Sunday, November 27, 2005

the media and economy of faith

in matthew 5.29 jesus gives us his most aggressive and violent instructions. he says if your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it into the fire, and if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away – for it is better to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. now this has always been seen as a pretty severe piece of scripture, and many commentators view it as hyperbole, but I wonder if there’s something else we could get out of it?

see, somewhere our world has gotten messed up. our economy has reduced people to services and things, “community” has become a business expression instead of family reality, and our media highlights the most beautiful split second of the most beautiful people, airbrushed into absolute perfection, as the natural end point of our desires.

it’s like the only things that matter are markets, and the only time people matter is when we can get something from them, whether love or money or a favor or a friendship; but, I know for a fact that my world doesn’t quite work this way, and I’m tempted to think it’s because there are other dynamics at play. it’s like the commerce of our world and all of its advertising and communication are lining us up to say that “these things” matter most, when I know that they don’t.

what I do know is that all of my best experiences in life have been free-of-charge: falling in love, the birth of my son, the experience of god in worship, learning to drive standard with my brother, climbing grouse mountain, staying up all night laughing with friends. what I also know is that every great gift I’ve ever given has been supremely expensive: the engagement ring I bought carmel, the 100 notes I left lying around calvary, the day I had cheesecake with carmel in a carwash, jacob’s birthday at chuck-e-cheese, etc…

if we go back to the scripture I quoted earlier, I’m left wondering if jesus wasn’t giving us a clue as to one source of unfulfillment in our lives. I mean, if we understand our “hand” as the way we do things, instead of just a hand, and our “eye” as the way we see things, instead of just an eye – does that help us understand? if “the way you do things” causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. if “the way you see things” causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away.

see, I’m convinced that we carry attitudes and perspectives with us all of the time that cause us to abuse other people, to commodify friendships and take our western luxuries for granted. I’m convinced that we ignore what’s truly important in life because we are distracted by the immediate concerns of buying and selling, getting and keeping; but, if we’re willing to change how we see people, and how we deal with one another then I believe we can live freer, more fulfilling lives.

think for a moment about a coin wrapper – those little brown, recycled paper things banks give you for your change. this is a piece of paper designed to hold metal money, but, if you open it up, it becomes something else entirely - it becomes a possibility. now there are 10,000 uses for this piece of paper all of which are defined in part by the very fact that you are choosing to take this prop for legal tender and do something else.

fold it into a paper heart, write a love note, or make a paper airplane and fly it with your kids in the living room.

this is a wonderful way to understand the media and economy of faith. the world has given us rules about markets and about meaning, but I think those rules can sometimes be broken. I think we can trade in our paper money wrappers for our voice, and use those things that were meant to just hold money as instruments of encouragement instead.

I mean, what does it say to take this money holder and make it into a psalm, or a prayer, or a thank you, or a toy? what does it mean to break out of the mold of this world that limits your personality and preferences to a wallet? what does it mean to be more than a market, or a demographic, or a target – but to get your own voice back and to use it for something redemptive?

that’s the media and economy of faith for me – cutting off my hand and gouging out my eye and finding a new way to see and act that is defiantly loving.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

marathon, sprint, or relay race?

i've been thinking a lot about the church as we've existed over time.

business people are fond of saying that we're wise to think of ourselves as being in a marathon, not a sprint, in an effort to generate some long term thinking.

i think this is a mistake for the church.

we're not in a marathon.

over the last 2 millenia, and even further when we embrace our hebrew roots in faith, an 80yr. life span can hardly be called a marathon.

instead, i think we're running a relay race - each generation passing the baton to the next. each of us running specific legs with a slightly different strategy and required skill set.

of course, we're now finding ourselves in yet another baton transition; and, unlike many of my contemporaries, i'd rather not focus on what the generation who came before us needs to do in order to give us the baton, but what we need to do to receive it.

p.s. i'm not going to give you any answers now

Saturday, November 19, 2005

like...uh...the internet and god stuff...

+ here is the outline for my dmin. written statement +

Christian Spirituality has always been expressed in tension between community and individualism. On the one hand, every person claiming to be a Christian must recognize the familial and incorporative nature of the teachings of Jesus, while at the same time internalizing those teachings individually. One venue to facilitate this tension may be the World Wide Web. Though most popular among adolescents and business people, the internet has become a technological test tube for virtual community and personal expression. Whether caught in degenerative habits or social dialogue, the internet is now a mainstay of our culture, and is often the very venue the church has forgotten. It is the singles’ bar where individual experience and community expression meet.

Section two will focus on the ministry problem itself and demonstrate that the internet is a valid medium for testing this hypothesis, based on external data and outside sources, and that the dichotomy between individual expression and community life holds especially in the context of a postmodern worldview.

