell phone when he bent down to pick up his groceries. He returns to the place he last saw it, but it’s not there. Quickly running to the customer service counter he retrieves the phone, which someone had turned in, and sprints to his car. He breaks every traffic law in the book trying to get home in time to drop off the groceries, and then get to the airport in time to catch a flight to L.A. to meet with his long time girlfriend who seems to be having doubts about their relationship; namely his lack of responsibility.
In a panic he drops the groceries in the living room for his roommate to put away, grabs his suitcase, but once again sets down his phone and forgets to pick it up as he runs out the door. He arrives at the airport, but finds that his flight has already boarded and his seat was given to a standby passenger, forcing him to catch the next flight which leaves in 45 minutes. Reaching into his pocket to retrieve his cell phone and call his girlfriend, he finds that his phone is nowhere to be found. This is a problem, because his girlfriend has a new number which he hasn’t memorized yet, and the new number is programmed into this cell phone. He sits down and reasons that his girlfriend will just have to wait for him on the other end.
Two hours later, at the Los Angels airport a beautiful, young, female executive waits for her boyfriend. As an executive for one of the worlds largest oil transportation companies she is not accustom to being kept waiting, or dealing with men who have no concept of responsibility. Her mounting frustration over this relationship is based on the fact that her boyfriend always seems to have an excuse for his failure to follow through. She is ready to call it quits, but she struggles because she really thought that this might be “the one.”
As the plane unloads she realizes that he boy friend is not on it. She calls his cell phone, which of course he doesn’t answer (because it’s sitting on the dinning room table), she tries his home phone, gets no answer, so she walks away for the last time. She’s had enough. In her anger, frustration and hurt she decides to go back to the office and finish off some lingering work. As the V.P. of transportation and logistics she’s responsible to plan the shipping manifests and logistics of huge oil shipments across the mid-Atlantic and beyond. One small screw-up and there are major, major problems.
Sitting at her desk punching in some final numbers, her attention is drawn to his picture. Filled with emotions she loses focus on her work, and with one small key stroke accidentally reroutes an oil tanker. Little does she know that in 36 hours that oil tanker will run a ground in a shallow harbor, in the wrong country. Tens of thousands of gallons of raw oil will fill the harbor and kill a huge amount of natural wildlife.
Our lives affect the world. Granted, our little story is a bit extreme, but you can see how it’s possible for one person to unknowingly have a global impact. It’s actually kind of fun to think about.
Lastly, there is God’s view of our lives. I believe God sees our lives from every vantage point. He lives in the past, in the future, and in the moment. He see’s our lives real-time and as a picture. From his vantage point there are no surprises, because he has already seen it.
Why do I say all of this today? It’s simple. I’m beginning to realize that our lives have meaning. Whether we know it or not our lives are impacting others. Even when we feel at our lowest, even in the midst of depression when we feel worthless, our lives are constantly impacting others. If we show up we impact people, if we isolate we impact people, no matter what we do someone will be touched by our choices. Isn’t that a huge thought?
I’m starting to understand that I need to think about how my life is impacting others. I need to be sensitive to the people around me, and their perceptions of me. I have to ask questions about my choices and weigh the consequences. Even though I will never fully know the impact of my life, I need to own the responsibility I have in it. We all do. We need to think globally. We need to think locally, and we need to think relationally.
What would the world look like if we all started thinking about how our choices affect others? I don’t know. But what I do know is that my choices have hurt people. I’ve begun to think about all of this because in this season of my life, I’m a leader, and as a leader my choices will affect other people’s decisions. It’s a huge responsibility, but one that has to be thought through and acted upon.
Today I start thinking.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
This diet is amazingly effective; I lost 14 lbs in my first week. This is my second time on the diet; the first time I lost over 70lbs. Okay so I gained back the majority of it, but that’s not the point. The point is that if I can manage to deprive myself of anything white, then I can loose weight at a rapid rate. It’s amazing, and it’s easy.
However, there are a couple of problem associated with this diet plan. The first problem is that of maintenance. In other words, in order to keep the weight off, one has to commit to living a low carb lifestyle forever. Goodbye Twinkies (damn it!!!). Secondly, the body can have a difficult time processing pure protein. Frankly, taking a dump is like an act of congress. It takes forever and nothing seems to come of it. Lastly, it can result in death. Yeah, that can be a problem. Then again, death is definitely one way to loose weight.
I’m not sure how I manage to find spiritual significants in things such as complicated bowel movements, and bread, But I do. I guess it’s a gift. The point to all of this is simple; I’m beginning to learn that a life that is not balanced is dangerous and can even lead to spiritual death. I’ve been designed to live a balanced life.
Those of you who know me know that I hate the word balance. In fact I have dedicated my life to extremes. I don’t live life in the grays; I function in black or white. I’m one of those people who either choose to do what is right, or I choose to do what’s wrong. I generally choose wrong, but I do so with the full knowledge of the possible consequences. Remember, I don’t do rules (see last blog). As a result, I find myself spiritually emaciated on a regular basis.
Because of all the drama that has been surrounding my life lately; I’ve had to ask some pretty serious questions of myself. Through that process of asking questions, I’ve begun to see a pattern in my life; a pattern that exists in the extremes. I’m either hugging Gods leg like a little child, or I’m in a fist fight at some sleazy bar in Enumclaw (a little hick town about an hour out of Seattle, for our international readers). I’m either kissing the cheek of Christ, or flipping him the bird, there is no middle ground.
What I’m beginning to realize is that the extreme that I am living in is a direct result of what I am taking into my heart. I don’t want to be cliché, but it comes down to relationships. When I am truly seeking to live in relational community with Christ and other believers I tend to do well in my spiritual life. When I isolate from my community (or tribe as we call it at Turning Point Church), I find myself belly up to a bar, or pool table looking for trouble. I enjoy both, but much like the Atkins diet, to much of one or the other sends me into the extreme margins again.
The answer is balance. Unlike most churches, and unlike most Christians, in my community we enjoy the freedoms granted to us by God. However, those freedoms can become a prison if they are not partaken of in balance. I have to learn to live in a state of balance. I need to be surrounded by my community of faith, but I also need some trouble causing time. I need to spend time in the scriptures, but I also need a good cigar and a drink from time to time. To much of anyone of these components and you loose the ability to process, and can even find yourself dying spiritually. There has to be a balance.
I’ve gotten lots of e-mails regarding my last post. Yes, the idea of a pastor sitting a field with a fifth of jack Daniels can be a little disturbing to some. I understand. But I also understand the need for transparency. Folks, I can give total discloser with my readers and over share, I can fane piety, or I can simply be real. I prefer to be real and I believe that being real provides the necessary balance. If you’re looking for sin free pastors, then I am not your man, and Turning Point probably isn’t your church. Granted, I may be a little more transparent that most, but it’s who I am. I share the same struggles, and the same temptations as anyone else. Every day I fight to be the man of God that I know I need to be.
