Saturday, June 30, 2007

DOXA: sola scriptura, QUICK FACTS

this is a supplemental note to week 1 of our DOXA series at westwinds.

in an effort to help people study the bible for themselves, i've included some quick resources and suggestions both in my sermon and here online.

Q. what is the bible?

A. the bible is our ultimate authority in all manner of belief and behavior.

Q. how do we use the bible?

A. we use it for teaching, rebuking, correcting, & training in righteousness

Q. where do i start studying the bible?

A. in the old testament, i suggest you begin with 1 & 2 samuel which tells the story of king david; then i suggest you move on to isaiah, which is largely concerned with prophecies regarding jesus christ. in the new testament, i suggest you begin with the gospel of john - which many people find to be the easiest gospel to understand and digest - and then move on to paul's letters - first philippians, colossians and/or ephesians, then on to romans which is the hallmark of christian theology.

Q. what do i need to get started?

A. everyone needs a good bible. i suggest an NIV study bible for this kind of approach. in addition, you'll want to grab hold of a lexicon [i.e. a greek/hebrew/aramaic to english dictionary], a concordance [which lists all of the instances of each particular word in the bible], and a bible/theological dictionary [which helps you quickly remember all of the obscure words you'll learn in the course of your study]

Q. how do i go a little deeper in my studies?

A. the low-fi approach is through books and tapes. i recommend getting the following books to start you off:
how to read the bible for all its worth, by gordon fee and douglas stuart
how to read the bible book-by-book, by gordon fee and douglas stuart
the pocket dictionary of theological terms, by stan grenz
_____ [book of the bible, i.e. "John"] for everyone, by tom wright [a series of books]
manners and customs of bible times, by ralph gower

the hi-fi approach is through the web and through podcasts
if your a podcaster, i suggest the following two fellows in addition to the westwinds podcast
1. mark driscoll, at mars hill church in seattle
2. rob bell, at mars hill bible church in grand rapids
both are excellent bible teachers, focusing almost exlcusively on the bible and not on a bunch of other issues. mark is pretty agressive, rob is pretty emo.

in addition,
you'll want to download e-sword, found at, and download all of the various versions, dictionaries, commentaries, and lexical works you can. most of these are free, some require an additional fee.
you'll also want to add the following websites to your favorite links

this, of course, is merely a beginner's list at studying the bible
but i think it's pretty accessible for most people and provides a great starting point for those who newly believe, or are newly interested

happy hunting!

Friday, June 29, 2007

what is "causemology?"

Causemology is our term for the new modular ecclesiology at Westwinds [aka, it’s the way our church is going to function Monday-Saturday].

every two months we’ll be leading our church through a wave of spiritual experiences
we'll begin by getting together on a monday night
where we'll coach and guide you
through a series of spiritual competencies and habits, disicplines and activities
that will help you better experience god in your daily life
and train you to involve yourself in four key areas of christian spirituality
something for your soul [a.k.a. a spiritual disicpline]
something for your relationships [a.k.a. keeping you in community]
something for your church [a.k.a. serving at westwinds]
something for your world [a.k.a. outreach and service]

you’ll then meet with a personal coach to decide which of the many options
you’ll choose to participate in for this two-month "wave"

you’ll select one option in each of the four categories
knowing that you’re only commiting to these habits & pactices for the current wave

you’ll talk with your coach about the choices you’ve made
throughout the course of each wave
and what their impact is in your life
and then return to the next gathering at the beginning of the next wave
to select a new set of habits & pactices for the following two months

over the course of a year
you will have involved youself in a cross-section of brand new ways of exploring and investigating what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ in our ever-changing world

not bad, eh?

we think it's gonna be a cool way to integrate the various expressions of christian spirituality with the fluctuations and rhythms of 21st century life.

basically - it'll be a great way to experience a bunch of cool new stuff
without getting so busy you forget what your friends look like.

why do churches get smaller?

for many reasons...