This, of course, raises the question as to why we have chosen to focus on the internet as a potential solution to this problem – briefly, because of the vast disconnection between new media and evangelicalism – and so section three will explore other potential solutions to the problematic tension between these two. Specifically, the notion of a charismatic contemplative liturgy will be engaged, as well as a model for church life that is based on convenience and intensity. While noble, we feel as if these two other models are too subjective to quantify.

In section four, we present materials ranging from computing sciences to multiple-intelligence theory to Christian spirituality in a postmodern world in order to substantiate our proposed solution to the ministry problem. This shows that there are legitimate forms of community occurring online, some of which have never even been recognized or validated by the Church, and that an online experience of faith simultaneously values the individual’s preferences and learning styles, and draws them into a conversation with other believers in prayer and worship.

In section five, we will show that the praystation module provides a practical solution to the ministry problem. We will present primary data and source materials, including testimonials and the stats from a working prototype, that will demonstrate the sense of community and personal encounter that occurs with the module.

Despite the success of the praystation module, it is my firm conviction that this area of study will need to persist in an effort to revalue the individuality of contemplatives amidst the global church expression of corporate worship gatherings. In the new world Church can string us together without becoming a noose.

Written Statement:
My readers will be people interested in the development of communal spirituality in cyberspace, as well as my dissertation readers and advisors. These will include clergy and lay leaders, spiritualists, people of many faith backgrounds, and spiritual seekers – academic or clerical – with an interest in leading and experiencing the divine. The internet poses unique challenges for spiritual/communal interaction, most notably the absence of a tactile conversation, yet supplies people with a highly connective medium representative of their experience-based culture free from the constrainst of space and time. The non-locality and timefree basis of internet relationships, though often criticised, could be see to operate much the same way as the early Christian epistles, also written non-locally and still fostering community. Admittedly, Paul knew many people in those communities either prior to, during, or shortly after writing his epistles; but, one might argue that his letters held those communities together and shaped them more than his personal presence, often limited by space and time. Furthermore, one might argue that the epistles’ effectiveness in creating communities have not been limited to the 1stC, but are still creating community in the world today.

Multimedia Project:
Here I believe the users will be primarily laypeople and high-end web users, gamers and interactives for example, though that is not to disclude the aforementioned group from probable repeat useage. The weakness and strength of the web interface is both its popular/widespread useage and its popular/uncritical useage.

Section 02: The problem
Topic: I am studying Cyber Spirituality.
Research question: how new media can be used as a venue for creating a spiritual community
Research problem: in order to identify matricies for spiritual formation and connection that are community driven and personally expressed
Practical problem: so that spiritually interested people can experience a sense of spiritual growth, learn more about prayer and contemplation in relationship with the divine, and find greater meaning and enjoyment through new media.

Section 03: Other Proposed Solutions
1. other websites that serve primarily as conveyers of spirituality and information, such as or
2. other websites that serve as experience providers, such as or
3. other websites that serve as connecting points, such as or

Section 04: The Thesis
Although typically relegated to entertainment and informational use within the church, due largely to the user fascination with play over development, I propose that the internet, free from the boundaries of space and time, can bring disconnected people together in new forms of spiritual discipline, in the tradition of lectio divina, the daily office, devotional reading, personal prayer, and contemplation of the divine.
1. because the internet is a viable medium for community
a. community does not have to be local
i. the epistles created community in Paul’s absence
ii. we experience community with God despite the absence of face-to-face connection
iii. we experience community via telephone and other telecommunication mediums
b. the internet is already establishing communities
i. community is the word of choice for connecting software
1. email
2. photosharing
3. blogs
4. online gaming
5. massive multi-player online role playing games
6. instant messaging
7. text messaging [SMS]

WARRANT: people use various mediums to connect to one another over space and time.

2. because the internet is a viable medium for spiritual expression
a. technology and spirituality are not mutually exclusive
b. while spirituality is internally and personally resonant, it can be expressed through a variety of mediums
c. the validity of the internet in this way is recognized by the majority of world religions and sects thereof

3. because the internet is an open-source, creative environment
a. anyone with internet access can participate
b. the ideas of all participants are free to be explored at the leisure of other participants, hence there is little of the coercion that often pollutes church-related community
c. creativity is given priority and art redeemed as a means of expression and retention of participants [i.e. people go back to cool websites. Art invites interaction, which therefore creates community; therefore art creates community by virtue of attraction].

WARRANT: factors such as authoritarian leadership, coercion, and institutional gatekeeping - to name a few - in certain contexts inhibit community by prioritizing rules and controls over relationships and shared experiences,

4. because spiritual disciplines are not exhaustive
a. new spiritual practices have been developed throughout history
b. there is no biblical or historical ban on the development of spiritual disicplines
c. the disicplines themselves are a means to an end – spiritual connection.

WARRANT: we are all spiritual beings with a need to connect spiritually.