Why do I feel the need to explain all of this? Well, I think it’s important that we attempt to see at the big picture. From time to time I post blogs that are abrasive, real and transparent. I do this because it allows the world to see me as I really am. It allows the people of our community to see that if their faith is placed in me they will be disappointed. And it reminds all of us that God and God alone is worthy of our honor. However, I also believe that I post blogs that are encouraging and testaments to my successes in Christ. I truly strive to provide a balanced picture of my world. With hundreds, if not thousands of readers passing through this blog there will always be someone who is blessed by its content, or offended, either way I’ve done my job. I want you to think. I want you to question your beliefs. I want you to laugh, and I want you to be pissed. Most of all I want you to see the real man behind the words, and understand that he is not God.
If I have offended you with my blogs, please accept my sincerest apologies. However, I will continue to blog in the same fashion as I always have, so you may want to remove me from your reader if you are continually finding the material offensive. I love you and I know you love me, but we will have to agree to disagree on this matter.
Keep the e-mails coming and keep passing the word.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Early this morning around 3:30AM I couldn’t take it any longer, so I got up, got dressed and started thinking through what sort of trouble I could get in at that hour of the morning. Unfortunately, in the community where I currently suffer, there are literally no options for trouble causing at 3:30AM, so I resorted to public intoxication. I grabbed my coat, what was left of my Jack Daniels, my dog Jake, and I set out to take a walk. I hate walking, but I don’t mind drinking, so I settled for walking and drinking.
Jake must have been as tired as I was, cause the exuberance with which he normally moves, was seriously diminished. I think this must have been a moment of sheer sacrifice on his part, the cold grass under his feet, and the bite of the early morning frost could not have been as inviting as his favorite blanket, and for that I loved him. Some how I think he knew my soul was in knots, because he stayed right by my side. Jake has never worn a leash so he’s used to freedom, but normally he walks a foot or so off to my right. Tonight, in his own way, rubbing my right leg with each step, he protected me from myself.
As we walked, my mind was filled with a million different thoughts. Countless ideas, memories, and questions spun through my head with in no particular pattern. But, through the mess of thoughts one question kept nagging me, “whose life is this, and how the hell did I get in it?”
Maybe I’m just going a little nuts with all the changes happening in my life, but I can’t help but feel that I’m living someone else’s life. Today I woke up a pastor. That’s right, A PASTOR!!! I’m not a pastor; I have no business being a pastor. I’m a late night drinking, tobacco chewing, flip flop wearing, bar room brawling, old hat wearing, small town living, loose cannon, I’m not a pastor. Everything I know, everything I’ve been, everything I do has had to change. Pastors are held to a higher standard, they are expected to follow rules, and enforce them on others. I don’t follow rules, I hate rules and the only enforcing I do is when someone spills my drink, or insults my mom.
This is not my life; somehow I must have switched lives with that other guy. The guy who lived with his mom till he was 35, the guy who folds his tighty whities, the guy who went to seminary for 10 years and has initials like PhD., MDiv., or ThD. after his name.
My life doesn’t look like this. My life includes a black haired girl, a good truck, a faithful dog, a piece of land, a couple of sons, and freedom. Like Rodney Atkins says in one of his songs, “it’s a man on a tractor with a dog in a field.” My life includes calluses on my hands, dirt under my fingernails, and watching my boys grow into men.
Somewhere along that road I took a turn and I landed here. I landed behind a desk at a church, and in an elementary school soccer field, with a half empty battle of Jack Daniels at 3:30 in the morning. Then it hit me. I feel like I’m living someone else’s life, because I am. I’m living the life of the guy that God wants me to be. At this season in my life, my dreams don’t line up with Gods plan for me and I’m feeling the tension of it. I’m fighting to hold onto what I know, and God is prying my white knuckles from around the flagpole of my desires. I love the church I’m at, and I love the people I serve, but I haven’t yet given into the reality of what God has for me right now.
Today I’m a pastor. Today I have the distinct honor and privilege of helping people learn about and receive the love of their creator. Today I sit in a seat that thousands for men have trained for and would die for. Today I study the scriptures and counsel people. Today I live in the suburbs. Today I follow the rules (sort of). Today I live the life of the man that God sees in me, and not the life I’ve designed.
Today I lay on my back in a field with my dog, looking at the stars, and I wonder what comes next. What comes next for this man I’m learning to be?
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
ginkworld.net' blog: i am a "gutless grace girlieman"
Just ahead of me an old couple probably in their 70’s or 80’s pulled into a parking stall. I watched as the little old man slowly got out of the car, opened the trunk, and pulled out a wheelchair. He folded the chair into the sitting position and wheeled it to the passenger’s side where he carefully and lovingly helped his beautiful little wife out of the car and into the chair. It was cold out this morning, and the fog was still lifting, so the old man reached into the back seat and grabbed a little knitted blanket and tucked it around her shoulders. As he wheeled her away I watched as he leaned down and gently kissed her on the cheek. As if it was the first kiss of their life together she smiled, leaned into him, put her arm around his neck and hugged him tightly. As they walked off together, I was moved to my core.
As I watched I couldn’t help but think of all the stories those two must share. Stories of young love, country roads and an old Chevrolet, a white wedding, the birth of their first child, the day he went off to war, and the day he came home. How many moments of laughter, have they shared? How many silent glances across a room? How many tears?
People often ask me if I believe is the concept of “soul mates.” They wonder if love exists in the real world like it does in the movies. My answer is yes. Why? Because I see that kind of love extended to me by God. Scripture tells me that real love overcomes, real love gives, real love hopes, and that real love is selfless (1 Corinthians 13). Two people who decide to receive the love of their God and then extend it to each other have the capacity to love more passionately and more extravagantly than any movie ever made.
Love exists in moments. Moments like today when that old man kissed his wife, moments when we choose another over ourselves. I beginning to believe in love again, and today, in that moment, through the love of two old souls, God showed me that he still loves me.
Sunday, October 7, 2007
In addition to having a tendency to fight, I also learned at a vey young age to compress my emotions to a dangerous level. As a child my Dad used to tell me to “control my emotions.” He didn’t mean that I should force myself not to feel anything, but as a child that’s what I heard. As a result, today I feel very little. Unlike most “normal” people, I only have a couple of primary emotions to serve as my filter. I don’t feel fear like most people, I don’t feel pain like most, and I don’t feel excitement or joy in the same ways you do. I never really understood this until recently and now, thanks to some pretty smart people, I’m finally dealing with it.