moral failure of a senior leader
poor management
cultural irrelevance
spiritual irrelevance

one *distinct reason [often overlooked]
is that churches need to feel connected to themselves
and the people in them often don't

any living system must be in complete connection with itself
every part must be connected to the whole
and - by proxy - to all the other parts
in a life-giving
kind of way

and if those parts are not connected
the overall system will shrink down to a size wherein they can be connected

this means that if the structure that allows all of the cells in a fern to remain connected
breaks down
then the fern will die off/get smaller
until it is whole again from within

of course,
i know very little about cellular biology [and even less about ferns]
but i do know enough to understand the implications here for churches

if our people
are not connected meaningfully to one another
then our churches will continue to shrink down to a size
where they can feel connected

a church of 1000 disconnected people
will naturally shrink down into a church of 300 or 100 or 50
connected people
by virtue of the hidden intent of those same people
who inadvertantly distance themselves from newcomers
or withdraw from mere strangers at church
because they cannot cope with any more fragile or meaningless

if attendance and involvement are in any way
factors that we care about at all
then we must look to the health of our churches
and the connections of our people

people need other people to help them grow spiritually
to speak intelligently and with wisdom into their lives
to rebuke them when they're truant
to correct them when they're wrong
to encourage them when they're down
to cheer them on when they're winning

but these things don't ever happen in a weekend worship experience
they only happen in some other venue of connectedness

to be fair
the venue itself doesn't matter
whether that's old-school-sunday-school, cell groups, informal connections, or something else

all that matters is that people stay connected
for their individual health
for the health of the community
for the health of the church

intuitively all of our people know this
but we forget it
to our own peril

stay connected.

Friday, June 22, 2007


the more i study theology
the more i realize it's like math

which sucks
because i'm terrible at math
but love theology

and yet
i find myself growing quickly in my theological understanding
while - at the same time - recognizing how little "math" one genuinely needs to be a legitimate lover and follower of jesus christ

i've come to think of it like this

theology is like math
in that there are certain definate & true answers to certain questions
and that there are applications for theology/math well outside of the strict discipline of theology/math
and that theology/math affects our daily lives without most of us even noticing it
and - perhaps most 'sexily' - that theology/math contain much room for hypothesis, rumination, and speculation about meaning and significance in real life stuff

in order for someone to truly to be considered a lover and follower of jesus
i believe they ought to work hard at understanding basic math
they ought to know how to add and subtract
they ought to ascribe to something basic [like the nicene creed, even with its many theological pinholes that so much of evangelicalism is fond of fighting over]

for me
and for many other pastors
we need to know more than addition and subtraction
we need to know - at least - calculus and algebra
so as to see the deeper levels of meaning and the use of numbers/texts

what concerns me is how many "famous" pastors seem only to have grasped
what looks like multiplication or, far too often, division

to be fair
we truly cannot judge their worth from a distance
and - even if we could - it would unethical for us to do so
without, at least, acknowledging their noble purpose and being in some manner of relationship [either professional or personal] with them

if we're honest
we do need to be clear that more is required of pastor/teachers than simply addition/subtraction, multiplication/division

for myself
i've humorously recognized that my particular bent is towards
applied theology/math

applied mathematics is the field of study concerned with stuff that makes a visible difference in real life
with the analysis of the world around us
and positive suggestions for how it could be improved
or better utilized and/or enjoyed

theologically speaking
i love to think through the hyper-complicated parts of faith [i.e. the real and complex numbers, number theory, etc...], but am only concerned with them insofar as they help us all connect more meaningfully with jesus and with the world around us.

perhaps this is a useful way to understand my contribution to the world around me

Sunday, June 10, 2007

words that drive me nuts: organic

"organic" is a term oft applied in the word of business/leadership/management

it was originally coined in this way to refer to the autopoeitic emergence [i.e. self-creation] of healthy systems that reproduce other, similar healthy systems; also, it was a reference to denote how unhealthy systems will naturally become healthy if permitted to self-diagnose and sustain [though, that may include removal of certain agents/persons contributing to the unhealth of the overall system].