WARRANT: especially in north american evangelical churches, prayer and bible reading are the two main disciplines promoted from the pupit. This limits the access of people who tend to be non-verbal, non-linguistic learners to access spirituality in a personally meaningul and engaging manner consistent with their learning styles and multiple intelligence[s].

5. because the internet is free from the constraints of organized religion to such a degree that spiritual interest can be pursued without institutional gatekeeping
a. users are free to belong before they believe
b. it is truly a seeker environment, consistent with Jesus’ urgings in the gospel to “come and see”

WARRANT: many, many people want to experience spirituality.

Section 05: The Project
My project will be a web based experiential prayer module entitled the praystation, a first in the field of human transcendence technology. It places users in contact with images and environments of spiritual discipline and formation. The basic design idea is a blend of chat rooms, online game play, and VJ software. Using the praystation, people will be able to pray, share experiences, learn, and discover spirituality together through visual art, online chat, meaning [archiving] and generosity [emailing and sharing experiences].

My Dreams at Night: A week in an artist's project

During the week of September 19-23, 2005 I lived as an artist in residence at Art 634 in Jackson, Michigan. Art 634 is a privately owned, communally operated warehouse with studios designed to give local artists space to experiment and explore the intersection of artistic mediums, culture, and socialization.

Despite having travelled extensively overseas, I felt like a truly cross-cultural experience required my immersion in a foreign setting more than a foreign country [after all, Berlin tends to feel a lot more like Chicago with subtitles than it does a truly unfamiliar place]. Art 634 is a venue full of irregular individuals working irregular hours on hyper specialized projects that most people do not appreciate. As a fairly structured person, this kind of liquid living required considerable adjustment in the five days I stayed.

Perhaps it will be helpful if I give a play-by-play of the week’s events and main characters.

The Players
Steve Sayles is the owner/founder and uses the basement [a.k.a “the dungeon] as his studio space for metal scultpures and ironworks. Steve is tall, thin, is an accomplished Jazz pianist and smokes for breakfast.
Birdhouse Mike is, actually, an amazing painter…who builds birdhouses in his spare time. It’s an odd hobby for someone who is a gifted artist to build large birdhomes out of driftwood and pinecones, but Mike seems to enjoy it.
Cameron and Sydney are the photographer and dog, respectively, who live in the uppermost/frontmost suite in the studio. Cameron races bicycles and Sydney races cars.
Nora runs a framing gallery where she handmakes picture frames and matting. She does a fair amount of business. Sadly, Nora – unlike all the others – does not live at 634, she just works there 24/7.
Barbara, Left of Center. I call her “Barbara, Left of Center” to try and be charming. Barbara thinks I’m charming, at least, and Left of Center is the theatrical production company she runs from 634. Their last play was about the Matthew Shepherd murder trial and the way the evangelical hegemony has persecuted homosexuals with their rhetoric and – ultimately – violence.
Crazy Tim is an entrepeneur who travels weekly all over the world to spin new ideas. He is quite brilliant. He looks at people, literally, out of the corner of his eye and he wore a shirt that read “skeptic.”
Jeff the Contractor comes by Art 634 everyday day at lunch and after work before he goes home. It’s almost like a local bar for him, a place where he can unwind. Jeff is not an artist at all, but he and Steve Sayles are good friends and Jeff often refers to Steve’s sculptures as their work. Amazingly, no one ever corrects him.
Kenny and Betty K from Texas are dyed-in-the-wool, old school fundamenta-bapists. 634 is their alternate residence, for when they need to escape their cattle ranch and find some peace.
Ave is the resident artist-enigma. She is there all the time, living next to Cameron and Sydney, but I never saw her. She paints naked mermaids.

The Week in Review
Monday: John and I arrive at Art 634 with my camera gear and guitar. Steve Sayles sets us up in an unfinished room covered in sawdust and invites me to set up my airmattress next to the pile of unused insulation. After two hours of inflating my “easy-inflate”, I sit next to Birdhouse Mike and learn how the pros smoke sheesha. Mike explains that sheesha is made primarily of molasses and fruit and I smile encouraginly because my friend John Tittle is an avid Sheeshaman.

I go to sleep afraid of bugs.

Tuesday: After a short night marked by several awkward bathroom experiences [Crazy Tim booby-traps the one toilet with Ave’s naked mermaid pics], I rouse myself and stumble to the B-Z-B Café two blocks south of 634 with John. I have oatmeal and a coffee and on my way back to the warehouse purchase a frisbee for Sydney. She plays catch with Cameron and I while we discuss the merits of chemical photography in a digital world, then we all try and get Mike away from his studio for a few minutes to hear his thoughts on what it means to have everyone living together. Steve’s dog, Zoe, shows up for frisbee while Mike pontificates, but is soon distracted by her owner’s arrival with Schlenker’s hamburgers.