You see, I’m attempting to change the way I see the world. I’m trying to relearn how to process things and how to respond when my will comes up against society, and or, Gods. That may sound strange, but I have a “F@#k it” mind set, which means I do what I want, when I want regardless of the consequences. Literally for the first time in my life I’m attempting to follow the rules. You may not understand, but this is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Every cell in by body is screaming right now.
What makes this process so hard is that I’m doing it alone. Not in the sense that I don’t have people who care surrounding me, but I’m doing it alone in that the people I want near me through this aren’t around. To be honest I’m beginning to feel emotions that I didn’t know I could feel. Imagine feeling emotions for the first time at age 31. It’s a trip, believe me!
Today I’m angry. Not because I have anything to be angry about, but because I’m hurt and anger is one of the two primary emotions I use to cope. In addition, I’m not using anything to anesthetize the pain, which is a new thing as well.
In Psalm 86:11 David asks God to unite his heart. I’ve never really liked David all that much, because I could never really relate to his melancholy, moody, personality, but that’s beginning to change. These days my prayer is the same. I want God to put my heart back together again. I want to have a heart that is united under his control. The process hurts worse than I anticipated, but I know the end result will be wonderful.
Isn’t it amazing how far from God our heart can get without our knowledge?
Saturday, October 6, 2007
Have you ever thought about what the soundtrack to your life would sound like? I know it seems dumb, but it's an interesting thought. Would your life sound like a mixture of the "William Tell Overture" and Incubus? What about a hybrid mix of Bruce Springsteen and Enya? Undoubtedly, each of us would have a unique list of artists on our album, because we're all so beautifully different.
Sometimes I wonder if God sees and hears our lives set to music. Today as I was reading in the book of Revelations it struck me that God is surrounded by a myriad of angels who always seem to be singing. I know it's not a theologically sound idea, but it's kind of a cool one don't you think?
In the book of Zephaniah it says that God sings over us (Zeph 3:14-17). Have you ever thought of that? Did ever occur to you that the creator of the universe sings a song over you like a mother over her child? It's a beautiful thought. A comforting thought.
As God looks at my life today I wonder what that song would sound like. Would it be a song of joy, or a sorrowful melody that brings a tear to His eye? If I had my choice, today's song would be something slow and thoughtful; something that conveyed anticipation and hope, mixed with some loneliness. It would be a song that reminded me of friends and fond memories, some how it would say, "I miss you," or "remember that time when...?"
How about you? What does your life sound like today?
Thursday, October 4, 2007
Researches have long said that many, if not most, of our deepest human needs are met through relationships. In other words as humans we need connections to other humans to function properly. I hate that. I know that hate is a strong word, but it’s the best word to describe how I feel about this. I hate that I have to be connected to feel normal. As a matter of fact, scripture makes the same assertion. We are all a part of a body, each of us place a specific part in a divinely appointed economy. If a single part is missing, the whole doesn’t function correctly (1 Corinthians 12).
Recently, I’ve become intimately acquainted with this truth. I’m the type of guy who chooses his friends carefully. The people that I allow into my inner circle, if you will, are people who I have first come to trust. My peeps are people who will speak truth to me, when no one else will. My entire life, I can only remember a half dozen people who were willing to look me in the eye and speak truth. For some reason people in my life are more prone to sweep my behavior under the rug, than call me out. I have a lot of protectors, but very few friends.
In addition to trust, my friends are people who I feel safe with. That may seem strange coming from a guy of my size and with my reputation, but even the most intimidating men are vulnerable at times. Vulnerability is not my gift, but when I am it’s like opening flood gates. In all reality, I can count my friends on one hand. I have thousands of acquaintances, and lots of people who would consider me to be their friend, but there are only five people in my world that I have given the title of “friend.”
This week one of those people was temporarily removed from my circle. I say temporarily, because that’s all I’ll allow it to be (unless of course God says otherwise). Although I know that my friend has not given up on me, I feel a sense of loss. I feel as though a piece of me is missing. Every day I fight the urge to get in my truck and bring them back. It’s like the shepherd who leaves the 99 to find the 1 that is missing. However, in this particular case, the separation is healthy. I hate that it’s healthy, but it is.
You see, sometimes we take what God intended for good and we twist it into something that becomes damaging to our souls. We become so dependent on another person that we lose our dependency on God. People are tangible, they feel with us, dream with us, talk to us, and share experiences with us. God on the other hand, although present at every moment, cannot be seen, heard, or felt in the physical sense. Our relationship with God calls us to live peacefully without the need for physical validation of the relationship. Damn that’s hard! I’m not the co-dependent sort, but invisible relationships are difficult nonetheless.
When a relationship with another person takes the place of our relationship with God, it’s only a matter of time before God presses the pause button. No matter how wonderful or meaningful our human relationships may seem, they should never be allowed to interrupt our relationship with Christ. When we make this mistake one of two things will happen, either God will allow us to wallow in our confusion for a season, or He will intervene until things are back on track between us and Him. I believe the decision he makes is based upon our response to his loving call in our hearts.
God is a jealous lover and the intensity of his passion for us in incommunicable. The relationship he desires for us places him in first place. When we put someone else in first place, he calls out to us. If we fail to respond to his loving call, His righteous jealousy prompts him to seek us out and restore order in our hearts. When things are back in order, then and only then can we be restored to our human relationships.
Today my heart hurts. It hurts because I feel the pain I’ve caused my savior, and it hurts because I miss my friend. My encouragement to all of you is this, love God first. No matter the cost; love God first. I’ll never give up on my relationship with my friend, but today I’ve learned the hard way that God will never give up on me. I find peace in that. Read Psalm 86:11
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
My conclusion was that the professor was presenting a statement regarding the nature of pain. In other words which hurts worse, pain or pain. The question made the statement that when you reach the place of true pain it’s the same in every language. Pain is pain is pain. The way the question was worded was kinda stupid, but the truth behind it is relevant.
Today I find myself in this conundrum. I have two choices before me, both of which are going to cause pain. The decision in and of itself isn’t difficult, but the reality that no matter what my choice is I’m still going to hurt, looms in the back of my mind. Either way it’s time to cowboy up and act.
Have you ever been here? How did you handle it? E-mail me some wise counsel.