these days,
the term is often reduced to the functional opting out of managerial responsibility
wherein leaders don't lead or provide direction
because it's not "organic"

in churches
there is a great fascination with organic terminology
in part because of the obvious crossovers with jesus' teaching on spirituality

the term seems most applied in churches as a way to kind of sex-up whatever program
the church is promoting these days

all of thus bugs me

since blogs really do tend to be about stuff that bugs bloggers,
i thought i'd offer something a little more helpful in the way of understanding what it truly means to be organic

1. "organics" is truly about people
...and people don't "run" like machines. people cannot be controlled and be simultaneously passionate/creative. leadership in churches is organic because the people in our churches will do whatever they want, regardless of whether or not we want them to do it.

says mag wheately:
"it is important to recognize that people never behave like machines. when given directions, we insist on putting our own unique spin on them. when told to follow orders, we resist in obvious or subtle ways. when told to accept someone else's solution or to institute a program created elsewhere, we deny that it has sufficient value."

2. managing living systems/cultivating health/sustaining growth
... the only way forwards, then, is to look to the system-as-a-whole. we can influence the system towards health/growth/sustainability, which isn't "in-organic" just a recognition that we - as leaders - are also part of the larger system and, as such, our role in the system may be to influence the overall web towards things that are more true, more beautiful, and/or more good.

3. paying attention to what's naturally happening around you
...the best way to do this - at least, it seems this way in 12+ years of ministry - is to notice the good things around you and publicly laud and authenticate them, providing rationale/teaching for why, exactly, they are so beautiful/true/good; and, to notice the absence of critical things in the system and try and introduce them through the manifestation of growing concern about their absence in the other people involved [i.e. make everyone aware of how screwy it is that "compassion" - for example - is noticeably absent in our churches, and then help them realize what "compassion" might look like in their locale].

this is just a start

but i just can't simply be bothered by misuse of "organic"
in actual fact
this kind of orientation towards faith/leadership/systems truly is one of the greatest perspectival gifts of the 21st c.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

jesus and paul

i've come into a few discussions lately about people who seem eager to dismiss the apostle paul from conversations about christianity.

their claim is that paul somehow misrepresented jesus, thereby hijacking christianity and making it into something other than what jesus himself intended.

in their minds, the theology of jesus [and the kingdom] is very different from the theology of paul [and christianity]; and, if we're true christ-followers, we'll focus far, far less on paul than on jesus.

after all,
paul only quotes jesus once in all his letters
and only references the gospel stories 4-5 times

i think there are a couple of giant leaps made in this kind of thinking

dangerous leaps

first of all,
the great worth of jesus christ is not primarily his teaching's HIMself

don't get me wrong - jesus' teachings are crucial
but he was more than just a good moral teacher

he is the resurrected
prophecied about
who superceded the messianic expectations of his friends and followers
and manifested divinity in a skin suit

he is god

when we take away these important
little details
we're left with only a better ghandi

and a better ghandi in no way addresses the real metaphysical issue
of our separation from our creator

ghandi can't atone for sin

and we do need atonement
even though that's not a popular understanding these days

the second big flaw i see in this silly line of reasoning
is the arrogant assumption that a 21st century american
somehow beter understands the local context of a 1st century palestinian jew
than the apostle paul
who was, himself, a 1st century palestinian jew

i mean
how did we get so full of ourselves
that we think we would be able to magically understand something about jewish messianic expectation that paul would not have understood
or sacrificial atonement
or the nature of god
or the promise to abraham

if paul had totally screwed up the reality of christ
and all of the other disciples whom paul knew personally
would have set him straight

it was repeatedly paul who set the disciples straight
because they kept making the gospel smaller and smaller
focusing on just jews
focusing on just the legality of righteousness

i do understand that the gospels were all written after paul's missionary journeys were completed
and i do understand that john mark, who wrote the gospel of mark [aka peter's account of jesus' life] traveled with him
so there are some who say that maybe the gospels were a correction of paul's misunderstandings

but this is an argument from silence

...and a silly one at that

how do we best understand jesus?

is it by his teaching alone?

or is it also by the work of the new testament theologians who made his identity and significance clear?

i know.

i shouldn't even have asked the question.