My afternoon is spent alternating between the Texans and Nora. The Texans want me to commit to converting the “heathen” and Nora wants me to pray for her husband. I make some coffee after prayer and we all talk about art while I wonder if anyone ever makes any.

In the evening I sit in on the Left of Center rehearsal and offer my thoughts on the presentation. The portrayal of the ignorant preacher seems one dimensional in my view. Jimmy Reed, a local guitar icon, stops by after the show and I get excited about jamming with him.

We play frisbee instead and John and I stay up very late taking pictures.

When I collapse into my “easy-inflate” I think I catch a glimpse of beady red eyes in the rafters and wake up several times sweating about bats.

Wednesday: I sleep in until noon, but am the first one awake. Birdhouse Mike is usually early to rise, but he and Tim argued until breakfast about “Let’s make a Deal” to which Tim owns the rights. Mike thinks “Let’s Make a Deal” isn’t as popular as it once was. Tim thinks it is.

Stumbling out of the dark bathroom – Tim always has dirty soap – I find myself in the middle of an interview between Steve and a local reporter. He makes Art 634 sound like Disney in Heaven and when the reporter asks me what I think I am compelled to talk about the warmth of the people who live there. The reported loves the fact that a pastor would live with the artists and promises to write me up, but I decline.

I write a poor sermon for most of the afternoon, trying not to feel hungry enough to walk back to the B-Z-B.

Our church staff shows up for a late lunch and I give them the nickel tour. They are enthused about ministry to artists, but amused by my five o’clock shadow and new smell. When the staff leaves, several of our parishioners show up with dinner and we all eat with Nora and Mike and talk about how Westwinds can minister to the art community.

That night I almost get to jam with Jimmy Reed and John until we realise we’re going to keep Mike awake, so we site around and watch him sleep instead. Leaving him, Jimmy and John decide to play frisbee while I take more fotos.

I sleep very well.

Thursday: I wake up after noon and have breakfast at another local haunt called “The Roxy” where Nora explains to me the finer points of matte creation. When we return, Steve is trying to hang new doors with a skill saw. When I ask him what the skill saw is for, he explains it is to make the hole bigger.

We go into the dungeon to work collaboratively on a scultpure.

When we emerge, the day is over and I am just in time to see “The Laramae Project” by Left of Center. I cat nap through acts 1-4, and am irritated by act 5 - again, i just can't get past the dumb preacher - and leave as soon as it is done. The stage manager and I talk about quantum mechanics on the dock [a.k.a. the porch] until almost sunrise.

I sleep upright.

Friday: I sleep in a long time on my last day, wake up and pack up, and then say my goodbyes. Steve cries because I’m leaving, then calls me funny names and laughs at the fun week. Birdhouse Mike helps me put my stuff in the car and John and I play frisbee together one more time.

I drive home, kiss my wife, and go to bed until Saturday.

I had an interesting experience at 634. Here is a community that practices looking after one another, living together, far better than we do in churches – and far more uncomfortably. It seems as if everyone is in everyone else’s business, and I am forced to wonder if maybe this is a natural outcome of community. Certainly the nomadic peoples of the Old Testament didn’t observe privacy in the same light as we do in our segregated, individualistic western society; but, I wonder what the dynamics would be like to compare the level of love and respect with 634 to the centrality of family in the OT. Suffice to say, I would have been far less comfortable had I brought along my wife and son [it is one thing to subject yourself to this kind of encounter, and quite another to make your two-year old sleep with bats].

In ministry, I have always found myself to be a busy person. I thrive in a pace-of-life that demands I get little sleep and requires my full attention. This is not uncommon for the stereotypical Type-A pastor, and my ability to live joyfully this way has never been in question. As such, I was challenged by the pastoral way in which Steve and Mike and Cameron welcomed every visitor. I came to 634 as an extrovert, seeking missional opportunities but they live at 634 practicing hospitality. They were evangelists to a way of life that valued people regardless of their background, and I was convicted my inability to do the same.

It is this androcentric quality that came through strongly in Cameron’s photographs – a value for people. My images, see above, value color and temperature where people are placed as subjects. Cameron’s photographs placed people in frame artfully, and used the blend of tone and shade to open our imaginations to their minds and wills. His art was about imagination, while my imagination was about making art.

I don’t think anyone could have come away unaffected from a week at 634, though I will not go so far as to say it changed my life forever. I am still unable to trust my reflections, fearing that somehow I am prostituting the experience in in favor of a fun story [“hey kids, have you heard about the time I lived in an art commune?”]. I will say that what I got out of the experience was different than I thought – it was more boring, less “artsy” – and yet it taught me something about looking after one another.