Monday, September 24, 2007
'And so he who would live a Christlike life is he who is perfectly and absolutely himself.... He may be a great poet, or a great man of science: or a young student at a University, ore one who watches sheep upon a moor: or a maker of dramas like Shakespeare, or a thinker about God, like Spinoza; or a child who plays in a garden, or a fisherman who throws his net into the sea. It does not matter what he is, as long as he realizes the perfection of the soul that is within him. All imitations in morals and in life is wrong.....There is no one type of man. There are many perfections as there are imperfect men. And while to the claims of charity a man may yield and yet be free, to the claims of conformity no man may yield and remain free at all.'
from a SOUL OF MAN UNDER SOCIALISM- OSCAR WILDE
Thursday, September 20, 2007
While in New York Mr. Ahmadinejad thought it would be nice to visit Ground Zero and lay a wreath in memory of all the people who died on 9/11. How sweet!!! Well the New York Port Authority and NYPD didn’t like the idea so much and neither did millions of Americans. But, apparently Ahmadinejad is perplexed as to why we are a little sensitive about ground zero. Not the smartest peach on the tree is he?
Read the rest of the story here: http://www.drudgereport.com/flash6.htm
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Well.....our little blog community is growing again. After my months of scilence I lost a lot of readers, but it looks like many of you are finding your way back to read my ignorence. Thank You :)
Hey, I wanted to let ya'll know about a great new blog that I've added to my roll called Hurting Pastors http://blog.hurtingpastors.com/. The bloggers name is Tony and he pastors a church in Texas. I'm enjoying the blogs, thought some of you might find them enjoyable as well. Check it out, and subscribe you might just learn something.
Once again, thanks for supporting my blog and keep those e-mails coming!
Today I’m on staff at a great church in Seattle, WA (www.lifebites.org) and I’m beginning to unlearn some things. In particular, I’m unlearning my definition of grace. I’m beginning to understand that the Grace of God is not the byproduct of his irritation. Grace isn’t when God’s had enough of me and still lets me live. Grace is so much more than I ever imagined, and because of my new found understanding of grace, I’m beginning to realize how misguided I’ve been on so many fronts.
I’m beginning to understand that Gods grace is unbearable. You know what I mean. It’s in those moments when you know what you deserve and yet it never comes. It’s when you want to punish yourself because you can’t stand the thought of what you’ve done or who you’ve become, and God responds with gentleness and love. It’s that seeming last straw that never seems to break the back of Gods love. It’s the understanding that I stand positionally righteous before God, covered in the blood of Christ.
Bottom line, I drink too much, and smoke too many cigars and yet I know God delights in me. Why? Because for the first time in my life I have been shown grace from a man who has the authority to remove me from my career and ensure that I never work in this town again. I’ve been given grace and unlike guilt, grace makes me want to change. I’ve been yelled at, brought under church discipline, and threatened by the church and each time I repented out of necessity (See Matt 18). But, for the first time in my life I have been shown grace, and just like Paul’s says in Romans 2, the kindness of God has led me to repentance.
Thursday, September 6, 2007
People will ask us why we are starting a new campus right between three church plants that are struggling to get off the ground, but we’ll just tell them that God is on our side. If we run into a church that we believe will be competition we’ll just offer their pastor a staff position and then take over their building. It’s easy!
Then, once we’ve grown our “church” to the point of international prominence, and we’re known as the fast growing church in the country, we’ll address the fact that the vast majority of our growth is a result of church hoppers, and that our conversion rate is embarrassing. To justify all this we’ll claim that Christians need to be ministered (which of course is true), and that if the existing church were ministering to the people they wouldn’t want switch churches. It’s fool proof.
What do you think?
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Sunday, June 10, 2007
What would happen if a church were willing to give up its individual identity, building, programs and vocational staff, and simply lived within the communities as the Body? They would still gather together in homes or in rented location from time to time, but the actual body life took place in the market place by running into one another in a business or walking on the street. Friendships were made with business owners, neighbors, city officials and civic groups. Believers intentionally developing community in their neighborhoods by identifying locations throughout the neighborhood that they support and frequent in their day-to-day lives. There is no agenda other than to love people and create a livable community within their neighborhood that leads to shared experiences with those who live there. These relationships soon providing opportunities to share the gospel. The Body, being the Body and enveloping anyone who had a heart for the community at large. Evangelism through community development. Truly organic, almost totally undefined, holistic, life as the Body of Christ as lived out IN the community. In short, the neighborhood becomes the church building, our neighbors are the congregation, and the believers become the BODY.
I’ve heard the saying, “We need to have a church, without walls,” but I’ve never seen anyone do it until recently. I’ve fallen in love with a little community of faith in Downtown Tacoma, WA. This little community doesn’t really define themselves other than calling their gathering “Zoë.” Their model for ministry being in large part what I’ve just described above. Zoë is truly a movement that is emerging past the “emerging church movement.” As I met with the leadership of Zoë this past week I realized that they held a couple of the missing pieces I had been looking for. God had given me a vision for Belltown, but I was missing a couple of key components. Paul Sparks, Mike Ott, and Josh Ott of Zoë helped me see what those pieces were. Although Zoë is designed specifically for Tacoma, and would never attempt to recreate it in Belltown, I’ve seen the light in regards to what “Tapestry” has been called to be.
For several years now I have been struggling to silence a voice in my heart that has been telling me that there is something more for the church than what I have seen. I’ve read the books, taught the classes, and even spoken at workshops on the emergent movement in the church and yet I still had a sense of discontent. The emergent movement is profitable and I respect and admire the men and women who are leading it into the coming years, but I’ve been looking for something different, something that would be “real” by my standards. I’ve been searching for more than a reorganized model of church and my spirit tells me I’ve found it.
I’ll blog more this afternoon and in the days to come, but I’m excited to finally feel as if God as shown me His will, for His Church, that He has given me to shepherd.
Thursday, June 7, 2007
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
From time to time I get really homesick. This past few weeks has been one of those times. I’m so homesick I can barely function. You see I grew up in small town Southern Oregon, where men are men, women are women, and no one has had surgery to change that. Kids play in the street, keys are left in the ignition, and life moves at a slower pace. It’s my preferred mode of doing life.
A couple of times a year I get so homesick I have to make a trip home. I need the air in my lungs and the sound of the river in my ears. This weekend my wife and I are going home and I’m truly excited! It’s like my aunt said to me last night when I called to make arrangements to stay with her, she said, “Joshua, you can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.” She’s absolutely right. But, as I’ve been thinking about home I’m reminded of how temporary this life is.
Over the years, as I’ve watched several of my friends die, I’ve begun to realize that in reality I have no home on this planet. If I had my choice, I’d pack up my family and move back to my hometown (and trust me, I’m seriously considering it), but even then I wouldn’t truly be home. Home is where Christ is and I won’t ever be able to find true peace until I arrive in heaven. I wish I could long of heaven like I long for my hometown. I don’t because I’ve never been there. I have no roots in heaven; I have no memories of moon pies, sweet tea, or shooting out streetlights. There are no familiar sights or sounds.
They say home is where the heart is, and that worries me a bit. Why? Because my heart has yet to long for heaven.