Still, it won’t beak my heart to be back in my own bed…without bats and bugs.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

romantic or intimate? [a response to a buddy's question]

i see my relationship with god as both intimate and romantic.

the bible often describes spiritual ecstasy in erotic terms, though, i've got to confess a certain hesitation to use sexual imagery. truthfully, i have to say that the sexual experience is 'the next best thing' to true closeness with god, but i'm still a little uncomfortable with the god-sex nomenclature.

intimacy - in my thinking - is incredible closeness and vulnerability, "nudity and the absence of shame", and i want that with god like i want it with my wife. that's about as far as my desire for intimacy extends, though - and i get creeped out at church when old guys want to be "intimate" with me. it's like they're offering me fruit for hallowe'en, and i'm left wondering if i'm going to get a razor blade cavity.

at the same time, i need those deep friendships - life just kicks you in the nuts too many times not to be able to share.

how much is enough?

i've often wondered about how much theology you have to have right to go to heaven?

i mean, followers of jc in the nt literally followed him around from place to place - they weren't great thinkers or theologians. in fact, most of them were as ignorant as your average doughnut about spiritual equations, so how accurate was their theology? or the church in corinth? or mine, for that matter?

is following jesus because you love him the same thing as following jesus to get into heaven? and, do both/or qualify you for salvation?

just asking questions to irritate my grandmother,


Thursday, November 03, 2005

a sextant for sacred leadership: conclusion

In a world charmed by charisma and relativism, the need for sacred leadership to emerge is brutally obvious. Ministers must come to the fore as titans, lay leaders must grow strong and develop skills to contribute with fanatical resolve, and the whole Body of Christ must see the need for energy, unity, and mission. Though I use aggressive language, it is not against flesh and blood that we fight.

We fight what cannot be seen. We fight we can only be known and felt and heard in the dark.

To find our way in the dark, we must find instruments of navigation. Not only will they guide us in pneumanautical transformation, but they will guide us to victory in a cosmological tension. Now is the time for sextants of sacred leadership. Now is the time for astrolabes of purpose and destiny. This is when we need a gyroscope to circumvent the globe of culture and shrinking faith.

If truly we are called - then truly we are called nobly and swiftly. We must journey to the center of conflict and stake our claim on the soil of soul.

Scrum Half, An Apostolic Pneumetaphor

Growing up, I have had the opportunity to watch my Father in a strange array of circumstances where he was forced to deal with a large cross-section of people. As General Superintendent of our denomination my Father has served as a bridge between blue collar ministries and white collar beneficiaries, new Charismatics and old-time Pentecostals, important political figures and common Canadians, the rich and the poor, the voiceless and those who proclaim, and one or two other dozen such antithetical pairs.

While the Bible originally uses the term apostolos to refer to the twelve disciples chosen by Jesus, that term is expanded beginning in Acts chapter 8 to include other emerging leaders.[1] This term, meaning “one who is sent forth with authority[2]” designates the principal leaders of the Early Church in their efforts as church planters, overseers, missionaries, spiritual fathers, and leaders. Weston describes the Apostle as one with the “supernatural Ascension Gift differing from the 12 apostles [pre-Ascension] that God gives to certain members of the Body of Christ to assume and exercise general leadership over and equipping the church with an extraordinary authority in spiritual matters.”[3] In our present context, such authority is manifested primarily to start new churches or establish order in existing churches and/or denominations and/or parachurch organizations. Certainly a new worldview requires new methods and metaphors for times of social turbulence. Such leadership is identified by theologian Walter Brueggemann as a reformulation “of faith in radical ways in the midst of a community that has to begin again”[4] and he continues to make the point that “what must survive is not simply the physical community…but an alternative community with an alternative memory and an alternative social perception.”[5]

The office of the apostle is frequently misunderstood and equally abused. For many years Evangelicals have shied from the term, believing that the office was no longer required; yet, the text of Ephesians 4 identifies the timeline of these Ascension Gifts extending “until” the church comes to unity and maturity. Anyone who has seen – for even one moment – the inner workings of a local church in North America knows that this reality eludes us for the present; such that our need for apostolic ministry endures. Indeed the Apostle Paul is listed as the first post-Ascension apostle and though he considers himself “born out of due season”[6] still maintains that his apostleship is in no way subservient or inferior to that of the original Disciples.[7] Paul used his Apostolic Leadership to “send” and “leave” and “persuade” and “encourage”[8] his workers to do certain things for the Gospel, but he did “leave it to their knowing the will of the Lord”[9] and never exercised any dictatorial authority, choosing instead to operate as a spiritual influencer.

Jesus Himself was the proto-Apostle, the first sent one[10], and He models for the disciples what it means to represent the Father and fulfill His purposes. Jesus is conscious that He “bears the exousia[11] of God as God’s representative to fulfill His eschatological will on earth”[12] which Jesus personally passes on to the Twelve[13] and then later the Seventy.[14] It was precisely because of the close connection to Jesus that the disciples were identified as leaders after the Ascension, Paul also made an early claim to Apostleship based on his theophany on the Damascus road, but later the proof of his Apostolic appointment is defended by his calling, not his visions, the exousia the Lord gave him for building up the church, and his competence to be a minister of the new covenant.[15] This informs us that the proof of any claim to apostleship[16] in the present day is demonstrated by the quality of the ministry. I mentioned earlier that the office of the Apostle is frequently misunderstood and misused today, wherein we see many examples of self-proclaimed Apostles without credibility – not the least of which was the punch-drunk amateur boxer who recently arrived at our Sunday morning service and announced to the pastors that he was here to discipline us when we were disobedient. As a result, I feel strongly that any would-be apostles should be made aware of the qualifications for office[17]. Among these being:
1. the character qualifications of an Elder[18]
2. a servant spirit[19]
3. spiritual authority[20]
4. spiritual paternity[21]
5. sound doctrine[22]
6. exemplary leadership[23]
7. manifestation of divine love[24]

I have also found it useful to direct those claiming Apostleship to take a spiritual gifts inventory test. Curiously, no one who ever arrived and promoted themselves as an apostle has yet been willing to take an inventory exam, most having been offended at the notion that their apostleship is in doubt. This is always the first of many bad signs of things to come.[25]

When writing about Leonardo Da Vinci’s Seven Governing Principles for Life and Thought, author Michael J. Gelb interestingly noted kinesthesia, the sense of your weight, position, and movement, as being the most difficult for many leaders to achieve.[27] In choosing the Scrum Half as our pneumetaphor for apostolic leadership, I hope to press us into the kinesthetic realm lead by our imagination. There are six crossover points that I believe keep the pneumetaphor true, and some knowledge of the sport of rugby may serve to contextualize what is being said, though I have endeavored to include the essentials within the body of text.

The apostle/scrum half connects the forwards and backs
Rugby is played with 15 players per side. Each team is divided up into squads while on the pitch, or field. There is a “forward” squad and a “back” squad, and two players known as “half-backs.” The scum half, rugby’s closest equivalent to a quarterback in American Football, is one of the two half-backs and is primarily in charge of getting the ball from the forwards – the tough, direct, aggressive players who “win” the ball in set pieces [i.e. when the ball goes out of bounds or an infraction is committed] – to the backs – the swift, lean, clever players who exploit space and create dazzling opportunity. Typically, the ball is won into play by the forwards and secured by the scrum half [no.9], who then opts to either run/kick/or pass the ball to the fly-half [the other “half-back”, no.10] or directly to the backs. See Figure 1 for a visual of how teams are laid out.

As in many sports, there exists a natural division between the forwards and the backs both on and off the rugby pitch. Forwards tend to be thought of as mindless, having more braun than brain, and backs tend to be thought of as glamour-seeking frat boys. Teams that excel are teams that can bridge this division effectively. That unity is the job of the scrum half.
So it is with the church. Division exists everywhere. Denominations tend to divide, more than gather, believers; theological issues and musical preference divide; political preference and the stand of the church on any number of moral or ethical issues pull us away from one another and into smaller and smaller clusters and sub-divisions. It is the task of the apostle/scum half to unite the team. That unity must then be motivated towards both an offensive and defense game plant. This is the task of the scrum half,[28] the leader, the one sent by the coach with authority.

The apostle/scrum half plays offense and defense
Rugby is an iron man sport. There is only one time-out for the entire match per side, substitutions are only permitted three times and/or in the event of injury, and everyone plays defense. Tackling, then, is a must-have skill for any player and for any apostle/scrum half.

Every player on the rugby pitch is considered “responsible” for the person directly across from them. If that person, usually the opposite number[30] on the other team, gets the ball and makes a run it is our man’s job to tackle. We “attack with the ‘soul’ in hand”, advancing upon the network of friends and relationships the believer has in an effort to connect more people more meaningfully with Jesus Christ. We make “keeping possession difficult” for our opposition by applying power and pressure.

The apostle/scrum half must know how to run, kick, and pass
Rudy Giuliani, a man I have come to greatly respect as a leader, said that the trickiest part of leadership “is working out not what, but when.”[32] Not only must the apostle/scrum half know how to run, kick, and pass; but s/he must know when to kick, or run, or pass. This is no easy decision: a wrongly timed kick could cost our team possession and we might spend the rest of the game trying to get it back. Similarly, a scrum half who always runs the ball his/herself isolates the rest of the team and robs the other players of the chance to shine and contribute their own unique blend of tricks and skills. Leaders, then, in this new world must “find a balance between speed and deliberation”[33]; they must know when to do what and how to execute it. In fact, in almost every rugby game there is a moment when someone other than the scrum half must fulfill the duties of no.9 temporarily, and that is a signal to the opposing side to attack harder and play more aggressively. When the fly half or the hooker, for example, are forced to win the ball from the [other] forwards, everyone gets out of position, poor decisions are made, and chaos results.