Monday, May 14, 2007
Little by little I’ve been noticing that my generation of believers is beginning to look a lot like the culture. At first I made the mistake of calling this cultural relevance and even propagated it to a certain extent. The assumption was that in order to reach a particular culture it was imperative to immerse oneself in that culture. When the people who function within that cultural context see you are like one of them, then you will have the trust necessary to deliver the message of Christ. The problem is, Satan is smarter than we are.
As we have immersed ourselves in the culture we have failed to realize the subtle deceptions of the evil one. In an attempt to shed the traditional rules of legalistic religion and become more relevant to the culture, we have become almost as deceived as the culture itself. Granted, in most cases we haven’t sunk to the darkest pits of sinful behavior, but we have most defiantly sunk to the depths of un-holy behavior and ideals. We don’t want to judge an unbelieving world and hold them to our Christian standards so we go the opposite direction and adopt their unholy standard, and we call it “relevant” ministry. In reality it’s not relevant at all, it’s a bastardized gospel.
The gospel of Jesus is Christ is nothing if not counter cultural. Christ’s message of love, and salvation although delivered in the context of culture was never inclusive of culture. Christ hung out with some pretty seedy characters, and yet not once do I see him behaving, speaking, or participating in the questionable activities of those characters.
Unlike many of us, Christ never had to put a disclaimer on his message. He never had to say, “I know I’ve had a few to many drinks, but my father really does love you.”
Thursday, May 3, 2007
I’ve been around church planting my entire life. My grandfather was a church planter, my dad is a church planter, my uncle trains church planters, and I’m planting now for the second time. The men in my family are directly responsible for planting literally hundreds of churches worldwide, and I’ve personally watched my father plant numerous churches during my lifetime, all of which are still going strong, and most of which have planted their own churches. Church planting is the only thing I really know how to do. I’ve been bottle-fed church planting since infancy, and it’s become my passion.
Church planters are an interesting breed of men, and pioneer church planters (guys who plant a church with no money, or resources) are plain old disturbed. It’s one thing to take a chunk of money and open a new church in a neighborhood; it’s another thing to “John Wayne” your way into a community and organically begin a new ministry. Although every planter would love to have funds, often times it’s not possible. Regardless, every church planter is faced with individual difficulties that although different in each community, must be answered in every context.
In my opinion, the most widely discussed topic amongst church planters (aside form monetary issues) is church structure. In others words the way in which they have, or plan to “do” church. Some guys are congregational, some elder lead, some decentralized, some house church and the list goes on and on. To make things more difficult, we categorize things even further. Some guys are denominational, some associational, some are in networks, some are autonomous, some call themselves emergent, some deny any classification (still very much a category), and some just stare at the wall. However you look at it, you’re going to fit in someone’s pigeonhole.
After all my years of living with and around church planters the conversation is the same. I wonder if this conversation pleases God? I’m spending a lot of time praying about this matter, because it seems to be so important to so many people. I guess I’m looking for God heart on issue. Does God care how we assemble if our hearts are turned towards him? Does he care if we’re denominationalized, or autonomous? What are the things God really cares about? What does God want to hear being discussed when leaders meet, and is time in discussion as valuable as time in prayer?
I love my peers, and I prayer for each of them by name, regularly. I want to see them succeed in reaching the lost for Christ, encouraging and educating the found, and impacting the culture they minister in. But, I also want to leave the secondary stuff behind and begin to dwell in the unity of our call. All of us have successes and failures. We all have stories of transformation. We have all had our backsides kicked and had to learn to lean on Christ to recover. There is so much wisdom and experience in a room when pastors gather, why do feel the need to discuss ideals?
Maybe I'm missing somehing, but I'm ready for a new discussion.
Tuesday, May 1, 2007
California Hotels Go Green With Low-Flow Toilets, Solar Lights
By Ari Levy and Carole Zimmer
April 27 (Bloomberg) -- Visitors to the Gaia Napa Valley Hotel and Spa won't find the Gideon Bible in the nightstand drawer. Instead, on the bureau will be a copy of ``An Inconvenient Truth,'' former Vice President Al Gore's book about global warming.
Read the rest of the story here. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20670001&refer=us&sid=afIESX3LdgnQ
Friday, April 27, 2007
I, along with Tapestry (the church I pastor), will be getting heavily involved in this matter and I would encourage you to pray about what you can do.
Short Documentary: http://www.notforsalecampaign.org/Trailer01.aspx
Trailer (Not for sale Campaign): http://www.notforsalecampaign.org/Trailer.aspx
CHILDREN FOR SALE ON CRAIGSLIST
Katherine Chon Executive Director & Co-Founder Polaris Project
I'm sure most of us are familiar with Craigslist, an online Web community where people post job opportunities, items for sale, and find activity partners. Over the past years, Craigslist has grown by leaps and bounds and now has Web sites representing over 300 U.S. cities. Many of us have used Craigslist to find a garage sale or buy a used couch.
However, despite its millions of users and various social benefits, there's a dark side of Craigslist that most users don't see. In the "Erotic" section, human traffickers have found Craigslist to be one of the most efficient, effective (and free) ways to post children and women for sale.
With a bit of research, one can realize just how much of a problem this has become. In one recent case, two Chicago women were charged for selling girls as young as 14 years old on Craigslist. The girls were forced to have sex with 10-12 men per day, and the traffickers made tens of thousands of dollars. A Boston man and his niece were charged with plotting a child trafficking operation with teenagers as young as 13 by selling them on Craigslist to predators from Massachusetts to New York. These cases are just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, law enforcement efforts to fight trafficking nationwide are consistently reporting a spike in online Craigslist ads, and how sex trafficking has "moved online" lately.
In Washington, DC, we see an average of 500 of these such Craigslist ads each new day. Yet, it is important to realize that a significant percentage of these ads on Craigslist do not advertise solely "legal escort services" as Craigslist may like to believe. Instead, a considerable percentage of the ads are a thinly veiled guise for one of the many faces of human trafficking that exists here in the United States. Although Craigslist may convince itself that it has created a beneficial online venue for advertising legal escorts, in effect, what it has done is create a fertile ground for traffickers to further their trade in human misery.
Many of the victims of human trafficking that Polaris Project has served have had their pictures posted on Craigslist. Through serving them, we've learned how the pictures on Craigslist hide the pain behind the smile. Maybe Craigslist should ask itself if the marginal benefits of this form of free advertising for the sex trade are worth the far larger human costs.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
My dad is the director of church planting for the Rocky Mountain Conservative Baptist Association, based out of Denver Colorado. Although my dad and I are separated by at least one cultural generation, we have some similar views on the role of the church, as well as, similar views on what we believe the direction of the church needs to be in the years to come. My dad has asked me to come to this conference to be a part of a conversation with his church planters about new forms of church planting. I must admit, I’m excited to spend some time around other men who share my passion. Most of these guys have some pretty old school views of the church and I’m there to provide a little bit of shock value.