The apostle/scrum half must know how to take a hit
The scrum half is never an especially big player. Take George Gregan for example, scrum half for the Australian Wallabys[34] and commonly considered to be the greatest scrum half in the game today. Gregan stands at a modest 5’6” and weighs only 176lbs,[35] yet proves game after game that the scrum half is the most punished player in any sport. Scum halfs are wildly catalytic and incredibly tough, a necessity since they lack the front line offensive line of an NFL team for protection. Still, a good apostle/scrum half has got to take a hit and get right back up with fire in their eyes. This kind of tenacity is honored by Giuliani, who notes that “being decent is not the same thing as being weak”[36], and the good apostle/scrum half knows how to be strong and fierce within the construct of the game.

The apostle/scrum half has to be able to kick with both feet and pass with both hands
Depending on where the defense is positioned, the scrum half must exploit weaknesses and opportunities. Because of the body position required to execute a spin pass, passing with only one side of the body is not an option; in fact, most scrum halfs spend the majority of any game passing to their weak side, a strategy employed by the defenders to make the opposing offense less effective. By learning to pass and to kick in both directions, the apostle/scrum half keeps the defense guessing and minimizes the threat of a compromised offense for his/her own team.

In ministry, we are rarely able to only do those things we do best. Leaders must be able to perform a series of functions, not just one or two, and when our most promising gifts prove to be of no value to us, we must be able to execute an alternative strategy based on contingency plans. If we can’t pass, then kick; if we can’t kick left, kick right; if we can’t pass or kick – run!

The apostle/scrum half is often overlooked in favor of the fly half
While the scrum half spends most of his/her time in digging the ball out of rucks[37], mauls[38], and scrums[39] and providing it for the backs, the fly half is usually situated slightly back and to one side in order to better view the entire field. The fly half is rarely involved in set pieces, or in producing the ball from the forwards, and as a result is able to retain more energy for a quicker offensive strike or classically executed play.

Because the fly half endures so much less contact than the scrum half, and because of the close positioning of the fly half to the back line, the fly half tends to score many more points than the scrum half. In particular, fly halfs are much more prone to kicking for points via a drop goal[40] than scrum halfs and so attract a lot of attention to their offensive flare. So it is with apostles.

True apostles are often grinding out the work of the ministry, fighting for every extra few yards down the fields of harvest, while flashy ministries and cool young men and women are able to be promoted among denominational lines as “rising stars” or the “next great hope.” This was true for Paul when he and Barnabas separated over the issue of John Mark[41] and it is still true today. Unfortunately, there are also instances of apostle/scum halfs who refuse to play with anyone else in order to protect themselves from being in another’s shadow; but, being eclipsed is part of ministry – we are all supposed to be eclipsed by Jesus! – being diminished is a reality that every apostle has to contend with.

[1] Paul and Barnabas [Acts 14.4, 14], Jesus’ brother James’ [Galatians 1.19], Apollos [1 Corinthians 4.9], Silas [1 Thessalonians 2.7], and Andronicus and Junias [Romans 16.7]. As referenced in Owen Weston, Spiritual Gifts: Your Job Description from God. (Bethany: Lifesprings, 1996), 33.
[2] Crosswalk New Testament Greek Lexicon, Strong’s Number 652.
[3] Owen Weston, Spiritual Gifts: Your Job Description from God. (Bethany: Lifesprings, 1996), 33.
[4] Walter Brueggemen, Cadences of Home. (Louisville: Westminster John Know Press, 1997), 108.
[5] Walter Brueggemen, Cadences of Home. (Louisville: Westminster John Know Press, 1997), 108.
[6] 1 Corinthians 15.5, 8 KJV.
[7] Cf. 2 Corinthians 11.15; 12.11,12
[8] Kevin J. Connor, The Church in the New Testament. (Kent, 1982), 149.
[9] Ibid.
[10] cf. John 3.17, John 5.36-38, Hebrews 3.1, Colossians 1.18,19
[11] lit. “the power of rule or government.” Crosswalk New Testament Greek Lexicon, Strong’s Number 1849.
[12] P.W. Barnett, "Apostle," in Dictionary of Paul and his Letters, 1993 ed.
[13] Mark 3.13-15
[14] mark 6.7-13
[15] Cf. P.W. Barnett, "Apostle," in Dictionary of Paul and his Letters, 1993 ed.
[16] Paul’s Apostleship is elsewhere validated through miraculous signs and wonders [Acts 14.27, 15.3-12, 2 Corinthians 12.12], his suffering for being an apostle [2 Corinthians 11-12], and his experiences of revelation [1 Corinthians 9.1,2; 15.9].
[17] taken from Kevin J. Connor, The Church in the New Testament. (Kent, 1982), 148-150.
[18] Apostles are Elders, though not all Elders are Apostles. Cf. 1 Peter 5.1-5; 1 John 1.1; 3 John 1; Acts 1.15-16, 1 Timothy 3; Titus 1.
[19] Paul, James, Peter and John all spoke of themselves as “slaves of Jesus Christ.” Cf. Titus 1.1; Phillipians 1.1, Romans 1.1, James 1.1, 2 Peter 1.1, Revelation 1.1.
[20] As with Jesus, they have authority because they are under authority. Such authority was chiefly used for edification. Cf. 2 Corinthians 1.24, 10.8; 1 Peter 5.1-5; 1 Thessalonians 2.1-8; Luke 22.24-27; 1 Corinthians 4.21; 2 Corinthians 13.2, 10. As noted in Kevin J. Connor, The Church in the New Testament. (Kent, 1982), 149.
[21] 2 Corinthians 4.15b “I became your father.”
[22] Cf. Acts 2.42
[23] Cf. 2 Corinthians 6.3-10
[24] Cf. 2 Corinthians 12.15
[25] see Appendix A for an abbreviated version of Weston’s Spiritual Gifts Inventory test dealing with only the Ephesians 4 Ascension Gifts. For a full version see Owen Weston, Spiritual Gifts: Your Job Description from God. (Bethany: Lifesprings, 1996).
[26] I had originally thought to use the NFL Quarterback as the pneumetaphor for an apostle, due primarily to the importance of a Quarterback to a team and the familiarity of both the position and the sport to a North American audience. Ultimately, though, I arrived at the conclusion that Quarterback was an insufficient pneumetaphor – and, because of the increasing popularity of Rugby in North American {it remains the second most-watched sport in all the world, next to European Football} began to see the greater potential of the Scrum Half pneumetaphor as it relates to the biblical office of an apostle. I favor Scrum Half over Quarterback in this context because: [1] a Scrum Half is always on the field, [2] there are no pads to protect the Scrum Half, [3] there are no technological aids permitted on the Rugby pitch, as opposed to the devices implanted into professional Quarterback’s helmets for aided communication with the coach, [4] a Scrum Half has to be able to kick as well as pass and run, [5] every Scrum Half leaves every Rugby match as the least protected/most afflicted player, whereas a Quarterback is often protected by the front line, and [6] a Scrum Half must “dig the ball out” of the scrum, whereas a Quarterback has the ball “snapped” back from the Center.
[27] Michael J. Gelb, How to Think like Leonardo Da Vinci. (New York: Delta, 1998), 199.
[28] In international play, the scrum half must be considered the captain of the team.
[29] Tony Biscombe and Peter Drewett, Rugby: Steps to Success. (Champaign: Human Kinetics, 1998), 4.
[30] In rugby everyone who plays a particular position wears the same number. A scrum half is #9, hooker #2, full back #15, etc… The University of South Carolina has a great web site devoted to beginner understanding of the game
[31] Tony Biscombe and Peter Drewett, Rugby: Steps to Success. (Champaign: Human Kinetics, 1998), 144.
[32] Rudy Giuliani, Leadership. (New York: Hyperion, 2002), 123.
[33] Rudy Giuliani, Leadership. (New York: Hyperion, 2002), 143.
[34] aka the Australian National Rugby Union Team that competes internationally
[35] Compare to Drew Bledsoe at 6’5” and 238lbs, or Brett Favre at 6’2” and 224lbs.
[36] Rudy Giuliani, Leadership. (New York: Hyperion, 2002), 269.
[37] A ruck is formed when a player is tackled and the other players fight overtop of the player on the ground for possession of the ball.
[38] A maul is formed when a player with the ball runs into an opposing player and keeps his/her feet, thus forming a struggle of two or more players who compete for possession while standing.
[39] A scrum is the rugby equivalent of a tip-off in basketball, or – more accurately – a free kick in soccer. Forwards from both sides collide in a diamond shaped formation while each team’s hooker fights with his/her feet for the ball that one of the scrum halfs puts into the center of the scrum.
[40] In rugby, the ball may be kicked through the uprights at any point in the game for 3pts. without a stoppage of play. Such kicks are made on the fly, often in the middle of a flat run or as the end maneuver in a play. These drop goals must be first dropped on the ground, then – on the bounce up – kicked for points.
[41] Acts 15.37,38

a few words from merton

"you have called me to gethsemani not to wear a label by which i can recognize myself and place myself in some kind of category. you do not want me to be thinking about what i am, but about what you are. or rather, you do not even want me to be thinking about anything much; for you would raise me above the level of thought. if i am always trying to figure out what i am and where i am and why i am, how will that work be done?"
- thomas merton, "dialogues with silence"