However, sometimes I feel like an attraction at a circus freak show. You know the bearded lady, the bendable man, the giant, the dwarf, and the progressive church planter. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a sought after speaker like some of my peers, I only get 8 or 10 opportunities each year. But, when I get asked to speaking engagements I’m expected to shock people. I’m afraid my ideals have created a bit of a monster.
Today I’m asking the question; is there value in “shock value?”
Sunday, April 22, 2007
"Sanjaya Malakar, the shy, slender, 17-year-old "American Idol" reject, was at his table when a tall, middle-aged man stopped by to ask for an autograph. The boy's hosts, from People magazine, tried to shoo him away. "We are trying to let him eat," they explained.
The man protested: "But I'm the governor of New York."
read the article here http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/22/AR2007042200353.html
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Each photo has a link to a personal bio of each victim. Stop for a moment and read a few of the bios.
"WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court's conservative majority handed anti-abortion forces a major victory Wednesday in a decision that bans a controversial abortion procedure and set the stage for further restrictions."
"For the first time since the court established a woman's right to an abortion in 1973, the justices upheld a nationwide ban on a specific abortion method, labeled partial-birth abortion by its opponents."
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
( From Michael Savages website http://www.homestead.com/prosites-prs/ )
_ Ross Abdallah Alameddine, 20, of Saugus, Mass., according to his mother, Lynnette Alameddine.
_ Christopher James Bishop, 35, according to Darmstadt University of Technology in Germany, where he helped run an exchange program.
_ Ryan Clark, 22, of Martinez, Ga., biology and English major, according to Columbia County Coroner Vernon Collins.
_ Jocelyne Couture-Nowak, a French instructor, according to her husband, Jerzy Nowak, the head of the horticulture department at Virginia Tech.
_ Daniel Perez Cueva, 21, killed in his French class, according to his mother, Betty Cueva, of Peru.
_ Kevin Granata, age unknown, engineering science and mechanics professor, according to Ishwar K. Puri, the head of the engineering science and mechanics department.
_ Caitlin Hammaren, 19, of Westtown, N.Y., a sophomore majoring in international studies and French, according to Minisink Valley, N.Y., school officials who spoke with Hammaren's family.
_ Jeremy Herbstritt, 27, of Bellefonte, Pa., according to Penn State University, his alma mater and his father's employer.
_ Rachael Hill, 18, of Glen Allen, Va., according to her father, Guy Hill.
_ Emily Jane Hilscher, a 19-year-old freshman from Woodville, according to Rappahannock County Administrator John W. McCarthy, a family friend.
_ Jarrett L. Lane, according to Riffe's Funeral Service Inc. in Narrows, Va.
_ Matthew J. La Porte, 20, a freshman from Dumont, N.J., according to Dumont Police Chief Brian Venezio.
_ Liviu Librescu, 76, engineering science and mathematics lecturer, according to Puri.
_ G.V. Loganathan, 51, civil and environmental engineering professor, according to his brother G.V. Palanivel.
_ Daniel O'Neil, 22, of Rhode Island, according to close friend Steve Craveiro and according to Eric Cardenas of Connecticut College, where O'Neil's father, Bill, is director of major gifts.
_ Juan Ramon Ortiz, a 26-year-old graduate student in engineering from Bayamon, Puerto Rico, according to his wife, Liselle Vega Cortes.
_ Mary Karen Read, 19, of Annandale, Va. according to her aunt, Karen Kuppinger, of Rochester, N.Y.
_ Reema J. Samaha, 18, a freshman from Centreville, Va., according to her family.
Monday, April 16, 2007
I pray that those touched by this horrible act of volitional sin, will find safe harbor beneath the wings of a God who truly loves them. That the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard their hearts and minds. May they experience the comfort that can only come from the God who knows the pain of loosing a son.
Folks, for all of you who read this blog, lets not forget to pray! Don’t be one of those who turn off the T.V. and forget.
We’ll talk more about today’s events in the days to come, but tonight we pray.
Friday, April 13, 2007
For those of you lucky enough to have avoided these sorts of get togethers, the arrow in the neck exercise is actually pretty cool. The instructor makes you sign a release form to build the drama (and just incase your neck is punctured and you bleed out on the linoleum floor), and then tells you that there “really” is a chance of death during this “fun” little example of trust. Once you’ve signed the release you’re handed an arrow, a real arrow mind you, and you’re instructed to place the sharp end of the arrow right in the center of your jugular notch. The instructor then places his hand on the end of the arrow creating enough pressure to hold the arrow in place while you lean against it.
With arms spread out to your sides, you’re instructed to walk toward the instructor with one fluid movement. Um…….okay!!! I have an arrow in my neck and you want me to put pressure on the tip of said arrow and impale myself so you can prove a point about team trust. Well……of course I tried it. To be honest I was more than a little anxious. Being careful to follow all the instructions I took the step into the arrow. Just when I thought it would puncture my skin it snapped into a million pieces. AWESOME!!!! I was stoked I proved to the class I had some balls and I got a little adrenalin boost while I was at it.
I wonder why I’m okay letting a perfect stranger put a tool designed to kill very large animals at the center of my throat, but I’m afraid to follow the simplest command of God.
Thursday, April 5, 2007
Seattle is home to several men who have developed national or even international voices on matters pertaining to the Christian Faith. Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church (www.marshillchurch.org) and Ken Hutcheson of Antioch Bible Church (www.abchurch.org) are two men whom you may have heard of. Both of these men are pastors of what we call in the emerging movement “mega-churches.” The idea of a mega-church to an emerging leader is something that needs to be publicly condemned, but is privately desired. The term “mega-church” is second only to the f-word on the swear scale in the emergent community.
Mark and Ken are frequently the topic of conversation in Seattle, and the majority of the time the conversation isn’t positive. Why? Well, in the eyes of many emergent leaders they have “sold out.” I’m not sure I know what that means, but that’s the word on the street.
However, and that’s a big however, both Mark and Ken have take outspoken stands on controversial matters such as homosexuality and male leadership in the church. They are standing firm on the pure word of God. They haven’t watered down the gospel, or flinched in the face of adversity, they have spoken truth in a world that hates truth. I’m not sure I fully agree with their ministry strategies, but I have nothing but respect for their courage and intestinal fortitude.
The question must be asked; why is it that men who speak truth without compromise have ministries affecting the world, and those who seek to compromise with the culture do not? Have they sold out to achieve international notoriety, or have the received international voices because they have refused to sell out?
This is a question I want an answer to.
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
This morning, I had the pleasure of meeting with a group of pastors from several different “emerging” churches here in the Seattle area. A couple of the guys have national voices, and or, have been published so it was interesting to hear a bit about their views on God, church and culture. What I’m about to say has nothing to do with today’s meeting. The men present at this meeting were all brilliant, amazing men of God who I respect tremendously. However, in the presence of these men I couldn’t help but feel a little disconnected from this movement we call “emerging churches.”
First off, although Tapestry (our church in downtown Seattle) would be by definition an emerging ministry, I don’t really understand what the hell the term means. I get the idea behind it all, and I understand the definition, but I don’t see what all the hype is about. I’ve read the books, lots of them, I’ve sat in the conferences, and I’ve even spoken on the issue to a small extent, but I just don’t see why it’s become so “cool” to be an “emerging” church.
Within the emerging movement I see guys with ideals. I see guys with passion. I see guys who seem to know and love God. I see pride. I see arrogance. I see faith. I see hope in the future. I see pride. Have I said that already? We all want to be different, but I fear our desire for uniqueness isn’t always rooted in a desire to reach souls. We package our models for ministry in “emerging” wrappers, but the motives behind the wrappers seem to be the same as those who have gone before us.
I guess in my limited understanding on the matter I’m a little disappointed that the emerging church isn’t a pure movement dedicated to moving past selfish desires for large congregations (even if decentralized), speaking engagements and international notoriety. Our churches look different, we swear a little more, but I don’t know if the differences go much deeper.
We need to emerge past the emerging.
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
My life has a tendency to be cyclical in nature. In other words, I always seem to come around to the same places. The most frustrating thing about this never ending cycle is that each time I arrive at the same place I’ve already been I realize that the lessons I thought I learned the previous time around, I in fact hadn’t learned at all.
Tapestry (the church I’m planting in Belltown) is doing great. We’ve set everything up correctly and done a ton of work to ensure that we have the foundation necessary to be a long-term ministry and not another flash in the pan. We’ve successfully completed the first phase of our plan on time and we’re now merging into phase two. However phase two is were churches either take off, or die.
I’ve been here before. I tremble at the thought of phase two, because phase two requires FAITH!!! Once again I find myself in the position of realizing that up to this point everything that has been done for this project, has been directed by me. In other words it was the busy work of setting up the website (www.tapestrybelltown.com), setting up the board of directors, writing up the bylaws and constitution, creating a phased model etc. I always had something to do, something that could occupy my time and feed my need for hope in the vision of Tapestry. I didn’t need God help.
Today phase two looms on the horizon and I realize there is nothing I can do. The busy work is done. I stand with my hands in my pockets wondering if it’s going to hold together. Wondering if the time I neglected to spend with God will bite me in the ass. Wondering if God plans to get onboard with my plan (ouch). Have I heard Gods voice, or have I been acting on my own volition? Only time will tell. From this point on I have to volunteer control and spend a lot of time on my knees.
The cycle has once again been completed, and once again I see how many thing I took into my own hands. When will I learn?
Friday, March 2, 2007
1. I love, support, and will stand for our troops, until the day I die. I believe our troops need our support on every front, especially when on soil. We need to stop the Bull Sh%t the demoralizes our troops!!! Our troops have a job to do, and we need to empower them to do their job, and stay alive.
2. Our enemy’s agenda is deeply rooted in religious conviction, convictions that will not be bombed out of them. They are not afraid to die for their faith, and the West represents everything they hate. We can, and probably will win this war from a military perspective, but it’s impossible to silence the conviction of a man faith unless you change his heart. Which means this war will not solve the problem. This is not to say that the war is, or is not, warranted, it’s simply a statement of my opinion.
3. We cannot trust the media, they all have an agenda.
What are your thoughts?
Sunday, February 25, 2007
As I walked along the path, I couldn't help but notice that every where I looked there was a security camera, or security guard. The cameras are hidden enough not to be obtrusive, but obtrusive enough to be noticed. Every so often as I passed a security guard I could hear the radios squawk to life with warnings to watch this or that person as they approached on of the mammoth structures, or walked outside a designated area. The unspoken message was clear; "don't F__K with the art!!!
I stopped and sat down for awhile and I was amazed by the spectacular view! Yet, as I looked out across the Puget Sound to see the clouds quickly moving across the snow capped Olympic Mountains, I was struck by the irony of the scene. God's art was so breath taking, that the man made structures were almost unnoticeable. Man greatest attempts to create something beautiful were dwarfed by the magnitude of God's creation. All of this art, beautiful as it may have been, was nothing, and yet they had gone to such drastic extremes to protect it.
As I pondered all of this I couldn't help but notice that the Puget Sound was littered with shipping vessels floating lifeless in the bay. Several of them surrounded by yellow barriers to prevent oil and fuel leakage. Jumbo jets on approach to Sea-Tac dotted the sky, undoubtedly emitting toxic fumes into the atmosphere. The sound of cars was constant as they raced by on the roads surrounding the park, and as I turned I noticed the horizon blotted out by high-rise buildings. The beauty of God's artistic creation was littered by mans attempts to be noticed.
In that moment, surrounded by security cameras, I couldn't help but wonder if God ever wants to scream, "QUIT F#@KING WITH THE ART!!!"
I know, God doesn't speak like that, But I sure wanted to!
Friday, February 16, 2007
We believe we owe the world an apology. It may seem strange, and some will assume we have an agenda, but we say with pure motives, we’re sorry. We’re sorry for all of the things that have been done in the name of Christianity. The wars, the genocide, and the domination of nations, and peoples. We’re sorry that we have spoken a message of of peace and love, but we have not lived the words we have preached. Our hypocrisy is inexcusable. We’re sorry for attempting to use fear as a means to convert, and making false promises to recruit. We’re sorry for the hate speech, and the in tolerance that we have inflicted on the world. Our words are the result of our fear, and it’s wrong. We’re sorry for superimposing our moral standard on the world, and assuming that we have all the answers. We apologize for our judgmental and elitist behavior, which has lead us to choose separation over love. We’re sorry for the horrible, unspeakable atrocities that have been done to the innocent at the hands of those claiming to be holy. The abuse and manipulation of the young will be our shame forever.
We have failed you and we humbly request your forgiveness. Our message is one of faith, hope, and love, but we have failed to live our faith, share our hope, and offer our love. We would like to make a commitment to all those who have reached this message. We at Tapestry are truly committed to not making the same mistakes our forefathers made. We are committed to living the faith that we preach, sharing our hope and offering the same love that has been extended to us by a God that is defined by love. We are hypocrites, and we always will be, because we are human. But we’re committed to change, and we’re committed to you.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Okay, a bunch of you have e-mailed me about my silence the past couple of weeks, and I apologize. Here's the story.
My parents came into town two weeks ago and I ended up spending a lot of time with them because I don't get to see them very often. While they were here I started to feel pretty sick. That feeling soon turned into strep throat. Soon after I developed a sinus infection on top of the Strep. Just as I was beginning to recover from the whole mess, I had a couple of speaking engagements, right in a row which required a lot of study time. Sunday morning I woke up and my throat was hurting again even after a week of antibiotics. I returned to the Doctor to find that I now have bronchitis!!! I"M A MESS!
Anyway, being the intelligent man that I am, I attempted to continue working through all of my issues. Needless to say, this was a bad idea! Now....I'm even sicker.
Long story short, I'll get back to blogging A.S.A.P.
Saturday, January 20, 2007
Rachel: “From the time I was 11 or 12 I have been involved with two different branches of what one might consider a “mainstream” church. It follows the common liturgy and has regular small groups, but it also encourages genuine fellowship, both with God and each other. My impression of small groups (and still is) that they are not at all a “church growing” tool, but a more in depth and personal form of fellowship aside from the main congregation. I feel that small groups remind us that we are a family and can be very powerful tools to effectively prepare the church to reach out.”
Joshua (Me): I believe in small groups. I too have been in the mainstream church for most of my life (since the sinful age of four). I’m a third generation pastor, and my family (Dad, uncle, brother, grandfather) has always been at the forefront of the mainstream movement in some regard. I’ve led small groups, helped build small group ministries, and attended countless groups, so please understand I truly have a heart for small group ministry.
Clearly there are thousands of amazing small groups just like yours across the country which are functioning wonderfully. I believe this is due in large part to the hearts of those involved in the groups, and has almost nothing to do with the strategy of the institution. However, it is very difficult to separate the two these days.
In my years of ministry there are few things which have remained the same, but one of the things that has remained consistent is this; small groups grow churches, and the primary purpose of small group ministry is church growth. One would be hard pressed to find a small group strategy launched by a church institution which was not first intended to grow the institution. Although small group ministries are presented to the congregation as fellowship gatherings, almost without fail, they are implemented by the leadership for growth. I can honestly say I have never been involved with a small group ministry that was launched for any other purpose. Fellowship, although a valued result of small groups, is a secondary concern to the institution.
I believe small groups are beneficial because they foster true interaction and relationship development. I believe small groups are great for the encouragement of the saints and I believe small groups are an essential part of spiritual growth. But, my heart is broken by the intentions with which they are frequently established, and at its roots this is where I see the problem.
What is the purpose of a small group? Why are small groups seen as supplemental to the “main gathering?’ I can’t help but wonder why the institution has to present small groups as secondary to the main service. Are small groups not “church?” In my opinion, small groups are presented as supplemental because they can be dangerous to the bottom line of the institution if not handled correctly. If small groups are presented as legitimate church services, countless people would never attend the big service. Why? Small groups are places where the church has the opportunity to be the church. They are intimate. They encourage interaction with the text, they allow for questions. Friendships are made, and lives are changed. Bottom line, it’s biblical and God blesses biblical. I’m not saying it’s the only way to do things, or that we should do away with big services, but doesn’t it seem that the paradigm is flipped around some how? Shouldn’t the big production services be designed to funnel people into small groups? There is a place for large Sunday morning gatherings, but in my opinion they should be secondary.
Unfortunately, if the institution allows the small groups to be seen as “church” the need for big organizations goes away. The results would be profound. Subsequently, small groups are billed as supplemental gatherings that help to keep people going through the week until the return to “CHURCH.”
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
On the post-modern problem:
My Friend: “I also understand your position of starting a place like Tapestry Belltown, because many are repelled all together from the mainstream church. Sometimes the best way is to start over and lead by example…but I also get frustrated at the post-modern views that the western church has it all wrong. I think both sides have something to bring to the table.”
Joshua (Me): Although it may be hard to believe, I mostly agree with you on this issue! I do not advocate separating from the “mainstream church” in every situation, and I’m not a fan of the post-modern movement. In my opinion, the post-modern movement is nothing more than mainstream Christianity with a paint job. They paint the walls neutral tones, offer emo worship, light a few candle, curse a bit more, and use real wine for communion then call themselves post-modern. In addition, I don’t agree with, or appreciate their desire to through out the tradition church. However, I do believe the that the western church has lost sight of Christ’s heart.
I have an uncle who works with, and is part of the “who’s who” Christian world. He circumvents the globe multiple times a year, and consults the church at large. I only say this because he is a trusted voice in my life and in the lives of some very influence people in the Christian community whom I respect. Much of his research sits on the desks of pastors worldwide. I’ve had many conversations with my uncle and many like him about this very issue. The common theme of conversation is this; the western church is completely lost. The international Christian community is now targeting the west for missions. The church is growing at staggering rates worldwide, but is drastically declining in the west. We’re opening a couple thousand churches a year in the U.S., but we’re closing several thousand. The decline is widely attributed to poor leadership, and apathetic believers. Christians in the west are so tied to their institutions; they’ve lost sight of being the church and reaching the world surrounding them. People are blindly following leaders who are leading them to nothing.
I will never separate from the “mainstream” church, but if I have to separate from the institution to accomplish the work of the kingdom, I will. Sadly, after countless conversations with countless pastors, I don’t see much hope for the institution. George Barna recently said that he believes the majority of mainstream church institutions will close their doors in the next 15 to 20 years. I don’t know if this is true or not, but what I do know is that the numbers continue to point in this direction.
To be honest, in my opinion, there is no such thing as the mainstream church. If we were to accurately describe the situation, we would call it the “Institution of the past.” The church is simply the church. Some of the church is wrapped up in the institution, and part of it is not. I love the church, but I don’t believe the institution can be retrofitted to be relevant again. Subsequently, I think the institution will soon be replaced, and many professing Christians will be lost, because they have no home.
If the church that is wrapped up in the institution is to be saved, it will take people who are willing to remain in the institution to be voices of change. The institution will go, but the church can be saved. In fact, much of my vision for Tapestry is rooted in this belief.
Tapestry is not an attempt to start a post-modern church, it’s not about being “emerging,” it’s not about being “progressive,” or anything of the sort. Tapestry is a result of exegeting an urban culture and finding ways to reach that culture for Christ. Seattle is the most unchurched city in the country, has the highest homosexual population pre-capita in the U.S, and is home to more dogs than children or Christians. In addition Seattle is less than 7% “churched, and the Belltown district is even worse. Belltown is Sodom and we have to find new ways to present Christ in one of the only remaining pre-Christian cultures in the country. The church has never taken root in this city and Belltown spits out church planters like a trucker sucking on sunflower seeds. Because of the extreme nature of our little sub-culture we are in a prime position to help educate the church within the institution of what is headed their direction.